The Unz Review • An Alternative Media Selection$
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewJohn Derbyshire Archive
NOVEMBER DIARY [9 ITEMS]: the New Chinese Ice Age; "Minoritarianism"; NATIONAL REVIEW's Memory-Holing Needs Attention; Etc.
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • B
Show CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
AgreeDisagreeThanksLOLTroll
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments

China’s Second Cultural Revolution

In last month’s diary I passed some remarks about the rise of xenophobia in China since I visited in 2019 and enjoyed such warm hospitality from the likes of college presidents.

I should have made it clear—I vaguely knew, and several Chinese friends have removed the vagueness for me—that late 2019 was actually the tail end of the “open” China of the early 21st century.

In September 2019 a short-stay visitor could be warmly welcomed, even by people in authority. However, the government had already made it difficult-to-impossible for foreigners to live in China, unless very well connected and obediently enthusiastic about Xi Jinping’s leadership.

We have witness to this from vloggers Winston Sterzel (“SerpentZA”) and Matthew Tye (“Laowhy86”) below.

Both lived for many years in China without much trouble: Sterzel for 14 years, Tye for 10. Both speak fluent Chinese and know the country very well. Both left earlier in 2019—before my trip, I mean. Tye seems to have got out just in time, with the secret police on his heels. They tell their stories here (Sterzel) and here, here, and here (Tye).

The ice sheets were already advancing well before I showed up two years ago. The early years of this century—up to Xi Jinping’s re-election as General Secretary in 2017, as best I can judge—were an interglacial period.

The curse of crappy websites

I had the idea to buy some bitcoin using my PayPal account. I logged in to Coinbase and set up the buy. Coinbase obediently logged me into PayPal, which sent me this windowon which nothing worked. The controls were all utterly inert. When I clicked on them, nothing happened.

After ten minutes of fiddling, I got a PayPal employee on the phone. He took all my details. “Ah,” he said, “yours is a business account.” Yes, so what? “We don’t allow crypto purchases from business accounts.” Oh.

I’m sure that makes sense, although I can’t be bothered to figure out why (and am not much interested in knowing); but why did I have to go to all the time-wasting trouble of getting a featherless biped on the phone in order to learn it?

I spent thirty years in programming and systems design back in the mainframe era. In the systems I coded and supervised, if a user did something he shouldn’t have, the system let him know by means of an E-R-R-O-R M-E-S-S-A-G-E, pronounced [‘erə ‘mesɪʤ].

Apparently this is an unknown concept to the code jockeys of 2021, even those who can speak English.

Crappy websites are a constant minor irritant to me. Sure, there was bad code in the mainframe days, too, but proportionally much less. Why? Because we cut our teeth when most code was for batch processing. Bad code would crash the night cycle and get you an angry phone call from the data center at 3 a.m. We tried really hard to avoid that, and carried that discipline forward into the online era.

Some big-name companies have crappy websites. For our trip to Berkeley Springs last month we rented a car. The Derbmobile—we are a one-car family—is getting long in the tooth (camshaft, whatever) and we didn’t want to depend on it for a six-hour drive. I left ordering the rental car too late, though, and Enterprise, the nearest and most convenient firm, had nothing available.

I went online and tried Hertz … and tried … and tried. I made selections and got something different from what I’d selected. I got stuck in loops, going round three or four windows and back to the one I’d started at. Buttons didn’t work, or sent me somewhere unrelated to what was on the button.

The hell with it. I tried the Avis website: got a rental set up and booked in less than two minutes. They really do try harder.

Crappy websites: a 21st-century bane. I just hope the coders in charge of our national defense systems are better than those at PayPal and Hertz.

And Coinbase. Just a couple of days ago I got an email from Coinbase. The email told me joyfully that: “John Derbyshire has invited you to join Coinbase!” (their exclamation mark).

Well, isn’t that special. I have had a Coinbase account since 2013. If I run into John Derbyshire I’ll be sure to tell him that.

Nose tales

My nasal adventures brought in a surprising amount of email from readers. I didn’t know people were that interested in noses. But hey, we’ve all got one … well, unless we’ve suffered some Tycho Brahe– type misfortune.

I have learned from one reader that Nikolai Gogol was not the only person to write a short story about a nose. The Japanese writer Ryūnosuke Akutagawa (1892–1927, “Akutagawa” the family name) wrote one too. You can read the story in English translation here.

With all proper respect to the grand literary tradition of Mother Russia, Akutagawa’s story makes more sense than Gogol’s…although that’s a low bar.

