Friday, 29 November 2013

Book Review: The Evolutionary Psychology Behind Politics by Anonymous Conservative

Anonymous Conservative is a writer with whom the entire Manosphere should be well-acquainted, and it is deeply unfortunate that we are not. His blog is one of the key reference points for any red-pill-aware man who wants to understand why governments and movements do what they do. His book has actually been out for a while- years, if I'm not mistaken- but was never really available in digital form until fairly recently. It took me quite some time to get around to reading his work in full, but I must say that it was worth the wait.

AC has made this work freely available to download via Amazon Select, and I strongly recommend that you take advantage of this and sign up for his free email alerts which will tell you when the book will next be available for download. The reason I say this is because the amount of work and thought that he has put into the book is tremendous- he's basically putting a masterwork of thought and reason out there for free. You'd be plain crazy not to take advantage of this.

(That said, I do believe in paying good money for quality. AC, in the unlikely event that you're reading this, I'll be happy to kick some cash your way via PayPal in return for your book. It's only right.)

This book is one of the most important works on politics that you will ever read. If you've found yourself wondering why Vox, Roissy, Aurini, The Observer, Elusive Wapiti, and I all refer to liberals as "rabbits" and conservatives and libertarians as "wolves", it is because of this book and its contents. The book essentially uses the established and well-understood binary heuristic of r/K selection theory to build a convincing logical argument that explains very well the current dichotomies in our political debates. He also helps explain why so many seemingly highly intelligent people believe such colossally stupid things these days. And in passing, he presents highly effective rhetorical tools and strategies for winning debates with opponents on the Left.

(There's an interesting aside somewhere in the middle of the book about the evolutionary psychology of libertarianism. All I can say is that I don't quite agree with it, given that my opinions on politics and human freedoms are very strongly K-selected, but it's worth reading nonetheless.)

At the core of the book is the theory of r/K evolutionary selection. This is a theory that has been well known and very well understood for decades. The basic idea is that organisms adapt their evolutionary strategies and tactics to their environment. The type of environment- and to be more specific, the carrying capacity of that environment- is extremely important. An environment in which a population of organisms will never consume all available resources, either because of extremely plentiful resources or high rates of predation, will lead to very different evolutionary outcomes than an environment in which resources are scarce and therefore organisms may quickly reach the carrying capacity of that environment. In the former case, organisms will adapt to an evolutionary strategy of fast reproduction and low investment in offspring- because, after all, there is little point in investing huge amounts of time and effort in raising high-quality offspring when death could be right around the corner in the form of a predator, or when resources are so plentiful that the offspring will survive regardless of how much time and effort is put into their rearing. In the latter case, parent organisms recognise that the future of their genetic line depends upon rearing offspring that will be strong, independent, and successfully adapted to the resource-scarcity of their environment, and so will invest enormous amounts of time and effort into raising them properly.

Two additional key insights help turn this book into something other than just another book on evolutionary strategies. The first, which AC readily admits is not his own, is that every single organism on Earth is compelled to pass on its genetic information. This is just a fact, and it is as true of highly complex and evolved species like wolves, lions, and humans as it is of viruses, bacteria, and protoplasmic organisms. This urge to propagate our genetic code in recognition of our ultimately doomed existence is the absolutely fundamental driver behind any amount of behaviour. The second insight, which is AC's alone, is that these strategies are inseparable from psychology. It is not appropriate, in fact, to think of these as "strategies" so much as psychological modes and patterns of behaviour. If you think about it for a few minutes you will see precisely why this must be so.

From this foundation of critical insights, AC has developed a powerful and coherent theory that explains so much of the world around us that I'm amazed I never came across it before. His basic argument is that liberalism is an r-selected psychology, which takes as its starting point the belief that there is plenty to go around and there always will be, restricted only by the predations of unknown and terrifying forces that no liberal in his right mind would ever confront himself. Therefore, it is right and just to "spread the wealth", to ensure that there is "fairness" for all, and use the power and force of government to crack down on those who would resist. It also makes sense to absolve oneself of responsibility towards one's offspring and adopt a promiscuous, hedonistic lifestyle; after all, resources abound and life is good. (Or, as my sister puts it when she really wants to annoy me, "YOLO".) He argues that liberals exhibit limited loyalty to in-groups and are actually quite afraid of true confrontation on an individual basis, but are fully capable of confronting anything they want in large mobs. And if you've been paying any attention whatsoever to the way political debate works in the West, you know damn well that he hit the nail square on the head with his descriptions.

Conservatives, by contrast, understand in their very bones that times will not always be good and that ideals that we today associate with masculinity- martial values, courage, honour, strength, loyalty to one's kin and tribe- are to be prized and passed on to one's offspring. Conservative psychology dictates a belief in high-investment parenting, absolute loyalty to in-groups, low tolerance of promiscuity and homosexuality, strong belief in "traditional" values, and the desire to be left alone as much as possible to pursue individual freedoms and individual ends. Again, none of this is the least bit surprising if you're a frequent visitor to this blog and thousands of others like it.

One very interesting additional insight made by AC concerns the amygdala and its link to political ideology. This is a seemingly odd aside that actually has tremendous explanatory power in relation to the theory that AC is proposing. As AC points out, the amygdala controls so much of our behaviour that it isn't even funny. The amygdala allows us to suppress feelings of fear and pain, but it also acts as a store of cognitive memory biases that allow us to recognise danger instinctively, without even thinking about it. The example that AC gives is of a friend who, as a child, walked on an ice-covered lake and fell through at a point when the ice was thin. Forever afterwards, his friend would listen very carefully for cracking ice and would exercise extreme caution in walking on iced-over lakes- because his amygdala was telling him, subconsciously, to be careful and avoid danger.

AC's research shows that liberals have smaller amygdalae, on average, than their conservative counterparts. This is a very large part of the reason why liberals exhibit far more risk-taking behaviour, in the form of hedonistic and promiscuous lifestyles, than conservatives do, while exhibiting far less caution and wariness about "outsiders" than their K-selected counterparts- which is why liberals tend to be so strongly in favour of unlimited and unchecked immigration, and tend to sympathise with the causes espoused by the enemies of their country.

The explanatory power of this book is quite simply astonishing. The methods by which modern political thought evolved and took shape suddenly become clear and transparent, when before one would be left wondering just why the hell anyone could possibly think that the magnificent fraud of Marxism made any kind of sense to anyone- in short, the reason it made perfect sense to a lot of useful idiot liberals is because those same idiots found a justification for their paradigm of endless resources and endless happiness within the convoluted, logically tortured, basically unreadable work of intellectual sophistry that we know today as Das Kapital.

There are a couple of flaws to this book that need to be pointed out, and I hope that AC expands upon his theory in future or fixes these issues in subsequent editions. The first problem that I have is with the fact, known and observed throughout the last three centuries, that nations which have given in to the stupidity of r-selected values have almost instantly seen slow-to-rapid declines in population and fecundity. This trend has gotten much worse over the last hundred years, to the point where we are looking at truly epic population crises by 2070 in most of the developed world. (I'm reading a book right now that goes quite a long way towards explaining this, and will post a review of that one once I finish it.) This is in direct contradiction to the logical outcome of an r-selected society of rapid breeding and low-investment parenting, as the theory does not appear to fit the facts. AC partly answers this by pointing out that freely available and heavily subsidised birth control has made it possible for r-selected individuals to engage in highly promiscuous behaviour while also reducing or even eliminating the negative consequences associated with such activity, but this is not a completely satisfactory answer and requires considerable work and elucidation before I am willing to fully accept AC's ideas.

