Locklin on science

Yet more books (March 2023)

Posted in Book reviews by Scott Locklin on March 10, 2023

Rando books

“Natural History” Pliny the Elder. There’s no way I’m going to read all of this; there are 6 volumes, several of which are “toe of newt tier” ancient Greek remedies for scrofula. None the less it contains numerous charming antiquities. I’m not sure I’d actually recommend Pliny to anyone, but as with Macrobius I absolutely love these sorts of antiquities: they give a vivid view into how people in those days looked at the world. I got this set in hard cover for about 22 bucks a volume including shipping to my house halfway around the world from Gyan Books.  I had previously gotten a leather bound copy of Strong’s Procedures in Experimental Physics via amazon from them, and their website seems to have lots of out of copyright books available. The biggest hassle seems to be picking a nice edition for them to make for you. It’s not the best a man can get, as the pages are laser printed from a PDF rather than printed in a press, but they seem to have selected high quality PDFs somehow and it’s all been very decent with excellent service.


“Indiscrete Thoughts” Gian-Carlo Rota. I believe this was my top read in 2018; going through my backlog of book notes. Part scientific autobiography, part philosophy book: Rota was an important figure in mid-late 20th century mathematics. He was also a world-class wise-acre and story teller. His portraits of Alonso Church, Von Neumann, Ed Teller and Stan Ulam are very memorable character sketches of great men; there are a few other guys in there who I wasn’t so familiar with -William Feller was apparently a great probabilist (his book is 1000 pages long so I’ve never looked, but probably should) and …. neighbor of and friend to Emmanuel Velikovsky. His portraits are both humanizing and hilarious: math people are generally unintentionally comedic, and Rota’s “indiscrete” nature doesn’t mind exploiting these idiosyncrasies for laughs. Many of his personal anecdotes are of people I am only dimly aware of or had to google, but all of them are entertaining, and his account of his era of mathematics is sort of like Casanova’s account of the 18th century mentioned below. You could compare this to “Surely you’re joking” in irreverent tone, but you need to have more education in math and physics to get the best out of it. It’s easily much better than  Feynman’s anecdotes. There’s a lot of mathematics and philosophy here and some quite tantalizing stuff which are beyond my powers. For example, this one will probably haunt me forever, and no, he wasn’t talking about topology theorems used in various forms of quantum field theory:

“Science and Hypothesis” Henri Poincare. This is up on Project Gutenberg, and you can even fiddle with the LaTeX configuration if you want to.  Some art nonce wrote a book about this being an influence on both Einstein and Picasso. Poincare’s book was apparently hugely popular in its day. It contains a lot of interesting explanation of non-Euclidean geometry, which was something of popular interest in the time.  It also contains most of special relativity stated in a more abstruse fashion than Einstein eventually did (most of the hard work was done by Poincare and Lorentz). More valuable than this, Poincare talks about how mathematicians and good theoretical physicists think about a problem. If you’re tempted to read a current year popular science book: don’t. Read this instead. It’s “out of date” in the sense that Poincare was unaware of quantum mechanics at the time, and his thoughts on the issues behind special relativity are incomplete, but Poincare will teach you some actual math at a pop science level, and it won’t be dressed up in a lot of impressive-looking terminology: he uses small words everyone can understand. He’ll also show you how a scientist thinks about the world and makes progress. It was good enough to inspire Einstein and Picasso, it should be good enough for you.

“Trustee from the Tool Room” by Nevil Shute. Shute was a working aerospace engineer who built some interesting stuff in his career; I’ll eventually get around to his engineering autobiography. He was also a professional writer; he wrote “On the Beach” -a fairly famous post-apocalypse book has been made into a decent if depressing movie: apparently many other of his novels were also made into movies. This one was suggested by  commenter JMcG as complimentary to Stanley Hooker’s book. This isn’t a work of high literature, but it’s good fun, and contains warm and wholesome characters.  The author he most reminds me of is Dennis Wheatley, though I suspect it’s just the period and slightly pulpy writing style. This is not very action packed, but very British and comfy and the author’s craftmanship keeps the dramatic tension up. Most of the characters are extremely British, and all of them are actually good people. Sort of a more realistic 1950s  Wallace and Grommit; much of the dialog centers around model engineering (aka designing and building little steam engines and such). The lead character is a subculturally famous but humble and provincial writer for a thinly fictionalized Model Engineer magazine. Various model engineer types, who are probably also thinly fictionalized real people, end up helping him out on his adventures. Most of the characters aren’t real deep, and it’s extremely stiff upper lip politeness, but for example his half-Polynesian illiterate womanizing shipwright/captain reminds me very much of illiterate people I used to know, right down to figures of speech (“thinking cap” seems to be a preferred phrase of men who can’t read). Comfy.

