In the manosphere, the various hodgepodge collection of sites emphasizing a return to masculinity for men, I encountered a comment some years ago which stuck with me. In it, a man who had been banging a number of women lamented that every woman he encountered was a Cenobite, one of Clive Barker’s seekers of pain through pleasure. They would say “choke me until I pass out, hit me, spank me until I bleed, cut me…” They would demand ever-greater excesses, because they were unable to feel pleasure if it did not include pain. He didn’t care — all he wanted was to get laid, so he’d do whatever they asked of him — but he didn’t understand why women were this way, or why he could find so few who weren’t like this. He seemed to have a sense that things were not always this way.
In my DJ career, I have spent a great deal of time in communities and scenes that normal folks would regard as underground. For many years, I DJed BDSM parties, Fetish events, and the like. I’ve DJed warehouses and clubs with no names, buried in the wreckage of abandoned industrial parks. The marketplace of sex is one which I know exceedingly well. I’ve been DJing these scenes for the better part of 20 years.
To quote Blade Runner, I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.
As that commenter lamented, so I’ve seen first-hand. These SJWs, the radical feminists who spend their lives fighting the Patriarchy? They come to my clubs to be beaten senseless on crosses, chained to them by men dressed in uniforms very reminiscent of the Nazis. Yes, it’s a thing, as anybody who has ever been to a Goth club can attest. They demand to be tied up, burned, bruised, and battered.
Go on social media, and you will see SJWs telling us that Nazis are everywhere, that they are evil, and foul, and legion. They are in the White House, they are on Youtube, they are on Twitter, they are in Video Games. Nazis, everywhere. And so they march out into the streets, the Black Bloc, Antifascists engaging in what Tom Kratman calls a bit of political theater (not unlike Fascists once did).
But at the end of a long week of fighting the cisnormative heteropatriarchy, they come to be beaten by men dressed as Nazis, to the gritty beats of loud Industrial music in the depths of an Industrial park.
February 20, 2017
February 19, 2017
By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests. Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.
George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism”, Polemic, 1945-05.
February 17, 2017
When I was a teenager in the 1970s, there was not yet anything you could call “geek culture”. Sure, there were bright kids fascinated by computers or math or science, kids who were often “poorly socialized” in the jargon of the day and hung together as a defensive measure; I was one of them. But we didn’t see ourselves as having a social identity or affiliation the way the jocks or surfers or hippies did. We weren’t a subculture, nor even a community; we didn’t even have a label for ourselves.
Slowly, slowly that began to change. One key event was the eruption of science fiction into pop culture that began with the first Star Wars movie in 1977. This was our stuff and we knew it, even though most of us never joined the subculture of SF fandom proper. Personal computers made another big difference after 1980; suddenly, technology was cool and sexy in a way it hadn’t been for decades, and people who were into it started to get respect rather than (or in addition to) faint or not-so-faint scorn.
You could see the trend in movies. War Games in 1983; Revenge of the Nerds in 1984; Real Genius in 1985. To kids today Revenge of the Nerds doesn’t seem remarkable, because geek culture is more secure and confident today than a lot of older tribes like bikers or hippies. But at the time, the idea that you could have an entire fraternity of geeks — an autonomous social group with reason to be proud of itself and a recognized place in the social ecology — was funny; all by itself it was a comedy premise.
The heroes of Revenge of the Nerds were people who created a fraternity of their own, who bootstrapped a niche for themselves in Grant McCracken’s culture of plenitude. The movie was an extended joke, but it described and perhaps helped create a real phenomenon.
The term ‘geek’ didn’t emerge as a common label, displacing the older and much more sporadically-used ‘nerd’, until around the time of the Internet explosion of 1993-1994. I noticed this development because I didn’t like it; I still prefer to tell people I hang out with hackers (all hackers are geeks, but not all geeks are hackers). Another index of the success of the emerging geek culture is that around that time it stopped being an almost exclusively male phenomenon.
Yes, you catch my implication. When I was growing up we didn’t have geekgirls. Even if the label ‘geek’ had been in use at the time, the idea that women could be so into computers or games or math that they would identify with and hang out with geek guys would have struck us as sheerest fantasy. Even the small minority of geek guys who were good with women (and thus had much less reason to consider them an alien species) would have found the implications of the term ‘geekgirl’ unbelievable before 1995 or so.
(There are people who cannot read an account like the above without assuming that the author is simply projecting his own social and sexual isolation onto others. For the benefit of those people, I will report here that I had good relations with women long before this was anything but rare in my peer group. This only made the isolation of my peers easier to notice.)