The second major problem lies in the fact that the book promises to help you answer liberals in debate quickly and easily, but in fact there is very little time devoted to rhetorical tactics and ideas that one can use to easily confound and dismay the opposition. The closest that he gets is a passage late in the book in which he points out that the best way to stymie liberal opposition to gun control is to call them cowards to their faces- because, let's face it, they ARE. Liberals will NEVER go up to conservatives in person and demand that we turn over our weapons to them. They will instead rely on the brute force of government to do the job for them through K-selected proxies in the form of policemen and the military, who are loyal to their nation even when they question the wisdom of their nation's government. Calling liberals "bunny-men" who are frightened of guns is, to be sure, a highly effective tactic- part of what AC calls an "amygdala jack", in which the K-selected individual pushes his r-selected interlocutor's sensitive points by overstimulating the parts of his opponent's amygdala to the point where dopamine production goes into overdrive and the r-selected individual literally becomes unable to function. AC explains this sort of thing much better on his blog than he does in his book; I would argue that he could add another chapter to this book dedicated solely to the theory and practice of amygdala jacks, and that would actually greatly increase the quality of the book.

In closing, AC has written a masterpiece here, one that every reader of this blog should go out there and purchase or download immediately. I cannot stress enough just how important this work is to your understanding of the world and how useful it will be in the development of your own ideas and paradigms. And if you can find a way to support the works of AC and others like him, please do so. The fight for civilisation depends on men like him working to preserve and defend it.

Didact's Verdict: 5/5, a must-read book for any Manospherian.

Get the book here.

How economies die

A recent article over at Mises.org jogged my memory about the way in which an economy commits suicide:
Imagine that Cuba and North Korea became, overnight, the two most free-market, limited-government countries in the world. The two countries would have immediately gained civil liberties and economic freedom, but they would still have to accumulate wealth and to develop their economies. The institutional change affects the political situation immediately, but a new economy requires time to take shape. For example, as China opened parts of its economy to international markets, the country started to grow, and we are now seeing the effects of decades of relative economic liberalization. It is true that many areas in China continue to lack significant freedoms, but it would be a much different China today had it refused to change its institutions decades ago. 
The same occurs if one of the wealthiest and developed countries in the world were to adopt Cuban or North Korean institutions overnight. The wealth and capital does not vanish in 24 hours. The country would shift from capital accumulation to capital consumption and it might take years or even decades to drain the coffers of previous accumulated wealth. In the meantime, the government has the resources to play the game of Bolivarian (i.e., Venezuelan) populist socialism and enjoy the wealth, highways, electrical infrastructure, and communication networks that were the result of the more free-market institutional realities of the past. 
Eventually, though, highways start to deteriorate from the lack of maintenance (or trains crash in the station killing dozens of passengers), the energy sector starts to waver, energy imports become unavoidable, and the communication network becomes obsolete. In other words, economic populism is financed with resources accumulated by non-populist institutions.
All of this is quite correct. Economies are most assuredly not destroyed in a day. The process of economic destruction takes years- even decades- to accomplish thoroughly. It can be accelerated, to be sure- and it can be slowed. But it only be stopped with tremendous difficulty once it is set in motion.

The best parallel that I can think of is between two crown jewels of the British Empire in the East. By the end of WWII, Calcutta- which is the name by which I think of the city, rather than what the Indian government wants us to call it- was once, without question, the wealthiest and most advanced city in the British Raj. By contrast, Singapore was something of a backwater little trading port, "an island city pimple on the arse-end of Malaysia", as one of my teachers once so picturesquely put it. Singapore was a hugely valuable territory to the British, to be sure- it controlled a highly strategic location and was considered to be one of Britain's most impregnable fortresses before the Japanese proved them quite wrong by riding in on bicycles. But to argue that Singapore would someday surpass Calcutta in terms of wealth, technology, power, and prestige would have seemed completely ridiculous in 1945.

Nearly 90 years later, the vast, yawning chasm between the wealth and advanced infrastructure of Singapore, and the poverty and backwardness of Calcutta, is so large as to defy comprehension.

If you are a frequent visitor to both cities- I am- then you might be tempted to ask what the hell happened???

The answer is very simple. Singapore used the power of the free market to grow. After independence, Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP recognised very clearly that following a closed-economy, socialist approach would only destroy the extremely vulnerable Singaporean economy and impoverish its people. They chose instead to build on Singapore's original history as a trading port and regional administrative centre to build a thriving, economically liberated metropolis. The Observer and I can both nitpick till the cows come home about how un-free Singapore's economy really is, but there is no question that when it comes to doing business, Singapore is an incredibly easy place to get things done. Its economy is freer, in terms of regulation and red tape, than America's- by a long way. And because of its infrastructure and its (relatively) free markets, Singapore has proven to be surprisingly resilient against severe economic shocks- far more so than most other Asian nations. During the Asian Financial Crisis, for instance, Singapore's property bubble did not so much burst as quietly deflate, while the shocks to one of the world's most trade-dependent economies were absorbed without the kind of extreme economic dislocation suffered by Malaysia, Thailand, and especially Indonesia. I'm not for one moment arguing that Singapore's government is non-interventionist- you'd have to be smoking something really strong to believe that- but they are vastly less inclined to meddle than, say, the Americans.

When looking at Singapore, it is vital to recognise that Singapore invested heavily in infrastructure through delayed consumption and very high savings rates- up to 50% at certain points in the late 70s and early 80s- that allowed the economy to grow rapidly for decade after decade. Without that capital investment, none of the good things outlined above would ever have come about.

Calcutta, by contrast, is a textbook case of what happens when a socialist government achieves power and then stays there for decades. For something like 50 out of the last 60 years, Calcutta has been ruled by the Communists. No, I am not making that up- and Indian Communism is really more appropriately called nationalist socialism, because that's what it is. (One of the oddest things about Indian Communism is that it infects the most highly-educated states almost universally- West Bengal and Kerala are both heavily Communist, and both are the most highly literate and educated states in the entire country. Evidently it takes a very intelligent person to believe that something as idiotic as Marxism actually works.) Calcutta, long considered the cultural centre of India, has slowly declined and died, strangled of funds and development, choking under the weight of something like 20 million people crammed into it, and ruled over by governments intent only on stripping the city of wealth in order to subsidise the rural poor.

The Communists were able to get away with this for decades, simply because Calcutta was such a wealthy city to begin with. They were able to sponge off of centuries of accumulated wealth, infrastructure, and investment. Unfortunately, what took so many years to build was torn down in far less time, because that's basically what happens when you start stripping the infrastructure of a city, or a nation.