And having mentioned Gogol again, I cannot forbear retelling the awful, awfully nasal story of his death, told in the very first pages of the biography by Vladimir Nabokov. (Nabokov describes Gogol’s birth in the last paragraph of the book’s last page—Nabokov at his most Nabokovian.)

This is Moscow, 1852, when doctors were more likely to kill you than cure you. (A thing that remained true until well within living memory, according to Lewis Thomas.) They still practiced bloodletting, in this case using leeches for the purpose.

Nabokov, somewhat edited:

Dr Auvert (or Hovert) had his patient [i.e., Gogol] plunged into a warm bath where his head was soused with cold water after which he was put to bed with half-a-dozen plump leeches affixed to his nose. He had groaned and cried and weakly struggled while his wretched body … was carried to the deep wooden bath; he shivered as he lay naked in bed and kept pleading to have the leeches removed: they were dangling from his nose and getting into his mouth … and he tried to sweep them off so that his hands had to be held by stout Auvert’s … hefty assistant.

Life today, for most, is better than it was in the 1850s; death, for most, is way better.

A different reader reminded me of something I had forgotten: Way back in 2000, when I was book-reviewing for the Washington Post, I reviewed a nonfiction nose book which I declared to be “great fun to read.”

The author does not restrict himself to biology, but brings in witnesses from linguistics, anthropology, history and literature. Proust’s famous cookie is a good data point, of course. Another is the “flow” of adjectives from one sense to another—the linguistic phenomenon that allows us to speak of a “dry” smell and “warm” colors. “Among chemical senses” reports Watson “the flow goes from touch to taste to smell, but never in the other direction.”

Fascinating snuff stuff.

The best nose story remains the one about Gilded Age financier J.P. Morgan (1837–1913). Morgan suffered from rhinophyma, with the result that from middle age on his nose was huge, bulbous, and purple. He was very sensitive about this.

Morgan’s official photograph, retouched to conceal the purple nose.

Morgan’s associates all knew of his sensitivity, of course. When he paid visits, they warned the hosts beforehand not to stare at or mention his nose.

ORDER IT NOW

The story, which I have seen told more than once with slight variations, goes that one day the great man was to call on a colleague and his wife at home. The couple had a child, a little girl. The usual protocol for this kind of brief call among people of their class was that after some conversation, children of the family would be brought in and introduced to the visitor. Then they would be dismissed back into the care of their governesses or tutors, and the visitor would be served with tea and cakes.

Duly warned, the couple impressed on their little girl that she must under no circumstances stare at Morgan’s nose, or say anything about it. The child was very young, though, so they were in a state of high nervous tension all the time she was in Morgan’s presence.

Their fears were unfounded; the little girl behaved perfectly. After some polite exchanges, she curtseyed and left as the tea-tray was brought in.

The lady of the house, dizzy with relief, turned to the mogul and asked: “Do you take nose in your tea, Mr. Morgan?” Or, in some tellings: “Do you take sugar in your nose, Mr. Morgan?”

Still the best nose story either way.

Minoritarianism

The word “minoritarianism” seems to have been surfacing a lot recently. Here it was surfacing on VDARE.com at month’s end, from David Brooks via Steve Sailer.

Did I coin this word? I’m listed first in the “References” section of the Wikipedia article; but some of the other references listed have earlier dates, so I guess not.

(And yes, I screenshotted that Wikipedia page. When the Wikipedia editors realize they’ve referenced a Thought Criminal, I’ll be memory-holed. As I have been from National Review: if you click on the link at Wikipedia … “page not found.” There’s an archived copy of the column on my website here.)

Google Ngram shows occurrences of “minoritarianism” as far back as 1930, with a big peak through the 1970s, a trough through the early 1980s, a rise from the late 1980s to early 2000s, then a mighty peak around 2003. My article was posted in January 2002, so I doubt I had much to do with any of that.

National Review’s memory-holing needs attention

National Review’s memory-holing is inconsistent in some way I have never been able to find a pattern for.

A few days ago the name David Hilbert came up in conversation. Hilbert was a first-rank mathematician—perhaps the greatest of his time—in the decades around 1900. He has a starring role in my 2003 book Prime Obsession.

In 2005, when I was still promoting that book, my daughter Nellie, then twelve years old, acquired a pet hamster. On a whim I named him Hilbert.

The following year I took my family on a trip to the mountain northwest, leaving Hilbert in care of a friend. Arriving in Missoula, Montana on August 14th I checked my email. Sad news from the pet-sitter: Hilbert had passed away the previous night.

I was recording our trip at National Review’s blog The Corner. That particular blog, from August 15th, has somehow survived when full-dress articles like “Minoritarianism” fell under the scythe.