What changed? Several things. One is that geek guys are, on the whole, better adjusted and healthier and more presentable today than they were when I was a teenager. Kids today have trouble believing the amount of negative social pressure on intelligent people to pass as normal and boring that was typical before 1980, the situation Revenge of the Nerds satirized and inverted. It meant that the nascent geek culture of the time attracted only the most extreme geniuses and misfits — freaks, borderline autists, obsessives, and other people in reaction against the mainstream. Women generally looked at this and went “ugh!”
But over time, geeky interests became more respectable, even high-status (thanks at least in part to the public spectacle of übergeeks making millions). The whole notion of opposition to the mainstream started to seem dated as ‘mainstream’ culture gradually effloresced into dozens of tribes freakier than geeks (two words: “body piercings”). Thus we started to attract people who were more normal, in psychology if not in talent. Women noticed this. I believe it was in 1992, at a transhumanist party in California, that I first heard a woman matter-of-factly describe the Internet hacker culture as “a source of good boyfriends”. A few years after that we started to get a noticeable intake of women who wanted to become geeks themselves, as opposed to just sleeping with or living with geeks.
The loner/obsessive/perfectionist tendencies of your archetypal geek are rare in women, who are culturally encouraged (and perhaps instinct-wired) to value social support and conformity more. Thus, women entering the geek subculture was a strong sign that it had joined the set of social identities that people think of as ‘normal’. This is still a very recent development; I can’t recall the term ‘geekgirl’ being used at all before about 1998, and I don’t think it became commonly self-applied until 2000 or so.
Eric S. Raymond, “The Revenge of the Nerds is Living Well”, Armed and Dangerous, 2004-12-20.
February 5, 2017
…which is why this Washington Post piece by J.J. McCullough is so unexpected:
As Canadian politicians and journalists scramble for tidy, ideologically pleasing narratives in the wake of this week’s senseless slaughter at a Quebec City mosque, one disturbing fact has gone conspicuously unmentioned: A disproportionate share of the country’s massacres occur in the province of Quebec.
I was born in 1984. Since then, Quebec has experienced at least six high-profile episodes of attempted public mass murder.
Criticism of Quebec, meanwhile, is deeply taboo. In a 2006 essay, Globe and Mail columnist Jan Wong posited a theory that Quebec’s various lone nuts, many of whom were not of pure French-Canadian stock, were predictably alienated from a province that places such a high premium on cultural conformity. She was denounced by a unanimous vote in the Canadian Parliament and sank into a career-ruining depression. The current events magazine Maclean’s ran a cover story in 2010 arguing that Quebec, where old-fashioned mafia collusion between government contractors, unions and politicians is still common, was easily “the most corrupt province in Canada.” That, too, was denounced by a unanimous vote of Parliament.
Privately, English Canadians are far less defensive. They grumble about Quebec’s dark history of anti-Semitism, religious bigotry and pro-fascist sentiment, facts which are rarely included in otherwise self-flagellating official narratives of Canadian history. They complain about the exaggerated deference the province gets from Ottawa as a “distinct society” and “nation-within-a-nation,” and its various French-supremacist language and assimilation laws, which they blame for creating a place that’s inhospitable, arrogant and, yes, noticeably more racist than the Canadian norm. And now, they have good reason to observe that the province seems to produce an awful lot of lunatics prone to public massacres, who often explicitly justify their violence with arguments of dissatisfaction towards Quebec’s unique culture.
The mosque shooting has been quickly politicized by the Canadian left who have seized upon its useful victims to say the sort of things they were going to say anyway: Canada is both a wicked Islamophobic place that must check its various privileges and a multicultural utopia whose pride and empathy for its Muslim community knows no bounds. Rather than drag the entire country along for this tendentious ride, it might be more useful to narrow the focus.
H/T to Kathy Shaidle for the link.
February 2, 2017
I was raised with noblesse oblige, which, as we all know is a kind of almond and mare’s milk pastry made in the mountains of outer Mongolia and eaten at wedding feasts to assure good luck.
Okay, I lie. Noblesse Oblige is literally – as all of you know! However, let me unpack it, because sometimes it’s good to reflect on things we know – the obligations of noblemen.
In a world in which station was dictated by birth (most of the world, most of the time) the way to keep society from becoming completely tyrannical and the burden of those on the lower rungs of society from becoming unbearable was “noblesse oblige” – that is a set of obligations that the noblemen/those in power accepted as a part of their duty to society. Most of these involved some form of moderation of force.
