Category Archives: Culture

Culture for the cultured and uncultured alike.

Saturday Evening Culture

I think I like this better than Donna Summer’s original version.  This is the percussion-heavy Blue Man Group with early 2000’s alt-band VenusHum – lead singer Annette Strean has some pretty good pipes.  Enjoy.

Mrs. Animal and I have seen the Blue Man Group twice, once the full show in Las Vegas, once the road show with the aforementioned VenusHum; in fact we saw this very song performed.  They’re worth checking out.

Animal’s Daily Uncommon Sense News

Bill Maher finds an acorn:  Bill Maher: Liberals, We Lost Because We’re Offended All The Time And We Act Like Emasculated Husbands.  Excerpt:

Comedian Bill Maher is no conservative, but a broken clock is right twice a day. Maher has veered off the liberal path on Islamic extremism, admitted that his side doesn’t know anything about firearms regarding Second Amendment issues, and unapologetically points out the false equivalence between Christian and Islamic-inspired terror attacks.

With the 2016 election over and President Donald J. Trump now in the White House, Maher has some advice for how liberals can win: stop being politically correct. Granted, I hope liberals continue with their insufferable ethos of trigger warnings and safe spaces, so we can undo the damage done by the Obama presidency—but I think we can all agree that the authoritarian agenda of political correctness is a cancer on the nation.

 During the election just past, a big part of President Trump’s appeal was his blunt language; he not only is not politically correct, he deliberately eschews political correctness; he seems not to give a damn who he offends, and when people complain, he tells them where to head in.

That is, frankly, a breath of fresh air in our current era of polished, rehearsed politicians.

But Maher, before slipping into his “people would love liberal positions if we just explained them better,” misses one key point.  It wasn’t just the hyper-sensitivity that doomed the political Left in the last few election cycles.  It was precisely the issues that the Left and the Democratic Party went on about at length; when the nation’s regular blue-collar workers and small business owners are worried about making the mortgage and finding the next job on the career path, issues like transgender bathroom rights and “the patriarchy” ring pretty hollow.

That’s what Her Imperial Majesty Hillary I missed in 2016.  That’s one of the reasons she lost.

Animal’s Daily News

A great deal of the hand-wringing over the Electoral College and the results of the recent election is due to the undue influence big states like California have on national politics – or how they would, were it not for the Electoral College.  Here’s an interesting idea how to fix that – re-draw state lines along population and cultural lines.  Excerpt:

The answer lies in limiting state size to a human scale in which human beings can still associate, travel, and trade across jurisdictional boundaries without incurring a great cost. The standard for “great cost” is subjective, of course, and over time has changed substantially. The cost of traveling 50 miles in the 16th century, for example, is significantly different form the cost of traveling the same distance today. 

There are ongoing attempts by geographers, however, to determine the “natural” size of a region that encompasses a population’s economic, political, and social institutions. In a recent study, for example, Garret Dash Nelson and Alasdair Rae attempted to identify regions that “have been substantively tied together by the forces of urban development, telecommunications, the frictionless circulation of capital, and the consolidation of both public and private institutions.” 

Basing their standard of scale on tolerance for commute times, the geographers selected 50-mile commutes as an indicator of how closely tied together is a specific region.

Here’s the commute time map and the resulting new state-line map:

Here’s my concern with this idea; note how the new, proposed state lines are drawn.  Note that they are all centered on major metropolitan areas.  Given the increasing urbanization of our population, that’s not surprising.

But the political divides in our country now are primarily rural v. urban, with some suburbs going either way (as you might expect.)  This proposal places a major urban area at the heart of each of the new States; that alone threatens to aggravate this divide.

It’s more likely that the United States will balkanize altogether.  Alaska and Texas in particular have more than sufficient infrastructure and resources to go it alone, given their current populations.  I’ve written on the subject before, and I think it’s a far more likely outcome than completely re-drawing State lines.

But either would signal the end of the United States as we know it.  I hope I don’t live to see either happen.

Rule Five Thoughts on Japan Friday

There’s a lot to be said about Japan.

Just now, about to end my third project in that country – albeit a short one – I’m inclined to share some of my thoughts of a place I’ve grown rather fond of.

I like Japan.  I like the food, the folks, the scenery.  I enjoy the porcelain beauty of so many young Japanese women and I enjoy the strong undercurrent of politeness and consideration that pervades the culture.

I’ve had some memorable adventures in Japan.  It’s a place where you can walk down a dark side street on a Friday night with little or no worries, a few neighborhoods in Tokyo excepted.  Some of my best adventures in Japan have started in just this way; some aimless wanderings in a new town that led to a great little local watering hole or restaurant.  One of these, some years back, was Koharu – “Spring Nights” in English.  Koharu is a little bar in Kusatsu, Shiga Prefecture, that in 2009 was run by three ladies (I’m guessing) in their early to mid 60s.  My friend Paul and I hung out there a lot, and the Mama-sans loved us.

On this trip Paul and I wandered up a little side street in a Tokyo suburb called Fusse and discovered a little local ramen shop, where I enjoyed some of the best ramen I’ve ever laid jaws on.

