Locklin on science

Ancient Apocalypse reviewed

Posted in Book reviews, Open problems by Scott Locklin on January 5, 2023

Apparently this is the most dangerous thing on netflix. I of course don’t watch netflix, but I did watch this. I am familiar with Hancock from watching Joe Rogan shows while lifting weights. I also read one of his books (I think the Atlantis one) as a sort of amusing piece of science fiction with some bits of facts thrown in. That said, guys like Graham Hancock and John Anthony West (who inspired many of his ideas) often turn out to be right about certain things. Gubekli Tepe is a lot older than the mainstream archeologists said for years; just like these guys and other younger dryas types said. Ayahuasca wake and bake Graham Hancock was right, and normie archaeologists were wrong. They might also be right about stuff like the sphinx water erosion hypothesis; I have no real way of adjudicating this, other than noting that people have been saying it for a while and it might very well be true.

 

Archaeology is a wonderful subject, but it has an ideology, and it is presently mostly the kind of thing made to appeal to “Head Girl” IFLS types who memorized all the “correct” answers. Those sorts of people are always a squalid clerisy, and they almost never figure anything new out. It wasn’t always true; it used to be a field for adventurers, treasure hunters, freebooters, nationalists and religious believers. It used, for example, to be orthodoxy that the Great Flood was a real thing. Every Mediterranean culture from the Hebrews to the Greeks had the exact same legend with an Ark and the animals and everything. I found it flabbergasting being reminded of this by reading Lucian a few months ago.  Modern archaeologists haven’t read the ancient Greeks and probably think that people who read the bible are primitive, barely sentient barbarians. Yet the flood story is not only in Ancient Greek stories, Hebrew stories, Sumerian stories, it is rather annoyingly persistent in Hindu mythology, Zoroastrian mythology,  there are even American Indian flood myths. I assume archaeologists wave their hands and say fluffy bullshit about early farming communities being close to rivers which flood blah blah “I fucking love science” blah. But at one point in time people thought it was very reasonable to take old legends at face value and go looking for the stuff people wrote about. That’s certainly an ideological choice: we must recognize that we’re making one today by not looking for stuff the ancients wrote about. It is at least interesting this cultural commonality; a reasonable man could assume at least for the Mediterranean cultures perhaps it came from a knowable event.

In this series of videos, generally speaking, Mr. Hancock is either hamming it up for the rubes, or is an extremely credulous person. Hancock also doesn’t seem to think much of the ancients; his intuition is that anything old and impressive looking must have come from some other more advanced civilization. My own view is that people are pretty smart, and in the absence of distractions like ipotatoes and television, they get up to all kinds of interesting engineering shennanegins. I don’t think it is at all surprising people build things which have precise astronomical alignments (and in fact the birthday paradox makes them inevitable even when they’re not doing them on purpose), nor do I think it is weird that people cut and moved around giant stones before the bronze age. I could do it if I was really bored or had a large supply of slaves or enthusiastic followers. In fact when I was a teenager smoking weed and getting drunk in the woods, me and my friends did minor league megalithic architecture. In presence of an actual ideology or religion (or even sober engineers, riggers or a vague sense of purpose) we would have done a hell of a lot more.

That said it is obvious there are lost civilizations. It is obvious people can forget stuff that happened before: we know that humans have forgotten fairly important things that happened before. The Romans were arguably more civilized than we are in many ways, and some of their technologies are still mysterious to us. There are civilizations in South America which are unknown to official archaeological science. Even I know of one not discovered by archaeologists yet: this despite my having never even visited South America.

Episode1: Gunung Padang -classic example of where weirdo amateurs were right and mainstream dudes were wrong for a long time. There are these stone log things in Indonesia which happen naturally, so westerners thought it was just some weird formation of them. Well, it turns out people took the logs from a fair distance and made stuff with them. I have no way of evaluating the age of these things; everyone’s pretty sure it’s at least 7000 years old; maybe (according to a local expert) 23,000 years old, which would be really bonkers. It’s pretty cool; I only knew of it in vague hand wavey ways. I don’t think it means there was lost Atlantis whatever though: I just think people 7000 years ago were bored and built something cool to go with their local religion, which for all I know involved getting drunk and smoking weed in the woods.

Episode2: big messican pyramid. yes, it’s there. Yes there seems to be an older structure inside it. We of course have no fucking clue about the culture which did it, but it’s kind of hard for me to attribute it to some pre-ice age cultures since we know more or less when they built it: not too long ago. He hams it up with honkey trumpet sounds as if “pre Aztec” means post-Atlantis or something. I have an acquaintance who used to give guided tours of an actual lost civilization’s abandoned city in the jungle in South America. There’s probably dozens of such things, and every now and then people are reminded of it when some mainstream archeologist discovers them. It’s not clear that they are particularly old: most pre-Columbian architecture is pretty recent compared to, say, Roman ruins. Hancock also mentions the legend of Quetzalcoatl, which is one of those weird things that mainstream Archeologists prefer to ignore or wave away, despite the fact that it gave Cortés a huge leg up in the conquest of Mexico (Bernal Diaz de Castillo’s book is literally one of the most glorious things ever written: heroic men of the west destroying a filthy stone-age slaver empire of human-sacrifice pagan cannibals -and yes, my description is precisely correct). Hancock says of course this story is evidence of ancient civilizations, but he doesn’t talk about what’s weird about Quetzalcoatl: he was a white dude who showed up in a place where people rarely have white dude features such as beards and pale skin. Anyway some dudes he talk to say “maybe its really super old and you’re right Graham.” BFD. Cool pyramid though.

