Jan 182022
 

This post is snippets of an informal conversation with Mr K, which I’m posting while on vacation. I don’t necessarily endorse any of these views, and may oppose some of them. I won’t be around to respond to comments for a couple weeks.

 

I actually advocate a formalised caste system btw. We already have an informal one, and I’m not very optimistic that it can be abolished, so I think it is better to recognise it officially so that we can all agree it exists and discuss how to improve it
it looks like formally dividing people into nobility and commoners with different privileges and obligations and social expectations, and hopefully finding some way of making it possible and easy to switch to a different caste than the one you were born in, if it is not a fit
the point is it should do the same thing as our informal class system but just be formally recognised
That and being less twisty for people who are trying to plan their life and need to know how the world works
[the US has an informal constitution] and that there’s a pretty large difference at this point between the informal and the formal constitutions
this is a problem
Curtis Yarvin enumerates three different ways of living: The traditional yeomen, the cosmopolitan armigers, and the deracinated lazzari. You’re a cosmopolitan armiger, which basically means you belong to the culture Scott Alexander described as “universal culture”. You value creative and/or intellectual fulfilment, and you need basically no instruction to know how to pursue it, though you might find instructors that appeal to you.
Traditional yeomen are very different from this. While you may not be an individualist in politics, you’re an individualist in personality in the sense that you live your own life, and your life is basically about you. A traditional yeoman is not an individualist, and their life stories are not best understood on the individual level. Yeomen live in groups, and care a lot about the local community, and fitting in and doing well by the church. If you try to get them to decide their own career, they will almost inevitably find some way of delegating the choice to some guide in their local community. They live basically in cults, and they want to live in cults, and they will live in cults even if you try to make them stop. You might not like this – sorry, but you’re a cosmopolitan armiger.
(what does caste confer?) which people can hold what type of office, for example.
There may be a case for making this independent of your caste, but currently it is not independent from your caste, and the law should reflect this in order to be an empirically accurate law.
In fact, most people are very averse to giving up the informal caste system, which is academic credentialism
there’s no need for a new aristocracy. We just need to improve the aristocrats – in particular by curing their addiction to power and relevance.
The poor state of the aristocrats is a result of the political system’s structure, and it is not only the aristocrats who are in a poor state as a result of this.
The whole point is that an academic aristocracy is basically a clerisy, and that having a clerisy in power violates the principle of separation between church and state. Of course, this would already be problematic alone by the fact that it involves the state in enforcing a state religion and ruling by deceit, but actually, the bigger problem with having a union of church and state is not that the church corrupts the state; the bigger problem is that the state corrupts the church.
An aristocracy is valuable because it provides us with scientific progress, technological advancements, and innovations, not to mention incredible, aristocrat art. A civilisation does not thrive without having a thriving aristocracy.
But they should not be in power.
Basically, it’s not this blue vs red tribe culture war thing. Neoreactionaries do not wish to suppress the current members of the Cathedral, or to punish them, or to marginalise them in the next regime. Not only will they be treated with decency, they will still be aristocrats, they will still be able to live woke or hippie lifestyles or whatever they prefer, and, if all goes well, they should be doing better in every way except in political power. 
The neoreactionary view isn’t that clerical oligarchs are an evil outgroup to be crushed mercilessly; it’s that they’re our beautiful and literally noble friends and family who unfortunately have developed an addiction to power and relevance, sorta like the kind of temporary insanity described in “Politics is the Mind-Killer” by Eliezer Yudkowsky. It’s not an “us vs them” kinda thing; it’s a “let’s fix this crazy mess” kinda thing.

 

Jan 142022
 

This post is snippets of an informal conversation with Mr K, which I’m posting while on vacation. I don’t necessarily endorse any of these views, and may oppose some of them. I won’t be around to respond to comments for a couple weeks.

 

The queer counterculture that manifested for example as the house ballroom culture of 90s New York or as the disco movement in the 70s barely exists anymore, with LGBT spaces having been filled largely by young trans women, most of whom are headed towards university degrees, often in STEM, which is an enormously unrealistic path in life for most people of the original gay counterculture.