I'll put this in very concrete terms. Let's say you stop investing in roads, deciding that the money would be better put to feeding the homeless and the indigent, because justice, or something. Sure, you'll get away with it for a few years, but the roads themselves will become potholed and dangerous. It will not take that long before they decay to the point of being virtually unusable (anyone who's driven in Manhattan knows what I'm on about). But this causes both short- and long-term knock-on effects in the process of decivilisation. For instance, goods and services can no longer move as freely or as easily, which jacks up the cost of doing business and robs people of incomes and wealth by raising prices. Those increased prices force consumers and producers- who if you think about it are one and the same- to switch to less costly factors of production. Eventually things will get so bad and so expensive that it will be cheaper for them to move to places that are investing in infrastructure, while eating the up-front cost of doing so and the dislocating longer-term effects. As the smart and the talented flee from the government's "spread the wealth" policies, the stupid and the feckless are left to squabble over the increasingly dilapidated ruins of what is left.

The astute reader might recognise, by the way, that this is literally the entire plot of Atlas Shrugged, except in one paragraph instead of 900-odd often very tedious pages. Now you don't have to read the book. You're welcome. (I still think you should, it's actually very good.)

And this is precisely what has happened to Calcutta, and is now happening in the United States. As the government in this country insists on using redistribution to "solve" (read: exacerbate) the nation's severe structural economic problems, the result will be the slow destruction of the country's basic infrastructure. The US certainly isn't replacing its infrastructure or replenishing its once vast stores of capital; the savings rate here has been zero or negative for years, and the government is spending with such reckless abandon that one might wonder if politicians even understand how to balance their own personal cheque books. Eventually, this country will consume its entire accumulated store of wealth and will be forced to impoverish future generations to such a degree that... oh wait, that's happened already.

The lesson of history is very simple: no economy dies overnight. Economies die through decades of malfeasance, stupidity, and short-sightedness in the name of "social justice". The best way to kill an economy is to rob people of the incentive to save and invest, whether through high taxes, ridiculous regulations, or stealthy (and sometimes not-so-stealthy) inflation.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Album Review: Valkyrja by TYR

I don't do very many album reviews- this is maybe my third so far- but I do try to listen to new albums by bands that I care about as often as I can. One of my favourite bands ever is the Faroese band TYR, whose music is an oddly eclectic and very skillfully done collection of original songs, adaptations of ancient Norse legends, and great covers of old-school metal songs.

TYR is a band that defies easy categorisation. They play what sounds to most people like power metal, yet they don't sing about swords, sorcery, or dragons. They play A LOT of songs about Vikings and Norse legends, yet unlike most Viking metal bands there is no death metal growling- Heri Joensen's vocals are clean, powerful, and very solid- and their production values, especially these days, are first-rate; their albums sound great. They sing songs in their native Faroese, so one would be tempted to think of them as pagan metal- and yet they also sing the majority of their songs in English, with some Icelandic and Swedish songs thrown in to the mix just for variety. They also play with vastly more technical skill than a lot of pagan metal bands- their songs are often mid-paced groove-crushers, with odd time signatures and some of the best dual-guitar work you'll hear this side of classic old-school JUDAS PRIEST.

Their discography is also a bit weird. Their first album, How Far to Asgaard, is in my opinion completely unlistenable. It's slow, boring, and almost completely devoid of interest or emotion. (Heri Joensen wasn't doing vocals on that album, so that might explain it.) The follow-up, Eric the Red, was much better, with a lot more emphasis on melody and songwriting. Then along came Land, and that album is amazing, particularly the epic 16-minute title track. Ragnarok displayed yet more of that eclectic tendency that they've always had, mixing in pagan metal anthems with complex reworkings of ancient Norse sagas and eddas. By the Light of the Northern Star and The Lay of Thyrm might be considered more "traditional" metal albums, but they are exceptionally melodic and well-produced examples of what a band at the peak of its powers can do. These latter two albums mark a transition for TYR, away from its original folk-metal sound and towards a more straightforward double-kick-based power-metal sound. This shift is made all the more dramatic with this new album, because longtime drummer Kari Streymoy is no longer with the band, and instead George Kollias (one of the best death metal drummers out there) is filling in on the skins. The difference in both style and technicality of the drumming is remarkable.

Now we come to their sixth album, Valkyrja. Like Ragnarok, this is a concept album. Unlike its predecessor, which is a concept album about, well, Ragnarok- a subject that has been done to death and back by Lord only knows how many metal bands- this album is a bit more cerebral. It is a concept album about a man who falls in love with a Valkyrie, one of the Norse angels of death who determine which fallen warriors on the battlefield are worthy to sit with Odin in Valhalla. He leaves his wife and home to pursue his love, as the album tells his story- albeit in very oblique fashion- through 11 well-crafted and highly melodic tracks.

The album kicks off with a reasonably fast-paced crusher of a track, "Blood of Heroes", which relates very well the Norse philosophy of a beautiful death in battle. The second track is a little weird- "Mare of my Night" is a dark, ripping track full of great riffs and odd lyrics about sex with a very scary woman. It's a bit of an acquired taste, is all I'm saying. Things get back on track with "Hel Hath No Fury", which kicks the speed up a notch and really delivers great riffs, great lyrics, and some great guitar work from Joensen and Skibenaes.

The only really off track on this album has to be "The Lay of Our Love". Now, I don't care who sings them- I don't much like ballads. There are exceptions- "Light the Universe" by HELLOWEEN, perhaps, and several great NIGHTWISH and AFTER FOREVER tracks come to mind. But in general, I don't have the time or patience to listen to this sort of sappy nonsense. And this ballad is no exception. It doesn't matter how good Liv Kristine and Heri Joensen are as singers, they just can't make this sound anything other than boring.

The next track, "Nation", doesn't really fit into the concept behind the album, but it's a solid, pounding mid-paced anthem even so, dedicated as it is to the people of Iceland and to someone who I can only assume is a departed comrade and friend. "Another Fallen Brother" is the kind of track that TYR really excels at making- a mid-to-fast-paced melodic anthem with hard-driving riffs, great vocals, and powerful lyrics. "Grindavisan" (The Ballad of the Grind) is a track sung entirely in Faroese, and is a short but interesting aside within the narrative of the story that TYR are telling.

"Into the Sky" is where TYR returns to their melodic power metal roots with a song about a dying warrior awaiting judgement by the Valkyries. Definitely one of the best tracks on the album. Then we go back into folk-metal mode with "Fanar Burtur Brandaljod" (The Sound of Swords Fades), another folk-style track which nonetheless has a crushing riff and some great guitar work.

It is the last two tracks of this album that really make it worth buying and listening to, though. "Lady of the Slain" might as well be a thrash metal track, given its speed, heaviness, and power. It's one of the best tracks this band has ever produced. But it is the final, title track that makes this a great album. "Valkyra" is a seven-minute epic of a song, which I've been listening to virtually every single day since I bought the album, and it is simply perfect. It's dark, brooding, melancholy, and yet thrashes like mad over some phenomenal drumming and guitar riffing.

If you bought the deluxe edition, there are also two cover songs which are well worth the extra price. TYR's cover of the Greatest Band of All Time's classic "Where Eagles Dare" is not as good as the original- it's amazing to think that Nick McBrain came up with that drum pattern 30 years ago and someone like 20 years younger than him, who drums much much faster, cannot do better- but it's still a great cover version of a legendary song. And TYR's cover of the brooding, monolithic PANTERA classic "Cemetery Gates" is, in my opinion, even better than the original.