Episode3:  Ggantija and megaliths of Malta. This one I knew about, as a friend of mine visited recently, but holy cow I never realized how cool and gianormous it was. Hancock’s argument here is “ancient Atlantis” and “it must be much older because the ancient Maltese were hunter-gatherer NPCs.” This is as I say above more or less nonsense. If Maltese people qualified for affirmative action, this would be considered a deeply racist argument (not that there is anything wrong with that). Seriously, people get bored and make weird giant things all the time. Sometimes these things even turn into a racket. Imagine yourself as a neolithic barbarian whose family built some cool stone thing after eating the wrong mushrooms or drinking too much fermented barley water. People would come, sacrifice animals there because it is a cool thing, and you’d get to eat them and otherwise dispose of the sacrifices of delicious protons. You put people to work making bigger and more awesome religious edifices. Just because the native people were lame for a while in the history of Malta doesn’t mean they were always lame: look at Easter Island. The crazy Tiki-head edifeces there were constructed pretty recently by stone age Polynesians, and more or less we saw how it went bad. People developed a religion involving building these big stone heads. Then they had a civilizational collapse, because building stone heads isn’t adaptive behavior during periods of drought or whatever, and the level of civilization was much lower by the time Europeans showed up and enslaved the survivors. Hancock goes on to make wild assertions that he thinks it is part of some kind of Atlantis thing during the last Ice Age for basically no reason other than he wants it to be true. In furtherance of this he interviews a Maltese pediatrician who writes Atlantis books and agrees with him, while making it seem like he is a doctor of Archaeology, which is …. deceptive at the very least. Also some quack who talks about Sirius. Fuck you Graham Hancock. Mind you I don’t think it matters if you have a Ph.D. in archaeology to speculate about or do archaeology, but pretending like someone does have such a credential who obviously doesn’t is a pathetic and ridiculous swindle.That said, Malta is pretty weird place and it aint a bad tourist guide to people interested in old stuff. If/when I visit, I will certainly review this episode and make notes for my trip.

Episode4: Bimini megaliths. This is kind of cool; something I head heard about when I was a 10 year old ancient astronaut nut reading Von Daniken books. Hancock and his pals go diving there and see weird square rocks. Maps are produced alleging there were maps made of the weird square rock place. I dunno I guess Spaniards got maps from flying saucer space nazis. This is foolish. California showed up on maps for centuries as an island. Cartography didn’t have google maps back then so they’d make lots of mistakes. The map is all screwed up … unless you go back in time to the ice age in which case it looks kind of sort of similar (except how different everything else would have been). Or yah, something looks like a shark in the atoll.  Fuck you Graham Hancock.

 

Episode5: Gubekli Tepe. This is a dissapointment in that here is a place where Hancock and friends are spectacularly right about its ancientness. But they then go farther than assert (again) that it must be remnants of a more advanced civilization, I guess because some of the sculptures are weirdly intricate and modern looking. Of course lots of old stone age paintings and sculptures are intricate and modern looking: as I keep saying, people are pretty cool and get up to all kinds of creative things in absence of ipotatoes and television. The monuments there are very creepy and interesting looking, but I bet we find lots of such things in coming centuries, because making stone monuments and walls and such isn’t as advanced as people make it out to be.

Episode6: Mound Builder culture. Originally this was thought to be quite recent; nuts like Hancock and HP Lovecraft turned out to be right that it was much more ancient. We thought it was recent because de Soto met some of the inhabitants in the 1500s. Here’s an unambiguous (I think) win for Hancock: there are stands of trees obscuring the sunrise over some features of some of the mounds. Hancock grouses about it, I think with good reason. Also the people who run the place wouldn’t give him permission to film there basically because he is Graham Hancock: this is far more fascistic than anything Hancock has ever done. Hancock may be a weirdo or even an unreconstructed mountebank; that is no excuse for banning him from a public place. He trots out the usual tribe of weirdos who agree with him, and somehow “ancient civilizations” it, despite it being obviously not as ancient as his younger dryas idea. It’s still a win for the non-conformist Atlantis type people for being closer to correct than the mainstream archaeologists for literal decades.

