Birds of a feather. Genetics was prominent this month, both privately and publicly.
Privately: I got my own test back from 23andMe. The ancestry data was deeply bor-ing. I am 70 percent "British and Irish," all the rest some variety of European, mostly northwestern. I was hoping for something exotic I might boast about for virtue points with my liberal acquaintances: a trace of Hmong, perhaps, or Samoyed. Nope: I am shamefully white.
Something interesting came up in my "Relationships," though. If you give 23andMe permission, they will add your DNA to a database that records genetic relationships of various degrees of closeness. I did this; and down there among the "Third to Fifth Cousins" (scroll down a bit) was … drum roll, please … John Brimelow! That's Peter's brother. They are identical twins, so there didn't seem much point in them both having their DNA scanned, as the results would just be the same.
Alexander Brimelow, Peter's son, shows up further down.
It's not actually that surprising. Derbyshires and Brimelows both come from Northwest England: the Derbyshires from Wigan, the Brimelows from Warrington, about twelve miles away. (Indeed, there's a Brimelow Farm in Wigan. The Brimelow brothers sadly report it was never owned by their family). Our sturdy ancestors thought nothing of hiking twelve miles to find a breeding partner.
Still, it's taking a while to get used to hearing the boss address me as "Cousin."
Narrative defenders in the last ditch. On the public front we had the little flap about Elizabeth Warren's test result.
I admit I can't summon up any interest in this at all. Of course Senator Warren is a lying hypocrite. She's a progressive Democrat, isn't she? And of course Affirmative Action is an anti-white scam, which ambitious people game any way they can for personal advantage. Tell me something new.
I did read with interest New York Times science reporter Amy Harmon's three articles on the misappropriation of genetic science by hate-filled bigots like me.
The three articles appeared on successive days, as follows:
- October 17th: Why White Supremacists Are Chugging Milk (and Why Geneticists Are Alarmed). Sample quotes: "Studying human genetic diversity is easier in a society where diversity is clearly valued and celebrated … There is no evidence, scientists stress, that environmental and cultural differences will not turn out to be the primary driver of behavioral differences between population groups."
- October 18th: "Could Somebody Please Debunk This?": Writing About Science When Even the Scientists Are Nervous. Sample quote: "Under the coded term 'race realism,' [the rise of a kind of repackaged scientific racism] implied, falsely, that science had found a genetic basis for racial differences in traits like intelligence and behavior. Why draw attention to it?"
- October 19th: Geneticists Criticize Use of Science by White Nationalists to Justify "Racial Purity". Sample quotes: "Given how much mixing has occurred, it says, the white supremacist notion of racial purity is 'scientifically meaningless' … scholars of racist ideology say contemporary white racism draws on the trope of 'natural' racial hierarchy"
As you can see from the sample quotes there, Ms Harmon has no clue what race realists (why does she call that term "coded"? isn't the plain meaning right there in the words?), "white supremacists," and "white nationalists" actually believe.
There are so many straw men in those three articles, I feared the New York Times website might burst into flames right there before my eyes. I've attended a score of conferences organized by people Ms Harmon would certainly tag as "white nationalist" and so on — Jared Taylor, Paul Gottfried, Peter Brimelow, even Richard Spencer. The topics of racial purity, racial hierarchy, and racial superiority were barely mentioned in those dozens of hours of conference addresses and Q&As.
The white attendees at those events mostly just want white people to be left alone; to not have their countries swamped by foreigners; to not constantly hear their ancestors insulted and belittled; for media and the authorities to stop lying to us and hiding the truth from us, as if we are children. ("The attacker is described as about 5-foot-9 and 250 pounds.")
The two sample quotes for October 17th are particular gems. The first one implies that studying human genetic diversity in, say, the U.S.A. is easier than studying it in, say, Japan. Does anybody believe this? Would any Japanese newspaper feel the need to publish, on three successive days, painfully contorted warnings on the perils of scientific facts about human biology leaking out to the Japanese public?
The second quote has as little semantic content as a sentence can have without being a perfect tautology. "There is no evidence for not-P" tells us nothing useful about the truth value of P. "There is no evidence it will not rain tomorrow." So … should I pack an umbrella?