If you like a band that offers a lot of variety and an unusually melodic take on power/folk/Viking metal, then I strongly recommend checking out TYR. These guys are without question one of my absolute favourite bands and I can't wait to see them play live again next year.

Didact's Verdict: 4/5, a couple of weak songs let down an otherwise phenomenal new offering from a great band.

Book Review: The Line Must Hold by Jay Allan

[It is waaaaaay past time that I started posting some book reviews again. In fact I'm at least 8 books/albums/films behind in terms of posts, so if you see a seemingly never-ending series of reviews bombarding this place over the next few days, well, there's a good reason for it. Don't worry, I'll get back to my irregularly scheduled bouts of cranky social commentary soon enough.]

It's been about 8 months since I first started reading Jay Allan's "Crimson Worlds" series, starting of course with his excellent Marines. We are now six books (and counting) into this series, and I have to say that I'm amazed that one author can continue to maintain this level of quality and skill in his writing. He's doing a great job building a consistent and believable sci-fi universe, and he has done so by focusing on the four fundamentals of good sci-fi: plot, character, conflict, and technology.

The Line Must Hold is the fifth book in this rather good series, and comes after a change in direction in the fourth book. The first book was about Erik Cain and his development into a badass Jarhead. The next two books were about setting the tone and the canon of the universe that Allan has built- specifically, a canon that involves the inevitable conflict between fledging colonies in the outer reaches of human-explored space and their oppressive parent regimes on Earth. By the end of the third book, the Alliance government has suffered a spectacular defeat at the hands of the Marines and the Navy, and the Colonies have won independence, but at a terrible cost.

Then along came a complete curveball with the fourth book. This is when Allan decided to introduce the robot-warriors of an incalculably ancient race. The warrior-servants of the First Imperium push humanity to the breaking point, and it is only with truly terrible sacrifices that Erik Cain is able to stall the invaders. They are now poised to break into the heart worlds of human space, and it is up to Erik and his Marines to stop them cold and destroy them.

Such is the scenario that confronts us in this book. Cain and his Marines are dug in on the resort world of Sandoval as part of a strategy to hold the Line- a chain of three worlds and warp nodes that control the ability of the First Imperium's fleets to attack the homeworlds of Man. Augustus Garret and Terrence Compton are positioned with the combined might of humanity's naval forces in space to attack and harass the enemy's landing craft wherever possible. And two other worlds in the Line are similarly fortified, with the intent of turning all three into a meat grinder (figuratively speaking) for a relentless and unstoppable enemy.

And all of it still might not be enough.

The general plot of this book is, unsurprisingly, somewhat predictable. The plucky, outnumbered, technologically outmatched humans still manage to put up a tremendous fight against a tactically moribund opponent and thereby somehow come up with an almost impossible victory. Yes, we've seen this plot many times before and yes, it's predictable. Yet somehow Jay Allan is still able to turn an otherwise generic plot into an exciting, action-packed, interesting story. He does so by ensuring that although the core story is predictable, specific events within that story are not. The action is intense, unpredictable, and extremely well-written. Even when Allan switches away from the main protagonists to look at the battles through the eyes of ordinary grunts on the ground, he finds a way to make you care about the soldiers fighting for their lives against the cold, relentless robot warriors who grind on heedless of casualties.

Characterisation has always been a strong point of this series, and Allan shows no sign of deviating from the skill in writing interesting, believable heroic characters that he has shown throughout the first four books of the series. You genuinely do care about what happens to the main protagonists- Erik Cain, Augustus Garret, Terrence Compton, Elias Holm, and others. You really come to loathe characters like Gavin Stark and Alex Linden. And even when Allen introduces new characters into the mix, he never quite loses the plot the way George R. R. Martin did so completely and so catastrophically with his new-chapter-new-character approach in the last two books of his now-apparently-moribund series.

This book also seems more tightly focused than its predecessors. With very few exceptions, the story focuses primarily on the hell of war on Sandoval's surface. It focuses primarily on Erik Cain, rather than on the ancillary characters that populated the last book. And by doing so, it turns Erik into something new and far more interesting than the merely heroic character that he was at the beginning of the series. The Erik Cain presented in this book isn't really human anymore. The death of his best friend and brother-in-arms in the previous book has clearly turned him into something terrifying, an avatar of death and destruction made flesh, a man with only one reason for existence: to destroy any and all threats to humanity. His lack of humanity stands in sharp contrast to the characters around him, as he routinely and, it would seem almost casually, orders brave fighting men and women to their deaths in seemingly pointless sallies against a seemingly invincible enemy.

Yet despite his almost unfeeling appearance, it becomes clear that Cain's strategy is to draw the enemy in, bog it down, and then tear it apart piecemeal. This is revealed right at the end of the book, where Cain personally leads the charge that he has been holding back for the entire story to take the fight straight to the enemy. And at last, the true character and heroism of Erik Cain is revealed, even as the last shreds of his humanity are almost destroyed in the process.

To my mind, this is the best book in the series that I have read thus far. It avoids getting overly caught up in the machinations of Gavin Stark, the way the last book did. It avoids bringing in too many secondary characters, again like the last book did. And it keeps the focus squarely on the combat and the desperate last stand of humanity against the overwhelming tide of an alien invasion. That renewed focus should serve the series well as long as Allan continues to hold to it.

Didact's Verdict: 4.5/5, a great book that reads very fast and is immensely enjoyable.

Buy/download The Line Must Hold here.

Talking turkey

When your (not at all) humble servant was a wee boy living in the Pacific Rim, he was a Cub Scout and then a Boy Scout. (This was back in the days before the BSA was neutered by the politically correct lunacy that has infected it today; as a result, I actually know how to use a pocketknife and a hatchet properly without running and hiding behind mummy's skirt.) Because our Pack was led by an American mum, I got acquainted with the annual excuse to eat way too much food called Thanksgiving very early on in life.

Back then, I thought that the whole "give thanks and share food with those guys in funny feather hats" thing was just an amusing and enjoyable tradition. It wasn't until I came to America that I participated in a real Thanksgiving. And it wasn't until I did a bit of growing up over the last few years (read: became a libertarian, became a God-fearing man, stopped believing the lies I'd been raised with, etc.) that I came to understand the real point of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is not about consumerist spending. Thanksgiving is not about some mildly absurd founding myth of a nation. Thanksgiving is not an excuse to show off one's culinary skills. It might sound weird to say this, but it's not even a holiday that I particularly enjoy. To be specific, I don't enjoy the baggage that comes with it. Most years, I go out to my aunt's place to have dinner with her, and like 20 other people, none of whom I know or particularly care for. Getting out there is an ordeal and a half; getting back is worse. Fortunately, the journey isn't the point of Thanksgiving either.

Thanksgiving is, and has always been, about taking a moment to reflect upon what is still good and green in this world, and being thankful to the Lord for the gifts that He has given us. And if you think about it, there is, even now, even today, much to be thankful for.