Episode7: Catacoumbs of Cappadocia. This is something I first became aware of reading Junger’s “Aladdin’s Problem,” and I have wanted to visit since I became aware of it. This is also a particularly moronic subject for ancient civilizations BS as most of it was built in Byzantine days by Christian people who wrote about building it. Sure some of it was there before: it was there because it’s incredibly easy to do in such stone (you can do it with fingers), and there are lots of good reasons to live in a comfy cave dwelling in arid and ridiculously hot Cappadocia before the invention of air conditioning. Gypsies in southern Spain make similar structures in chalk; no ancient civilizations involved, it’s just bloody hot out and caves are cool and comfy and easy to carve out of soft stone. There’s an interesting legend he mentions which may or may not relate to this structure, then he proceeds to relate it to things in the younger dryas which is certainly not true. This is one of those things where the actual history of these catacoumbs is vastly more interesting than Hancock’s ideas. They were forgotten about because of an actual lost civilization which was wiped out: that of Christianity in Anatolia. The Christians had been using these catacoumbs right up until modern times and were forgotten for decades after the population transfers after Greek independence. Fuck you Graham Hancock.

Episode8: Channeled Scablands. This is pretty cool geological place as it is a place with actual catastrophic flooding. There’s really nothing archaeology about it other than noticing past catastrophic flooding occurred in different places. I suppose he’s implying it had something to do with Younger Dryas theory but really that’s not true. Joe Rogan shows up; he totally doesn’t belong there and I wish he stayed home.

 

All in all I found this documentary to be both entertaining and occasionally informative … educational even. I had never seen any of these structures in person, and some of them I had not heard of, despite having a modest interest in this sort of thing (I enjoy hiking to megalithic structures in my adoptive country). It is very bizarre that Hancock’s documentary produced the degree of “muh science” caterwauling it did; I can only guess that it was some kind of artificially drummed up outrage for marketing purposes. The fact that they went so far as to label goofy hippy Graham Hancock as some kind of white supremacist is really inexplicable otherwise. Believing in ancient civilizations, including European ones like Atlantis is absolutely not “white supremacy.” It’s just common sense. It is lame thinking our ancient ancestors were dumbkopfs but of course, “IFLS” ding dongs expressing outrage that Hancock has ideas more consistent with 19th century views are doing precisely the same thing: our immediate ancestors from those days were probably smarter than modern ipotato clutching hobbits are, and they certainly had more contact with hard scrabble reality to understand how things get built and how societies work.

The outrage porn worked on me I guess; I otherwise do not have much interest in ancient alien tier documentaries. If actual archaeologists were secure in their knowledge and positions as experts, they couldn’t possibly be offended by something like this.  Of course it is possible that modern archaeologists really do think Graham Hancock is some kind of contemporary Ahnenerbe, in which case they are deserving of far more scorn than Graham Hancock’s admittedly fanciful ideas.  Should some great archaeological savant actually believe such things, they might consider  actually engaging with the ideas, and showing why their ideas are superior to those of Graham Hancock. Blubbering outrage may get more clicks, but it adds zero to the scientific or educational process and only makes the people who do it look silly.

Medical history books

Posted in Book reviews by Scott Locklin on December 21, 2022

One of my hobbies is buying up pre-antibiotic medical books. If you look at the history of western medicine, it’s often been a wash: it’s still not all that clear if letting a doctor treat you is a better idea than staying home, eating right, exercising and minding your own business.  For example: click here.  For stuff like bullet holes, doctors are pretty good from all the practice they get in war and American inner cities. Doctors are also good for prescribing antibiotics; antibiotics are the last big, epoch making breakthrough in medical technology. Public health innovations, such as not drinking toilet water, anesthesia, doctors washing their hands, and making sure people have sufficient vitamins (the ones we know about): these are the past big ones that really moved the needle.

Seeing how people lived before antibiotics and what kind of things they had to deal with, and what kinds of treatments were available is interesting. It’s a sort of history of private life that doesn’t occur to modern people. We’ve all lived in the post-antibiotic era (my grandparents experienced some life before antibiotics); it’s shaped everything from our morals and politics to our eating habits.

Devils, Drugs and Doctors by Howard Wilcox Haggard (1913) tells the story of how medicine developed before antibiotics. Western medicine at that point could be boiled down to a couple of simple ideas that we all take for granted now. It’s worth remembering  that medical authorities often fought these simple ideas tooth and nail. This book is a nice history of this sort of thing and should be required reading for anyone interested in human health.

The book traces the history of childbirth from ancient Greek times up until Semmelweis discovered the value in clean hands and sterile birthing tools. Anesthesia is also a fairly recent invention; one objected to strenuously by the powers that be as being unnatural and bad for the patient. Surgery and anatomy have a history, as does the pharmacopia: the latter is particularly fascinating as drugs were often sort of religious in their origins.

 

The Germ Theory of Disease was also long considered a sort of conspiracy theory: it took various amateur autists decades of work before they convinced the government to remove water pumps downstream of the toilet. To say nothing of the removal of rats as a public good: something our public health officials in current year could use some help with. Various plague prevention and vaccination efforts are described: handshakes went out of fashion in the past as well -generally for no good reason, as many of those plagues were spread by rats rather than handshakes.