With all that said, though; I could never live in Japan.  I’m too deeply and irretrievable American, a red-state American at that, to willfully put up with a lot of things Japanese folks take for granted.  Now the Japanese people have the right to choose the government that suits them; they have done so, and I would be the last to say they should change that to suit the whims of Americans, just as I would be the last to say Americans should change our way of life to suit anyone from another country.  But the Japanese culture and still rather unquestioning acceptance of authority has led to some policies that I could not and would not abide.  Among them:

  • No protection against unreasonable search and seizure. I am told the police can legally enter any Japanese home once per year with no cause, no warning, no nothing, just to have a look around; no warrant needed.  In my own Colorado, even were it a police officer trying to force his way into my home, had he no warrant I would have the legal right to part his hair with a shotgun.  Which brings us to:
  • Refusal of the right of armed self-defense. This is not and has not been an issue in Japan, not the least of reasons is their crime rate, which in most places is so low as to be nearly non-existent.  But Japan is a culturally and racially homogenous society, and what’s more a culture that places great value on conformity, on respect for authority, on blending in.  The United States is very different.  America was born in armed rebellion, the exact opposite of respect for authority; Americans today are fractious, rebellious and quarrelsome.  As evidence witness our recently concluded Presidential campaign and its aftermath.  Americans, by and large, favor our right to armed defense, a right defined in the Constitution by men who had just led a citizen’s army to defeat the world’s dominant superpower of the day.

There’s a lot to be said about Japan.  But it’s a very non-libertarian society.  I like the place and would gladly return to visit, or to work, for a while.

But live in Japan?  No.  I’ll take Colorado and, in a few more years, Alaska.

Rule Five Darwin Award Friday

2016_11_25_rule-five-friday-1Ever seen anyone doing anything stupid while posing for a selfie?  You’re not alone, and some folks manage to kill themselves in the process.  But now there are folks trying to help prevent that.  Excerpt:

Now a team of computer experts has analyzed the causes of selfie deaths and they think they have a solution: an app that would warn people they are in a death-by-selfie zone.

“We found that most common reason of selfie death was height-related. 2016_11_25_rule-five-friday-2These involve people falling off buildings or mountains while trying to take dangerous selfies,” Hemank Lamba of Carnegie Mellon University, Ponnurangam Kumaraguru of the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology and colleagues wrote in their report, which was published online at the open-access site arXiv.

Drowning and being hit by trains run a close second, the team found.

Kumaraguru, who studied computer science at Carnegie Mellon, said he and the team noticed news reports about the trend and decided to try to use data mining techniques to do something about it.

2016_11_25_rule-five-friday-3“It is important because people are losing their lives because of taking dangerous selfies,” Kumaraguru told NBC News.

Now, think on that for a moment; I’m all in favor of humanitarian instincts and all that jazz, but none other than Robert Heinlein once pointed out that the real cure for hemophilia was to let hemophiliacs bleed to death before they bred more hemophiliacs.

Could we – should we – apply the same logic to would-be Darwin award winners like selfie-taking idiots?

Personally I’ve never understood the compulsion some people have 2016_11_25_rule-five-friday-4to continually photograph their own grinning mugs.  Recently when Mrs. Animal and I were mooching around the Sustina river valley north of Anchorage in some of Alaska’s more scenic country, I encountered three Millennial-looking kids posed on the edge of the river with a range of gorgeous mountains in the distance.  They were, of course, taking pictures of themselves.

But back to the point at hand.  It’s a standard tenet of the modern neo-Darwinian synthesis in biology that, on balance, individuals in a population that have greater fitness to withstand the rigors of their 2016_11_25_rule-five-friday-5environment have greater reproductive success.  That’s what leads to evolution – genetic variation, genetic drift, random mutation and differential reproductive success.  Is it the worst thing for the human species to lower the reproductive odds of someone that is stupid enough to try to snap a selfie at the edge of a raging, flooded river, or while driving on a winding mountain road?

Thoughts?

2016_11_25_rule-five-friday-6

Animal’s Daily News

bears-cute-awesome1-11Guess who won the Nobel Prize for Literature?  None other than America’s Songwriter – Bob Dylan.  Noted libertarian, magician, Las Vegas entertainer and debunker of bullshit Penn Jillette weighs in.  Excerpt (Article is by Nick Gillespie and Meredith Bragg, not Jillette):

Bob Dylan has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

As justified as the prize is, the award committee’s words are an understatement. In a career that spans 50-plus years, Dylan’s impact has long exceeded popular music, influencing every arena of creative expression, from film to writing to politics.

While it’s impossible—and perhaps ultimately pointless—to distill the essence of the figure behind songs, albums, and prose as different as “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” Blood on the Tracks, Slow Train Coming, Time Out of Mind, Chronicles, and Shadows in the Night, I’ll take my chances. Among other things, Dylan incarnates the urge for endless self-discovery that is at the very heart of America’s mythic identity. We are a nation that is always in the act of becoming something different, something new, something at once influenced by the past but free (or struggling to be free) of it. “He not busy being born is busy dying,” he sings in “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).”

And Mr. JIllette’s comments:

 I don’t know as I’d call Dylan Shakespeare’s equal; not quite.  But he is, as I mentioned earlier, America’s Songwriter.  His genre-hopping, constantly re-inventing style has now spoken to several generations.  What’s more, even in his seventies he has stamina matched by few musicians half his age.  He is still touring all over the world, doing a concert every few days.

It’s an interesting choice for the folks in Stockholm.  The Nobels in softer disciplines have been downgraded in credibility quite a little bit in the last few years.  The Peace Prize lost all meaning when they gave one to Yassir Arafat, and that prize was further degraded when they awarded one to the newly-inaugurated President Obama for, apparently, existing.

But the Literature prize still means something.  Picking a poet, musician and voice of America is an interesting choice.  I like it.