Cultural appropriation you can love. I like Pachelbel's Canon in D. Sure it's overplayed, but I like it, so I was stirred to action after hearing Prof. Greenberg pass some mildly snarky comments about it in one of his lectures. The precise action I was stirred to was, I used the Canon for sign-off music in my August 23rd podcast.
That brought an email from a listener. The email contained a link to a short video from Japan — a commercial, it says, so presumably run on Japanese TV.
I watched it. Then I called my wife in and we both watched it. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. (Although I think the translation needs work.)
Why don't we have commercials as good as that?
How Japan works. My entire direct acquaintance with Japan consists of an aggregate few hours mooching around Norita airport on stopovers. I did once, long ago, make a brief and not-very-serious attempt to learn the language; but all I have retained from that is the mnemonic for the order of letters in the Japanese alphabets (they have two):
Kana Signs, Take Note How Much You Read and Write them.
The fact that I can still remember that after fortysomething years suggests that it's a really good mnemonic.
My go-to guy for matters Japanese is a friend who does speak the language and spends much of his time in Japan. His observations about the place are interesting, HBD-realist, and sometimes contradict what I read in respectable news sources.
I recently tackled him with a question about Nepalese immigrants in Japan. There are a lot of them:
According to official data, as of the end of 2018, there were approximately 89,000 Nepalese living in Japan — up 11 percent from the previous year. There are 10 times as many Nepalese living in Japan compared with 10 years ago.
Most of these Nepalese are apparently doing low-level service jobs.
Now, I know that to get an immigrant visa for Japan you have to pass a Japanese-language test. My impression from my own feeble attempts so many years ago, fortified by many subsequent encounters and conversations, is that Japanese is a subtle and difficult language, hard for foreigners to learn. If that's true of spoken Japanese, it must be even truer of the written language. They don't just use two alphabets — three, I guess, if you count romanizations — they also use a non-alphabetic stock of Chinese ideograms.
Looking at David Becker's table of mean national IQs (end of this post), I saw Nepal listed as one of the lowest: mean IQ 60, along with Sierra Leone and Guatemala.
Thence my question: How hard can the language test be, if so many service workers from Nepal, a nation with such a small Smart Fraction, can pass it?
I asked my friend in Japan. His reply, in part:
Everything in customer service follows a script. Everything. All the time. There is a script for everything. Sometimes the Japanese level is pretty good. Usually it's just the script. And lately it's almost non-existent. Asking if they are out of an item has gotten me confused looks …
One of my observations about Japan is that this country works because of the left half of the bell curve. Very low-IQ people are well behaved. They show up to work. They don't steal. They don't litter. They are not loud. When they speak they follow the script. You would think, "Oh, I am taking to a smart Japanese person. They are so smart and disciplined." No. You are speaking to 90 or maybe 85 or even 80 IQ. Yet the outward behavior doesn't show it.
Meanwhile Vietnamese and Nepalese have to be screened to function at the level of 85 or so IQ Japanese. The traits of patience, compliance, work ethic are the issue.
You occasionally hear or read someone telling you that the test of a civilized society is how well it treats X, where X is some comparatively helpless group: old people, animals, homeless, the poor. I prefer Steve Sailer's idea: the true index of civilization is how well you provide work, stability, respect, and the opportunity to feel useful to the left-hand side of your bell curve.
On that index, Japan seems to be doing something right.
As it happens, August 6th is also the Derbs' wedding anniversary. This year is our 33rd; so at some point in early December we shall have been married a third of a century. As a champion of three-ness and third-ness, I consider this a major milestone.
The coincidence of dates — I mean, our getting married on Hiroshima Day — didn't occur to us at the time. If it had, and we'd mentioned the fact, the people around us would not have minded. We might even have gotten a round of applause.
We were married in Mrs Derbyshire's home region, Northeast China (always "Dongbei" in Chinese, never "Manchuria"), which had been occupied by Japan from 1931 to 1945. There was still anti-Japanese feeling there. One of Mrs Derbyshire's uncles had been drafted into a Japanese labor battalion during WW2 and never heard from again.