As for gay men, what we have instead looks a lot more like assimilation to a normative way of living than it looks like genuine acceptance. Consider for example how flamboyance and to an extent male femininity continues being stigmatised.

I’m just pointing out that the history of the gay counterculture does not look at all like a great victory for the counterculture

it looks more like a crushing defeat, largely from the AIDS epidemic, and then the establishment turning out to be somewhat merciful and allowing us to assimilate if we can. Not all of us can, and then the situation really does look rather damning.

Gay people can assimilate to be accepted, adopting a mainstream lifestyle only differing with regards to the sex of their long term partner, whom they may marry and, in USA probably even adopt children with

pursuing some white collar job like accounting or journalism or another of the jobs mentioned in Scott Alexander’s blogpost there

I would say they ([most aspects of gay counterculture]) have become more stigmatised over the past few decades

the modern concept of homosexuality as being just sexual attraction isolated from any other aspects of personality is a recent invention and has no basis in fact

expecting a gay man to act as a straight man except for dating is pretty darn repressive

it perpetuates a pressure of conformity, because the fervent denial of stereotypes beyond all reason serves to perpetuate a stigma on stereotypical behaviour

so like I was, lots of gay men are desperate to disprove the stereotypes by being very much just regular guys. It’s a burdensome performance in the long run

this kind of stigma is widely recognised in the gay community, sometimes discussed as a kind of internalised homophobia. What’s less openly discussed is how the opportunity and pressure to assimilate has resulted in fewer “inner victories” against societal pressure, removing the counterculture that built confidence and toughness through hardship and substituting it for having gay people repress themselves into conformity.

fiery support provided a counterpoint to the societal pressure, but the current form that LGBT advocacy takes is predominantly not a fiery support for countercultural living, but a fiery support for the right to assimilate into normality. It does not have the same effect at bolstering people’s conviction in their right to live as they want.

I guess the post-AIDS gay movement could be said to have won, but that is an entirely different movement from the one we think of when we think of historical gay movement (eg. stonewall riots, harvey milk, gay liberation front, first pride parades, etc). The gay counterculture died to AIDS in the 80s.

Jan 122022
 

A few quick updates:

I missed our book club meeting in December (we only have one each in Nov & Dec, due to holidays). And I’m about to miss both the January meetings due to a Hawaiian vacation that manages to juuuuuust barely overlap both of them. This is why there’s been no Book Club Review in so long.

I don’t want to completely abandon the blog while I’m gone. I’ve participated (or observed) some informal conversations with someone who has some very unusual views on quite a few things. I disagree with him in some major way in most of his views, but I find them absolutely fascinating, and they give me a lot to think about. I may be engaging some of them in the near-ish future. In the meantime, he’s said it’s OK to paste some of the things I’ve clipped for further consideration onto this blog. So over the next couple weeks, there’ll be several posts by one “Mr K” on topics of interest.  Please keep in mind that A. I don’t necessarily endorse any of these views, and may oppose some of them in key ways, and B. I won’t be around to respond to comments for a couple weeks. These are just interesting.

 

Dec 132021
 

Any answer to the original question that goes much beyond “because that’s the aesthetic” is really doing it wrong.

I mean, one could talk about WHY that’s the aesthetic of cyberpunk. Why everything is sexy, super-focused on style and appearance, and what that says about how cyberpunk views a future that’s been shaped by relentless capitalism and the comercialization of all aspects of human life.

But any answer that doesn’t start with “Because that’s a basic aspect of the whole Cyberpunk aesthetic, and the more an artist moves away from sexy-everything, the more they are in danger of drifting out of the Cyberpunk genre entirely” is building on a foundation of vaporware.

After all, a cyberpunk gutted of sex is just Warhammer 40,000 without space magic.

Nov 122021
 

In discussion with a close friend of mine, she mentioned that she thinks of herself as non-binary. She is cis, sexual, beautiful, and obviously female. I was curious what she meant by non-binary.*

I.