This day, I am thankful for:
  • My family and the continued blessing of their presence in my life. I may not be the best son or brother. I do what I can under the guiding lights of my father on Earth and the Holy Father above. Even when I stumble or fail in my obligations, though, I take great comfort in the knowledge that they are still here with me.
  • My health and the tremendous dividends that two years of powerlifting are paying off now. I am, by any objective measure, very strong for someone my size and age. And the good news is, over the next decade or so, if I stay injury-free and continue to train hard, I should be able to maintain that strength for the rest of my life. Despite the nagging injuries in my left shoulder, my right trapezius, and various minor hip flexor and not-so-minor lower back strains, I'm still capable of lifting vigourously and easily. Discipline and strength go together, and once you realise the tremendous gains to be had from lifting hard and heavy, you'll never go back to the bad old days of lame gym workouts again.
  • The great blessing of my mind and intelligence. This might sound extremely arrogant to many- because it is. To me, however, there is no shame in being thankful for being smart and for being able to use that intelligence. I am not, to be sure, that smart- Vox would make me look like the village idiot in pretty short order, and I imagine that several readers of this blog would be able to do the same. My mind, however, is what gives me the ability to do things that those around me cannot, and for that, I am grateful.
  • This blog and its readership. It's been not quite a year since I started up this place. It's been a fun ride since then. I am admittedly not very good at maintaining the momentum of the posts- part of the reason why the last couple of weeks have been full of mostly fluff, for instance, is because I just haven't been disciplined about posting. Yet when I do find the time to write, I find it an absorbing and enjoyable activity. I blog from personal interest, not because it will make me rich (my opinions are too far from the mainstream and my posts are too infrequent).
  • Beautiful, feminine women who know how to make a man feel better simply by virtue of their presence. Preferably in skimpy outfits.
  • The accumulated wisdom of the M(A)ndrosphere. There is a lot of great work by a lot of great men available today for free on the Interwebz for any man with the will and the mind to improve himself. From hard PUA blogs like Halfbreed's place, to more general game-oriented joints like Rollo's and Roissy's and Roosh's, to total-improvement blogs like D&P and B&D, to somewhat more cerebral blogs like Vox's and Badger's (and mine, to some extent), we are all of us united in the belief that Mankind has lost something vital and precious, and we seek now to restore that knowledge and wisdom. I'd say we're all doing a pretty damn good job so far.
  • The blessings and wisdom of our Divine Maker. When I look at the course that my life has taken, I cannot help but feel that the Lord, however distant and unknowable He might be, does have a Purpose in mind for me. I just don't know what it is yet. I am deeply grateful to Him for His mercy and the blessings that He has given me, and that include the maturity and wisdom to understand some aspect of the Divine, no matter how small. Once you know and understand some small piece of the Lord, you immediately understand what I say when I argue that life without God is empty and meaningless.
This Thanksgiving, be grateful for that which is good and green in your life. Give thanks to those who deserve it. And live your life with a purpose, to live long and to be of service to your people. May God bless you today.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Time management for cranky misanthropic bastards

The original title of this post WAS supposed to be "Time management for introverts", but I figure Vox probably wouldn't mind this version too much:
I wouldn't call myself a master of time management. I'm lazy, I procrastinate, and I am appallingly bad about keeping to the schedules I set myself. That being said, I do always find the time to get the important things done and I seldom have any trouble popping up a blog post or two. But to the extent I can offer any advice, it is as follows:
  1. Become a creature of habit. It's much easier to get things done when you do them on auto-pilot.
  2. Set ambitious schedules. Even if you don't keep to them, you'll get a lot farther than you will if you don't try.
  3. Keep the television watching to a minimum. One hour per day, tops.
  4. Avoid getting sucked into pointless internet debates. Make your case, succinctly, and then learn to let it go. You don't need to have the last word; people are perfectly capable of discerning who is an idiot and who is not without your help.
  5. Avoid unnecessary socializing. This sucks up as much or more time than most time-wasters. One is seldom genuinely obliged to do as many things as most people seem to feel the need to do. Your best friend's wedding is an obligation. The funeral of your mother's cousin you never met, not so much.
  6. Don't fight yourself. When you're tired, go to bed. If you're not feeling motivated to do X, do Y instead. It's the MJ approach. If your shot isn't falling, then play defense and take the other team's scorer out of the game. Just don't bench yourself in front of the TV.
  7. Always read everywhere. I actually spend very little time "reading" anymore, in the sense of sitting down with a book. But I read at the gym, when waiting in lines, when waiting while running errands, and on the train. There is usually a book's worth of waiting time per week, so why not use it? There is no excuse not to with all the excellent ereaders on smartphones out there.
  8. Read one serious book for every two pieces of mind-candy.
  9. Go to bed later/get up earlier than everyone else. People are the ultimate distraction. The more alone time you have, the more you can get done.
  10. Focus on the important. The urgent will disappear soon on its own
Surprisingly (or maybe not, depending on your point of view), this is pretty much my view of time management also.

If you're struggling to manage your time while embarking on your long road to continuous self-improvement, you should absolutely start by making important improvement routines into habits. Going to the gym three times a week, for instance, is not a chore for me- hasn't been for years. I'm just so used to it that I do it. Even on bench press days. And I hate bench pressing.

Turning off the TV, or at least disconnecting your cable/satellite subscription, is one of the biggest favours you can do for yourself. The boob tube is nearly useless to me. I've gotten so sick of the relentless, nauseating blue-pill programming that passes as "good TV" these days that I just don't bother anymore; instead, when I do want to watch TV, I'll watch movies or old-school TV serials on Netflix from my childhood. (Speaking of which- which dinosaur-brained idiot decided to get rid of the classic He-Man animated series from Netflix?!?) And to hell with the 500-plus channels of your basic subscription- 495 of them are showing complete crap at any given time. So why bother?

Finally, reading is by far the biggest and easiest way to improve your mind- though given this blog's readership, I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir. At any given time, I'm reading at least three different books of various types- in fact I'm so far behind on posting book reviews that it's not even funny. The beauty of the smartphone is not that it allows you to play Angry Birds or that stupid Fruit Ninja game, it is that you can read the greatest books written by the greatest minds humanity has ever produced at any time and in any place.

Vox's advice isn't really "advice", per se. I personally think that his points are ideas that introverts know and understand at a very visceral level. Whether we always act on them is another story- anyone who saw how unproductive I was this past weekend (unless you count massacring thousands of alien Mike Foxtrots in HALO 3 as productive time- and I do) knows what it means when a deep introvert says that he tends to be lazy. But, the great thing about being a deep introvert is that when we put our minds to it, there is very little that we cannot do. And Vox has, quite simply, told you exactly how to do whatever it is that you need to do in life to accomplish your goals.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Domain Query: HALO 4 and the Red Pill

A drive-by commenter had a few questions about my post on dual-wielding:
I don't necessarily disagree, but were I to make the same argument, I don't think I'd pick as my primary example, games where the dual-wielder in question is an explicitly superhuman cyborg supersoldier/demi-god with an equally hax AI in his brain... ;-) That said, I'm curious to know more of what you thought of Halo 4 (as you seem to have enjoyed it) from a "Red Pill" perspective, or whatever. I haven't played it, and likely won't, being a PC-only sort of gamer, but from what I can gather, it seems a bit Feminist-slanted, what with the new UNSC SPARTAN chief being a woman, and the Librarian manipulating everything, and Catherine Halsey being her usual self.
Now normally I would not bother publishing an anonymous comment, let alone actually responding to one. However, this one addresses two of my favourite subjects, and given that this blog is explicitly about HALO and the Red Pill (at least in part), it seems apt and apposite to address these questions.