(There still is anti-Japanese feeling all over China, carefully cultivated by the ChiComs, probably to divert their citizens' attention from the fact that communism killed far more Chinese people than did Japanese imperialism — nearly six times as many, according to Prof. Rummel; although Prof. Dikötter gives higher numbers for deaths from communism, raising the ratio to seven or eight times as many.)
National character's a funny thing. The Japanese of eighty years ago were regarded as ferocious savages. In my 1950s English childhood I occasionally encountered adult Englishmen who had been war prisoners of the Japanese. You wouldn't want to be in the same room with one of those guys if a Japanese person walked in. Fortunately this never happened in the sleepy country town where I grew up.
Yet here I am a mere lifetime later gushing over the high civilizational level of Japan. I guess really, comprehensively, unmistakably losing a war — your cities fire-bombed to ashes, topped off with a couple of nukings — will do that.
My Jersey girl. China, where I and the Mrs will be spending most of September, is a world within the world, complete with a whole set of regional prejudices and stereotypes.
The Economist ran an interesting piece about this back in April.
People from Henan and the north-eastern provinces … are among those most commonly targeted, partly because those areas are such big sources of migrants …
Even among better-educated urban residents, north-easterners are often stereotyped as quarrelsome and pugnacious, and Henanese are commonly regarded as thieves and cheats. ["Province and prejudice: Many Chinese suffer discrimination based on their regional origin." The Economist, April 13th 2019.]
Hailing from Dongbei, the frigid bit of China stuck between North Korea and Siberia, Northeasterners generally describe themselves as 豪爽 (háoshuăng; "extroverted," "direct," "fun-loving") while people from elsewhere in the country typically describe them as "alcoholics prone to violent outbursts" and assume them to be affiliated with organized crime. This is unfair. Dongbei guys make great drinking buddies, if you're a guy (if you're a girl, you may want to carry pepper spray), and they're good to have on your side in a fight. And with their big hair, heavy war-paint, piercing accents, negotiable virtue and square-headed boyfriends, Dongbei chicks are like the Jersey girls of China. [Dirty Chinese by Matt Coleman; Ulysses Press, 2010.]
So I guess I've been living with a Jersey girl this past 33 years. That explains a lot.
I don't think, though, that I have ever mentioned my favorite page in the 1962 New Cassell's German Dictionary from Funk & Wagnalls. That would be page 103, where you find the entry:
derb, adj. firm, solid, strong, powerful, robust, hardy, sturdy, stout; coarse, blunt, rough, rude, uncouth.
Sounds like just the guy for a Jersey girl.
A couple of listeners wanted to chide me for pronouncing the lady's name as Pro-VEEN, when it should properly be Pro-VINE. I stand resolutely unchidden. Who can ever get the een-ine business right? The hell with it. Cue ancient showbiz joke.
A listener also reminded me that Ms Provine closed out her showbiz career in a way some thought unseemly: by doing commercials for a vaginal deodorant spray. Wrote Nora Ephron:
By 1969, the market for the sprays had grown to $19.3 million and manufacturers were tumbling in. The boom in sales came largely because Alberto-Culver had succeeded in getting the National Association of Broadcasters to change its code and permit the sprays to be advertised on television. (The stations themselves exerted pressure, of course.) The ads were required to be totally bland and unspecific — the word "vagina" is not allowed on the air — and they were. A woman walked down the beach with her child. Or lit the candles for dinner. Or talked, haltingly, about this somewhat mysterious product she, uh, really liked a lot. Dorothy Provine emerged from what she calls semi-retirement to endorse Feminique, and returned to semi-retirement $100,000 richer.
I've located a clip of the relevant TV commercial: it is at 28 seconds into this. Incredibly, it seems to me, the commercial aired on The Brady Bunch — the wholesomest of all wholesome family sitcoms — around 1970. Truly, the past is another country.
Are dentists any good? Lewis Thomas's book The Youngest Science reminds us how primitive medicine was until well within living memory. Outside basics like bone-setting and amputation, there was nothing much the medical profession could do for you until around 1930 (when my own mother was already a trained hospital nurse).
