Tag Archives: culture

Nirvana – Lithium

An evening pause: I must admit that the hard rock music of Kurt Cobain has interested me so little that, until this video was suggested to me, I had never listened to it. Though the music itself doesn’t do much for me personally, the lyrics and the history of the song were quite surprising. To quote from the second link,

Cobain said the song is about a man who, after the death of his girlfriend, turns to religion “as a last resort to keep himself alive. To keep him from suicide.” While Cobain said the narrative of “Lithium” was fictional, he said, “I did infuse some of my personal experiences, like breaking up with girlfriends and having bad relationships.” Cobain acknowledged that the song was possibly inspired in part by the time he spent living with his friend Jesse Reed and his born-again Christian parents. He explained to Azerrad, “I’ve always felt that some people should have religion in their lives [. . .] That’s fine. If it’s going to save someone, it’s okay. And the person in [‘Lithium’] needed it.”

The song was published in 1992. I suspect that even Cobain would be considered evil by the today’s modern generation for daring to express positive thoughts about religion.

Hat tip Wayne Devette.

Crowded Mexico City and colonization of space

This week Diane and I are in Mexico with friends doing some sightseeing. As is my habit, I can’t just enjoy the sights I have to ask a lot of questions while trying to get an impression of the place, its culture, its environment, its atmosphere, and its politics. Not surprisingly, the answers to some of those questions pointed me upward beyond the surface of the Earth. To understand why, read on.

Today we toured the inner parts of Mexico City, both on foot and by bus and subway (or the Metro as they call it here). I have spent considerable time in many of the world’s major cities, growing up in New York and visiting at length Moscow, Kiev, Prague, London, Chicago, Los Angeles and others. Mexico City has many of the same features you’d expect for this kind of big city, lots of people, lots of traffic, lots of buildings packed tight together, and lots of wealth and poverty sitting side-by-side.

Mexico City traffic

Mexico City however to me seemed to be most crowded and the most packed of any city I have ever visited or lived in. Its size and population probably rivals that of the entire New York metropolitan area, but somehow the traffic and crowds and architecture seemed more piled on top of each other with far less breathing room.

First was the traffic. Everywhere we went it was wall to wall vehicles. The major highways were never quiet, even at night. Nor could I see much difference between midday and rush hours. The picture on the right shows us heading from in from an outer neighborhood where we were staying to take the subway into the center of the city. Not only was it bumper-to-bumper, but if you look out in the distance the road is bumper-to-bumper as far as the eye can see. My host Alfonso added at one point that in order to avoid this traffic many people routinely leave for work before 5 am and come home after 8 pm. Schools have multiple shifts, including ones at night.

A side note: The tall rectangular structures in the foreground are not buildings. This is a work of art, five several hundred foot tall cinderblock structures supposedly forming a hand pointing up, with the thicker yellow tower in the front representing the thumb.
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Worlds without end

Last week’s fly-by of Pluto by New Horizons illustrated forcefully once again the power of exploration on the human mind, and how that exploration always carries surprises that delight and invigorate us.

First of all, the images from that fly-by demonstrated clearly that the decision by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to declare Pluto a non-planet was very much premature. Even project scientist Alan Stern himself enthusiastically noted at the start of Friday press conference that Pluto-Charon was a “double planet system”.

The IAU definition itself was faulty and difficult to apply. The clause that required a planet to have “cleared the neighborhood around its orbit” made little sense in the real universe, as even the Earth has not successfully cleared its orbit after several billion years. Was the IAU suggesting the Earth was not a planet?

New Horizons’s discovery last week that even a small object like Pluto, orbiting the Sun on its own with no gas giant nearby to provide tidal heating, can still exhibit significant and on-going geological activity, shows that our understanding of what defines a planet is at this time quite limited. We simply don’t know enough about planetary evolution and formation to definitively define the term. Nor do we have enough knowledge to determine if Pluto falls into that category, though the data strongly suggests that it does.