“The Case Against the Sexual Revolution” by Louise Perry. It’s been so long since I gave a shit what an Anglo floosey thought about anything, it’s rather shocking to read something like this. Niccolo, who I respect, seems to think it important, so I gave it a shot and an extensive hearing below. Perry is a familiar type to anyone living in the anglosphere: the prune faced puritan.  Perry is definitely a “feminist” in that the concerns and problems of the male of the species do not occur to her: they don’t even register. It’s a common, inadvertently hilarious problem with the emotional range of “feminists” -they get all buttmad at men looking at (hotter than them) women as sex objects, while they see men as entirely utilitarian objects with no feelings, justifiable preferences or acceptable aspirations of their own. She is a “believe all woman” type; all female stories are uncritically taken at face value, and most male stories are disparaged as the excuses of rapists and rape apologists. She even worked in a rape crisis center, and based on my experience with such people, is probably bonkers. Certainly anybody with “rape crisis center” as a noteworthy life experience is in possession of a poor model of how human beings generally work based on sample bias alone.

On the other hand Perry acknowledges for example that on average men are stronger than women, men are hornier and temperamentally more promiscuous than women, women might be more easily psychologically and physically damaged by promiscuity, men are attracted to younger women because of biology -not some weird power dynamic thing, that women would be well-advised to take precautions against rape rather than flouting danger and indignantly insisting rapists should behave themselves, that most men are probably not rapists (her estimate taken from polling data: 10-27% of men are rapists) and she even admits that James Damore might have had a point about equal outcomes not being expected results from equal opportunities in technical and other fields. This isn’t exactly heady stuff: literally everyone knows this kind of thing, and has since the dawn of time.  I guess the most fashionable current year “feminist-identifying” numskulls generally don’t accept this basket of ideas, at least in former Calvinist strongholds. As far as I am concerned those kinds of people are just fools, no matter how mainstream their ideas are. Will slapping a “feminist” label on these erm, “insights” cause more feminist-identifying numskulls to accept it? I sincerely doubt it. Good on her for trying though.

It’s funny that she chooses to vent her ire on BDSM.  Literally the only women I’ve met in my embarrassingly extensive sexual career who have any interest in this filthy nonsense are avowed feminists. Women, due to their physiology, and, like, evolution, kind of have to be submissive to get their rocks off. Yes, yes, there are exceptions, and there is such a thing as psychological lesbianism which is probably now the norm in Perry’s circles, but this is how the majority of women are made. An autistic-spectrum woman may notice this in her own life, but it doesn’t agree with her feminist programming. BDSM is their way of dealing with this cognitive dissonance. They put being submissive in a sort of safe place where they can turn it off afterwords when they play at spreadsheet girlboss. Men basically aren’t interested in this crap at all, unless they have some actual paraphilia/mental illness or they’re in social circles where they use knowledge of it to get laid (aka yoga guy who teaches shibari classes). She thinks BDSM is physically dangerous: I think it’s objectively just laughable and pathetic, like men who jerk off into women’s shoes. She brings up Armie Hammer’s freakoid violent sexual proclivities, but that just seems to me run of the mill Hollywoood sociopathy. She also brings up various lurid cannibal murderers of recent history while forgetting their pre-sexual revolution predecessors who seemed to occur at a similar rate.  Of course BDSM is all vile and pathetic, and cannibals are bad m’kay.  Disapproving of BDSM for any reason in current year is based even if I laugh at her reasons and goofy puritanical psychological furniture. There is a solution to all this that humans have thought of before: Mennonite families seem pretty happy and I’m pretty sure they don’t approve of BDSM either.