Hygiene had advanced somewhat in the early 20th century; before that, doctors were more likely to kill you than cure you. Read up the last days of President Garfield, if you can bear to. (Garfield's assassin said, probably correctly: "The doctors killed Garfield, I just shot him." He was hanged anyway.)
Still, Lewis Thomas may have targeted the wrong discipline, according to an article in the May issue of The Atlantic. The youngest science may in fact be dentistry.
When a dentist declares that there is a problem, that something must be done before it's too late, who has the courage or expertise to disagree? When he points at spectral smudges on an X-ray, how are we to know what's true? In other medical contexts, such as a visit to a general practitioner or a cardiologist, we are fairly accustomed to seeking a second opinion before agreeing to surgery or an expensive regimen of pills with harsh side effects. But in the dentist's office — perhaps because we both dread dental procedures and belittle their medical significance — the impulse is to comply without much consideration, to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible. ["The Truth About Dentistry" by Ferris Jabr; The Atlantic, May 2019.]
Hm. I can't say I love dentistry, or dentists in the generality, but I love my dentist. Here's a story from a couple of years ago.
The wall clock in our kitchen needed fixing. I climbed up on to the kitchen table via a chair, but underestimated the table's overhang. The table tipped; I fell.
Mrs Derbyshire was preparing food nearby. By sheer instinct she leapt forward to catch me: she, who weighs a hundred pounds soaking wet, to catch me, a 192-pound adult male. I tell ya: A Jersey girl takes care of her man.
We crashed to the floor together. Somehow in the crash she hit one of her front teeth against the furniture. It was chipped and bleeding from the gum.
I experienced remorse at near-suicidal levels. By sheer careless stupidity I'd caused physical injury to the woman I love.
This was a Saturday evening. I called our family dentist at his home phone number. I promised to pay him a thousand dollars in cash over and above normal fees if he'd attend to Mrs Derbyshire the next day, Sunday.
He: "Calm down, John. Don't be silly. You're like family. Have her come to the office at ten o'clock tomorrow morning."
She went. He was there — with his wife, who is also his secretary. He powered up his equipment, did a marvellous repair job on the tooth, and billed us a very reasonable fee, refusing anything extra for coming out on a Sunday.
That evening I went to the nicest family restaurant in our town and bought a $200 gift voucher to cover a slap-up meal for my dentist and his wife. I put it in a thank-you card with some suitable words written. Monday I dropped it off at the office.
Those suitable words ended of course with: "Don't forget to brush your teeth afterwards!"
The real youngest science. So no, I'm a hard sell for the idea that there is anything bogus about dentists.
Dietitians are another matter. Is diet advice actually any good?
That 192 pounds is more than I'd like to be and more than I should be on a skinny frame. I eat sensibly, dinners mostly "oriental": rice (brown), fish, veg. I lift weights three times a week in the family gym, and walk a lot (I no longer own a car). Yet still I have incipient moobs, and I'm told the phrase "muffin top" has been heard murmured around the household servants' quarters. So I've developed an interest in diet.
A few things are clear and straightforward. Sugar is bad; snacking is bad. I've cut out sugar and don't snack. It's made no difference.
Fasting got my attention. It's easy to do — a not-doing, not a doing — and I have good self-control. I cut out lunch, except for a protein drink on work-out days. No difference.
Carbs are the enemy! people have told me. Really? OK, I gave up bread. I couldn't give up my morning oatmeal, though. I look forward to it too much; without that bowl of Quaker Oats to head for, I wouldn't get out of bed in the morning. Surely oats can't be bad for you? Oats? "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people," says Dr Johnson in his Dictionary. You don't see fat horses; and the Scots are a lean, hardy race, aren't they?
Then I heard about the Keto Diet. I bought a magazine with details and recipes. Kale chips … bone broth … mocha muffins … zoodles … It all seemed a bit precious: artsy, yuppie, Vermontish, perhaps even — euiw! — millennial.
