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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Listening to Patrik Schumacher

Podcasts don’t suit everyone. Simply, for many, they tend to take too long to make their points. They have an additional drawback for me, which is that I love to listen to classical music, i.e. the sort of music which can also demand a lot of time to make its various musical points.

This morning, for instance, I was happily listening to one of the very longest symphonies of all, Mahler 3.

But, I paused it. I paused it because my Twitter feed had told me about a podcast. I am listening to this podcast now. The guy asking the questions is someone American whose name I didn’t catch from the Centre for Innovative Governance Research, and the Podcastee, so to speak, the man answering the American guy’s questions, is Patrik Schumacher. Patrik Schumacher is the boss of one of the world’s most formidable architectural practices, the one founded and bossed, until she recently died, by the formidable Zaha Hadid.

Like classical music, the design of architecture, and especially of urban environments on a larger scale, seems to encourage dirigiste habits of mind and of action, politically as well as aesthetically. City planners tend to assume that cities have, so to speak, to be conducted (the German word for conductor being dirigent). Conducted, that is, by them. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? Schumacher challenges these kinds of assumptions.

The American guy asking the questions has been very badly recorded. But it’s mostly Schumacher, and Schumacher, thank goodness, mostly sounds somewhat better. I am learning a lot about how Schumacher thinks and about what he does. You might too. The podcast lasts a bit over an hour.

Mahler 3 will have to wait.

What Neema Parvini thinks and what Neema Parvini does

Instapundit’s Charles Glasser calls this Quillette article “nail on the head stuff”, which it is. It’s very good. But, you know: very good in a way I am now fairly used to. If, like me, you are one of the many and extremely varied persons whom the left calls “extreme right”, and if you have been reading both inside and beyond your various internet bubbles for quite a few years now, this article will probably tell you little that you don’t already know.

Sample quote:

One side effect of dealing with political opponents in this manner is that the left has become increasingly accepting of straw man fallacies created out of their own righteous bigotry and refusal to respectfully address counterpoints. They have no concept of Jonah Goldberg’s philosophical world of Burkeans, Straussians, Hayekians and so on, because many of these people are so ignorant that they genuinely believe that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher sit closely on a political continuum with Adolf Hitler. Hence, here in the UK, Labour activists burned effigies of Thatcher when she died and also draped a sign saying “HANG THE TORIES” over a bridge in Manchester, without any of their moralistic cheerleaders batting an eyelid. The left generally revels in its own distasteful behaviour not only without critique but also as still further confirmation of their righteousness. When you see your enemies as pure evil as opposed to trying to understand the merit of their ideas, bigotry becomes inevitable.

My main doubt about this piece is that its author, Neema Parvini, maybe attributes to “the left” rather too much of the same ignorant unanimity of thought that he accuses “the left” of attributing to “the right”. I agree that “the left” is more unanimous than “the right”, but there are still distinctions to be made within “the left” which are worth acknowledging.

But, Parvini makes many good points, especially in the small spreadsheet he offers, where he describes leftist definition hopping with words and phrases like “outmoded”, “here to stay”, and (a particular unfavourite of mine) “progress”.

But now for the really interesting bit, the bit where I was both very surprised and where I learned something seriously new to me. It comes right at the bottom of the article:

Neema Parvini is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Surrey. He is the author of five books, the most recent being Shakespeare and New Historicism Theory (2017) and Shakespeare’s Moral Compass (forthcoming 2018). He also presents a popular podcast series called Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory.

And there was me thinking that the literature departments of all the Anglosphere’s universities are now just swamps of leftist unanimity and sub-Marxist, post-modernist obfuscation, with all seriously dissenting voices silenced. Not quite so, it would seem.

Neema Parvini is clearly a man worth attending to. Especially by me, because I have long been a Shakespeare fan.

This evening Dominic Frisby is doing another try-out of his Edinburgh Festival Financial Game Show

Yes. Dominic Frisby tweets:

North Londoners. The next try-out of my Financial Game Show is Tuesday May 22 at @downstairskhead. Entertaining, informative, exciting. What more could you want on a Tuesday evening?

Get tickets here. More about the show here.

I can confirm that this is a fun show, having already seen two earlier try-outs of it. One of these was in my own home, at my last Friday of the month meeting on April 27th. And earlier that week, I attended the very first try-out of this show (to check out what my Friday was likely to consist of), and greatly enjoyed it.

