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King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine
King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine
Price: 4.35

3.0 out of 5 stars Archetypes Interesting, But Not As A Path To An Illusory "Maturity", 14 Jun 2014
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I read this book because the guys at Danger and Play enthused about it, and inspiration might be found in the oddest places. It’s New Age. Every fibre of my being does not like New Age. I must have been feeling lost or in need of something. Anyway.

This was written in 1990 and is part of the “masculinity in crisis because men have no initiation ceremonies, nor village elders to lead them” movement, whose figurehead was Robert “Bongos” Bly. No wonder nobody took the nascent Men’s Movement seriously.

Right at the end, the authors recognise that men are not going to get the guidance they need from the village elders and so have to make it up for themselves. They should have started over right away with that insight right up front, but, well, publishers have deadlines, and sometimes it’s hard to see that a throwaway comment is actually the real thesis.

When anyone starts talking about “mature” and “immature” men, I flip the safety on my Glock, because I know I’m going to get something moral foisted on me in the name of psychological insight. The authors of this book try their hardest, but since the whole thesis is that young men were not getting the Manly Guidance they needed to “man up”, I mean, “mature”, shaming is pretty much implicit in the thesis.

What does the “mature man” look like? Surprise! A 1950’s Norman Rockwell Golden Age father: married, monogamous, has vanilla sex (the authors don’t like bondage), is employed, has children, mentors others, keeps his head when all around him are losing theirs, bounces out of bed every morning to greet the new day, and accepts his wife’s “mortality, finitude, weakness and limitations” by way of experiencing her as “a unity of body and soul, a complete person with whom [he has] an intimate, human relationship”.

This man never existed. In fact, it’s worse than that. He’s a child’s idea of what a man is: a confused and lonely small boy’s idealised view of the perfect father. The last thing a young man seeking guidance and help needs is a fantasy being passed off as an attainable goal.

However, if you dump that 1950’s crock in the garbage where it belongs, and reject the whole “mature man” thing for the female-centric manipulation that it is, then there is some good stuff here.

The authors present four archetypes: King (goal-setting, rules and boundaries), Magician (knowledge and insight beyond the “advanced beginner” level), Warrior (action, decisiveness, dedication to a goal outside your own desires) and Lover (sensuality, sympathy, empathy). These have a Good Side and a Bad Side (bad Kings can be bullies, bad Lovers can be addicts). A lot of the descriptions of each draw on tribal this and mythological that, much of which is very optional.

So the authors are saying that a man needs self-discipline, skill, energy, dedication, sensuality and empathy, in the unapologetic service of his chosen ambitions and objectives. They can’t let go of the idea of being balanced, which is a shame, because the really interesting ideas arise when we try to deal with men who aren’t well-balanced. Should hard-core Warriors, who have set the trivia and dramas of domestic life behind them, even think of getting married and becoming fathers? I say they should not, and nor should they compromise themselves so that they can give their wives and children their needed attention.

The insights are a mixture of inspiring and irritating. The Warrior, dedicated to a trans-personal goal, tends to regard sex as recreation and women as sport. This is a neat thought. They follow it by saying that it is the source of wartime rape. No, no, no. Most soldiers do not rape. The Bosnian Serbs had to find special drunken psychopaths to staff their rape camps. It’s as if the authors were making sure their feminist mistresses at the publishing house would approve their message.

A typology needs a questionnaire to be effective (astrology asks only when you were born, and the MMPI asks 567 questions) and then needs to do more than re-hash the answers to be informative (astrology is the ultimate non-re-hasher). There is no questionnaire here, and this leaves the reader with the logically unsound process of inferring their archetypal behaviour from the symptoms.

This is especially awkward as the same behaviour can have different causes. Treating women as playthings can be a sign that you are under the influence of a Bad Lover, or it can be your Good Warrior un-smoothed by a Good Lover. You can acquire skills as part of an impersonal dedication to a trade or profession (Warrior) or to make a living from having rare skills (Magician). And so on. Again, exploring these ambiguities would have been interesting.

The authors are therapists, so they don’t understand that the help men need is to understand what is their temperament and character, their core beliefs about people and relationships, and how they can build on that to make a living, maintain physical fitness and emotional stability, live well but modestly, travel, and take as much part in what passes for “society” as they can without compromising themselves. This isn’t that book, and I can’t think of one that is.


Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem
Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem
Price: 19.26

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting to insiders, but..., 23 April 2014
America has a large number of influential religious fundamentalists. Not as influential as the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia, and not as fundamental as the Taliban, but in the same league. Europe doesn’t have that problem. What does that have to do with the philosophy of science? In the US, it gives it an edge, what is science and what is religion matters: judges have ruled on it, usually to prevent some form of creationism being taught in schools. Michael Shermer’s essay in this book is an excellent summary of the rulings and issues.

What is good science and what is bad science matters in Europe as well, but the philosophers don’t make a enough fuss about it. Ben Goldacre does, in Bad Pharma. Peter Woit did, in Not Even Wrong. Andrew Gelman and others make fun of bad statistics on their blogs. The philosophers remain silent. A lot of pharmaceutical research is done in a “community” that is corrupt; most epidemiology (the source of “eating rice will extend your life / give you cancer” stories) is simply bad statistics topped by sensationalist journalism; nutrition studies (because it’s important tho know what’s good and bad to eat, right?) are weak to say the least. String theory? The computer models behind “climate science”? And of course, there’s evolution, which has been flavoured with just about every political and social ideology its proponents have held. Creationism may have an "inescapable religiosity” in the words of one US judge, but evolution from Darwin to Gould has so far been inescapably ideological: there’s a neat essay by Michael Ruse about that in this volume. As for psychiatry and its unhealthy link with the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, that’s so bad that even former editors of the DSM have spoken about it.

Few of those issues are discussed in this volume. The authors of most of these papers are academics, and academics are bound to be polite about one another. More or less obliged to devise a criterion whereby everything their colleagues in the physics department do is “science”, they have to let string theory in, which means they can’t tell the difference between actual science and mathematical speculation. If they make rude remarks about the way Roche or Pfizer cherry-pick which papers to publish, an angry lady from Finance will read them the riot act. Heaven only knows what chilly receptions would await them in the staff room if they suggested that, just perhaps, archeology might be fancy guesswork supplemented by some cool technology.

What you will get in this volume is a review of the current, uh, polite thinking on the problem of demarcating science and pseudo-science. The anchor points are Karl Popper’s falsification criterion and Larry Lauden’s 1983 paper suggesting that we shouldn’t bother with a criterion at all. The targets they shoot at are all fairly close: Veilkovsky, psycho-analysis, creation science, mesmerism, phrenology, Erik von Daniken. Nobody takes on M-theory, the wilder ideas of Erik Verlinde, and or the difference between e.g. climate modelling and political activism.

Underlying a few of the papers is an assumption that there is a canon that a decent rational person believes, exemplified by Noretta Koertge’s surprise that philosophy of science students could be found in 9/11 Truth groups. In the nineteenth century this was called the 39 Articles, to which prospective students at Oxford University had to sign up until 1854. This is 2014, right? More worrying is this quote, from an essay about the “deviance” of pseudo-sceince: “When prestigious and influential social actors label people and beliefs as wrong, this has important consequences, most notably in the sphere of deviance…extra scientific beliefs…are not valorised or validated by societies major institutions… Hence, in spite of their popularity amongst the public at large, the sociologist regards pseudoscientific beliefs as deviant."

Since prestige and influence gets no more prestigious and influential to an academic than awarding large dollops of taxpayers’ money to academics, that mock-technical utterance amounts to no more than “Who pays the piper calls the tune”. Sounds like a solid epistemological strategy to me </irony>.

I read a couple of books like these every year to get an idea of what’s going on in the subject I studied many years ago. Academics with an interest in methodology and students of the philosophy of science will find it useful. The general public won’t.


Aerofilms: A History of Britain from Above
Aerofilms: A History of Britain from Above
by James Crawford
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Aerofilms: The past is a foreign country, 21 April 2014
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"The past is a foreign country," said L P Hartley, "they do things differently there". Any time before 1980 is pretty much “the past” for the UK. One of the things they did differently was let men in bi-planes fly everywhere at low altitude taking photographs of place in Britain. Even Coronations and Royal Parades (can you imagine that now?). Every now and then said men would fly too low and a Man From The Ministry would slap them lightly on the wrist. Those men were Aerofilms, and this is an affectionate tribute to their work and, just as importantly, their mildly irreverent and rule-breaking attitude. The company was founded by Claude Graham-White and Francis Wills, who were pilots in the 1914-18 War and wanted to go on flying in peacetime.

