Saturday, September 27, 2014

Twenty years and so tired of life

Today is the 20th anniversary of the release of my favorite album of all time. There are objective measures of things like rhythm, harmony, and melody, but much of what constitutes musical preference is subjective, and much of it is a consequence of time and place. People tend to most favor music corresponding to their own early adolescence, for instance. And so it is with UTTAD. It's difficult to try and articulate how much this piece of art has helped me psychologically, emotionally, and philosophically over the years, but here we go.

I think there's a convincing case to be made that UTTAD has a timelessness that protects it against being immediately identifiable as an undistinguished piece of early-nineties rock fusion. The band outlasted most of its cohorts, and of those still around like Radiohead, Phish, and Pearl Jam, DMB is today the biggest in terms of album (an almost anachronistic measure) and ticket sales (which they've dominated for the past decade and a half). A lot of the sound from that period has more-or-less been replicated. For better or worse--and we know where I stand--DMB has not.

The following is to serve as a personal time capsule with very limited general appeal, so if the subject matter is off your radar, please do save your time.


The Best of What's Around -- When life provides lemons, make lemonade. Events beyond your control shouldn't hijack your mood. Things won't always go as planned, and that's for the better as often as not ("if you hold on tight to what you think is your thing you may find you're missing all the rest"). In any case, counterfactuals are by their very nature inevitably hazy and speculative, so why fret? The quality of your experiences are determined more by the way you approach them and the people you approach them with than are the things that physically transpire at the time said experiences occur.

Asked to offer the best non-verbal description of audible joy in a single minute, I could offer nothing other than the last 60 seconds of this song. I am simply incapable of listening to it without uplift.

What Would You Say -- Two themes. Firstly, we want to feel as though we comprehend the world around us. In some sense we do, and now more than ever before, although we've had an inkling for a long time ("because of original sin"). But in the details, we can't even come remotely close. It's as overwhelming as seeing our place in the universe is ("in the morning's rise a lifetime's passed me by").

Secondly, the unexamined life isn't worth living ("there's nobody in here; look in the mirror my friend"). Ask the titular question. Work on informing the answer by examining every source you're able to; personal, professional, scholarly, existential, empirical or otherwise.

The two strands seem contradictory at first blush. They're not. Realize, instead, that you're not going to get everything right, not by a long shot. But embarking on that journey is the very essence of the human experience. It's ultimately tragic ("everyone goes in the end"), sure. Again, though, look at yourself in relation to the universe. C'est la vie.

Satellite -- Because of After Her, it's tempting for the lyrics to come as a mere afterthought. That's a mistake. The Satellite lyrics are far better than After Her's are. Experience is fleeting and the irresistible, incorrigible passage of time renders every moment simultaneously both unique in the specifics and trivial in the grander scheme.

How to reconcile yourself to this? Don't lose your playfulness. If you expect to find happiness in technological novelty ("like a diamond in the sky"), you're bound to be disappointed ("as I spend these hours five senses reeling, I laugh about this weatherman's satellite eyes"). If the contentment you're aspiring for exists in an end game you hope to arrive at sometime in the indefinite future, spoiler alert--you'll never get there. Like a good video game or movie, the magic is in the journey. It's not in the ending, which is often accompanied by feelings of melancholy at it all being over.

Rhyme and Reason -- Sister to Digging a Ditch and cousin of Too Much, we are confronting the fact that desires always outpace our abilities to fulfill them. It's as relevant to immediate desires for things like a drug-induced high as it is for loftier ambitions like self actualization. It is part of the human condition ("Until I'm six feet underground"). Like a dog racing greyhound chasing an electronic bunny, there are times when you'll feel relatively closer to the ultimate prize; other times everything will seem impossibly far away. Whatever the distance, you'll never close it entirely. As soon as you think you have, new desires start cropping up. If I get that job, that girl, that gadget, I'll finally have everything I've ever wanted, won't I? No, you won't, not even if you're a rock star like Dave Matthews.

Typical Situation -- Probably the band's most direct engagement with the problem of modernity. You are able to maintain meaningful social bonds with roughly 150 people. When the number of people you interact with exceeds that, relationships become thin, fragmented, and shallow. Contemporary Westerners deal with far, far greater numbers of people than that on a regular basis.