She also goes off on porn as being something that is basically physical punishment for female porn stars, based on the accounts of some former porn stars who regret it (or who regretted it for a few days then went back to it). To be clear, I think porn is bad: it is degrading to all participants including wankers who view it. I’d be happy to see the Mindgeek scum flayed alive. However, many of these regretful porn stars she trots out were willing and enthusiastic participants,  proponents of their degradation while it was happening; even boastful about it for years afterwords.  Such regretful women always have an audience among the prune face feminists, just as they always have an audience among wankers and “pro slut” feminists when their opinions were more “yaaaas queen” enthusiastic. That sort of thing is Schroedinger’s porn star to me. Which one am I supposed to believe? I’ve seen this in my broader social circles from when I lived in Berkeley. The pro-slut feminist girl who enthusiastically bones hundreds of people (I passed), in public even, in all manner of creative and bizarre ways one must read medieval Japanese manuscripts to imagine, later gets fat and ugly from this lifestyle and becomes a prune-faced bitter feminist wine-aunt who regrets it all, makes up a lot of reasons why she was taken advantage of by all those awful men (no word on the women she was also diddling). The reality is, fit women in their teens to mid 20s have tremendous sexual and social power. Later on in life, no matter how physically fit they are, this sort of raw sexual power diminishes. If they let themselves go to seed, which most do, they experience a rapid Wile-e-Coyote moment which must be incredibly bewildering to the un-self-reflective. It must suck starting out adult life at the peak of your powers, then having it trickle away to nothing. Honestly this sort of “cupcake to harridan” life cycle is more horrifying than Flowers for Algernon, but nobody has written a Houellebecq style novel about it yet. That’s why old school people (Mennonites again) tell their daughters not to become town doorknob and to cultivate their souls rather than getting boob jobs. Perry gets props for noticing the numerous ways in which porn is bad for men, but somehow manages to make that about “it’s bad for women,” thus confirming her bona fides as a feminist.

She has a chapter on the oldest profession. It’s the usual saw from the puritan. There are exactly zero urban societies in human history which did not have prostitution. As long as there are lazy women, thirsty men and/or individuals with below average moral standards, there will be prostitution, no matter how much it is  frowned upon. She does a helpful thing in characterizing the whole “pro sex worker” movement as generally being some kind of hobby for rich degenerates. She also gets points from me for noticing the hypocrisy that many of these “pro sex worker” dipshits get buttmad at the idea people might flirt at more conventional workplaces.

The “sexual revolution” has indeed been a disaster. It’s been bad for most women, just as it’s been bad for most men. She incorrectly identifies it as being sparked by the birth control pill which …. doesn’t help much when you’re talking about gays. Newsflash: it was antibiotics which made it possible. Her advocacy is inherently paternalistic, even …. patriarchal, if you follow it to its logical conclusions. She wants men to marry women and act with chivalry. The problem is she doesn’t seem to want women to do anything to justify marriage or chivalric treatment. Oh sure, she wants women to make an effort to avoid rapists and maybe be slightly less slutty for their own health and well being; that is sort of a necessary but not sufficient condition for what she’s asking. The reality is, chivalry and marriage is predicated on inequality and strong social roles. You know, the exact opposite of what any kind of feminism is.

I’m not sure what this book is for. I suspect it will mostly be passed around by Jordan Peterson fans saying “dats rite” at each other. Perry is obviously writing for people like herself: women who want to be considered feminists and have important ego-boosting “stronk and independent” careers but also want men to act in a chivalrous manner as if the women were helpless pre-suffragette dimwits with no human agency like in Harry Enfield parody videos. I mean, I can understand why a woman might feel this way: best of all possible worlds for them. I’d like for all women to be simultaneously pure-hearted virgins, logical rocket scientists and my exclusive sexual slaves. Unfortunately, the way reality works, I doubt as there is even one woman existing on planet earth like this, though an individual woman might fake this sort of fantasy for me if she liked me enough. Perry is essentially doing the same thing: she wants all men to be chivalrous and marriage minded while respectful of her feminist principles, whatever they might be at any given moment. It’s a nice fantasy, and I bet she can find some dude who likes her sufficiently to fake it enough to make her happy. The problem is, people en masse are not someone’s autistic fantasy mate: there is such a thing as human nature and statistically speaking this doesn’t compute any more than a world full of virginal monogamous sex kitten anime characters who are logical and obsessed with male interests (whatever they might be at a given moment). I am quite certain most anglo-American feminist types think I’m a terrible person for even pointing out the fact that this is a ridiculous fantasy rather than a realistic aspiration to expect across the broad swathe of humanity. Anyway maybe you like this if you live in anglo shit hole and care what such women think: I don’t.