That first outing was in the same venue, downstairs at the King’s Head, that tonight’s show will be at Despite the extreme contrast in the space he had available, Frisby then made his second try-out performance at my place work very well, because he is a good humoured, thinks-on-his-feet performer. Nevertheless, a bigger venue is certainly needed for the show to have its full effect. I’m thinking in particular of how successful competitors in the quiz, such as the lady I went with to the first show, get asked to sit themselves in different and more visible seats as they progress, none of which could happen in my postage stamp of a living room

Nevertheless, Frisby seems to find early run-throughs at my place helpful, because he did a similar early run-through of his previous Edinburgh Festival show at my home, a couple of years ago, and now here he was inviting himself back to do this year’s show. Glad to be of assistance.

Without giving away too much in the way of answers, I can tell you that Frisby’s questions all point to the subtleties and surprises and oddities of economic life, of the sort that are familiar to devotees of Austrian Economics, with its emphasis on the subjectivity of value and the way that economic decisions so often involve making sometimes rather strange bets about the future. The contrast in the price of this small but expensive house and that bigger but cheaper house; Fading Footballer A getting paid, counter-intuitively, more than Superstar Footballer B; that kind of thing. Frisby thus communicates an inquisitive and amused attitude to economic life that will likely draw at least some of the people who see this show in Edinburgh towards his more opinionated intellectual products.

Who knows, some of these people may even end up reading this book? I wrote admiringly about it here.

LATER: More dates here.

Don’t get cocky, kid

You know you are a nerd when you are avidly googling the name of the author of a series of erotic novels all of which feature the word “cocky” in their titles because of the interesting legal issues the “Cockygate scandal” has brought up.

Dale L Roberts vlogs about self-publishing. In this video published on May 7th he explains that Faleena Hopkins, the author in question, wrote a slew of “Cease and Desist” letters to other indie romance authors on Amazon using the word “cocky” in their titles. Amazon, with typical cowardice, removed these other authors’ books as soon as Hopkins asked them to. Worse yet, Faleena Hopkins’ letter to the other authors included the phrase “My attorney at Morris Yorn Entertainment Law has advised me that if I sue you I will win all the moneys you have earned on this title plus lawyer fees will be paid by you as well.” I suspect that Morris Yorn Entertainment Law are not entirely happy with this summary of their advice.

I came across this story via the fantasy/SF author Chris Fox. His nine minute video dated May 11th explains well why this incident should and did arouse the anger of the community of authors who self-publish on Kindle and similar platforms – but he also spares a thought for Hopkins herself. In the four days since the earlier video, the situation had changed dramatically – and the trouble with internet shaming is that even when some punishment is deserved, there is no off switch.

It’s a joke, you fucking cunts

Computer games make people evil

Alfie Bown is the author of a book called The Playstation Dreamworld. I mention this so you can avoid it. The blurb says “it argues that we can only understand the world of videogames via Lacanian dream analysis. It also argues that the Left needs to work inside this dreamspace a powerful arena for constructing…” oh for fuck’s sake.

In the Guardian, Alfie says that computer games are fueling the rise of the far right. “Far right” has come to mean “people who do not agree with me” and this article is no different. His examples are hilarious. XCOM is right wing because it is about expelling an invading force of “aliens” (extra-terrestrials). All strategy games are right wing because they are about territory acquisition. So, presumably, are Risk and Chess.

One wonders what a left wing game might be like, if these are the criteria. Not much fun, I would think. Ooh, lightbulb: Fun Is Right Wing!

The author does nothing to defend his assertion that games cater to misogynistic desires. This is annoying because I wanted to shoehorn in an interesting video about an interesting game. I will do it anyway. Perhaps violence and territory acquisition in games make the misogyny so obvious as to need no argument.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a good game, but you can not play as a woman. Is it misogynistic? Or is it because being a woman in the middle ages is no fun? An enthusiast who makes interesting videos about life in the middle ages discusses this. He thinks you could make a historically accurate medieval game where you play a woman, but it would be a different game. He briefly discusses how it was rare, not unheard-of for a woman to engage in sword fighting, adding:

It is not to say we don’t like that or encourage it, trust me. Guys have been trying to get girls to play with their toys since the dawn of time. I’ve been trying to teach my wife sword fighting since the day we met, and with only mild success. It is not this exclusive thing that guys don’t want girls to do the things that we enjoy.

What does Alfie think?

the rationale of gaming is to unite pleasurable impulse with political ideology, a process which renders gamers susceptible to discourses that urge people to follow their instincts while also prescribing what those instincts ought to be

What a load of wank. Why do the left struggle with plain English? I think what he means is that because games are often about stuff like killing bad guys and acquiring resources, they make you think a lot about that sort of thing when you should be thinking about how to be nicer to poor people. And since some people he does not like have been known to play games he dreams up some complicated nonsense about how one causes the other.

