Outsiders apart from conventional society and untroubled by its disapproval

December 12th, 2018

While thinking about where hippies come from, I revisited Bohemianism, which seems like an odd name for a similar phenomenon:

Literary “Bohemians” were associated in the French imagination with roving Romani people (called Bohémiens because they were believed to have arrived from Bohemia), outsiders apart from conventional society and untroubled by its disapproval. The term carries a connotation of arcane enlightenment (the opposite of Philistines), and carries a less frequently intended, pejorative connotation of carelessness about personal hygiene and marital fidelity.

The title character in Carmen (1876), a French opera set in the Spanish city of Seville, is referred to as a “bohémienne” in Meilhac and Halévy’s libretto. Her signature aria declares love itself to be a “gypsy child” (enfant de Bohême), going where it pleases and obeying no laws.

Where did hippies come from?

December 11th, 2018

Where did hippies come from?

Were they a totally novel development, as they were portrayed at the time?

In 1948, jazz crooner Nat King Cole was on Top of the Pops for eight straight weeks with the single “Nature Boy.” The song became a standard and was recorded by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Peggy Lee. (Much later, director Baz Luhrmann had a haggard Ewan McGregor type out the chorus at the end of his 2001 film Moulin Rouge.)

The record set off a brief journalistic frenzy in 1948 over its hitherto unknown lyricist eden ahbez, who had long hair and a beard, dressed in a robe and sandals, ate only fruits and nuts, had given himself a Book of Genesis first name and cosmic A-to-Z last name, and lived in a tent under the first “L” in the “Hollywood” sign.

In other words, years before the word was coined in the 1960s, this guy was a hippie. He and the dozen or so other robe-wearing proto-hippies who hung around a German couple’s health-food store in Laurel Canyon called themselves “Nature Boys.” Hence the song’s odd title.

Trying to figure out the story behind this weird anomaly led me to a 2003 article entitled “Hippie Roots & The Perennial Subculture” by Gordon Kennedy and Kody Ryan. They make the case for the origins of the hippie phenomenon in late-19th-century Germany: nudism, hiking (Wandervogel), health food, and the whole back to nature “life reform” business. It’s all more or less German.

This helps explain an odd phenomenon I noticed while hiking with my father in the Hollywood Hills above Laurel Canyon in the 1960s-1980s: About one out of four people we’d pass on the trails would reply to “Good day” with “Guten tag” or a Nordic equivalent. (Then during the early 1990s recession, hiking became fashionable in LA and the Teutonic flavor was quickly swamped.)

I’m a bit surprised the Sailer’s surprised by this. German Romanticism led to both hippies and Nazis. Many New Age ideas go back to Rudolph Steiner and the Theosophists — including pursuit of the almighty Vril.

Mass society fragmented and thereby stabilized

December 10th, 2018

In high school, Steve Sailer and his classmates were assigned Alvin Toffler’s 1970 bestseller Future Shock, about how the ever-accelerating waves of change would soon overwhelm us — but it didn’t happen:

Instead, mass society fragmented and thereby stabilized. My cousin, for example, remains a hippie, and he’s recently talked his mother into wanting to go to Burning Man. Today, nobody much cares: Burning Man seems less shocking than funny.

Yet when I was a small boy, virtually every male in America, except perhaps violin soloists, had short hair.

It’s difficult to make clear just how big a deal hair length was in the 1960s. When I was six in 1965, my family went to England. We were sitting around at Heathrow waiting for our flight back to the US when a young man with collar-length hair walked into the waiting room. “It’s a Beatle!” screamed a girl. The excited crowd surged toward John, Paul, George, or, possibly, Ringo. I dispatched my mother to get the Beatle’s autograph. She returned bearing the signature “Peter Noone,” the lead singer of Herman’s Hermits.

The point of this anecdote is that in 1965 so few males had hair covering two-thirds of their ears that transatlantic travelers assumed that anybody who did must be a rock star. (And we were right.)

“Perhaps Ecclesiastes got it right.”

I can pin down when rock fans started to let their hair grow. Buffalo Springfield’s remarkable single “For What It’s Worth” (“Stop, children, what’s that sound?”) is usually thought of as an early Vietnam War protest song, but it was actually inspired by the Sunset Strip curfew riots over the planned demolition of the Pandora’s Box nightclub. Even in November 1966, however, a mob of protesting Los Angeles rock fans looked clean-cut.

That must have been the last time they got their hair cut. In the summer of 1967, some visitors wanted to “go see the hippies,” so my parents drove us over Laurel Canyon to Sunset. The Strip was jammed with us tourists agog over the longhairs.

After a while, though, you got used to odd new social phenomena like this sweeping the world. In fact, soon everybody expected it. A decade after 1967’s Summer of Love, for instance, the media were all primed for punks to take over. After all, an entire ten years had gone by! (That was 35 years ago.) In 1979, everybody was told to dress in 2 Tone black-and-white clothes and listen to ska, but diminishing returns were visibly encroaching.

