THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 97.25

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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676 Responses to Open Thread 97.25

  1. Orpheus says:

    Book Recommendations.

    I am looking for recommendations for contemporary fantasy books (say, books from the last 10 years). Recommend anything you think is good.

    • Aevylmar says:

      “The Clockwork Boys,” T. Kingfisher. Practically all the fantasy I like is from more than ten years ago, but this was almost Bujold-at-her-peak quality. It’s really good and I hope it wins the next Hugo.

      “The Graveyard Book,” Neil Gaiman, technically came out less than ten years ago. If you haven’t read it, you probably should? Almost everything Neil Gaiman writes is good.

      • Vanzetti says:

        >>>“The Graveyard Book,” Neil Gaiman

        Disagree. It’s a remake of the “Jungle Book” with the undead instead of animals. Interesting premise, but the book adds nothing to the original. Absolutely pointless.

        • rahien.din says:

          “The Graveyard Book” is a remake of the “Jungle Book” with the undead instead of animals.

          There’s a lot of structural and thematic similarity, particularly if you include the stories that follow Mowgli’s exit from the jungle.

          But I think you could make a similar comparison to “The Matrix.” Due to its conflicted dual-citizen protagonist, its dogged antagonist who shares an origin story, transit between organic-feral and sterile-structured realms, and a coda where the protagonist is forced into a sort of limbo, “The Matrix” is just “The Jungle Book” populated by quasireligious kung-fu cyberpunks.

          The book adds nothing to the original. Absolutely pointless.

          That’s just silly! It’s a hell of a fun book, and at the very least it’s a fun exploration of horror/fantasy tropes. Like “American Gods” but for ghouls, nightgaunts, and specters.

          Moreover, Kipling examines the role of authority and the assumption thereof, but Gaiman examines the role of fantasy and laments its inevitable death.

          I highly recommend the audiobook.

      • rahien.din says:

        Second Gaiman. I really enjoyed “American Gods” and “The Graveyard Book.” I couldn’t quite hang with “Neverwhere.”

        ETA: to the purpose of this thread, I am not sure how many of those fall within the last 10 years.

        • quaelegit says:

          Look’s like the only Gaiman book mentioned so far that meets the cutoff is Graveyard Book, which is too bad b/c I would also highly recommend American Gods (and the not-sequel Anansi Boys). Personally I liked “Stardust” a lot more than Neverwhere.

          Another recent Gaiman book that’s gets a lot of good press online is “Ocean at the End of the Lane”, but I must have not understood it because I don’t get what everyone is praising.

          • CthulhuChild says:

            I have consistently been baffled by Gaiman’s popularity. I loved Sandman, but literally every piece of writing by him has irritated me. Not the stories, but the prose itself. Then I heard his work in Audiobook form, and it completely changed how I perceived his writing style. I strongly recommend listening to the stories, instead of reading them.

          • cassander says:

            @CthulhuChild

            I’m not much of a fan either but I think neverwhere is pretty fantastic, as is Good Omens, which he wrote with Terry Pratchett.

          • CthulhuChild says:

            Loved good omens, but I attributed that to Pratchett. Seriously though, I am now generally a fan of his work having listened to it in audio form. I’d suggest trying it with something by him you haven’t read, to see if your experience is similar.

          • cassander says:

            @CthulhuChild

            I’ve been doing audiobooks for years. Pro tip, if you have an audible.com subscription, you can buy any book you want and return it for a full refund up to a year later, no questions asked. I buy whatever books I want, and call them up every 6 months or so and tell them to return all the books I’ve paid for with money. It’s fantastic.

          • Matt M says:

            That seems like pretty morally questionable behavior…

      • I enjoyed The Clockwork Boys. The sequel is out, and while both are worth reading I don’t think either is in Bujold’s class.

        One thing that I didn’t like about the series, but others may like, is the trope, which I associate with modern romance fiction, of two people who obviously ought to get together but can’t, for irrational emotional reasons, until the end.

        It struck me that something some people don’t like about my fiction is that the characters are all rational, so this looks like a real division in tastes.

        • Tarpitz says:

          I would say that exploring human irrationality is what fiction does best.

          That’s not to say it can’t be annoying when done badly (Alastair Reynolds’s killer failing is plots that hinge on arbitrary irrational behaviour) but the vast majority of people do not in fact behave terribly rationally a lot of the time and the medium that naturally takes us inside characters’ heads is well placed to show us how and why.

    • Anatoly says:

      Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell was published 14 years ago, but it towers over the field.

      The last, so far, ASOIAF book was published in that period, though you’d be well-advised to read the other four first.

      The Buried Giant was an interesting and ambiguous read that left me genuinely unsure how I felt about it, which meta-indicates it was good.

      10 years, to me, is more “recent” than “contemporary”, for which I’d consider the last 30-40 years.

      • Orpheus says:

        Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell was published 14 years ago, but it towers over the field

        Read it, loved it.

        The last, so far, ASOIAF book was published in that period

        Read it, hated it.

        • quaelegit says:

          What did you dislike about ASoIaF?

          I’m asking because depending on what you disliked you might want to try The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu. My one-sentence sell is “more cheerful ASoIaF based on Romance in the Three Kingdoms” — with the caveat that I’ve only read a few chapters of A Game of Thrones so this impression is based mostly on what my family has told me about GRRM’s series. Besides the overall tone, I think GoK is a bit simpler (fewer viewpoint characters to keep track of) and the characters are more likeable. To get a sense of Liu’s writing style, I highly recommend checking out his short stories such as “The Paper Menagerie” (you can find it online).

          Edit: GoK has one sequel (so far), which is not as good as the first but still worth reading IMO. (I’d give the first a 10/10, the second 6/10).

          • rahien.din says:

            I just finished The Grace of Kings. It reads like classical Chinese epics such as Heroes of the Marsh. IMHO, it bears little resemblance to his short fiction (I was a little disappointed about that).

            I found it a less surprising and less colorfully-charactered than ASoIaF, but I think that is because of how it is structured and paced. So that may not be a fair comparison.

          • Orpheus says:

            I didn’t hate ASoIaF as a whole. The first book was a master piece, the second and third were very strong, the forth was meh but tolerable, and the fifth was an abortion.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Orpheus, I pretty much agree with you about the valuing the AGOIAF books, except that I think the fourth was rather worse and the fifth was somewhat better.

            Anyway, I recommend The Goblin Emperor– it’s an anti-Game Thrones story where cooperation gets rewarded.

      • dodrian says:

        I did not understand the following behind Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I read it with the continuing expectation that it would eventually get better, but it never did. True, I tend to prefer Sci-Fi to Fantasy, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying works like the Discworld Series, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.

        I guess it felt like JS&MN was trying too hard. Or maybe I just missed the point.

        • BlindKungFuMaster says:

          I liked Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but it did take a long while to get going. But there are a lot of books in a somewhat similar vein, where I’m somewhere between “I really like it” and “it’s a bit boring”, for example Aubrey-Maturin. You’re probably just a bit farther away from the target audience than I am.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m somewhere between “I really like it” and “it’s a bit boring”, for example Aubrey-Maturin.

            I think it depends on whether you’re looking for Exciting Sea Battles! all the time or not; what hooked me on the series was an in-period joke (one of Aubrey’s terrible jokes) that had me laughing my head off and going “Okay, now I see I like two-hundred year old jokes” and sticking with the series, whereas if it had been straight Exciting Sea Battles! all the time, I probably wouldn’t have 🙂

            O’Brian has got a touch of Pratchett in that he’s not trying so hard to write Serious Literature that he won’t use silly jokes like having Jack Aubrey, temporarily stuck on land and waiting for a command, complaining to Stephen about how he’s fretting so much he can’t even eat and he’s losing all this weight – at the same time as he rocks the carriage getting into it since he’s six foot and eighteen stone.

          • I liked the Aubrey Maturin books. One of them had the following blurb on the back (by memory so not verbatim):

            “C. S. Forester’s Hornblower books have given great pleasure to many, myself among them. These are so much better it is almost unfair to compare them”

            Signed Mary Renault.

            Hard to imagine a more impressive endorsement.

            I also liked the Hornblower books. But Hornblower differs from those around him in being more like us. Aubrey and Maturin are believable late 18th/early 19th century types.

        • Orpheus says:

          I really enjoyed the atmosphere. The world felt like it had some depth to it, the characters were interesting, and the story was pretty unique.
          Then again, I also love Jane Austen, so I guess I am probably square in the middle of the niche it was targeting.

          • BlindKungFuMaster says:

            Yep, thought about Austen as well. So you should probably try Aubrey-Maturin.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I’ve been working my through Aubrey-Maturin for years (up to The Commodore, I think?). They’re really nice comfort books, good for a weekend at the lake or something.

            The books are very much character and atmosphere books, and not really strong on plot – you read ’em because you want to spend some time in His Majesty’s Royal Navy, hanging out with some interesting gentlemen and enjoy the sea breeze. The latter half of the series has taken about 5 books to cover a single voyage. There are adventures and misadventures along the way, characters come and go, but a larger plot there certainly is not – it seems to be almost purely episodic by this point.

            I don’t mind.

        • Deiseach says:

          Agreed about “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell”; I expected I would like it a lot more than I did, because it has all the elements I should like, but it never quite gelled for me.

          I think there were one or two elements thrown into the mix that made the story wander off-track a bit; while I appreciate what she was trying to do with the Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair, in the end that storyline was a distraction. If it had stuck to “18th century magical theorist versus self-taught practical magician”, I’d have liked it much more – I do think it only really got going in the end with Norrell and Strange, and then she just left it there.

          Or a story about the Good People re-emerging in the 18th century and a quasi-rebellion against the Hanoverians with that separate kingdom in the North of England would have worked, too.

          But Patrick O’Brian is a very, very hard act to follow, and Aubrey-Maturin a high bar, and unhappily Strange-Norrell didn’t get there for me. I wish they had! I’d have eaten that up and asked for more!

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I liked JS&MN a lot– for whatever reason I found the prose very satisfying if I read it with attention– otherwise it dissolved into slush.

          I liked the snark, I liked the mental/emotional cost of studying magic, I liked the chaotic elves.

    • keranih says:

      Harry Connolly’s A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark. Urban fantasy set in Seattle. *Not* the usual sort of story. Unfortunately a stand-alone novel (so far.) (2015)

      The last three books in Barbara Hambly’s vampire series have been published since 2012 – these are a fairly well grounded-in-biology set of books about a pair of vampire hunters and the vampire that gets caught up in their lives (and vice versa.) Victorian England (and parts Abroad) and brooding Byronic characters, if you like that sort of thing. None of these is as good as the second in the series (Traveling with the Dead) but still recommended.

      Bujold has a novella series through Amazon that’s really pretty interesting. “Pendric and Des”.

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        Harry Connolly’s “Twenty palaces” series was really good. His later stuff didn’t quite convince me.

      • Deiseach says:

        Liked the first Hambly one very much, was okay with the second, but the third one disappointed me and I haven’t followed the rest of the series since. A pity, since she did good work with the legend and didn’t throw in new twists of her own (like sparkles) while reviving the genre.

        Then again, someone else might find the storyline goes exactly how they would best like it, and would love the series. I’d definitely recommend the first one.

    • Nick says:

      Check out Malazan Book of the Fallen if you haven’t already. Give it two books and if you’re not hooked, you’re not hooked.

      Try Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. I’m sure we’ll get the third book eventually….

      You a Sanderson guy? I’ve only read a few of his, but his Mistborn trilog(ies) and Stormlight Archive are well regarded. Second series isn’t going to be finished for twenty years, though.

      These should keep you busy a while. 😀

      • Well Armed Sheep says:

        Re Malazan: I hate, like cannot read two sentences of, Sanderson style fantasy where every character’s name has startling apostrophes and unusual consonants and prose quality is a tertiary or quarternary concern. Would anyone please discuss whether Malazan Book of the Fallen is going to fire off similar alarms? Does anyone strongly dislike Sanderson but like the Malazan books?

        Rothfuss: I used to be very enthusiastic about king killer chron until a recent reread. The second book is 1000 pages long with 100 pages of plot advancement. It reads like 10 installments of a (very good) YA fantasy series—home, adventure, home, adventure at home, multi book arc away from home home— no real motion forward. I think Rothfuss has already hit the GRRM point where he has no clue what to do to get his characters from where they are to where they are supposed to be—especially not in the space of one book.

        I honesty wouldn’t recommend the books at this point — not worth the investment unless he really pulls a rabbit out with book three.

        • BlindKungFuMaster says:

          The first Malazan book is really not very good in terms of, well, everything. I don’t remember about the apostrophes, but there might be a few as well. Apparently it does get a lot better in later books, but I never got there.

          I second the point about Rothfuss. I read the first book in one sitting, it’s just told amazingly well. But as soon as I stopped reading my opinion of the book began to drop. I began a reread after a few years and got stuck in the middle. I thought maybe he can up his strengths and remove his weaknesses and “The Wise Man’s Fear” will be great, but he did the opposite. If you have read a lot of fantasy “The Kingkiller Chronicle” is just really derivative.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think I read the first Malazan book at the wrong time and/or in the wrong mood, it was in the equivalent of a hangover from reading Storm Constantine’s Wraethu novels and I wanted something more straightforward with less irritating characters, and I didn’t get that, plus I got an unresolved storyline and “if you want to know more, slog your way through the next couple doorstopper volumes” which I was very much not inclined to do.

            So I can’t give an honest judgement of them, just that I reflexively twitch when anyone mentions Malazan Book of the Fallen and go “no!” 🙂

        • Iain says:

          The Malazan books will probably set off your Apostrophe Alarm just as hard as Brandon Sanderson, but the prose is better.

          If the stereotype about Brandon Sanderson is that he has painstakingly constructed a mountain of world-building and will tell you all about it in great detail, Steven Erikson is the opposite — he has constructed a mountain of world-building, but refuses to provide any exposition whatsoever. Sanderson will painstakingly explain his system of magic; Erikson will force you to infer it from context. Backstories are alluded to, but rarely provided in detail. Erikson never tells if he can show — or, better, make you guess. Malazan is more about character and mood. Erikson is an archaeologist in real life, which comes through as a focus on deep history and fallen civilizations.

          I’m not convinced that you will like Malazan, but it is different enough that it’s probably worth trying. Because the books are so consistent in throwing you into the deep end, this is one of the rare series where I think you can safely skip the first book (which is generally seen as a low point). The end of the second book is a high point; if it hasn’t grabbed you by then, the series is probably not for you.

          (The parallel series by Ian C. Esslemont, set in the same universe, is bad and should be avoided.)

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I want to second everything Iain said – he explained the series much better than I ever could.

            It’s tough to say if you’d like it, though. There are definitely apostrophes.

            Now, I enjoy Sanderson well enough, but my opinion of him was actually significantly lessened by Malazan – after swimming Erikson for a while, Sanderson just seemed shallow and unsatisfying. Oathbringer, for example, I would say is inferior to any Malazan book except Gardens of the Moon.

            Erikson makes you work at his books, he refuses to help you out in any way. If you do put in the work, though, then you get something that as far as I know you can’t get anywhere else.

            And I think Iain is right – it might just be possible to skip the first book and start with the second, and only head back to Gardens of the Moon if you really like the series.

        • Nick says:

          The prose quality of the first Malazan book is pretty weak, but it improves. I’ve read the first five books now (I’ve bought six through eight and will be tackling those sometime this year, but I’m finishing some other series first), and two is my favorite, but there’s definitely a quality improvement over the five.

          Kingkiller Chronicle’s second book is seriously frustrating: it fails to achieve, hardly any of the developments which the first book set up. But it’s still really enjoyable, and I expect that the third book will mostly deliver—it’s a very serious case of middle book syndrome, rather than a case of the series losing its purpose, I think. Remember that it was originally one long book! Like ASOIAF, the tale grew in the telling.

          ETA: Since I was beaten here, I generally agree with Iain’s assessment of Erikson. I definitely like that style of worldbuilding, the sense of “deep history and fallen civilizations,” and the way that 300,000 year old events have a direct impact on the present. It’s just so damn cool! We need more archaeologists turned fantasy writers.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            The prose style in book 8, Toll the Hounds, really stands out from the rest of the series, and it’s a big part of why that book is my favorite in the series.

            It’s apparently very hit or miss, though – tons of people have TtH as their least favorite book.

        • My reaction to Rothfuss was similar–a very good writer, but he takes an awful lot of pages to get not very far. And after a while I found the protagonist irritating.

        • yodelyak says:

          I liked Rothfuss very much!

          If you want to read it for an adventure tale, it’s a solid 8/10 (lightning! rooftop chases! poisonings! swordplay! camaraderie!), but the really good thing about it is the literary value. Come for the adventure, but stay for a classic Greek tragedy where the characters’ own natures drive the story forward.

          IMHO, Rothfuss is a writer who remembers what it is like to be a young man, to have early-childhood roots in a functional family life but have been alone against the world from a very early age. The development of Kvothe’s internal life, and the way he realizes important mistakes after they’ve already been made–it’s friggin’ brilliant. I don’t know how it ends–the third book isn’t out yet–but there’s a heavy dose of foreshadowing, and so I think it’s much more like an Ursula K LeGuin novel (so yeah, much more Greek tragedy than Marvel comic), except a good bit more, uh, male.

          Oh, and if names matter I think the characters have normal slightly stuffy names, with “Kvothe” being the hardest, probably, and most of them being closer to “Denna” or “Ambrose” or “Simmon”–really pretty reasonable if you want the world to have a bit of a ‘feel’ but want to avoid names like “dra’na’garth” or etc. Perhaps relatedly, the world has magic, but the magic mostly lives in the space of “true words are powerful” and people who have some magic mostly resemble people with fewer superstitions and more advanced tech. It mostly feels quite natural and as mostly-behind-the-scenes in the novels’ world as chemistry and chemists are in our world.

          Also, Tak is a fun game to play.

      • Vanzetti says:

        >>>Try Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind.

        I you want an entire book of about an orphan being sad in a forest.

      • Orpheus says:

        I tried Mistborn, barely made it trough the first part. It was just so generic.
        I read Rothfuss’s books. The writing is good, but there were A LOT of problems, particularly with pacing. I think what he needs is a better editor.

        Check out Malazan Book of the Fallen if you haven’t already. Give it two books and if you’re not hooked, you’re not hooked.

        I am planning to check out this series, but I find the attitude of “give it two books” supper strange. Combined, these books are over 1500 pages long (for comparison, War and Peace is only ~1200). If it takes this long to get good, then frankly I don’t think it is worth the bother.

        • Nick says:

          The series is over 11000 pages. 1500 pages is a big investment in absolute terms, but not that big compared to that total, and I don’t think one can make a fair assessment after the first book, so I had to recommend a second one. Cut me some slack here—there are folks on goodreads and reddit recommending you read at least the first three before passing judgment! 😛

        • quaelegit says:

          Some people dislike Mistborn but find Sanderson’s other work a lot more interesting (particularly common is hating Mistborn but loving Stormlight Archives). I can’t comment on the differences between the two because I’ve only read Mistborn (I was a big fan).

          If you want to try different Sanderson, I really enjoyed his Reckoners trilogy* (first book is Steelheart). It’s urban/superhero fantasy, and what really appealed to me is the sense of humor. I don’t know if it’s too “generic” because the only other superhero fiction I’ve read is Worm**, but I thought the plot/pacing was well done and the sense of humor really worked for me (it’s a very different narrative voice than Mistborn).

          * I’m not sure if it’s a trilogy actually… I’m kind of hoping there are more books to be published.

          ** Worm: one of the best web-serials out there. Very long though (I think ~1.5 million words). There’s a sequel, “Ward”, that just got started last fall, so not too far along yet.

          • BlindKungFuMaster says:

            “Stormlight Archives” are a step up from Mistborn. But Sanderson just has some flaws as an author that he can’t really get rid off. His characters and dialogue just aren’t real.

            I would recommend his novellas, like “Legion”. In the short form flat characters don’t do that much damage.

          • Orpheus says:

            I read the Reckoners. It was Ok, though the last book was a bit weak.

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          I am planning to check out this series, but I find the attitude of “give it two books” supper strange. Combined, these books are over 1500 pages long (for comparison, War and Peace is only ~1200). If it takes this long to get good, then frankly I don’t think it is worth the bother.

          It might just be possible to skip book 1, if you’re nervous.

          However, I will say that the series is worth the bother. As fantasy it’s utterly unique, and has kind of ruined my enjoyment of other fantasy books since then. I’m sort of gushing all over this thread about it – I believe, regrettably, that I am That Guy.

          But you should really give it a shot.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          So something kind of weird about Mistborn: Sanderson is playing a pretty long game in that series. A lot of the bits in the first book that read as fantasy cliches are in fact long-term setups. So, for example (spoilers follow, though I’m not spoiling the resolution of anything):

          Vin is not the chosen one.
          Vin does not anthropomorphize her doubts into the voice of her dead brother.
          Vin does not have the special power to sense Mistborn through copper clouds.
          There is a binary and concrete reason why Vin can use the power of the mists when she does and not other times.
          The Lord Ruler is probably insane and definitely harsh but is trying to save humanity from a genuine threat.

          Etc.

          Now, I’m not here to tell anyone that they have to love this book. The prose is pretty pedestrian, the characters can be thin, if you don’t like the weird metals magic stuff you aren’t going to like it any more later on, etc. But to the extent that your complaint about the book is that it plays into a bunch of fantasy cliches, it subverts a lot of those later on.

          • Orpheus says:

            Yes, I kind of figured that was the case. The thing is (and this ties in a bit to my earlier comment to Nick) that these days, my tolerance for long-term set ups etc. is rather low. There is a nigh infinite supply of stuff to read out there, and the time I have is very limited, so I rather find something that is good immediately, and then gets even better.

          • CthulhuChild says:

            Orpheus, while I appreciate a limited tolerance for long-term setups (40+ hours of gameplay is no longer a selling feature for me in the world of video games), you might be shooting yourself in the foot here. You’re obviously quite familiar with the genre, and are presumably well read within it. That kind of diminishes the odds of their being “something that is good immediately and gets even better” that you’ve never heard of. A lot the appeal of a story will come from the novelty of the tropes and characters (IE, something that feels fresh and new and isn’t derivative). There is a ton of pap-fantasy set in the forgotten realms that distills the most accessible aspects of Tolkien into a sub-200 page novel, but I suspect you’d be bored to tears with it. Empirically it is hard to be original, and doing so in a way that is immediately apparent without any build up is exponentially more so.

            Ironic TLDR: Don’t be surprised if everything in this thread is stuff you’ve read or stuff that “takes a while to get good”.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        The Malazan books are the best epic fantasy I have ever read, with the potential exception of the Lord of the Rings.

        Are there apostrophes? Yes, definitely. And every book is a doorstopper. And the first book, Gardens of the Moon, is the weakest of the bunch. However, the books that came later had me hooked. Erikson cares about his prose, he cares about characters. They’re like nothing else I have read, and most fiction I’ve read since has kind of paled in comparison.

        You do have to at least give Deadhouse Gates a shot, though, and you can’t appreciate it without Gardens of the Moon, which regrettably means ~3000 page investment before you know whether or not you’ll like it.

        If you like Deadhouse Gates, though, you will almost certainly like the rest of the series*, if you don’t, then Malazan is not your thing.

        *Lots of people hate Toll the Hounds for some reason, but it was actually my favorite book in the series.

        • Nick says:

          I was hoping I’d draw you out to make a more spirited defense of the series, since you unlike me have read to the end. 😀

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Yeah, I’m moving up and down the thread embarrassing myself with my unabashed love of the series.

            Too bad Esslemont has been mostly a disappointment. I’m struggling to finish Return of the Crimson Guard.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      I think K.J. Parker is great. Unfortunately the two trilogies (Fencer, Engineer) I have read were published just outside of your time interval. But anyway. Unforgettable characters.

      And Scott Bakker’s stuff is seriously awesome. Not always well rounded, but always really epic. Very dark. Possibly even more unforgettable characters. Great ideas that are now being ripped off by second rate authors (always a good sign). His second trilogy “The aspect emperor” was published in the last 10 years. But of course you’d have to start with the first trilogy “The prince of nothing”.

      There is now a trilogy of trilogies on Fitz Farseer by Robin Hobb, started in the nineties, I guess, and was finished last year. A bit of a “love it or hate it” thing. Great descriptions of complicated relationships between flawed characters.

      “The first law”-trilogy by Joe Avercrombie, mostly published in 2008. Features one of my all time favourite fantasy characters.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Seconding the Abercrombie books. The first three in the series are decent, the fourth is really good, the fifth is great… The sixth I didn’t like so much, orpnhfr V ernyvmrq gung bar be gjb vzcbegnag punenpgref unq haorngnoyr cybg nezbhe naq nyy gur grafvba jrag bhg bs vg.

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          Thirding Abercrombie. He’s kind of like an intro-level GRRM, I think – same base level of violence and cynicism, much better writing and reading pace. The First Law trilogy was really good, I enjoyed Best Served Cold, The Heroes is one of my favorite fantasy war-novels, and like dndnrsn I was disappointed by Red Country, for largely the same reasons he was.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think compared to GRRM there’s a lot more “narrativium”, in Pratchett’s coinage – important characters do get plot armour in a way that only one character in ASOIAF gets. He’s also much funnier. Honestly, kind of like someone decided to answer the question nobody asked, “what would it be like if Terry Pratchett was grimdark?” The result is pretty good, but if someone goes in expecting ASOIAF (or, the better ASOAIF novels) it’s not what they’ll get.