The amount of moderation depended on the culture itself. For instance, in those lands in which the nobleman got first night rights (or claimed them anyway) it might be noblesse oblige to return the bride after that. It might also be noblesse oblige to stand godfather to the oldest child, who, after all, might be more than a godchild. And in other cultures, though the first night thing wasn’t there, the godchild thing still applied. A small return for faithful service to closer servants and courtiers, etc.
In the same way, while you might treat your serfs or villains like dirt, you forebore to take their last crumb of bread and left them enough to live on. This might not be because you were smart or merciful or whatever, but because someone had dinged it into you.
Noblesse oblige, by that name or others, appears every time there is a gross imbalance of power in human society. Or that is, it appears if society is to survive.
Sarah Hoyt, “Noblesse Oblige and Mare’s Nests”, According to Hoyt, 2015-05-05.
January 30, 2017
January 23, 2017
Interestingly, the dot.com bust does not seem to have slowed down or discredited the geek subculture at all. Websites like http://geekculture.com and http://thinkgeek.com do a flourishing business, successfully betting investment capital on the theory that there is in fact a common subculture or community embracing computer hackers, SF fans, strategy gamers, aficionados of logic puzzles, radio hams, and technology hobbyists of all sorts. Just the fact that a website can advertise “The World’s Coolest Propeller Beanies!” is indication of how far we’ve come.
I’ve previously observed about one large and important geek subtribe, the Internet hackers, that when people join it they tend to retrospectively re-interpret their past and after a while find it difficult to remember that they weren’t always part of this tribe. I think something similar is true of geeks in general; even those of us who lived through the emergence of geek culture have to struggle a bit to remember what it was like back when we were genuinely atomized outcasts in a culture that was dismissive and hostile.
There are even beginning to be geek families with evidence of generational transmission. I know three generations of one, starting when two computer scientists married in the late 1960s, and had four kids in the 1970s; the kids have since produced a first grandchild who at age five shows every sign of becoming just as avid a gamer/hacker/SF-fan as his parents and grandparents.
Little Isaac, bless him, will grow up in a culture that, in its plenitude, offers lots of artifacts and events designed by and for people like him. He will take the World Wide Web and the Sci-Fi Channel and Yugio and the Lord of the Rings movies and personal computers for granted. He’ll probably never be spat on by a jock, and if he can’t find a girlfriend it will be because the geekgirls and geek groupies are dating other guys like him, rather than being nonexistent.
For Isaac, Revenge of the Nerds will be a quaint period piece with very little more relevance to the social circumstances of his life than a Regency romance. And that is how we know that the nerds indeed got their revenge.
Eric S. Raymond, “The Revenge of the Nerds is Living Well”, Armed and Dangerous, 2004-12-20.
January 20, 2017
In A.D. 2101
War was beginning.
Captain: What happen?
Mechanic: Somebody set up us the bomb.
Operator: We get signal.
Captain: What !
Operator: Main screen turn on.
Captain: It’s you !!
CATS: How are you gentlemen !!
CATS: All your base are belong to us.
CATS: You are on the way to destruction.
Captain: What you say !!
CATS: You have no chance to survive make your time.
CATS: Ha ha ha ha ….
Operator: Captain !!
Captain: Take off every ‘ZIG’!!
Captain: You know what you doing.
Captain: Move ‘ZIG’.
Captain: For great justice.
January 9, 2017
Virginia Postrel on what makes HGTV successful:
For starters, they’re intriguing. Rather than rely on conflict to engage viewers, they offer a small mystery: Which place will the house hunters choose? How will the renovation turn out? They keep you hanging on until the big reveal. The formula draws the viewer into the story, inviting speculations and judgments.
Then there’s recognition. Watching HGTV, you see a broader swath of North Americans (including Canadians) than you usually encounter on mainstream TV: youth ministers and medical sales reps, black marketing managers and South Asians who don’t work in tech, lesbian farmers and home-schooling moms, people who live in Fargo, North Dakota, or Pensacola, Florida, or Waco, Texas, home of the hit show Fixer Upper. They speak with regional accents and come in all body types. And they’re all presented respectfully, as fine people the viewer can identify with. It’s the opposite of schadenfreude-driven train-wreck TV.
It’s uncynical. What makes HGTV feel so wholesome isn’t merely its lack of profanity but its lack of snark. Everyone is sincere and polite, sometimes obstinate but never mean. Writing about Fixer Upper hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines for Texas Monthly, New York journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner marveled at their authentic humility and humor. “They’re like that in person, funny and unguarded and with no fast answers,” she wrote. No wonder they easily weathered a brief controversy BuzzFeed tried to gin up over their pastor’s views on gays. They just don’t seem like haters.
On HGTV, optimism and love abound. Those qualities reflect the fundamental appeal of the network’s formula: It reverses entropy and celebrates home.