The reality is that gamers do not care about politics while they are playing games. Games are escapist. Alfie Bown’s evidence includes Gamergate, which was above all else about keeping politics out of games. Games are meant to be fun, and a lot of games are about blowing stuff up and acquiring resources because that is fun.

Definitive Texts: 1984 as PC’s self-stupifying how-to manual

I get the question, in another form, from teachers, who suggest I should write about ‘real’ things like racism and unemployment. Sometimes the teachers claim that fantasy is too difficult, or ‘beyond the average child’, but a lot of them complain that it doesn’t give them opportunities enough for class discussions of important modern issues.     (‘Why don’t you write real books?’, Diana Wynne Jones)

In Orwell’s 1984, one of the many acts of the IngSoc (English Socialist) party is to write garbled versions (called ‘Definitive Texts’) of books whose message undermines the totalitarian ethos but whose titles are too well known just to repress. A review (h/t instapundit) shows that the recent film version of Madeleine L’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ has given it this treatment. Meg and her mother are now black, and the child actor chosen to play Charles Wallace adds so considerably to the rainbow effect that the film makes him adopted, lest even the most woke viewer notice the impossibility of his being the offspring of Meg’s mixed-race parents. The twins are missing entirely

which may be a blessing, considering that political correctness probably would have dictated they be played by a Native American dwarf and a disabled transsexual

etc. And all this merely serves as a distraction from the ruthless gutting of the Christian resonances that are as much a part of L’Engle’s books as of the Narnia stories. (The numerous other incoherent plot changes may reflect the scriptwriter’s wokeness or their poor memory or both.)

The review presents all this well enough. I’m not writing here to repeat it, but to reflect on how it hurts the PC themselves, not just us. To explain, I have to provide a worked example (so this post is longer than mine usually are).

Sadly, I missed the chance Natalie once had to meet the late Diana Wynne Jones, so I never asked her the questions I had. One of the more trivial was about her third reason why her early books all had male leading characters. (Her first reason is by far the more worth discussing – but that is another story.) Her third reason was she wanted to write a book that her children (all boys) would read and “in those days, boys would not read books with a girl as lead character.”

Obviously, Diana knew that was not literally true. Swallows and Amazons (written long before “those days”) stars twice as many girls as boys, and a later book in the series has thrice as many girls as boys. However she could have replied that none of those girls ever think a thought that would bring a blush to the cheeks of a young boy. When Nancy and Peggy are obliged by their great-aunt to dress in party frocks rather than the sailing gear they prefer, their reaction is almost as horrified as a boy’s might be. Susan’s femininity is strictly practical – boys know that when children camp or sail, someone has to manage the cooking. Perhaps Dorothea, with her dreams of Dutchmen bringing her tulips across the north sea and her yearning to be a writer, gets closest to thinking girlish thoughts: one can just about imagine her writing “The Tale of the Twin Princesses” if there were the slightest chance any of her friends would read it – but since she knows they wouldn’t, she writes “The Outlaw of the Broads”, which is clearly a swashbuckler.

So what I would have asked Diana was, “Did you ever try ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ on your sons?” (It was published in 1963 – their ages suit). I read it at age seven or eight and could not put it down, so I think she could have got her sons to read it – despite the fact that Meg, for all her mathematical genius, is not at all like the Amazon girls. Page one of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ finds Meg angsting away in her bedroom. The next day she meets a boy and, after a shamefully brief period of caution, goes gooey over him. She’s embarrassed when her mother accidentally reveals she still plays with dolls – but that’s nothing to what a small boy identifying with her would feel.

Now part of why that boy keeps reading is because if small boy reader gets as far as page 2, he may think for a bit that the book will be about Charles Wallace. Adoring elder sister Meg knows Charles is a genius, despite the neighbours thinking he’s an idiot. Every small boy relates to this. Every small boy knows he’s a genius but, for some strange reason, the people around him treat him as if he were an idiot. Maybe this book is really about the amazing deeds of superboy Charles Wallace, as chronicled by Lois-Lane-like sister Meg?

If this brief mistake were in any way contrived, it would be a huge turn-off to re-reading. “The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler” was praised by all the usual suspects. Aided by deceptive cover art, its writer works hard in the first half of the book to persuade you that first-person-narrator Tyke is a boy. Then she reveals Tyke is a girl. It’s as easy as ringing a doorbell and running off. “Yes comrade, this proves you too still suffer unconscious gender micro-stereotyping. Report to your assigned gender deconstruction re-educator immediately.” I assume some boys with feminist mothers read it once. I’d guess fewer read it twice. (Of course, these days, the making of those fixed binary assumptions about Tyke’s she-it-he gender identity would be the verboten thing. It is so hard for the woke to stay ‘relevant’.)