(Note to whoever asked these questions- blog policy is very simple. No anonymous comments. Post under some sort of name next time and you'll likely get a much quicker answer.)

There is no question that the Master Chief is a badass among badasses. I revere the Master Chief above all other pop-culture icons of masculine strength and heroism- even Batman. Of course, having a very hot and semi-insane naked blue chick inside his head all the time, who is possibly even better at blowing stuff up than he is, certainly helps. That said, the relationship between the Master Chief and Cortana, as portrayed throughout HALO 4, humanised the SPARTAN in a way that the novels and graphic novels simply couldn't. Watching Cortana's rampancy and eventual death through the eyes of the Master Chief, as he fights ceaselessly and, at times seemingly hopelessly, against the awesome powers of the Ur-Didact, is very poignant indeed for any longtime fan of the series. When you get to the end of the game and watch Cortana dissipate away into the aether, you do feel a real sense of loss, as if you've said goodbye to a dear friend. And that, ultimately, is precisely the point.

As for the feminist leanings in the HALOverse, well, I can only agree about that. There is no question that Bungie originally made the HALOverse very politically correct in their own way- hell, they even renamed the Arbiter to avoid offending Muslims. (This was a pointless exercise, as Muslims have a very irritating tendency to be offended at anything that they perceive as "un-Islamic"- i.e. everything.) The HALO universe today is one populated by female marines- a laughable concept on its face, given the news we had recently about female grunts in the modern-day USMC. There are also female ODSTs- again, absurd for exactly the same reason. And now we also have female SPARTAN-IIs, SPARTAN-IIIs, and SPARTAN-IVs. Commander Sarah Palmer, who leads the UNSC Infinity's contingent of SPARTAN supersoldiers, is a combination of all three- a female marine, then a female ODST, and finally a candidate for the SPARTAN-IV programme. Add to that the fact that the head of the Office of Naval Intelligence is a woman- and a very, very scary one at that- who passes on her role to her protege, a former SPARTAN-II washout named Serin Osman, and you have quite a lot of estrogen in the mix already. And that's not even counting Catherine Halsey and the Librarian.

When all is said and done, the reason I still love HALO despite all of this feminine wishy-washiness (read the novel HALO: Ghosts of Onyx, where Halsey effectively kidnaps a SPARTAN-II for sentimental reasons of her own to see what I mean) is because it is still a very masculine universe which represents very masculine ideals. The Master Chief embodies the very traits and virtues that every deep introvert should aspire to show: courage, honour, compassion, extraordinary martial prowess, absolute and unbreakable loyalty to his in-group, and a will of iron. The "strong, silent type" of protagonist that serves as the player's avatar throughout all of the HALO games- Noble 6 in HALO: Reach, the Rookiee in HALO 3: ODST, and the Master Chief in the rest- is an exemplar of explicitly masculine virtues and strengths. And long may this remain the case.

As for HALO 4, all I can say is that I loved the game, even leaving aside some of its questionable angsty moments and some of the more confusing plot twists. I really came to love it after I finished reading the Forerunner Trilogy by Greg Bear, because only then did the plot really make any sense, but the gameplay, graphics, and voice acting were all enough to make the game a tremendously enjoyable experience for me. Despite the clearly politically correct approach that Microsoft has also taken with the series- unsurprising, given that it's freakin' Microsoft in question here- it's still the most enjoyable sci-fi universe out there by miles, and that includes the Warhammer 40K universe.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Snap City, here we come...

Or, as the line goes in the criminally underrated comedy Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, "Ouchtown, population you, bro!":


Yeah, OK, there are two really hot girls in tank tops in there somewhere, but this is still an extremely funny video to watch, in a very sadistic way.

I'm all for people learning how to lift. I just got back from doing an hour of heavy squats- while having to put up with fat girls in yoga pants doing... well I'm not sure what, exactly, but whatever it was, a civilised society ought to outlaw those land whales from doing it.

Bottom line: if you're going to lift, DO IT RIGHT. And whatever you do, don't EVER let me catch you curling in the squat rack. As far as I'm concerned, doing so is legitimate grounds for an "accidental" firearms discharge in the gym.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Diplomacy that actually works

It has been written somewhere that diplomacy involves telling someone to go to hell in such a way that he actually looks forward to the trip. If that is true, then I say we make this woman Secretary General of the United Nations:
An adviser in Serbia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in trouble for some photos that have surfaced of her showing off how hot she is. 
Vanja Hadzovic, 27, who aspires to be a diplomat, has not commented on the pictures. Ivan Mrkic, her boss and Serbia’s foreign secretary, has said there will be a government investigation into the photos, the Daily Mail reports
“To appear on social networks is the right of every individual,” Mrkic said. “But our employees of the ministry of foreign affairs need to act according to the code of conduct on these networks.” 
Hadzovic has since shut down her social media profiles, which is a shame since she would easily be the hottest diplomat ever. Don’t let us down, Serbia. Make this woman the face — and boobs — of your nation.
(Just after we nuke the place, that is. The United Nations is one of the biggest wastes of time and space in the world today.)

Support YOUR hot-as-balls minor Serbian diplomatic functionary today! 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Curie-Hultgreen Syndrome hits the banksters

Boeing Co. promoted Ted Colbert to chief information officer and vice president of information technology. He will replace Kim Hammonds, who is moving to Deutsche Bank AG later this month.


Mr. Colbert is taking the reins at a time of transition for Boeing's information technology department. In March, Boeing said it would lay off 1,500 IT workers in Washington over the next three years, according to an article by Dominic Gates at The Seattle Times. Some of the workers will relocate from Washington and Southern California to new Boeing IT centers in Missouri and South Carolina, which have a lower cost for IT talent.
As it happens, I have more than just a passing interest in this story, for a variety of reasons. Deutsche Bank has been in the process of a massive outsourcing of people and operations from its high-cost centres in New York, London, and Tokyo, to less expensive places around the world, all in the pursuit of lower costs. As with any other such cost-cutting idea, it sounded brilliant on paper. Apparently it has been... rather less than brilliant in practice, judging by what I've heard from people who work there.

The most telling reactions, though, were from Boeing employees themselves. I wish I had the link that someone forwarded me about this- I'll update this when I find it- but basically when this was announced within Boeing, it is claimed by those posting on the forum that people were cheering in the hallways and offices. Now admittedly, we're talking about an employee forum here, where unbiased opinion is going to be a bit hard to come by. But what struck me about it was that in all of the dozens or even hundreds of comments, NOT ONE was positive.

Meg Whitman, Indra Nooyi, Marissa Mayer, Carly Fiorina, and now Kim Hammonds. Anyone other than me seeing a pattern here?

UPDATE: Well look what I found...

