Bug-made horrors beyond your imagination

Book review of Unsqualified Preservations by Mencius Moldbugman.

Frequently confused with his near-namesake, Moldbugman was for some time a noted Twitter shitposter who poured scorn on gaping photos, collectors of bobbleheads and those who would arrange their bookshelves by colour.

Unsqualified Preservations, rather than a dry and wordy account of why Curtis Yarvin should be appointed God Emperor of the Universe, is a collection of funny and macabre short stories.

The first, ‘Rickadoodle Applestrudel,’ is a vivid and creepily realistic depiction of too-online madness that turned out to be even more autobiographical than Moldbugman expected, although I don’t think he quite ended up with a Pinoy cock in his mouth.

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The new Machiavellians

Book review of The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom by James Burnham, 1943

There is a group of political theorists who call themselves Machiavellians, and claim that their school’s namesake was misunderstood.

Burnham, author of The Managerial Revolution, summarizes their thinking for a general audience.

Machiavelli, you see, tried to analyze politics through a neutral lens in order to understand how power works in human societies. Instead of surreptitiously pushing a barrow for this faction or that ideology, he tried to understand how power is gained and lost across all times and places.

It may be remarked that the harsh opinion of Machiavelli has been more widespread in England and the United States than in the nations of Continental Europe. This is no doubt natural, because the distinguishing quality of Anglo-Saxon politics has always been hypocrisy, and hypocrisy must always be at pains to shy away from the truth.

Burnham

Machiavelli is best known for The Prince, which was advice to a particular Medici Big Man, but his other works inquire into the practice of politics more generally and take many examples from history.

The essence of Machiavellian thought is that the study of politics should be strictly about what is, not about what ought to be. Politics is the contest about who gets what but the study of politics should be an unbiased investigation into how societies decide who gets what.

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Tough lessons

Book review of 13 Ways of Going on a Field Trip by Spotted Toad

When an online acquaintance publishes a book, I usually buy a copy as a show of support regardless of whether the topic is of any interest to me. So it was with 13 Ways of Going on a Field Trip: Stories about Teaching and Learning by Spotted Toad, his reflection on years spent teaching science in inner city American high schools.

My life currently involves long, boring train journeys so any reading material on hand has ample opportunity to catch my attention; I ended up reading this all the way through. It’s like when you pick up a random book from the Sharing is Caring shelf at a youth hostel. It’s something you normally wouldn’t read but you read it anyway and find it engaging.

While not getting into omerta, Spotted Toad’s book is frank and realistic, a refreshing break from the many inspiring books about teaching written by education experts (failed teachers). For example:

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Who is drawn to mass movements?

Book review of The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer.


Over the last few years, I have been compelled to curiosity about the nature of mass hysteria. I previously reviewed Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay.

The True Believer focuses on who gets involved in movements before they become established institutions – Bolsheviks in 1920, Nazis in 1925, Christians before Constantine and so on.

That’s a motley collection of mass movements, so I must add that Eric claims he does not see mass movements as necessarily bad. This book is mostly read as a warning about how extremist movements get started but it could equally be read as a how-to guide for getting a noble cause off the ground. Keep that in mind as we continue.

Eric’s main assertion is that true believers are, for the most part, unsuccessful and unhappy people:

. . . people with a sense of fulfillment think it a good world and would like to conserve it as it is, while the frustrated favor radical change.

Discontent is not enough. There must also be a sense of power to change things. An extremely poor peasant with no rights is unlikely to join a mass movement unless something convinces him it may succeed, perhaps a charismatic leader who seems infallible or firm belief in a doctrine.

The true believer seeks to join a movement primarily as a way of escaping himself.

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Welcome to Hell

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Book review of Welcome to Hell by “Bad” Billy Pratt


I’ve been reading Bad Billy’s blog Kill to Party for many years. In a sphere of game and neoreaction, his site is more a mix of personal dating horror stories and thwarted romantic dreams presented through the lens of pop culture as he attempts to pull apart what the hell happened to GenX.

Welcome to Hell is a collection of these blog posts but it also holds together as a book because the themes develop throughout.

Rather than blame everything on Boomers, his attention is focused inward:

Despite all the nihilistic postering, it’s important to remember that Generation X wasn’t the one with all the school shootings. The murky attitude was as shallow as the cuts on their wrists; it was a fashion accessory, it was an act, it was total bullshit. Even if they didn’t become noteworthy go-getters, GenX eventually had to grow up into lame adults.