Turn the pages and see the largest sewing machine factory in the world at the time, outside Glasgow; the mammoth ICI ammonia plant at Billingham; the quaint Ovaltine Egg Farm; Palmer’s Shipyard in Jarrow, closed, and once the employer of every man in the town; Gleneagles Hotel; holiday-makers’ cars parked on Camber Sands; outdoor municipal swimming pools (“Lidos”); redundant WW2 aircraft on Little Rissington Airfield; and the crowds at Sandford Park Swimming Pool in Cheltenham; and many, many more vanished sights, some depressing, some eye-opening, and some just plain quaint.

You need to think about what life must have been like for people to throng a public swimming pool, or for a medium-sized industrial town to have one employer, for the photographs to really speak. Take the shot of Liverpool’s “Three Graces” and the ferries docking at and departing from the landing stage. No cars. No lorries. No buses. Just trams. What’s that about?

And then London. I can look at photographs of London for a long while. Which streets have I walk down? What did they look like then compared to now? The City is totally different, and yet in its warren of streets, still the same.

Lovely book. Not available in your local Tottenham Court Road superstore either.


Deceit and Self-Deception: Fooling Yourself the Better to Fool Others
Deceit and Self-Deception: Fooling Yourself the Better to Fool Others
by Robert Trivers
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No, you're not deceiving yourself, but this is still a worthwhile read, 21 April 2014
Robert Trivers is the man who brought you the Parental Investment Theory, one of the sillier ideas ever put in front of a public fond of silly ideas. He’s won awards and had a breakdown reading Wittgenstein as a young man. He’s also recently been in trouble for not wanting to teach a course at Rutgers University that he was assigned despite his stating that he knew nothing about it. Stephen Pinker thinks Trivers is a genius, and I’m going to disagree about that, but the man sure does know a lot about this stuff, and presents it readably. I got at least three insights disagreeing with things he said, and that’s more than I’ve got from a lot of books.

First, a little clarification. Deception is making, or attempting to make, some other people think that something is so when it ain’t. It’s what con-men, advertising agencies, politicians and people who tell you there are Three Secrets to Successful (enter your dream here) do. Lying is what they are doing, and deception is the umbrella-term for the many ways they do it. Self-deception would then be you doing that to yourself. Except that the idea doesn’t work: in deception, the liar knows the truth. Self-deception would then seem to require that I at once know something un-flattering about myself and yet don’t. What really happens is that I choose not to remind myself of the truth unless I really need to, and avoid the issue in the meantime. I may verbally deny it and become angry when you remind me, but that just proves I didn’t want to be reminded, thank you.

Deceiving other people has a purpose, and there are some wonderful examples of deception and parasitism in the animal world in this book (the insects that band together to impersonate a female bee is an especially bizarre example), but what possible purpose could self-deception have? After all, if your purpose is really X, and you pretend it is Y, then unless Y is a means to getting X, you seem to be working against yourself. Which brings us to the example Trivers gives of how, as a young man, he would fall for a woman, have sex with her two or three times and then un-fall for her. He thinks he was deceiving himself that he was attracted to her as a person, whereas all he really wanted was sex. I don’t think he was fooling himself, I think he was fooling the blue-pill nonsense put there by his parents and the teachers at Phillips Academy. Some of the ideas in our heads are basically parasites, put there by other people to benefit them (what do you think advertisers do?) and we need to clean them out before we can get on with our lives. Parasites are not part of us, so deceiving a parasitical idea isn’t self-deception, it’s self-defence.

The first third of the book is about deception and parasitism in nature, with a few side ego-psychos thrown in, and a lot on the effect of human parasites on, well, seemingly, pretty much everything. I have a new respect for my immune system as a result of Triver’s description: I had no idea it consumed so much energy. It is fascinating to find out that a woman whose genetic immune markers are very similar to mine won’t be as attracted to me as one whose markers are very different, but I would like to know what the chemical mechanism is? The evo-gentico-psychos have been at this long enough now: until they produce the chemistry, it’s all just anecdotal statistics.

Once Trivers steps away from the evo-psycho, we get some sharp reviews of corporate misbehaviour. These however involve no deception by anyone about anything. Corruption, yes; weasely-self-protective behaviour, sure; straightforward callousness, more often than you would think. The engineer who was invited to stop thinking with his engineering hat and put his management hat on, and then agreed to the Challenger launch, was being a weasel, and the guy who asked to do that was being a bully. Both of them probably knew it at the time. Car makers who systematically oppose safety changes because the additional costs will bring about the collapse of Western Capitalism as we know it, do so not because they deceive themselves about the value of the safety benefits, but because it’s a way of buying time to put in the changes to the production line at a more convenient date.