Nutrition: the existence of the known vitamins is something which we now take for granted; something extremely important to public health. It also makes one wonder about the potential existence of other vitamins or mineral deficiencies or commonly consumed antinutrients. This is the sort of thing that should really activate the almonds: nutritionists are generally morons who memorize lists. Data science may be able to discern things via crowdsourcing that were not previously available to researchers. There are lots of indications out there that the soy protein, seed oils, high fructose corn syrup and other garbage that Americans live off of are bad for you: just look at the cut of their jibs compared to those of societies who eat meat, grease, butter and olive or sesame oil. The data scientists of old were able to come to their conclusion with primitive contingency table type tools: surely ubiquitous computards could help us get to the bottom of more things. Particularly now when image recognition is presumably useful enough to take a snapshot of a meal, identify it and its ingredients, macronutrients and micronutrients. Meanwhile, try not to eat things which your most healthy ancestors didn’t eat. I like mash potato (to be fair rice and ancient varieties of wheat have a more encouraging history than a member of the nightshade family, but I’m part Irish so I should be OK).

The chapter on sexual promiscuity and brothels is particularly fascinating and changed my mind forever on the origins of sexual morality, or our current unique lack thereof. Sexual promiscuity was basically death and disease before the invention of antibiotics. Syphilis entered widespread circulation during a time of sexual degeneracy (it may have been around longer: the controversy existed in the time of this book and persists to today), and for years wasn’t considered so bad; a disease of gentlemen who could afford lots of company: sort of like HIV is now in some circles. Gonorrhea was also a terrible disease, often lethal in spectacularly horrifying ways: where it wasn’t it caused lots of blindness in infants. The section on prostitution through history is also interesting to the antiquarian: did you know flowered robes was the uniform of Ancient Greek cortesans? I didn’t! And yes, through history, before the invention of antibiotics, prostitutes were the primary carriers of venereal disease. The ridiculous virus-discovering promiscuity of gay men, and the general democratization of prostitute-like promiscuity among normal women was only possible with antibiotics. It’s interesting in that this pre-Freudian book noticed that sexual sublimation which was so normal before antibiotics was responsible for a great deal of art and technological creativity. The book also examines the sorts of abnormal psychology that comes of excessive sexual repression which is both epic and largely forgotten. The various accommodations to prostitution and reactions against it as public health measure (as well as its entanglement with morality) are pretty fascinating reading; also largely forgotten.

The Modern Home Physician (1934). I picked this up the other month to see what their recipe for infant formula is, since the powers that be in modern 2022 era American society insist that you couldn’t possibly make your own, and you must feed your infant a mass of corn syrup and soy solids or they’ll immediately drop dead (for the record; cow milk diluted with barley water, a bit of cream and sugar -wet nurses preferred even then). I stuck around for smallpox (considered only a danger in uncivilized countries at that point); unfortunately smallpox has a multi-week incubation period; something I guess post-covid gay men recently rediscovered about its cousin monkeypox. Amusingly it was not yet understood what organism caused influenza when this book was written; there were a number of organisms potentially to blame besides virus. They thought of that also; the idea of a virus was something which couldn’t be filtered out of a culture. They didn’t think it was possible it was the virus on its own. Honestly I’m still not sure influenza (and ‘rona) is dangerous on its own: those old timey doctors weren’t dumb. There is strong evidence a lot of the colds and covids of the world need some kinds of bacteria to spread and become serious: it is perhaps one of the several reasons why even though taking antibiotics isn’t supposed to work for a virus, yet it often does. BTW this is another place moderns could go; we collect all kinds of genetic material from living sick and healthy and dead people. Somehow it doesn’t sit in a database somewhere someone like me could go run the equivalent of a trading algorithm backtest on it (aka simple statistics and design of experiment work most public health dorks will never understand). This is the sort of thing which is completely knowable with modern tools, but which we really don’t know. At some point it became accepted ideology virumses ride on their own, despite our ancestors thinking otherwise. Maybe they were right?

Safe Counsel or Practical Eugenics (1928) This is the kind of book parents give their adult children when they get married. It’s not as spicy as you might think, but it’s a lot of fun anyway. FWIIW this was written at the peak of the US eugenics laws, yet there’s only a perfunctory mention of the laws in the first chapter. Most of it is classic “how sex works” written for uptight 1920s WASPs. There’s a lot of standard doctors advice on avoiding tobacco and booze which hasn’t changed much. On the other hand there is a lot of quite good advice you won’t get from current year doctors on gaining weight, losing weight, exercise and various sexual and mental dysfunctions. This is a tragedy of course, and this is the kind of thing right thinking people should read these old books for. Dumbasses popping a fruit salad of SSRIs when they might try bed rest and ceasing incessant baloney bopping like the old timey doctors said to. Of course they weren’t always right: they advised bedrest for heart attacks for no good reason, and that advice probably killed some people. This is quite a famous meme book in that some of its plates have been converted into 4chan memes about roasties and wankers. Reading it has provoked laughter among folks who have picked it up off my shelves, and yet…. Sexual degeneracy in 1916 was basically a death sentence. If your partner cheated on you with a prostitute or a man of loose morals, syphilis was incurable and gonorrhea was still a leading cause of death and blindness in children. Mind you, you can catch syphilis from snogging. Imagine your virgin daughter slowly rotting to death because some bounder took the diabolical liberty of smooching with her at the cinema. I’ve always said the sexual revolution had zilch to do with birth control pills; antibiotics are what made it possible. The section on “self pollution” are what usually cracks modern people up, but the description of the physical and psychological results of excessive wanking are, effectively, a description of modern neurotic dorks. People unable to look you in the eye, who  require spicy food, are glassy-eyed foul tempered and filled with ennui. Hey, maybe it’s just a coincidence (you fucking wanker). Muh SCIENCE <tm> says there’s no evidence it makes you go blind either.