Harry Enfield FWIIW; you should watch them all:


More book notes (Feb 2023)

Posted in Book reviews by Scott Locklin on February 25, 2023

Yeah, I read a lot.  I’m only writing notes for about half of them; maybe there’s a twelve step program.

“On the Inequality of Human Races” -Joseph Arthur de Gobineau. I had read a sort of short compendium of his writings a long time ago based on the suggestions of Boyd Rice, and found it a delightful collection of elitist rants. There actually wasn’t much racism in it, and despite the title it wasn’t real political either. In his day de Gobineau was one of the foremost men of France, and was considered one of the greatest novelists of the time as well. The Steampunk Father of Racism wrote this particular book postulating that all great civilizations excepting the neolithic ones in the Americas were founded by Aryans. The book was used by some southerners to justify their peculiar institution which I think is why it receives such opprobrium. Otherwise it’s a lot more subtle than it is given credit for; also more extreme. He thinks it is specifically the Aryan people who are capable of civilization, and in a country like France, the residual non-germanic peasantry is dragging the rest of French civilization into the muck. He also thought that China was founded by Aryans, long before the Tocharian mummies were found, which is a pretty big win for him: maybe this was some kind of common knowledge in his day, but if it was, it has been largely forgotten. His theories didn’t work so well with Indo-American civilizations and he’s kind of mum on this in my abridged edition. De Gobineau has a very logical progression where he eliminates the ideas (presumably popular in his day) that Christianity, cultural institutions or geography are responsible for the supremacy of European civilization. It is a more much more intellectually honest work than “Germs, Guns and Steel”  -a widely touted turd of a book which never addresses any theories outside of Diamond’s racial prejudices (Diamond also makes numerous historical errors of fact -and none of them excusable). De Gobineau’s theories are also pre-Darwinian (written in 1849) and seem …. off based on what we now know about how biology works. De Gobineau is fond of mulattas; thinking them the most beautiful women (I agree, u mad?). I had originally assumed he came to this conclusion from his time as ambassador to Brazil, though the timelines don’t line up, so it must have been from his experiences with people in France. Apparently the full book is 1000 pages long; the edition I read is less than a quarter its size. I’m conflicted about attempting to track the rest of it down, assuming it was ever entirely translated into English (my French remains weak). On one hand, it’s absolutely not what the lemmings on wikipedia say about it. On the other, I read things like this for forgotten knowledge and I didn’t get much in that department. I do have one of his novels in French, and his didactic play about the Renaissance in English, so I’d probably pick up one of those first.

Sallust Cataline Conspiracy and Jugurtha Wars translated by Quintus Curtius. I used to look at this guy’s blog, but bought his translation of Sallust by accident. It is a very good translation, and so I bought a bunch more of his translations for later. As an aside, I absolutely despise the Loeb translations, though I have a couple of them where there is no other translation available, or where having the latin next to it gives more of a sense, as with epigrams or poems. Loeb books are outrageously expensive and are out of copyright to boot, and the money goes to degenerates at Harvard Press subsidizing who knows what. Sallust is my new favorite Roman historian; his writing has the quality of oration. He was a sort of moralist, more or less against the elite of his day -the corrupt aristocracy of the late Republic. He had a very earthy way of describing the antics of the great men of his time: Marius versus Metellus, Sulla and so on. His language is apparently epigrimatic and dense and this quality comes through somewhat in the translation. I only wish there was more of it; apparently he wrote a long history of Rome which didn’t survive. The translator provides lots of historical context, timelines and aside comments to the important figures; perhaps to a fault, though in our times this is going to be helpful for most. Definitely a history for our times, with the morally grey protagonists and corrupt elites we are presently afflicted with. Highest recommendation and best thing I read in 2022.