While I was pondering I started noticing anti-Keto articles on the news websites. This one:
Last month, three doctors published an essay in JAMA Internal Medicine cautioning that the enthusiasm for the diet as a treatment for obesity and diabetes "outpaces" the evidence. They pointed to studies suggesting that it … could cause adverse effects like constipation, fatigue and, in some people, an increase in LDL cholesterol particles, a risk factor for heart disease. ["The Keto Diet Is Popular, but Is It Good for You?" by Anahad O'Connor; New York Times, August 20th 2019.]
Then this one:
People following the ketogenic diet may be missing out on some of the healthiest foods in the world, an expert has warned …
Dr Shivam Joshi, a medical doctor and New York University professor, said people following the diet risk "throwing the baby out with the bath water."
Carbohydrate-rich foods like brown rice, quinoa and oats have been proven to be healthy and risk being sidelined by people grouping them with white bread and cakes. ["Keto diet loved by A-listers cuts out 'some of the healthiest foods on the planet' by ditching whole grains like oats and brown rice, doctor warns" by Sam Blanchard; MailOnline, August 5th 2019.]
See — oats!
And then this one from Time magazine:
Different people, even identical twins (who have nearly the exact same DNA), may respond to the same foods very differently, the researchers found — complicating decades of weight-loss and health advice …
Researchers tracked about 1,100 U.S. and U.K. adults, including 240 pairs of twins, for two weeks … Foods that spiked one person's blood sugar or kept their fat levels elevated for hours didn't necessarily do the same for the person dining next to them — even if they were twins. Individuals even had different responses to the same meals when they were eaten at different times of day …
A major 2018 study … found that just as many people succeed (or fail) to lose weight on low-carb versus low-fat diets, with no clear reason why. ["A Study on Twins Offers Proof That We All Need Personalized Diets" by Jamie Ducharme; Time, June 10th 2019.]
OK, got it: I need a personalized diet.
How can I get one? I can't:
Scientists still don't know enough about gut bacteria or diet-gene interactions to offer the type of personalized advice that would actually be helpful for dieters.
Looks to me like it's not medicine that's the youngest science, nor dentistry: It's nutrition. Outside basic obviosities like "Don't gorge on Twinkies" and "Get up off the barcalounger now and then," dietitians have nothing to tell us.
Decline of the waiting-room magazine pile. My dentist has an actual magazine wall rack, which endears me to him even more. Well, he had one the last time I went there, six months ago. Now I'm afraid to go and check. The zeitgeist may have swept that wall rack away.
Last week I was in the waiting area of a different doctor's office in the next town over. It was a big establishment serving several physicians, seating for around thirty waiting patients. I registered at the desk, then went to get a magazine for browsing while I waited. There weren't any!
I looked around at the other patients waiting. A couple of the older ones were just staring into space. The majority, though, were fiddling with their accurséd smartphones. Of course. What use would they have for magazines?
Yes, it's geezerish to grumble about these minor social changes. And yes, I'm sure that four thousand years ago some old fart in Mesopotamia was lamenting the change from good solid indestructible inscribed clay tablets to that new-fangled paper stuff — so flimsy! so flammable!
But I used to like the random, faute de mieux quality of the waiting-room magazine pile. If not for my doctors and dentists, I would likely never in my life have browsed a copy of Vogue or Ebony or People or Golf Digest. Whether my life is richer for having done so, I can't say; but it might be.
I'm sure I can go to those periodicals using a smartphone; but why would I want to go to them? In the old dispensation they came to me:
We know you're not much interested in us, but take a look! It's an afternoon appointment and he's backed up; he'll keep you waiting half an hour at least; what else do you have to fill the time?
Note to self: For next doctor/dentist appointment, take a book.
Young Fogey takes Parliament. At month's end I read that Boris Johnson, Britain's new Prime Minister, has persuaded the Queen to prorogue Parliament.
I don't have much clue what the significance of that is for Brexit; but it's made all the Establishment cucks'n'commies foaming mad, so I'm sure it's a good thing.
Likewise Johnson's pick for Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Nicknamed the "Honourable Member for the 18th Century," Mr Rees-Mogg is known for his formal dress and love of tradition. ["Jacob Rees-Mogg issues style guide to staff" by Paul Brand; ITV News, July 26th 2019.]