Nature’s Secrets Revealed: Scientific Knowledge of the Laws of Sex Life and Heredity (1916). This is pretty much same thing as previous, though the cartoons aren’t as meme worthy (they’re actually quite artistic and interesting; like WW-1 bond propaganda).  Lots of the same as above, but frankly significantly higher IQ. I suppose it’s possible the former is a dumbed down version of this one. It’s interesting in that it gives a lot of advice for home care for, for example tubercular patients and other chronically disabled people. If you pay attention to books  written in those days you hear about people going to Arizona to recover from tuberculosis, but the reality for most was a lot more grim. Most people couldn’t afford to go to tuberculosis camp, so they withered away at home. While medical care in the US is an expensive trash fire today, in the old days there really wasn’t much to be done, so people had to be sick at home.

The Caio Duilio class: torpedo boat carrier and battleship

Posted in big machines, Design by Scott Locklin on November 29, 2022

Some years ago I wrote about the Battleship as concept and why it is both ridiculous and awesome, and very European in its conception. I mentioned something in the comments about the Torpedo obsoleting the concept of the battleship and suggested building a big cargo boat filled with torpedo boats as the sort of torpedo boat carrier using maneuver warfare before the aircraft carrier. Steampunk mongolian horseman maneuver warfare before the advent of aircraft. As is usual in seemingly clever ideas, turns out someone thought of it a long time ago. As with so many genius ideas, it was thought up by Italians. I was reminded of it recently by looking through some old personal photos from the Venetian naval museum.

I’ve never really opined on Italian engineering, but it really is something special in world culture. Italians don’t have the perfectionist autism of Japanese or Germans (or the Victorian era English), but they have flair and genius in spades. Only a Germanic autiste supreme could have lapped the ultimate screw, or invented the screw cutting lathe, but when it comes to thunderbolts of genius it hard to beat the Mediterranean cultures; Italians in particular. Usually an Italian design looks and performs amazing and only works when it is in the mood -at best really, who can say how many Leonardos repose in notebooks and Borsalino hats without actually coming to fruition. Generally the aspirations of Italian engineering are greater than the actual capabilities. If the EU weren’t being run into rubble by the Euro version of neurotic soccer moms, the continent could become a manufacturing and military hyperpower by combining Italian creative genius with German autism and Franco-German industrial power. Imagine Ferraris that actually function properly and have intelligent (aka Porsche tier autism) user interface and design. Now imagine that applied to military technology. Alas, unless the Russians nuke the American colonial pig-dogs and free us Europeans from our oppressors, this will never happen.

The Regia Marina was tasked with building a battleship in 1873; pre Dreadnaught era. As a reminder, the Kingdom of Italy was founded in 1861: Italy hadn’t existed as a united, independent country before that date since Roman times. The Italian people had been fragmented, enslaved and bullied by international powers literally for millennia, and they finally had a nation of their own. It was a peak time for Italian zeal and genius; heights not seen since the Renaissance or the Venetian empire. Italians know all this, but few others seem to. The design of this ship, as much Italian of this era was a work of genius.

Some of it was conventional for the era. It used echelon mounted central turrets (weird but I assume fulfilled some combat doctrine of the day) with barbettes (always were retard tier) as secondary gun mounts. The big guns were remarkable for size: 18 inch projectiles; bigger than any other contemporary ship. It was festooned with torpedo tubes as many other contemporary boats were, it had an old fashioned ram just like an ancient Greek Trireme or Venetian Galley, and was the first battleship in history to do away with the residual sail system. Navies until that point didn’t trust the steam engine to bring the boat home in the event of a mechanical problem. More importantly for the topic of this poast it had exactly the innovation I suggested; a sort of docking bay for a fast torpedo boat.