I may have missed some aspects of it, but the primary thrust was such:  She never fit in with other girls/women. The things they were interested in bored her. The things she was interested in made them look askance at her. She doesn’t care to talk about make-up and girly stuff. She’s not a barbie doll. She hated their social dynamics. She felt far more comfortable in groups of boys, and would seek those out. She basically always felt like an outcast, and hated when other people pushed her to go play with girls, or denied her things because she was a girl. The female world didn’t fit her. And she was denied access to the male world. To this day she gets anxiety when thinking about joining any groups marketed as “for women,” and strongly avoids them.

I was a bit taken aback, not by the experience, but by that idea that this means she’s not a woman. In my view, thinking that this makes you not a woman is really sexist (and by extention, NB’s now seem even more sexist to me). We don’t need to make this about sex! We’ve had a word for this type of person for decades. It’s “Nerd.” (Or “Geek,” depending on your dialect.) The first thing I wanted to say was “That’s it? Try being a nerd growing up.” I didn’t, because I’m not an asshole. And also because I already know she was ALSO nerd growing up, and still is. It’s one of the things that binds us together. :)

The thing she described is, IMO, the experience of being a social outcast because you’re weird and different. That… can be looked at in a gendered way, I guess, if you want to force it. Especially if that’s how the people around you are pushing you to see it. But it’s not about gender, directly, is it? It’s not about feeling disgusted by your body. Not about feeling horrified when you look at yourself in a mirror. Not about feeling like something went terribly wrong and you’ve been forced into the wrong skin and can’t get it off, and no one can see that, and if only they could see that things would be better. It’s not gender dysphoria. It’s a more basic not-fitting-in with society, or the world at large. It’s existence dysphoria.

Existence dysphoria is feeling aliented from the world around you. Something went terribly wrong, and you’re living the wrong existence. The world doesn’t fit. It doesn’t have room for you, you don’t interface well with it. All your instincts and feelings are wrong, either subtely or blatently, and you are constantly being reminded of it. And no one else realizes how wrong everything is. No one can see this. If only they could see it, things would be better.

Sex and gender roles are a part of that, sure. But they aren’t the cause. Implementing gender dysphoria treatments won’t fix existential dysphoria.

II.

I don’t dislike any given non-binary person, but I find the movement as a whole to be a bit obnoxious. First, because it does seem rather sexist, as commented on above. But also, because it appropriates the extistential dysphoria experience and tries to make it about gender.

If you swap the genders in the first paragraph of Section I, you’d have a perfect description of me (and my nerd friends, of both sexes.) I was bored to death of sports and “masculine” stuff. I’m not manly. I hated the social dynamics of all the normal kids. I felt (and feel) far more comfortable around girls/women. I was always an outcast from the regular people. I will never join anything marketed as “for men” and even thinking about the type of people who would join such a group gives me the willies.

But that doesn’t make me not a man. Anyone who tries to belittle me or impy otherwise can kiss my ass. This was one of the pillars of the gender-equality movement. It was one of the reasons we fought for gender equality. It doesn’t matter what’s between your legs. You are allowed to dress how you want, talk how you want, wear make-up or not as you want. You can be interested in whatever interests you, and stereotypes be damned. It will never, ever make you less of a man/woman to have different interests. Those trying to control you like that are barbarians living in benighted intellectual squalor.

To cede that ground now seems like giving up after we’ve already won. It is saying that not only were the sexist assholes right, they were so right that we can’t even consider ourselves sexual humans any more. We aren’t men or women. We are a non-gendered other.

To make matters worse, it strengthens the stereotypes of those who don’t alienate themselves from their sex. It buys into and reinforces the idea that to be a real man you have to like sports and beer. To be a real woman you have to love make-up and gossip. In both cases, you have to dress a certain way, and talk a certain way.

And what for? The existential dysphoria mostly remains.

The best outcome is that geeks suffering from existential dysphoria find each other through these non-binary channels, connect with each other, and form their own social support networks. This is certainly a benefit. But it does not need to come at the expense of surrendering to the claims that we aren’t really men/women. Geeks have been finding each other long before non-binaryism was created.

The worst outcome is that those suffering from existential dysphoria will expect the implementation of gender dysphoria relief measures to help them, and when they don’t, sinking further into x-dysphoria. One of the major negative impacts of homeopathy is displacing actual real medicine that would have otherwise helped a patient. Non-binaryism has the same problem. Telling people to they/them you doesn’t make the world not broken. It addresses literally nothing.

