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Small-Scale Question Sunday for December 4, 2022

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

So, what are you reading?

Still on Dorian Gray. It's certainly an experience.

No Treasure Island (Остров без сокровищ), an attempt to deduce the secret meanings R. L. Stevenson supposedly inlaid into Treasure Island through analyzing inconsistencies in narrative. It makes a case that Jim Hawkins' side of the story was heavily edited to avoid prosecution, that the crew's mutiny was largely entrapment by Livesey and that Livesey is not a real physician, among other things.

Is there a name for this Russian cynical parody genre? I only know it as "The Last Ringbearer" style.

I'm not sure this one is an example of "cynical parody".

I quit The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice on book five, now I'm onto The Boreal Moon Trilogy. It's pretty good standard fantasy, even if it's pretty bad about info dumping here and there.

The Seven: The Lives and Legacies of the Founding Fathers of the Irish Republic, tells the story of the seven signatories of the 'Proclamation of The Republic', the people who led the Easter Rising of 1916: Thomas J. Clarke, Seán Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh. P. H. Pearse. Éamonn Ceannt, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett.

I'd disagree somewhat with them being called the 'Founding Fathers' given that they were all dead before the Irish Free State was formed, but they certainly inspired a lot of people and got the ball rolling on violent resistance. And 'trying to get the ball rolling' well describes a good portion of their lives, the popularity violent resistance was at a low point at the turn of the century as Irish nationalists were making significant gains working within the system (or in the case of boycotts and rent strikes, partially within it). Nevertheless they started newspapers, travelled to America to procure funds from sympathetic Irish-Americans, groomed protégés, subverted other nationalist organisations to their ends, waited for the right moment to strike, and eventually got their wish of emulating nationalist heroes like Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone in being sentenced to death after a failed rebellion.

One thing the book doesn't do is try to justify their ambitions. The term 'Anglophobic' is used a lot, and you get the impression that all it took was for them to be radicalised by a school teacher or parent for an unshakeable hatred of Britain to be formed* although the spectrum ranges from uncomplicated radical and would-be terrorist Thomas J. Clarke, to Patrick Pearse, half-English romantic and intellectual who was known to James Joyce (who disliked him) and W.B Yeats. Pearse is also one of the best writers I have found as a result of this dive into history, alongside Terence MacSwiney.

Clarke's spell in jail provides a good example of the predicament Irish-nationalists posed from the British side: execute them and they become martyrs, exile them and they either escape or stir up trouble abroad, imprison them and they become sympathetic figures who clearly aren't the real culprits according to the newspapers and MPs courting the Irish vote (this was a thing in Britain just as it was in America), let them out of prison after 15 years and they seem to be just as single-mindedly devoted to being your enemy as they were in their 20s.

The second Boer war gets mentioned a lot too. Clarke's father was a British army sergeant in South Africa until the family returned to Ireland in 1865, but by the time the events of the book were taking place Irish opinion was firmly on the side of the Boers (the "Fusilier's Arch" in Dublin dedicated to the members of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who died in the Second Boer War is also known as the "Traitor's Gate"), Clarke even named his dog Kruger.

I still have to get through reading about Ceannt, Connolly and Plunkett which I'm looking forward to.

*Alexander Martin Sullivan's The Story of Ireland was an apparent favourite among schoolteachers at the time, and was enough to convice Dan Breen and his friends to set up a basically autonomous IRA squad as soon as they were finished school. Iirc it was torn apart by later Irish historians but I'd like to read it to see if it's where Breen got the strange phrasing he uses when he describes people selling out for the 'Saxon gold'. I'm surprised the British authorities let teachers get away with that stuff, but then again I'm not sure how much teaching was done in the National Schools (which Pearse accuses of trying to mold people into good English boys) and how much was done unofficially.

Albion's Seed. Scott Alexander's essay about it really stuck with me, and the book is just as interesting as he makes it sound. Every night I bombard my husband with fun facts about how crazy the Puritans were.

As a Delaware Valley Quaker with a Scots-Irish best friend that book was positively eerily familiar. I was expecting interesting facts and instead simply felt uncomfortably seen. The audiobook also perfectly recreates the rhythmic cadence of a proper silent meeting.

How do you find the writing and style? From the bit about your husband it sounds engaging.

The writing manages to be pretty straightforward without feeling dry. It’s organized around discrete topics, so there isn’t really a narrative, but it reads quite smoothly.

Thanks! I'll look into getting a paper copy.

I've started reading Kurt Schlichter’s Kelly Turnbull series (yes, the protagonist's name seems rather odd to me). At a surface level, it's a fairly standard thriller series with a strong Red Team tint to it. Most of the standard thriller tropes are present along with the expected potshots at Blue Team.

The really interesting part IMO is the portrayal of exactly how America falling apart might look. So far it seems to change a bit from book to book depending on what current events happened around the time each one was written. I feel like I ought to write a summary of it with some points of criticism and possible agreement, but I think I'd rather wait until I actually finish the series first to get a fuller idea of how it's portrayed.

"Raw Egg Nationalism" by Raw Egg Nationalist. I'm about halfway through.

Definitely a pop history/nutrition book, but one that is interesting because it continues in the vein of "Against the Grain" to tell a new story about the Neolithic Revolution that involves a decline in freedom, health, and living standards among hunter gatherers who were forced into agricultural servitude in early city states. He draws parallels between this event and the ongoing efforts by the WEF to bring about a future where we "own nothing, live in the pod, and eat the bugs." He predicts that the new climate-friendly plant based diet will have similar disastrous consequences for human health, freedom ,and flourishing.

So far the most interesting part has been the description of the WEF and its far reaching, many tentacled influence. Bill Gates, Larry Fink, Unilever, Google, and NYU are just a few of the powerful people and organizations that are onboard with the WEF or its food system reform lobbying arm, the EAT Foundation. I had always thought that the WEF stuff was just spooky smoke and shadows, but it appears that it actually does have quiet a long reach and large amount of influence.

I expect REN's conclusion will be that we need to eat non-processed foods to improve our health, including a lot of meat and animal products, and to buy them locally to avoid funding large agricultural conglomerates, many of which apparently cooperate with the WEF/EAT and ESG intiatives.

REN's writing is passable but suffers from some repetition and too many filler words and clauses -- he could have benefited a more aggressive editor. I find myself skimming pages fairly quickly since the content is not too dense. Probably worth reading if you want something light or are looking for an introduction to these topics for "normies."

LA Confidential, Dan Carlin's book, and Capitalist Realism. Almost done with all 3 because they are short reads. After that I have Master and Commander and Discipline and Punish on my reading list. I might reread Black Company afterwards because I love the characters so much, especially Croaker and Lady.

LA Confidential is one of my favorite films, is the book better than the movie?

It’s very different. The bad guy isn’t a twist. He’s revealed in the previous book. The Guy Pierce character is a way bigger piece of shit and coward. The Kevin Spacey character is also very different and much more sympathetic.

Interesting, thanks!