Battleships are displacement ships, this generation could do something like 15 knots at flank speed. Torpedo boats could do 30 knots by using a planing hull. For those of you not familiar with nautical engineering: displacement hulls are what every boat until the steam engine used: they will have an absolute top speed in knots of square root of the waterline in feet times 1.3. This is an important fact in naval tactics; it means your biggest boats go fastest and until the steam engine it was always true. Planing hulls became possible with high power steam engines. Your planing hull boat basically skims across the water held up by the power of the engine. Think, cigarette boat. The problem with displacement hulls is short range and huge fuel consumption. They also are difficult in heavy seas. However, a planing hull torpedo boat can literally run rings around the biggest and fastest battleship. So the genius idea is to bring your torpedo boat along with you and attack enemies with maneuver warfare while you lob volkswagon size shells at it. If it were me, I’d have added more torpedo boats and left the 18″ clobber guns on shore, but these are 19th century Italians we’re talking about, so they needed tumescent codpiece guns to intimidate their enemies. Everyone in those days knew the little Torpedo boat was the future; Admiral Stepan Makarov used them with success against battleships in 1877 in the forgotten (but current year relevant) Russo Turkish war.

 

This boat had a lot of other cool ideas in it; it had thick armors, lots of innovative floodable bulkheads (still high technology in those days),  very powerful and interesting armor arrangements which influenced later designs, and was also designed as a troop carrier as Italy had designs on a North African empire as the New Rome. It was easily the most advanced battleship of its time and was terrifying to all contemporary naval commands across the world for its cleverness and use of technology.

Alas it had some very obvious flaws; you had to move the rudders with chain gangs in an open air position at the rear. Everyone else had the same problem; we hadn’t invented hydraulic rudder systems yet. This is an almost archetypical Shitalian engineering blunder: you include a bunch of fancy armor schemes, a revolutionary torpedo boat mother ship, the biggest guns on a ship ever shipped, and you make your steering dependent on a bunch of ballistically naked sailors who can easily be turned to bone flecked jelly by a bit of grapeshot. They didn’t even have a tent or tin shack to protect them from the elements. The designer was so excited by all his innovations he couldn’t be arsed to make a reliable steering mechanism. Another serious flaw: most of the tech; guns and boilers were imported rather than natively sourced. Native sources  didn’t exist yet, because Italy was only a decade or two old; too young to have implemented an industrial policy, without which you will have no industry (much like the US since we stopped having an industrial policy). Finally the biggest flaw: they didn’t actually ever include the Torpedo Boat; I think they fitted out the area as an opulent officers mess instead. This is possibly the most Italian blunder ever.


The Caio Duilio class (sister ship similarly epic name of Enrico Dandolo) never saw action, like many  innovative ships in a time of great technological upheavals. Its designer, Benedetto Brin is lost to the mists of history, but men like him are what drove technology forward; not human chum committee dipshits at megacorps dumping nonsense like the Littoral Combat Ship on us. Individual geniuses of tremendous vision invent the future; their designs may have flaws or be transitional forms to some ultimate form. In this case the Dreadnaught was the ultimate form.

Yet more book works and days

Posted in Book reviews by Scott Locklin on November 20, 2022

The Earliest English Poems by Michael J Alexander. Some years ago I taught myself enough Anglo Saxon to plod through most of the Book of Exeter and part of Beowulf. This was one of the greatest things I ever did for myself. I had thought of doing a general old Germanic survey and attempting most of the great works of those languages, maybe eventually parleying it into Icelandic and using my idling knowledge for something of marginal utility. I may get around to this project one day, or refresh my stale Anglo-Saxon; until that day comes, I basically can’t read the old poems any  more from lack of use. Enter Michael Alexander’s “The Earliest English Poems.” Alexander got me on the Anglo-Saxon/Old English kick in the first place; his translation of the Wanderer made me want to read the original. I’ve always thought his translations were best. Strong recommend to anyone who reads English, especially those of you who are entertained by fantasy fiction and dark age history. FWIIW I find most English language poetry to be completely vile beyond the deep classics from the 1600s and maybe some Ezra Pound, but for some reason I’m very fond of it in the original Anglo Saxon (and Alexander’s translations). Know this, fantasy fans: the Germanic dark age poets are literally responsible for all of heroic fantasy. If you like Tolkein or Game of Normies or whatever, it all comes from this stuff, and you’ll be mainlining the real things rather than getting some sperdo’s 3rd hand degenerate-modern imitation.

The Word Hoard by Hana Videen. This is an odd duck, as so often happens when I impulse buy something. It’s a sort of random etymology organized by theme which gives a flavor for life in Anglo Saxon England. Which of course was called the “Dark Ages” for good reason; dragons, monsters, exile and enemies abound. It’s written in a peculiar popcorn machine style; she bounces from word to word in a ridiculously short attention span way. Many may find this charming; I found it distracting -it made me want to “click through” to something else metaphorically, and unlike almost any other book (but most internet writing), I found it difficult to read straight through without thinking of completely unrelated things due to all the ellipsis and parentheticals. When I flipped back to read the introduction, all was revealed; its origin is in one of those “word a day” twitter feeds. I enjoyed reading it anyway, it was sort of like being cornered by a coke-head medievalist at a loud and otherwise trite party. It seems a bit of a missed opportunity in that it could have been written more explicitly for picking up and putting down, rather than just teeing off a twitter feed.