          • Gossage Vardebedian says:

            Supposedly Abercrombie is working on another trilogy which will presumably – hopefully? – shegure ratntr Onlnm naq Xunyhy jvgu rnpu bgure.

      • Vanzetti says:

        >>>And Scott Bakker’s stuff is seriously awesome.

        I finished the first book, started the second, realized that I don’t care about any of the characters (they are all awful) and stopped reading.

        But Anasurimbor is one of the most infuriating things (can’t really call him a character)in modern literature, so there’s that…

        • BlindKungFuMaster says:

          Anasurimbor Kellhus is basically a take on superintelligent AI, not really a character that’s true.

          I actually stopped after the second book because it was just too much violence for my taste. But then I came across the third book in a used book shop and took it as a sign … and I’m glad I continued reading.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I enjoyed Prince of Nothing a lot more once I accepted that Kellhus was not a character, but a force of nature, and the real story was about how the other characters handled being around him.

            The third book is even more violent and dark than the last two, and I hear the Aspect-Emperor trilogy is even worse. Haven’t read that one yet, but I intend to.

        • CthulhuChild says:

          Scott Bakker is the literary equivalent of gin. It’s polarizing, and the things that people dislike about it are the things that other people like about it.

          Anasurimbor is by far my favorite part of that series, and comments re: super-intelligent AI in a fantasy setting are even more spot on than they appear, because while rationalism is about winning, the setting is conspicuously anti-rational.

          Also, I loved all the characters, even the ones I hated and wanted dead, and the horrific tragedy of their story just kept piling calamity upon calamity in ways so compelling that I could not stop reading.

          … except for The Unholy Consult, which in retrospect I really didn’t like very much. But honestly, the first series is pretty self contained and you don’t need to read the second to get closure.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            My biggest struggle with it was the obsession with sex and sexual metaphors for just about every action. I figured that the Consult was meant to be the antithesis to Kellhus, and that Bakker intended to show a violent, ugly world, but jeez.

          • CthulhuChild says:

            Interesting that you found the obsession with sex troubling, because I normally hate sex scenes in books (for the same reason I usually heroic action sequences) but the sex didn’t bother me, because it was never about the acts themselves so much as what they reveal about the characters.

            Bakker has also stated that he writes specifically for men, and intends the treatment of sex to be disturbing. The perversity of the Consult is not a function of their being the antithesis to Kellhus, but instead was designed to include elements that readers can identify with, all mixed in amidst the filth. The idea is to leave you questioning the nature of your own desires, which follows the general philosophical question of trying to parse personal motivations while still being subject to the context that gave rise to them (IE, the titular Darkness that Came Before, complete with a highly sexual double meaning).

            Or at least that’s what I got out of the book. Like I said, it is my favorite fantasy novel and also one I generally avoid recommending to anyone because most people seem to hate it.

      • Orpheus says:

        There is now a trilogy of trilogies on Fitz Farseer by Robin Hobb, started in the nineties, I guess, and was finished last year.

        I loved the first two trilogies, and was massively disappointed by the third, particularly the last book.

        • BlindKungFuMaster says:

          I am actually stuck in the middle of the last book. I wasn’t sure whether it was the book or just me.

    • brmic says:

      The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins. A bit weird, a bit brutal, but with lots of interesting ideas.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I remember reading it, and really liking it, but then (as I recall; I read it a few years ago) it takes a wild swing near the end into telling instead of showing.

      • David Speyer says:

        I enjoyed this a great deal. I will also say that there was a point in the middle where I was wondering “Is this book going to be cool enough to make it worth this much suffering?” In the end I decided “yes”, but it was a close call.

        I’d elaborate “a bit brutal”: Contains torture, rape, parental and sibling abuse, and probably other stuff I’m forgetting. Descriptions are generally not vivid, but if you put in the effort to visualize what’s happening, it’s bad.

    • achenx says:

      The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch is a fun time IMO. It has two sequels which are pretty good, and supposedly more coming.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      Just remembered Mark Lawrence’s “The Read Queen’s War”.
      That’s a really fun read with a likeable antihero protagonist.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns I admired just for the sheer audacity of it. I was alternately shocked and amused. Kind of mean to get around to King of Thorns and Emperor someday.

        • BlindKungFuMaster says:

          “The Red Queen’s War” is much less controversial. Which is why I read it instead of “Prince of Thorns”, (also the sample didn’t convince). But given that TRQW was excellent I probably have to give that trilogy a shot some day.

        • cassander says:

          The audacity wears off a bit in the second and third, which makes them a little less fun, but I enjoyed both a lot. The audio books are good too.

    • Well Armed Sheep says:

      Piggybacking this to ask a fantasy q that has been lurking in my head for a bit. Has anyone reread the core Dragonlance books (as in Wiess and Hickman Chronicles and Legends trilogies) as a grownup? Do they hold up?

      I loved them as a kid and have been contemplating revisiting them but don’t want to ruin the magic.

    • cassander says:

      Someone else mentioned it, but the First law books (one proper trilogy and then three more or less one off books that continue the story) are excellent, and after a few years of writing another trilogy, Abercrombie has another book in the series due out this year.

    • Vermillion says:

      Really enjoyed The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin as well as the rest of the series.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      If you like urban fantasy you should probably give “The Dresden Files” a try. I personally am a fan. Real page turners, good world building, great side characters and a strong first person narrator.

    • Anaxagoras says:

      I have lots of opinions on this!

      I agree that Patrick Rothfuss’s stuff is well written but poorly paced. Approximately nothing happens in the entire thousand-page second book. Our hero gains a few skills, but nothing happens to change the relationship between the characters or the state of the world.

      Joe Abercrombie is a lot of fun. His stuff is similar in content to ASoIaF, but he actually enjoys writing it, and there’s a ton more dark humor. Best Served Cold is a lot of fun — each section of the book is in a different style, and while there’s a bunch of awful stuff, it’s surprisingly upbeat. He does some interesting stuff with character development, where sometimes people find it’s just too hard to stick with a change that they’ve made.

      Brandon Sanderson is what he is. He’s not talented, but he’s really knowledgeable about what makes a book and series work. If you want something done well with craftsmanship instead of artistry, he’s your man.

      Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook is a really good book about a woman who wakes up with no memory and finds out that her past self was a higher-up in a super-powered bureaucracy that protects England from the supernatural. Cliched premise, but the execution is really, really good. O’Malley writes very well — the main character is legitimately interesting and well-developed, as is her pre-amnesia self, the plotting is top-notch, and the tone swings from creepy to funny exactly as needed. This is one of the most entertaining books I’ve read.

      Daniel Abraham’s The Long Price Quartet has a really well-thought-out world. Any concept may be summoned, incarnated into a humanlike form, and bound by specially-trained poets, but only once, and all the cool stuff (FIRE, STORM, BLADES, etc.) was bound and lost long ago, so by the time of the books, the city-states are stuck with elemental personifications like Seedless and Stone Made Soft. So they use these for economic advantage — Seedless makes its city the leading textile power by deseeding bales of cotton all day. The characterization, both of humans and incarnations, is quite good, and the world grows over the course of the series. Also check out his short story The Cambist and Lord Iron.

      If you’re willing to look at short stories, check out Kij Johnson. Somehow, no one has ever heard of her, but she’s an incredible fantasy writer who led the narrative department at Wizards of the Coast for years. She has a collection called At the Mouth of the River of Bees, but you can find a lot of her stuff freely available online. Check out her Last Dance at Dante’s for a really vivid and abstract take on Hell.

      • For what it’s worth, “The Cambist and Lord Iron” is one of the stories in the collection I’m creating of short works of literature with interesting economic insights. I haven’t read anything else of his, but perhaps should.

        My essay on the story.

      • Iain says:

        Also check out his short story The Cambist and Lord Iron.

        This was good. Thanks for the link.

      • Gossage Vardebedian says:

        O’Malley has a sequel to The Rook called Stiletto, and it was not disappointing.

        • Anaxagoras says:

          I actually did find it disappointing. Still good, but a definite step down from what’s one of my very favorite books. He doesn’t have the epistolary element that really helped the first one, and so his pacing is weird and kind of bad. That bit near the end where they fight the ghouls is incredibly out of place, and the analogous stuff in The Rook worked because it wasn’t happening at the same time as the main plot, but was instead being conveyed after the fact through the letters.

          Also, I found the villains inconsistent and the metaphor a bit heavy-handed. I don’t think the protagonists were as cool as Myffanwy, who that one subplot seemed to exist for the sole purpose of sidelining. It wasn’t bad; he’s still a good writer with a vivid imagination, but it was not on par with The Rook.

          • Gossage Vardebedian says:

            Hmm. I guess I agree the letters/amnesia thing being absent was a negative, but obviously he can’t get away with that a second time. I think the main way the second book suffers by comparison is the lack of all the learning about the world of the book, which again is inevitable. I didn’t have a problem with the other things you mentioned, though I agree Myfawny remains the most compelling character by far, and it did seem O’Malley was trying to give his bench a few minutes.

            The one problem I did have is this. I tend to give up on an urban fantasy series when the fantasy world gets so large it becomes untenable to have so many powered beings walking around, and so many supernatural things happening, without the whole world noticing. O’Malley might be closing in on that fast.

    • Rusty says:

      Ghostwritten (1999)
      number9dream (2001)
      The Bone Clocks (2014)

      These are all by David Mitchell and are (I guess) fantasy but not at all LoTR or First Law style. I think they are terrific!

      Given your 10 year cut off I’m afraid you can’t read the first two 😉

      • Rob K says:

        The Bone Clocks also includes one of my favorite “does this author to some extent believe in his fantasy world” bread crumb trails. I’m still not sure about the answer!

    • quaelegit says:

      I’ve mentioned a few in this thread already in replies to replies, but some stand alone recs:

      — “Uprooted” by Naomi Novik is good and interesting I think. Personally I really liked atmosphere the book created. It’s also somewhat dark in tone, but probably not particularly dark compared to some of the other things that have been mentioned.

      — China Mieville might be an author to look into. I’ve read two of his recent books — really liked “The City & The City”, disliked “Railsea”. His thing seems to be taking really out-there world building ideas and trying to make them work — I think succeeded with TC&TC, failed with Railsea.

      • Nick says:

        The City & The City is really neat, but I’m not sure it’s good. Like, I appreciated it, and there were some things I really liked—noir detectives! anthropologists! folklore! weird urbanism!—but it all ended up so mundane! I’m definitely interested in trying out his other stuff, though, especially the Bas-Lag books. Perdido Street Station for instance sounds right up my alley.

        • quaelegit says:

          Personally I liked the ending. I can see why you call it mundane but I thought it worked (spoilers: Naq V yvxrq gung gur obbx cerfragrq guvf napvrag vafbyinoyr zlfgrel naq vaqrrq gur punenpgref qvqa’g fbyir vg). I do think the exploration in the middle of the book was strong enough to hold its own regardless of the ending.

          I’ve also been meaning to read Perdido Street Station for a while now too! Also some others but I’ve gotten the titles mixed up. I picked up Railsea instead because it was cheap on Kindle, and now I know why its cheap on Kindle…

          • Nick says:

            His line in my reading list is as follows:

            China Miéville’s books (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, Iron Council, The City & the City, Kraken, Embassytown, Three Moments of an Explosion)

            The only one of these I’ve read is TC&TC. I think I’ve read one or two of his short stories too, though, which I liked; he had one called “Devil in the Details” or something to that effect in the book Children of Cthulhu.

          • Gossage Vardebedian says:

            I’ve real all of Mieville. Perdido Street Station and The Scar are both fantastic, amazing, wonderful books. Unique, with loads of really clever ideas, enough for several books. Iron Council is much less fun; similar to the first two but fewer and less clever ideas, and a little political, though I have to say you’d really never know Mieville is a full-on Communist IRL. After that one, the (non-Bas-Lag) books tend to be based on one clever idea and run with them. Kraken and Embassytown each are built on a conceit that spins wider and wider, propelling the stories and producing in the reader a really weird, immersive feeling. The City and the City is built on a different sort of conceit. I think the novel works, and fortunately the book is shorter than usual – it has to be, really – but it’s an exercise to cooperate with what Mieville is asking you to do. Railsea is supposedly a YA novel but is another very clever little world.

            Mieville has ideas that run orthogonally to everyone else’s. Nobody comes up with the kinds of bases for his stories that he does. For that reason I think his books are kind of wonderful. His output does seem to be tailing off in both quality and quantity of late. But still . . .

          • Rob K says:

            @Gossage that’s a really good way to put it. I found Three Moments of An Explosionpretty inconsistent, but there are 3 or 4 images from that book (certainly hidden suits, the sakken, and insect metamorphosis in magic) that really stick with me. I have a special love for The City & the City because the setting is such a great metaphor for the way we actually live in cities, But Perdido Street Station is the one that really shines for the sheer volume of memorable ideas like that combined in a good adventure story.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m putting in a good word for Railsea. It’s a lot like a theme park ride. It has no respect for the cube square law. It has silly metafiction.

            I have no idea who is likely to like it, but if you like silly clever fiction, give it a try.

        • BlindKungFuMaster says:

          I’ve read “Perdido Street Station” and to me it is one of these books that are kind of broken in the middle. The first part is great, the second part is weird horror trash.

          Locke Lamora suffers from the same affliction. First part light hearted conmen adventure, second part ultra violence.

          Lot’s of movies have the same problem.

      • professorgerm says:

        I’ll second ‘Uprooted’ and add that the audiobook by Julia Emelin is wonderful. Her accent really helped with the atmosphere as I listened.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Here’s a recommendation that’s pretty unlike most of the books on this thread:

      The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

      It is the story of an unfavored young prince who unexpectedly becomes the emperor, and is deeply unprepared for it. The word that always comes to mind for this book is “gentle.” The stakes are relatively small compared to a lot of epic fantasy (the world is not in danger), and almost all of the book is the protagonist trying to figure out politics and relationships. I thought it was well-written and interesting. It models a language that makes heavy use of formal/informal grammatical cases using the archaic English informal (thou).

      And here’s a different recommendation: The Dagger and the Coin series by Daniel Abraham. First book, The Dragon’s Path. Daniel Abraham is the finest writer in contemporary sf/fantasy. You may recognize him as one half of the author duo “James S. A. Corey,” which writes the Expanse SF series. In my not-at-all-humble opinion, his solo work is better.

    • Iain says:

      Things that were mentioned above:

      The Lies of Locke Lamora is great: a heist novel set in fantasy Venice. You should read it. There are two sequels (and theoretically more on the way, although progress has been slow). They’re fine, but don’t tie everything together as nicely as the first.

      As I said above, the Malazan Book of the Fallen does an interesting thing. You may or may not like that thing; if you do, the good news is that there is a lot of it.

      The Prince of Nothing series is interesting, but almost comically grimdark. It’s successful at setting up a particular mood; whether or not you want to spend time immersed in that mood is unclear. The prose teeters on the edge of overwrought.

      I liked The Library at Mount Char. It’s weird and fun (for a value of fun that involves human sacrifice) and relatively short.

      Grace of Kings is interesting, but I don’t think ASOIAF is the right comparison point. I agree with rahien.din that it feels like a classical Chinese epic (with the caveat that I haven’t, you know, read any classical Chinese epics).

      The Aubrey-Maturin novels are not fantasy, and were not written in the last ten years, but they are very very good. Of everything in this post, they are the books that I am most convinced will pass the test of time.

      I thought Abercrombie was solid, but I was not as blown away as I had expected from the hype. Your mileage may vary.

      I liked The Fifth Season. I had previously read and disliked The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by the same author, so the quality of The Fifth Season came as a pleasant surprise. It might push some buttons for anti-SJ readers, but probably fewer than you’d expect from the author.

      And to throw a few suggestions of my own onto the pile:

      Guy Gavriel Kay does historical fantasy novels — nearly based on real history, but with details smudged and names changed to give himself more room to play. I particularly recommend the Lions of Al’Rassan (set in Fantasy Moorish Spain) and the Sarantine Mosaic duology (Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors, set in the Fantasy Byzantine Empire). They’re very character driven and lyrical.

      The Vlad Taltos novels by Steven Brust are fun, and some of them have been published in the last decade. It starts with the main character as an human assassin for the mob in a fantasy elfland (but not at all the sort of elfland you would expect from that description), but Brust deliberately does something new and different in each book. There is a side/prequel trilogy that does a pastiche of Dumas, which I would describe as delightfully cheeky.

      The Traitor Baru Cormorant is about a young prodigy trying to take down the empire that subjugated her people from within. It does not pull its punches. I believe the sequel is coming out soon.

      Edit to add:

      I also quite liked the Goblin Emperor. It’s kind of anti-grimdark, in that being reasonable and nice ends up being a successful strategy.

      I haven’t read the Long Price Quartet, but I enjoyed Daniel Abraham’s other series, The Dagger and The Coin. I would best describe it as solid; it doesn’t do anything incredibly new or unique, but it’s well done fantasy. I can’t imagine it ever being somebody’s favourite series, but if you are looking for something good to read you could do much worse.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        The Long Price is definitely unique. It’s not about spectacular magic or bloody battles. There’s a bit of intrigue, and the magic system, while interesting, isn’t really the star until later. It’s really more about character development.

        The books are nice and short, and I think Books 3 and 4 are worth reading Books 1 & 2 for, which I found to be a bit of a slog.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          I’ll fight you both. The Long Price is amazing (all four books) and The Dagger and the Coin is new and unique. 😛

          The Dagger and the Coin intentionally uses a lot of trappings of traditional fantasy, but I mean guys this is a fantasy series in which wizards are relatively common currency and none of the protagonists is a wizard and the books never really bother to explain how wizards work (!!!). That’s crazy weird for modern epic fantasy. It’s a series in which one of the main protagonists introduces fiat currency to the world in order to wage a war. Come on, how can people on this blog not love it? It’s all about unexamined culture war beliefs!

          The Long Price is what I call a “clockwork tragedy.” The beauty in it is in watching how all the pieces come meticulously and inevitably together to destroy everyone. It’s a lot like the Engineer trilogy that someone name-checked above, but, you know, not relying on absurdly inhuman characters.

          • Anatoly says:

            Fight me – I hated the Shadow in Summer so much that I wasted no time in not progressing to other books of the Long Price.

            I now use this book as my go-to example of what I dislike most intensely in contemporary fantasy – that for all the weird circumstances, the ambient moral universe in which the heroes reside is that of the early 21st century Western liberal society (and the grimdark antiheroes usually live there as well, merely negating the principles for shock value, but it’s the same principles).

            The novel begins (this is from memory so forgive small errors) with a child being brought up in a cultish pseudo-religious school where children are disciplined kinda harshly and shouted at a lot, though it doesn’t look all that severe by historical standards (they’re not whipped, say, and whipping was routine until recently). Despite seemingly being bought up in a honor-based society, the child correctly intuits the superior individualistic moral principles of early-21st-century USA; first, by first trying to pointlessly run away (shaming the family name is not considered as a factor), for which he’s rewarded by higher rank, because that’s what the teachers were secretly hoping he would do. Then he refuses to scold and punish younger kids, because obviously the psychological well-being of children is much more important than anything else the school exists for or goes on in that world; that *also* turns out to be a secret sign of moral progress the teachers were hoping for (while *teaching* the exact opposite). Having thus proved his moral worth, the child is about to become a private disciple of the Great Solitary Teacher, but in a stunning display of moral one-upmansship, he rejects all that and runs away after all, because harshing so many kids to find moral ones is too immoral after all; so even though the teachers are secretly 21st-century-Western-liberal-moral after all, he’s still even more 21st-century-Western-liberal-moral yet. If you squint, you can just make out the Hallmark channel logo on the sand as the child walks away, rejecting promised wisdom and power and glory.

            The fantasy parts of the novel (the andat and all that) were actually intriguing. But the incessant and achingly anachronistic moral posturing made everything else in the novel seem like cheap props.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I will concede that if your sole standard for “good fantasy” is “this world not set in the past of the real world has a moral code appropriate to the past of the real world,” you may not like The Long Price Quartet.

      • quaelegit says:

        Oh man The Goblin Emperor sounds like exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for right now. Not op of course but thank you also for the rec (and Sandor above) 🙂

        • Iain says:

          A lot of people who like the Goblin Emperor also like The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, which is basically “people being nice to each other in space”. It didn’t really work for me, but if you like it the sequel is already out.

          • quaelegit says:

            “The Long Way…” was my favorite book I read last year!

            I told my mom to get my sister the sequel for Christmas, and then my sister passed the sequel to a friend, so I still haven’t read it 🙁 (I really ought to buy it for myself…)

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        Kay’s “Lions of Al’Rassan” are really well written, but the characters are a bunch of mary sues/marty stus. They are all flawless heroes, which doesn’t really do it for me.

        “The Traitor Baru Cormorant” is both told in a pretty distanced fashion and somewhat sjw-ish. Both of which I rather dislike.

        I second the point about “The Dagger and the Coin”. It’s really well done, but you don’t have to read it.

        I actually think that the third Locke Lamora novel is much more well rounded than the first. Which is a pleasant surprise because the second was a (small) step down.

        The first Vlad Taltos novel didn’t really convince me. I actually don’t remember anything about it, except that I read it. Do they get better?

        • Iain says:

          Yeah, Kay frequently writes his characters slightly larger than life. I don’t really see that as a problem — it’s not like he’s unwilling to challenge them or make them suffer — but your mileage may vary.

          Jhereg was Brust’s first novel. They do get better, but if you didn’t like the first one then maybe the series is not for you.

          We will have to agree to disagree about the relative quality of the Locke Lamora books. The first book stuck the landing, while the third book was a bit scattered and felt like less than the sum of its parts. I enjoyed the second book much more the second time I read it, knowing that Lynch was not going to make the dumb turn he was foreshadowing.

    • AG says:

      – “Alif the Unseen” by G. Willow Wilson. Fairly romantic.
      – I bounced hard off of Tom Holt’s books. The prose felt too impersonal, couldn’t get any emotional investment in his characters. Instead, A. Lee Martinez’s books (I’ve read “Divine Misfortune” and “Chasing the Moon” thus far) have scratched my humorous fantasy itch the most after Pratchett.
      – The Young Wizards series by Diane Duane was first published in the 80s, but she’s released “updated” versions of the early books, and they blur the line between fantasy and scifi. The Doctor even makes a quiet cameo in one of them! (Duane has also written several official Star Trek and Marvel novels, as well as scripts for TNG, BTAS, Gargoyles, and a German fantasy miniseries)
      – “The Epic Crush of Genie Lo” by F.C. Yee is very much YA, but its send-up of Bay Area Model Asian American school culture is too good, and the portrayal of Chinese deities is also like Martinez’s above.
      – I really enjoyed Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives trilogy. She avoids most of the pitfalls of YA fantasy world-building, but doesn’t allow the strong character focus to warp world-building, either. And everyone gets a justifiable arc.
      – “A Thousand Nights” by E.K. Johnson. Fantastic, fantastic book.
      – Tamora Pierce just put out a new Tortall book, “Tempests and Slaughter.” Its “things happen over a few years” chronicle structure isn’t my thing, but the prose is zippy and the deep dive into this fantasy culture is still a good read.
      – “Fox and Phoenix” by Beth Bernobich is a good yarn.

      I find that most adult fantasy books are insufferably indulgent (which is okay for Scifi since their digressions are more likely to be interesting and applicable). Juvenile fiction and YA are forced into better conservation of detail and attention to structure because kids are a tough audience.
      Ironically, the best world-building fantasy I read nowadays tends to be Fate Stay/Night fanfiction, where they dig into Nasuverse systems.

      And just out of the 10 year range, (2006), but I highly recommend “The Wand in the Word,” which is a series of interviews with a smorgasbord of great fantasy writers. Especially good is how a thread naturally emerges of tracking the relationship of fantasy writers to 1) WW2 and 2) Tolkien. But most all of them also talk about their work style/schedule, and it’s also great to see which authors had other day jobs before going full time on writing.

    • B Beck says:

      The Land Across by Gene Wolfe is a strange book (not really surprising), but I enjoyed it.

    • Bujold has been mentioned as a standard for comparison, but she is still writing, and I enjoyed the recent series of Penric Novelettes.

      My Salamander is within the past ten years and fantasy, but I am perhaps a little biased.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      “The Spirit Thief” 5-book series, starts with “The Spirit Thief”. Very enjoyable. The first book is probably the highlight in terms of fun stuff, but after that more of the lore of the world starts getting uncovered as well, and in that regard the series becomes deeper and more serious.

      “The Night Angel” trilogy. I originally read only the second and third books, and then found the first book to be…not as good. Maybe that’s because I already knew what was going to happen, or had built it up to impossible levels…or because I was reading it as an E-book and doing stuff on the side. I recommended it to my dad and he felt that the levels of gore and such were too much for him; it’s a fairly explicit series with a sometimes-depressing setting, but it’s definitely worth it. Don’t judge it by the cover quotes, either – it’s not just about some bad-ass assassin. Kind of, but not really.

      “The Sun Sword” 6-part book series. Part of a larger universe as well, but I’m reading some of the other stuff and it kind of drags. In general, these books get better upon a second reading. A very well set-up universe with a lot of different rules and characters and institutions, and then some of the rules have to be broken because bad things are happening and that sets up tension. A lot of interesting tensions actually are what make this series good. At the same time though, it can be difficult to know what the heck is going on until you know, well, what the heck is going on.