There is presumably a similar dynamic at work when it comes to things. That blanket you've had since you were a baby means something to you. The attachment is deep and visceral. That comforter you got from Target last week doesn't remotely compare even though it's objectively newer, warmer, and more fashionable. To the contrary, it has a negative value attached to it ("too many choices") because it takes nothing to obtain, fosters no significant attachment or connection, and will get thrown out as unceremoniously as it came in.

The door leads to the Nothing ("it all comes down to nothing"--heh, not quite literally, though it works well enough here), but look around and you'll quickly notice everyone is traipsing towards it ("keep the big door open, everyone will come around"), lemming-like, nonetheless. What's your alternative, Jack Donovan?

Dancing Nancies -- No, you could not have been anyone other than who you are. Dwelling on the question is only tempting regret and insecurity (and dizziness!). Stress leads to cortisol production. Cortisol leads to inflammation. And, quite rarely for a topic as disputed and controversial as human health, inflammation is almost universally agreed to be a bad thing. You are who you are. There is no going back in time. There is no hacking your genetic code (at least not yet). Own it. It's the only option open to you save becoming a paralyzed human vegetable ("shoes untied, tongue-gaping stare"), and you don't want that.

Ants Marching -- Routine is comfort. Comfort is, well, comforting. It's difficult to do things that make you uncomfortable. Specifically at issue is approach anxiety ("we look at each other, wondering what the other is thinking, but we never say a thing, and these crimes between us grow deeper"), but it speaks to a lot more than just that. Hope isn't lost, though. Let that urge, that attraction, to whatever it is you want to go after, compel and then propel you into pursuing it. The first step is always the hardest one to take. Once it's been taken, though, you'll find walking is easy, natural, and a lot of fun ("lights down, you up and die").

Lover Lay Down -- The album's only love song is also it's most straightforward. I lost my virginity to it (or to Jimi Thing, depending on what specific point in the act it is considered to have gone away).

Jimi Thing -- Dave's Jimi Thing might be your Dave Thing. It certainly is mine. Know thyself. The Delphic maxim echoes through eternity, as sagacious as ever. Figure out what works for you. What motivates, inspires, invigorates, and comforts you. The ritual of morning coffee, the good feeling and self confidence exercise brings, the pleasure that figuring out puzzling details of a game elicits, whatever. Look to others for suggestions, but not for rote answers. Don't be afraid to explain why the things that work for you work for you. If others don't understand it, it's no sweat of your back.

Warehouse -- This is an epic undertaking. Like a Shakespearean play (I'm told), it's better the tenth time you read it than the first time through. It took me years to crack the code. When I finally had the epiphany, it almost brought me to tears.

The warehouse is a metaphor for the body. The song is written from the perspective of a man on his deathbed. The passion intro sets the scene. As his consciousness begins to slip away and the violin picks up, we enter a sort of extended flashback as he recalls what he's gleaned about living the good life from having now reached the conclusion of his own.

Stay curious, stay playful. Have fun with convention and superstition, but don't take life too seriously. It's short on the metaphysical speculation ("bags packed on a plane, hopefully to heaven"). And for the better--this is advice for those who are in the midst of living, not for those who have already lived. Curiously, just as you start to come into your own as an adult, you'll start to realize how ordinarily human you are ("Becoming one in a million, slip into the crowd, this question I found a gap in the sidewalk"). It's a kind of Socratic Paradox. You're going to think you have things figured out and then something new will come and threaten the integrity of the equation you spent so much sweat and tears figuring out ("I had a clue, now it's gone forever"). The song is a gold mine. It's probably the one that resonates with me at the deepest level.

Pay for What You Get  -- A clever inversion of getting what you pay for, this is a mature--dare I say more nuanced--understanding of the way the real world works than the get-what-you-pay-for aphorism suggests. Another cliche, that having involuntarily lost merely frees up room for other things, ("have you heard a bird in hand is much better than any number free to wander") is discarded for the saccharine pseudo succor that it is.