The Harvard grads are completely self-assured in their wrongness

December 9th, 2018

Harvard Medical School dean George Daley has come out in favor of editing genes, and Steve Sailer notes that no child will be left behind without the Harvard grad glibness & self-confidence gene, as he shares this excerpt from A Private Universe:

Definitely watch the video.

(I’ll wait.)

Sailer’s point:

Both sets of people come up with the same wrong answer — because the earth’s orbit isn’t perfectly circular and so we are further from the sun in winter — but the townies are obviously ashamed that that’s the best answer they can come up with, while the Harvard grads are completely self-assured in their wrongness.

I’m sure there were some Harvard grads who gave the right answer and ended up on the cutting room floor, but they will probably end up working for the Harvard grads who were technically wrong but winningly self-confident.

The video actually has some interesting comments on Y

The one about the rabbits is one of the classics of fantasy

December 8th, 2018

The new Watership Down trailer doesn’t look good, I’m afraid:

The book — yes, the one about the rabbits — is one of the classics of fantasy.

Richard Adams passed away two years ago, but a couple years before that he did an ask-me-anything, where he explained that Hazel was based on someone he knew in real life:

Yes! I had the good luck to get accepted for service in airborne forces during world war 2. Not everybody who put their name forward was accepted for it. I felt tremendously proud. I went as an officer to 250 light company RASC airborne. The commanding officer was a Major called John Gifford. I admired him tremendously. He was very quiet — in fact one of the quietest I’ve ever known. Regardless all of his commanding officers respected him and obeyed him without question. All his officers were parachutists whether they were commanders or not. My point is that everyone in 250 light company respected and admired him, and he certainly influenced Hazel. He was so sensible. Not all commanders are sensible! I would even say his officers loved him.

Should we be encouraging this?

December 8th, 2018

I’m beginning to think men’s gymnastics should revolve athletes daring each other to do ever-crazier stunts:

It is the end of an era

December 7th, 2018

In 1975, Christopher Tolkien left his fellowship at New College, Oxford, to edit his late father’s massive legendarium:

The prospect was daunting. The 50-year-old medievalist found himself confronted with 70 boxes of unpublished work. Thousands of pages of notes and fragments and poems, some dating back more than six decades, were stuffed haphazardly into the boxes. Handwritten texts were hurriedly scrawled in pencil and annotated with a jumble of notes and corrections. One early story was drafted in a high school exercise book.

A large portion of the archive concerned the history of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional world, Middle-earth. The notes contained a broader picture of a universe only hinted at in Tolkien’s two bestselling novels, The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-55). Tolkien had intended to bring that picture to light in a lengthy, solemn history going back to creation itself, but he died before completing a final, coherent version.

Christopher took it upon himself to edit that book, which was published in 1977 as The Silmarillion. He then turned to another project drawn from his father’s papers, then another—ultimately publishing poetry, academic works, fiction, and a 12-volume history of the creation of Middle-earth. The Fall of Gondolin, published in August, is the 25th posthumous book Christopher Tolkien has produced from his father’s archives.

Now, after more than 40 years, at the age of 94, Christopher Tolkien has laid down his editor’s pen, having completed a great labor of quiet, scholastic commitment to his father’s vision. It is the concluding public act of a gentleman and scholar, the last member of a club that became a pivotal part of 20th-century literature: the Inklings.

[...]

The Inklings (and such of their forebears as Chesterton) sought to explain that there was nothing absurd in the secular and the sacred living cheek by jowl. In fact, it’s quite likely that one may find oneself, in Woolf’s phrase, “sitting by the fire” alongside a wizard who witnessed the singing of creation into being — as indeed Bilbo Baggins does.

This is not to say that the Inklings simply fled into a nostalgic past. They rather sought to apply its lessons to a violent and difficult present. If the Bagginses resemble throwback Victorian gentlemen and the other hobbits suggest plain English country folk of ages past, much else in The Lord of the Rings, from Saruman’s terrible machines to the mangled bodies on the Pelennor Fields, resembles the 20th century. The story ends with the Shire, which Tolkien described as “more or less a Warwickshire village of about the period of the Diamond Jubilee,” ravaged by war. Frodo, experiencing a sort of spiritual shell shock, can find no peace even when the war is long over.

The Inklings weren’t escapists. They were, Flieger writes, “a response to a response, and thus a continuation of the dialogue…. If the period surrounding the Great War gave birth to modernism, it also engendered the reaction against it, the effort to ensure that ‘before’ was not wholly lost in ‘after.’”

The fashion industry was crucial to the election of Donald Trump?