In a ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ however, this initial impression is wholly natural and innocent. It is close to how Madeleine L’Engle really does see Meg’s and Charles’ later relationship. (In the later books of the series, more-grown-up Charles is usually pointman, with Meg in a supportive role.) In the first third of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’, Charles takes the initiative in trying to rescue their lost father. Meg is the observer of the action but also the weakest: the slowest to recover from multi-dimensional travel, the slowest to learn the lessons their guides teach, the least patient (though the value of this is slightly more ambiguous). In a character-displaying scene the children confront the wall that sucks in the forms which define everyone on the totalitarian planet of Camazotz. The two boys each reach out a hand to touch it – “Ugh!” says Charles, “It’s like ice”, says Calvin – while Meg, between them, is intensely conscious she has no desire whatever to let go of their other hands to touch this vile wall herself. The boys can explore the wall; her job is to give (and receive) moral support. Already however, we’ve had hints that Charles is too young, too confident, more at risk than he realises. When he first attempts a dangerously overconfident move, Meg, terrified, temporarily saves him by almost knocking him out but when he recovers the two resume their relation of Charles taking the lead. Assuring her he can handle it, he advances open-eyed to his doom. The first third of the book ends with Meg, her rescued father and her boyfriend fleeing in the nick of time from Camazotz, where Charles is now far more enslaved than his father was.

In the middle part of the book, Meg is desperate to rescue her beloved baby brother – and her plan for doing so is that her father and boyfriend should come up with a plan for doing so and carry it out. Her job is to motivate them, so she gets angrier and angrier as, despite their best efforts, they make little progress at the impossible task before them. Finally, they manage to contact the guardians who have guided them, only to be told that both father’s plan and boyfriend’s plan are pure suicide. In the awful silence that follows, the unbelieveable idea occurs to Meg (for the first time) that she is expected to do something. Her immediate reaction is to shout, “I can’t go”, and when the cuttingly dismissive response shows her that in fact that is the idea, she has a tantrum. Only after that can she face the facts. It is Charles mind that is enslaved. Her boyfriend has known him for less than a day. Her father has been a prisoner since before Charles could speak. Only Meg knows him well enough to have any chance of freeing him. An impossible task for them, it is only almost impossible for her. Father and boyfriend protest vigorously against sending her – and it is clear both Meg and Madeleine L’Engle would be immensely unimpressed with them if they didn’t – but there is no escaping the logic to which the plot has naturally led her (and the small boy reader). If anything defines Meg, it is that she loves her brother, and to this, everything else she thinks about herself must give way.

Thus we reach the final part of the book, and it is Meg who must “do the hero bit”, as Dianna Wynne Jones puts it. She is the one who must walk, alone and terrified, towards the dark tower, armed only with the usual cryptic clue – that only a single weapon can save her “but you must find it for yourself”. I won’t spoil it for you by telling whether she wins through or not – but I suspect you can guess.

So (for those who have managed to endure reading this far) not only could ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ be made the subject of “classroom discussions” but I have (I hope) demonstrated that a lefty teacher with at least two brain cells to rub together – and, much more important, the ability to set their inner PC censor temporarily to a low enough setting while reading it that they can think about it – could make remarks about roles and expectations and all that stuff they like to go on about. But “you can’t say that” silences their ability to think more than our ability to speak. Gross crude effects – make Meg black, replace the Christian themes – plastered onto the tale like Pollock-style paint blobbed onto a Rembrandt, provide the ‘definitive text’ for a socially-aware classroom discussion, a woke review, an idiocy of political correctness – but nothing that relates the actual work to their actual (supposedly) concerns.

How Danes see Swedes?

Ensure subtitles are turned on 😉

The Perils of Polly Brexitstop

“Heyulp! Heyulp”

Who will rescue Polly this time? Who will answer her call?

Will it be those apparently reformed criminals, the Ant Hill Mob?

“Come to parliament, Sinn Féin, as saviours of Ireland – and Britain”

Or will it be her trusted guardian Sylvester Sneekly and his business associates?

“Business must speak up, and save Britain from Brexit”

Two desperate appeals in five days have gone unanswered. Oh, won’t somebody come?

Entitlement

Jack White sings:

Every time that I’m doing what I want to,
Somebody comes and tells me it’s wrong.
Whenever I’m doing
Just as I please
Somebody cuts me down to my knees.