Though carefully outside the mainstream Manosphere, Billy gets drawn into the last decade’s Manofads. One of the most interesting chapters is about his addiction to kratom, which he describes alongside the self-destruction of the Stone Temple Pilot’s lead singer:

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McNamara’s morons

Image source: Full Metal Jacket

Review of McNamara’s Folly: The Use of Low-IQ Troops in the Vietnam War by Hamilton Gregory, 2015


It is an eternal fallacy to imagine that we live in uniquely corrupted times. Reading any good history book reminds us that we’ve always been this bad, but then we put the book down, check social media and go back to thinking we are in the End Times.

In America, the 1960-70s hosted an evil that I’m unaware of in any other time or place: forcibly recruiting mentally disabled men to fight in the Vietnam War.

Men who could not learn how to independently load or maintain a rifle. Men whose disability affected their physical coordination, meaning they could not pass the required tests.

The demand for warm bodies was so great that they deployed them anyway.

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Literally Churchill

Previously: Literally Hitler


Book review of Churchill, Hitler and The Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World by Patrick J. Buchanan, 2008.

Executive summary: Churchill and friends ruined Britain by blundering into both world wars.

The claim about the First World War is much less controversial than the Second. In fact, I considered skipping the section on the lead-up to WWI because I’d read a lot about it already. A few pages in, I changed my mind.

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The madness of crowds

Review of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay.

We are living through some very silly times right now. From 2013, the Woke movement swept up many and in 2020, what little sanity we had left went out the window.

That’s normal.

Writing in 1841, long before many well-known bouts of hysteria, Charles looks further back into history and sees a pattern in our madness.

The most fascinating aspect of these accounts is how familiar they are. Forget smartphones and social media; we’ve always been like this.

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Literally Hitler

Book review of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler.

Previously: Literally Marx

Instead of fading with the passage of time, fear of Nazis seems to be growing stronger. Mainstream media asserts that WWII is currently being re-fought by the Proud Boys and other multicultural larpers. Western governments, three-letter agencies and all the other elite bodies sing in unison: the Nazis are back and they’re on the brink of taking over! (Unless we suspend your Constitutional rights to fight them.)

With Islamist terror forgotten and Covid fading, they needed something new. Plus, a dualist religion like Woke needs its Devil and Trump is struggling to fill the role.

With this newfound fervour for discovering fascists under the bed, it’s timely to go back and read what Hitler was all about.

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A vote for the apocalypse

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Book review of Into the Vortex by Brian Eckert.

Alt-lit is like a rock band’s first album. Brimming with raw energy, uninhibited, ready to take on the world. The band’s second record gets professionally produced and is much more polished – critics usually proclaim the second or third album the best – and yet many fans will declare the initial, rough recording their favourite.

Alt novel Into the Vortex is more like a second album, written in effortless, self-assured prose with nary an awkward simile or clumsy wording as we expect when venturing away from Penguin.

I assumed this was not Brian’s first rodeo but was surprised to see that according to his website, this is his maiden book. Either he has precocious talent or a brilliant editor. Perhaps both.

[Edit: the website seems to have been suspended. Alt cred recognized.]

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Literally Marx

Book review of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

I knew Karl Marx was an unwashed, financially irresponsible, bourgeois twit who knocked up his unpaid servant and refused to acknowledge his son.

But what was communism all about?

My usual policy is to read the Big Books. However, I satisfied myself with summaries of Das Kapital rather than tackle the whole thing. Life is short and it didn’t seem worth my time.

Instead I had a look at the much shorter Communist Manifesto:

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All the way down

Review of Under the Nihil (pronounced like the river Nile), by Andy Nowicki.


Many saints are lunatics.

Catholic figures such as St Catherine of Siena seem driven by inner demons that combine with contemporary values. The same might be said of secular martyrs – soldiers who insist on doing ever more tours of duty in some unwinnable hellhole; Western doctors choosing to work in African war zones; animal shelter ladies. Julian Assange, Edward Snowden.

A normal person lives his life, tries to get a job, get married, raise kids and pay off the house. He might give twenty bucks to the Salvos at Christmas, help the odd beetle back onto its feet and consider himself a good sort. For the average person, it is enough to obey the law and not to be too obnoxious.