The following day, August 16th 2006, still wracked with grief, I composed an elegy for Hilbert, taking Tennyson’s In Memoriam as my model. I gave my poem the title In Hilbertiam, and posted it on The Corner. Incredibly, that has also survived.

(My National Review colleague Rick Brookhiser grumbled that while I had correctly appropriated Tennyson’s iambic tetrameter, I had changed the rhyme scheme from his abba to abab. I tell ya: in this game, everybody’s a critic.)

As Tennyson reminds us:

Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be …

That is certainly true of matter posted on the internet. For archival purposes therefore, lest it be lost, I reproduce In Hilbertiam below. You should try to imagine some soft funereal music in the background.

In Hilbertiam
by John Derbyshire

(Hilbert Derbyshire, 2005-2006, r.i.p.)

No more the rattle of the wheel
Or scratching at the water-spout;
No more that microscopic squeal
Of pleasure, when the food’s put out.

That living warmth my hands once held,
That gaze of slightly nervous trust,
Those squeaks of pleasure now are stilled;
All gone, as spirit ever must.

Where you now dwell the water’s sweet
As honeyed wine to human lips;
There rodents all in friendship meet —
No scratching fights or envious nips.

The wooden shavings there are deep,
The sunflower seeds heaped high as hills;
No reason there to pine or weep,
As each his plump cheek-pouches fills.

Your life was brief, your needs were slight.
We kept you warm, and clean, and fed.
And now you dream through death’s long night,
Laid safely in your garden bed.

Fiction fails

Fiction-wise, November was an unhappy month.

I came into it reading Somtow’s The Shattered Horse, which Razib Khan had tweeted about approvingly. The novel’s premise is ingenious and promising. It is narrated in the first person by Astyanax, son of the Trojan hero Hector.

According to Euripides, the infant Astyanax was thrown to his death from the walls of Troy after the Greeks captured the city. The novel’s premise is that this was a case of mistaken identity. It was not Astyanax but his little playmate who was thrown; Astyanax survived the sack of Troy, grew to adulthood, and wandered around the eastern Mediterranean witnessing the great collapse of late Bronze Age civilization in the early 12th century B.C.

That collapse, described at length by archæologist Eric Cline in his nonfiction book 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, was an astonishing event, or series of events. Not just the Trojans, but also the Mycenaeans who’d conquered them, along with the Hittites, the Babylonians, and some lesser polities, all fell. Not just Troy but many other great and prosperous cities were sacked all over what was then Western Civilization.

Somehow Somtow failed to make it all come alive for me. The pacing was wrong: Neoptolemos doesn’t get his just deserts until Chapter 20. There’s way too much of the supernatural: I like my historical fiction down to earth. I bailed out after 26 chapters. (There are 56 altogether.)

ORDER IT NOW

And then, Rachel Joyce. I had read Catharine Savage Brosman’s enthusiastic review of Miss Benson’s Beetle in the August Chronicles, and bought a copy. Before I could get around to reading it, I mentioned it in a phone conversation with my sister Judith in England. Judith has read everything in contemporary fiction, and can give a well-considered opinion. Miss Benson’s Beetle? “Eh.”

Eh?

“Not as good as her last one.”

Which was?

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Lovely book.”

So I bought a copy of that, read it, and then read Miss Benson’s Beetle.

Yes, I can see the appeal, and concur with some of Catharine Savage Brosman’s points. Both books are carefully plotted and gracefully written. To a novel-reading lady of a certain age—Ms Brosman is 87, my sister 78—a hardback copy of either would be an excellent Christmas gift. (I hope I have not violated rules of etiquette by mentioning ages there.) And yes, Judith is right: the earlier book is better.

Neither did it for me, though. The Unlikely Pilgrimage was too bleak, Miss Benson’s Beetle too far-fetched.

In reaction I returned to male authors, actually to Ferdinand Mount’s new novel Making Nice. I’ve been reading Mount (properly Sir Ferdinand) for ever in British conservative outlets—the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, the Spectator. His commentary was always witty and acute. He knows politics very well, having served at a high level in Margaret Thatcher’s administration. Noo ne is better placed to write social-observation novels on Britain’s ruling class, especially on the intersection of politics with journalism.

This one doesn’t quite come off, though, I’m not sure why. The author has some good sharp social insights, but not much of a plot. The main character (aside from the narrator) is not very plausible. Perhaps the late Tom Wolfe set the social-fiction bar too high.

Year numbers as book titles

Having mentioned Eric Cline’s book there, I got to thinking about books whose titles are, or begin with, the number of a year.