On more than one occasion in the aftermath of a breakup, I recall going from here to Nancies to Satellite and finally to Best of What's Around, which I'd then play on repeat 5-10 times through.

#34 -- The iteration of the song I latched onto was devoid of lyrics. Yet the ambiance it creates is a fitting tribute to what DMB's music in general and UTTAD in particular has meant to me from my earliest pubescence all the way through to the present. It's my sanctuary, an always welcoming, refreshing refuge for a wary wayfarer muddling through life the best he can.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

From watchdogs to lapdogs

The Mexican gun-running program, proleishly labelled "Fast and Furious"; the murderous, mendacious Benghazi cover-up; the IRS thuggery, destruction of evidence, and obstruction of justice--all three of these scandals strike me as more corrupt and, in the case of the first two, deadly--literally, deadly--than the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon was. Yet even in contemporary America, late September 2014, I'd bet more people are familiar with the abuse of executive power that was Watergate than with the other three more recent and more serious abuses of executive power combined.

I'm not doing anything original by pointing out how the major media have become house organs of the Cathedral (or Establishment, or whatever moniker you prefer to use to describe the military-entertainment-religious-media-educational-corporate-industrial complex), but thinking about it in these terms is still enough to give pause to someone as cynical and jaded as I've become.

The watchdogs have become lapdogs. The pillars of the fourth estate crumbled long ago. The last remnants have escaped to the virtual world, where they exist precariously as disparate pieces of rubble... for now, anyway.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The sniffling SWPL

Tangential to Steve Sailer's recent post on the acid test for climate change activists being their positions on immigration is a table showing the percentages of GSS respondents, by ethnicity*, who often/always "make a special effort to sort glass or cans or plastic or papers and so on for recycling". The impetus is a remark by one of Steve's commenters that:
If a study came out revealing that Hispanics in the U.S on average recycle less than White people, it would be labeled as a “Hate Fact” by so-called “environmentalists” who are pro open borders/amnesty.
Those for whom recycling is not an option where they live are excluded, as are ethnic categories for which sample sizes were smaller than 80:

1. Italian81.2
2. Polish79.3
3. Asian72.1
4. Irish66.9
5. German66.6
6. Norwegian66.6
7. Scottish64.6
8. English/Welsh63.8
9. Dutch60.3
10. French59.7
11. Mexican55.6
12. Native American50.8
13. "American" only48.2
14. African45.2

To some extent this could be a measure of the percentage of people clever and socially aware enough to give the 'correct' answer. That said, this suggests, unsurprisingly, that Sun people care less about environmental stewardship than Ice people do. Taking a look at the curb lines in a black neighborhood or seeing the kinds of vehicles first-generation Mexican immigrants buy when they make it in the US (they aren't purchasing Priuses) renders this result pretty predictable. Feather Indians, despite their one-with-nature stereotype, don't care much either. Lump all these NAMs in with the wrongest kind of white people.

Environmentalists who do not take a restrictionist line on immigration are unserious at best. Not only do immigrants and their descendants from the third-world emit a lot more carbon and consume a lot more stuff in the developed world than they would otherwise do so back in their ancestral homelands, they don't care about environmental concerns as much as their new neighbors of European descent tend to. Open borders not only leads to more environmental degradation, but also to less political concern about said environmental degradation.

GSS variables used: RECYCLE(1-2)(3-4), ETHNIC(N)(5,16,20,31,40)

* "Asian" is an amalgamation of five categories: Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Indian (dot), and "other Asian"

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Eviction notice

It's not the condom commercial all the time, though.

That is, fortunately, a relatively infrequent occurrence from what I've gathered. To finally get the picture above, dinner had to be pushed back half an hour.

All we could get out of the first take was this:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Time machine in a bottle

Randall Parker has a fun post on hypothetical* time machine travel and what he fantasizes about being able to accomplish if given access to the requisite technology. In that spirit, the first three things that came to this rank amateur's mind:

- 326, modern-day Serbia. Locate the place Constantine's (probably) illegitimate but competent son Crispus was being held and hold off the assassin the irascible emperor dispatched to off him. Next, make Constantine and his court aware that Fausta framed Crispus and allow the emperor to gas her as he did.