      Finally, part of a somewhat larger universe of books by Michael G. Manning, I got my start in at “Thornbear”. I think the style is…very mildly teenaged, but it plays into that well.

      Opinions I have on things mentioned so far: Malazan Books of the Fallen, I read all 10. Very confusing books in many sense of the words; you don’t know much, and what you think you know, you may not know.

      Mistborn: The first book is great; after that pretend like it ended happily. You’ll be better off for it, trust me.

      • quaelegit says:

        Re: Mistborn — did you read the third book as well as the second? Agree the second is quite a downer* but I think the third book resolves things really well and on a more positive note.

        (*Although, and this might just be me, not nearly as much as a mid-series devastating depression fest as the end of The Subtle Knife)

        • AnonYEmous says:

          I didn’t think either book was depressing, so much as just…bad.

          I admit I read those two books in a much more distracted manner. But (spoilers for the series):

          Gur svefg obbx onfvpnyyl erfbyirf rirelbar’f punenpgre nep naq xvyyf bss gur orfg punenpgre. Va snpg, n ybg bs fghss gung frrzf gb or fnsryl erfbyirq ng gur raq bs gur svefg obbx, gheaf bhg gb or abg-fb-erfbyirq va gur frpbaq obbx, juvpu znqr vg srry bhg bs cynpr sbe zr (naq gur pbasyvpgf jrer xvaq bs obevat naljnlf). Vs gur svefg obbx raqrq jvgu n “unccvyl rire nsgre”, jung jbhyq rira or zvffvat? N srj fgenl dhrfgvbaf nobhg cbjref naq zbgvingvbaf znlor? V qvqa’g pner zhpu nobhg gubfr dhrfgvbaf ng gur raq bs gur svefg obbx naq V qbhog nalbar ryfr jbhyq rvgure.

          Gur guveq obbx whfg tbrf vagb gur qrrc yber onfvpnyyl naq V gubhtug vg zbfgyl fhpxrq. Cyhf gur raqvat jnf cerggl onq.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Not that recent, but have you read The Witcher books and stories? They’re making a Netflix series out of it, too, and I expect it’s going to be the next Game of Thrones style hit.

      Note, they were books before the video games made them popular.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      Gonna respond with urban fantasy stuff, because the zillion responses above have most of the epic fantasy stuff covered. There’s so much out there – the Jim Butcher books, Ben Aaronovich, etc. so I’ll just mention the best IMO. Almost all of the books below actually did come out within the last ten years.
      Daniel O’Malley – The Rook, and Stiletto – woman wakes up with no memory and finds out she’s a poobah in a government org populated by people with various abilities. Well-written, good fun. Mentioned above.
      Paul Cornell – Shadow Police series. Three so far. A few guys in the London PD who acquire, often to their regret, abilities. Magic exists but isn’t all over the place, and the characters have a lot of depth and differ from one another quite a bit. I can’t say enough about this series. On the dark side, but not what I’d call grimdark at all.
      Charles Stross (many of you probably know this one) – Laundry Files. Set in, you guessed it, London. He’s up to eight or so books now. First several follow one guy in “The Laundry” a secret org populated by, you guessed it, powered individuals who keep track of oh God I can’t even any more. Here the danger is of the eldrich horror variety. The universe slowly gets bigger and there’s some universal endgame that seems to be nearing. Fun, with Strossian geeky notes. Zero politics if you’re worried about that from CS.

    • tayfie says:

      I’m more positive on Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson than some of the readers that have already mentioned them. I love them both for different reasons, but think the common complaints against them are either exaggerated or mistaken.

      I’ll also vouch for Robin Hobb and Scott Lynch. For Hobb, read the books besides the main trilogies that star Fitz. They all take place in the same world around the same time, and it’s fun to watch different world events and characters seen from different perspectives.

      Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence are both decent writers, but their characters are so hateable I can’t read any more.

      *Dr. Strange and Mr. Norrell* and *Malazan: Book of the Fallen* have been on my reading list forever, but somehow are always pushed to the side.

      And, to add my own contribution to the thread, Mercedes Lackey is very prolific and still active. I haven’t read anything published in the requested time frame, but I found *The Black Gryphon* and its sequel engaging. The gryphons here were magically constructed by a mage to help fight his war against another mage. The first book follows one of the gryphons spying behind enemy lines.

      • yodelyak says:

        Seconded Robin Hobb, and particularly the Fitz stories.

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        You have a typo in your post, you surely mean “relatable”.
        “The living were on one side and he was on the other, carving a red and righteous path through their ranks.”
        What could be more relatable than that?

        The other Hobb books don’t do it for me, mostly because they lack relatable main characters.

    • maxaganar says:

      I am looking for recommendations for contemporary fantasy books (say, books from the last 10 years). Recommend anything you think is good.

      Here’s what comes to mind, I’m sure I’m missing a ton. But this covers a lot of different styles so one should hit the spot:

      Daniel Abraham:
      The Long Price series. (A Shadow in Summer, etc).
      The Dagger and the Coin series (The Dragon’s Path, etc).

      Kathererin Addison
      The Goblin Emperor

      Free Web serial fiction by John McCrae, TWIG:
      https://twigserial.wordpress.com/

      Kate Griffin
      A Madness of Angels: Or the Resurrection of Matthew Swift. And the followups.

      China Mieville
      The Bas-Lag series (Perdido Street Station, etc)

      Sarah Monette
      Melusine, and the rest of the Doctrine of Labrynths series

      Graydon Saunders
      The March North, A Succession of Bad Days, and the rest of the Commonweal series. This is *really* different that the usual fare.

      Naomi Novik
      Uprooted

      Erin Morgenstern
      The Night Circus

      • Iain says:

        I’ll second the Graydon Saunders recommendation. The first book starts out as a weird take on military fantasy, but by the second book the series has pivoted to a weird take on wizard school. The central question of the series is: how do you make a decent civilization in a world where powerful sorcerers can (and do!) routinely embark on wars of conquest? And the answer is: very carefully…

        It’s an odd series, but I’m pretty sure I like it.

        (This is the review that got me to read the books in the first place, which goes into a bit more detail.)

        • Nick says:

          I saw that review too, h/t Charlie Stross’s blog’s comments section where he’s a regular commenter, and it persuaded me to add the book to my reading list. But for slightly different reasons than you, I think—I was interested in the first bit (bolded) and it sounds like you were interested in the second bit:

          Saunders’s thought experiment seems to have been two-fold: what would a world shaped by magic for a long, long time look like and how could it avoid devolving into an endless sequence of dark and terrible overlords? I can assure you that the result is not Western Europe circa 1200 with bonus dragons and wizards. This is a world that accumulates new species, new ecologies, and magical quicksands very quickly, It’s a little like Malazan with someone’s thumb firmly on fast-forward.

          • Iain says:

            The series starts from the premise that the answer to “What would a world shaped by magic for a long, long time look like?” is “An endless sequence of dark and terrible overlords”, and then asks: “So, what are you going to do about that?”

            Magic is everywhere, and you can tell because everything wants to kill you. Some ancient wizard had a bright idea, and now swans are aggressive, bear-sized, and immune to anything short of a direct artillery strike.

        • Anatoly says:

          Why isn’t it on Amazon? Seems so weird. It’s available on Google Play, but that whole platform is not available in my country.

          • Zorgon says:

            I found it on iBooks, if that helps at all.

            Picked up The March North to tide me through a long journey next week, so thanks for the recommendation folks 🙂

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, I picked it up on Google Play on Friday, and I’m about two thirds of the way through it right now. It definitely has its worldbuilding going for it; the style of the writing, though, takes some serious getting used to.

    • JulieK says:

      Not sure if _Shades of Grey_ (2009) by Jasper Fforde is fantasy or science fiction, but I loved it.
      It’s set in a far-future England where everyone is either partially or wholly color-blind. The society is divided into castes based on how much color each person can see. There’s supposed to be a prequel coming out but the publication date keeps getting pushed off.

      Fforde’s Thursday Next series (7 books so far, 2001-2012) is fantasy. It starts in an alternate-history England where the Crimean War is still being fought in the 20th century and the protagonist has a pet dodo. Then her eccentric genius uncle invents a machine that lets you go into a fictional story. As the series progresses the BookWorld setting gets more detailed. I’ve read 6 of the books and liked the first 2 best.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      Not yet mentioned but awesome: The Milkweed Triptych.

      The Nazis develop a program that imbues a bunch of people with supernatural abilities. One of these people is Gretel who can see the future. To still have a fighting chance the Brits turn towards the help of eldritch horrors that are paid with increasing amounts of blood. After a while it becomes clear that Gretel is playing her own game, while every drop of blood brings the eldritch horrors closer to locating our dimension and exterminating life.

      • Nick says:

        Why have I never heard of this? Sounds right up my alley. Am I alone in being in the dark on this series and author?

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          I’ve read it. It’s well-written and the world is interesting. It is Not A Happy Story. I thought that the resolution was a little lackluster.

        • Matt C says:

          I heard about it a couple years ago. I had the same reaction.

          I really like the series. The third book especially.

          I read everything else I could get from Tregillis and I think The Milkweed Triptych is his best. His other stuff is decent, but I didn’t think it had the same spark.

    • CthulhuChild says:

      If you enjoy truly detestable protagonists, you might enjoy Prince of Thorns. It’s pretty tightly written (although it is arguably ‘trying’ to be shocking in ways that might annoy you, YMMV)

      My cheating-picks would be lies of Locke Lamora (Scott Lynch) and The Blade Itself (Joe Abercrombie). Cheating slightly by using the most recently published books, but they also would meet your requirement of “starts good and gets better”.

      I’ll also say that my absolute hands-down favorite fantasy series is the Prince of Nothing by Scott Bakker, starting with The Darkness that Comes Before, but I can’t honestly recommend it because basically everyone I know in real life fucking hates it. On the other hand, everyone i know in real life also hates Slatestar, so you and I might share certain deviations from the general populace.

      To help you calibrate how well my tastes align with yours:
      -Loved Strange & Norrel, but really hate Jane Austin (how you can be asking for fast-acting gratification while declaring affection for her is beyond me)
      -Loved the world-building of GRRM, despise his writing
      -Unashamedly fond of Name of the Wind
      -Shamefully fond of Harry Potter, but I grew up with it so leave me alone
      -Liked Malazan, but would never recommend it to anyone (the man needs an editor with a backbone. Too many words describing so little that is relevant)
      -Thinks Glenn Cook is a much better if you want military fantasy
      -Wishes Brandon Sanderson would just let a better writer pen his stories (strongly disagree with your assessment of Mistborn as generic fantasy. It does a pretty good job of subverting tropes, escalating the stakes and justifying the importance of heroic characters in ways that are not handled well by other fantasy writers. The problem with Sanderson is that his imagination is hamstrung by his total lack of subtlety, his compulsive insertion of tedious action scenes, and his less-than-mediocre prose).

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        For what it’s worth, I enjoyed the Prince of Nothing, but my absolute hands-down favorite is Malazan. The main difference for me is that I hated most of the characters in Prince of Nothing, but most of the Malazan characters I wound up really enjoying.

        • CthulhuChild says:

          Did you hate the characters because they were bad characters (IE not compelling or distinctive in any way), or did you hate them because they were either inherently detestable or otherwise incredibly fucking frustrating to watch crash and burn? One of my good friends basically gave up when he realized Akka is supposed to be smart, but still gets manipulated into ever more tragedy (spoilers-but-not-really).

          Because while I agree with you that the characters in Malazan are both “better” and generally not hateable (except every single tiste edur for some fucking reason), I don’t think the gulf in author ability is that large and most of the difference is context (IE a compelling character becomes less so when you realize everyone is doomed to the worst possible fate imaginable and their personality won’t save them)

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        “-Thinks Glenn Cook is a much better if you want military fantasy”

        I really enjoyed the black company series.

    • Anonymous says:

      Keys to the Kingdom by Nix.

      Dresden Files by Butcher.

      Arts of Dark and Light by Day.

      Oh, and Mother of Learning by Kurmaic. Not finished, but that shouldn’t stop you.

    • Charles F says:

      Some things I liked:
      Uprooted, by Naomi Novik – Already recommended by a few people. Short, well-executed coming of age story. One of my favorites. Avoid the audiobook.

      A Practical Guide to Evil, by ErraticErrata – A YA ratfic about a world that runs on tropes. I enjoyed the first two books (IIRC) and probably would have kept enjoying each installment but it doesn’t really go anywhere or change much. Read it for the silliness/humor until it starts feeling samey and then stop with no regrets, is my recommendation.

      The Raven and the Reindeer, T. Kingfisher – Somebody else mentioned the Clockwork Boys by the same author. This one is also good

      The Magicians, by Lev Grossman – Certainly not for everyone, I initially didn’t like it, but even after finishing it it’s continued to grow on me. Ought to be read alongside Among Others, by Jo Walton for most interesting results.

      If you’re into urban fantasy, and done with the dresden files, some of the next things to try are:
      the Iron Druid Chronicles, by Kevin Hearne, very fun, some issues with how they weren’t really planned out in any deliberate way,
      the Alex Verus books, by Benedict Jacka, somewhat inconsistent, reasonably good highs, second book almost made me drop the series, worth a try but not a lot of investment
      the Peter Grant books, by Ben Aaronovitch, serviceable as a last resort if you’ve got no other options

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        “The Magicians” worked really well for me because it reminded me so much of the people I studied math with. But the narnia stuff felt somewhat tacked on. And the second book didn’t convince me.

        I never gave the Iron Druid a chance. How am I supposed to identify with a 2000 year old super handsome druid? I need me some fucked up protagonist.

        Alex Verus I do like. But second the point about the lows. Also second Aaronovitch as last resort. And that all of these are substitute drugs for the Dresden Files.

        • johan_larson says:

          I really liked the first part of “The Magicians”, which is set in a school of magic. It felt very realistic somehow. I wouldn’t be surprised if Grossman had gone to a very traditional boarding school or college and drew on that experience to create his school of magic.

          The second part, set in a magical land of some sort, didn’t work nearly as well.

      • zz says:

        I liked The Magicians (beginning and end), and liked the sequels (“The Magician King”, “The Magician’s Land”) more.

        It’s true that it’s not for everyone, but it’s more accurate to say it’s for almost no one. “The Magicians” centers around a character who is intellectually overdeveloped, emotionally/socially underdeveloped, and depressed. These people are really miserable to be around, but I got a lot out of the character arc because that described me when I was in high school. Glancing at the survey results, I suspect a very large portion of the SSC commentariat might be in the same boat.

        If you’re not into it after the chapter where Quentin messes with a professor, you should probably stop reading. It gets better, but not in a way that you’ll start liking it if you didn’t already.

    • EchoChaos says:

      If you like urban fantasy, the Monster Hunter series by Larry Correia is excellent. Starts middling-ish, but he gets his feet under him and it gets really good.

      He’s right-wing and Mormon and that very much shows, but the books are good.

    • Orpheus says:

      Thanks for the recommendations! I think I will start with The Goblin Emperor and Malazan. Cheers!

    • ThinkingWithWords says:

      Summer in Orcus. Kind of YA fantasy fiction, but also kind of not. Google it, it’s available online.

  2. johan_larson says:

    Quiz time again.

    Name five:
    1. Cities in Brazil with more than 100,000 people.
    2. Sunken ships.
    3. Living professional sea captains.
    4. Songs by Madonna.
    5. Sonnets by Shakespeare.
    6. Amino acids.
    7. Football clubs in the Premier League for the 2017-2018 season.
    8. Taxonomic names of living animals (genus+species).
    9. Rulers of the ancient Maya.
    10. Stars within 20 LY of our sun.

    My score: 3/10. Ships, songs, animals.

    • dodrian says:

      I fully correct about the ships and the Premier League.
      1. Brazil – 4/4 (and they are the four most populous cities too!)
      6. Amino acids 1/1
      8. Animals – 3/5 (I was wrong about cats and wolves, which I was betting on to complete my set!)
      10. Stars – 4/5 (Irtn vf npghnyyl 25 yvtug lrnef njnl)

    • S_J says:

      Of these categories, I can name:

      1. Two cities.
      2. Five sunken ships. Three of them are warships …
      3. None. (But I can name the late Captain of one of the ships above. Since he worked the Great Lakes, I don’t know if he was a “sea captain” while alive.)
      4. Two songs.
      5. Maybe one sonnet. (Did he name them, or are they typically numbered?)
      6. One amino acid.
      7. I can name one Football club, but I can’t tell if it is Premier League. Since the club I’m thinking of is in North America, the answer is “likely not”. (I’m assuming that Premier League Football is the kind of football where players kick a spherical ball around with their feet… not the kind of football where players throw/carry/occasionally-kick an oblong ball.)
      8. I can get to two or three. (Depends on the genus+species name for domestic dog …)
      9. Zero.
      10. Maybe three.

      The only one that I got completely was number 2.

      ROT13 of my answers for number 2, in historical order, Gvgnavp, Yhfvgnavn, Vaqvnancbyvf, Lnzngb, Rqzhaq Svgmtrenyq.

    • The Nybbler says:

      1. Just the two obvious ones.

      2. Got five, but two were wrong; Columbus’s Nina and Pinta are not known to have sunk. Correct: Gvgnavp, Rqzhaq Svgmtrenyq, Ry Qbenqb.

      4. Zngrevny Tvey, Ibthr, Qerff Lbh Hc Va Zl Ybir, Yvxr n Ivetva, Yvxr n Cenlre

      5. Got the sonnets right away, but that’s cheating (Gurl’er ahzorerq).

      6. Oops, thought of the nucleic bases instead.

      8. Sryvf Qbzrfgvphf, Pnavf Yhchf, Pnavf Yngenaf, Cna Gebtylqlgrf, naq Ubzb Fncvraf. Rivqragnyyl Sryvf Pnghf vf jung’f npprcgrq gbqnl ohg sbe guvf dhvm V’z pbhagvat guvf pbeerpg.

      10. Guerr Pragnhevf (Nycun, Orgn, Cebkvzn), Fvevhf N naq O.

    • achenx says:

      Ships, football, stars.

      Got 3 cities in Brazil (the big three) and 3 Madonna songs. Others I could only come up with zero or one. I feel like I probably should know more animals but completely blanked.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Songs by Madonna. I can get to 3 Brazilian cities, 3 sunken ships, 4 stars, and 3 taxonomic names.

      The rest are pretty much in the “lol no chance” category.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      Cities in Brazil with more than 100,000 people.

      Probably you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I nailed this one. Then I quit while I was ahead.

      • Telminha says:

        Your username is the name of a Brazilian city – Fortaleza, capital of Ceará. I lived there for several years. Você é brasileiro?

        • fortaleza84 says:

          No, but I’ve always been fascinated with Brazil. It’s my fantasy to spend my winters in Rio Grande do Sul.

          • Telminha says:

            I’ve never been there, but I heard it’s nice. RS is famous for their churrasco (barbecue), and chimarrão. I got a set (gourd + bombilla) to drink Yerba mate, and other loose leaf tea; so nice in cold weather.
            Espero que você possa ir lá um dia!

    • bean says:

      4 Brazilian cities (Minas Gerasi is a state, not a city), 4 Premier League teams (the last one has apparently been relegated) , 4 animals.
      Do I get bonus points for overfilling ships. I can restrict the category quite a lot, and still be able to answer.
      British ships sunk at Jutland
      Carriers sunk at Midway
      Ships sunk at Leyte Gulf
      US cruisers sunk in the Solomons
      US battleships sunk at Pearl Harbor
      (OK, I’m a bit weird.)

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        1)Dhrra Znel, Vaqrsngvtnoyr, Vaivapvoyr, naq…uhu. Yvba jnfa’g fhax, naq V pna’g guvax bs nal zber onggyrpehvfref gung oyrj hc. Jryy, lbh jva guvf ebhaq, orna.
        2)Guvf bar’f rnfl: Nxntv, Xntn, Uvelh, Fbelh, Lbexgbja
        3)V’ir orra ernqvat Ubeasvfpure: Nzrevpna be Wncnarfr? Yrg’f qb Nzrevpna: Wbuafgba, Ubry, Fnzhry Eboregf, Fg. Yb, Tnzovre Onl. Fbzrbar ryfr pna qb gur Wncnarfr fvqr, gurer’f cyragl bs pnaqvqngrf.
        4)V’ir orra ernqvat N YBG bs Ubeasvfpure: Ngynagn, Pnaoreen, Dhvapl, Nfgbevn, Ivapraarf, Ngynagn, Wharnh. Abg fher vs Pnaoreen pbhagf.
        5)V bayl xabj gur yvfg orpnhfr bs Aniny Tnmvat, npghnyyl: Nevmban, Bxynubzn, Pnyvsbeavn, Arinqn, Jrfg Ivetvavn.

        Jr’er nyy jrveq urer.

        • bean says:

          Very well done indeed. The ones I had at Jutland that you didn’t were Oynpx Cevapr, Jneevbe, Qrsrapr.

          Honestly not a huge Hornfisher fan. Last Stand just felt too much of what I dub the Stephen Ambrose School for me to really like it. (Lots of “here’s three pages on the life story of this person I interviewed and how he got there”, which isn’t my cup of tea.) It didn’t help when I spotted several stupid technical errors. I still treasure my copy, which was signed by one of the survivors on the Hoel. (He’s sadly passed now.)

          And I’m definitely weirder than average, even for here.

          Also, for fun, how about British battleships sunk during WWII? (Battlecrusiers count for purposes of this question.)

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I’m too much of a layman to recognize stupid technical errors, but Last Stand is definitely his weakest work – he did a lot better at Neptune’s Inferno (I particularly appreciated that he put the various surface actions in the wider strategic context, for example – until Hornfisher pointed it out I had no idea that Washington and South Dakota were basically SoPac’s last heavy surface combatants left), and the Fleet at Flood Tide is doing a good job weaving in the Stephen Ambrose life stories with the wider Marianas campaign narrative.

            How do you feel about Ian Toll?

            Last challenge: Jryy, boivbhfyl lbh unir Ubbq, Cevapr bs Jnyrf, naq Erchyfr. Gura V xvaq bs unir n uneq gvzr. Ab zber ovt aniny ratntrzragf pbzr gb zvaq – gur Xevrtfznevar jnf qbar, gur Vgnyvnaf V pna’g oryvrir jbhyq unir fhax n onggyrfuvc, naq V guvax gur HFA qvq zbfg bs gur urnil yvsgvat ntnvafg gur Wncnarfr.

            Fb gung yrnirf fuvcf fhax va jrveq pvephzfgnaprf yvxr bss Abejnl be qhevat fuber obzoneqzrag yngre va gur jne. Abg fher ubj znal bs gubfr gurer jrer. V oryvrir bar onggyrfuvc jnf gbecrqbrq bss Fpncn Sybj rneyl va gur jne, ohg V pna’g erpnyy gur anzr.

            Fb, Ubbq naq Erchyfr, OPf, naq Cevapr bs Jnyrf, OO, cyhf bar zber cbffvoyr OO gb H-Obng. V pna’g guvax bs nal bguref.

          • bean says:

            The other problem I have with him is that I don’t see any particular reason to read his stuff over Morison. Neptune’s Inferno may be good, but so was The Struggle for Guadalcanal, and I really like Morison’s style. Haven’t read Toll, but I may give him a look.

            (Just to be clear, I’m not really trying to knock Hornfischer for the average reader. His technical errors are mostly fairly minor, stuff like listing the design crew of Missouri instead of the actual wartime crew, or getting confused about the fire-control equipment on a destroyer escort. I have a few qualms about what I consider a tendency to try to improve specific anecdotes, but that could just be an overreliance on interviews decades after the fact. Personally, I don’t like popular naval books because they don’t compete well with the more scholarly ones.)

            Gjb fhax ol H-obngf, npghnyyl. Oneunz jnf ybfg va gur Zrq va 1941, naq Eblny Bnx jnf fhax va Fpncn Sybj va 1939. Sbe rkgen perqvg, Inyvnag naq Dhrra Ryvmnorgu znl be znl abg unir orra fhax ol Vgnyvna sebtzra va Nyrknaqevn. Zbfg fbheprf fnl gung gurl raqrq hc erfgvat ba gur obggbz jvgu gurve qrpxf nobir jngre, ohg ng yrnfg bar erchgnoyr bar, V jnag gb fnl Enira & Eboregf, pynvzf gung gurl qvqa’g npghnyyl gbhpu gur obggbz.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Also, for fun, how about British battleships sunk during WWII? (Battlecrusiers count for purposes of this question.)

            Sbepr M, gur gjb ng Nyrknaqevn, Zvtugl ‘Bbq. I’m not sure of the names of the former four, honestly, but guessing: Erchyfr, Trbetr I, Dhrra Ryvmnorgu, Cevapr bs Jnyrf?

            (Did I miss any from other engagements?)

            Edited: wow, not even close.

          • bean says:

            @Andrew
            Not bad, actually. Credit for remembering the incident you got wrong, even if the naming you gave was a bit off.