December 6th, 2018

I find it fascinating that this is framed as “Cambridge Analytica weaponised the fashion industry“:

According to the data obtained (the majority of which came from US users), certain fans of American denim brands such as Wrangler, Hollister and Lee Jeans could be more closely linked to low levels of openness and mistrust — and therefore more likely to engage with pro-Trump messaging. This data also showed more esoteric fashion labels such as Kenzo or Alexander McQueen tended towards a more open and imaginative fanbase, which Wylie said leant more towards typical democratic voters.

Who could’ve guessed that a populist right-wing candidate would appeal to fans of Wrangler jeans?

How to resolve the so-called “paradoxes” of quantum mechanics?

December 5th, 2018

Neovictorian reviews The Brave and the Bold, Volume 3 of The Hidden Truth, which I also enjoyed, but this quick aside is what most caught my eye:

Meanwhile, I understand that Dr. Schantz is working on a popular physics book with some ideas about how to resolve the so-called “paradoxes” of quantum mechanics.

Yes, please.

Yes, please, indeed.

Libya has gone full circle

December 4th, 2018

Some compare militia-dominated Tripoli with Al Capone’s Chicago, but the comparison is false, because Al Capone didn’t have artillery:

Seven years after Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in the Arab spring revolution, Libya has gone full circle from dictatorship through revolution, democracy, chaos and back to a new kind of tyranny. Except this time there is not one dictator but dozens, in the form of the very militias who defeated him.

[...]

Driving through this city means navigating a political fog as you try to work out who among the rag-tag gunmen in assorted uniforms and battered pickup trucks are gangsters, and who constitute the official security forces of the United Nations-backed government. After a while you realise they are the same. One unit is freshly kitted out in smart blue uniforms of the interior ministry, but it remains a militia, as violent and threatening as before. Tensions are high after the body of one warlord was dumped by rivals outside a city hospital in the latest tit-for-tat killing.

[...]

Tripoli’s warlords are on the state payroll, through the simple expedient of gunmen threatening the bankers with kidnapping or worse. Similar pressure resulted in the government handing its all-important intelligence and surveillance portfolio to an Islamist militia. Even as militias fight each other in the capital, they also fight the army of the nationalist warlord Khalifa Haftar, a brooding presence far to the east.

Meanwhile, the citizens suffer: there are shortages of petrol, electricity, water and banknotes. Libya is rich, with £50bn of foreign reserves and booming oil production. But only a handful of banks — those controlled by militias — are permitted to dispense cash. Citizens form kilometre-long queues to collect it.

Bush was a prodigy of all-aroundness

December 3rd, 2018

Steve Sailer looks back at George H.W. Bush‘s life:

A massive but usually overlooked theme in George H.W. Bush’s career was his goal of reversing 1938 and opening Mexico up to American business interests (in return for which America took some of Mexico’s surplus population off its hands).

[...]

WWII: Bush joined in the Navy in 1942 upon graduating from prep school. When he finished his training and was commissioned in June 1943, he was the youngest aviator in the Navy at age 18. He flew 58 combat missions in the TBM Avenger torpedo bomber, which was much improved over the TBD Devastator torpedo bomber that was wiped out at Midway. Still, any torpedo bomber was a big, slow target, and Bush got shot down by anti-aircraft fire once. He parachuted into the Pacific and was rescued by a sub after 4 hours.

In general, Bush was a prodigy of all-aroundness: e.g., after the war he graduated from Yale in 2.5 years while being captain of the baseball team and making it to the College World Series final twice. Bush was married at 20 and a father at 22. Overall, Bush was a superior individual without being supreme in any one aspect, rather like previous GOP previous Gerald Ford, whose record as the longest lived President he recently exceeded. (Jimmy Carter will likely break Bush’s age record early next year.)

I got them at Palessi

December 2nd, 2018

Shoppers at the Palessi luxury shoe store found out that the chic boutique was not quite what they expected:

If you serve fast food on white tablecloths in a tony-looking restaurant, people sometimes think it’s haute cuisine. (At the very least, it tastes a lot different than it does when you’re scarfing it down from a drive-through bag).

It turns out you can do the same for bargain kicks by showcasing the footwear against the kind of chic backdrop usually reserved for luxury labels like Jimmy Choo and getting people to pay outrageous markups.

That’s what Payless did recently in Santa Monica, taking over a former Armani store and stocking it with $19.99 pumps and $39.99 boots. The chain, via agency DCX Growth Accelerator, invited groups of influencers to the grand opening of “Palessi” and asked their opinions on the “designer” wares.

Party goers, having no idea they were looking at discount staples from the mall scene, said they’d pay hundreds of dollars for the stylish shoes, praising the look, materials and workmanship. Top offer: $640, which translates to an 1,800 percent markup, and Palessi sold about $3,000 worth of product in the first few hours of the stunt.