The intent of this bit of social engineering being to avoid the in-fighting between Constantine's three succeeding sons and prevent the breakup of the empire and the eventual collapse of its western half. A contiguous empire is maintained through the time of Justinian (or whoever wore the purple as a consequence of my meddling) and the wealth secured by Anastasius isn't squandered on a quixotic and crippling quest to make the thing whole again.

Parenthetically, in a sort of wish-for-more-wishes move, I'd go back past Seneca all the way to Aristotle to inform tutors that their most important function was to instill a sense of just how damned important succession planning is. It should be the first order of business! In WEIRD societies we take the smooth transfer of power for granted in our own countries, but that's not even the contemporary global norm, and it certainly hasn't been the historical one. Staying with Rome, it barely made it 60 years after Augustus before a lack of prudent succession planning threatened imperial collapse.

- Circa 1190, England. Prince John would be informed in no uncertain terms that he was not to repeat the treachery he'd taken part, in league with his older brother Richard, against his father by doing the same to said older brother while the latter was on crusade. So doing would result in him becoming a unwilling teetotaler. Not because there wouldn't be anymore alcohol in England, but because he'd be dead (a threat I'd rather not have to make good on, because as a good little-R republican, I wouldn't want to indirectly keep the Magna Carta from coming into existence!). Instead, he would loyally and dutifully work to maintain his brother's holdings in England and Normandy until Richard had completed the third crusade's stated objective of retaking Jerusalem.

Staying in Acre for a few months longer than he actually did, Richard joyfully receives the news of Saladin's death. Taking advantage of the internecine fighting between Saladin's sons and their uncle for control of the Ayyubid dynasty, Richard reestablishes the Kingdom of Jerusalem to something like it's borders after the first crusade. If things shake out right, maybe he eventually even takes Egypt.

Perhaps this just pushes the ultimate collapse of the crusader states back a few decades, but alternatively maybe it leads to substantial amounts of Islamic territory reverting to Christianity. The fourth crusade doesn't happen--or if it does, it gets to Egypt--so Byzantium doesn't fall to the Latins. Instead, it becomes more than a moribund shell of its former self for the next three centuries before ultimately falling to the Ottomans. Obscenely optimistically, this gets us to a 21st century in which Antioch Christians in Syria and Coptics in Egypt constitute majorities of their respective countries' populations.

Less sexily, I could shoot for pretty much the same thing by pulling Frederick Barbarossa out of the Saleph river before he drowned.

- 1600, modern-day Gifo Prefecture. Prior to the decisive battle of Sekigahara, I'd appear--attempting to replicate something similar to Constantine's putative Milvian Bridge conversion experience--to both Ieyasu and Mitsunari, explaining to both in turn that promising to open Japan up to European influence would guarantee each one of them the ability to consolidate the country under his family's rule. If that results in the Tokugawa shogunate settling in as it did or if it leads to an Ishida shogunate filling the void isn't important, so long as the winning side welcomes the Dutch and Portuguese with open arms instead of keeping them at arm's length for decades and decades. Commodore Perry can force his way into somewhere in Southeast Asia instead.

Let's give Japan a two centuries' head start on what history gave her. It'll trickle down to Korea and China. We might be opening a Pandora's box, but maybe a more serious East keeps Europe from ripping itself apart in WWI.

These necessarily presume a Great Man approach to history. While I personally lean a little more in the direction of Herbert Spencer, it doesn't matter much in this context since it's presumably beyond the scope of a single time traveler to engineer meaningful changes of entire social environments. If a single man is going to change history, it's going to have to be by changing the outcomes of the great men of history.