            Vg ybbxf yvxr Inyvnag jnfa’g fhax, naq pbhyq unir tbar gb frn va na rzretrapl. Enira naq Eboregf fnl gung Dhrra Ryvmnorgu qvq gbhpu obggbz, ohg Oheg, jubfr nppbhag vf fbzrjung zber qrgnvyrq, qvfnterrf, naq V guvax ur’f evtug. Fur jnf nccneragyl va 8 sngubzf (48 srrg), juvpu vf n ybg zber guna gur serrobneq bs gur fuvc.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            Neptune’s inferno is no First team, but it’s quite good, I think the best single volume history of the naval battles in guadalcanal I’ve read, but I haven’t read struggle, no digital copies of it.

    • Nick says:

      1. Evb qr Wnarvebf, Fnb Cnhyb, Oenfvyvn. Hu, Grthpvtnycn znlor? Be vf gung va Prageny Nzrevpn…. Bu, bu, Pvqnqr qr Qrhf! Qb V trg cbvagf sbe phygher?
      5. Jung ner lbh ybbxvat sbe urer? V xabj bs zl zvfgerff’f rlrf ner abguvat yvxr gur fha, ohg V pbhyqa’g dhbgr lbh gur jubyr guvat be gryy lbh gur fgnaqneq ahzore. V xabj ur qvq n pbhcyr nobhg n irel cerggl obl. V’yy purng naq fnl fbaargf 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 naq cenl abar bs gubfr jrer sbhaq gb or snxrf.
      8. Sryvf pnghf snzvyvnevf be fbzrguvat yvxr gung? Pnavf yhchf sbe jbys? Pnavf yhchf snzvyvnevf sbe qbt, V guvax? Ubzb fncvraf fncvraf? Hefhf artevf sbe oynpx orne? 3/5, vg ybbxf yvxr.
      9. V’yy tb jvgu Cebkvzn Pragnhev, Nycun Pragnhev, Fvevhf. Purng naq fnl Fby gbb. 4/5 vs lbh tenqr trarebhfyl. 🙂

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      1) Evb, Oenfvyvn, Fnb Cnbyb, Erpvsr, Znanhf, Sbegnyrmn?
      2. V pna anzr zbfg bs gur znwbe pbzongnagf fhax va JJV naq VV, fb yrg’f qb crnprgvzr ybfg fuvcf: Gvgnavp, Naqern Qbevn, Juvgr Fuvc, Fhygnan, Oyraurvz, naq Wnin.
      3. Un!
      4. V pbhyq znlor trg fbzr vs v gevrq, ohg V qba’g jnaan.
      5. n)funyy V pbzcner gurr gb n fhzzre’f qnl? o)Jura va qvftenpr jvgu sbeghar naq zra’f rlrf p)Jrnel jvgu gbvy, V unfgr zr gb zl orq q)Sebz snverfg perngherf jr qrfver vapernfr r)zl zvfgerff’ rlrf ner abguvat yvxr gur fha.
      6. -oynax fgner-
      7. Ru?
      8. Pnavf snzvyvnevf, Pnavf yhchf, sryvk qbzrfgvphf, rdhhf rdhhf, cnaguren yrb.
      9. Tvira gur nzbhag bs Znlna ehvaf V’ir ivfvgrq, lbh’q guvax V’q xabj ng yrnfg bar, ohg abcr!
      10. Cebkvzn Pragnhev, hz, Nycun Pragnhev? Fvevhf vf pybfr, evtug? Rcfvyba Revqnav? Bu! Va Nheben gurl tb gb Gnh Prgv! Gung’f 5! Gunax lbh, fpvrapr svpgvba!

    • Nornagest says:

      Ships, animals, stars.

    • christhenottopher says:

      1. Fnb Cnhyb, Evb Qr Wnarveb, Oenfvyvn, Angny, Erpvsr
      2. Gvgnavp, Vaqvnancbyvf, Lbexgbja, Ubbq, Ovfznepx
      3. Pass
      4. Pass
      5. Pass
      6. curalynynavar
      7. Nefrany, Znapurfgre Havgrq, Puryfrn, Yvirecbby
      8. Ubzb Fncvraf
      9. Pass
      10. Cebkvzn Pragnhev, Nycun Pragnhev N, Nycun Pragnhev O, Fvevhf, Rcvfyba Renaqv

    • ilikekittycat says:

      1. Got 3, failed
      2. Gvgnavp, Nxntv, Xntn, Fbelh naq Uvelh (jnetnzvat)
      3. Instant failure
      4. Ten songs, off the top of my head
      5. If this is knowing the content, total failure. Vs guvf vf whfg gur gvgyrf guvf vf gur rnfvrfg dhrfgvba naq V tbg bar-svsgl-sbhe
      6. Only one, a plot point from Jurassic Park, and “Oops, thought of the nucleic bases instead.” Failure.
      7. Nope
      8. Ubzb fncvraf, Pnavf yhcvf, Sryvf pnghf, Ohsb ohsb, Obf gnhehf
      9. I thought I knew Gúcnp Nzneh because of his namesake, but it turns out I know zero Mayans. Failure
      10. Obgu Nycun Pragnhevf, Cebkvzn Pragnhev, Rcfvyba Revqnav, Jbys 359. Gunax lbh Pncgnva Cvpneq

      4/10, +#5 if I’m allowed to cheat

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Is anyone allowed to ask these quizzes? Are they coming from some source? How are you deciding which sets to ask for?

      • johan_larson says:

        >Is anyone allowed to ask these quizzes?

        I certainly didn’t ask anyone for permission.

        > Are they coming from some source?

        Nope. Straight off the dome, as they say.

        > How are you deciding which sets to ask for?

        I just think about it. And I try for a mix of questions I myself can and can’t answer.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Okay, here are some:

        Name five:
        1. (named) dragons
        2. graph algorithms
        3. Grammy Albums of the Year
        4. Members of parliament
        5. Voting methods
        6. Non-french (named) grape varietals
        7. Cuts of beef
        8. Non fiction works of Orwell
        9. Patron saints (with (a) patronage)
        10. Literary characters who die off screen

        • For 8, does a work have to be a book—I can only think of three—or does an essay qualify?

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Book, play, poem, any work of fiction. I’d probably accept movie.

            Oh, sorry, thought you were asking 10. Book or essay.

        • johan_larson says:

          I can’t get five of any of these.

          Four dragons, three graph algorithms, one member of parliament, three voting methods, four grape varietals.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          My best:

          1) Grzrenver, Gvnzng, Fznht, Avpby Obynf, Puebzvhz. (5)
          2) Syblq Jnefunyy, Qvwxfgen, QSF, Xreavtuna-Yva, chfu-erynory (5)
          3) Avargrra Rvtugl Avar, Srneyrff (2)
          4) Gurerfn Znl, Wrerzl Pbeola (2)
          5) Pbaqbeprg, Obeqn, nccebiny, SCGC, VEI (5)
          6) Evbwn, Mvasnaqry, Evrfyvat, Trjhegmgenzvare, Pbapbeq (5)
          7) Oevfxrg, evorlr, gbathr, fxveg, bkgnvy (5)
          8) Qbja & Bhg Va Cnevf Naq Ybabqa, Yvba naq gur Havpbea, Ebnq gb Jvtna Cvre, Cbyvgvpf & Gur Ratyvfu Ynathntr (4)
          9) Naqerj (Fpbgynaq) Trbetr (Ratynaq) Cngevpx (Verynaq) (3)
          10) Ebfrapenagm, Thvyqrafgrea, Wbua Ynheraf (3)

          I really thought (as I was writing it down) I had more for 10. I am sure I am going to kick myself once people start naming them. (I also realized that while I can describe about 10 more dragons from various books who have names, I can’t remember most of the names.)

        • Charles F says:

          I’m horrible at these, but here goes:
          1. sreebink,gvnzng,onunzhg,fznht,xnmhy (5)
          2. qwvxfgen, Nfgne, Xehfxny, cevz, OSF (5)
          3. 0
          4. 0
          5. Svefg cnfg gur cbfg, vafgnag ehabss (2)
          6. 0
          7. Graqreybva, evo-rlr (2)
          8. Xvyyvat na Ryrcunag (0.5?)
          9. 0
          10. Yhcva, Gbaxf, Dhveery, Zbbql, Fpevztrbhe (5)

          [Thanks JKR for putting all your deaths offscreen 🙂 ]

        • EchoChaos says:

          Qentbaf: Fznht, Tynhehat, Napnyntba, Snsave, Onunzhg

          Tencuf: Havg pvepyr, fvar jnir, cnenobyn, ulcreobyn, yvar

          Tenzzlf: nofbyhgryl ab pyhr.

          ZCf: Oevgvfu be nal? Qnavry Unaana, Gurerfn Znl, Obevf Wbuafba ner nyy V pna guvax bs Oevgvfu, ohg V pna nqq Orawnzva Argnalnuh naq Trreg Jvyqref.

          Ibgvat zrgubqf: Svefg cnfg gur cbfg, Vafgnag ehabss ner nyy V pna guvax bs.

          Tencrf: abcr.

          Phgf: Synax, Ebhaq, Graqreybva, Ehzc, Fveybva

          Aba-svpgvba jbexf: Qba’g xabj

          Cngeba Fnvagf: Nagubal, gur fvpx, Trbetr, Ybaqba, Wbna bs Nep, Senapr, Avpubynf, Terrpr, Senapvf, navznyf.

          Yvgrenel punenpgref jub qvr bss fperra: Abar pbzr gb zvaq.

    • CthulhuChild says:

      1. 2/5 … I just guessed two vaguely Spanish sounding names and they turned out right. Honestly not 100% sure where Brazil is, I think it’s the big country in South America (Yep, just checked and I got that right at least). Look, I am really, really bad at geography. I don’t know why.
      2. 5/5 I’m in the Navy.
      3. 5/5 Despite being in the Navy, this is surprisingly hard if you restrict the list of qualifying names to people who are in command of a vessel this very instant.
      4. 4/5 Knew the songs, didn’t know the names.
      5. 5/5 … this should not be possible to fail given their naming scheme
      6. 0/5 Fundamentally misunderstood what constitutes an amino acid and named chemically similar compounds that didn’t qualify
      7. 0/5 Did not know what premier league was
      8. 0/5 Turns out that I don’t know the difference between family, genus, and species.
      9. 0/5. Not a clue.
      10. 0/5. Turns out I couldn’t even name 5 stars (two names I gave were a star-system and a constellation)

      3/10. At least I learned a bunch checking answers!

  3. Aevylmar says:

    So I ran into an interesting problem, and have a question that SSC may well be able to answer.

    My psychiatrist prescribed me modafinil, but my insurance company is balking at paying for it. It looks like this situation may be resolved soonish, but if it isn’t, my question is: Given that I have a prescription, is it legal for me to buy it from the no-questions-asked online retailers who are almost certainly smuggling it in from India? I have a strong and irrational unwillingness to break the law, even when it’s dumb, but legal modafinil is expensive without a copay.

    (California, US.)

    • johan_larson says:

      How good is your relationship with your insurance company? Some of the scummier ones always say no initially, expecting committed customers to dispute the matter.

      • rahien.din says:

        Some of the scummier ones

        This is a filter that many payors apply to many drugs.

      • Aevylmar says:

        It’s currently being disputed. This is me wondering about what the law is, in case the disputation fails.

    • Brad says:

      If you are doing the importing, that is if a foreign entity is shipping you the pills, then it’s not technically legal. If it’s a US entity I think you’d be considered are a victim of fraud rather than a criminal.

      I don’t usually say this, but:
      I am not your attorney and this is not legal advice.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      With a GoodRx coupon you can get a month’s supply for $45 from Costco. The coupon means not using insurance, but if you can afford the $45 yourself you should be good. See here

      • Aevylmar says:

        Wow. Thanks!

      • Doctor Mist says:

        That’s how I get my modafinil, and it just baffles me. It was going to cost me something like $1000 a month at Walgreens, but GoodRx gave me a Costco coupon that made it cost $72, and when I picked it up it cost only $36.

        After a few months, Costco balked because they were no longer dealing with my insurer. “What insurer?” I asked. “I’ve never told you my insurer!” They said I’d been getting it subsidized by Navitus, and gave me the group and id number. I wondered what poor sap’s insurance I had been accidentally free-riding off of, but my wife noticed that the group number started with GRX, as in GoodRx. So I asked what it would cost without the Navitus subsidy, and they said (tappity tappity tap) $38, and I said, well, ok, let’s do that.

        It’s clear to me that somebody is leaving a ton of money on the table. Is it Walgreens for setting a price so high I take that business elsewhere? Is it Navitus for insuring me without ever getting a premium? Is it Costco for not charging $150? I just don’t understand.

      • Deiseach says:

        How does that work? How do GoodRx make money if they’re giving out coupons for discounts on drugs? Have they some kind of volume agreement with Costco and others – for every $ of business we send you, we get X cents commission?

        It seems strange that Option 1 means “this will cost you a fortune if your insurance doesn’t cover it” – that’s fair enough, but then it gets weird when Option 2 means “but even if your insurance doesn’t cover it, you can get it way cheaper by vouchers from these private companies”.

        EDIT: Looked at the linked site and SOMEBODY TELL ME HOW THE FLIP THIS WORKS???

        The lowest GoodRx price for the most common version of modafinil is around $44.63, 94% off the average retail price of $817.71.

        Average price $818 but we can sell it to you for $45? Someone is having a laugh! Yeah, I know “generics versus brands” but that is one hell of a difference!

        Somebody has to be paying the quoted price -either that, or the quoted price is vastly inflated and it’s a real example of “never pay retail” (the way diamonds are vastly overpriced, as seen comparing buying a ring from a jeweller to trying to pawn or re-sell that same ring, even back to the same jeweller, who will not pay you what they charged you).

        • Lillian says:

          Welcome to the medical industry, where the prices are made up and the costs don’t matter.

        • BBA says:

          I’m used to sticker prices for medical care that only Saudi princes can afford, because I live in New York and Saudi princes actually come here for medical care and pay those sticker prices. What I don’t get is how places without rich foreign customers have similarly inflated “prices” that literally nobody actually pays. Does Suburban County General Hospital really think it’s competing with the Mayo Clinic?

        • John Schilling says:

          Standard-issue price discrimination, which is what coupons have always been for. It costs $15 to make a bottle of generic modafinil and another $15 to put it in the hands of the nice pharmacist who has just finished your paperwork and is about to send you out the door with your drugs. So if they can get $44.63 from you, that’s $14.63 gross profit, or 32.8%. Not bad for a day’s work.

          If they can get some other sucker to pay $817.71, that’s even better. Question is, what if there’s two people, only one of whom will pay eight hundred bucks? Sure, if we set the price at $817.71 we get $787.71 gross profit, which is way better than 2 x $14.63. But can we get the $787.71 and the $14.63? Can we get rich people to pay lots of money and poor people to pay a little money for the exact same thing? Of course we can! We print a coupon!

          And then we put it where the guy with eight hundred bucks burning a hole in his pocket won’t find it. Probably he won’t even try, because probably it isn’t his money. He’s got an insurance company or a national health service saying “whatever your doctor prescribes, we’ll pay for it”. So he can spend half an hour going to the pharmacy and paying nothing, or he can spend an hour finding the coupon and going to the pharmacy and paying nothing, so he’s not going to use the coupon even if Scott tells him exactly where to find it. And the insurance company can’t use the coupon because it says “no insurance companies allowed”.

          Same goes for the rich idiot who pays full price out of his own pocket. If you are careful how you distribute the coupons, about the only people who will bother to use them are the people who never would have paid eight hundred bucks because they either don’t have it or are careful how they spend their own money, and the $44.63 that they might pay is more than the $817.71 they can’t or won’t.

          • Deiseach says:

            I can understand the “it costs five bucks to make, but slap on all the extras between ‘raw ingredients coming in the door’ and ‘bottle on the shelf in the chemists’ and we’ll sell it for fifty” costing. This is standard in pretty much every industry, from the price farmers get per gallon of milk as compared to what it costs in your local supermarket on up.

            What I can’t understand is “the industry retail charge is eight hundred but somehow we can reduce that all the way down to fifty and still make a living”. That sounds crazy. If nobody seriously expects anyone to pay eight hundred for Brand Name Modafinil, why charge it? This is like the worst stereotypes of haggling in a bazaar!

          • John Schilling says:

            If nobody seriously expects anyone to pay eight hundred for Brand Name Modafinil, why charge it?

            But people do pay $800 for Brand Name Modafinil, or at least $400 after a round of negotiations starting at $800. And sometimes they pay $800.

            Mostly insurance companies, sometimes national health services. Occasionally individual suckers, but almost always it is someone who is paying with Other People’s Money. If you’re paying with OPM but it’s your name that gets in the newspaper if you cut off Little Timmy’s medicine, you don’t have much ability or incentive to negotiate.

        • Aevylmar says:

          Let me try to give a historical explanation of how we ended up in this disaster zone. I’m really not confident it will be right, but hopefully it will be wrong precisely the amount required to get someone who really knows what they’re talking about to come in and correct me.

          Step One: Way Back When, someone came up with an ingenious idea – that you can defray your risk by buying insurance, so that if something happens to you, you’ll be given a great lump of money – exploiting the fact that people in a crisis need money more than people not in a crisis. Most people would never need the insurance (which is how the company makes money), but for those who do, they’d get it. Accident insurance – accidentally cutting your arm off with a chainsaw, or accidentally getting run over by a cart – dates back to the nineteenth century in the US, and it lets people use part of their chainsaw-arm-payoffs to pay for the cost of the doctor looking at them while they recover.

          Step Two: In the first half of the twentieth century (all times will be vague, because I’m not an expert in medical history), the demand for medicine increased faster than the supply of doctors’ time increased, resulting in increased prices for doctors’ time. I think this occurred partly because of the usual effects of cartels, and partly because doctors were getting better at curing people, making their time more valuable to the sick – very approximately, it’s during this period that medicine moves from an art to a science. If you remember hearing old people talking about how doctors used to do housecalls and don’t any more, it’s because doctors became Very Busy People because their time is worth so much.

          But I also think that Insurance was, even fairly early, one of the factors pushing the price up. If everyone gets loads of money every time they get sick, nobody who doesn’t have money is getting treated by doctors (since, if you need to get treated, you have insurance-money), and the doctors can afford to demand higher fees, since the patients can pay them. Now, since not everyone had insurance, and the insurance was limited in amount of money it paid out and what situations it paid out in, this didn’t get enormously out of hand.

          Yet.

          Step Three: Somehow, the idea of insurance (see Step One) metamorphosed into the idea of a single source, not the patient, paying a majority, or even all, of the costs of health care. I have heard that this was tied to wage caps during the Great Depression or the second World War – I don’t remember which – in which employers, faced with legal limits on how much they could pay their worker, responded by, instead of just giving them money, offering to pay for all their health care costs – including, as we see, paying for medicine.

          There were all the usual arguments made in favor of this, for instance that it enabled people who would otherwise ignore it to go get preventative care, but specifically from a micro-textbook-following economist’s point of view, it was a monumentally stupid idea. In the extreme case – if you have 100% insurance, the cost (to you) of going to a doctor is now 0 dollars, since all the cost is now born by other people, and you may as well go whenever you get a sore throat. If all companies paid 50% of the costs of health care, the price of health care would merely reach double its market value; if a company is covering 100% of the cost of health care, the result is that the price of health care tries to become infinity times its market value. (Note that 16.6 times the price is still a lot less than infinity times the price. The real world never quite reaches the elegance of economics textbooks.)

          Step Four: Insurance companies have been responding to this by covering less ($90 copay for armodafinil at the pharmacy nearest to me), refusing to pay for ‘unreasonable’ procedures, charging enormous monthly fees to their clients, and conflating into a tiny number of huge, corrupt, inefficient providers so they could benefit from collective bargaining, in a desperate attempt to stop the price of health care (that they are paying for) rising to infinity. Since they are fighting the great demon-god Mammon, who our society has harnessed to pull the chariot of Progress but who is still, you know, an enormously powerful demon-god, it isn’t working very well.

          From this you get sticker prices for drugs enormously higher than they have any right to be.

          Step Five: What John Schilling said. You are a drug company. You sell most of your armodafinil for twenty times the cost of production to the insurance companies, which is the point at which your company is making the expected industry return. (Remember, efficient market hypothesis – the ability to sell your drug for enormous amounts of money just results in people entering the market until the costs balance with the profits.)

          On the other hand, there are these people who don’t have insurance, or can’t afford the copay if they have insurance. If you can find a way to sell it to them without the rich people knowing about it – by putting it in a place where only desperate bargain-hunters will look to find it – you can get very slightly more money, and, as you are a company, you like getting very slightly more money. So you do.

          I expect that, over the long term, with the existence of the internet, this information will reach even the people who can afford insurance and copays (*raises hand sheepishly*) and either the coupons will go away, the coupons will become much harder to use, or marginal drug companies will go out of business. (I’m betting on one of the first two.) But until the golden time ends, I’m going to enjoy being a free rider on those with more money and less luck than myself.

          • Aapje says:

            I assume that the insurance companies don’t pay the sticker price… or do they?

            Isn’t it a lot like the ‘official’ price on many products, that no one actually pays, but that makes people feel good for getting a discount?

          • Loquat says:

            Depends on the insurance company!

            In my field, Medicare, insurance companies very much do negotiate prices on many (if not all) drugs. For example, when I’m running a drug cost estimate* for someone taking the common heart medication lisinopril, it’ll usually show up with a negotiated price in the $5-$10 range for a 30-day supply. If my google results are accurate, though, the full retail price is usually over $55.

            *For those unfamiliar with Medicare’s drug coverage, it’s an over-complicated mess where two different similar-seeming plans may cover the same list of drugs with substantially different out-of-pocket costs, hence we run estimates before recommending anything.

          • Deiseach says:

            I thought the economic solution to this was competition? That is, if formerly Doctor Brown was the only doctor in town, only those who could afford to go see him went and only if they were really sick. Now insurance means anyone who wants can go see Doctor Brown, but he can only treat a hundred people a day, then even if insurance means three hundred people can now afford go see him, he can hike up his prices so only the richest one hundred will go.

            So the answer to that is now it’s economically worth Doctor Smith’s time to move into town and set up, because before Doctor Brown was getting all the custom (only the hundred people who could afford it) but now Smith will get the next richest hundred people that can’t afford Brown’s high prices. And if Doctors Jones, Robinson and Green move into town to set up practices, now the people have a choice of doctors and Brown’s prices have to come down or else he’ll lose the hundred patients he has, because now there are five doctors in town competing for patients instead of one having a monopoly.

            So why didn’t increasing insurance coverage make that happen for medicine prices? Even if Big Pharma justifiably can say that it costs a fortune to research and produce new drugs, now they have even more patients than before that can afford to pay for treatment rather than die because they can’t afford the cost of drugs. But the reverse seems to be happening!

          • Loquat says:

            OPM, yo. If my insurance is covering the whole price, or the whole price minus a fixed copay, I have no incentive to shop around. As much as insurance in this country is currently moving towards high-deductible plans to bring back the incentive to shop, large numbers of people still have fixed copays for prescriptions.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Deiseach, I know that the reason we haven’t gotten as many more doctors as we might have is because the AMA and the teaching hospitals constrain the supply. I wouldn’t be surprised if patent laws and the FDA do something similar with drugs.

          • Aevylmar says:

            “So why didn’t increasing insurance coverage make that happen for medicine prices? Even if Big Pharma justifiably can say that it costs a fortune to research and produce new drugs, now they have even more patients than before that can afford to pay for treatment rather than die because they can’t afford the cost of drugs. But the reverse seems to be happening!

            For physicians, the solution is what Evan pointed out. We don’t have a free market in medicine.

            (Sample graph – I invite people to tear this apart so I can learn more!)

            Chart: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicians_in_the_United_States#/media/File:US_Physicians_per_10,000_people,_1850-2009.png

            Note the fact that the number of per capita doctors actively decreases from … 1860? 1870? to 1950. During the latter part of this period, not only are new medical innovations are being invented that make doctors’ time even more valuable, but large numbers of trained doctors are fleeing Fascist or Communist regimes in Europe. This is not what should happen under a free market, and I am very much inclined to blame the AMA.

            With regards to medicine prices – it is the nature of bureaucracies to grow more bureaucratic over time, to make their forms more complicated, to require a little bit extra, then a little bit extra, then…

            I’ve heard the term ‘organizational scar tissue’ used here, before – every time something goes wrong, or almost goes wrong, someone puts a new box on all the forms that would have stopped the thing from going wrong if it had been properly filled out. But since there are an almost unlimited number of ways for a complicated human system to fail, and because you will never get in trouble as an individual for delaying things slightly (and, indirectly, causing lives not to be saved), only for letting something through that kills people, every year the forms get a little longer, and it gets a little more expensive, and surely you need to require a couple more tests to really be certain!

            Sorry, I’m a little bitter. Again, I’m not an expert, and I’d love to hear from one.

    • Aevylmar says:

      Epilogue, for anyone who’s curious: the reason my insurance company is unwilling to pay for modafinil is because…

      drumroll…

      They think you should start with armodafinil and only use modafinil if armodafinil doesn’t work, because armodafinil is better. Since the reason my doctor didn’t proscribe armodafinil in the first place was because he thought it would be easier to get modafinil past the insurance company, uh…

      This is mildly paternalistic but a whole lot more reasonable than I expected? Anyway, I’m on armodafinil now, buying with GoodRX, and it works great.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Heh, yes, when I was on employer insurance, the preferred choice went back and forth several times. According to Gwern (if I remember correctly) the only difference is that modafinil contains two isomers of which one is basically inert, and armodafinil contains only the effective isomer. Or something like that. I think some of the gyrations had to do with a generic for modafinil appearing, and maybe later a generic for armodafinil, but I’m not sure.