Payless, or “Palessi,” did ring up those purchases but didn’t keep the money. Influencers got their cash back, along with free shoes. Their reactions caught in the short- and longer-form ads — those shocked “gotcha” moments — are fairly priceless.

Consider buying N95 masks before an outbreak

December 1st, 2018

The New York Times explains how to survive a flu epidemic:

“Avoid crowds,” says Stephen C. Redd, director of the Center for Preparedness and Response at the C.D.C. If the flu strain is particularly virulent, you may be advised to keep a distance of at least three feet from other people. Research shows that virus transmission rates can fall by nearly 40 percent with mandatory social-distancing measures like closing schools and day cares. You may also be directed to isolate yourself and your family inside your home, a practice known among emergency-preparedness experts as “shelter in place.” Cache at least two weeks of food, medicine and water.

A global flu pandemic begins when a virus circulating in animals — like birds or pigs — mutates to infect humans, allowing it to spread quickly. In 1918, such an influenza sickened an estimated one-third of the world’s population, killing as many as 50 million people. During the next pandemic, practice cough etiquette (into a tissue or your inner elbow, not your palm); wash your hands regularly (20 seconds with soap and water); avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. If someone in your home falls ill, minimize close contact. Designate a sick room. You may want to wear a mask; one of the most effective types for filtering floating flu particles is known as an N95. Consider buying N95 masks before an outbreak. “In a severe pandemic, there will be a global shortage,” says Redd, who served as the C.D.C.’s incident commander during the last flu pandemic, the H1N1 outbreak in 2009.

Producing a vaccine for a new influenza strain could take months; when one becomes available, get it as soon as you can, knowing that it will be distributed first to those most at risk. Beware rumors and fake news. “Misinformation online will be a big challenge,” Redd says. Get to know your neighbors and your community now: You’ll need one another’s help. Don’t let fear erode empathy. In 1918, the sick starved to death, not for lack of food but because people were too afraid to get close enough to feed them. “You can bring a meal to a neighbor who is coughing without having face-to-face contact,” Redd says.

Not every lesson can be taught explicitly

November 30th, 2018

Not every lesson can be taught explicitly:

Fairy Tales are written to speak to the emotional language of children — to present a problem that is both vague and foreign on the surface, but highly relatable to the child’s subconscious fears, and then to provide the child with practical, cautionary advice for problems yet to come or coping strategies for problems which have no solution.

[...]

Horror movies can give a child space to deal with their fears in the realm of fantasy while they subconsciously work on bringing the eventual reality of those fears to manageable terms.

[...]

Life without story could be broken down into a series of bullet point instructions, which may seem efficient but would prove ineffective. People need the space and distance that that fantasy can provide. That same space and distance can afford someone the time to mentally process the fears, anxieties, and grief which are overwhelming and incomprehensible. Stories for children need to be more than losers winning despite being losers. Stories for children need to begin helping them develop their emotional tool-kit, or else there will one day be a world of adults unable to cope with everything that is inevitable.

He was a Bonapartist two decades before Bonaparte

November 29th, 2018

Alexander Hamilton was always the odd man out in American politics:

He was not born in any of the original thirteen colonies. He was born on the tiny Caribbean island of Nevis to a Scottish father and a half-British, half-French mother; he was born out-of-wedlock in an era that took illegitimate births very seriously. When his father found out that his mother had been married before and even had a child with another man, he abandoned the family. Hamilton’s mother died when he was thirteen years old, leaving him orphaned. The boy was sent to live with his uncle who committed suicide not long afterward. Nobody can claim that Hamilton was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Hamilton was adopted by a local Nevis merchant and seemed destined to live an unremarkable life in trading. Everything changed, however, when he wrote a letter to his adoptive father about a hurricane that had struck the island while his father was out at sea. A family friend, struck by the powerful language and clever expressiveness of the letter, decided to publish it in a journal. It was a distinctive honor for a young man who was mostly self-educated. In the end, the letter impressed influential people on Nevis enough for them to gather a small fund to send Hamilton to be educated in New York.

Perhaps the only thing more unusual than how Hamilton came to the thirteen colonies was the political philosophy that was shaped by his mostly self-taught mind. There was always something earthy and practical in his ideas. Although he wore the same white breeches and powdered wigs as his peers and mouthed all the same silly slogans about the rights of man, Hamilton was never truly a classical liberal. Hamilton was a man wholly out of place and time, a foreigner in his own tongue, a stranger in his own home, a man who had slipped through the gaps of one era and fallen into another. He was a Bonapartist two decades before Bonaparte. He was a Caesarist one thousand eight-hundred years after Caesar lay dead on the marble steps of the Curia Julia.

Hamilton understood something that few Americans of his era understood; in fact, he understood something that even fewer Americans of our era understand. The core of Hamilton’s philosophy is something that liberals of all stripes, classical and modern, try their best to ignore or deny: good government comes from good leaders. Government is, by necessity, an executive function.