Trivers comes across as a decent, if slightly off-balance, man. The hardest thing for good people to accept is that others may be evil, or simply indifferent to moral concerns, as long as it profits them. It’s a lot more comfortable to believe that such people are somehow epistemologically defective, and so not morally responsible for their actions. Otherwise we would have to lock up all those bank CEOs and senior managers who brought us Crash 2008, and all those managers at NASA who brought us Disaster Challenger, or the politicians who brought is Iraq 2 -The Sequel, and so on in an endless list. That’s why evo-psycho is such a hit: it says, we are as we are because evolution. Rather than because corrupt, cowardly, selfish, dumb and lazy. (Or not, in your case, gentle reader.)

If you haven’t read much or any eve-psycho, this will do. And you may never quite rate your manager the same way again the next time she says “Oh. Really. See what you can do about that” when you bring her a serious problem.


Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivation from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between)
Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivation from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between)
by Cindy Meston
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.32

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better Luck Next Time, 10 Dec 2013
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Why Do Women Have Sex? should be a silly question. The health and psychological benefits of happily consensual, infection-free, non-child-producing sex for men and women are almost as great as those from weight-training. Added to which, it's almost as good a way as passing an afternoon as interior decorating. The book is rather good on the health benefits of sex.

In earlier research, the authors found two hundred and thirty-seven reasons - which they don't list here - which means women have sex for just about any random reason you could think of. "Random" is pretty much a pig's snout of a reason and one thing RadFems, fundamentalists and lefty academics have in common is the firm belief that people can't just do what they want, but must follow the ideological rules and theories. Apparently when a woman has one-off sex with a hot guy, she's doing it for his quality genes. Sure she is. When she partners with a violent criminal, it's because he's the closest to a Alpha protector and provider she can get. Yeah. The authors, in common with the entire literature, smear a whole rainbow of evo-psycho and rational-economics of lipstick on the pig. The general effect is to make women seem as if they are responding to programming that hasn't changed since the Savannah or to rational-economics calculations of the kind that caused the 2008 crisis. The idea that they may be making personal choices, and that sex and partners are personal choices of the same type as choices in music or television programming, doesn't cross the authors' minds. This is because in American pop-academic society, it is not considered polite to suggest that women might be accountable and responsible for their choices and actions. The correct line is that women are victims, whether of evolution, rational-economics or upbringing, but victims they must be.
I find that gets irritating after a hundred pages or so.

There's some coverage of the recent research on female arousal. I'm not going to spoil that for you, but by the time you've finished it, if you're a guy, you will understand a whole lot more than you do now. You will not look at women in the same way ever again.

There's also some gratuitous moralising that doesn't belong in a book from a science department. But maybe it wouldn't have been published if it hadn't been there. The authors say they thought long and hard about including rape in the book, and I can't share their decision or their reasons. Rape is a variant of the crime of assault, not a type of sex, and confusing the two doesn't help us understand either.

Recent research has shown that women will lie a lot on sex surveys - by comparison, men exaggerate slightly - and the authors don't address the issue of delusional self-reporting. There is just one moment when they give us a clue that they may think that just maybe what women say about themselves is not to be taken too seriously. Discussing the "if you can make her laugh" advice, they quote with clear approval a professional comedian saying "I haven't found it works for me. I think what they mean is the sense of humour of Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Russell Crowe. Apparently those guys are hilarious."

Feminists will find it appallingly hetero-normative, PUAs will have read it all on Heartiste already, Red Pill men will find the interviews exemplifying the typical Norte Americano female attitude... and psychiatrists may want to get in touch with the women who said that sex made them feel closer to God.

What the authors should have wondered is why women need to find two hundred and thirty-one ways of rationalising the urge to do what pretty much comes naturally when two people under forty, of compatible sexuality, reasonable looks, and who aren't exhausted, are put in close proximity. They could call it "Fooling Ourselves: Why Social Expectations Make Us Lie To Ourselves and Everyone Else". Maybe next time.


The Rational Male
The Rational Male
Price: 4.28

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Morpheus in the Otherworld, 29 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Rational Male (Kindle Edition)
Rollo Tomassi is one of the Big Names and Elders of the Manosphere. But before you read his advice and theories, here's some context.