Nineteen Eighty-Four comes first to mind, although the year-number is always given in words. Looking along my bookshelves I also see, in addition to 1177 B.C.:

Soon there will be one more on my shelves, Santa Claus willing. I have written to the genial old fellow asking for Admiral Stavridis’ 2034: A Novel of the Next World War to be put in my Christmas stocking. David Goldman at Asia Times has mentioned the book a couple of times and I like the sound of it.

There must be dozens of year-number titles I don’t know about. In fact, here’s a Christmas party game for you: Who can come up with the most books, or the most obscure single book, whose title is, or begins with, a year number?

Book scammers

Public Service Announcement: If you have published books, especially I think if you have self-published books, there is a new breed of scammer who would like to prey on you.

One of these pests called me mid-month, promising to help me promote my books. She claimed to have connections with the New York Times weekly magazine. It sounded fishy, and her English was so bad I could barely understand her, so I told her to email me, gave her the e-address, and hung up.

She duly emailed, from a respectable-looking business address. I looked them up online: they have a very professional-looking website.

I’m just a content provider. Anything to do with the business side, I consult my literary agent. I consulted him. He: “It’s a scam. Hang up on their calls and put that email address on auto-delete.”

These scammers are exploiting a business opportunity opened up by the rise of self-publishing. It’s easy, and surprisingly cheap, to self-publish a book nowadays. The problem is, how do you promote it? These people will promise to help, take a few hundred dollars from you, and then do … nothing much. My local Better Business Bureau “complaints” pages tell the tale.

A war on cognitive decoupling?

How rarely reason guides the stubborn choice,
Rules the bold hand, or prompts the suppliant voice.
—Johnson, The Vanity of Human Wishes

Yes indeed. A friend recently reminded me of the \$1.10 problem, which an astonishing number of intelligent people flunk. We do much of our thinking by intuitive short-cuts that skip around the kind of dogged reasoning needed to solve problems like that.

Related to this is the concept of “cognitive decoupling,” which dwells over there on the windswept borderland where philosophy meets neuroscience. Cognitive decoupling is defined as an “effortful mechanism” in which …

… problem solvers need to form in their working memory two closely related models of the problem situation—the so-called primary and secondary representations—and to keep the two models decoupled, that is, keep the first fixed while performing various transformations on the second, while constantly struggling to protect the primary representation from being “contaminated” by the secondary one.

[Proving as problem solving: The role of cognitive decoupling, by Boris Koichu and Uri Leron’ The Journal of Mathematical Behavior, Volume 40, Part B, December 2015, Pages 233–244]

The ability to cognitively decouple (“cognitively to decouple,” whatever)—to keep abstract mental models of reality “uncontaminated” by personal, emotional, and social “representations”—is unevenly distributed among us, like musical, athletic, linguistic, and other abilities. Some people can’t do it at all; some are superbly good at it; most of us stumble along in the middle of the distribution. The connection to general intelligence is not clear to me. The two things may even be orthogonal, the one having no relation to the other.

A high level in that ability is surely a necessary condition for success in STEM fields. To get ahead as a builder of bridges you need to master a lot of abstract equations while not bothering about the feelings that you, or society at large, may have about those equations. Your bridge-builder may have personal and social “representations” just as many and just as strong as those of any poet or composer; but he needs to keep them out of his calculations.

I was ruminating vaguely along these lines when I came across the latest news story about California public schools revising their math teaching.

Every eight years, a group of educators comes together to update the state’s math curriculum framework. This particular update has attracted extra attention, and controversy, because of perceived changes it makes to how “gifted” students progress—and because it pushes Algebra 1 back to 9th grade, de-emphasizes calculus, and applies social justice principles to math lessons.

San Francisco pioneered key aspects of the new approach, opting in 2014 to delay algebra instruction until 9th grade and to push advanced mathematics courses until at least after 10th grade as a means of promoting equity. [

[Controversy Rages as California Follows SF’s Lead With New Approach to Teaching Math, by Joe Hong, San Francisco Standard, November 22, 2021]

Ah, equity!

I found myself wondering whether perhaps the current efforts to woke-ify the STEM fields may not actually be part of a larger war on cognitive decoupling.

Progressives don’t approve of cognitive decoupling. They don’t want kids trained to ponder in the abstract, decoupled style without any “contamination” from the personal or the social.

In my July 2019 Diary I had a segment titled The blessings of numeracy.” It was mostly about fellow bloviator Mark Steyn, who I appreciate and enjoy, and have good reason to be thankful to.