Talent by Tyler Cowen and Daniel Gross. Tyler reads my stuff on occasion; I’m pretty sure something I wrote was inspiration for one of his books (could as well have been something Sailer said). I don’t know who the other guy is; some faceless YC dorkaloid in his 20s. I was expecting more than a collection of standard issue HR nostrums. One of the secrets of good hiring and talent spotting they never mention: participation in sports. Particularly for management: when America actually functioned properly, the former Captain of his High School or College football team often matriculates to management. Teamwork is almost everything in a company, unless it’s some kind of very small family business or lifestyle company. One of the reasons for current year dystopian everything is the lack of this personality type in positions of authority and management where they belong. They have a chapter on “why talented women and minorities are still undervalued.” Incredibly it never makes the case that they are undervalued, let alone why they might be undervalued. Instead it is a baloney lecture on how it’s all your fault that women (they don’t really talk about minorities in business at all) have such a hard time psychologically in business. The section on “disability and talent” is the usual applesauce about ‘sperdos being good at math (doubt). They also trot out the stupid 5 factor model of personality, which absolutely rustles my jimmies as it doesn’t actually mean anything, then festoon it with a few adjectives they claim as personality types, but probably aren’t even observable qualities. Upon finishing this turkey it occurred to me that nobody involved in this book has ever actually hired anybody. The facts bear this out: Cowen is an economics professor (his alleged VC experience doesn’t count) and the other guy is in his 20s and appeared to invest in a bunch of shitty “AI” companies (and to be fair Coinbase which is kind of a shitty company in a great sector) when he got his presumably nepotistic job at YC. Either one of them should have done better individually, at least by admitting their ignorance and asking people who know something about talent spotting, so I assume it was some follie a deux which caused this to be such a stinker. TLDR; only read at it to laugh at how mind-numbingly dumb it is.

Salazar: the dictator who refused to die by Tom Gallager. Salazar is one of those figures from history who refuses to match anyone’s preconceptions of his role. Right Wing Dictators in the 20s and 30s are supposed to be fascists; mean and grandiose dudes who lecture from the balcony, kill lots of people, get their countries involved in expansionist wars, and eventually lead their countries to some horrific gottendamerung. This is the History/Hitler channel view of that era.  Salazar did none of these things. He didn’t even have a political party: he was simply the most competent man of his time and the military who took over from the disastrous preceding liberal government heaped responsibilities on him until he was doing everything. His priorities were interesting; a traditionalist by inclination in his youth, he was pretty apolitical and non-ideological in his solutions for the country. For example, while his outside facing ideology was “corporatist” as were many of the right wing leaders of his era, in reality he organized a sort of Zaibatsu system -a general pattern that seems to work well with authoritarian governments. After the war, Salazar seemed most interested in retaining the Ultramar colonies in Africa and India: he had a vision of Portugal as being these combined with the colonies in a multiracial Lusiphone empire. The uneducated reader might be troubled to discover it was primarily the United States of America who were his opponents in this. In hindsight Salazar succeeded at this fairly well: Portugal’s overseas possessions gave him tremendous bargaining power,  while the colonial wars were relatively inexpensive in terms of lives lost (much lower than highway fatalities) and cost to the country. Salazar himself was an appealing and deeply Portuguese personality; incorruptible, shy and incredibly hard working for his vision of a strong and healthy Portugal: he even paid his own electricity bill for the parts of the government residence he had for his private use. His failings (my analysis not the books) seemed to be similar to that of other authoritarians: neglect of indoctrination of middling social classes who collectively had enough power to cause problems, and inadequate preparation of his successor (Caetano) who seemed to be a silly tit. The contrast with subsequent democratic leadership in the last chapter was particularly poignant; where Salazar was competent, shy and incorruptible, the glorious democratic leaders have mostly been foolish, egotistical and spectacularly corrupt. Sui cuique mores fingunt fortunam hominibus.

The Comedians by Graham Greene (a BAP suggestion). Greene claims its not autobiographical, but I strongly suspect it was based on some of his experiences at a famous Hotel in Haiti. The story of a hotelier in a doomed love affair with a diplomat’s wife during the dark times of Papa Doc Duvalier. Unforgettable characters, such as the US presidential candidate on the vegetarian ticket and his wife; archetypical early shitlibs. Also the general fucked-up-ness of the dystopian Voodoo hellscape of Haiti. It’s not a deep book; something about broken people doing their best in a completely broken society, but it is amusing escapist fiction with great characters and setting.

Aristotle Politics. There really isn’t much point in reading anything else on the subject of politics. I recently reread it to think through his idea of people who are born slaves; Aristotle himself wasn’t so sure that it was some kind of genetic thing, but his working definition of the person born a slave (more or less the same as an NPC -the man unable to think for himself) is a good one. I’m not going to “review” Aristotle beyond this; all educated men should read it and Nicomachean Ethics. I probably should read Rhetoric as well, but my pal Raw Egg Nationalist suggests Plato.

