Odds and ends, mostly odd

Today’s useful term: “counter-Renaissance.” E.g.,

The Nazi leader who described the National Socialist revolution as a counter-Renaissance spoke more truly than he probably knew. It was a decisive step in the destruction of that civilization which modern man had built up from the age of the Renaissance….

—F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom.

***

J Greely:

… for all the (mostly true) complaints about how horribly misogynist the Gor novels were, the core audience was female. The local bookstore clerks who more-or-less adopted me in the late Seventies often laughed about how women would come up to the counter with a Gor novel artfully concealed in the middle of their purchases.

I tried reading one of Norman’s novels once but gave up half-way through. He didn’t like women and had no understanding of them. Or so I thought — apparently he understood some well enough.

***

Greely found a little game:

“List 5 famous people you’ve either met or have been within a few feet of, but ONE is a lie. Then let your friends guess which one they think is a lie.”

Let’s play.

1. Wendy Whelan

2. Phil Keaggy

3. William F. Buckley, Jr.

4. R.A. Lafferty

5. James Lee Burke

(Don’t recognize all the names? All are legendary in their fields, though those fields might be ballet or music, rather than sports or television.)

***

Peculiar visions

I had a brief, odd dream this morning. I was reading the Sunday comics. On the last page, where Pearls Before Swine usually goes in the Wichita paper, there were two wide panels depicting groups of unsvelte middle-aged women in classical garb, like troupes of Margaret Dumonts costumed as Roman matrons. Some were sitting, some were standing. All were holding holding Union Jacks, and all had beards. These two panels were in black and white, like illustrations from an old book.

Underneath, in place of Sherman’s Lagoon, was a single panel depicting a variety of mostly unfamiliar superheroes. The only one I recognized was Marvel’s Thor. All of them held some version of the Stars and Stripes. This panel was in glossy color, like the cover of an old comic book.

Then I woke up. Make of it what you will.

Unrelated update:

Where we are now, Mr. Despair was thirteen years ago.

Would it be prudent not to inquire whom else brassieres are for?

Postcard from 1862

Joseph Blackburne:

This is the first game I ever played with Professor Anderssen, the greatest German player, and at that time in the zenith of his fame. For a novice to offer so brilliant an expert the Muzio was like Ivanhoe challenging Bois-Gilbert in the lists at Ashby, but we were nothing if not daring in those days, and the cautious modern safety-loving youth of today had not yet been evolved.

Miscellaneous quotes

Theodore Dalrymple:

… I have often thought of starting a society for the prevention of cruelty to vegetables. I do not mean by this the terrible way the British used to cook vegetables, boiling them for hours to an unseasoned, indistinguishable, tasteless mush without discernible consistency; I mean the prevention of the suffering to which modern research suggests that plants are capable of experiencing. Pity the poor potato, from its soil untimely ripp’d! The tortured tomato, the assaulted asparagus, the beaten bean, the raped radish! I would start a movement to picket greengrocers and florists, throwing manure over them, haranguing them for their complicity with cruelty to the plant kingdom. Do they know nothing of the mandragora, have they never read Romeo and Juliet, never heard “shrieks like mandrakes torn out of the earth”? Shakespeare knew that plants suffer. Is it not time we caught up with him?

Shamus Young:

I think the rise of ADD, ADHD, LD, dyslexia, and all of the other alphabet soup syndromes are just a rise in the number of square pegs being jammed into round holes. Some kids have exceptional mathematical ability and are weak with language. Others are good at language but fumble with numbers. Most are balanced between the two. School seems to be designed around the idea that everyone learns at the same speed using the same techniques at the same age, and everyone who fails to fit this model must therefore have some sort of “problem”.

To me, the number of kids with learning disabilities is a measure of the rigidity of the education system, not the students.

William Briggs:

I use mathematicians as an example, because mathematics as a discipline has long been associated with Truth and Reality. Toss these out and you toss out the meaning of math: whence proof without Truth? And indeed, the Heterodox study found mathematicians had the lowest left to right ratio, which was still 5.5 to 1 in favor of Democrats. In contrast, Anthropology, which used to have the same ideals as mathematics, the ratio is 42.2 to 1.

TS:

He says people laugh at him for this, but he thinks Bing Crosby’s movies ruined the Church by setting up ridiculous expectations of priests in Going My Way and Bells of St. Mary.

“They anesthetized people’s common sense. Anybody who couldn’t see that was phony couldn’t see anything. And yet they became cultural icons of the Catholic clergy, that you could do no wrong. I don’t think any sane priest thinks they can do no wrong; I know there are priests who do think they can do no wrong but they’re not sane. I think that this idea somehow that there was this kind of ethereal clergy did violence to us. I think it’s part of the cultural baggage that we came out of the horrific World War II with, trying to find some peace and security, and in fact not doing that at all.”