Mark, however, is a No Such Thing As Race (NOSTAR) guy. The reality of race is a biological and statistical reality; so the key to keeping NOSTAR alive is to suppress understanding of biology and statistics, starting with their more general scientific and mathematical underpinnings.

In that segment I wrote this:

Again: I love Mark Steyn as a man and a brother. I’ll buy him a dinner any time; and if he ever needs to crash in Long Island, though I don’t know why he would, the door is open.

However, there is a great black yawning crevasse between people who know science, math, and statistics and people who don’t. You simply can’t talk across that gap—I know, I’ve spent decades trying.

The unfortunate thing is that many of the great, important truths about the world—including the human world—are on the sci-math-stats side of the crevasse.

The Social Justice Warriors rewriting our STEM curriculums want to keep that crevasse good and wide, and to raise a new generation firmly on their side of it.

Math Corner

High cognitive-decoupling ability may be necessary for a soundly-based view of reality, but it is not sufficient. STEM high-achievers can be very unworldly: I don’t think that’s news.

Pursuing stories about the wokification of math curriculums, I eventually landed on one at American Greatness. The writer is a black mathematician with very impressive credentials:

I won Oxford University’s top math awards for graduate students and I graduated summa cum laude with a degree in mathematics from Harvard University with the second-highest GPA in my graduating class.

[“It’s Time to Cancel ‘Woke’ Math” by Jonathan David Farley, American Greatness, November 27th]

The main thrust of Dr Farley’s piece is mockery of Bill and Melinda Gates “anti-racist math” project, to which the Gateses have so far donated \$140 million.

Mocking Gates-style lunacy is of course a good thing to do. I was cheering along with Dr. Farley until, 200 words into the piece, I crashed into a wall.

Gates’ authors also say the idea that someone could be “good” at math is “white supremacy.” Tell that to the Egyptian mathematician Euclid!

The implication is, I suppose, that because Euclid lived in Egypt, he could not have been white.

Dr. Farley goes downhill from there. He’s a NOSTAR loyalist. The piece finishes up with:

We know what it takes to improve math education and to get more black students to excel in math.

We do? Don’t hold back on us there, Doc. What does it take?

And that thing about Euclid being nonwhite: Hadn’t I read that before somewhere?

I sure had. Shortly after I was dropped from National Review for race realism in April 2012, Dr. Farley wrote a piece for the crazy-left, antiwhite London Guardian, from which:

The second story involves one of the few black mathematicians whom white mathematicians acknowledge as great—or, I should say, “black American mathematicians,” since obviously Euclid, Eratosthenes and other African mathematicians outshone Europe’s brightest stars for millennia.

[Black mathematicians: the kind of problems they wish didn’t need solving, by Jonathan Farley, The Guardian, April 12, 2012]

Yo, Doc. Euclid lived from about 325 B.C. to about 265 B.C. His birthplace is not known with any certainty, but he did his major mathematical work and teaching in Alexandria.

ORDER IT NOW

That city was founded in 331 B.C., a few years before our best guess as to Euclid’s birthdate. It was founded by, duh, Alexander the Great, who was Greek. (All right, Macedonian; but a Greek culture hero, not an Egyptian, and certainly not black African.)

Alexandria was a major centre of Hellenic civilisation in Euclid’s lifetime, and for long after. It went on being a considerably Greek city, although not of course under Greek rule, down to the middle 20th century when, as I have noted elsewhere: “Greeks were the largest European nationality in residence.”

Following Alexander’s death in 323 B.C., and after a short spell of disorder, his empire was divided among his three most powerful surviving companions, none of whom was black. Egypt went to Ptolemy, a Macedonian general; and Ptolemy’s line then ruled Egypt for nearly three centuries, to the death of Cleopatra in 30 B.C. And yes, Cleopatra may just possibly, after three hundred years of Greek rule in Egypt, have had a touch of the tar-brush; but that’s not relevant to Euclid’s time.

We learned this stuff in high school, Doc. That you apparently don’t know it throws a shadow over your impressive academic credentials.

Those credentials far outshine my puny B.Sc. Still I shall make bold to say that in matters of common sense and general knowledge, Dr .Farley is an idiot.

John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by VDARE.com com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

(Republished from VDare by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: History • Tags: Political Correctness 
Hide 34 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
    []
  1. Anon[245] • Disclaimer says:

    Odd comment, perhaps it is the “ugly American” syndrome as I personally know many South Africans, including retired persons of no use to Chine, living there quite happily.

    • Replies: @Mulga Mumblebrain
  2. Rufus Arrr says: • Website

    You said;

    “However, the government had already made it difficult-to-impossible for foreigners to live in China, unless very well connected and obediently enthusiastic about Xi Jinping’s leadership.”