        Under my individual insurance, the issue is that I don’t have any of the three approved diagnoses. I’m glad my doctor was still willing to prescribe it.

  4. keranih says:

    A proposed structure for looking at preferences for issues/policies under debate:

    Divide the things along a spectrum where you would mandate that an action be done, or advocate that an action be done, or advocate that an action be not done, or mandate that an action be not done.

    I think there’s an obvious middle space where a person’s opinion might be “meh, can’t be bothered”, with possible added division (interior to those above, exterior to “can’t be bothered”) of “approve of others taking this action” and “disapprove of others taking this action”. I also think this is best for thinking about debate/preferences, and not about whether a person actually takes an action (or refrains from it.)(*)

    I think maybe people misunderstand each other when they confuse one person’s “advocate for an action” with “mandate an action” or another’s “decline to advocate against an action” with “prefer to mandate an action.”

    Thinking about this (I’m not done yet) has helped me recognize those areas where I do support legislation to cover all fellow citizens vs where I think avocation and personal choice is best. The list of things I would whole-heartedly mandate is (much) less than I thought it would be. (But still very tempting, because of my emotional impression that once a law is passed against something I don’t like, my part is done and I can quit trying to persuade others, leaving the enforcement to da gubmit. This is not a realization I am happy with.)

    (*) I am leaving out what a person actually does because 1) we are talking a purity of intent/legislation, not messy practical events and 2) to both observation and self reflection, people can be all over the freaking map where what they do and what they recognize as best practices overlap (or not.)

    • Randy M says:

      A proposed structure for looking at preferences for issues/policies under debate:

      I put the proposed policy on proposing policies at just shy of advocate for, and between “would do it myself” and “approve of others doing it”.

    • Iain says:

      This seems sensible. I would advocate that it be done.

    • Divide the things along a spectrum where you would mandate that an action be done, or advocate that an action be done, or advocate that an action be not done, or mandate that an action be not done.

      I think there’s an obvious middle space where a person’s opinion might be “meh, can’t be bothered”,

      I wonder if you realize that this is the division in Islamic law. Actions are required (you get postmortem punishment for not doing them), virtuous (you get postmortem reward for doing them), neutral, disliked (reward for refraining from them), forbidden (punishment for doing them).

      • keranih says:

        I did not recognize it in that context – I was aware of haram and halal, but not the finer distinctions. Thanks for the info.

        Thinking on it, I’d rather focus on a secular interpretation, and leave the religious rules to another authority. (I do get that most religions hold a unity view of life, but I’m Western Christian like that.) I’m not so much concerned with the root of why(*) someone feels X about Y – I’d be content enough if people recognized themselves how they felt, and were able to express it.

        (*) I am firmly against saying “Well, your opinion on rule Y comes from your religion, so your opinion doesn’t count”

    • Deiseach says:

      I think maybe people misunderstand each other when they confuse one person’s “advocate for an action” with “mandate an action” or another’s “decline to advocate against an action” with “prefer to mandate an action.”

      “If you’re not against it, then you must be for it” thinking? Yeah, this sounds like a good distinction to make – “I’m not hugely concerned about/interested in this” does not mean the same as “so if I’m not out marching in protests about this, I really want the opposite side to win”, it means “if you want to march in protests, go ahead, but I won’t be there”.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      There’s nearly as much misunderstanding between people over “X is a mandate under these historic/social circumstances, but a do not mandate under these circumstances.” Many people interpret contingent recommendations as motte-and-baileys or public position/private position deceits.

    • onyomi says:

      Libertarian edition:

      A. “I don’t want the government to do it, but still think it should be done.”

      B. “I don’t want the government to do it, and neither should anyone else.”

      C. “I don’t want the government to do it, but am ambivalent about others doing it.”

      Strawman libertarian edition: only ever means B, unless “it” is exploit the poor with unsafe business practices or live by yourself in a cabin in the woods.

  5. Aapje says:

    Venkatresh Rao has a very interesting attempt to map and make sense of the culture war(s).

    As usual when I read him, I consider some things right, some things wrong and much of it very biased by his PoV. Nevertheless, he tends to argue things that few people argue, so he challenges me to think differently.

    • maintain says:

      I thought it was an interesting article because it made me start thinking about the culture wars as an actual “war”, with opposing sides, and uniforms, and people attacking you solely because you’re wearing the wrong uniform, even if you personally have nothing against them. And deep down they probably have nothing against you either, but it’s a war, and they’re forced to attack you because you’re on the other side.

      It made me start thinking of analogies to the first world war. Nobody on either side wanted to fight, but once they started fighting, it wasn’t easy to stop.

      • AG says:

        It seems like a good opportunity to apply consequentialism, though.
        World 1: People don’t really have anything personal against you, but tribal loyalty trumps , so they’ll attack depending on your own stated loyalty.
        World 2: More atomization! People won’t attack someone unless they have something personal against them. This is therefore the world where someone can hate the gays but still support their right to a job, because having the job has nothing to do with their sexuality.

        In World 1, Family matters. You put up with bullshit from Family members that you wouldn’t from non-Family, you support Family members with less questioning than you’d give non-Family, but you can also expect more unconditional support from Family, even if you fuck up.
        In World 2, relationships are solely self-chosen. It’s easier to choose to cut off toxic family, but that means it’s also easier to get cut off and denied forgiveness if you fuck up.

        I mostly prefer World 2, because you actually have to be personally invested to enact violence, rather than casual obligatory violence. From the consequential angle, we’ve been sensitized to certain relationship dynamics that were outweighed by loyalty in the past. But it can also be said that the Biblical Prodigal Son would be really fucked in World 2. Stuck with the pigs forever.

        Of course, currently we seem to be in the worst compromise of the two worlds. “Culture War” takes the tribal loyalty models of World 1 and applies them to the chosen alliances model of World 2, which means that people feel obliged to develop personal grudges against the people they have to enact violence against based on their tribe. People have to rationalize a reason why someone’s sexuality/race would impact their ability to do the job, so they can advocate for not hiring them as moral.
        At the same time, because people can more easily move between cultures, this also incentivizes the purity spirals wherein people are cutting off the undesirables in their group, when in Group 1 they’d be tolerated for being Family.

        “The Affinities” by Robert Charles Wilson explores this, imagining a world where tribes come back via sorting hat social media. People are sorted by personality, which is more of World 2, but they then begin developing exclusionary companies, World 1. Like current alumni networking systems or private company credit unions or insurance, but for a social media group.
        SPOILERS, the book imagines that the size of the groups eventually becomes untenable and breaks down, paving the way for more atomized sorting that would defang attempts at group-based exclusion, because of Six Degrees of connections.

        • Deiseach says:

          In World 2, relationships are solely self-chosen. It’s easier to choose to cut off toxic family, but that means it’s also easier to get cut off and denied forgiveness if you fuck up.

          This is something that fascinates me when I see people advocating for it (there seems to be a lot of “if you have to put up with bigoted family members” posts around Thanksgiving).

          (a) The people making these posts seem to think Uncle Joe is being a horrible racist homophobe bigot every time he opens his mouth, and that surely you should feel safe in your own home rather than be attacked for your rainbow hair. But they never seem to consider that from the other family members’ point of view, they may be the one who makes everyone else go “Aw no, are they coming?” because they insist on telling Uncle Joe and everyone else that they are horrible racist homophobes who don’t care about the poor, Trump and Pence are going to set up gay torture camps and it’s your fault for not voting for Hillary, and don’t you know that turkey is cruelty why aren’t you all vegan by now, I’ve told you enough times, ugh this family is impossible, I’m heading off to my room to tweet about how I was personally attacked by my rotten family at Thanksgiving

          (b) they seem to think that cutting off toxic family members is not alone easy but the right and moral thing to do, and that you should not tolerate Wrong Opinions, but turn it around (parents/others cut them off) and it’s “they’re supposed to love me unconditionally no matter what I say or do! This is all the result of them being bigots!”, i.e. they cut off family whose values they do not agree with – moral choice; family cuts them off for values they do not share – hate and bigotry.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t disagree with the general point. But there’s some nuance there. First, an uncle doesn’t necessarily have to be a particularly close relative or someone that you have to see except for bar mitzvahs, weddings, and funerals. Second, parent-child relationships aren’t, and probably shouldn’t be, totally symmetrical.

          • I’m reminded of Chesterton’s point that the view of the family circle as narrow is backwards. Your circle of friends is narrow, because you selected them to be people you wanted as friends. Your family you just got dropped into.

          • AG says:

            @Deiseach:
            This tension exists in a lot of modern stories, as well. Lots of shows that both laud the family-you-choose, but also take for granted the unconditional love of some blood relatives, but also disagree with filial piety (all them MOMMY ISSUES and DADDY ISSUES), but also mix in weird unconditional love dynamics within the family-you-choose of the “no one is allowed to bully X but me!” variety.

            @DavidFriedman:
            There’s also the tension of “you are closest to the people who you can be your ugliest self with” paradox. And I’ve found that the more I hang out with people, the more I find myself being a bit of an asshole to them. Not all of that is in the counter-signalling category, such as the family that just says the meanest things to each other on vacation, but will still lend each other money with no expectation of getting paid, because Family. Getting taken for granted, for better AND for worse.
            Is the best friend really the one sitting in jail next to you, or the one who responsibly bails you out? Which goes to the previous discussions here about how some poor people with stronger tribal loyalties get stuck in bad financials because of moochers, but they also mock how richer people count debts exactly as a sign of an undesirable low trust/altruism mindset.

          • Deiseach says:

            Second, parent-child relationships aren’t, and probably shouldn’t be, totally symmetrical.

            But there has always been, up until recently, the view that there is a reciprocal obligation: you owe respect to the author of your being. Sometimes this went too far, as in “it doesn’t matter if they’re actually abusive, you owe them obedience”, but the view of filial piety did exist.

            That seems to have been abandoned in favour of individualism, but the other half of it – your parents owe you unconditional love no matter what, even if you actively oppose their values, to the point that if it’s a choice between you and God if they choose God they’re monsters – seems to have been retained and even strengthened. The idea that parents never stop having this duty towards even adult children and should be there as a refuge and support forever. If you can spread your wings, leave home, shed old values and have no obligation to “I must take my elderly mother into my home and support her, because that is the nature of parent-child bonds”, and you are not a monster of ingratitude for doing so, then parents too should be free to say “Okay, you’re in your twenties now, living independently, and we don’t believe that there is such a thing as multi-gender, so we’re not going to pretend we do just because of notions about the nature of family from Bronze Age societies” without being considered hateful haters.

            Now, I do think that family does have some elements of “where they have to take you in”, but as I said, that was a two-sided bargain: adult children would take care of elderly parents. That’s been shifted for various reasons (women working outside the home, medical needs meaning nursing care required, expense and inconvenience, smaller families, changes in social attitudes and a lot more) but the expectation seems to be there that “I feel it a terrible imposition to have to go home for these ritual occasions but if I do go home, they should all fall into line with what I think, believe and do, and any expression of differing opinions is creating an unwelcoming environment at best and is interpreted as hostile and even unsafe space at worst”. That is, having moved away from the parental home, there is still the expectation that the same security, protection and care owed to the child is owed to the adult who returns even on visits.

            Uncle Joe may be a pain, but he has every bit as much right to be considered part of the family as you do. If you’re all in Grandma’s house for Christmas, then maybe both of you should shut up and act civil. You want to go on Tumblr and complain how stressful it is ‘acting’ and ‘hiding’ who you ‘really’ are, go right ahead, but if you’re taking advantage of family bonds and support as something owed you, then you too owe the work to maintain those bonds.

            tl;dr – being a jerk doesn’t mean you’re not part of the family. Family members have to put up with each other or can decide to cut the cords, but you don’t get to say “only the nice people are really my family”.

      • Tarhalindur says:

        I’d quibble with maintain that nobody wanted the First World War. IIRC, there were two factions in Europe which wanted a war: Austria-Hungary (which wanted a war to prop itself up) and certain factions in Germany (including part of the German General Staff). That, plus the existing network of treaties and a suitable spark, was enough.

        Which brings me to something that might be relevant to the question of “why the culture wars?”. I ran across this blog post about a week ago – it’s written in the context of Islamic terrorism, but it strikes me as potentially applicable to the modern culture wars (and not just because it uses the antebellum South as a historical example). It hypothesizes that rage toxoplasma is the *point* of certain kinds of radicals – ones who think that their values are certain to be washed away by broad historical currents coupled with apathetic masses but that they might be able to preserve said values if they can remove the possibility of moderation and compromise and force an all-or-nothing confrontation.

        That frame strikes me as plausible and relevant to the culture . There’s two heavily-overlapping wings of American politics that are preoccupied with the youth moving away from their ancestral culture in favor of modernity (“liquid modernity”, to use the useful phrase of a certain blogger): the traditionalists and the Christian Right. Those groups, to my eye, were the first two groups in America to really embrace a “no compromise, primary the RINOs” style of politics.

        Now, the hard part is that both of the following statements are true:
        a) This argument doesn’t apply to Blue Tribe – Blue Tribe thinks that the long march of history is in their favor and thus doesn’t have the same “we’re losing the ancestral ways” motive.
        b) There are parts of Blue Tribe (*cough* Social Justice *cough*) that are increasingly behaving like toxoplasma-maximizing radicals.

        My guess is that the equivalent Blue phenomenon is previously successful Blue political movements trying to keep the momentum going as the tides of political opinion shift away from them. That would fit with the two previous Blue movements that radicalized: the Marxists near the end of the Great Society (sparking early 1970s terrorism) and the environmental movement during the Reagan years (sparking the ecoterrorists). I don’t know enough about the black nationalists to say one way or the other. (There may also be groups feeling that the first black President/legal gay marriage would trigger a utopian age. That logic, if it’s correct, also applies to the right – the equivalent Red trigger was the fall of the Soviet Union.)

        (Interestingly, the one Blue group with the most reason to think time is not on their side – the remains of the Old Left – hasn’t gone extremist the same way. I’d guess that’s due to either the failed 1960s extremism or the fall of the Soviet Union.)

        • Aapje says:

          Blue Tribe thinks that the long march of history is in their favor and thus doesn’t have the same “we’re losing the ancestral ways” motive.

          I linked to a survey recently that showed that a very high minority (40+%) of blacks don’t believe that they will ever get racial equality and presumably these are pretty much all blue tribe. It seems to me that this belief has recently gained much more traction in the blue tribe.

          Take this data*, which shows Democrats becoming far more despairing about black people being able to improve their lives without interventions, between 2012 and 2016.

          * They call it ‘symbolic racism,’ but I believe that this is a severe misnomer and that what is actually polled is whether people (dis)agree with a certain pessimistic view on race relations.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think this is an abuse of “Blue Tribe”: it’s a culture, not a political affiliation, and like Red Tribe it’s primarily a white phenomenon. Not strictly — there are plenty of people of other ethnicities in it, including some black ones — but African-American culture is its own thing, and most black Americans still belong to that.

          • Aapje says:

            Yeah, you are right.

            However, I think that my point still stands that the blue tribe has been adopting arguments and beliefs from African-American activists. Even the fascist subset of black activism got called GOAT (greatest of all times) by a national co-chair for the Women’s March. Although they did write a not very repudiating repudiation.

          • Tarhalindur says:

            I’m inclined to parse black America as a separate smaller tribe* allied with Blue Tribe rather than Blue Tribe proper, though there’s overlap once you get into black members of the professional class. Frankly, that’s basically because IMO “white” carves American social divisions poorly at the joints (roughly equivalent to a person using Arabic/Kurdish as the main social divides in Iraq) and Blue Tribe/Red Tribe does a pretty good job of pointing to what’s effectively an intra-white sectarian split roughly corresponding to Albion’s Seed Puritan and Quaker (plus Irish) versus Cavalier and Borderer. (The traditional terms for those two groups are Yankee/Southerner, but those terms have been rendered obsolete by a hundred-odd years of internal migration.)

            As for the survey question you’re looking at – I’d guess that’s because a sizeable chunk of Americans felt that the first black President would herald the end of that kind of abuse, Second Coming-style. (There’s precedent for “first X President” being a symbolic indicator that a low-status group has Made It and are now reasonably full members of the polity – Catholics after Kennedy.) Due to some combination of facts on the ground and presentation, that became untenable after Ferguson, and the Democrats ran straight into the ??? part of “Step 1: Elect first black President. Step 2: ??? Step 3: No racial abuses!” with rippling aftereffects.

            (FWIW… I am increasingly suspicious, on different grounds, that “racial abuses will occur in the US at least as long as the US exists” is correct. But then, I’ve been hunting for metis in some rather strange places the last couple of years.)

            * – The obvious name would be Black Tribe; that has unfortunate connotations, but frankly I suspect the euphemism treadmill plus the minority of bona fide white racists (I’d conservatively estimate that group at 5-10% of the population) would guarantee that regardless.

          • Nornagest says:

            Albion’s Seed is gesturing in the right direction, I think, but Anglo heritage alone isn’t enough to account for the current divides. It’s got too big of a blind spot around the Irish, Scandinavian, German, Polish, Jewish — and that’s just white people.

            My sense is that Cavalier/Borderer cuts along one internal division of Red Tribe fairly well. But it doesn’t capture the hard Religious Right (or the Mormons, who I’d file separately). And Quaker/Puritan doesn’t ring so true for me on the Blue side, although I can see echoes of it in East Coast Blues.

            Agree that Red/Blue alone obscures as much as it reveals, though.

          • cassander says:

            @Nornagest says:

            Albion’s Seed is gesturing in the right direction, I think, but Anglo heritage alone isn’t enough to account for the current divides.

            The point of albion’s seed isn’t that ethnicity is destiny, it’s that the founding groups established cultural patterns that have persisted long after they stopped being ethnic communities.

            >Quaker/Puritan doesn’t ring so true for me on the Blue side.

            I think you should read albion’s seed again, the blue tribe is puritan to its core.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think you should read albion’s seed again, the blue tribe is puritan to its core.

            I’m not saying Blue Tribe isn’t largely Puritan. I’m saying I don’t see a well-defined faultline between Quaker and Puritan components of Blue Tribe the way I see one between Cavalier and Borderer components of the Reds.

            Part of this might be because Quaker culture is in some ways the American cultural default. There are recognizable Quaker groups on all sides of politics — business Republicans are basically Quaker in their outlook, but so’s a lot of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party. Everyone’s got some Quakers in their ingroup, so their cultural quirks haven’t become outgroup-marked the way others’ have.

          • cassander says:

            @Nornagest

            Ah, that makes much more sense. The puritan strain definitely dominates, there’s no question, but you can see the quakerish side on the more hippyish peace and love side of blue tribe, but I’d agree that there isn’t really a fundamental divide there any more and hat the two have largely fused. I went to school with a lot of quakers and there is no lack of puritans among them.

            I don’t think I’d agree that quakerism is the default americanism. There’s a certain pretense to quakerism, I think, but we like crusading too much to really buy into it wholeheartedly.

          • Tarhalindur says:

            Nornagest: The overlap between the Puritans and the Quakers is stupidly easy to understand, as long as you understand the key driver: the Puritans per se (i.e, the Congregationalists and parts of the Presbyterians) ceased to exist as a separate cultural force in the wake of the Second Great Awakening, torpedoed because their children abandoned the traditional Calvinist faith in favor of some of the rising denominations of the age* (notably the Unitarians and Methodists) but brought the less strict parts of the Puritan worldview with them. Like… that’s why Blue Tribe is Blue Tribe. (That’s also why I find the Albion’s Seed categories more useful for describing Blue Tribe than something like the American Nations schema.)
            * – My working hypothesis is that this is, at some level, the same process that took out the mainline circa 1970; I suspect it’s also going to take out the evangelicals by 2050 or so.

            As for the Religious Right: There’s three primary strands of Christianity that fused to make the Religious Right. One’s from the Third Great Awakening West Coast, mediated after WWII with Texas influence; one’s Southern, dates back at least to the Third Great Awakening, and was at least ancestrally influenced by the slavery debates; the third is Midwestern, and while I don’t have a great handle on them my working hypothesis is that they date back to Puritan evangelism in the Midwest during the Second Great Awakening.

            At any rate, I rather strongly disagree that the Religious Right doesn’t count as Red. They basically settled on the central form that Red Tribe took in general: Cavalier with a salting of Borderer. (Their definition of freedom in particular fits those two cultures to the core: hierarchical [with Jesus on the top rung of the hierarchy] with an emphasis on patriarch’s rights that strikes me as the logical mesh of Cavalier and Borderer.)

            (The Mormons are another matter, and I agree that they don’t really fit in the Religious Right – or in Red/Blue, for that matter. I’m inclined to parse them as a Puritan-Borderer hybrid – that’s also a decent hypothesis for the ancestral character of the Midwestern strain of the Religious Right, which would make sense since both are from roughly the same time and place.)

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m inclined to parse black America as a separate smaller tribe* allied with Blue Tribe rather than Blue Tribe proper, though there’s overlap once you get into black members of the professional class.

            Looking at it very much from the outside, there seems to be (a) the white Blue Tribe activists love associating themselves with the Civil Rights movement and co-opt the language, imagery and even concepts for things like gay rights (b) this is resented and even repudiated by mainstream(?) Black culture, at least by the influential cultural icons such as church leaders and pastors (c) which means that ‘respectable’ Black culture is more socially conservative (to whatever degree) than mainstream Blue Tribe culture and (d) the examples I’ve seen of what I’d call Blue Tribe values (taken to the extreme, if you like) expressed within Black culture do tend to be the “queer trans sex worker POC” type of activism. There’s definitely a movement for more liberal faith leaders within Black churches, especially on LGBT issues, but they’re still not as dominant or numerically representative; the type of minister who sends inspirational Bible verses to Hillary Clinton during her campaign, for example, or write pieces for the HuffPo but maybe not the same ones as politicians on the stump like to have photo-ops with to prove that they’re the kind of candidate your pastor endorses so you should vote for them.

        • Tamar says:

          Sorry off topic but – oh man, are you the Tarhalindur? Mind Screw Mafia Tarhalindur? If so – man, this brings me back (if you are, I went by Plum on the site in question).

          • Tarhalindur says:

            [REDACTED – RULE 0]

            (Yes. Haven’t forgotten your username, actually – my memory is long – though I’ll admit it’s not the first one I would have thought of if you told me another former ‘Scummer was posting on SSC.

            Speaking of names you might recognize: Yosarian2 also seems to be on SSC, given that not only have I seen said username behind but he chimed in on discussion of Mafia here a while back in exactly the sort of way I’d expect from Yos2; I think I’ve seen UncertainKitten/forbiddanlight floating around the fringes of the Tumblr adjacents, too.)

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Hey, I used to float around the site in question, too!

            Small Internet.

      • Garrett says:

        The problem with treating it as an actual war is that it then requires warriors. If it’s an actual war, you need to figure out how to gain intel, determine objectives and neutralize threats. You can’t just fight it by buying gold coins, ammo and canned goods. But anything more than online shopping and posting on Twitter/Facebook/Reddit seems to be beyond the effort threshold for most.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I read it. I guess I would be classified as a patsy. I found the article hyperbolic. Yes, I enjoy debating “the culture wars” on SSC, but no, it’s not really a war. The vast majority of people are not fighting a culture war. The vast majority of people are not aware of a culture war. The vast majority of people are living their lives. Some people on TV and social media are hyperventilating about a culture war, but it’s not real. As big a battle as you think the 2016 election was, about 90 million eligible voters couldn’t be bothered to show up at the polls. They just don’t care as much as you do.

      So the question is, am I a patsy, or has Rao gone off the deep end? I pattern match Rao’s behavior to the experience I had looking at my FaceBook feed after the election. One of my liberal friends posted that “safety pin” symbol and promised to hide gays and muslims from the alt-right (I wonder how hiding both gays and muslims in the same crawlspace at the same time would work out? Not well I think). And I got snapped at for trying to calm down my bisexual friend who thought Mike Pence was literally going to force her into some kind of conversion therapy program to “fix” her. Consider also the “journalists” who predicted economic collapse if Trump won, etc. None of these things happened. But I don’t think they notice or remember that. So I’m putting “it’s really a war!!!” into the bucket of hyperbolic hyperventilating (hyper?)exaggerated statements.

      Rao’s just one guy, but I’m going to keep my eye out for more people claiming the “culture war” is a real war. Are people having some spats over women in video games and diversity in the movies? Yes. But

      When it’s all done and over with, and the dust has settled somewhat, I believe we’ll look back on this era as being as consequential in reshaping the future of the United States and the world as the Civil War.

      Naw, man. Naw. This era will be as consequential in reshaping the future of the United States and the world as the Cola Wars. Or maybe the Console Wars.

      • The Nybbler says:

        This era will be as consequential in reshaping the future of the United States and the world as the Cola Wars. Or maybe the Console Wars.

        As long as it continues as a low-level conflict with protests, firings, occasional riots, and reigns of terror in various industries, it won’t reshape the future of the United States much. If the SJW tide falls, it also won’t reshape the future of the United States. If the SJWs achieve significant victory — that is, they make “reverse” discrimination explicitly legal, acceptable, common, and often mandatory — we’ll have reached a point where a majority of men are treated as second-class citizens. I do not think such a situation is even remotely stable and it may well lead to civil unrest at the next economic downturn. I also think they’re pretty close; we’ve long been at the point that such discrimination is implicitly accepted, and it’s becoming more and more blatant.