The overall impression given by Ms Harmon's three articles is of someone fighting a desperate rearguard action. Yes, human behavior, intelligence, and personality do have some genetic basis. And yes, there are distinct, er, "genetic ancestry groups" … no, wait: I mean "major population groups" … no, hold on: "geographic ancestry groupings," that's it — but THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS RACE, I TELL YOU!"
Defenders of the Narrative are fighting in the last ditch.
Blinkered Goodwhites. Amy Harmon's articles make a point that can't be re-stated often enough. In the public interest, I'll re-state it right here.
We Badwhites understand perfectly well, in fine detail, what the Goodwhites believe. How could we not? The whole culture is saturated in their Narrative. We only have to pick up a magazine; turn on our TV; go to the movies; call on our kids' schoolteachers or college instructors, or our pastor, or our company's HR Director. We shall read (or see, or hear) straight unadulterated Narrative.
Goodwhites, however, have no clue what Badwhites believe. Any thinking outside the Narrative is utterly opaque to them. They never engage with it. They have a sort of comic-book caricature of it in their minds — racists, Nazis, guys with hoods, wife-beaters: supremacy! racial purity! hierarchy! superiority! patriarchy! — but it's nothing like reality.
I read quite a lot of stuff from the New York Times. It's a prestigious newspaper. I just read Amy Harmon's three pieces, didn't I? Although I don't know Ms Harmon, I can assert with high confidence that she never reads VDARE.com, or AmRen, or Unz.com, or Steve Hsu, or Greg Cochran, or Audacious, or the Z-Man. Why would she? She already knows what she's going to find: racists! Nazis! etc., etc.
As the Z-Man's commenter Wolf Barney observes on that October 23rd blog:
They [he means Goodwhites — or "Cloud People" in the Z-Man's terminology] are lacking introspection, original thought and empathy. We know their positions on every issue. They have very little understanding of our opinions beyond "BIGOTS! RACISTS! FASCISTS!"
Books aside, Leigh Fermor was a great letter-writer. A new volume of his letters has just been published. I haven't yet read it, but I've read about it in Literary Review, my subscription to which, in the not-particularly-improbable event of my being reduced to abject poverty by some global financial catastrophe, will be the last nonessential expense I forgo.
Writing to friends in 1961, Leigh Fermor included the following anecdote.
The soldier-servant of a friend of mine had been a prison warder before the war. I asked him if he had ever participated in an execution.
SS: "Dozens of them. I never liked it. I always tried to cheer them up, like, on the way to the scaffold."
Me: "What on earth did you say?"
SS: "I always used to say, 'Keep your chin up, cock, and you'll go off nicely.'"
The Moon … and Mars and Venus. Took Mrs Derb to see First Man. This movie's been getting it from both sides: from the President (and me) for not showing the raising of the flag on the Moon's surface, and from progressives for being too white. To thoroughly confuse the issue, our own Paul Kersey gave First Man a rave review. So we thought we'd go see it for ourselves and make up our own minds.
It's a remarkable thing, when you think about it, that it's taken fifty years for a commercial movie to be made about this, the most tremendous event of my lifetime, which will be remembered long, long after I, and you, and every name in your newspaper — including even Kim Kardashian! — has been forgotten, and the U.S.A. herself is one with Nineveh and Tyre.
I'll leave formal movie reviewing to Steve, who does it much better than I could; only registering that while I didn't mind the movie in any way, I didn't think it very well done. The pacing seemed to me all wrong — too much Gemini, not enough Apollo. How could they have left out Apollo 8, the Christmas Apollo, which is almost as vivid in my generation's memory as the moon landing?
Also, there was a bit too much emoting for my taste. Mrs Derb had precisely the opposite point of view: Too much engineering, not enough emoting.
Our different reactions are, of course, entirely socially constructed. There is no evidence, scientists stress, that environmental and cultural differences will not turn out to be the primary driver of different movie preferences between the sexes.
And then, again for me, the movie generated sadness at what's been lost. Paul Kersey seems to have felt this, too: "The movie stands as a testament to what once made our country so great."
It was September 1962 when President Kennedy said: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade." Less than seven years later we had done it. In today's U.S.A. it would take seven years just to thrash out NASA's Diversity and Inclusion protocols.