On Duty Cicero also translated by Quintus Curtius. One of the stack of Curtius’ translations I bought based on the quality of Sallust. This was a book of advice Cicero wrote to his Son, based on an earlier work by Panaetius, who I had never heard of before. Panaetius book had a chapter on things that are honorable, things that are useful or advantageous, and had promised a chapter on resolving the conflicts between the two which he was never able to deliver. Cicero followed Panaetius reasoning in the first two chapters, and delivered the final chapter. It is something managers or other kinds of rulers should have a look at, but like many of these sorts of “pocket mirror” books, it can drone on and become tedious. Cicero of course was a lawyer, building up his argument according to classical rules of rhetoric, so this is somewhat inevitable. It is also something useful for those who relate to Stoic philosophy: I find it much more edifying than Marcus Aurelius for example, which is mostly dark and depressing, as men’s diaries so often are.

Macrobius Saturnalia Loeb Books 1-2 (yeah I know). Saturnalia was the Roman Christmas; a holiday extended in part due to the Julian calendrical reforms. This is a fictional account of a party of learned men discussing interesting things such as amusing historical jokes by famous men, reasons for holidays, religious antiquities and various pleasures of life. The literary form is taken from the Ancient Greeks; Plato specifically, but it’s the Roman version: more or less a nerdy Satyricon. The later books are apparently filled with literary criticism of Virgil and eventually some philosophizing on insult comedy, but I wasn’t able to find a translation of them thus far. This is going to be fruity stuff for most people, but I’m a huge fan of Greek and Roman obscurities and antiquarianism. For example I recently paid a hundred and fifty bucks (Loeb didn’t get my money, more on my new drug dealer in subsequent blergs) for the complete “Natural History” by Pliny the Elder. Nothing is more relaxing to me than reading some nice trivia about Roman toe of newt cures, or what Aristotle thinks is unusual about animals that lay eggs. I don’t remember why I was interested in Macrobius; probably for the religious antiquities, but the jokes were the best part.

Not much of an Engineer by Stanley Hooker. Another classic from the golden age of technological development; a great man who took us from fabric rudders to supersonic jump jets. Hooker was an applied math guy who somehow got involved in the development of jet engine technology through his early work in creating blowers for the Rolls Royce Merlin engines. Though there were many innovations around that time pointing in the right direction, jets we use today all more or less descend from his Rolls Royce work with Frank Whittle. Without Stanley Hooker it might never have happened. He along with the great Ernest Hives created the Klein type-1 organization that made the full realization of the jet engine idea possible. Hooker was writing this at the end of life, and is extremely gracious to everyone he worked with. He also seemed to enjoy his life thoroughly; from the pleasures of the table to fiddling with turbines to the gritty details of deal making and management. Not all of the men he talks of got a fleshed out portrayal, but Ernest Hives really looms large over all this. Very odd ending where he waxed lyrical about the honors heaped on him by various communist regimes; China and Romania. I assume he was getting closer to death and enjoyed the travel and people making a fuss over him.