In the UK, forty per cent of marriages end in divorce over a twenty year period, and thirty per cent of marriages end in divorce within ten years. Almost one in three children are raised in single-parent families, of which 85% are headed by the woman: nearly 5m boys and girls are growing up without even the presence of a father-figure, and it's been that way since the mid-1990's (UK Labour Force Survey 2012). One out of the next three twenty-somethings you meet won't know what it is to have a man in the home. At the other end of the scale, 10%-20% of married couples under 50 have perfunctory, once-a-month-or-less sex lives (Kinsey 2010) right alongside 60% or so of under-29 single men.

Sounds terrible, a society in the course of destroying itself.

Except that there are 11m boys and girls growing up in functional two-parent families, parents who, to judge by the statistic that over half the married couples under 59 have sex on a weekly basis, are in decent, mutually satisfying relationships. So the glass is more than half-full, not broken on the floor.

More than half the world is Normal and has a reasonably satisfactory life, and the remaining fair chunk is some kind of mess that can range from a mild lack of social skills to the nightmare of a violent bi-polar partner. What doesn't come out in the numbers is that the two worlds rarely intersect: Normals raised in functioning households almost only ever associate with other Normals who were raised in functioning households. The Others - the screw-ups and socially-inept, the addicts, drunks, head-cases, users, abusers, shrews and swine, the Entitled Princesses, petty criminals, Daddy's Girls and Mommy's Boys - can only associate with each other, because the Normals simply don't go there. The emotional pain, the loneliness, the rage, anger and hopelessness, the euphoria, giddiness and lust, the booze, drugs, food, self-harm, obsessions, ONE-itis, fear, emptiness and confusion... everybody in Otherland has felt a lot of it from time to time.

This is the world Rollo is writing about. I live there and I prefer to describe and think about it in moral terms. Rollo prefers a scientific - or at least evo-psycho - approach. He sees all those messed-up behaviours, especially the awful behaviour of women, and the way men are exploited by society to women's benefit, and thinks there is a pattern behind a lot of it. He mines, more deeply than anyone else, two ideas: a behaviour pattern called hypergamy and a social structure called the Feminine Imperative.

Put these ideas together and we have a nightmare vision of a society in which, because all women are hypergamous, none of them are loyal, none can be trusted, all of them will challenge and test at any random time over any random fictitious issue, and any of them might detonate the marriage and family on a whim. In Rollo's relationships men do not have a moment's respite: like Bruce Springsteen's cab driver, we have to prove it to the boss every day, to the wife every night and to the kids at the weekend. Women are not supporters and comforters, but wilful, demanding drains on a man's time and energy. Keeping a marriage going means acting Alpha all the time - like the State's security forces, a husband must always be "on", while his guerilla-warfare wife can take time off to recuperate, build up strength and then make her next strike.

The Feminine Imperative is the idea that society, economies and legal systems are not organised to benefit a small number of rich and powerful people, but rather to finance the needs and random whims of mostly privileged white women who create laws, policy guidance and media programming to propagate the idea that Anything She Wants, She Should Have, And Men Should Pay For It. Just as "hypergamy" is Rollo's take on "all men are bastards", so "The Feminine Imperative" is his twist on "The Patriarchy".

Read The Rational Male with that context and it's okay: read it as if it's an explanation of every woman's behaviour, and the way you would expect your sister's suitors to behave, and you're going to start throwing the book against the wall. Unless you live in Otherland as well. I need to add that Rollo does not believe in Normal as I've described it: he really does seem to think that all wives are hypergamy-bombs only prevented from exploding by sufficient amounts of Alpha husbanding.

<Digression mode on> Attempting to explain crazy is always a mistake. The point about crazy is that it can't be explained: that's what crazy means. The worst behaviour in Otherland is crazy, much of the rest is simply rude, crass and thoughtless, and what's left is just klutzy. None of that needs complicated explanations. The evo-psycho stuff in the book is optional, and I prefer to treat it that way.