Seven lessons in leadership, learned the hard way

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows that I spend a lot of time writing on the subject of deep introverts and our place within our wider society. For those folks unfortunate enough not to understand us very well- i.e. pretty much everyone else- you should know that many deep introverts, Didact included, are neither shy nor embarrassed in public. In fact, shyness is a deficiency that is very often applied mistakenly to deep introverts. More often than not, we are not shy at all- we just don't like you. It's nothing personal, we don't like most people, so there's no reason for you to feel like we're singling you out.

(Or, as that bumper sticker on my refrigerator says, "I DON'T DISCRIMINATE - I HATE EVERYBODY".)

Another fact about deep introverts that might surprise you is that quite often, we make exceptionally good leaders, managers, and bosses. Our innate tendency to keep our trap shut and listen first makes us very good at simply lending an ear, even if we're actually in "smile and nod mode". The best among us have an absolute dedication to improving things, regardless of politics or obstacles, and are only truly happy when given a difficult problem to solve and ample time and resources to do so. Most of the time, though, we're actually quite happy to take a back seat and let someone else take charge. This gives us free license to do the things we care about, like computing an algorithm for the fastest way to solve a Rubik's Cube, or playing online chess, or figuring out potential solutions to Fermi's Paradox, or... well you get the idea.

Leadership does not come naturally to us. The only time we really want to step up and lead is when the current leadership proves to be hopelessly incompetent. And when that happens- look out. This is a warning both to the deep introverts among us and to those who have to deal with us. Here are seven lessons in leadership that I have learned very much the hard way over the last few years:
  1. A leader can be wrong, but never indecisive or weak. A designated leader who cannot make a decision to save his life is not worthy of the name, full stop. I am dealing with this right now, in fact, as I transition out of my current role into one much more closely suited to my interests and temperament as a highly skilled problem solver. The manager of my current team has literally no idea how to make a judgement call, even though he has three times my rank and five times my experience. Every single time he has to make an important decision, I get roped in and end up making the decision for him. This is, as you can imagine, immensely irritating, and it makes him look really bad. If you look or act nervous around your subordinates, you will not be taken seriously, and people will not come to you for important decisions- instead, they'll go around you to the people who know what they're doing and are willing to take responsibility.
  2. Deferring your decisions to your subordinate will make BOTH of you look bad. This follows on directly from above. It is clear to everyone that the manager of that team has no idea what he's doing. Unfortunately, in the process I tend to come across as short-tempered, irritable, and extremely impatient with what an outsider might perceive to be perfectly reasonable questions. This is just as dangerous, possibly even more so. One thing any office-bound worker has to understand is that in today's hyper-politicised workplace, the HR bunnies of this world will NOT stand for someone who isn't a "team player", whatever the hell that means.
  3. Leadership requires balls. Ultimately, you have to take a stand on something. And this applies well beyond the workplace. Whether it be your marriage, your relationship with your girl, your relationship with your sister, or hell, even your relationship with your dog, you MUST be willing to take a stand on key issues. If you are wrong and you know it, apologise immediately and then move on. If you are right and you know it and can back it up, never give up ground just for the sake of heading off a potentially serious argument. The limits and boundaries of your strength must be clearly established, and you absolutely must be willing to show your ability to defend your team and your people against external threats. If you don't, those who depend upon you will immediately lose respect for you.
  4. It is more important to be respected than to be liked. Personally, I don't give a damn what most people think about me, both within and outside the organisation. This is not, admittedly, the healthiest attitude. It does lead some in senior management to wonder whether it's worth investing time and money in me to develop me as an asset, and fair enough to that. Fortunately, I have a reputation within the organisation of getting things done, and to a very high standard. Even today, even now, it is still possible within some organisations to get ahead based on merit and skill, and if you are respected for being highly skilled and competent, and have shown a knack for encouraging those same traits in others, then people will be more willing to forgive certain foibles.
  5. Be better than anyone else at what you do. Note what I'm saying here very carefully. I'm NOT saying that you need to be good at everything. There are certain things that some members of my team do that I simply never touch, even though I know I could figure out how to do those things in about ten minutes if I had to. There is just no point in my getting involved in those things. Where I add value is in being better than everyone else at solving complex problems. This makes me vitally important to the team and, better yet, important to my clients. They know where they can go to get things done, which means that I know how best to optimise my time so as to ensure that things get done and done well.
  6. NEVER give off the appearance of being incompetent. Or, "fake it 'till you make it". If you don't know how to do something, it is better to, shall we say, creatively hedge around the issue. The fastest way to look incompetent is to be weak, indecisive, or nervous around your people and your clients- no one wants to deal with someone like that and everyone will automatically assume that you lack skill if you betray these problematic traits. The one exception I will make in this regard comes when you're interviewing for a job. In that case, if you've put something down on your CV, you'd damn well better be prepared to back it up. I have personally dinged candidates who were otherwise very good the moment I discovered that they wrote something on their CV that they couldn't back up. 
  7. Be a SPARTAN, not a Superman. This is going to sound weird given #4 above, but I don't care how good you think you are. You're still not capable of doing everything yourself. This is where your ability to lead others becomes so important. One of the lessons my father taught me over the years was the importance of learning how to delegate- in such a way that people would be enthusiastic about their tasks. The trick is to give people the opportunity to come up with their own ideas, and then give them free licence to run with them. That way, you go from carrying the weight of the entire team on your shoulders alone, to inspiring others to carry the weight for you. You inspire others around you through your very presence, just like the Master Chief, even though you're only a small part of the wider cause.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

You need a dose of Bro Science

This is possibly the funniest episode of Bro Science I've seen yet:


This is a particularly good one considering that 7 hours ago, I was in the gym watching this bone-thin Asian chick in the Smith machine pretending that those ridiculous half-squats she was doing were the real thing. Meanwhile, your (not very) humble servant Didact was there in the squat rack literally right next door doing a 3-rep set at 315lbs, using a full range of motion. If there's one thing that irritates me more than dumbass guys at the gym pretending that they know how to lift, it's girls pretending that they have any idea what a lift even is.

Honourable mention- how to get your woman to lift with you:


Here's a helpful hint for you: just skip the first 6.5 minutes of that last video if you just want to watch a really hot woman doing squats properly. Also, ladies, kindly pay attention: the single fastest way to get fit and look good is to powerlift. No arguments.

Dual-wielding is awesome nonsense

As a result of my need to feed my massive HALO addiction, I've been replaying the games from HALO WARS all the way through to HALO 4 once again. It's something I do every 3-6 months, partly to remind myself of just how amazing that game series still is, and partly because... well, it's just really good fun. Playing HALO 2, in particular, is always an interesting experience. Aside from being arguably the "worst" of the FPS games in the series- which is a strictly relative term, since it's still one of the greatest games ever made- HALO 2 also introduced the concept of "dual wielding", whereby the protagonist can use two short- or medium-range weapons, one in each hand, and still somehow hit stuff. They continued this particular brand of nonsense into HALO 3, but fortunately nixed it in HALO 3: ODST and HALO 4. I rather hope 343 Industries also keeps it out of HALO 5...