I don’t watch too much TV these days, but long before the explosion of cable channel options, I recall happily watching shows like This Old House, Hometime, and The New Yankee Workshop on the Buffalo PBS affiliate, so I’m quite familiar with the genre, if not the specific offerings of HGTV today.
January 7, 2017
My classmates [destroyed themselves on drugs]. The authentic imaginations, the really innovative people of my generation, the most daring of my generation took the drug. Now I, for some reason, felt that the LSD was untested, and I did not want to experiment with it. But I was very interested in it. I was interested in all types of vision quests at the time. I went up with fellow students [from SUNY-Binghamton] to see Timothy Leary speak at Cornell. I saw him, and it made me uneasy that here was the guru with such a crowd around him, but his face was already twitching. I could see that this was not going to end well, and it did not.
So when I got to graduate school in 1968, I can attest to the fact that no authentically radical student of the 1960s ever went to graduate school. So all that were left were the time-servers, who parasitically [lived] on the achievements of the 1960s, for heaven’s sake. Any authentic leftist who had a job at a university in the 1970s or ’80s or ’90s should have been opposing the entire evolution of the university — that is, toward this administrative bureaucracy that has totally robbed power from the faculty. The total speciousness and fraud of academic leftism is proven by the passivity of these people in every department of the university to that power play that happened.
Camille Paglia, “Everything’s Awesome and Camille Paglia Is Unhappy!”, Reason, 2015-05-30.
December 30, 2016
Will universities continue their decades-long flight from relevance to become the next decade’s equivalent of “Florida Man”?
My academic field, American Studies, is the interdisciplinary study of American cultures, past and present. Once it was a vibrant and useful discipline. Today, I’m sad to report, it is a regular source for “What wacky stuff are they up to on campus?” articles and blogs.
These days, when American Studies captures any attention, it’s usually for unfortunate reasons.
Sometimes, a jargon-y article wins an ironic bad writing award. Consider, for example this excerpt from a paper in the Australasian Journal of American Studies:
Natural history museums, like the American Museum, constitute one decisive means for power to de-privatize and re-publicize, if only ever so slightly, the realms of death by putting dead remains into public service as social tokens of collective life, rereading dead fossils as chronicles of life’s everlasting quest for survival, and canonizing now dead individuals as nomological emblems of still living collectives in Nature and History. An anatomo-politics of human and non-human bodies is sustained by accumulating and classifying such necroliths in the museum’s observational/expositional performances.
Sometimes a pop culture class becomes an extramural joke, such as the “Zombie Studies” courses that were all the rage a few years ago. And sometimes an American Studies professor decides to use the classroom for “social activism” where the idea is to substitute studying with protesting.
I might chuckle if I weren’t employed and mentally invested in the field, and if I did not have residual respect for the open-minded, pragmatic approaches which marked American Studies for the first decades of its existence. But sadly, for the last generation, American Studies — beset by a nagging awareness that making interdisciplinarity the norm when studying culture became mission accomplished at least 20 years ago — has scooted pell-mell towards politicization in a misbegotten effort to remain relevant.
The result today is an academic sub-specialty wedded to a tightly-corseted belief that the United States represents the locus of sin (racism, sexism, colonialism, and the like) in the modern world, and that any study of America should restrict itself to call-outs and condemnations. American Studies now serves chiefly as validation system for academicians who know their findings in advance: racism, sexism, and imperialism.
Increasingly, the field is hostile to scholars who don’t want to use it just to berate American traditions and signal their imagined virtue.
December 23, 2016
Something has happened at Slate. Until relatively recently, Slate‘s science page produced so much amazingly good content that we were tempted to link to them multiple times per day. In our 2013 list of the Top 10 Science News Sites, we awarded them an honorable mention.
But, that was then. Now, for some reason, Slate‘s science page has partially abandoned its strong tradition of in-depth analysis to promote an angry, opinion-driven reportage that is mostly aimed at insulting Republicans and Christians.
This is counterproductive. Science journalism that forsakes its primary mission of science communication to engage in partisan culture wars does a grotesque disservice to the scientific endeavor and is doomed to fail. Just ask ScienceBlogs, which has become a shell of its former self because, as the New York Times described, it became “Fox News for the religion-baiting, peak-oil crowd” that utilized “redundant and effortfully incendiary rhetoric.” Slate‘s science page is heading toward a similar path.
Alex B. Berezow, “Slate‘s Science Page Has Gone Crazy”, Real Clear Science, 2015-05-25.