Life in Otherland has two basic shapes: I can join in with the chaos and abuse to whatever degree I can tolerate, or I can withdraw as much as possible and live a self-disciplined life. That is where MGTOW comes from: MGTOW's are avoiding the crazies and the users, and since they live in Otherland, that's a lot of the women. Rollo doesn't recommend MGTOW, but he does have a lot of other advice: some of it may strike you as paranoid, but remember he's advising men who don't have the radar to avoid relationships with full-blown DSM-V personality disordered women. <\Digression mode off>

The Red Pill / Blue Pill thing? In the movie, the Red Pill is what forces the Matrix to reject you. Understanding that you live in Otherland, where the women are potentially toxic and an entire chunk of the legal system and popular culture is devoted to serving their needs and making you think they are actually "normal"... that's a Red enough Pill. But what's really going to bake your noodle later on is, asking why an entire chunk of the legal system is dedicated to supporting dysfunctional people, and why so much popular culture seems to be devoted to the portrayal of the dysfunctional lives of Otherland, and especially to making men look stupid. (Here's a clue: follow the money.)

Should you read the book and the blog? Not if you are female. Unless you have worked with manipulative and dysfunctional women as a social worker or psychiatrist, nothing in your life can prepare you for the world Rollo describes, and you will never recover from the shock. If you are a regular middle-aged bloke who has marital intimacy on a weekly basis, the chances are you will wonder what kind of world and people need to read and think this stuff. If you are one of the men whose wives have stopped having sex with them, if you can't get over The One, if you don't understand why some girls say you're nice and then sleep with the Bad Boy, if you wonder where the positive male role models are in popular culture, if "you've felt...your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad" then Rollo is your Morpheus.
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Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science
Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science
Price: 4.63

4.0 out of 5 stars In Other News... Scientists Are Human and Progress Is Made by Misfits, 4 Aug 2013
This is one of the few pop-science books which anyone interested in science should read. Brooks' case studies are fascinating and wide-ranging.

Right at the start he quotes Feyerabend's infamous phrase "anything goes". Feyerabend had a number of theses: one was that any attempt to lay down rules for the proper conduct of scientific creativity and discovery would have prevented most of the major discoveries in the history of science; another was that scientific ideas are not adopted as a result of rigorously convincing arguments, but because the scentists used rhetoric, persuasion, and other underhand techniques to get adoption. Somewhere there is or was a world in which either of these things is news.

That world was invented several hundred years ago by a small group of politically-motivated philosophers, who used science as a stick to beat the intellectual status of the various Churches. The vision of science and the scientist they created was intended to be the exact opposite of the Man of Faith and the hierarchy of the Church. It was a PR stunt as blatant as the present Creationism / Pop Evolution 'controversy'. I doubt there's anyone who really believes in the white-coated 'rational' scientist anymore - it's a tired old trope - but man oh man do people still believe in the 'scientific method', the importance of being a professor, and that anyone whose behaviour is not one hundred per cent grey-flannel, box-ticking, politically correct, married-wth-two-kids, mainstream is somehow incapable of putting together a decent idea. That's a set-up for failure and fake indignation, and Brooks lays into it. Here's the news: progress is made by outsiders and misfits who break the phoney rules made up by bureaucrats, agitators and axe-grinders, while keeping the serious rule: PANS beats POTS every time. (From an old AT&T joke: POTS - Plain Old Telephone Service, PANS = Pretty Amazing New Stuff.)

Brooks tells two stories: the first is that scientists are human beings and as liable to behave badly as, say, any corporate CEO or prima donna ("scientists behaving badly"); the second is that some of the famous exemplary experiments were not actually as exemplary as they are advertised ("science behaving badly"). Under that heading he discusses are Millikan's oil-drop experiment, and Eddington's observation of the gravitational shift of starlight. The punchline is that both experiments were a complete shambles, but both were presented as stunning experimental confirmations of at-the-time controversial theories. This is the sort of thing that has the Tinfoil Hat brigade saying "science is built on fraudulent foundations". And they would be right, except that scientific theories don't have "foundations" and are, roughly, only as good as their last decently-interesting prediction.

Much more interesting and concerning is finding out just how useless "peer-review" is, and just how conservative and obstructionist academic scientists can be. Commerce and industry are full of PhD's who left so they could get paid a regular salary and not have to deal with world-of-academia nonsense and grant proposal hell. (I loved the remark that some scientists take amphetamines to cope with boring stuff like grant proposals.)

Brooks ends with a nice plea: "(the anarchists of science) make progress not despite their humanity, but precisely because of it. If we want more scientific progress, we need to release more rebels, more outlaws, more anarchists. The time has come to celebrate the anarchy, not conceal it." Sure, but what does everybody else do? And that was the one haunting question in this book. If nearly all the game-changing, rain-making, world-shattering, sense-making, Nobel-winning, money-making Big Ideas come from awkward cusses, outsiders, and people who know there is no 'team' in 'I', what the heck are the other 99.5% doing? You may well ask, and when you find out, you will want your money back.