    I’ve been living in China for 20 years, people are still warm and welcoming as ever. There was a small and slight downtick on expats in China since the coronavirus in 2019, but those individuals were on short duration visas. All expats can renew and stay in China without any problem. It’s all automatic now. The AI systems are impressive, quick and efficient. Face scan, QR pay, then pick up your visa past the robot desk. Easy pleasy lemon squeezy.

    So I haven’t a clue as to how you came to that impression. Is it something that actually physically happened to you that you are reporting on, or is it hearsay from someone else?

    I know a heck of a lot of expats in China, and NONE of us are experiencing anything at all resembling your statement.

  3. Mr. Derbyshire, I agree with you on the end of the Chinese interglacial period. The “election” to make Xi Jinping President-for-Life must be the biggest part of it, but I’d say the Kung Flu PanicFest and associated LOCKDOWNs and quarantines* were a big part of it too.

    My question is when would you consider the beginning was? One could go back to Nixon, but realistically, for the average guy, when would you place the beginning of the Chinese-Western interglacial period? It must have been in progress by the middle of the ’00s.

    .

    * They are not only for visitors but returning Chinese people too. However, having to stay in inside a hotel room for 2 weeks at one’s own expense in Shanghai, not to mention 2 more weeks if you go somewhere else afterwards, in order to just visit, puts a BIG damper on tourism.

  4. I have read 1492: The Year the World Began by Felipe Fernández-Armesto. If I haven’t read 1776 by David McCullough already, I sure should (won’t remember till I pick it up again).

    As for book recommendations in general, I recommend the newest (AFAIK) Lionel Shriver novel, called The Motion of the Body Through Space. You had recommended her prepper novel The Mandibles: A Family, 2029–2047 to me, speaking of dates in the title too, and I really liked that one.

    Peak Stupidity has a review of The Motion of the Body Through Space.

  5. dearieme says:

    If the only distinguished blacks in history that American Blacks can think of were, in fact, white, what does it say about distinguished blacks in history?

    Roll over, Beethoven; and Euclid, Cleopatra, Moses, Jesus, …

  6. I am a regular reader of Mr. Derbyshire’s, and I agree with him on lots of things. After reading this offering I am content to remain a reader. I would hate to have to produce a column when I really have nothing to say.

    • Agree: John Regan
  7. nsa says:

    Delb velly velly angly Chinee not let heblew telmites into middle kingdom sclew evelyone steal evelything cut off end of chinee weewees make even sholter. Delb velly velly angly Chinee not have gay plide palade not have lainbow flag ju pelvelts lun evelything like velly gleat amelika. Delb say chinee need mole gleat velly smalt neglo ebonic alithmetic. Delb dumb lound eye bloken big nose velly clazy.

  8. @Rufus Arrr

    One of Mr. Derbyshire’s chores on behalf of his adopted Uncle Sam is to stoke antipathy for China.

  9. Voltarde says:

    “Who can come up with the most books, or the most obscure single book, whose title is, or begins with, a year number?”

    Not a proper answer, but the title does start with a number:

    “Two Years Before the Mast”. Fascinating early history of California.

    “Two Years Before the Mast is a memoir by the American author Richard Henry Dana Jr., published in 1840, having been written after a two-year sea voyage from Boston to California on a merchant ship starting in 1834.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_Years_Before_the_Mast

  10. SafeNow says:

    I clicked on the bat&ball problem and read the article and comments. I think the concept of cognitive decoupling is very current, having been exacerbated by the proliferation of media. The intuitive conclusion is what people now so easily jump to, because it is so easy to etch it into our thinking. Tucker just yesterday showed a montage of liberal pundits saying Omicon “threat” repeatedly. Guttfeld spoke yesterday about what he called “one-variable thinking.” Fauci is a master at this – – masks “can’t hurt.” Tell that to a schoolchild, whose suffering lies in the second variable.

  11. @Achmed E. Newman

    Mid-1990s, after the post-1989 crackdown eased. I spent a few weeks there in 2001 https://www.johnderbyshire.com/Opinions/China/2001diary.html — it was pretty laid-back.

    • Thanks: Achmed E. Newman
  12. SafeNow says:

    Mr. Derb, your hamster poem is a joy. Creative, touching, and traditionally structured in iambic pentameter. Seeing metaphors everywhere as I do, of course I see us all as rodents rattling at the wheel, and I wonder whether you posted it for more than just “archival” preservation.