My considered reaction to Dunkirk: People should be hung from lampposts — they should be burned alive — for what they've done to Britain.
God send, if only for the sake of my three little daughters … that America can be saved from this terrible fate.
First Man beats Dunkirk on the authenticity metric, though. People smoke promiscuously in First Man — as indeed people did in the 1960s.
Half-an-hour into Dunkirk I began to notice that nobody was smoking. I got fixated on this, forgetting the story line (which is somewhat convoluted), just trying to spot someone smoking. I don't think there was a single instance, even with all those crowds of extras.
That is grossly inauthentic. World War Two was conducted on all sides, from Churchill's study (and Stalin's, and FDR's — although, to be sure, not Hitler's) to the remotest desert foxhole, amid great thick billowing clouds of tobacco smoke.
White Guilt porn still going strong. The actual movie aside, a couple of things struck me.
First, the theater was almost empty. There were 69 seats at the showing for First Man. We were one of just three couples in the room. That's single-digit-percentage occupancy … at the prime-time showing (7:20pm) on a weekend evening.
I understand First Man isn't doing very well, but is it really doing that badly? Or are movies — shown on big screens in many-seats theaters — going the way of Vaudeville? If they are, what do those much-quoted Box Office numbers really mean?
Second: from the previews that were shown in front of the main feature, it's plain that White Guilt Porn is still going strong. Among the five or six movies previewed were:
• The Best of Enemies: Smart, articulate, fearless black woman enlightens stupid redneck Klansman in 1971 North Carolina.
• The Green Book: Super-smart, articulate, gentlemanly black concert pianist enlightens dumb white Italian-American gofer.
Who watches this stuff? Is there really that much white ethnomasochism in the U.S.A.? Or is this just for blacks? It sure as hell isn't for me.
Dust to dust. While I admire Japan's demographic conservatism and still have my money on them as the Nation Most Likely to Succeed in the 21st century, their transition to a low-fertility, declining-population society has its pains.
Here for example is a story about death in Japan. The older "bulge" generation is dying off in swelling numbers, and the country is running out of places to put their remains.
Unclaimed urns containing ashes of the dead are piling up by the thousands across Japan, creating storage headaches and reflecting fraying family ties and economic pressures in a rapidly ageing nation.
The identities of the dead, cremated at public expense, are usually known, but in most cases, relatives either refuse or don't respond to requests to collect their remains. [Thousands of burial urns lay unclaimed across Japan amid fraying family ties and elderly unable to pay for their own funerals; Reuters, October 19th 2018.]
Sad! (And doubly sad that the subeditors at a major English-language news outlet don't know the difference between the English verbs "to lie" and "to lay.") But I am sure the ingenious Japanese will cope somehow.
That story got me thinking about corpse disposal. All right, it's not the cheeriest subject. I'm not the cheeriest commentator, whaddya want?
We humans have come up with five ways to dispose of our dead.
- Preserve them.
- Cremate them.
- Eat them.
- Feed them to other animal species.
- Liquefy them.
• Preserving the dead has been practiced at various times, but I think only with corpses of very high rank. The Pharaohs of old Egypt come most naturally to mind, but there have been other instances. Samuel Pepys exulted at having kissed the lips of Henry the Fifth's Queen, who had died 250 years previously. (Although her preservation seems to have been accidental).
Technology has given us a minor fad for preserving bodies, or just heads, in deep freeze, with a view to possible revivification. Google "cryonics" if you find this at all plausible. I don't.
I do, though, think that modern technology offers us other options we're neglecting. There is a firm in New York City that the Wall Street investment banks use to preserve one-page summaries of their big deals in lucite "tombstones." Any time one of my books made it into paperback, I took a copy round to that place and had it embedded in a "tombstone" of clear lucite.
I often reflected when doing this that being entombed in a slab of clear lucite would be a far better way to preserve yourself than anything the Pharaohs came up with. That stuff lasts ten thousand years. Your slab would make a great household decoration. Your family could stand it up in a corner of the living-room — what a conversation-piece! … okay, okay.
• Cremation is the most popular choice nowadays. Disposal of the ashes presents no problem. You can just scatter them at the location of your, or the deceased's, choice; or faute de mieux at the Garden of Rest behind the crematorium. I don't know why the Japanese have such an issue with this.