* The specific word choice here is deliberate, since it strikes me as blatantly obvious that travelling backwards in time is impossible. If it were possible, we'd see evidence of it all the time. Yes, in the future it is conceivable that for understandable reasons there would be lots of restrictions on journeying into the past like not allowing anyone or anything to realize you were there, but that's an impossibly high standard to maintain--unless, I suppose, humanity (or whatever would travel backwards in time) had been so completely altered from humans today so as to be characterized by a nature unrecognizable to us in the early 21st Century. They'd all have to be members of the hivemind or surely somewhere some teenager would go out on a time travel joyride without his parents' permission.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Gibson the Bruce

Two-dimensional political orientations (right-left, conservative-liberal, etc) don't tend to map well onto one country from another, even when the populations of the countries under consideration share large swaths of identity in terms of language, history, religion, and culture. Corresponding party affiliations map even more poorly still from country to country. In the US, secession is generally regarded as a goal of a subset of those on the right, in large part due to the history of the American South. That is far from a universal pattern, however.

With polls showing a statistical dead heat in the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence, it's perhaps interesting to note that the quite leftist country of Scotland--whose possible withdrawal from the UK seriously threatens Labor's national presence--doesn't have particularly leftist cousins across the pond.

In fact, of the 42 different ethnic categories listed in the GSS, those of self-identified Scottish descent (n = 1,308) are members of the single most conservative ethnicity in America, with 43.4% placing themselves somewhere in the "slightly conservative/conservative/extremely conservative" nexus, compared to 34.5% of the US as a whole. They are more conservative than those of English or Welsh or German descent, and even more conservative than those who identify as "American only". Scottish-Americans are even redder than the McCain belt is.

GSS variables used: ETHNIC, POLVIEWS(1-4)(5-7)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Adrian Peterson

Tapping the GSS from 2000 onward for contemporary relevance, the percentage of black men who agree/strongly agree that there are times when it is necessary to discipline a child with a "good, hard spanking": 86.4%. The percentage of white liberals who concur is 52.3%, and among liberal white women is just 47.4%. Among conservative whites, the figure is 80.9%.

Like Michael Vick and dog fighting, this is another pop culture illustration of the Black Rednecks and White Liberals phenomenon in action.

I was listening to a podcast the other day where Jack Donovan remarked in passing that so much of the airtime surrounding the NFL doesn't have anything to do with the game of football. Instead, it is devoted to a set of mixed gender 'analysts' gossiping about the personal lives of players. Women buy Tostitos, too, after all!

Parenthetically, here's some deeper delving into attitudes on spanking from a few years ago.

GSS variables used: RACECEN1(1)(2), POLVIEWS(1-2)(6-7), SEX, YEAR(2000-2012)

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Prophetic prestidigitation

This clip from a speech by former president Bush has been making the rounds over the last couple of weeks following Megyn (sp?) Kelly bringing attention to it on Fox News:

Yeah, he's correct. The problem is, he could have been giving that speech in 2017 or 2027 and, assuming we'd maintained a continual presence in Iraq from the 2003 invasion onward and were finally contemplating a withdrawal from the tribalistic, medieval place, it would sound just as prophetic then as it putatively does today. Having knocked out repressive but stable autocracies in Iraq (directly) and Libya, Egypt, and possibly Syria (indirectly), we've created a lot more space in the Islamic world for potential future threats to America to fester and grow.

With apologies to Homer, it might be quipped that military intervention for the purpose of WEIRD nation-building is the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems!

That said, putting a moratorium on immigration from Islamic countries would do more for Western security than we can ever hope any amount of foreign policy meddling in MENA will achieve. There are thousands of underclass white girls in England who might not have had their childhoods and early adolescences destroyed if we weren't so civilizationally self-destructive.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

So much you have given love that I would give you back again and again

Here's a crass comic that captures what I had assumed to be a fairly widely held sentiment. What is in it for a member of the Selfie generation to inflict upon himself a life-changing imposition like becoming responsible for another well-being of another human being? It's such a drag:

There is a silent majority here, however, similar to the one that exists when it comes to sex roles in a nuclear family (even liberal women find the male breadwinner-female caregiver arrangement preferable to any other). Extending back to 1988, the GSS has periodically queried participants on whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement "watching children grow up is life's greatest joy". A staggering 85.9% agree/strongly agree, 10.5% are neutral, and 3.6% disagree/strongly disagree.

Human biology is a difficult thing to overcome. We're a pair-bonding species, distinct from our closest living ancestors by, among other things, our extraordinarily high level of paternal investment.