  13. Another great Derb diary. I liked the epitaph. It makes me want to read In Memoriam again. In the great tradition of poetic pet epitaphs, beginning with cowpers hare and grays cat drowned in a tub of gold fishes. I like Robinson Jeffers’s:

    The House Dog’s Grave (for Haig, an English Bulldog)

    [MORE]

    I’ve changed my ways a little; I cannot now
    Run with you in the evenings along the shore,
    Except in a kind of dream; and you,
    If you dream a moment,
    You see me there.

    So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
    Where I used to scratch to go out or in,
    And you’d soon open; leave on the kitchen floor
    The marks of my drinking-pan.

    I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do
    On the warm stone,
    Nor at the foot of your bed; no,
    All the nights through I lie alone.

    But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet
    Outside your window where firelight so often plays,
    And where you sit to readâ
    And I fear often grieving for meâ
    Every night your lamplight lies on my place.

    You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard
    To think of you ever dying.
    A little dog would get tired, living so long.
    I hope that when you are lying
    Under the ground like me your lives will appear
    As good and joyful as mine.

    No, dears, that’s too much hope:
    You are not so well cared for as I have been.
    And never have known the passionate undivided
    Fidelities that I knew.
    Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided…
    But to me you were true.

    You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
    I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
    To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
    I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.

    –Robinson Jeffers, 1941.

  14. songbird says:

    Honestly, I don’t have a lot of sympathy with C-Milk and Serpentza when they talk about China’s rising xenophobia.

    Whether it is the case or not, there are more important things than validating the feelings of every foreigner that enters your country.

    What it really makes me think of is Europe. Street interviews I’ve seen where someone is asked about immigration, and you can see some obnoxious foreigner in the background crinkling their nose or something.

    Serpentza really is grating sometimes because he brings up accusations of Chinese racism against Africans. He’s from South Africa – he shouldn’t take such a punk attitude. But should know better. That there are more important things than validating the feelings of every black person. The US has taken that approach, and it hasn’t gone well at all.

  15. We come from a similar background John!

  16. Anon[378] • Disclaimer says:

    Loved the poem Derb, you are a genius. I watch those videos of the motorcycle guys often, at this point I have more of Anglin’s attitude, worrying about China is a distraction from the horrors going on in D.C.
    btw, that Jeffers poem brought tears to my eyes.

    • Thanks: Happy Tapir
  17. @Happy Tapir

    Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle — a Robinson Jeffers poem that’s actually charming! The man was born chewing on a lemon stuffed inside a pickle. If you ever visit the house he lived in by a cliff overlooking the Pacific at Carmel, such a beautiful spot, you think, You should be ASHAMED for being so angry all the time!

    I seem to half-remember that Catullus once wrote an elegy for his girlfriend’s dead canary, but I’m too lazy to look it up. But, it gives me a chance to plug Catullus: the Frank O’Hara of the ancients!

    • LOL: Tony massey
    • Replies: @Happy Tapir
  18. @The Germ Theory of Disease

    I want to visit Carmel and Big Sur! It’s sad because California is not what it was in jeffers’s day…it’s almost as though Jeffers was prophetic or something.

  19. John

    The influence of Catholic Priest Franz Brentano on modern-cutting edge mathematics is very profound. Father Brentano began his academic career attempting to make precise, syntactical rigorous statements about the mental life of human beings. His students took all this a step further and presto:The Polish School of Logic….and in rapid succession proto-model theory(Lowenhiem-Skolem Theorem)…onto Alfred Tarski…onto full-blown model theory today. To make a long story short, model theory in 2022 is fully integrated into cutting edge modern mathematics.

    Father Brentano also launched analytical philosophy and phenomenology. Gian Carlo Rota taught phenomenology at MIT(while at the same time threatening to get the MIT Analytic Philosophy Department fired).

    Interestingly, Father Brentano’s married a Jewish Banker’s daughter which got him de-frocked…academically speaking…. in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

    Father Brentano’s brother Ludwig was a very interesting and important economist…most-definitely a hater of reactionary Scottish Economics. Very much an interesting story about German and English Social History.

    And there is a direct intellectual genealogy from Father Brentano to Bertrand Russell(through G.E. Moore)…

    Hey it’s Christmas time!!!…So take Mrs. Derbyshire out to Southold on the weekend and visit the old time Historic Village(next to Founders Restaurant) and speak to the tour guide and former nuclear warhead designer John….who later moved onto glowing-radiating-in-the-fridge Kerry Gold Butter…that’s John from Bristol…and his lovely wife(she gives the house tour)….

    Here is the road map:Father Brentano….Kazimerz Twardowski….onto Al Tarski….