Timely notice

2020 is a leap year starting on a Wednesday. If you save old calendars to display when the dates line up correctly again, you’re out of luck unless your collection extends back to 1992. However, calendars for 2014, 2003 and 1997 will be correct in 2020 for January and February1, and those for 2015, 2009 and 1998 will work for the rest of the year.

PSA

As Pixy points out, “There was no year zero.” Therefore, today is the “Last Day Of The Second Last Year Of The Second Decade Of The First Century Of The Third Millennium.”

Robbo reiterates, “As we all know, Wednesday is January 1, 2020. 2020 is not the first year of the next decade. It is, instead, the last year of this decade. Those failing to recognize this will be set upon by rabid honey-badgers.”

In other words, everyone compiling “best/worst/whateverest of the decade” lists is jumping the gun.

Further year-end notes:

The Babylon Bee proposes a reformation I can get behind.

• Dave Barry’s summation and dismissal of the year can be found here — but you have to allow ads to see it, grr.

Odds and ends

The United States’ copyright laws are insane. Canada’s are more reasonable. I recently discovered quite a bit of Cordwainer Smith is available at the Canadian site Fadedpage. It’s missing some essential stories, e.g. “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard,” but it includes some of my favorites, such as “Under Old Earth” and “Western Science Is So Wonderful,”1 as well as many others such as “Think Blue, Count Two,” “A Planet Named Shayol,” the Casher O’Neill stories and, of course, “Scanners Live in Vain.” (Update: there is a fair amount of Smith at archive.org, though most of it is less convenient to read than the offerings at Fadedpage.)

There’s plenty else available at Fadedpage. A few old favorites: Till We Have Faces, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats2 , My Life and Hard Times.

Isegoria discovers my favorite of Poul Anderson’s books, The High Crusade. I gather there was a lousy movie made from it, but I have a hunch that it would serve well as the basis for a good anime series.

Those who know their Who might hear something familiar here:

(Via Dustbury.)

To the list of famous coke-heads, you can add a pope or two.

(Via Pergelator.)

Words of wisdom Further silliness from here and there:

Checkmate, stalemate, forfeit

Tomorrow, for the first time in 46 years, an American, Fabiano Caruana, will challenge the world chess champion for the title. The last time this happened, it was major news. This time, though, apparently no one much cares. I searched the online edition of the Wichita newspaper today to see if there has been any mention of Caruana. This is what I found:

These don’t seem to have much to do with chess.

Out of curiosity, I did a search for “chess.” Here are the first few results:

So the Wichita Eagle squanders thousands of column inches every year on tedious ball games and incredible quantities of tripe, drivel and sanctimonious BS, but it can’t be bothered to spare a few inches for chess unless there’s a political angle to exploit.

You can follow the games live here for $20. There will also be coverage here.

Nobel note

John Walker:

Oliver Heaviside never won a Nobel Price, although he was nominated for the physics prize in 1912. He shouldn’t have felt too bad, though, as other nominees passed over for the prize that year included Hendrik Lorentz, Ernst Mach, Max Planck, and Albert Einstein. (The winner that year was Gustaf Dalén, “for his invention of automatic regulators for use in conjunction with gas accumulators for illuminating lighthouses and buoys”—oh well.)

Memo

To people who run websites:

  • If you have Flash anywhere on your site, please get rid of it. If your online catalog requires Flash, I won’t look at it.
  • If I need to disable my ad blocker to see your site, I won’t bother visiting it.
  • If you’re discussing music, podcasts make sense. Otherwise, I have neither the patience nor the time for them. (No, I don’t “multitask.” If I listen to a podcast while working on something else, I will both miss much of the podcast and do a poorer job on the task at hand.1)
  • Similarly, unless you’re discussing a dramatic presentation, video reviews and the like are also wastes of time.

Check

Chess was front-page news during July and August of 1972 as Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky to become the first USA-born world chess champion.1 (Or the second, if you count Paul Morphy.) Fischer didn’t defend his title, and since then no one from the USA has made it to the world championship finals.

Until now. This November in London, Fabiano Caruana, born in Miami, faces off against the current champion, Norwegian Magnus Carlsen. Caruana, the third-highest-rated player2 in chess history behind Carlsen and and the now-retired Garry Kasparov, is having a terrific year. After winning the candidates’ tournament, he went on to win the GRENKE Chess Classic and Altibox Norway tournaments over strong competition. In the latter, he finished ahead of Carlsen, though he lost to the world champion in their match. (He did defeat Wesley So, who had earlier defeated Carlsen.)

Caruana seems to be decent, likable guy, not a demanding neurotic like Fischer. His candidacy is an occasion for national pride. So why isn’t this front page news? The Wichita paper reports in excruciating detail about football players’ knees, yet there has been no mention of Caruana (or of Sam Shankland from San Francisco, who recently joined the 2700 club and is also having a very good year). I suppose that unless something is easily politicized, it doesn’t exist. The Cold War is over, and apparently to the media there is nothing interesting about white males3 who are merely among the best in history at a deep, fascinating game.