One of the consequences of learning how to shoot things- preferably right in the beak- is that Hollywood special effects tropes no longer make the slightest bit of sense to you. These days it is endlessly amusing for me to watch "actors" firing weapons on the big screen without bothering at all with sight picture and sight alignment, and yet still miraculously hitting their targets- while running or jumping off walls. And have you noticed how they never, ever seem to need to reload?

(Yes, I know, this is not exactly news to anyone who actually SHOOTS STUFF FOR FUN. I can almost hear Tam laughing her ass off at the fact that I'm even writing this. You must remember though, I live in the Northeast USA- Rabbit Hutch Central- where shooting furry little woodland critters, skinning them, gutting them, and mounting their heads on your den wall is considered to be a sign of extremely vulgar taste. And yet they have the audacity to call golf an acceptable pastime around here...)

The guiltiest offenders out of the bunch are movies like Hot Fuzz (which is hysterically funny) and the entire Underworld series.

(As far as I'm concerned, a highly effective "gay test" is to show him a picture of Kate Beckinsale in skin-tight leather and spandex and ask him, "WYB?". If he says no, he's either gay or severely mentally ill. Possibly both.)

Now, Lord only knows, I'm a huge fan of the latter. I enjoy all of the films and I think that, as rip-offs of other movies go, they are really rather well done. But one thing that I cannot get over are those nonsensical scenes where the main characters dual-wield fully automatic machine pistols and yet somehow still manage to hit stuff.

The reality is that humans don't have independent eyesight, our vision operates the same way that binoculars do- which is why we invented the damn things like that. When you learn how to shoot, you're going to learn really damn fast just how difficult it is to obtain sight picture and sight alignment on just one weapon. Never mind trying to do the same with two, you basically can't do it, your brain isn't built for it.

Then there's the fact that each weapon has a different recoil and a different "feel" to it. Ever tried firing off a gun on full auto? (Not likely, since such weapons are largely illegal outside of the military.) Now imagine trying to figure two fully automatic SMGs at a moving target, like Commander Miranda Keyes does in HALO 2. Yeah... not gonna happen.

Personally, I recommend that any man put learning how to shoot and learning how to beat the crap out of other people at the very top of his self-improvement to-do list. But don't for one moment fool yourself about what you're getting into. If you learn how to shoot, learn from a properly certified NRA instructor about how to handle a weapon as safely and as thoroughly as possible, and take the time to practice as much and as often as you can. If you learn martial arts, learn from an instructor who will flatly refuse to let you progress until and unless you prove that you understand the fundamentals of the art perfectly- and never forget that your purpose in learning the art is to learn how to hurt other people.

Don't be dumb enough to think that if you learn how to shoot, you can one day dual-wield heavy pistols on full auto with any kind of accuracy, or that if you start learning Krav Maga you can learn how to defend against knives and guns without learning how to punch or kick correctly. If you fool yourself into thinking either of these things, you've completely missed the point of what you're trying to learn, and you might as well start over from the very beginning.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Even atheists need churches

This has to be one of the funniest and yet most ridiculous things I've seen yet:
On Sunday, the inaugural Sunday Assembly in Los Angeles, Calif. attracted several hundred people bound by their belief in non-belief. Similar gatherings in San Diego, Nashville, New York and other U.S. cities have drawn hundreds of atheists seeking the camaraderie of a congregation without religion or ritual. 
The founders, British duo Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, are currently on a tongue-in-cheek '40 Dates, 40 Nights' tour around the U.S. and Australia to drum up donations and help launch new Sunday Assemblies. They hope to raise more than $800,000 that will help atheists launch their pop-up congregations around the world. So far, they have raised about $50,000. 
They don't bash believers but want to find a new way to meet like-minded people, engage in the community and make their presence more visible in a landscape dominated by faith.
Where's that hilarious episode of Metalocalypse where Murderface tries to find meaning in his life and ends up in a church full of atheists? Oh, it's right here:


I imagine that an atheist church is probably much like that. Complete with open warfare between atheists and agnostics. Seriously. Richard Dawkins has made it perfectly clear that he doesn't have a particularly high opinion of agnostics, for instance.

More seriously, this article just reminds me of one of the great redeeming features of faith- it provides hope and a sense of community. And that, ultimately, is precisely the point- something that my 14-year-old self could not understand. (Honestly, if teenage Didact could meet adult Didact, he'd probably be horrified at what a grumpy old man he would eventually become. The fact that adult Didact is thinner and lighter and about three times as strong as teenage Didact is a nice plus, though...).

High Church atheists- the annoying kind that insist on trashing everyone else's faith- insist that humanity can never be free until we abandon God and spirituality. I would argue, however, that belief in the divine is what makes us human- that "Man without mysticism is a monster", indeed.

I think Vox said it best in The Irrational Atheist. I paraphrase slightly here- basically, if atheists insist that religion is a crutch and those who use it are weak, then what exactly does it say about their so-called compassion and humanity when they insist on kicking out that crutch from those who need it most?

Leadership 101

Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey- yeah, that R. Lee Ermey- has an interesting piece on leadership published today, in honour of Veteran's Day:
Leadership cannot be taught! I can’t do it, the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps can’t do it, and instructors at Annapolis, West Point, or the Air Force Academy can’t do it. Leadership is not some­thing one “gets.” It’s something one evolves into. 
You heard me. Leaders evolve. Most anyone can grow into a leadership role over time through the lessons they learn from their own successes and failures and by observing how others before them acted and reacted in particular situations. Observing how others lead—or fail to lead—is the absolute best classroom for becoming a true leader yourself. 
True leadership is contagious. Its effects move quickly through the ranks when troops see leaders perform and are inspired to emulate them...
Leadership is more than a matter of giving orders and being in charge: it is a matter of character, earned respect, doing the right thing, and always giving your best not only for yourself, but for others. You will become, and remain, committed to demonstrating the leadership qualities you’ve observed and admired over time.
Truth.

I have written about the qualities required of leaders before, and the lessons remain: you cannot be taught how to lead- it is for precisely these reasons that I have a rather dim view of most MBA programs, for instance. You can only be shown how to lead.

Leadership is what you learn from the strong men in your life- your father, your older brother, your priest, your teacher, your drill instructor, your martial arts teacher. You learn what it means to hold the needs of the team above your own. You see that when something is wrong, it is not enough to expect that someone else will fix it- you need to fix it, because no one else will. You understand that to be a leader is by definition to be alone, and you accept that burden of responsibility because no one else will.

It is also possible to learn how not to lead, if you should be unfortunate enough to work for an incompetent or incapable manager (I can name a few in my time...). However, it is important to remember what Gunny wrote above- leadership is contagious. This is as true of bad leadership as it is of good. Bad leadership infects everything around it, corrodes morale, destroys productivity, and inflames tensions. Good leadership inspires those around you, pushes people to do their best and more, and produces a higher standard simply by virtue of its presence.

Like several other Manosphere bloggers, I'm a firm believer in total self-improvement, rather than just focusing on one aspect of your personality and game. Leadership is one of those things that you develop into as your game develops. Leadership qualities start with self-confidence and strength- without these things, there can be no leadership whatsoever.

It doesn't matter whether you're looking for your next promotion or your next girlfriend/ONS/FB. If you do not understand what it takes to be a leader, then you're not going to get these things. End of story. Take heed to the lessons that Gunny teaches.