III

I also find it distasteful the way non-binaryism appropriates the experience of trans people, and tries to legitimize itself off of their suffering and struggles. But I’m not trans myself, so I have very little to say about this other than what I just did.

IV

In summary, non-binaryism is yet another way for people to try to take the lives and experiences of neuro-divergents (“nerds/geeks”) and redirect them to their pet political causes (“wokeism”) while giving the neuro-divergents little of value, and harming a great many of them in the process. Same as it ever was.


*if you’re reading this, hi! I hope you don’t mind me using this as a jumping-off point for my public thoughts.

Oct 262021
 

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that people care about what others actually think of them, rather than just what they say.

First, yes, body-positivity is a good thing. It sucks to hate the meatsuit you’re stuck in. It’s good to know our friends and family love us for ourselves, and our bodies are a tertiary consideration at best. But most people want to actually be admired or attractive, rather than to be humored. It can feel nice to hear your friends say your story or novel or fantastic, or that you have a beautiful singing voice. Than you go on American Idol and discover that they were lying to you to spare your feelings the whole time, and you are disappointed.

Body-positivity campaigns like Dove’s Self-Esteem Project, and Victoria’s Secret Plus-Sized model, have their heart in the right place. They’re not bad things to have. But ultimately they feel patronizing, and it’s no secret they’re in it for the market share. They won’t change how you think other people view you.

Sir Mix-A-Lot, on the other hand, REALLY likes big butts. So much so that he cannot lie about it. His like of them is visceral and honest. And, very importantly, his public proclamation was extremely well received. Everyone knows the song, and enjoys it. No one reacted with “Wow, this weirdo is singing about his freaky fetish, let’s laugh at how cringe this is.” They reacted with “YES!! OMG BIG BUTTS ARE THE BEST!”

At a time when skinny blondes were considered the top-tier body, Sir Mix-A-Lot exposed the preference falsification that had been going on for ages. At last it became acceptable for large sections of the population to admit their true preference for fuller figures and dangerous curves.

This, in turn, resulted in untold millions of women realizing that their body-type was actually very attractive to a lot of potential mates. This wasn’t some pretty words said to spare someone’s feelings or to sell soap and underwear. It was a real desire that was made manifest in people’s actions. You don’t need to worry that someone is just being polite when they’re in front of you with desire in their eyes.

And thus, with a single extraordinary song, Sir Mix-A-Lot’s honest admission did more for women’s self-esteem than any amount of multi-million-dollar body-positivity campaigns.

Sep 142021
 

The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern

Synopsis: A college student find a portal to a magical, massive underground library, and finds his life is one of it’s stories.

Book Review: The most notable thing about this novel, and what you’re hit with as soon as you open the book, is the strength and scope of the structure play. The novel has framing stories within framing stories. It’s shot through with vignettes that turn into serial stories–basically fairy tale fables. They later co-mingle with other stories. Charecters swap between them, and enter the primary narrative that the protagonist inhabits. It’s really cool, and well done, and immediately reminded me of the best book ever written (Vellum).

Unlike Vellum, the story is pretty literal. You could unwind it and write a single, coherent story that goes from beginning to end. That makes it not quite as exciting, but it’s not really fair to compare anything to the best book ever written, so not a mark against Starless Sea. Because there is so much interweaving between the stories, and it can be unwound, as you’re reading along you begin to backfill details and characters. You realize the person in story B is the same person as story A, and that makes them the mother of charecter X, and the lover of character Y. It gives a jolt of pleasure every time another puzzle piece clicks together. This is probably what reading a mystery feels like, if you’re good at them. This is a book that was made to read twice, and the experience the second time will probably be very different from the first time.

Also, the fantastical underground is gorgeous and fascinating and I would love to be lost there for ages.