The song seems to be an ode to those who just want to be left alone, and a critique of those who think they are owed something by others. The quote marks are on the lyrics sheet with my LP, and are important.

“Stop what you’re doing
And get back in line!”
I hear this from people all the time.
“If we can’t be happy
Then you can’t be too!”
I’m tired of being told what to do.

It is a good song.

Papers, Please

I recently played the computer game, Papers, Please. It is set in a fictional dictatorship that looks like the USSR. You play a man who is assigned by lottery the job of border agent.

At the start of each work day you are shown newpaper headlines which affect the border rules. A shortage of jobs might lead to a requirement for foreigners traveling for work to have a work permit, for example. There is a long queue and travelers come to your desk one by one. There is some dialog ranging from “hello” to an elaborate sob story. You look at the papers presented and make sure all the rules are followed, then decide whether to stamp then entry visa with “APPROVED” or “DENIED”. You get paid according to the number of people you check through the border in a limited amount of time and you can get fined if you fail to follow the rules properly. At the end of each work day you are presented with bills and must check off which ones to pay. You must always pay rent, but must choose whether to buy heat, food or medicine. You are also shown whether your wife, son, uncle and mother-in-law are cold, hungry or ill. You might decide, for example, to buy medicine for your son instead of food for your mother-in-law.

All this is presented in a point-and-click, drag-and-drop, retro-style indie-game interface with a distinctly Soviet look and sound design.

Tension comes from trying to work quickly without making any mistakes. It’s easy enough to check that the passport has not expired and the work visa is valid, but not notice that the name on the work visa does not match the name on the passport. Rules get increasingly more complicated as the game progresses with more documentation being required and more information to check.

The game also gives you some moral agency. One man with valid papers says his wife is in the queue, but there is a minor discrepancy with her papers. Do you separate the couple, or take pity on them? Another woman says she will be killed if she is sent back home. Another begs you not to allow a certain man through as he is planning to sell her into prostitution. You can break the rules about twice per day and get away with it, but any more and you will get fined. Breaking the rules on purpose increases the risk of being fined for making a mistake.

All this means that while you might start with good intentions, before long you are weighing the lives of your family against the plight of the travelers. On my first play-through I sent various travelers to their doom to save my ill son, but ended up in jail when I decided to deny access to the pimp whose papers were valid, got fined, and could not afford the rent.

It’s a fun game and has an interesting lesson about how people are compromised by inhumane systems.

See also: Papers, Please cosplay and the short film.

By the authority vested, very scantily vested, in me…

The Gambling Commission has said that scantily dressed female croupiers are “unacceptable”.

Gambling Commission condemns outfits at trade show

Scantily clad women are “unacceptable” at a betting industry conference, Britain’s gambling regulator has said.

Sarah Harrison told the BBC that some women working at the ICE Totally Gaming event were wearing “little more than swimsuits”, while men wore smart suits.

The chief executive of the Gambling Commission said the body could boycott future ICE Total Gaming events.

But the event’s manager said the complaint was directed at a “very small” number of firms taking part.

Kate Chambers, managing director of ICE London, also said the show has been encouraging exhibitors to represent women more respectfully.

[…]

Earlier, Ms Harrison told BBC’s Radio 4’s Today programme of her dismay at seeing a gender disparity at the show, with some women on exhibition stalls doing promotional work in revealing clothing.

“The men were wearing smart suits and women were being asked to wear not much more than swimsuits. That’s totally unacceptable; it’s not reflective of the modern economy,” she said.

“This isn’t about political correctness. It’s about good regulation and good governance, because businesses that have a more diverse workforce are more likely to make better decisions. And that’s critical from a regulator’s point of view.”

“It’s about good regulation and good governance, because businesses that have a more diverse workforce are more likely to make better decisions” is one of the weirder non-sequiturs I have come across lately. It sounds like someone inputted a load of modern buzzwords into a 1980s Turing Test chatbot program. But that is a side issue.

What part of the legal remit of the Gambling Commission gives it authority to regulate the style of dress of people working in the gambling trade? It is meant to protect “vulnerable people”, that is, gambling addicts or people at risk of becoming gambling addicts. It also has a role in ensuring the law regarding gambling by minors is followed. Women employees who wear sexy dresses at a gambling trade show come into neither of these categories. How dare Sarah Harrison imply that they are either vulnerable or children. How dare she lay down the law on whether their dress is “acceptable” or “unacceptable” to her, when there is no law to lay down. She exceeds her authority.