        • AG says:

          a majority of men are treated as second-class citizens is so far from reality outside of a few tiny pockets of Blue it’s not even funny. There are still vast swaths of America (including most of the Bay Area, you’re just choosing to keep hanging out in said tiny pockets) where being a man is neutral at worst.
          Like, treated as second-class citizens compared to what first class? In what world will the male 1% still be treated as second class compared to their fellow non-men 1%? Come back when reverse discrimination has been in place long enough that men are actually a minority in the numbers for the upper-quartile jobs, universities, and government alike. Come back when men are being murdered for the crime of being men (as opposed to being murdered for other reasons). Or, go move to Alabama for a year, and then tell me reverse discrimination is anywhere near getting passed there.

          Are there areas of society where men are treated less well than other demographics? Yes. Are there other areas of society where said other demographics are not treated as well as men? Yes. So unless you’re buying into the Oppression Olympics, there are no second class citizens here.

          And even then, second class citizens would presumably get treated better than non-citizens.

          • Aapje says:

            Well, men seem to do increasingly worse in education and education is pretty strongly linked to the ability to get a good job. Jobs in turn mostly determine what social class you are in, so men may on average become second class by whatever mechanism is driving them out of the pipeline to good jobs.

            Furthermore, the male gender role seems ill-suited for this brave new world, demanding the impossible from men, so then many men may see no avenue to a good life, causing despair, anger, resentment, etc.

          • The Nybbler says:

            a majority of men are treated as second-class citizens is so far from reality outside of a few tiny pockets of Blue it’s not even funny.

            A few tiny pockets of Blue… plus essentially all universities, government jobs, and many corporate departments. And that’s _now_, while it’s still being done not quite openly in most places — even woke YouTube couldn’t actually post a “White and Asian Men Need Not Apply” sign. Get a few court decisions which make the practice legal everywhere and Johnny bar the door.

            Come back when reverse discrimination has been in place long enough that men are actually a minority in the numbers for the upper-quartile jobs

            Do you think the discriminated-against men will wait that long? I don’t.

          • a reader says:

            @Aapje:

            Well, men seem to do increasingly worse in education and education is pretty strongly linked to the ability to get a good job.

            That shouldn’t be surprising. Men have greater variation in in ability than women, greater standard deviation for IQ. That means that men will be overrepresented at both ends of the bell curve: more brilliant male programmers employed by Google, but also more men that are not able to finish even high school; more male millionaires and more homeless men.

            Besides, there is the testosterone, that makes boys less docile in schools, especially in adolescence. In the times when most students in schools were boys, corporal punishments were used:

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

          • Aapje says:

            @a reader

            Greater variance can explain substantial differences at the extremes, but not so much at the middle. High schools are very much ‘the middle’ and colleges are far less selective than they used to be.

            Your explanation would IMO only make sense if education is also failing the top outliers, not just the bottom outliers. In that case I would argue that the educational system is then failing those that we most need in the pipeline to the best jobs (or as Scott has argued, we need to reduce credentialism and in general have alternative paths).

            If modern education is incapable of providing the intellectually capable, but less docile with a good education, while fairly recently, education was far more capable of this (and this was when corporal punishment was already abolished); then I would also argue that education is failing men in a way that it doesn’t have to and should not.

            It very much looks to me like educators enjoy working with girls more and try to make their job easy and more pleasant, by not doing the hard work that is needed to create a good learning environment for boys (and by drugging boys with ADD medication). So the boys are blamed for it. Would people be equally lackadaisical/victim blamey if children of immigrants are not taught properly in schools. Those kids are also harder to teach…

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            If modern education is incapable of providing the intellectually capable, but less docile with a good education, while fairly recently, education was far more capable of this (and this was when corporal punishment was already abolished); then I would also argue that education is failing men in a way that it doesn’t have to and should not.

            It very much looks to me like educators enjoy working with girls more and try to make their job easy and more pleasant, by not doing the hard work that is needed to create a good learning environment for boys (and by drugging boys with ADD medication). So the boys are blamed for it. Would people be equally lackadaisical/victim blamey if children of immigrants are not taught properly in schools. Those kids are also harder to teach…

            I’m curious, Aapje, do you have any suggestions along this line? What are some things educators could attempt to make the environment more suitable for males? I don’t disagree that boys are largely let down by modern education, but you seem to imply to me that there are easy solutions here, and I’m not sure that’s the case.

          • Matt M says:

            if education is also failing the top outliers, not just the bottom outliers.

            I mean, it probably is, right?

            Not “failing” in the sense that the top outliers end up working as fry cooks at McDonalds their whole lives, but in that it largely wastes their time and that they achieve just as much by dropping out. Various college dropout entrepreneurs probably qualify as evidence for this, right?

            Even someone who is naturally very smart and possesses most of the skills and qualities necessary to do a job, but pays $100K and sits through four years of pointless liberal arts classes in order to get a fancy paper that makes him “officially employable now” has probably been “failed by the system” in a meaningful way.

          • Aapje says:

            @Chevalier Mal Fet

            One probably reason is that it has become harder to succeed with less consistent performance over time. Boys seem especially prone to temporarily perform poorly. So one solution is to remove structures that punish those who perform poorly for some time and remove structures that reward those who perform very consistently.

            Another probably cause is that the increasingly sedentary lives of kids prevents them from blowing off steam in a way that then later allows them to be docile. So a solution to this (and to fight obesity) may be to incorporate exercise in the curriculum much more.

            A third likely cause is that teachers have become far more misandrist, causing them to interpret masculine behaviors negatively and feminine behaviors positively, rather than recognizing that both have their up- and downsides. So one could send teachers to reeducation camps courses that teach them to handle male behavior in a more positive way, rather than with scolding and punishment. They can then also learn the downsides of feminine behavior and encourage girls to adopt masculine strategies a bit more, which may benefit them later in life. [In general, I think that schools should teach various kinds of strategies more, allowing students to figure out what strategies work for what situations and which strategies work best for how their mind works.]

            A fourth likely cause is that teaching and exams have been increasingly designed around what girls more often like: team-work, making reports, following instructions rather than figuring out a solution, etc. So a solution can be to more often teach and have exams that tend to appeal more often to boys. A possibility is also to allow kids more freedom to choose how they study (but not more freedom to choose if to study). Don’t tell the kids that they have to do something with a group or alone, but let them choose. Of course, you’d still want to push people out of their comfort zone now and then, but not constantly.

            There was a Dutch case study where schools were examined where boys did well and it was found that a shared factor was that the schools focused a lot on teaching the kids how to learn effectively and working on getting the kids motivated. These things seemed to be especially useful for boys, although it didn’t seem to be at the expense of girls, since at all the schools, the girls also performed better than average.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje

            Even at universities with the biggest female-male imbalance (leaving aside women’s schools, obviously) there’s still about 1/3 men. Life is going to be great for those men, because those among them who are into women will have an easier time finding women – women seem to be much less willing than men to date below their education/income level. If one day 2/3 of people with bachelor’s degrees, people in the professions, etc are women… Treating men as a monolithic unit in this case misses a lot.

            I agree with the second point. Jobs that require someone be male, or that men are significantly better at than women, are far fewer than they once were; a lot of jobs that back in the day there was sort of this “of course a woman could never be a lawyer!” attitude, it’s turned out to be completely false. So there’s a lot of men, even men who are doing well economically, who have an identity crisis situation going on.

          • Iain says:

            It’s interesting to see how sometimes Group X doing worse in schools shows that schools are failing Group X, and sometimes Group X doing worse in schools shows that Group X is just naturally predisposed to do worse, depending on the value of X.

            Like, yeah, this is all worth researching and taking seriously. But I question whether this thread would look the same if it was about, say, girls doing worse in math. (To be clear: I am saying that people should give more weight to this type of concern when it is applied to groups other than men, not that we should ignore the problem as it applies to men.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Iain

            I’ve been aware of efforts to help girls do better in math for over 30 years. They’ve tried various encouragements, they’ve tried different teaching methods, they’ve tried girls-only classes, probably any number of other interventions I’m not aware of or remembering. Generally they either did nothing or had a very small and temporary effect. The difference remains.

            On the other hand, the decline of boys’ achievement is recent.

            Anyway your comment is just whataboutism and innuendo.

          • Matt M says:

            On the other hand, the decline of boys’ achievement is recent.

            And mainly met with a shrug and a “I guess they just suck then. This is proof that toxic masculinity is real!”

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain

            This is a good point. I would note that there’s a mixture here of “the schools are failing boys” and “boys (or some boys) just aren’t as good at school” though. It’s certainly more towards the former case than it would be in some other instances.

            It might not even be anything to do with how schools operate. It could just be that there’s fewer jobs that reward uneducated guys – fewer brute-force jobs – and a lot more jobs that one could do without a university degree that require one due to credential inflation.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I just want to push back at the idea that schools aren’t doing anything to help boys. That’s why I wanted to get Aapje’s specifics, because I wanted to see if he had anything that my school wasn’t doing already.

            So here’s the thing: I’m a middle school teacher (English & Social Studies) at one of the better public schools in my state. First, let me reject absolutely the premise that any of my colleagues are misandrist or pre-disposed to judge typical male behavior as bad or anything like that. This includes a hell of a lot of teachers this commentary section would describe as “SJWs” (and while I don’t tell them all my political beliefs, which vary between “typical Republican” and “Friedman anarcho-capitalist” depending on how principled I’m feeling, I’ve never felt threatened by them at all. They’re caring, dedicated professionals first and SJWs second). Hell, one reason I got into education was because I agree that boys’ falling educational achievement is a huge problem, one of the more neglected issues facing the human race. Every one of my colleagues cares about our male students’ success and works hard to help them.

            One probably reason is that it has become harder to succeed with less consistent performance over time. Boys seem especially prone to temporarily perform poorly. So one solution is to remove structures that punish those who perform poorly for some time and remove structures that reward those who perform very consistently.

            This one confused me – what structures do schools have that punish those who perform poorly for some time? Is it the daily completion of homework? Yes, we assign homework – but the grading on it is very lenient (these are middle schoolers), and most grades come not from the rote completion of assignments every night, but rather a few major assignments scattered through a semester with a healthy measure of points for showing up to class and participating in discussions and the like. The one class that does require graded daily homework, math, is also the one boys do the best in!

            But I could be misunderstanding you entirely and that whole discussion is in that case irrelevant. :I

            Another probably cause is that the increasingly sedentary lives of kids prevents them from blowing off steam in a way that then later allows them to be docile. So a solution to this (and to fight obesity) may be to incorporate exercise in the curriculum much more.

            Also something widespread through the school. You can’t sit for 55/110 minutes with middle schoolers anyway, so every class incorporates physical movement, getting students up and out of their seats. Some classes have exercise desks, many allow students to roam at will (within reason) – the kids aren’t chained to their seats all day. We want them to move.

            A third likely cause is that teachers have become far more misandrist, causing them to interpret masculine behaviors negatively and feminine behaviors positively, rather than recognizing that both have their up- and downsides. So one could send teachers to reeducation camps courses that teach them to handle male behavior in a more positive way, rather than with scolding and punishment. They can then also learn the downsides of feminine behavior and encourage girls to adopt masculine strategies a bit more, which may benefit them later in life. [In general, I think that schools should teach various kinds of strategies more, allowing students to figure out what strategies work for what situations and which strategies work best for how their mind works.]

            This may be true at other schools, but not at my own, as I’ve said. I would be curious to know what you think of as masculine/feminine strategies, though.

            A fourth likely cause is that teaching and exams have been increasingly designed around what girls more often like: team-work, making reports, following instructions rather than figuring out a solution, etc. So a solution can be to more often teach and have exams that tend to appeal more often to boys. A possibility is also to allow kids more freedom to choose how they study (but not more freedom to choose if to study). Don’t tell the kids that they have to do something with a group or alone, but let them choose. Of course, you’d still want to push people out of their comfort zone now and then, but not constantly.

            Again, this is something we already have in place. Group work is frequent, but never required, and we have very few assignments that are more about following directions than finding a solution (there are some, but those are generally assignments with the explicit goal of teaching students to follow directions). Science labs, for example, typically present the students with a problem and a bunch of tools for solving it, and leave them to devise their own strategies and approaches. My own history assignments are never rigid, simply asking the students to show me their learning in a way that they choose (I offer a bevy of “menu options,” as I call them, and they can negotiate their own assignment with me also, if they so choose).

            Here’s the problem with all of it, though: It doesn’t work.

            I don’t mean it doesn’t work in that it fails to teach the students – by every measure, my school is very successful at what it does (as far as public schools go, we’re not miracle workers). But if your goal is to close the male/female achievement gap, then these things – at least in my n=1 experience – manifestly fail to do so. Girls STILL turn in better projects, they STILL write far better lab reports, they STILL offer more valuable contributions to class discussions. Meanwhile, ‘problem’ students are almost universally more likely to be male. Whether it’s poor grades, poor behavior in class, what have you.

            I must acknowledge that middle school is an unfair time, perhaps. This is right at the onset of puberty – girls are becoming more mature mentally and socially right alongside their physical maturation. Boys, though, are delayed by a year or two, and that’s very evident in the 7th and 8th graders I teach (12-13 year olds, for our Europeans). This, combined with the fact that the gender effect persists across all teachers I know, including ones I know to be good-willed such as myself, causes me to think that the cause is more likely biological than any bias the school system has against males.

            Now, this doesn’t affect ALL boys, obviously. Many boys are excellent writers, fine students, have no trouble stepping up and performing. But the underachievers are disproportionately likely to be male.

            In many ways, it parallels the racial gap. Our students most likely to face discipline, most likely to disrupt class, to challenge the teacher, to do all those things which threaten the normal functioning of a school, are more likely than not to be a certain race – but the racial effect is dwarfed by the gender effect, which is an order of magnitude larger (though I cynically note that the administration has panicked meetings about how can we get our suspension rate of disadvantaged minorities down, but never mentions the fact that we suspend ten boys for every girl). Here, though, I don’t endorse the biological explanation, but instead a cultural one – most of our minority students come from the inner city, busing in to our district as a legacy of desegregation, and the norms of behavior are different there than they are in my upscale suburban middle school.

          • What are some things educators could attempt to make the environment more suitable for males?

            On suggestion is to make less of it “sit down, shut up and listen” in a classroom. My impression is that girls function in that environment better than boys, although I’m not sure why. So more an individual projects, research, reading approach.

            There is a school in the Pacific Northwest run by the Scientologists which has a model with relatively little classroom time, mostly kids reading things with an adult keeping track of where they are and what they need. As best I can tell it’s the inspiration of the headmaster, although of course he credits it all to Hubbard. I think its function is as a boarding school for kids whose parents are spending all of their time working for the Church of Scientology. It would be interesting to see if it works better for boys than the standard model.

          • Randy M says:

            Good post Chev, but

            Here [race], though, I don’t endorse the biological explanation

            You have to admit that the number of strategies tried in the last few decades to try and alleviate the racial gap is at least as big as the strategies you outlined for trying to help boys, and about as successful.

            Group work is frequent, but never required

            My HS Geometry class as entirely group work, with every test having a group component (50% I think?). It was kind of weird and experimental, though, one of those budding educational fads.

          • Charles F says:

            You can’t sit for 55/110 minutes with middle schoolers anyway, so every class incorporates physical movement, getting students up and out of their seats. Some classes have exercise desks, many allow students to roam at will (within reason) – the kids aren’t chained to their seats all day. We want them to move

            Is this common? It’s been a little over a decade since I was in middle school, but we sat for each period and (mostly) shut up. This was expected/enforced and I don’t remember many cases where it was a problem. It might be better to give them a chance to move around, but if you think they just can’t handle being quiet and still, I think you’re doing them a disservice.

            Again, this is something we already have in place. Group work is frequent, but never required

            That, I’m very glad to hear. I failed a *lot* of assignments in school because I wasn’t allowed to do them alone, but there weren’t any groups that wanted to work with me.

          • AG says:

            @The Nybbler:
            Yeah, no, get back to me when the percentage of men in government jobs and university leadership positions is less than even 70%. Which is still a majority, and so in no way second class compared to other demographics getting a measly 30% of that pie.

            The fact that men continue to still dominate in places with said unspoken “need not apply” companies, who have said unspoken policies exactly because men are still dominating their workforces, shows that any disadvantages in education aren’t the result of treating men as a second class citizen. Such a society would have companies of majority non-men continuing to discourage application of men, where a majority of companies have a majority not-men workforce.
            Making “reverse discrimination” mandatory (which I do not support, btw) is so much not the same as “a majority of men are treated as second-class citizens.” It’s like saying the 1% are second class citizens because we explicitly discriminate against them via a progressive tax policy.

            The rest of the education discussion has been really interesting to read. But while in some other discussions, people are pointing to Asian/Jewish success as a reason why the other racial performance gaps are more cultural and so should just git gud, I wonder why we can’t use the same with certain gender-associated cultures to just git gud? (including with feminity and STEM)

          • Aapje says:

            @Chevalier Mal Fet

            Before I respond in detail, two points:
            – I’m not saying that every school is not doing enough for boys, I’m arguing about the average & about the entire educational system.
            – My experiences/knowledge is mainly about the Dutch educational system.

            First, let me reject absolutely the premise that any of my colleagues are misandrist or pre-disposed to judge typical male behavior as bad or anything like that. […] They’re caring, dedicated professionals first and SJWs second).

            My worldview is that misandrism is deeply embedded in Western culture and that it doesn’t require conscious ill will towards males to be misandrist and that caring about men/boys doesn’t prevent it either. I have seen a lot of people who seek out activism do and say things that I consider very misandrist & my assumption is that these people are more caring than average, relatively nice, quite well-intentioned towards all, etc. Yet that isn’t enough to prevent some deeply misandrist assumptions & biases.

            A good illustration that love/care doesn’t prevent misandrism is that we even see that mothers are less responsive to fuss/cry signals of male infants. So this goes very deep and I won’t take your word for it that your colleagues don’t have misandrist biases & assumptions. If they believe in patriarchy as a system where men are in control and oppress women, then this is already an extremely misandrist belief (replace men by jews and you have the archetypical anti-semitic ‘ZOG’ belief).

            This one confused me – what structures do schools have that punish those who perform poorly for some time?

            I’m talking about the entire educational system, not just locally (which presumably has your particular interest because you can potentially change it).

            The GPA may be a US-specific example of a way to evaluate people that rewards consistency. In The Netherlands, examples are that repeating classes has become strongly discouraged & moving up a level has too. So it is easy to drop down during a slump and hard to climb up.

            I don’t think that homework in itself harms boys, although the type of homework can have some effect.

            [exercise is] Also something widespread through the school.

            But is it widespread in US schools? It seems quite exceptional in Dutch schools.

            I would be curious to know what you think of as masculine/feminine strategies, though.

            A fairly typical masculine strategy is to start by trying some things, while a more feminine strategy is to make a more extensive plan first. Both strategies have their advantages and disadvantages.

            Here’s the problem with all of it, though: It doesn’t work. […] I must acknowledge that middle school is an unfair time, perhaps. This is right at the onset of puberty – girls are becoming more mature mentally and socially right alongside their physical maturation. Boys, though, are delayed by a year or two

            Sure, but they then tend to catch up. So then isn’t the trick to avoid losing them while they are retarded and to enable them to catch up when they do mature? It may make educating these boys less efficient, but can’t we gain a lot by keeping them from dropping out?

            though I cynically note that the administration has panicked meetings about how can we get our suspension rate of disadvantaged minorities down, but never mentions the fact that we suspend ten boys for every girl

            Hey, I thought you said that your colleagues weren’t misandrist 😛

            Here, though, I don’t endorse the biological explanation, but instead a cultural one – most of our minority students come from the inner city, busing in to our district as a legacy of desegregation, and the norms of behavior are different there than they are in my upscale suburban middle school.

            The male norms of behavior are also different though, so I can’t see how you can so easily dismiss a cultural factor as a possibly significant reason for the lesser success of boys.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @AG

            You were arguing it wasn’t happening. Now you’re arguing it’s justified.

          • Aapje says:

            @AG

            Sacrificing a lot to achieve ‘success’ in the workplace is strongly forced on men, where the income very often is used to exempt women from having to work (as much). This is commonly called the provider role. This obligation strongly restricts the ability by men to choose the most pleasing work, to work a more pleasing amount of hours, to avoid dangerous work, to choose a more balanced life, etc, etc.

            A major problem I have with the dominant narrative is exactly with what you are doing: portraying the oppression of men as privilege.

            Think about it. So many barriers that prevented women to act like men were removed, yet they still don’t act the same. Could it be that it’s not the existence of oppression that is preventing women from acting like men, but that they lack the same oppression that forces men into their behavior?

          • mdet says:

            @The Nybbler

            [AG] You were arguing it wasn’t happening. Now you’re arguing it’s justified.

            That is not what AG was arguing. Reading their comments, it seems like they are trying to make a distinction between “are often treated unfairly” and “are coming out behind” regarding the usage of the term “second class citizen”. Men are 50% of the populace, and >70% of positions in government jobs and university leadership (according to AG), so they are not behind anyone, they are in first place, therefore they cannot be defined as second class. I think their analogy with progressive taxation is apt: you can argue that taxing richer people at higher rates is unfair, but to call Bill Gates a “second class citizen” because he has a higher tax rate than a minimum wage worker would twist the term “second class citizen”.

            You can dispute their definition of “second class citizen” (which is just arguing semantics), or you can make the argument that “often treated unfairly” is still bad even if it doesn’t rise to the level of “second class” (which it sounds like AG may agree with), but I think your comment very much mischaracterizes what they’ve said.

            @Aapje
            (I assume you are aware that the mirror argument is made that men are able to achieve success in the workplace and broader society because women put in so much extra work at home? I think the irony is deliberate, but you know how the internet is)

          • The Nybbler says:

            @mdet

            “Are coming out behind” is a lagging indicator, and in any case groups can sometimes be clearly discriminated against and still have good outcomes (European Jews would be an example in some places and times, though not the 1930-40s). If young white men find themselves barred from the better college programs, and barred from many good careers and fields and they’re told this is just “justice”, do you think they’ll care that there’s still a lot of white (and Asian) male incumbents in those fields?

            Furthermore, even if we look at outcomes, we see men lagging in education, and that’s without de jure (but with de facto) discrimination.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Girls STILL turn in better projects, they STILL write far better lab reports, they STILL offer more valuable contributions to class discussions.

            STILL…do better on tests?

            maybe, and who knows if it’s my place to lecture you on the right way to report this stuff, but I bet “tests” are what men are best at, and obviously if you weight those less men lose out (assuming I’m right about men being better at them). Of course you could have perfectly justified reasons to weight those things equally or more than tests, so I’m not here to judge.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @mdet

            “Men” isn’t a monolithic group. The men who were already not getting it so great, or were treading water, or even in some cases were doing pretty well (stereotypical well-paid blue-collar guy, let’s say) aren’t doing so great, educationally at least. The men who have always done well are doing just as well: it’s not an across-the-board “boys are doing worse in school”, the boys who are going to go on to good universities and so on are doing just fine. It’s not a consolation to the former that the latter still dominate the legislature or whatever. But on the other hand:

            @The Nybbler

            If young white men find themselves barred from the better college programs, and barred from many good careers and fields and they’re told this is just “justice”, do you think they’ll care that there’s still a lot of white (and Asian) male incumbents in those fields?

            Furthermore, even if we look at outcomes, we see men lagging in education, and that’s without de jure (but with de facto) discrimination.

            Is this the case – are young white guys barred from the better college programs? Have the Ivies stopped admitting the legacy kids, if they’re male (I imagine there are a handful of Ivy legacy kids who aren’t white, but they’ve gotta be a small minority)? The ones who really suffer are the Asians – who are unlikely to be legacy, and who have their test scores and marks devalued because well-off white people only really like Asians, especially East Asians, if they’re almost entirely assimilated. Plus, less well-off whites, who get it coming and going: sure, they don’t have money, but they don’t get any sympathy, either. The only groups I have heard people make nasty comments about, while I was at university, were Asians and poor white people. The latter comments get made more freely, but if you pay attention, you hear the former too.

            I also question your assertion that there’s de facto discrimination against men. Not in higher education, at least. If you look at good schools, the male-female ratio is often different from less-good schools. Part of this might be IQ distribution, if IQ distribution is actually a thing (what’s the consensus on that these days?) but it’s interesting how the Ivies tend to have a close to 50-50 distribution, while the top schools in Canada are closer to the increasingly-normal 2:1 female:male. I have a bit of a suspicion the Ivies and other private institutions have more of an incentive for there to be legacy babies than the good Canadian schools, which are public – and you’ll get more people meeting at university and more legacy babies if you have one man for one woman (most people being straight, after all).

          • The Nybbler says:

            @dndnrsn

            What some of the Ivys and some other top STEM schools (most of which have less in the way of legacy admissions than, say, Harvard) are doing is evening out representation in programs which were still male dominated, while not doing anything equivalent to the female dominated programs. You can see that the programs are far more selective for men than for women.

          • Aapje says:

            @mdet

            I assume you are aware that the mirror argument is made that men are able to achieve success in the workplace and broader society because women put in so much extra work at home

            Yes, women were/are not given that much freedom to choose, but were/are pushed into certain choices, which made/makes some women happy and some women unhappy. This is called being oppressed and being prevented from achieving happiness.