The Europeans by Luigi Barzini. Barzini was a journalist back before they were hall monitor scum cooperating with intelligence agencies to spread misinformation and get their enemies banned from twatter. According to wakipedia he actually ghost-wrote Mussolini’s autobiography. I had always thought Il Duce was a newspaper man and wrote his own autobiography -perhaps Barzini was more of an editor. In any case by the time he wrote this he was a pan Europeanist liberal, and this was written in the 80s, when International Communism was an actual threat. This was long before the managerial goblins of the EU had any influence and before mass travel and homogenizing international communication in English was a thing. As such, national stereotypes were an important way of understanding other cultures. His are extremely interesting though occasionally tedious and obviously wrong. For example, he was an obvious anglophile, but in a way which had never occurred to me at all. The English to me are goofy Monty Python characters who are distantly related to my own culture. To Barzini they were incredibly cunning ancient-Greek like superheroes, which is probably how the historian of the future will look at the early to mid 20th century Briton before they flushed their civilization down the toilet. Germans: in 1983 when he was writing this, the sauerkraut eaters were not the ridiculous stereotype of goose stepping Nahtzees, or sandals wearing Green party lunatics, but were actually mostly seen as …. malleable. There had been so many odd stereotypes about the German leading up to this time, he saw them as some kind of protean unformed human potential. I don’t know if I buy this: Germany contains many national characters and it depends where you’re talking about. As with Italy, the concept of Germany as one country is pretty recent. France: of course is the rotting syphilitic superpower who still thinks it is a superpower. Oddly Barzini takes a sort of disapproving  view of France’s independence from NATO, or, more rightly from the Anglo-Americans who always dominated NATO. I think it was the correct thing for the French, and would be even more correct if they took it up again today. Say what you will about the French (I have plenty to say), unlike the Anglos they never got into sexual blackmail as a tool of political control and their upper classes were stereotypical latin womanizers rather than creepy pederasts: there is a lot of good that comes downstream of that. If you have any historical perspective, while the French have their problems, the Anglo-American influence in Europe and the world has been vastly more malevolent than anything Barzini worried about coming from le phrog. Oh noes, the French wanted their own command structure rather than taking marching orders from the Americans. I reserve the right to change this opinion in future if they ever throw off their current year MKUltra leadership in favor of actual French people with avoir du cran. The Italians, as he describes them, are unrecognizable. I have never met Italians with the national “longings” for good government he describes. As far as I can tell, Italy, like Spain is a group of regions that speak somewhat related languages. He is right that some small minority of civic minded people have held the place together over the years. He is wrong that the Italians had much to do with commies not winning the ’48 election. That was early and obvious-even-then CIA election hacking -considering what an Anglo suck up he is, maybe some of those suitcases of dollars made it to his house. Though of course he is correct that communism is bad, mkay. It is interesting he describes the average Italian as navigating some complicated political hierarchy in his society. This may be true for the average Italian (it’s not as far as I know -shitalians are great individualists), but it was almost certainly true for Barzini’s life as a reporter and political commentator. Dutch people….. I dunno if any of it is right, I’ve never even been there. Finally his words on Americans are laughably insane. Describing Americans as any kind of European is preposterous demographically. It is true the legacy European Americans he describes are what most countries still think of as “American,” but the reality is those people were probably a minority by the time this book was written. I think his neurotic view of Americans  was common in Italy in his day. The European of that era was confused by how stupid and unsubtle American choices appeared to be, and simultaneously fearful the American might leave Europe alone, leaving it up to the Germans, English and French to decide things. Of course, he didn’t realize in the 80s that America really was the Great Satan like the good preacher from  Khomeyn said. I used to take great offence to this sobriquet myself: I didn’t feel like any kind of Satan, but looking objectively at the place as it exists today, it is ridiculously obviously true. The clown government in charge now isn’t all that different from the 1980s, and while the American people of the 1980s era were basically OK, the ill effects of decades of tyranny have made themselves felt and certainly are not OK now. To my mind, if the world ever rights itself, any elites who support the current regime in America as it is constituted today will be judged as harshly as the German elites were at Nuremberg. I’m sure this thought never occurred to Barzini. Barzini also apparently doesn’t think Iberians count as Europeans as he never mentioned them. I did find it an enjoyably deluded period piece. It’s funny: Italy is probably the number two economy of Europe based on purchasing power and including the untaxed economy (or just looking at non fucked up economic measures like manufacturing output). I guess Italians feel like they haven’t had good government since Roman times so they would rather outsource European governance to the Americans and English. Sounds familiar.

The Forest Passage by Ernst Junger. This is a 3rd reread; first post-rona-fear. As is usual with Junger he was manages to be a philosopher, an artist and a prophet. His previously somewhat perplexing 27th chapter on health care feels like full grown prophecy in hindsight. He also talks about the totalizing effects of the interbutts, some decades before it was invented. Junger’s Waldganger figure is often vulgarly confused with the partisan or guerrilla, but it’s something more than that: it is a spiritual meeting of the individual with himself. The man who could lead a partisan group, or who could take to the forest by himself if things get bad; ones who will not follow cattle-like if the authorities demand too much of them. In essence; the man who is spiritually free and willing to defend that freedom. These are the people the American secret police seek to entrap with their various schemes, with apparent little success, primarily entrapping the mentally ill the narcissistic or weak minded. It is why they are afraid of parents who speak up at school board meetings. There are men who have made the Forest passage in Giletes Jaunes, German and French anti-vaccine protesters, the Dutch Farmers and the Canadian Truckers; always vulgarly denounced as “fascists” by the actual government-business partnership totalitarians. These are free people rather than livestock.  Junger or at least his translator is a ponderous Teutonic windbag; you almost have to raise yourself to a higher spiritual level to bore through the oatmeal-paste of his text to its inner meanings. This was probably necessary in his day, and is reasonably so today.

