Locklin on science

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.


29 Responses

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  1. averros said, on November 20, 2022 at 11:33 pm

    Since you found Salazar (and the whole theme of competent autoritarian vs corrupt democrats) interesting… check (somewhat dated, but still relevant) check “The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp” by Marin Katusa.

  2. Privilege Checker said, on November 21, 2022 at 1:17 am

    > … America actually functioned properly, the former Captain of his High School or College football team often matriculates to management

    Most football dweebs that I interacted with in college & high school were and are obese giga-virgin-neckbeards. Basketball and baseball had more of the chad types that I think you’re alluding to. Either way, the American chad types are a dying breed of unicorns, being driven to extinction by MBA-complification fetishists.

    Galateo seems interesting, what do you make of Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people?” The idea that social etiquette can be taught on paper is interesting, but maybe useless as most adults don’t have the attention to read books, the one’s that do *probably* know social etiquette. I’ve found greater utility in learning to read body language compared to anything else.

    Enjoy these lists, slap a 1-5 rating on the books next go around!

    • Scott Locklin said, on November 21, 2022 at 9:55 am

      I suspect foodball chad vs amerifat is a regional variation. My High School were champs and of the few people from my home town shit hole I keep in touch with, they have jobs like “Brigadier General.”

      Dale Carnegie is common sense American glad handling. Galateo is that, sans explanations of why it would benefit you, personally, to act like a normal member of the human race, and a lot of other stuff people these days really need to be told about.

      None of these books are really comparable, I think it’s clear which ones to avoid unless you’re really into that sort of thing.

      • William O. B'Livion said, on November 27, 2022 at 6:01 pm

        > My High School were champs and

        What year did you graduate highschool v.s. what year did Mr. Checker?

        • Privilege Checker said, on November 28, 2022 at 3:36 am

          Football players have gained about 3-4 bmi points between when I graduated vs Mr Locklin.

          Who fucking cares though, it’s America. We’re going for a new era of decadence, bureacracy and social decay where extremism and mental illness reign supreme. It’s going to get worse, and no matter how clever your refutations are, they can only be rewarded by bipartisan criticism and shunning. Logical ideas that are well supported by facts and consistent with basic ideological principles are not allowed in American discourse; they are its anathema. COVID made this abudantly obvious at all levels of government, including the newly instated corporate level (Local-State-Federal-Corporate). If you cannot see this, it is because your flaccid brain has disintegrated into a markov chain trained by CNN (i.e., an arm of the globalist propaganda network, not slandering convoluted neural networks).

          Among other issues here like drug use, sloth, and sexual degeneracy, I observe an increasing deficit of actual men who can perform jobs competently in America. This, in addition to overall disastorous policy and leadership, will ultimately destroy the American economy. It’s already affecting military recruitment badly, we’re lowering standards every month.

          Importing more latinxs won’t fix the economic problem. And pushing women into the wokforce will only lower fertility rates. It’s concerning because other countries like to follow western idiocracy for reasons I have yet to fully comprehend.

          Men of action vote with their suitcase.

          Ranting here as the libtards and trumpworshippers have eliminated most places to speak freely online.

  3. jtobin said, on November 21, 2022 at 3:54 am

    Aphorisms, eh? Have you read any Nicolás Gómez Dávila?

    • sigterm said, on November 21, 2022 at 9:15 am

      What’s the best translation of his work?

      • jtobin said, on November 21, 2022 at 1:05 pm

        I have a bunch of dead-tree French translations and have clicked through the popular online English collection. They seem comparable. I get the impression that it’s either Spanish original or whatever else.

        • sigterm said, on November 22, 2022 at 9:14 am

          The French once censored machiavellians like Mosca, or published outrageous mistranslations of basic libertarian literature. The rise of the internets put a stop to this, thankfully, but I trust nothing in French or English.

          • jtobin said, on November 25, 2022 at 1:29 pm

            I do own his opera in Spanish from Villegas Editores as well, and while I can’t yet read Spanish per se, I do have French and some Latin, so that makes it possible to thumb through the collection and often pick something useful out, often by recognizing an aphorism I’ve read in the French. The translations do generally seem loyal to the original.

            (N.b., I think where the translations fall a bit short are when they try capture imagery, idioms, etc. that are totally alien to typical Anglophones. One noteworthy Dávila aphorism I remember ends with “But I guide myself by the scent of the broom,” where “broom” in French is translated as “rameaux de buis,” which is completely meaningless to me. Meanwhile a proper peninsular Spanish friend of mine immediately could recall the smell of “broom” (a flower) from his grandmother’s house as a child.)

            Interesting re: Mosca and French censorship more generally (I read Mosca’s The Ruling Class some years ago and have the Italian original on my shelf, similarly, just in case I ever get the urge to learn to read Italian). I wasn’t aware of that. There does seem to be a surprising amount of good stuff out there in French, though (I’ve been reading De Maistre as of late).

    • Scott Locklin said, on November 21, 2022 at 9:55 am

      Only online collections. I assume like Gracian it’s better in the original Puerto Rican.

    • Wanderghost said, on November 22, 2022 at 10:30 pm

      New readers, try this: https://archive.org/details/NGDavilaEscolios/NicolsGmezDvila-Aphorismsenglish/mode/2up

      • Wanderghost said, on November 22, 2022 at 10:44 pm

        Btw, perhaps fancifully, I view his “Texto Implicito” to be civilization itself, with a particular interest in the latter, useless parts.

  4. a scruffian said, on November 21, 2022 at 6:49 pm

    >Recommended by a Spanish plumber named Cornelio.
    RIP in peace
    perhaps it’s for the best that the cancer got him before he could snap and kill his father-in-law…

    >Lichtenberg studied my favorite subject; electromagnetism (he only studied the electro part)
    God created electrostatics, with all its pure and exacting theorems redolent of the clear air of the Napoleonic era; the morass of magnetics was added by the Devil.