  20. But what is the connection between Model Theory and Kerry Gold Butter?…Well, the tome by Chang and Kessler are both Goldish in color……

  21. John

    When Mrs. Derbyshire opens the refrigerator and beholds the glowing stick of Kerry Gold Butter….blame John from Bristol…..

    Hey, you are a University College London Guy…so is John from Bristol….undergrad and masters in nuclear warhead engineering….Ask him what it feels like to h0ld three pounds of raw uranium….Ok you know the story about Albert Einstein and Southold right? And it was a direct road to the Jap Bastards being nuked……The abc conjecture should be resolved with baseball bats…Samurai Swords…Machetes….and fucking nukes…That’s how the controversy over Theorem 3.2 should be resolved…

  22. Anonymous[387] • Disclaimer says:

    Comments always fascinate — and sometimes baffle — me.
    You write Tennyson and they read Jeffers.
    Blimey!

  23. lavoisier says: • Website

    Poem made my day. Thank you.

  24. Clyde says:

    Your Hilbert memorial was a masterpiece.

  25. @Anon

    China is under RELENTLESS attack from the West, led by the USA, with subversion, the arming, training and financing of separatist thugs in Xinjiang, Tibet, ‘South’ Mongolia, Hong Kong etc, and the most deranged and Evil hate propaganda campaign I have EVER seen, and some Yanks whinge that the Chinese are not as friendly as before. And, I would bet some money that these reports are yet more Sinophobic LIES. Typical Western thuggery-attack a victim, and if they dare defend themselves, whinge about their ‘aggression’. It might work with Gaza, even Iran, but China? No chance!

  26. @Achmed E. Newman

    The glacial is 100% the fault of the West, and it began in 1793, perhaps, with McCartney’s ‘mission’ to China, to suss out the opportunities for pillage and larceny. The Divine West will NEVER allow a non-Western power to rise to global eminence. Not then, not now, not ever. The race hatred, like class hatred, is intractable among Western elites.

    • Replies: @Achmed E. Newman
  27. @Rufus Arrr

    You are dealing with racist liars determined to ‘…bring China down’.

  28. @Mulga Mumblebrain

    1793, hahahaaaa! What was their problem for the previous 3,300 years, and was that Paul McCartney or Linda? You know one of them was in a band before Wings, right?

    Totally off the subject, because I still have the song in my head, this one’s for all you Panickers about the new Omicron virus – and I think that does NOT include M.M. here, if I am not mistaken.

    You might want to bring your regular old-fashioned prophylactics, but if you enter the Omicron House, leave your face diapers and gloves behind, as the Greeks don’t want no freaks!

    Panicked, masked, and stupid is no way to go through life, son!

    GATOR!!

    • Replies: @Rex Little
  29. National Review delenda est. That rag is dead to me. I realized something was rotten there when Frum led an attack on anti-war conservatives in the wake of 9/11, and it just got worse. Most of their articles after 2000 were weird triangulations explaining how more tax cuts and more foreign wars were all about true conservatism. Increasingly the only part of the magazine I consistently read was the back page, often titled “The Misanthrope’s Corner” or “The Gimlet Eye” or something similarly cynical.

    When Darb got canned, I looked up the piece that did it, and you know what? It led me to Unz and Sailer and Taki, who had also once been affiliated with National Review.

    It all happened so quickly too. NR in the 1990s was excellent.

    • Replies: @Achmed E. Newman
  30. @John Milton's Ghost

    Milton’s Ghost, the column by that lady in the back of the magazine was also my favorite thing to read there. She was the only true curmudgeoness I’ve known, and her name was Florence King.

  31. @Achmed E. Newman

    Wow, I never heard that one before. It’s as good as most of the Eagles’ hits, and better than some–why didn’t it get any airplay?

    • Replies: @Achmed E. Newman
  32. @Rex Little

    I had heard it at least a few times. It must have been on the radio, as I didn’t have the money to buy that album, The Long Run. I guess, Rex, they wanted to release more serious songs as singles, so there was the title track, Heartache Tonight and I Can’t Tell You Why. The title track was OK, and the other 2 became hits, but those tunes were nowhere near as good as this one, Joe Walsh’s In the City and The Sad Cafe.

    In particular, I did not like the vocals on I Can’t Tell You Why – that was Tim Schmit, the new bass player after Randy Meisner.

    That album was in general nowhere near as good as any of the previous 5.

    That’s probably more than you wanted to know, Rex.

  33. MEH 0910 says:

Current Commenter
says:

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone


 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
$
Submitted comments have been licensed to The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Commenting Disabled While in Translation Mode
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All John Derbyshire Comments via RSS