Scott Alexander on Nonfiction Writing

Scott writes the Slate Star Codex blog.

  1. Divide things into small chunks
  2. Variety is the spice of life (add images etc.)
  3. Keep your flow of ideas strong
  4. Learn what should and shouldn’t be repeated.
  5. Use microhumor
  6. Use concrete examples
  7. Figure out who you’re trying to convince, then use the right tribal signals
  8. Anticipate and defuse counterarguments
  9. Use strong concept handles
  10. Recognize that applying these rules will probably start disastrously

Details of the above at: http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/02/20/writing-advice/

 

Chaotic Nazi Germany

Something caught my eye in an article on The Logical Fallacies of History:

“Whilst it is true that Owens’ performance was indeed remarkable – he won four gold medals – he by no means spoiled the party for Hitler. The games provided him with the opportunity to showcase the organizational skills of his regime (which actually went against the grain, since Nazi Germany in many ways was run very chaotically).”

This is new to me. The stock cliche is that “Hitler made the trains run on time,” or maybe it was Mussolini? Anyway, both Germany and the Nazi war machine were notoriously orderly.  I want to look into this claim that they were run chaotically.

Hail the Maintainers

I am finally clearing out some old Instapaper articles. One that I really enjoyed was Andrew Russell’s examination of our civilizational obsession with “innovation” at the expense of maintenance and sustainable operability.

This is something we in cloud services learned fairly recently. Features are increasingly table stakes, fundamentals (e.g. availability, supportability, security, privacy, operability, maintainability, etc.) are the crucial differentiators.

Hail the Maintainers 

 

 

Tyranny and the Cloud

Only one thing worries me about the cloud: It facilitates state control because Cloud Computing reverses the decentralization (distribution) of computer power that heralded the internet. I think I got this fear from Cory Doctorow and his “The coming war on general computing.”

Anyway, maybe it is just a phase. Distributed Computing may very well be making a comeback as we see the end of Cloud Computing.

“World War III will be a global information war with no division between civilian and military participation.” -Marshal McLuhan

Rubble films

“Which, then, are these rubble films (Trümmerfilme)?

…Shandley instead defines “rubble films” as a short-lived but important production “cycle.” It is recognizable in recurrent narrative and visual motifs of “the returning solider/coming home” theme and settings that register the aftermath of massive war: rubble-strewn streets, collapsed hotels, crumbling apartment houses (all usually studio-constructed sets, as Shandley reveals). He goes on to offer perceptive close readings of the chosen films’ “berubbled mise-en-scène,” casting, genre conventions, and character construction. One might quibble over the particular film selections or their parameters; for example, the strict and not fully justified insistence on 1949 as an end point precludes discussion of such a striking film as the 1951 German production Der Verlorene [The Lost One], directed by and starring Peter Lorre. But overall Shandley cogently argues the legitimacy and intellectual value of the “rubble film” category, taking thereby an approach that many instructors of German film and history may find a useful complement to other media research on the period (much of it available only in German.) Especially Shandley’s careful formal analysis of the films’ visual and audio construction adds a welcome and somewhat rare perspective to nationally-delineated cinema histories. He also provides some details about each film’s production and reception, essentially presenting the selected films as a series of historical/cultural case studies which, he argues, record rubble films’ “important role in the formation of a collective attitude toward the past, one that shaped many public debates in German in the decades thereafter (p. 4).”

http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc45.2002/curry/index.html

Also see:

Sweeping up the Past: Gender and History in the Postwar German “Rubble Film”

Extraordinary footage of destroyed Berlin

http://www.archive.org/details/PostwarG
http://www.archive.org/details/PostwarG_2
http://www.archive.org/details/PostwarG_3
http://www.archive.org/details/PostwarG_4

Orwell on the difference between nationalism and patriotism

By “nationalism” I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled “good” or “bad.” But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests. Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By “patriotism” I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.”

http://www.resort.com/~prime8/Orwell/nationalism.html

What kind of monster am I?

The pool of acceptable hate groups has shrunk down to the dregs now: old white men. Not even hillbillies and Chavs are acceptably odious anymore. As a white middle-aged middle-class heterosexual cis-gendered able-bodied capitalist property-owning politically slightly-right-of-center male atheistic Westerner, I am a member of the most universally despised minority in history.

Get your insults in while we last. The mantle of victimhood cannot be withheld forever….

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitzpatrick%27s_War

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/12/white-men-dehumanising-insult-times/

Pussy Struck

Afrikaners have a wonderful but very rude word: poesbefok, meaning “Pussy struck” or  mentally deranged by sexual desire or romantic love. Looks like the entire USA was poesbefok on October 7, 2016.

Dave Pell points out that the media’s over focus on the Trump pussy grab story allowed the bigger and potentially more damaging Russian hacker angle to go mostly unnoticed until too late:

Let’s go back in time to that fateful day, October 7, 2016 when we heard the instantly infamous “grab her by the pussy” tapes. It’s like the moon landing, Michael Jackson’s death, or the first time you saw Rick Perry try to look smart by wearing glasses. You’ll never forget where you were when it happened.

But it turns out that you are remembering that day for all the wrong reasons. As Clinton Campaign Comm director Jennifer Palmieri reminded us on MSNBC, October 7, 2016 was also the day that the NYT’s David Sanger and Charlie Savage broke a massive story with this headline: U.S. Says Russia Directed Hacks to Influence Elections.

Without the pussy story, that headline would have owned the day’s news cycle (or about 3 tweets) and put intense pressure on the Obama administration to release more details — which would have meant more stories.

Instead we fixated on Donald’s dirty talk.

My take on the Russian hacking this is this: Of course they tried to influence the election in their favor. This is an ancient realpolitik practice. Nothing new there.  What is new is that they may have used hacked data released as leaks to these ends – and that was effective. Did it lead to a Trump victory?  I am waiting for more evidence before I make a judgment.

See also:

https://medium.com/pell-on-media/how-pussy-won-262b6a4b7364#.ajc6ayyy0

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_South_African_slang_words

Sated and placated and engaged and outraged

“America is completely bewitched by a completely manipulative and deceptive veil of identity politics that appeal to the surface of people’s consciences….There are two currents. There is this popular current that’s used to keep us sated and placated and engaged and outraged. Then there is this deeper current that actually much closer to the source of our lives, which is about the destruction and depletion and extraction of wellness from the earth, and that is the conversation we are still incapable of having.” – Anohni, in episode “The Great Derangement” on Open Source with Christopher Lydon