  5. Altitude Zero said, on November 22, 2022 at 2:19 am

    Too bad about Vincent. She was an oddball, but she seemed to be someone who actually wanted to know the truth, rather than just have her prejudices confirmed, and that’s unusual, especially over on the Left where she was. She was also warning about the baleful effect of the whole tranny business back in 2001, although she partially recanted later. She was messed up, but in a healthier society, she would have been a healthier person. RIP.

  6. Cameron B said, on November 23, 2022 at 3:50 am

    I’m 1 for 10 (Aristotle) on these, so thanks Scott. I requested book recommendations months (maybe a year+) ago, so glad to see you piling them on recently. Just bought The Earliest English Poems. In that stage between drunkedness and unconsciousness Ive been reading “The Best Loved Poems of the American People” circa 1936. Good Lord it’s weird to think that less than 100 years ago our adults had favorite poems rather than Tiktok videos…

    “I find most English language poetry to be completely vile”. I’ve heard Italian is nice. What do you prefer?

    On Aristotle, do you have a favorite philosopher? I typically only read the Christians.

    Here’s one for you: “Of Whales and Men” by Robertson.

    • Scott Locklin said, on November 23, 2022 at 9:37 am

      I used to write yearly updates to pals with mini book reviews, moved it to amazog, so it’s pretty easy to get into the habit again.

      Looks like interesting book, ever read “Man Eaters of Tsavo” in the realm of hunting books?

      I’m a big fan of everything by David Stove. For example: https://philpapers.org/archive/STOTIC-2.pdf
      His son is a nice guy also, though not a philosopher.

      • RAS said, on November 24, 2022 at 6:44 am

        You might like the books of Jim Corbett (particularly “The Man-Eaters of Kumaon”). Corbett was a colonial administrator of some sort in the Raj, who periodically was called to hunt man-eating tigers and leopards. Surreal stories told matter-of-factly – I don’t know if men like that exist anymore.

        There are many interesting facts in his books. Ex – tigers don’t understand that humans have terrible senses of smell, and so will only attack from downwind, and also are ambush predators and thus attack from behind. This allows one to “tack” across dangerous terrain safely.

        I also remember one somewhat horrifying bit of imagery – of leopards (tigers stick to the forest) calmly digging into family huts and then slaughtering the inhabitants, who were too afraid or fatalistic to defend themselves.

      • Chiral3 said, on November 24, 2022 at 2:44 pm

        If you like books like Man Eaters check out Death in the Long Grass by Peter Capstick.

      • Cameron B said, on November 25, 2022 at 3:14 am

        Never heard of Man Eaters but I’ve bookmarked it. If this sells you on it: I remember wondering if Cormac McCarthy pulled from “Of Whales and Men” (and not because of the parallel to the title of McCarthy’s “Whales and Men”) but it escapes me why.

        I have that article printed in my personal library. Never bothered with any of his other publications.

  7. Rckwzrd said, on November 23, 2022 at 12:36 pm

    What is the typical rest time between gym sets that allows for maximum aphorism consumption?

  8. Boglaramil Sifruligin said, on November 23, 2022 at 4:32 pm

    Can you recommend a particular (English) translation of Aristotle? I don’t know how to discriminate between them so I don’t want to inadvertently read a subversive translation.

    • lscx said, on December 9, 2022 at 8:05 pm

      Accuracy probably a greater worry than subversion, nobody’s hiding the real Aristotle. And unless you learn Ancient Greek for yourself, you’re going to have to take somebody’s word for it, aren’t you? Compare a couple different versions if this is a true concern. That said, W. D. Ross is probably the one to which all the others are typically compared. Harris Rackham was I think his predecessor on that pedestal. Jonathan Barnes is his successor. All three translated the major works. Ezra Pound has an interesting critique of both Aristotle and Rackham in his “Guide to Kulchur.” As I recall he’s skeptical of both philosopher and translator; maybe read his gloss first and then decide whether the real thing (in secondhand form) is actually worth your time.

      • Scott Locklin said, on December 9, 2022 at 8:30 pm

        I just read Jowett: http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/politics.html
        Recently got the Oxford complete translation, whoever did that did it a long time ago.

        I don’t think we’re in any danger of being misled by modern classics scholars as most of them are incapable of reading any of it in the original language.

      • Scott Locklin said, on December 11, 2022 at 3:12 pm

        I dunno, I got a lot more out of reading book-1 of Aristotle’s politics than Pound’s redditor tirade. I probably avoided reading more Aristotle from reading stuff like this 20 years ago.

  9. David S. said, on November 27, 2022 at 5:09 pm

    Aristotle’s Politics does indeed tower over every other work on the subject. In honor of this fact, and to protect against temporal parochialism, I’ve made a simple rule: if you can’t explain your political theory in terms Aristotle would understand, your theory is garbage.

    I’d stay with Rhetoric over Plato. Plato’s dialogues are clever and easier to read but you leave them no better off than when you started.

    • Scott Locklin said, on November 28, 2022 at 12:08 pm

      After thumbing through the dialogues, you’re probably quite right.

    • sigterm said, on November 30, 2022 at 8:56 am

      Plato can be interesting. Depends on how much you read between the lines. Feeding the masses grains and not meat, keeping them stoopid with pleasant rethoric, enforced eugenism and communism at least for the warrior caste, and using the Aryan caste system in the first place… My favorite to rub in the face of “educated” liberals is the part where women are the reincarnation of petty men (timaeus or critias). Plato exposed ideas found in private, high places until then. “What is Plato, but Moses speaking Attic Greek?”

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