• Eating is of course gross, and I don't think it has anywhere been used for regular corpse disposal. Killing an enemy in order to eat him was common enough; this seems to have been Captain Cook's fate. Eating the already-dead to ward off starvation has also been practiced in extremis. But, "OK, Grandpa's dead — fire up the stove!" has not, I think, been a common utterance in any language anywhere at any time.
• Feeding the corpse to other animal species has been the commonest practice among humanity at large, strongly favored by the Abrahamic religions.
Burial comes under this heading, the recipient species then being worms, soil micro-organisms, or (in the case of burial at sea) fishes. The downside of burial is that it takes ages just to reduce the corpse to a skeleton — eight years, according to the gravedigger in Hamlet. The upside of course is that you don't have to see it happening.
After worms and fishes, next most popular as consumers of the Loved One are carrion birds. The Tibetans have their "sky burials" — for the (technically illegal) observation of which, tourists from metropolitan China pay high prices.
The Parsees of India and the Zoroastrians of Iran have their Towers of Silence to the same purpose: bodies are left on the flat tops of high towers to be eaten by vultures. The infant Rudyard Kipling was raised in a house near Bombay's Towers of Silence. One day he was found playing in the garden with a human hand, carelessly dropped by a departing vulture.
• Liquefaction — properly "resomation" is the latest thing. I described the whole process in as much detail as you could possibly want in a Radio Derb segment last December 22nd. You can read about it there if you're still with me. Also there, I stated my own choice:
Where the disposal of my own remains is concerned, my very faint preference — why bother with having a preference? I won't know anything about it — is to be eaten by wild beasts. Not only is that environmentally unobjectionable, it would also, it seems to me, be extremely cool.
Ball covers the territory very capably, though I don't know how much sense QM can ever be made to make if you don't have some of the deep mathematical background. And if you do have that background, there's a strong temptation to just take refuge in the math and sprint for the door when anyone asks, "Yes, but what does it mean? What's going on in reality?"
An extreme case of succumbing to that temptation is Max Tegmark, whose 2014 book Our Mathematical Universe argues that reality just is math. To make this work Tegmark has to take on board the Many Worlds Interpretation of QM: a step too far for me. Also for Philip Ball, whose book contains the latest arguments against MWI, thoughtfully and elegantly stated.
QM is weird, all right. By way of compensation, though, it has generated a lot of good jokes. Most widely known, I think, is the one about Werner Heisenberg being pulled over by a traffic cop. Officer: "Do you know how fast you were going, Sir?" Heisenberg: "No, but I know exactly where I am!"
Probably the single QM topic that's generated the most jokes is the paradox of Schrödinger's cat. The WANTED poster for the cat has by now appeared on every conceivable medium, from T-shirts to coffee mugs. It declares of course that the cat is "WANTED: Dead and Alive."
Ball offers a Schrödinger's-cat joke I hadn't heard before, that makes a nice set with that one about Heisenberg.
Schrödinger is pulled over by a traffic cop (possibly the same one Heisenberg encountered, or a superposition state thereof … never mind). The officer looks over the car and asks if there's anything in the trunk.
"A cat," replies Schrödinger.
The cop opens the trunk and yells: "Hey! This cat is dead!"
Replies Schrödinger angrily: "Well, he is now."
Where's my quantum time machine? Yes, QM sure is weird. Philip Ball's book got me thinking how weird quantum technology may be.
It is reasonable to suppose that great advances in theoretical physics will eventually bring us world-changing new technology. We figured out the atomic nucleus; we got atom bombs.
On that supposition, the tremendous expansion in our understanding gained ninety years ago with the rise of QM should surely be delivering some technological wonders any day now. And since QM is radically weird, the technology will likely have some weirdness about it, too.
How will QM weirdness manifest itself on the technological scale? Anti-gravity? Teleportation? Time travel? Domestic appliances powered by micro-black holes? The mid-21st century could be real fun.
Or my starting supposition may be false. Perhaps technological advance does not follow inevitably from theoretical advance, or sometimes does so only after an interval of centuries.
When I was a science-geeky teenager sixty years ago all the talk in the pop-sci magazines was about fusion power. Unlimited power from seawater! At a cost of next to nothing!