Rees-Mogg is what thirty years ago in my Spectator days we used to call a Young Fogey. That style guide mentioned in the title there instructs Rees-Mogg's parliamentary staff to:
- Use singular verb forms for organizations,
- Double-space after periods,
- Follow the names of non-titled males with "Esq.,"
- Do not place a comma after "and," (whoops) and, (darn it!)
- Use imperial measures (pints, miles), not metric (liters, kilometers).
I like the cut of this guy's jib. It doesn't seem probable that Jacob Rees-Mogg, Esq. will have occasion to refer to the speed of light in vacuo during Parliamentary proceedings; but on the off-chance it comes up, I hope the proper British measures will be used.
It's 1.8 billion furlongs per fortnight, Sir. British billion, of course.
Math Corner. That was a segue into my Math Corner.
Here's a very striking, very weird math paradox. I had never heard of it until it was brought to my attention just recently by astrophysicist and polymath Michael Hart.
Michael is the author of The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, Understanding Human History, and numerous other books. This particular paradox will appear in a book he has just finished writing: Mysteries and Paradoxes (©2019 by Michael H. Hart, publisher still in negotiation). I reproduce it here with his permission, though the exposition below is mine, not his. Writes Michael:
I first read about this paradox over 60 years ago. It seemed very strange to me then, and it still does.
The paradox concerns rational numbers, commonly called fractions. A rational number is the ratio of two whole numbers. The rational number ¾ is the ratio of 3 to 4. The rational number 23½ is the ratio of 47 to 2; you can write it as 47/2. The top number in a fraction (like the 47 in 47/2) is called the numerator, the bottom number (2 in that case) is called the denominator.
One of the greatest discoveries in ancient mathematics — by the Pythagoreans ca. 500 b.c., though not likely Pythagoras himself — was that some numbers are not rational. The square root of two is not a rational number; π is not a rational number. Euler's e is not rational; neither, probably (we don't know for certain), is his γ.
Rational numbers can be as large as you please. They can also be negative: −47/2 is a perfectly good rational number. In what follows, however, I'm going to restrict my attention to rational numbers between 0 and 1. More precisely: between 0 exclusive and 1 inclusive.
The set of numbers I'm considering does not include zero or any negative numbers; it does include 1, and all numbers between 0 and 1, both rational and irrational; it includes no numbers bigger than one. In proper mathematical symbolism, it is the interval (0, 1], "open" at the left-hand end, "closed" at the right. You can visualize it as a line segment one unit long with a just-visible dot at the right-hand end but no corresponding dot at the left-hand end.
Note in regard to the rational numbers that they are everywhere dense along this interval: between any two of them, you can always find another one. The rational numbers 377/849 and 127/286 are very close together — they differ by only four parts in a million — but halfway between them sits 215645/485628.
One more wrinkle. When discussing rational numbers we commonly "cancel down." If the number 4/6 shows up, we rewrite it as 2/3; if 35/60 shows up, we rewrite it as 7/12. In what follows I shall not do this. Far as I'm concerned, 4/6 and 35/60 are rational numbers in good standing. This means that each rational number in my line segment (0, 1] will be counted many times over, but I don't care.
OK, let's proceed.
Onto that line segment (0, 1] I shall impose some lesser segments, thus.
To every rational number n/d in (0, 1] I shall attach a teeny segment at its left. The length of this mini-segment will be 1/(10d3).
So, for example, the rational number ½ is now at the right-hand end of a teeny segment of length 1/80. (Meaning that the left-hand end of that segment must be at 39/80.) The number 1 itself, which you can write as the rational number 1/1, is at the end of a teeny segment with length 1/10, left-hand end at 9/10.
You can think of these teeny segments imaginatively as little shadows cast to the left of all the rational numbers by some light source over at the right, the length of the shadow cast by n/d being 1/(10d3).
The question I shall tackle is: How much of (0, 1] ends up "in the shadows," as it were? (See, this is VDARE.com. You can't escape the immigration issue.) How much of it ends up in one of those mini-segments attached to a rational number?