            Men are not given that much freedom to choose, but are pushed into certain choices, which makes some men happy and some men unhappy. This is called being oppressive and being successful. These ‘successful’ people somehow commit suicide more often, deem themselves less happy on average, live far shorter lives, etc.

            I am pointing out the double standard.

          • Matt M says:

            You can see that the programs are far more selective for men than for women

            True, although this part isn’t gender-exclusive. The top programs are far more selective for Asians and Whites than they are for other minorities as well. Probably worse than the male/female situation.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Nybbler

            This isn’t just about STEM, though. If you’ve found a breakdown of stats for Ivies by program, can you provide it? All I can find is that Harvard is about 50-50 male-female, which is different from most universities, which are usually around 40-60, or even more women than that.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @dndnrsn

            I don’t claim they discriminate by gender outside the STEM programs which have been getting a lot of attention (they do in general discriminate by race, this has been talked about a lot and even validated by the Supreme Court). But if they discriminate towards women in some programs and don’t discriminate in other programs, then on balance they discriminate towards women.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What do you think explains the way that Harvard has a more even male-female split (about 50-50) compared to, say, UCLA (about 55-45)?

          • Education Hero says:

            What do you think explains the way that Harvard has a more even male-female split (about 50-50) compared to, say, UCLA (about 55-45)?

            Students accepted primarily due to merit will tend to be outliers, which skew more heavily male due to greater male variability.

            Students accepted primarily due to legacy will skew more heavily male because children of elites skew more heavily male.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Wat? Is there some sort of sex selection among the elite?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Education Hero

            UC webpage claims 4.13-4.31 entrance GPA for middle 25-75% of students, some unaffiliated site claims 4.29 average entrance GPA. Meanwhile, that same latter site claims 4.04 average GPA for Harvard.

            So, if more men are being accepted, it’s not on merit, or men not accepted on merit really throw things off, as far as I can tell. I think my “they want future alumni babies” hunch seems pretty plausible considering these.

          • Artificirius says:

            I recall reading an article about how falling rates of men going into university was a cause of alarm and panic for universities since, according to the article, once men dipped under 40% of a universities population, women started to bail.

            The possible, maybe obvious, explanation being the dating pool.

          • Education Hero says:

            Wat? Is there some sort of sex selection among the elite?

            Trivers-Willard Effect

          • Education Hero says:

            UC webpage claims 4.13-4.31 entrance GPA for middle 25-75% of students, some unaffiliated site claims 4.29 average entrance GPA. Meanwhile, that same latter site claims 4.04 average GPA for Harvard.

            So, if more men are being accepted, it’s not on merit, or men not accepted on merit really throw things off, as far as I can tell. I think my “they want future alumni babies” hunch seems pretty plausible considering these.

            This was alluded to in my post’s second half concerning legacy students.

            Harvard and similar top private universities have legacy students (about a third of any given class at Harvard), and also (though there’s some overlap) recruit preferentially from elite prep/boarding/private schools that have significantly deflated GPA and often fewer AP classes taken per student compared to California public schools. Despite the GPA difference, the 25th-75th percentile SAT scores at UCLA are 1280-1500, while those at Harvard are 1400-1570 (Harvard tries to be quite opaque, but you can convert the previous SAT scores from the information provided here, or corroborate it with many online sources unaffiliated with Harvard).

            As a higher education consultant, I also have my own admissions data showing that for Silicon Valley Asian public school students (a demographic including very few legacies), the average accepted GPA/SAT/ACT at UCLA/Berkeley and Harvard are 4.1/1470/32 and 4.4/1570/35, respectively. Take this with a grain of salt as I cannot disclose this data publicly, but you are welcome to consult with anyone in the private admissions counseling industry to confirm similar results.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Harvard and similar top private universities have legacy students (about a third of any given class at Harvard), and also (though there’s some overlap) recruit preferentially from elite prep/boarding/private schools that have significantly deflated GPA and often fewer AP classes taken per student compared to California public schools. Despite the GPA difference, the 25th-75th percentile SAT scores at UCLA are 1280-1500, while those at Harvard are 1400-1570 (Harvard tries to be quite opaque, but you can convert the previous SAT scores from the information provided here, or corroborate it with many online sources unaffiliated with Harvard).

            Is the mechanism for grade inflation different at the K-12 level than at universities? I was under the impression that grade inflation at universities was often related to the sticker price – that was the explanation common, at least, to explain why marks at Canadian schools often were lower than comparable American schools – more public funding, less price to the customer, less need to keep the customer happy. I suppose that for public K-12 schools there’s more pressure to have all children above average, for political reasons?

            EDIT: I’m assuming you aren’t saying that California public schools are better than fancy private schools; my understanding is that California public schools have gone downhill over time. As a Canadian, AP type classes figure much less heavily here than in the US.

            As a higher education consultant, I also have my own admissions data showing that for Silicon Valley Asian public school students (a demographic including very few legacies), the average accepted GPA/SAT/ACT at UCLA/Berkeley and Harvard are 4.1/1470/32 and 4.4/1570/35, respectively. Take this with a grain of salt as I cannot disclose this data publicly, but you are welcome to consult with anyone in the private admissions counseling industry to confirm similar results.

            This is, presumably, a result of UCLA being considerably less able to discriminate against Asians than Harvard or other Ivies, due to California law, right? An Asian has to be better to get into Harvard than into UCLA, but that’s not true for every group (be “group” ethnic, or legacy/not legacy, or what). What are the numbers for other ethnic groups at Harvard?

          • Education Hero says:

            Is the mechanism for grade inflation different at the K-12 level than at universities? I was under the impression that grade inflation at universities was often related to the sticker price – that was the explanation common, at least, to explain why marks at Canadian schools often were lower than comparable American schools – more public funding, less price to the customer, less need to keep the customer happy. I suppose that for public K-12 schools there’s more pressure to have all children above average, for political reasons?

            EDIT: I’m assuming you aren’t saying that California public schools are better than fancy private schools; my understanding is that California public schools have gone downhill over time. As a Canadian, AP type classes figure much less heavily here than in the US.

            You have the right idea.

            Public schools have significantly less rigorous standards than elite private/boarding/prep schools, so equivalent GPAs on average still reflect very different levels of ability. The lower standards stem from a variety of factors, ranging from academically weaker students and less competent educators, to political pressure to increase graduation and college attendance rates.

            All of these factors are exaggerated by public schools with diverse student populations, as is especially the case for California public schools. Further, because tracking students by ability is politically unfavorable due to the resulting disparate outcomes, AP classes are heavily used as a workaround to select high-achieving students for actual rigorous work in a non-disruptive environment. Because AP grades are weighted, this further inflates the GPA of high-achieving students from public schools.

            Standardized testing scores are a much better point of comparison, and these actually do reflect significantly greater merit among students accepted at Harvard than UCLA.

            This is, presumably, a result of UCLA being considerably less able to discriminate against Asians than Harvard or other Ivies, due to California law, right? An Asian has to be better to get into Harvard than into UCLA, but that’s not true for every group (be “group” ethnic, or legacy/not legacy, or what). What are the numbers for other ethnic groups at Harvard?

            While it is true that the University of California no longer uses quotas as a result of Prop 209, UC admissions still use a number of tools such as ELC and an emphasis on “holistic review” as a smokescreen to continue employing affirmative action, though not to the previous extent (which inspired backlash in the first place because it was quite extreme). Having worked in a UC admissions office post-209, I also have first-hand experience with its strong tendency to favor Blue Tribe values and diversity as a major tie-breaking factor. Excluding legacy admissions, Asians do not suffer much less discrimination when applying to UCLA than Harvard.

            Data on minority acceptances is extremely politically sensitive, and my own data is limited since relatively few minority families can afford my services (aside from pro bono clients), but the best estimates I can give are average SAT scores of about 1280 and 1400, for minority students accepted at UCLA and Harvard respectively. This data is consistent with the well-accepted consensus that students at Harvard and other Ivies do reflect greater merit than those at top public universities.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Standardized testing scores are a much better point of comparison, and these actually do reflect significantly greater merit among students accepted at Harvard than UCLA.

            I’m probably just not thinking about SATs and the like because for whatever reason standardized testing isn’t a feature in most undergraduate admissions in Canada. Besides the high-school provincial literacy test, I don’t think I’ve written a standardized test in my life.

            While it is true that the University of California no longer uses quotas as a result of Prop 209, UC admissions still use a number of tools such as ELC and an emphasis on “holistic review” as a smokescreen to continue employing affirmative action, though not to the previous extent (which inspired backlash in the first place because it was quite extreme). Having worked in a UC admissions office post-209, I also have first-hand experience with its strong tendency to favor Blue Tribe values and diversity as a major tie-breaking factor. Excluding legacy admissions, Asians do not suffer much less discrimination when applying to UCLA than Harvard.

            Googling suggests that UCLA undergrads are 40% Asian, while Harvard is under 20% – given that Asians tend to do well in testing and in schools, unless legacy admissions really throw things out of whack, wouldn’t this suggest greater discrimination at Harvard?

            EDIT: Taking into account that Harvard undergrads are better students than UCLA undergrads, on average – if the best university in the country only had 100 spaces every year, and took the 100 best students in the country, I would guess that it would be higher than 20% Asian. Maybe higher than 40%. Unless there’s a geography factor – California has a higher Asian % than Massachusetts, I’m pretty sure, and presumably some people prefer to stay near their families.

          • Nornagest says:

            There’s a geography factor, yes. Harvard pulls students from all over, UCLA mainly from California; the US is 5-6% Asian, California about 15%. So while Asians are overrepresented either way, they’re more overrepresented in Harvard’s demographics than in UCLA’s.

            This isn’t just a matter of people wanting to stay near their families, either, or even of higher-tier universities casting a wider net than lower-tier ones; the UC system charges out-of-state students about twice the tuition of in-state students. Harvard, being a private university, doesn’t care.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It occurs to me that my secondhand impression of American universities, which I’m falling back on, are generally based on people who are, one, Canadian, and two, graduate students. So, very few Californian undergraduates; my impression of UCLA is “people go there from all over the place” is clearly skewed. Any US school is that, if you’re not from the US. But as I understand it, graduate school is a very different ecosystem.

            As for discrimination against Asians, I wish I could compare to Canada (eg, what is the Asian student % at U of XYZ compared to the

          • Education Hero says:

            I’m probably just not thinking about SATs and the like because for whatever reason standardized testing isn’t a feature in most undergraduate admissions in Canada. Besides the high-school provincial literacy test, I don’t think I’ve written a standardized test in my life.

            I suspect that works better for a nation with much less diversity in education quality, such as Canada.

            Googling suggests that UCLA undergrads are 40% Asian, while Harvard is under 20% – given that Asians tend to do well in testing and in schools, unless legacy admissions really throw things out of whack, wouldn’t this suggest greater discrimination at Harvard?

            Harvard’s acceptances last year included 22.2% Asian students. Considering that Asians constitute a negligible portion of the legacy students that made up 29% of the class, that would put Asians as slightly under a third of accepted non-legacy students. That’s not so far off from UCLA’s just under 40% acceptance rate for the same class.

            We could also take into account pseudo-legacy students who come from families with political clout (e.g. the kind of students whose family members may not have been Harvard grads, but instead attended other Ivies), another group that is largely non-Asian, at least for now.

            Finally, controlling for academic ability, Asian students do tend to have weaker extracurricular resumes, especially in term of the Blue Tribe signals that colleges are looking for (see Turning the Tide, the recently enshrined unofficial policy for the extensive list of endorsing universities). This means that, after the point where all applicants more or less cap out academically, we can expect to find less and less Asian representation as we move further into the right tail of merit-based applicants. To paraphrase Harvard President Drew Glipin Faust, if every single accepted student suddenly ceased to exist, Harvard could still fill an entirely new class with other valedictorians from their applicant pool. Thus, the academic advantages of Asian students is less relevant at the top.

            For all of these reasons, the data does not clearly show that Asians face greater discrimination from Harvard than UCLA.

            EDIT: Taking into account that Harvard undergrads are better students than UCLA undergrads, on average – if the best university in the country only had 100 spaces every year, and took the 100 best students in the country, I would guess that it would be higher than 20% Asian. Maybe higher than 40%. Unless there’s a geography factor – California has a higher Asian % than Massachusetts, I’m pretty sure, and presumably some people prefer to stay near their families.

            Geography is not a major factor here. Very few Asian students capable of being accepted to Harvard will fail to apply or decline an acceptance.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I suspect that works better for a nation with much less diversity in education quality, such as Canada.

            Education is one of those things where responsibility is assigned differently than the US – I think the provinces here have much more control than US states do? I also suspect that Canada’s smaller population means there’s a smaller field of “professional educator-educator” types, which probably makes it easier for one concept of whether testing is good or bad to dominate. I know that in Ontario (OISE probably has outsized impact nationwide) there seems to be hostility towards streaming and standardized testing.

            Finally, controlling for academic ability, Asian students do tend to have weaker extracurricular resumes, especially in term of the Blue Tribe signals that colleges are looking for (see Turning the Tide, the recently enshrined unofficial policy for the extensive list of endorsing universities). This means that, after the point where all applicants more or less cap out academically, we can expect to find less and less Asian representation as we move further into the right tail of merit-based applicants. To paraphrase Harvard President Drew Glipin Faust, if every single accepted student suddenly ceased to exist, Harvard could still fill an entirely new class with other valedictorians from their applicant pool. Thus, the academic advantages of Asian students is less relevant at the top.

            Doesn’t this basically amount to discriminating against Asians, or at least, certain sorts of Asians? My understanding is that “holistic” admissions were brought in to basically let universities put their thumb on the scales to let in people they want who might not deserve to get in on marks, and keep people out who might deserve to get in on marks, without having to openly explain how big the thumb is or what it’s doing. If you make extracurriculars important, especially certain sorts, you’re discriminating in favour of those who have the ability and inclination to do them, and against those who don’t. In the case of Asians, it serves to keep out those who aren’t assimilated.

            In Canada, some universities are considered “too Asian” but largely what people mean by this is that they don’t like the presence of foreign students and unassimilated first or second generation immigrants – Korean and Chinese, mostly – who don’t participate in the mainstream school social life, have poor English, etc. (Another bit of it is that there are some white people who don’t like their kids having to compete with Asians, assimilated or otherwise, who work harder or are perceived as working harder – by many accounts, the old Toronto money families don’t send their kids to the University of Toronto any more for both of these reasons). If one acknowledges that school isn’t just about marks, it’s fine to say “well we want people who are active in social life, who are like xyz, whatever” but it’s going to mean discriminating against some sorts of people, and in favour of others.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think the provinces here have much more control than US states do?

            I don’t know how much control Canadian provinces have, but US states have almost unlimited control over how state universities are run (the only federally run universities are military academies and a couple of American Indian-administered ones that’re classified as federal for historical reasons). They’re planned and funded at the state level, and the states have a great deal of latitude in how they’re organized — mainstream ones have more or less coordinated on a standard model, but back in the Seventies, especially, a lot of “alternative” state colleges (Evergreen, etc.) emerged. Accreditation is done mainly by semi-independent regional bodies.

            The feds are mainly important on the client side: they provide a large share of financial aid.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nornagest

            I meant in K-12. My understanding is that in the US the federal government has a lot of oversight, more than the Canadian. I may well be wrong.

          • Nornagest says:

            Most of the power there lies at the state and (especially) local levels, I believe. Administration and nominal responsibility are local, funding is mostly local, regulations and curriculum standards have stakeholders at all levels but I think mostly state. Though I gather there’s more federal involvement in K-12 now than there was when I was in school.

            A lot of the structural problems with American schooling arise where high-level expectations collide with low-level constraints. And of course there’s a whole lot of superstition and bullshit floating around the whole educational field. I have great faith in the federal government’s ability to fuck things up, but it’s only part of the picture.

      • Matt M says:

        I pattern match Rao’s behavior to the experience I had looking at my FaceBook feed after the election.

        How active are you on social media generally?

        I don’t necessarily disagree with your premise that “most” people aren’t fighting the culture war (although I wouldn’t say it’s a vast majority of non-participants). But I think one of the things social media has done is made it clearer to all of us who is and who isn’t fighting said war, and that the results are mostly surprising/disturbing.

        Like, I always knew certain members of my friends and family were “on the left” and I was always okay with that. I knew them to be reasonable people with whom I respectfully disagree. But when I see them share 20 terrible Occupy Democrats posts every day, it makes my skin crawl, and I’ve unfriended several of them to avoid seeing that stuff anymore.

        I don’t think social media creates culture warriors, but it certainly exposes them. Like, yes, the little old lady next door who seems so nice is in fact your sworn enemy. Now what are you going to do about it?

        • Nornagest says:

          I’ve unfriended several of them to avoid seeing that stuff anymore.

          One of the few good features Facebook’s rolled out lately is the ability to “snooze” people: basically a temporary unfollowing that expires in up to 30 days. I use it promiscuously: if you like to share political memes or outrage news in the wake of a controversy, and we’re Facebook friends, I’ve probably already snoozed or unfollowed you.

          I would prefer being able to silence stuff by topic, so as to keep up with my friends’ weddings and pets and vacation photos without having to keep up with their idiotic political opinions, but no matter how many clickbait news sites I block, more keep popping up. And Facebook never seems to get the message that I don’t want to see political memes no matter how many of them I say I don’t want to see.

          • Matt M says:

            What’s the point? They’ll still be culture warriors of the enemy tribe 30 days later.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think of them as enemy, I think of them as… Jehovah’s Witnesses, maybe. Telemarketers. Intrusive evangelists for something I’m not into. So it’s useful to be able to silence them for the duration of the media buzz around an election or a mass shooting or a hashtag campaign. Relatively few people are full-time culture warriors (and those that are, I unfriend or unfollow).

            I’d like to think it’s negative reinforcement, too, but it probably isn’t.

          • Matt M says:

            Eh, making political posts I happen to disagree with is “something obtrusive I’m not into.”

            Re-posting low-quality misleading propaganda is enemy action. I still have some very radical leftist friends that I haven’t unfollowed – because they post thoughtful discussions and comments, even when they argue with me directly.

            But if you’re going to clog up my feed with “IF YOU JOIN THE NRA THEN THE BLOOD OF CHILDREN IS ON YOUR HANDS!!!!!” then no. You’re gone. I have zero tolerance for that sort of nonsense.

          • Nornagest says:

            If I treated anyone who falls for low-quality misleading propaganda as an enemy, I’d soon have no friends.

            They don’t all post it, but just about everyone believes some of it, or at least has arguments-as-soldiersed themselves into thinking they do.

          • Matt M says:

            I see posting it and believing it as categorically different. I’m sure I believe a lot of questionable right-leaning stuff. I can forgive that.

            But actively spreading it is a different matter entirely.

          • John Schilling says:

            If I treated anyone who falls for low-quality misleading propaganda as an enemy, I’d soon have no friends.

            What about people who fall for low-quality misleading propaganda for your side? Yes, you have a side and it has low-quality misleading propaganda.

            But the issue at hand isn’t people falling for such propaganda, but people actively signal-boosting it. And that is hostile action. If we stick with “culture war” language, it’s the equivalent of suppressive fire, meant to force the enemy to keep their heads down and silence their own metaphorical guns.

            It also serves the other traditional uses of suppressive fire. It boosts morale among soldiers who don’t have anything more useful to do, and it convinces the more zealous officers on your side that you’re doing your part even though you don’t want to actually hurt anyone. But it is still hostile action.

            The difference is that, if culture-war suppressive fire is effective, the people doing the shooting may not be aware that the people being suppressed are (or used to be) their friends.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Claims — directed to one side only — that there is no real conflict and that the culture warriors are overexcited also function as suppressive fire.

          • Nornagest says:

            What about people who fall for low-quality misleading propaganda for your side? Yes, you have a side and it has low-quality misleading propaganda.

            Yes, I do, yes, it does, and yes, I was including it in that sentence.

          • Garrett says:

            One of the things that bothers me about this is the number of people who don’t fact-check something before they re-share it. There are a number of things which have gone viral which I might agree with, but upon doing the research myself I can’t find definitive evidence. So I don’t, because I value other peoples’ time and attention.

            And that’s before you get into the whole kinda-sorta-right-but-biased-representation.

          • One of the things that bothers me about this is the number of people who don’t fact-check something before they re-share it.

            Not limited to politics. In the SCA context, it’s common to see someone asserting that a recipe is SCA period (pre-17th century) with no evidence beyond the fact that it’s traditional, and other people repeat it. I just had a Facebook exchange with someone who made such a claim, got very defensive and hostile when I questioned it, but eventually conceded that she didn’t actually know if the dish was period or not.

            And there are lots of similar cases outside the SCA–Columbus bravely defying the flat earth orthodoxy, Hoover responding to the beginning of the Great Depression by holding down government spending, medieval food as over spiced to hide the taste of spoiled meat, … .

        • AG says:

          Like, yes, the little old lady next door who seems so nice is in fact your sworn enemy.

          What? This is a terrible way to think of people. We don’t want people on the left thinking this way, or on the right. People who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk shouldn’t be considered an enemy. It would be like turning sports team loyalties into a culture war. It’s a bad thing when people get violent over sports! Unless your Facebook people have actually harassed someone out of a job, they are not immoral for having Opinions, and just ignore them when they’re in Opinion mode, just like you ignore that one cinephile who’s fine until they get on their French New Wave is Clearly Superior hobby-horse.

          (Yes, I have basically written this exact post tribe-flipped on a leftist site. Horseshoes horseshoes everywhere, and not one ringer.)

          • John Schilling says:

            What? This is a terrible way to think of people. We don’t want people on the left thinking this way, or on the right.

            That is a general feature of wars, yes. Refusing to acknowledge it, refusing to participate in it, doesn’t make the war any less terrible, it just means you will lose.

            Which brings us back to the question of whether the present conflict is properly described as a “war”, and I can see good arguments either way.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Eh, I don’t really agree with this. Imagine an old woman who was a hardcore Nazi back in Nazi Germany(or maybe a full on Stalinist back in the Soviet Union). She’s the enemy, even if she doesn’t personally attack you because she probably supports someone who would. Political opinions are more than mere opinions because politics can affect everyone with much higher stakes.

          • Matt M says:

            and just ignore them when they’re in Opinion mode, just like you ignore that one cinephile who’s fine until they get on their French New Wave is Clearly Superior hobby-horse.

            I used to think this way. For many years I thought that unfriending someone over politics was a mark of low character. Something weak and morally suspicious people did.

            Fuck it, I’m over that now. Low-effort propaganda posts annoy me. Viewing them makes me angry. My life is better when I don’t have to view them. Most of the people I have on social media are casual acquaintances – I have good enough taste among close friends that I haven’t had to unfriend someone who really matters to me yet.

            The Cinephile doesn’t call me a murderer. He doesn’t refer to me in my friends in crude or vulgar terms. He doesn’t say that people who prefer color films to black and white are “colortards.” Nor does he claim, on a daily basis, that if you like slapstick comedy you’re basically Hitler.

            My life has gotten a lot better since I’ve started doing this. I enjoy the Internet more. Social media doesn’t get me angry anymore. And I don’t feel like I’m “living in a bubble” because the legitimate, high-quality arguments remain (I still post here, don’t I?)

          • AG says:

            @Wrong Species:
            Wait…are you conceding that…the personal is political? Who woulda thunk?

            @everyone:
            And yet, one of the most important ways to win wars is to convince more of the enemy to defect. Daryl Davis and Derek Black doctrine forever.

        • gbdub says:

          Like, I always knew certain members of my friends and family were “on the left” and I was always okay with that. I knew them to be reasonable people with whom I respectfully disagree. But when I see them share 20 terrible Occupy Democrats posts every day, it makes my skin crawl, and I’ve unfriended several of them to avoid seeing that stuff anymore.

          Meh. They are probably still the same “reasonable people with whom [you] respectfully disagree”. I mean, go ahead and mute their feeds, but don’t suddenly start judging them as a toxic enemy.

          Sharing low-quality crap like Occupy Democrats etc. is annoying, sure. But it’s also super low effort. And it’s easy and fun to be a loudmouthed dick on the internet. I’ve got several real-life friends who remain real-life friends who do stuff like that. But it’s all slacktivism. They aren’t soldiers, they are sports fans. I mean the net result is that they vote Democrat and might occasionally show up to something like the Women’s March or whatever.

          Frankly it’s fairly easy to get most of them to back down from the dumber posts because after all, they are just the same otherwise reasonable people who are a little too into the Skinner box that is social media politicking. But it’s not really worth the effort or the aggravation.

          I just mute the most annoying feeds and continue to post pictures and send birthday messages.

          I might change my tune if they were actively recruiting for Antifa or leading an actual doxing campaign etc., but the vast majority of the “shares stupid memes” set doesn’t actually do any of that.

          • Matt M says:

            But it’s all slacktivism. They aren’t soldiers,

            Which is why I can’t respect them. I can respect a worthy adversary. I cannot respect low effort bullshit. Take the time to educate yourself, or shut up. (and I say that not as in a “anyone educated would agree with me” sense, but in more of an “I know plenty of people on the left who bothered to educate themselves enough to make intelligent arguments” sense)

          • Aapje says:

            @gbdub

            Can’t a lot of vigilantism be described as otherwise reasonable people who let themselves be swept up in the moment?

            They aren’t soldiers, they are sports fans.

            The people crushing others to death were sports fans too. Many people still died.