On the downside, not much happens in Starless Sea. The primary narrative is basically another one of the serial fairy tales that we get so many of, except examined in great detail. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough substance in a short fairy tale to support a novel’s worth of narrative. You can’t take a story that’s maybe a dozen pages in its fable form and draw it out to 300+ pages. Not only is there not enough of consequence that happens, but there’s very little of consequence at all. The stakes are… unknown? Whether the protagonist wins or loses doesn’t really matter, nothing really changes in the world, or even in anyone’s life. The non-magical real-world sections drag on for way too long. The magical world, while totally awesome, is a fairy tale and so the charecters are never plausibly in danger. The protagonist never has any agency, doing little besides choosing doors, which is fine for a fairy tale, but unsatisfying in a novel. In the end, it just didn’t feel like there was anything there.

It was an interesting reading experience, and I don’t regret reading this. I think I learned a bit about fiction, and the good parts are really good! But it’s just not something I’d be very enthusiastic about reading or recommending. So, Not Recommended.

Book Club Review: The structure play in the novel is quite fun to talk about, as is interogating why it feels well-written but insubstantial. And there is a certain type of reader who will absolutely fall in love with this sort of story. It may work for your book club, especially if you like slower, literary-style things. It doesn’t really have anything that’ll challenge reader’s assumptions or views, though. The discussion was alright, but a bit truncated. On balance, I think also Not Recommended, but it could work very well for some.

May 312021
 

Yeah, we all know the written work is almost always better than the adaptation. But today, I’m hear to say why this is the case for the Love, Death, And Robots called “PopSquad”

Paolo Bacigalupi wrote the original short story, it was first published in 2006, and can also be found in his anthology “Pump Six and Other Stories.” I strongly recommend it if you’re into grimdark SF. Every story there is fantastic, and he’s one of the best SF writers of the initial post-9/11 era.

But back to Pop Squad. The adaptation has a number of problems that read to me as a failure to grasp the themes of the short story.

Before we continue, just in case it needs to be said, this post will contain FULL SPOILERS for both the short story and the LD+R episode. Go read it and/or watch it first, though if you’re only going to do one, of course I suggest reading it

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First, you know how I absolutely adore Altered Carbon the book, but hated the Altered Carbon series? This is mainly because the series is extremely Deathist in the standard, brain-dead Hollywood manner.  The Pop Squad adaptation has a similar problem. Sure, the core story of PopSquad is actually the same. There aren’t enough resources to make new humans when immortality is unlocked, so breeding is made illegal and new humans are killed when found. But the LD+R version is so… simplistic. Bacigalupi is, above all else, a scracity-of-resources author. His focus is extreme climate change and the economic effects it can have, and how this will lead to a drastic reduction in quality of life for most people, and how many of those people are liable to react. His work focuses on genocides, starvation, war over fresh water sources, etc. The focus on Pop Squad is, as with most of his works, the problem of scarce resources. It’s made pretty clear in the story that the primary driver of this scarcity is drastic climate change, and the killing of new humans is just one more stop-gap measure to address that. The story doesn’t have a pro-Deathist message. Yes, one of the breeders within it speaks with strong Deathist attitudes, but of course she does, that’s what someone in her position would do. It’s a realistic portrayal of such a person.

The LD+R episode misses all this, and goes for the standard “Immortality is bad, and you can tell because immortal people are baby-killers!” It’s not particularly interesting or nuanced.

In service of this, the immortals are made to be as unlikable as possible. In particular, the protag’s SO is portrayed as shallow and vapid. She has to be, since she’s happy being immortal. In the written  story she was a talented, driven woman making something beautiful. LD+R mirrors the surface level narrative, but loses all the substance

Second, LD+R completely loses the emotional engine driving the story. The written work is following a man as he descends into madness. We watch him self-destructing from the inside as he’s trying to keep up outer appearances, and Bacigalupi executes this fantastically. LD+R doesn’t seem to know how to portray any of this. We see the protag look at blood spatters on his hand during the opera, but it doesn’t mean anything, and comes off as a cheap “blood on my hands” literalism. They show the dinosaur several times and try to imply it means something important, but none of the obsessive focus that the protag had in the story comes through. Crucially, when protag + SO have the joking interaction about her being impregnated, they flip who delivers the “impregnate the woman” line. I suspect this was to not make the protag look like a creep (which, c’mon, he’s a literal baby-murderer, I think that ship has sailed), but the scene loses all of its impact and most of its character-defining qualities this way. Not that I think those would have landed well even if they kept it as written, because the episode is poorly executed overall. But it’s a glaring symptom of the problem.