Middle Age: A Natural History
Middle Age: A Natural History
Price: 6.64

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So upbeat it's unrealistic - if entertaining, 27 July 2013
At times I thought this book was a brilliant spoof of all things evo-psycho. Anyone who knows their way round Roissy and the other Manosphere evo-psychos will recognise most of what's in here. It's all good orthodox stuff. And of course, we get a disclaimer at the end: though evolution is powerful, we are human beings with free will, so the changes of middle-age are in the end our choice to live with or fight. Amen. Catch is, you can't do that and be consistent. If we are responsible for what we do and become, then evolution while interesting is irrelevant (which is what Henry Ford meant when he said "History is bunk"), and if evolution is causative, then we are not wholly responsible for what we do and become. At least in those areas where evolution is causative. Nobody is claiming that all those years in the savannah produced anything of relevance for open-heart surgery or building bridges. Those are post-evolutionary, cultural activities about which neither Darwin nor Genesis has anything to say.

Pop-culture evo-psychos claim that evolution is causative about our mating and child-raising arrangements, and therefore about the core institutions around that stuff. Evo-psycho supposes that reproduction (as opposed to sex) is the aim and purpose of a species. It isn't. It can't be. Just like taking oxygen out of the air in lungs can't be an aim and purpose of a mammalian species. Aims and purposes are conscious, debated, decided and doubted. Reproduction has to be as automatic as breathing, eating, urinating and excreting, and more automatic than fighting, hunting or sitting on branches twittering, or there is no species. This is why poor, personality-disordered, unemployable people will continue to reproduce until the sun fries the planet, and why smart, well-ordered, pretty people mostly don't have children: the smart people see the downsides and don't get involved. (This leaves a lot of regular people in the middle who do get involved and then spend the rest of their lives rationalising their mistakes and denying their real feelings about their situation.)

To that point, Bainbridge is aware he is writing about middle-class married heterosexuals (actually he admits the second and third, but doesn't catch himself on the middle-class bit). His thesis is that child-raising, at least if done with the care and attention of a good middle-class parent, is so energy-, attention- and time-consuming, and so expensive, that mere kids couldn't make a good job of it, and we need a version of the human being which is tuned and honed to do it. That's why middle-class, sorry, I meant, middle-aged, people have deeper smarts from experience, reserves of energy around their waists, lose sexual interest in each other so they can concentrate on raising the kids they have, and so on and so forth.

There is, it seems, no evolutionary explanation of the wisdom and benefit of remaining single, which is odd, because everything is for the best in this best of all evolutionary worlds. (Here's a shot: a species with a uniform skill-set is can be wiped out by a change in their environment, so a truly robust species would have fringe people inventing new stuff and acquiring specialist skills so that the rest of the human race can sue and learn them should the current environment change. See? You can do anything with evolution.) Indeed, the upbeat evo-psycho has to steer well clear of no-fault divorce and the negative effects of raising children in single parent families. If people are driven by a evolutionary imperatives that have been fine-tuned to produce and raise the best possible children, why do forty per cent of them, and mostly the mothers at that, sabotage the whole thing? The answer is, within Bainbridge's assumptions, that when children are raised by the whole hunter-gather tribe, the exact degree of bonding or separation between its parents didn't matter, so evolution didn't need to inculcate father-of-their-children-fidelity in women. So evolution has failed us on this one. (Bainbridge doesn't mention hypergamy either, but then he's only dealing with successfully married middle-class couples.)

Bainbridge wanted to write an upbeat book and that's what he's done. I have the feeling that he toned down the Red Pill for the general public (and left out hypergamy). Also, I missed the evolutionary explanation of why, as he notes, married, middle-aged men are portrayed as idiots in pop culture (or at least, pop-culture aimed at women and children, oh, wait, could that be why?).

Evolution, Pop or High, is not so much a scientific theory as an ideology: a framework of ideas whose purpose is not to explain the world, but to rationalise it. If evolution is smart, then people must be dumb to explain the things that happen in this world. Personally, I'd prefer it the other way around: smart(-ish) people driven and tripped up by dumb evolution. "Culture: How To Overcome Ten Thousand Years of Evolution" - now that would be a book I would read.