The protagonist of Under the Nihil decides at a young age to become a priest. He is troubled, socially awkward, unpopular. Religion gives him strength and direction. One day, he thinks, I’ll be a priest and everything will be okay. I’ll have a vocation helping others. He prays and waits for this release from his uneasy life.

This hit a nerve.

But after years of training he fails the final hurdle: the psychological test. The seminary kicks him out because he’s nuts.

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A hard road

6 to 6

Book review of 6 to 6 by Mather Schneider.


There are some careers that inevitably push their people towards misanthropy. Cops, criminal lawyers, prison guards. Social workers.

Taxi drivers.

Mather Schneider was a cab driver in Tucson, Arizona for 15 years. This is a collection of stories he collected along the way. A few make the spirit soar; most leave the spirit muddied and lying in the gutter. In a good way.

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Lady writers

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Breathtakingly cheeky book review of several books I have mostly not finished, including To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, and Tirra Lirra by Jessica Anderson.

I looked at several ‘greatest books’ compilations in order to get a stack of stuff to read in the wifi-free jungle, and Virginia Woolf’s name kept popping up.

Orright, orright, says I, and I got a collection of her books for a buck.

The most highly recommended one was To the Lighthouse, so I started there.

I’m about a quarter of the way through and Read More

Friend or foe? The strange case of J.M. Coetzee

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Book review of Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, with reference to other books by him and some by Dostoevsky.

I have always felt that I ought to like Coetzee.  Ever since I was in uni and the tutor pointed out that one bit in Foe where it seems like Character 1 is knocking on Character 2’s door but if you read carefully it’s the other way around, I’ve had an admiration for linguists like savage Papuans have for sorcerers.  This led me to take Noam Chomsky seriously for too long.

But I didn’t actually trouble myself to Read More

Intellectuals are bad, mmkay?

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Book review of Intellectuals, by Paul Johnson.

There are very few books that I have read twice.  One was The Lord of the Rings, which I read when I was eight and later when I was fifteen and actually understood it.  The only other I can remember off the top of my head is this one.  I happened to look something up for some reason, got distracted by the chapter on Sartre, and ended up reading the whole thing again.  The antics of this intellectual crowd are highly entertaining.  My favourite was the list of drunken injuries that befell Hemmingway, which stretches over three or four mirthful pages.

I thought about inserting here a check-table of intellectuals and their sins but concluded it would be too much work and you wouldn’t be that impressed anyway.  So instead I will Read More

The thoughts of an emperor

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Book review of Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius.

Poor old Marcki-poo.  High-born and bookish, he wanted nothing more than to go to Athens and study philosophy.  But duty called him to other things: in the age of the Five Good Emperors, starting with Hadrian, each new one was chosen for his virtues rather than because he was the son of the old one – though none of the previous four had had sons, so that was easily done.  And Marcus Aurelius felt the unwanted tap on the shoulder.

He insisted, against the wishes of the elite, that his Read More

Brave New World and the Last Man

Book review of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley with reference to Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Frederick Nietzsche and 1984 by George Orwell.

In 1984, the world is ruled by a totalitarian, self-perpetuating system that brutalizes its own upper echelons most of all.  In Brave New World, Huxley paints a different picture of the future, one where human interactions are mandatorily shallow, where casual sex is expected, and where bad feelings have mostly been bred and conditioned out of the docile, fun-loving population.

It is too easy to make fun of science fiction that is already out of date.  There are anachronisms such as scientists taking notes with pencil and paper, manual laborers who are still required in large numbers, liftmen (elevator operators), and English women who are slim and attractive.

But good science fiction aims to comment, not to predict, because the latter is impossible.  Huxley envisions what some of his contemporaries might have considered an ideal society: one where the family has been done away with, children are born in test tubes and raised in nurseries, trained from infancy to enjoy their assigned roles in society, and kept happy throughout their lives by generously provided rations of the feel-good drug soma.

Bernard Marx (yes, I yawned too) doesn’t fit in.  He doesn’t want to be happy all the time.  He wants to Read More

Aesop

Book review of The Fables of Aesop.

Thousands of years later, these stories still have relevance.

To wit:

The Fox Who Had Lost His Tail

An ugly feminist was unconsciously so disgusted with herself that she tried to convince all the other girls to cut their hair short and dye it blue, get out of shape and get tattoos.  She said it was much more convenient that way and that they would receive much praise for their changes on Instagram.

The other girls said to her, “If you were not so repulsive yourself, you would not thus counsel us.”

The Old Man and Death

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