Third, they made a PG13 version of an R-rated horror story, which just doesn’t work. They cut out our protag blasting three children’s heads off in the openning scene. This is crucial to the story. It’s shocking to the audience, and puts us in the same headspace as the narrator. You cannot cut that out. It is the inciting incident that puts him in the nose-dive to complete mental breakdown, and it never happens in the show!

Third-and-a-half, because it’s closely related to #3, they completely miss the importance of the handgun. The police force was recently issued new guns designed to take down robot assassins and gangsters on some crazy PCP-style drug. It is MASSIVELY overpowered for the purposes of executing children. The fact that it is so grotesque, so gruesome, is why our protag is having his breakdown NOW, rather than however many years ago he started this job. He is forced to watch these tiny bodies blown apart in fountains of gore. He obsesses about how ridiculous this gun is on almost every single page of the story. He obsesses about it more than the stuffed dinosaur. Maybe it’s a metaphor for the unstoppable and indiscriminate power of the state. Maybe it’s just a metaphor for his own monstrosity that he can no longer hide from. Whatever the case, it is the gun & the gore that push him over, and neither of these are touched on in the episode.

Finally, the ending is all wrong. In the written story, at the end our protag saves himself by the skin of his teeth. He rejects the law, and the judgement of the state, in favor of his own. From what we know of the story, this isn’t sustainable, the scarcity of resources is a Hard Problem. Moreover, its stated she’ll likely be caught/killed soon enough anyway — the institutional knowledge and infrastructure needed to raise children literally doesn’t exist anymore, they are thoroughly fucked from the get-go. But he retains his sanity by rejecting the social order, and maybe he’ll be able to start changing things now, rather than accepting the fate of the world mindlessly enforcing executions. In the LD+R episode he, instead, gives his life to let her go free. It is, again, boring Hollywood simplicity. “I redeem myself through my death.” We don’t feel he’s really earned a redemption, and the whole thing is very pat and tidy. Sigh.

So, in summary, the short story is a fucked up dystopian setting, but you truely feel how beautiful and complex and valuable the lives of normal immortal people are. And how overwhelming the challenges are that brought them to this horrific policy. And how insane and gross the breeders are. But it also makes it clear that’s not entirely the breeder’s fault either, and we’re all at the mercy of society and biology, and when those two are in direct conflict, bad shit happens (hi catholic church). Maybe don’t pit the overwhelming and brutal force of the social order vs the irresistable biological needs instilled by millions of years of evolution! And it even makes the squalor of the breeders, of being enslaved to your biology, kinda glamorous, in its own way, for just a bit.

It’s really good, cuz Paolo is an amazing author. I’m sad the LD+R version failed to get any of that, and instead just went for the mass-market appeal of Deathist applause lights. It deserved better.

Also, while writing this I noticed that LD+R is a cheeky anagram of TLDR. Clever.

May 212021
 
This link is the first one at this month’s ACX link post. Making Prophecy Great Again
Due to a flood of failed prophesy about Trump’s re-election and COVID, some big names in Pentecostalism are proposing prophesy reform, and in particular
“WE BELIEVE it is essential that all spiritual leaders, including prophetic leaders, have a presbytery of peers and seasoned spiritual leaders who can hold them accountable regarding their life and ministry.”
Pentecostals are like the Libertarians of Christianity in terms of hierarchy and organization — there is (almost) none. The majority of churches are independent small businesses (with, yes, some franchises now), that thrive or die based on how well they serve their customers. It was a great demonstration in the power of markets, seeing as it went from one guy in early 1900s to half a billion+ now, while going up against institutions with centuries of market dominance and sometimes literal state-granted monopolies.
Anyway, I find this to be huge news, because it’s proposing an oversight committee to push reforms on the broader community, and it has support from major players. This means bureaucracy and hierarchy. If this push succeeds, we could be first-hand witnesses to the formation of a new orthodoxy. I imagine this is how people felt when they first heard that the Council of Nicaea was gonna be a thing.