Are planets made up of only gas giants, rocky terrestrial planets like the Earth, and dwarf planets like Ceres and Pluto? Or are there numerous other as yet unknown categories?
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The negative, depressing mainstream press

Sunday’s Falcon 9 failure has given us a great opportunity to learn something about the mainstream press and the elite culture that dominates it. As expected, while the space-oriented press focused on what happened and what will be done to fix the problem, almost every mainstream press outlet immediately concluded that the failure was a disaster that could and (with some outlets) should ring the death knell for private space. Here are just a few examples:

I could go on. Notice that these are almost all mainstream news sources. The few that specialize in science reporting, such as Scientific American, New Scientist, and National Geographic, also tend to push the left wing science agenda.

If you can force yourself to read these articles, as I have, you will find yourself inundated with negativity, pessimism, and a can’t-do attitude. Moreover, many of these articles seem expressly designed to encourage the public and politicians to withdraw their support for space exploration. For example, the Scientific American article, in outlining the history of recent ISS cargo failures, includes this quote:

Public support for the private space industry also took a blow last October (just three days after the Orbital Sciences ATK mishap) when Virgin Galactic’s suborbital space plane SpaceShipTwo crashed during a test flight, killing one of its pilots. [emphasis mine]

Does Scientific American provide us any evidence that public support had dropped after these failures? No. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence that support dropped, and if anything, based on the budget increases over the years for commercial space (despite Congressional efforts to trim that budget), support has continued to grow through thick and thin.

No, Scientific American inserted this statement because they want support to drop, and have tailored their article to help make that a self-fulfilling prophecy. The negativity of all these other articles suggest that their writers and outlets feel the same. Life is hard! Bad things can happen! Better that we stick our head in the sand and hide from the evil thunder gods rather than look up to try to figure out what thunder is!

For myself, I do not find the Falcon 9 failure this past weekend depressing in the slightest. This is a company and a rocket that hadn’t even existed a little more than decade ago, and in that short time they have revolutionized the rocket industry. Rockets fail. This is no surprise. Their track record, however, tells us that they will figure out what went wrong and start flying again, as soon as they can.

What I do find depressing is the failure culture of today’s modern intellectual society. It is one reason I do not depend on them for news, and in general try to depend on them for as little as possible for anything else.

What every conservative politican should answer when asked a stupid gotcha question by a journalist

“You want my opinion? My opinion is that you’re not very good at your job and your boss should send someone else to do this. If you want to know about what they said, go ask them. If you’d like to talk to me about the issues or anything I said, feel free. Next question.” [emphasis in originial]

Read it all. It makes perfect sense, to demand better from these reporters. And it works! I remember listening to Margaret Thatcher as she did this to an NPR reporter back around the time of the Falklands War. Very quickly the reporter got focused on asking intelligent questions, and the interview for Thatcher turned out to be resounding success.

“Why the media’s fact problems are much bigger than Rolling Stone.”

Link here.

For those who haven’t been following the story, Rolling Stone recently published an expose about a supposed gang-rape at a fraternity at the University of Virginia that they and their reporter used to illustrate the terrible rape culture of today’s universities.

The article has turned out to be largely a fabrication and has instead illustrated the terrible state of modern journalism as well as the corrupt truth-challenged intellectual elite of our society. Mollie Hemingway’s devastating analysis at the link above summarizes this situation nicely, also illustrating why much of what comes out of modern intellectual discussions today is total hogwash.

She doesn’t mention it, but I could not help thinking about global warming as well as the recent Orion test flight (“the spacecraft that will take us to Mars!”). In both cases the press has been seriously challenged to show some justifiable skepticism of official press releases and has failed miserably.

20 delusions that shape how liberals vote

Disconnected from reality: Twenty crazy beliefs repeatedly argued by liberals and Democrats that have no connection at all with reality.

I especially like the one on climate, with this line: “Politicians in this country can vote to change the world’s climate to be an ideal climate.”

Kid makes interception and scores and is punished

Sick world: An 8-year-old boy took an interception in for a touchdown in a kid’s football game and his team is fined and his coach is suspended.

CBS 46 reports the Lawrenceville Black Knights were winning against their opponents, 32-0, in the fourth quarter. Burrell then intercepted a pass and went through with the touchdown, failing to comply with the league’s mercy rule. That six-point score caused the Georgia-based team to surpass the 33-point rule, which earned the coach a week-long suspension and the team a $500 fine.