Bainbridge's is very much a view from the Ivory Tower. If he worked in local government or the trading floor of an investment bank, he wouldn't be half as upbeat about what he saw on a dreary dreadful daily basis.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 29, 2013 5:06 PM GMT


The Manosphere: A New Hope For Masculinity
The Manosphere: A New Hope For Masculinity
Price: 3.23

4.0 out of 5 stars An amazing summary and guide to the Manosphere as it is right now, 13 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
About thirty per cent of all live-in relationships, married or otherwise, do not last ten years. Forty per cent don't last twenty years. Something is wrong out there, and you really don't want to be one of those guys living in sex-free marriages, or squalid flats so they can pay the mortgage for her and the kids, or whatever other kind of hell awaits a lot of live-in couples. The men in the Manosphere think they know how to help you avoid that, or help you handle the injuries if you were in the train wreck.

Ian Ironwood's book is an amazing summary and guide to the Manosphere as it is right now. He's a compelling writer with a real gift for emotionally-convincing rhetoric that rushes along like a bullet train. He's also a happily married man and father who by his account, turned his life around after reading Athol Kay's book, and it seems to be working for him. Listen, if you are a man, and you are not happy either with your marriage to a mostly reasonable woman who still has her looks; or if you are a bachelor who would like to get laid more often; or if you have been shafted by your now ex-wife and her lawyers and want to know if you're the only person who feels like this; or if you really want to quit the chase after girls who, let's face it, mostly aren't that girly any more; or if you are wondering quite why there are so many adverts and movies with clueless men being saved by smart women... then start with this book and head off to the blogs and forums Ironwood suggests. This guy knows his stuff and is one of the Inner Circle of Manosphere bloggers. He's also a marketing manager at a large porn business.

But but but. If you think women are God's Graceful Creatures, or incarnations of the Virgin Mary, then you are going to get a nasty, nasty shock. They know about women in the Manosphere. Lord knows they have bedded, wedded, been divorced by, dumped by, flaked by and generally disappointed by enough of them. And they are more than happy to share this knowledge with whoever browses by.

This is a very American book, and English readers may think Ian is exaggerating. I doubt he is. Any Englishman who has been worked over by a vindictive wife and social worker will certainly recognise the tone. Anyone who wonders what the fuss is about, or thinks it's a load of wusses commiserating, needs to remember that the average married man is forty per cent divorced. That means if it's not your best mate, it's you to whom the statistics will deliver the D-bomb.

"Compelling writer with a real gift for emotionally-convincing rhetoric that rushes along like a bullet train" means that this is not a reasoned contribution to the social policy debate. It doesn't have to be. It's a call to personal action, and one that, well, forty per cent of men who enter live-in relationships should heed.


Cool: The Complete Handbook
Cool: The Complete Handbook
by Harry Armfield
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classical Cool Defined, 15 Oct 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I read this when it came out. Re-reading it, it's as good as I remember it. Amongst other things it has the best movie list, reading list and music list I have seen. Armfield describes Classical Cool, whose icons are Steve McQueen and Miles Davis. Cool is not about accessories you had - though some, like the Zippo lighter, are iconic - not was it about being pretty, though that helps. It was about how you comported yourself: with a certain individuality, a touch of anti-establishment attitude, and an ineffable distance from the concerns, values and rules of everyday life.

Cool had an unresolved relationship with drugs, and is as austere as a Palestrina Motet. It's restrained, understated, off-beat, non-conformist: it's a sibling of the idea of the Gentleman. Classical cool is masculine. There are classically cool women, but not many. Feminism is not cool, nor is therapy, and anyone who holds intimacy and closeness to be amongst the highest of human values is never going to be cool. Classical Cool was never compatible with day jobs, capitalism or careers and it was pretty much closed to the masses. Dance culture is populist and the Opium of the Office Worker. Cool is the moving camera of Robert Altman: Dance is 3-D and CGI. Nobody playing Angry Birds has ever been, is now or ever will be cool. Classical Cool is too austere for these times, when people need distraction from the ghastly economic and employment uncertainty they face on a daily basis, as well as the now seeming financial impossibility of their ever living the lifestyle.

Armfield gets almost all of it down. If you are under forty-five, read Armfield's book, and you might understand why certain of your older relatives and co-workers can't quite take you seriously. If you are under thirty, the world it describes will be simply quaint. Read it and learn.


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