“A laudable exception deserves mention here, that of a young social democrat who shot down half a dozen so-called auxiliary policemen [i.e., NSDAP storm troopers] at the entrance of his apartment.  He still partook of the substance of the old Germanic freedom, which his enemies only celebrated in theory.”

Othello: based on my good experience reading Julius Caesar a few months ago, I bought me one of those little boxes of miniature leather bound copies. I of course have had the complete works as a gift from a girlfriend some decades ago, but the whole thing is so unwieldly and enormous I feel like I’d need a podium to actually read it from. These little guys get the job done, as you can fit a half dozen of them (they’re 3″ by 2″) into a shirt pocket. Othello: well, I didn’t care for it so much. Shakespeare apparently does this a lot, but it’s still jarring to me being dropped into a scene for explanation. Iago is the antihero here, and he’s basically a malicious jerk. Not in an interesting Darth Vadery way: I think just because the story demands a villain to make the plot do what it must. Cassio and Desdemona are admirable dunces. Othello himself seems awfully inconsistent: he has a brash and impulsive character type that seems inconsistent with slow building unreasoning jealousy. I suppose it may have partially been the point, in that people in those days assumed moors had a more unreasonable and hot blooded temper. The original book Shakespeare based this story on was a simple morality play for women to stay away from gentlemen of a darker complexion (I think from the Decameron). It’s Shakespeare so we can admire the craftsmanship of the prose, even if we don’t care for the plot. Maybe it will grow on me later.

English Literature a survey for students Anthony Burgess. It was on the shelf on an airbnb by the time I got to King Lear, so I went through it looking for important things I might not have learned about. I had no idea about the history leading up to figures like Marlowe and Shakespeare (Marlowe’s Faust is IMO better than Goethe, in English anyway, and some say it’s better than all of Shakespeare), nor about Ben Johnson and John Webster, who I plan on poking over at some point. For example, plays as an institution came from medieval guild morality plays, with influence from the plays of Seneca (the blank verse, declamation, etc). The stuff on poetic forms was of interest (something I’m sure I was exposed to in High School English class and promptly forgot), though a lot of English literature, in particular the later stuff, is just rubbish. One of the most important things I got out of this, something which I had never thought of before: the Calvinist Revolution was a sort of breakpoint for English national character. Consider: the roundheads, a sort of Christian version of ISIS, banned the theater. Cromwell was a no-fun master race tyrant. The Civil War and restoration was a bloody and horrific time, and afterwords, people learned to distrust their passions and work off of good manners, reserve and reason. The English national character before the English Civil War was …. like Shakespeare or Marlowe characters. Expansive, garrulous, sensual, undisciplined, loud: sort of like a contemporary stereotypical Scotsman  is supposed to be. Only later did the stereotypical English reserve come about. This is the type of insight you are simply unable to obtain anywhere in contemporary society; you could read all of the Wiki entries on English literature and not have this insight; something casually dispensed by a 2nd rate man of letters of the last century, in writing a book for ESL students.

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. I think I first read this, like decades ago as a recent Ph.D. in my 30s with no money. I’ve given copies of this book to probably a dozen people at this point; recently did so again to a pal who has a big stack of problems to deal with, and was obviously not dealing with them right. Book was a changepoint for him, as it always is. Everyone not living life on easy mode has a time where you have a stack of seemingly insurmountable problems. It’s obvious that people didn’t need therapy or antidepressants or whatever to deal with it in any sane society. This book is how you deal with it. It’s basically Ancient Greek stoicism with a couple of practical “life hacks.” Here’s a useful summary if you don’t want to go through the book (you really should if you’re a worrier). This is the sort of thing they should teach everyone in high school, but don’t because the West is becoming an empire of pharmaceutically controlled slaves. Before someone asks, yes I’ve read his more famous book as well and I don’t think it’s as good, unless you haven’t been properly civilized and don’t know how to make friends with people (IMO a smaller set of people in current year than those who are prey to pointless anxieties). Self help books are kind of cringe, but this is a bona fide treasure which has helped many people and will continue to do so as long as it is read.


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.