Burrell’s mothers, Brooke Burdett, told CBS 46 that she and her son were “beyond excited” at first, before learning of the fine. “He had no idea” Burdett said. “This is his first year. This was his first touchdown. He is an 8-year-old boy making a pick-six.”

Heaven forbid we have an 8-year-old boy achieve something cool, get thrilled about it, and think he can do great things in the future. Noooooooo, we have to squelch that sense of worth and achievement so that the failures in life won’t have hurt feelings.

These idiotic parents and the people who run this league obviously don’t remember what it is like to play kids’ sports. Boys aren’t crushed by these kinds of defeats. Instead, most boys use the experience to figure out how they can win the next time. By denying them this lesson in life you act to cripple them.

Things are going to get worse

Link here. Key quote:

Readers will recall my prediction that fake strategies like those used by the administration go through 3 phases: 1) the denial of the problem; 2) over-confident half measures; 3) blind panic. President Obama is officially at number 3 and has canceled fundraisers in New Jersey and Connecticut “to convene his Cabinet at the White House instead, as U.S. officials grappled with the widening Ebola crisis.”

The panic phase comes very fast because it is actually the moment when a leader realizes he’s running out of the most precious resource a manager can have, which is time. And the administration, for the past six years, has been all about wasting time; about kicking the can down the road. They thought it was clever, a big joke they could play on their Republican successor. But most of the president’s opponents on the world stage, familiar with the idea that strategy is largely the story of time, saw it for the amateur mistake that it was. They saw the president for what he was and took him to the cleaners.

Read it all. It will chill you to the bones. Even if the Democrats get creamed in November’s election the country will still be led by a man and an elite leftist community astonishingly disconnected with reality.

You doubt this? Then please explain the clipboard man to me.

Some reasons to panic

And those reasons have less to do with actual problems and more to do with the incompetence of our culture’s intellectual leadership.

Over the last few years the divergence between what the government promises and what it delivers, between what it says is happening or will happen and what actually is happening and does happen, between what it determines to be important and what the public wishes to be important—this gap has become abysmal, unavoidable, inescapable. We hear of “lone-wolf” terrorism, of “workplace violence,” that if you like your plan you can keep your plan. We are told that Benghazi was a spontaneous demonstration, that al Qaeda is on the run, that the border is secure as it has ever been, that Assad must go, that I didn’t draw a red line, the world drew a red line, that the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups involved not a smidgen of corruption, that the Islamic State is not Islamic. We see the government spend billions on websites that do not function, and the VA consign patients to death by waiting list and then cover it up. We are assured that Putin won’t invade; that the Islamic State is the jayvee team of terrorism; that Bowe Bergdahl served with honor and distinction; that there is a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia.

While the public remains pro-Israel, our government negotiates with Israel’s enemies. While the public wants to reduce immigration, the preeminent legislative objective of both parties is a bill that would increase it. While the public is uninterested in global warming, while costly regulations could not pass a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate, while the scientific consensus behind the green agenda is, at the very least, fraying, the president says that climate change is the greatest threat to the United States. While Americans tell pollsters their economic situation has not improved, and that things are headed in the wrong direction—while even Democratic economists acknowledge the despondent state of the middle class—the president travels to Chicago to celebrate his economic recovery.

These disjunctions and confusions, these missteps, scandals, and miscalculations, have hurt Obama’s approval numbers. They endanger the Democratic Senate majority, contribute to the widespread sense of disorder and decay, shatter trust in government and in public institutions. They have put into stark relief a political class dominated by liberal partisans, captured by ideas and interests removed from those of ordinary Americans. The stories of ineptitude or malfeasance that appear in the daily newspaper are more than examples of high ideals executed poorly. They are examples of the pursuit of ideas—of equality and diversity and progress and centralization and environmentalism and globalization—to absurd and self-destructive limits. [emphasis mine]

Read the whole essay, as I couldn’t have said it better. The incompetence of our intellectual partisan liberal elite, more consumed with pie-in-the-sky leftwing agendas than the real world around them, has become downright frightening. The sooner the general public rejects them, wholly and completely, illustrated by a landslide election, the sooner our society can get back to the business of dealing with the increasingly deadly problems of the real world.