Parenthetically, this apparent overwhelming majority isn't just an artifice of the question, either. The module also asked about marriage. The same set of respondents were asked whether married people are generally happier than unmarried people are. Though self-assessment surveys consistently show that they are, it's not obvious to the general population. Only 45.3% agreed/strongly agreed, 32.1% were neutral, and 20.6% disagreed/strongly disagreed. There is far less consensus on this other conventional part of middle class American life than there is when it comes to the joy derived from raising children.

Back to said putative joy children bring, there are slight racial differences that generally parallel real world fertility patterns (if not actual parental behaviors). The percentages of respondents, by race, who agree/strongly agree with the statement:


Not surprisingly, women experience a bit more pleasure from nurturing and its consequences than men do:


Maybe it's Idiocracy unfolding, maybe it's that agile minds just have more routes open to them in their quests for personal joy, or maybe it's a little of both--those of more modest intelligence* say they derive more pleasure for child-rearing than sharper folks do:

Real Dumbs93.1
Pretty Dumbs91.8
Pretty Smarts81.4
Really Smarts72.0

Finally, as the termagant in the aforementioned cartoon illustrates, those who have children of their own experience the joy firsthand and are thus more impressed by it, or, alternatively, are more likely to morally self-justify previously made decisions by claiming as much:


Finally, to elicit emotions other than joy in feminists, a little empirical reality--garlic to those soul-sucking vampire fuglies. The percentages of women by survey year who agree/strongly agree with the statement that "being a housewife is just as fulfilling as working for pay":

Instead of feeling increasingly liberated, American women, if anything, appear to be exhibiting progressively (regressively?) more affinity for domestic bondage as time goes on.

GSS variables used: KIDJOY(1-2)(3)(4-5), RACECEN1(1)(2)(4-10)(15-16), HOUSEWRK, SEX(1)(2), CHILDS(0)(1-8), WORDSUM(0-3)(4-5)(6)(7-8)(9-10), YEAR

* Respondents are broken up into five categories that roughly approximate a normal distribution; Really Smarts (wordsum score of 9-10, comprising 13% of the population), Pretty Smarts (7-8, 26%), Normals (6, 22%), Pretty Dumbs (4-5, 27%), and Real Dumbs (0-3, 12%)

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Contemporary mid-term and presidential election electorates compared

Steve Sailer, touching on the tendency for presidential elections to bring out marginal voters who don't participate in mid-term elections:
The big difference between 2012 and 2014 is that Presidential elections, being big whoop-tee-doos, bring out the dumb and disorganized, the Julias, so Democratic rhetoric in 2012 was pitched at the lowest common denominator. Midterms bring out fewer but better voters, civic-minded citizens who are more likely to be annoyed than energized by the stupidity and nastiness of the Democrats’ “war on women” rhetoric.
That seems a plausible working assumption, though trying to quantify the electoral differences between mid-term and presidential election cycles has revealed it to be less obvious than I would have assumed it would be. Taking averages from the 2006 and 2010 mid-terms and averages from the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, here are the percentages of voters by income:

Mid-term under $30k -- 18%
Presidential under $30k -- 19%
Mid-term over $100k -- 25%
Presidential over $100k -- 27%

By education:

Mid-term no college -- 22%
Presidential no college -- 24%
Mid-term college grad -- 48%
Presidential college grad -- 46%

And by marital status*:

Mid-term unmarried -- 32%
Presidential unmarried -- 37%
Mid-term married -- 68%
Presidential married -- 63%

The presumed tendency is only very modestly perceptible in the educational and marital categories and is non-existent when it comes to income.

This does not, however, necessarily reflect information or engagement levels of the electorates. It seems quite possible that across all income and educational levels, those who vote in presidential elections but forgo mid-terms tend to be less politically informed and engaged than those who consistently vote in all election cycles are.

* The 2010 mid-term exit polls didn't query participants by marital status. Instead they were asked whether or not they identified as gay or lesbian. The Cathedral hadn't yet decisively wrapped up its victory in the battle over same-sex marriage in 2010, and not public surveys are exempt from conscription when necessity dictates! Total war requires total commitment. Consequently, the mid-term figures are comprised exclusively of data from 2006.