I shall call the answer L. If half of (0, 1] ends up in some mini-segment or other, L = 0.5. If all of it does (which seems, at first glance, more likely), L = 1.
I don't actually know the value of L. Some quick paper-and-pencil work on denominators from 1 to 10 tells me that it is bigger than one-eighth; bigger than 0.13, in fact. Remarkably, though, I can prove that it's less than one-sixth.
Proof that L < 1/6:
Consider some fixed value of d, say d = 4. Each of the four rational numbers 1/4, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 — think of them as dots evenly spaced out along the line from 0 to 1, with the fourth dot of course precisely at 1 — will end a teeny segment of length 1/640. Total length of all four segmentettes: 1/160. In general, the total length of all the mini-segments for denominator d will be 1/(10d2). There are d of them and each one has length 1/(10d3).
The total length of all the teeny segments on (0, 1] for all possible denominators is therefore one-tenth of this infinite sum:
1/1² + 1/2² + 1/3² + 1/4² + 1/5² + 1/6² + 1/7² + 1/8² + 1/9² + …
As it happens, we have known the precise value of that infinite sum since December 5th 1735. The value is π²/6, which is 1.644934066848226436472415266646…
The total length of all the teeny segments for all the rational numbers in (0, 1] is one-tenth of that: 0.16449340 …, a bit less than one-sixth.
And if you think about it, the actual proportion of (0, 1] covered by this infinitude of teeny segments must be less than that number, because the teeny segments overlap so much.
Consider the longest teeny segment, the one stretching to the left of 1. Its length is 1/10. Call it Joe. Halfway along it is the rational number 19/20 with its little segment, length 1/80000, appended to it on its left; and this little segment is totally covered by Joe — as, of course, are an infinity of other segments for other rational numbers in Joe.
There's overlap like this all the way along from 0 to 1. The rational number 1/3, for instance, owns a teeny bit of real estate to its left, length 1/270. Call this one Sally. Halfway along Sally dwells the rational number 179/540 with its segmentino, length 1/1574640000, totally covered by Sally.
And that's not even to mention the overlapping caused by my not cancelling down. The rational number 4/7 has a segment attached to it at the left, length 1/3430 — call it Fred. The rational number 8/14, which is at exactly the same spot in (0, 1], has a segment of length 1/27440 attached — call it Daisy — but totally overlapped by Fred. The rational number 12/21, which is at the same spot again as 4/7 and 8/14, has a segment of length 1/92610 attached but totally overlapped by Daisy, … and so on.
With all that overlapping, the proportion L of (0, 1] covered by this infinitude of teeny segments must be a lot less than 0.16449340 …
Put it another way: The un-covered portion of (0, 1], has aggregate length well north of five-sixths. The great majority of (0, 1] is not covered by any of my teeny line segments.
All right: but what does that uncovered portion look like? You might imagine it as a lot of microscopic fragments — a little bit here, a little bit there, …
But that can't be right because the uncovered portion can't include any line segments. It can't, because every line segment, no matter how short, contains rational numbers.
The interval from 403277185924/1000000000000 to 403277185925/1000000000000 (denominators one trillion) is short indeed, length only one-trillionth; but it contains 4032771859241/10000000000000, 4032771859242/10000000000000, 4032771859243/10000000000000, (denominators ten trillion) and an infinity of other rational numbers.
If the uncovered portion of (0, 1] can't include any line segments it must be just a collection of isolated points (corresponding, of course, to irrational numbers like the square root of ½ or π − 3).
And the only place one of these isolated points can exist is immediately to the left or right of some teeny segment. So the total number of isolated points, each with length zero, is at most twice the number of teeny segments, each with a finite length.
Since 2N zeroes must add up to less than N finite lengths, the total length of all the isolated points must be less than the total length of all the teeny segments.
But we have already shown that the first total length is greater than five-sixths, the second less than one-sixth.
Moral of the story: Ordinary plain-vanilla real numbers, the critters we've been familiar with since 500 b.c., are stranger than you think, perhaps stranger than you can think.