How are we doing with that? Uh:
For more than 60 years producing electric power from nuclear fusion … has been a holy grail of energy gurus. Governments worldwide have spent hundreds of billions of dollars, perhaps more than a trillion, in pursuit of that glittering, elusive goal.
All that effort and all those resources have so far produced few practical results and nothing approaching a commercial generating technology. [Fusion Power: Watching, Waiting, as Research Continues by Kennedy Maize; powermag.com, August 1st 2018.]
Quantum technology has been inching forward in a few areas, but it's still stuck in the labs.
The most-discussed application is quantum computing, which I've been reading about since the 1980s. There are actually quantum computers on the market now: you can buy one for $15 million or so, and Philip Ball's book has photographs of quantum microprocessors (pp. 264-5). Your $15-million computer's powers are very limited, though. It may just be the 21st-century equivalent of a tokamak.
The Economist just ran a story about the encryption technique that safeguards the internet, from e-commerce up to high-level government security. The underlying codes are un-crackable by any computer of the current architecture; but a quantum computer might break them.
Brian LaMacchia, who runs the security and cryptography team at Microsoft Research, thinks a "cryptographically interesting" quantum computer might … be ready some time between 2030 and 2040. [Quantum computers will break the encryption that protects the internet; The Economist, October 20th 2018.]
So just around the time we get fusion power, then.
Day more to a snail, missy bottom. I put in some time this month cleaning up the old diaries on my personal website, bringing them under a uniform format — this one — with easy permalinking to the segments and external links opening a new tab, not overwriting the current window. I've completed the first five years, 2001-2005.
In parallel with that I've been working my way up through old Radio Derbs, transcribing un-transcribed sound files and again making the formats uniform. I do a month of Radio Derbs, then finish up by doing that month's diary. Currently I'm working on February 2006.
Transcription presented problems. I had north of 130 hours of un-transcribed podcasts. The transcription market goes from cheap automated transcription by software to expensive human transcription. After weighing the comparative costs and effort, I went with cheap, and had Temi run my 286 Radio Derb sound files through their transcription software.
The results need a lot of massaging, but at least I have text files I can work from without having to type everything in. My text editor — trusty old KEDIT — has a good scripting language, so I've built up a library of KEDIT macros to autocorrect the commonest transcription blunders.
The software sometimes mis-hears in interesting ways. My opening words, introducing myself by name, often fox it.
"This is John barbershop."
"This is jammed our bishop."
Quite ordinary sentences sometimes come out just slightly weird.
"Hong Kongers are, or were, the world's penis newspaper readers." (Should be "keenest.")
"When Hillary presents herself to the electrode in 2008 …" (Should be "electorate"; although in Mrs Clinton's case I actually like "electrode" better …)
Foreign words and phrases throw the software into total confusion. Latin, for example:
"Day more to a snail, missy bottom." (De mortuis nil nisi bonum.)
"We can wincott a skeeze honeywell week, totally nay skis." (Vincere scis Hannibal victoria uti nescis.)
Commenting on Irish affairs in one podcast, I ventured the IRA slogan Tiocfaidh ár lá ("Our Day Will Come"), which is pronounced, approximately, "Chockay ar lah." The software rendered this in print as "Chocolate Allah."
That put a marketing idea into my head. Chocolate Allah — I bet the little kids in Muslim neighborhoods would go for that around Eid al-Fitr! Perhaps Hersheys could make some up for me on franchise.
Wait, though; wouldn't that violate the Muslim ban on images? Darn it, better seek clerical advice …
Math corner. Speaking of marketing opportunities: my friend Joe Shipman has patented a new casino game, which he will present at a trade show in Las Vegas next month. He's given me permission to publicize it here.
The game is based on the following pure-math puzzle, which is remarkably hard to solve.
Players 1 and 2 ante one unit and are each "dealt" a random real number between 0 and 1. If there is a showdown (bets called, no one folds) the higher number will win.
Player 1 checks or raises one unit.
If Player 1 raised, Player 2 must call or fold.
If Player 1 checked, Player 2 checks or raises one unit.
If Player 2 raised, Player 1 must call or fold.
Who has the advantage, and by how much?
Thanks, Joe. I'm going to do some serious work on the math there. Then I'm heading to Vegas.