“Tolerance, freedom, and the hypocrisy in an age of confusion”

The reflections of one man concerning the present social conflict between religion and gay rights.

An employee of a church or school is – must be! – a role model to all parishioners and students, even to the community. The church or school cannot allow its message, already under so much assault by the pop culture, the press, and the government, to be undermined even by its own employees.

Such actions [gay marriage] therefore force the hand of the Church; it must defend its policies by terminating employees who will no longer be the role models the Church needs.

Again, tolerating a failing is one thing; endorsing it is another. When you keep a failing private, you can hope for tolerance (your employer can continue to hope it’s a weakness that you’ll conquer or outgrow). But when one chooses to make that failing public – again, whether we agree that it’s a failing or not is immaterial; the Church thinks so, and the employee knew it – then one has to take the consequences of tearing that rift.

A very wise and thoughtful essay. Please read it all.

What others really think of America

Travel tips for Russian, French, Chinese, and Japanese travelers to the United States.

Read them all. Not surprisingly, the French are the most bothered by American habits while the Russians struggle mightily with our general niceness. All told, however, these tips will each give you warm feelings for the wild, crazy, enthusiastic culture that is America, as seen objectively by outsiders, and best summed up by this Japanese advice:

In Japan, there is great fear of failure and mistakes in front of other people. It is better to do nothing and avoid being criticized than to taste the humiliation of failure. As a result, there are things we wanted to do, but did not, and often regret.

In America, you can make mistakes, fail, and it doesn’t matter. It is a fundamental feeling that to sometimes be incorrect is natural. In addition, rather than thinking about mistakes and failures, American’s have curiosity and say, “Let’s try anyway!”

As noted so wisely in the 1982 comedy Night Shift, “Is this a great country, or what?”

Our decadent elites.

Our decadent elites.

I don’t understand why members of Congress, the White House and the media become cooperators in videos that sort of show that deep down they all see themselves as . . . actors. And good ones! In a phony drama. Meant I suppose to fool the rubes. It’s all supposed to be amusing, supposed to show you’re an insider who sees right through this town. But I’m not sure it shows that.

We’re at a funny point in our political culture. To have judgment is to be an elitist. To have dignity is to be yesterday. To have standards is to be a hypocrite—you won’t always meet standards even when they’re your own, so why have them?

I have always tried to have judgment, dignity, and standards, which I guess explains why I have had so little success compared to today’s politicians and modern intellectuals.

Meanwhile, take a close look at who participated in the video Noonan describes above. It will tell you who we should not trust in the impending war over American freedom.

Slandering an American icon.

Slandering an American icon.

It strikes me that, in addition to (if reports are true) grotesque ambition, Ms. Streep reflects a certain warped mindset that is all too prominent in the fashionable circles of our time. I am talking about a predisposition to believe that anything iconically American is corrupt.

The full essay is here.

I should also add that Ms. Streep’s coments also illustrate nicely the typical know-it-all ignorance of modern leftwing elite culture. She knows that Walt Disney was bigoted, without knowing a goddamn thing about him.

In preparation for November 5 launch of India’s first mission to Mars, ISRO successfully performed a full dress rehearsal countdown yesterday

In preparation for November 5 launch of India’s first mission to Mars, ISRO successfully performed a full dress rehearsal countdown yesterday.

We all cross our fingers and wish India well on this mission.

The article also had this additional tidbit that reveals a great deal about world culture:
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Five stupid movie deaths that should have been really easy to avoid.

Five stupid movie deaths that should have been really easy to avoid.

These examples are why I find most modern movies either boring, annoying, or stupid. They too often follow the same predictable action formula developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, they too often require their main characters to act stupid, and they too often are based on ridiculous concepts that are so silly that even after typing randomly for one million years one million monkeys would find them unworthy.

Why are liberals so rude to the right?

“Why are liberals so rude to the right?”

This column was published not by the right but by the very leftwing Guardian. It has been years since I’ve seen a leftwing publication willing to let these kinds of questions be asked. Could we finally be seeing a crack in the wall of silence that the left has erected since the 1990s to protect itself?

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