The Waste Books -Georg Lichtenberg. Imagine being a hunchbacked 18th century physicist who writes little notes down recording observations and witicisms. Lichtenberg studied my favorite subject; electromagnetism (he only studied the electro part), and though it’s not clear he ever wrote these aphorisms for publication, he was considered a master aphorist who inspired Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. They’re pretty mixed in quality as one might expect from random witticisms from someone’s notebook. Perhaps they, like Russian proverbs make more sense in the original language. I’m generally an aphorism fan; while I’ve never cottoned to most English language poetry past the classics as I said above, aphorisms sort of serve the same function for me: dense passages pregnant with meaning. Also stuff I can pick up and read and immediately put it down again between sets at the gym. Theoretically with twatter we should have some recrudescence of the aphorism, but it doesn’t seem to have worked out that way. Perhaps as a form it is actually more difficult than poetry; unlike most poems they do tend to translate pretty well so perhaps there is more information content. If you stop to think about it, a poem contains lots of fixed form, repetition and usually attempts to carry some feeling or concept in a rather long winded way that makes it easy to reconstruct if you only remember part of it. The poem is the Reed-Solomon code of language (OK some are Golay codes). Aphorisms are more like compression algorithms. Hence, they translate with more clarity.

Self Made Man -Norah Vincent. Miz Vincent recently committed suicide in some evil Swiss death chamber, so I decided to check out her most famous book. I’ll admit it, I read the thing based on a (sympathetic) 4chan meme about her. She was a mannish lesbian who dressed up like a man, and got into shenanigans. She hung out with some working class dudes at titty bars and a bowling league and found out she rather liked them and thought they were more decent humans than most of her chick friends. She also attempted to date women as a man and found out that it’s difficult to be a man, and that a lot of single women (particularly the 30-somethings) were useless emotional toddlers who were absurdly self absorbed and saw others as emotional hankeys rather than other people. Of course, the ones who weren’t emotional toddlers probably noticed she was a chick posing as a dude and didn’t go out with her, but all her bad dates will be amusingly familiar to anyone who has ever been out with an American woman in her 30s from the tinders. Other forays, a crappy sales job, a monastery and a “Robert Bly” men’s retreat. She then lost her marbles, having a good old fashioned nervous breakdown and gives her conclusions, which are that being a man is a lot of work (duh) and that men aren’t in touch with their feelings -with the assumption in mind that men would be better off if they were. One of the things she didn’t seem to have the self awareness to notice is all of her venues were some kind of extreme outskirts of manhood -effectively the nerdy table at high school. I mean, if I were looking for “the patriarchy” -which it seemed she was, strip clubs, bowling leagues and monasteries are unlikely places to search for them. I guess the reality is high functioning male circles are a place she’s basically never going to find because as she realized, she couldn’t be a high functioning male. She was an interesting and honest but fucked up person, and it’s really a shame she couldn’t pull it together well enough to, like, not kill herself. I guess a man would say something like that. This isn’t a book I’d recommend unless you’re particularly interested in the topic or want to redpill a particularly deluded shitlib. To be honest it seems to be written for people with the IQ of celery. I suppose her audience is dimwitted teenage girls with blue hair who are contemplating a septum ring. I enjoyed it anyway as a quick read.

Tiberius a study in resentment. Gregario Maranon This one I read a long time ago, but I think about it a lot, and thumbed through it again as I recently stayed next door to his (Maranon not Tiberius) house in Madrid. Recommended by a Spanish plumber named Cornelio. Apparently Maranon’s book on the Count Duke Olivares is his masterpiece but I don’t read Puerto Rican, and can’t find an English translation so I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Maranon’s bio of Antonio Peres was also pretty good, but not as good as Tiberius. This is much like Froude’s Julius Caesar book in that it provides the historical context to what kind of man Tiberius was and why he might have been the way he was. As Syme puts it, we usually just think about him from the account in Tacitus which is that he was a simple tyrant and monster. Maranon puts his later crimes in context of his situation through most of his life; from his exile, insane family drama and the weird character of people associated with him, deaths in his family and various other tragedies, he comes across as a fully formed human being. The ultimate character of Tiberius was more or less that of a nerdy and mildly traumatized software engineer given (somewhat against his will) absolute power. Invaluable for dealing with such personalities in Silicon Valley, and crack for someone like me who enjoys thorough psychological studies of people, unencumbered with Freudian baloney or modern political nostrums.

Galateo: The Rules of Polite Behavior by Giovanni della Casa. I’m pretty sure the Greeks and Romans had something like an etiquette book, but this was the first one for modern civilization. I guess such things were popular in Renaissance Italy, with the growth of merchant middle classes. Castiglione’s “Book of the Courtier” is an old favorite of mine I thumb through before talking to politicians. A lot of it is very funny, much like Theophrastus “Characters,” in describing the opposite of good manners; the boor. It’s also reasonable advice even today, which I fail regularly, sort of accidentally on purpose. I don’t blow my nose in front of people nor tell people about my dreams, but I tell pretty riebald stories and otherwise engage in un-gentlemanly behavior. Honestly it’s such good advice for having good manners I’d recommend this to any adult person who would at least sometimes prefer to be well thought of by others. Urgently needed in current year.