December 21, 2016
An interesting re-map of India’s caste system to modern day western society:
I move professionally in circles where lib-left “virtue signaling” is taken for granted, especially inside the US. (Academia outside the US, while no less in the grip of a collective moral superiority complex, at least tolerates dissenters to some degree.)
As I was perusing Trump’s cabinet list in the Times of London the other day, I was struck not so much by the names — some ‘feck yeah!’, some ‘well, OK’, some ‘meh’ — as by what wasn’t there. The ‘Brahmandarins™’ had been left behind, as it were. Allow me to expand.
Traditional society in India has myriad little jatis (“births”, freely: castes), but they ultimately derive from four (plus one) major varnas (“colors”, freely: classes). While caste membership and profession are more fluid than generally assumed by Westerners, these five major groupings do exist to the present day, and are mostly endogamous. From top to bottom, the varnas are:
- Brahmins (scholars)
- Kshatryas (warriors, rulers, administrators)
- Vaishyas (merchants, artisans, and farmers)
- Shudras (laborers)
- Finally, the Dalit (downtrodden, outcasts — the term “pariah” is considered so offensive it has become “the p-word”) are traditionally considered beneath the varna system altogether, as are other “Scheduled Castes” (a legal term in present-day India, referring to eligibility for affirmative action).
The upper three varnas bear some resemblance to the three Estates of the French ancien régime: clergy, nobility, and the bourgeoisie (le tiers état, the Third Estate). American society used to be a byword for social mobility (“the American dream”) — but a stratification has set in, and it takes little imagination to identify strata of Dalit, Shudras, and Vaishyas in modern American society. The numerically small subculture of military families could be identified as America’s Kshatryas. So where are the Brahmins? (No, I’m not referring to the old money Boston elite.) And why am I using the portmanteau “Brahmandarins” for our New Class?
In India one was, of course, born into the Brahmin varna, and they actually delegated the messy business of governance to the varna below them. In China’s Middle Kingdom, on the other hand, not only was the scholarly Mandarin caste actually the backbone of governance, but in principle anyone who passed the civil service exams could become a Mandarin.
Originally, these exams were meant to foster a meritocracy. Predictably, over time, they evolved to select for conformity over ability, being more concerned with literary style and knowledge of the classics than with any relevant technical expertise.
Hmm, sounds familiar? Consider America’s “New Class”: academia, journalism, “helping” professions, nonprofits, community organizers, trustafarian artists,… Talent for something immediately verifiable (be it playing the piano, designing an airplane, or buying-and-selling,… ) or a track record of tangible achievements are much less important than credentials — degrees from the right places, praise from the right press organs,…
November 14, 2016
M. Harold Page, guest-posting at Charles Stross’s blog:
Every so often, somebody posts some wistful meme about how nice it would be if duelling were legal again.
I’m increasingly less gentle in my response. Partly I don’t want non-sword folk to start to thinking of Historical European Martial Arts as some kind of Fascist death cult (we really aren’t, and we’re a very geeky and inclusive movement).
Mostly though, as a historical novelist, swordsman, and father of a teenage boy, I can tell you that duelling was — and — a bloody stupid idea.
Look, I like swords. Love them, even.
I revel in their history, evolution and context. I get a buzz from handling originals — earlier this year, I examined a well-notched sword from the Battle of Castillon and I could almost hear the English army annihilating itself by charging a superior force in entrenched positions.
Most of all, I like fighting with swords or writing about people fighting with swords; Zornhau!
All this is what leads me to think duelling is essentially a bloody stupid idea.
People talk airily about duelling as a “safety valve” or a “test of manhood”.
However, consider what happens when it’s OK and almost mandatory for young men to challenge each other to mortal combat for reasons that can best be called whimsical…
Alfred Hutton — one of the saints of the modern Historical European Martial Arts movement (real soldier, instructor of sabre to the British Army, early investigator of Medieval martial arts treatises) — wrote a wonderful book called The Sword and the Centuries in which he gathered all the anecdotes of tournaments and duelling he could find. Honestly, he should have subtitled it, “500 Years of Aristocratic Testosterone Poisoning“.
Especially if you are the parent of a young man, or have ever sustained a sword injury, the sections on French duelling culture are truly horrific. Duelling wasn’t so much a safety valve as a public health emergency.
We’re talking young men going out for a bottle of wine and coming back in a hearse because another youth caught their eye in the wrong way and they felt impelled to issue an immediate challenge.
We’re talking three versus three duels where a stranger gallantly — read bloody stupidly — offers to make up the missing third on one side. And almost everybody dies.
Reading between the lines, we’re also talking appalling peer pressure, bullying and legitimised murder — a duel is an awfully handy way of getting rid of an unwanted heir or rival.