            Note that the people who crushed others to death didn’t have murderous intent. They had no idea what they were actually doing and individually, they just added a little push to the collective mass of people. That collective mass then became a murderous force.

            I mean the net result is that they vote Democrat and might occasionally show up to something like the Women’s March or whatever.

            And are fine with injustice being done to some, because they believe a narrative where some groups are always perpetrators and individuals in those groups can never truly be hurt.

          • gbdub says:

            Obviously ignoring or tacitly approving dangerous behavior can be dangerous.

            But labels like “sworn enemy” were being thrown around for actions like “posts Occupy Democrats memes”, all in the context of “is this an obvious prelude to a shooting war?” and I wanted to push back on that a bit.

            Yeah, maybe the sports fan 20 rows up contributed to someone getting crushed on the fence. But would you call that person your “sworn enemy” and seek to destroy them, as you would an opposing soldier in a war? Heck, the very article you shared was all about that point – it’s announcing that the fans were found completely faultless in the disaster!

            Culture war, to the extent it’s a war and not just light skirmishing about the edges of the Overton window, is a game that can only be won by not playing. Calling everyone who engages in slacktivism on the opposite side an enemy plays right into the hands of the real “warriors” who are trying to convince the slacktivists that it’s worth paying real costs to engage in more extreme support of their cause.

          • Aapje says:

            @gbdub

            But labels like “sworn enemy” were being thrown around for actions like “posts Occupy Democrats memes”, all in the context of “is this an obvious prelude to a shooting war?” and I wanted to push back on that a bit.

            I agree with you that it is extremely unlikely for there to be a civil war. However, it does seem quite possible for the rhetoric to result in severe radicalization of hundreds or thousands of people on the left and perhaps also on the right, resulting in small terrorist organizations, like happened in the 60’s/70’s.

            I don’t think it is unreasonable to be upset at people who spread pro-violence propaganda, even if they don’t commit violence themselves. There are people who take that seriously, get a gun/bomb/whatever and start attacking.

            But would you call that person your “sworn enemy” and seek to destroy them, as you would an opposing soldier in a war?

            I didn’t see Matt argue that they needed to be destroyed. In your comment, you seem to take one bit from one comment/person and another bit from another person, insinuating that other commenters believe in both, even though no one said that.

            That seems very strawmanny to me.

            Heck, the very article you shared was all about that point – it’s announcing that the fans were found completely faultless in the disaster!

            Well, it concluded that they didn’t have the intent to hurt anyone, knew that they were doing so or did anything out of the ordinary. Yet many people still died.

            That is my point. People can do things that seem fairly harmless to them and to many others, but which still result in outcomes that are very bad.

            Culture war, to the extent it’s a war and not just light skirmishing about the edges of the Overton window, is a game that can only be won by not playing.

            It’s not just about the Overton window, people are trying to gain control over or create institutions with actual power.

            Furthermore, there is not always a clear distinction between the things that it is better not to respond to because it makes it worse and those that should be countered.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Like, yes, the little old lady next door who seems so nice is in fact your sworn enemy. Now what are you going to do about it?

          Roll my eyes?

          My upper-middle class neighborhood is basically purple. I counted even numbers of Trump and Hillary signs on yards during the election. We had a FaceBook group for discussing politics and everybody yelled at each other during the election and then the group shut down immediately afterwards. No one came to blows.

          There’s a nice old retired couple in my neighborhood that I’ve been talking to for years. They even attend my church. They had a Hillary sign in their yard, and after the election they put out one of those ridiculous signs written simultaneously in english, spanish, and arabic saying something like “no matter what happens you’re welcome here!” Apparently they had to virtue signal that “we’re not evil, unlike our nazi neighbors!!!

          Nobody else in my neighborhood did anything like that. When my “sworn enemy” is the one retired couple from my neighborhood and church that’s maybe been watching too much MSNBC I’m not really sweating it.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Those stupid signs are on a good 1/6 of the houses in my neighborhood. Or something equivalent. Yeah, we obviously don’t believe in science or love in my house, we fish our turds out of the toilet and fling them at each other because that’s what we do for fun when we vote for Trump.

            Those stupid signs drive me up a wall.

            The Facebook messages drive me up a wall, too, but that’s what the Mute Button is for. The most annoying part are all the analogies to Harry Potter, because, you know, Harry Potter is totally about absolute equality and democratic government with fair/independent courts and absolutely no dynastic wealth. And it’s totally the only book ever written, and everything references it, and ZOMG COMEY WAS SNAPE ALL ALONG!

          • lvlln says:

            There’s a house at the end of my block that says “Hate has no home here.” At first I rolled my eyes, but now it kinda just blends into the background. They’re not hurting anybody, just vigorously showing off to the rest of our tribe just how committed they are to our tribe. It seems kinda weaksauce considering I live in one of the bluest of blue areas in the USA, but hey, I like to wear Red Sox gear in Boston sometimes.

            Also, it kinda amuses me that both the far left and their sworn enemy Jordan Peterson seem to be enamored by Harry Potter metaphors. I think Sam Harris has compared the Christian following the bible to future humans following Harry Potter as some guidance for good living, and perhaps there’s something to that, with Harry Potter slotting in a vacuum that the bible has left as being a piece of literature that some obscenely high number of the population is at least familiar with, if not have read.

          • The Nybbler says:

            We had a bunch of “Hate has no home here” signs in my neighborhood. Made me want to put up a “This is the home of hate” (with cutout of Emperor Palpatine) sign.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Haven’t seen any of those by me. If they were to start appearing I might put one up saying “Our death threats have driven away all the haters.”

          • Randy M says:

            There’s a sign a few blocks down from me that presents a brief case for veganism being better for the environment. I think it’s kind of cute, despite not being particularly receptive. Maybe because it’s so quixotic, or maybe because it’s not associated with a cause trying to legislate much. Maybe because it’s assuming the opponents are non-evil creatures open to rational argument.
            But in any event, I agree with Conrad that the on-line drama usually only spills into the real world if you let it (which I have allowed to happen once or twice in my stupider days).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Also if the Culture War is really a war war and not a “war” war then everyone here is guilty of fraternizing with the enemy.

          • quanta413 says:

            “Fraternizing with the enemy” is one of my favorite activities.

          • Aapje says:

            @quanta413

            Stop boasting about your sex life.

      • John Schilling says:

        I read it. I guess I would be classified as a patsy. I found the article hyperbolic. Yes, I enjoy debating “the culture wars” on SSC, but no, it’s not really a war. The vast majority of people are not fighting a culture war. The vast majority of people are not aware of a culture war. The vast majority of people are living their lives.

        The vast majority of proto-Americans in 1776 were not fighting a war, but rather living their lives. They were at least aware that the thing a small minority of Americans were doing was being called a “war”, but that’s just a question of nomenclature – do we get to call an attempt to transform a society other than by outright mass violence a “war”?

        War has always been a minority thing, usually waged to the somewhat apathetic disgust of the majority but sometimes to their equally apathetic cheers and almost always to their ultimate harm. If the thing we’re calling a “culture war” isn’t worthy of that name, fine, but the fact that most people don’t want to participate isn’t the evidence you’re looking for.

        • Randy M says:

          I think we should probably have reserved a word for the process of embedding metal in people’s soft bits in an effort to enact policy, and continued to use the word “politics” to describe attempts to enact policy via recourse to words.
          But that ship has long sailed.

      • cassander says:

        Culture wars led to a shooting war once in the past, and I think it’s all but inevitable that they eventually will again.

      • Brad says:

        FWIW I agree with you Conrad Honcho. A lot of overblown rhetoric. ‘Warriors’ on both sides have a joint interest in making it out to be a bigger deal than it is.

        Donald Trump could be a big deal, though I’m pleasently surprised at the lack of any catastrophes so far. But most of what goes under the label “culture war” is small potatoes. Vicious but not a lot at stake except for a small number of people.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I think this is the first time Brad and I have agreed on anything. See, proof the Culture War has been averted! 😉

        • dndnrsn says:

          Agreed. Plus, Trump-related catastrophes are far more likely to be due to Trump seeming to have some character flaws that are really serious in a leader, but that aren’t politically coded. His impulsiveness, seeming habit of firing people who don’t agree with him and replacing them with nonentities who do, general sketchiness, none of these are tightly linked to the way that he upsets left-wing culture warriors and gets support from right-wing culture warriors for that reason.

          • quanta413 says:

            Hell, I think the most horrifying possible Trump-related catastrophes are ones that have little to do with Trump’s personality and just have to do with his being President.

            I mean, GW Bush was “respectable” and we got two major invasions of foreign countries in 3 years. I think Afghanistan likely would have happened regardless of who the President was although it’s hard to know. I don’t think Iraq would have though. It’s not implausible the U.S. goes to war again for reasons that would have less to do with anything unique to Trump than with the hawkish elements of the U.S. foreign policy and war apparatus.

          • Matt M says:

            If “it would have happened regardless of who was President” then it’s not really “Trump-related” is it?

            This is the exact problem of “Trump derangement syndrome.” It involves pointing to basic/common problems of politics in general and attributing all of it to Trump-related personality issues.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Matt M

            Trump-related in the sense that he would be the one in command. Not Trump related in the sense that it would make a difference if Clinton was President. I consider Afghanistan “Bush-related” even though I think it probably would have happened with President Gore. But it wasn’t due to something about Bush in particular.

            So we actually agree.

            My only wish is that all Presidents were as disrespected by their own party and watched in such a hawklike manner by the media.

          • Matt M says:

            Not Trump related in the sense that it would make a difference if Clinton was President. I consider Afghanistan “Bush-related” even though I think it probably would have happened with President Gore. But it wasn’t due to something about Bush in particular.

            So we actually agree.

            I don’t think we agree at all. My argument is that calling something like that “Trump” or “Bush” related is being deliberately dishonest.

            Even beyond that, I think for something to quality as person-related, it has to be something unique to the person above and beyond even their own party. In other words, Afghanistan is only “Bush-related” if not only Al Gore would have avoided it, but if Bob Dole or John McCain or whoever else would have avoided it as well.

            To me, “Trump-related” strongly implies “This thing would not have happened under either Hillary OR even under Cruz/Rubio.” And so far, I don’t think I’ve seen much that qualifies as that.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            To me, “Trump-related” strongly implies “This thing would not have happened under either Hillary OR even under Cruz/Rubio.” And so far, I don’t think I’ve seen much that qualifies as that.

            Tariffs. Wall. Gutting of State Department. Cuts to regulations or ICE activity would not be near as severe under Cruz/Rubio.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            One could, however, try and ascribe Bush’s failures to character flaws. GWB relied on some very hawkish guys who had been tight with his father. One could armchair psychoanalyze and tie it to his relationship with his father, his life experiences, etc. Sure, Gore probably would have gone into Afghanistan, but it was Iraq that was the real screwup. Would Gore have decided that good foreign policy meant “let’s get some PNAC up in this piece“?

          • Matt M says:

            Tariffs. Wall. Gutting of State Department. Cuts to regulations or ICE activity would not be near as severe under Cruz/Rubio.

            As I’ve said elsewhere, Tariffs are bipartisan. Obama campaigned on their necessity in 2012.

            There is no wall.

            The regulation and ICE stuff is fairly nebulous to me. Maybe it does count, I’m not sure, but there is no one big smoking gun for either of them in the sense of highly visible legislation or executive order.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            As I’ve said elsewhere, Tariffs are bipartisan. Obama campaigned on their necessity in 2012.

            The specific steel tariff recently implemented is not like other, “targeted” tariffs. It’s more destructive, though I suppose maybe it can be parlayed into some trade gains elsewhere. I’m not confident on that, though, because other nations have leverage they can pull on as well.

          • Matt M says:

            Okay, fine. But the general principle of tariffs used for protectionist purposes is not only not uniquely Trump, it’s not even uniquely Republican. Tariffs are one of the most consistently bipartisan concepts in all of American politics.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Matt M

            We clearly disagree on the meaning of basic words like related. Related means connected to, often causally, but not always. If Trump orders the military to do X, he’s still causally connected to the military doing X even if Clinton also would have ordered X.

            WWII is related to FDR even if another President would have fought it too after the Japanese attacked.

            I’m not talking about counterfactuals; I’m talking about proximate causes. And “related” does not have anything to do with moral correctness of a choice.

            And the idea that it’s deliberately dishonest to say that something that would have to be ordered by the person in charge is related to the person in charge is ridiculous.

            If I shot someone who tried to mug me, that person being shot would be an incident related to me even if many other people also would have shot the mugger in the same situation. I may or may not be in the right, but the given incident would certainly be related to me.

          • Matt M says:

            quanta,

            I think in a technical sense you aren’t wrong. That is what the words literally mean.

            But I think that’s not how people use the words in common usage. For political purposes, when someone says something is “Trump-related” what they are strongly trying to imply is most likely “Someone else wouldn’t have done it.” If not, it’s low-value information. Almost useless.

            What would be the point in saying “The War in Afghanistan was Bush-related” if not to suggest that something unique about Bush led to its cause.

            You’re right that WWII was, technically, FDR-related. But I literally never hear it described that way. Why do you suppose that’s the case?

          • Brad says:

            I agree if it would have happened regardless who was president it ought not to be called a “trump-related catastrophe”. But with that definition I still expected some.

            This is not to say there aren’t things going on that I don’t like, or that I don’t think some of those things will have long term repercussions, but Trump hasn’t woken up and randomly decided to to bomb Toronto or even Pyongyang. He hasn’t tried to destroy Apple or Harvard. He hasn’t activated the national guard and tasked them with finding and detaining all the aliens present without authorization. Etc.

          • bean says:

            You’re right that WWII was, technically, FDR-related. But I literally never hear it described that way. Why do you suppose that’s the case?

            Because we won the war, and because wartime propaganda (“It was all them, and our hands were clean”) has infected the popular view.
            It’s actually not entirely unreasonable to describe the war as FDR-related. He stretched neutrality as far as he possibly could in favor of the allies, particularly in the Atlantic. I’m hesitant to say that the Japanese wouldn’t have attacked if someone else had been in the White House, pursuing different policies, but I also wouldn’t rule it out.
            (Just to be clear, I’m not saying FDR was wrong to do any of this. I dislike his economics, but he was wise enough to recognize the threat of Hitler and the Japanese and take steps to fight them. But he definitely had an impact on how the US got into the war.)

          • quanta413 says:

            I think in a technical sense you aren’t wrong. That is what the words literally mean.

            But I think that’s not how people use the words in common usage. For political purposes, when someone says something is “Trump-related” what they are strongly trying to imply is most likely “Someone else wouldn’t have done it.” If not, it’s low-value information. Almost useless.

            I use it in an ordinary (it’s not technical) sense rather than the partisan one. That the partisan usage is more common in this situation is true, but I’m too lazy to change.

          • You’re right that WWII was, technically, FDR-related.

            Not just technically. FDR pushed against Japanese expansion; the oil embargo was one of the reasons the Japanese thought they had to go to war to secure Indonesian oil for their fleet. The only reason the Japanese launched an undeclared attack against the U.S. before the U.S. launched an undeclared attack against them was that it took the Flying Tigers longer to get into action in China than they expected. And FDR also gave the British as much support against Hitler as he could, given the political constraints.

            If the president had been someone from the isolationist right, the U.S. might never have gotten into a war with either Japan or Germany.

          • bean says:

            Not just technically. FDR pushed against Japanese expansion; the oil embargo was one of the reasons the Japanese thought they had to go to war to secure Indonesian oil for their fleet.

            I’m going push back on some of this, even though I think the main thesis is at least mostly correct.
            The oil embargo was a reaction to the Japanese seizure of French Indochina, which was critical because it brought them within easy striking range of Malaya. If not for that, they would have been entirely reliant on carrier air to support that campaign, which would have ruled out going after Pearl Harbor at the same time. The Navy was the largest consumer of oil, but hardly the only one, and the drive south was more to do with needing the oil for the war in China than the fleet proper.

            The only reason the Japanese launched an undeclared attack against the U.S. before the U.S. launched an undeclared attack against them was that it took the Flying Tigers longer to get into action in China than they expected.

            There’s a major difference, practical and moral, between sending a relatively small unit to fight in an existing war and launching an all-out attack on someone’s main fleet. During the Cold War, Cuban and Soviet advisors popped up all over the place, although only rarely in directly conflict with our troops. It happens, and everyone knows that it does.
            For that matter, they attacked us four years earlier.

            And FDR also gave the British as much support against Hitler as he could, given the political constraints.

            This is entirely true.

            If the president had been someone from the isolationist right, the U.S. might never have gotten into a war with either Japan or Germany.

            Never is a long time. If the US had decided that it didn’t want to participate in any way, shape, or form, then I’m not sure what would have happened. I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Germany and Japan win their wars, and that would inevitably lead to conflict with the US. But yes, it could have been very, very different.

      • Aapje says:

        @Conrad Honcho

        I agree that he is hyperbolic. However, it is not just a virtual conflict, because there are attempts to take control of various environments. So if ‘your side’ doesn’t push back against those attempts, control is ceded to the other side. How much impact this has on you depends on whether your interests/needs/etc are culture war territory. The culture war can make it impossible for people to have the job/hobby/etc they want or force them into the closet. This can be extremely unpleasant to some people.

        Also, no matter whether a person votes or not, he or she will be impacted by the political decisions that are made.

        So one can make the mistake of being hyperbolic, but also the mistake of being hypobolic.

        As for this era/conflict being extremely consequential, one can probably only truly say such things 50 or more years after the fact.

        I suspect that we’ve been in a very long transitional period, basically since the industrial revolution, where we’ve been adapting to the changes that it caused, the changes caused by those changes, the changes caused by the changes to the changes, etc. They might call it the Atomization Age in 50+ years time. Rao is probably wrong to see the current increase in conflict as something special, rather than just one more hiccup.

        However, Stalinism and Godwinism were also hiccups of the transitional period, so they do have the potential to get very much out of control. I don’t think that there is a guarantee that the destructive forces will eventually lose and/or lose at a point before enormous damage is done.

        • Randy M says:

          Hypobolic

          Cool word. I wondered if you were coining it, but apparently not. (That guy seems to hit “new blog” rather than “new post”)

          • Aapje says:

            Cool word. I wondered if you were coining it, but apparently not.

            It seems rather obvious. If you have hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, then you should also have hyperbolic and hypobolic.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And hypergolic.

          • Brad says:

            It’s interesting that hyperbole and hyperbola come from the same Greek word ὑπερβολή. Their paths seem to have diverged by one letter somehow in the Latin intermediary before being adopted into English. In adjective form they are once again unified in English. I’m far more used to seeing hyperbolic in a mathematical context (e.g. hyperbolic discounting) than a rhetorical one.

            There is no hypobola, though I suppose that could be a name for ellipse in some alternate universe. On the other side of the coin if there’s hypobolic, then I suppose there should be hypobole.

            The Collins online dictionary says there is, but this is what they have for a definition:

            noun
            the act of anticipating objection for the purpose of refutation

            and webster’s 1913

            n. 1. (Rhet.) A figure in which several things are mentioned that seem to make against the argument, or in favor of the opposite side, each of them being refuted in order.

            If hypobolic is taken to be the adjective form of the that hypobole then I don’t think the usage here quite works.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            There is no hypobola, though I suppose that could be a name for ellipse in some alternate universe. On the other side of the coin if there’s hypobolic, then I suppose there should be hypobole.

            My understanding is that the rhetorical term is related to the mathematical term, and that in fact, the opposite of being hyperbolic is being elliptic, or elliptical. Mathematically, the other conic section is a parabola, and rhetorically, one can speak in parables.

            The analogy between rhetorical terms lies in the relation between the plane through the cone that defines each conic section:

            for an ellipse, the plane falls short of cutting both branches of the cone, so to speak elliptically, one’s statements should somehow fall short.

            The plane defining a parabola is exactly parallel to a generating line of the cone, so a parable is in some sense a parallelism or analogy.

            And for a hyperbola, the plane is ‘over-extended’ so that it cuts both branches of the cone, and similarly hyperbolic speech is excessive speech.

            I think I had read that the use of the rhetorical terms to mimic the mathematical terms comes from Aristotle, but I can’t find any confirmation of that now.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          How much impact this has on you depends on whether your interests/needs/etc are culture war territory. The culture war can make it impossible for people to have the job/hobby/etc they want or force them into the closet. This can be extremely unpleasant to some people.

          It is possible I’m just incredibly well insulated. But when I look at the things that matter to me in my life: my family, my church, my job, my neighborhood (neighborhood Easter Egg hunt next week!), my local and even state government, and my hobbies (reading, video games, and shooting/hunting) they’re almost entirely culture war free. Even video games. Yes, some loudmouths have maybe negatively influenced some AAA titles, but who cares, a lot of AAA stuff is crap anyway and I have more games on my list right now than I can possibly play. Would help if I could finally finish Kingdom Come: Deliverance but I’m over 100 hours in and keep finding more fun stuff to do.

          And that’s another point: the market reacts. Bethesda (arguably) SJWs out with Mass Effect, people get mad…and Warhorse Studios springs up to make KCD, gives both birds to SJWs who demand black people in their historically accurate game set in 1403 rural Bohemia, and sells over a million copies. Not bad!

          I think perceptions of the “culture war” as WAR are the product of overly emotional people grouping themselves into echo chambers on the internet. And this is true of Tumblr and 4chan and HuffPo and Infowars. Does some of this stuff matter? Sure? But the normies are not under-excited. The culture warriors are over-excited. And about stuff that’s way, way, way less consequential than slavery and the dissolution of the Union or Nazis invading Europe and committing genocide.

          A good tell that Rao is at the extreme there is he unironically talks about the “infowar.” That’s the name of Alex Jones’ brand. All he needed was a “WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!!!”

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Bethesda (arguably) SJWs out with Mass Effect

            That’s BioWare (owned by EA)

            Bethesda is best known for the Elder Scrolls series (most recent: Skyrim).

          • Matt M says:

            Never even heard of that game before, despite spending a decent amount of time on videogame forums.

            Reviews seem mixed – maybe I’ll check it out sometime though.

          • gbdub says:

            But the normies are not under-excited. The culture warriors are over-excited.

            This is an excellent point that deserves to be signal boosted.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @moonfirestorm

            Right, whatever, I get them mixed up.

            @Matt M

            If you like RPGs it’s excellent. Nothing has felt like this since Morrowind. The story is engrossing, the character development and advancement feels earned. Combine with the historical accuracy (compare the screenshots of the game to the real life locations) and it’s a legendary game.

            That said, unless your computer is amazing it runs like ass and it is chock full of bugs. One may want to wait a few more patches until they get things ironed out. But for me, I think the game is so great that I just don’t care if sometimes peasants walk through tables or the rabbit I’m hunting runs into a tree in a continuous loop.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I’m pretty well insulated at the moment, too, but that doesn’t mean it can’t change as time goes by.

            My biggest concern is just my tax rate. I don’t want to pay more. Thanks, please.

          • Matt M says:

            If you like RPGs it’s excellent. Nothing has felt like this since Morrowind.

            So, I’m a little conflicted there. Part of me does feel some warm nostalgia for the olden days of Morrowind, when shit was complicated and you could fail in a number of ways and your stats and skills really mattered.

            But then when I actually think about the various changes that make Skyrim easier to play, it’s hard for me to pick specific ones I dislike. I’ve always had an aversion to “weapon durability” in games, as it’s basically nothing more than a “make you stop at one more merchant and pay some trivial amount of gold and waste time” feature. And Morrowind had stuff like that turned up to 11 while the newer generation mostly avoids it.

            That said, unless your computer is amazing

            I had a top of the line machine as of about 1.5 years ago. Not sure how that translates into performance today.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            You’re probably fine with your comp then, but you’ll still be playing on medium-high. It’s CryEngine and not well optimized yet.

            KCD probably has more egg timer mechanics than any other game I can think of. Not only do you have weapon durability, you have to sleep, eat, and even bathe (you get dirty, your charisma drops and NPCs start talking about how horrible you look. But hey if you pay for a bath wench you get the Alpha Male buff for +2 charisma for a day!). Ordinarily I would hate this stuff, but for some reason in KCD I like it.

            I think it’s just part of the immersion. It really feels like “15th Century Peasant Simulator.” There’s no magic, you’re not The Chosen One, you’re not some mutant badass…you’re Henry, the blacksmith’s son, and even though you can work your way into the good graces of the nobility, you better watch how you talk to whom, how you look (people treat you differently if you’re wearing armor versus fine clothing versus rags), and not get caught stealing or fighting or they’ll throw you in jail and people will treat you like crap. When you have to be conscious of all of those things, adding in “oh and I better find some place to sleep until morning and then get a bite to eat” feels like part of the world instead of a mechanic to make you waste time.

            It’s hard to explain. Could be personal preference, and maybe I’m just crazy, but I think it’ll go down as a classic. Check out the subreddit, and I think you’ll see a lot of the same things I’m saying. “This game is buggy and frustrating but it’s so great I can’t stop playing!”

          • Randy M says:

            Warhorse Studios springs up to make KCD, gives both birds to SJWs

            But hey if you pay for a bath wench you get the Alpha Male buff for +2 charisma for a day!

            I see you were not exaggerating.

          • Nornagest says:

            But then when I actually think about the various changes that make Skyrim easier to play, it’s hard for me to pick specific ones I dislike.

            Specific beefs with Skyrim’s “optimizations”:

            – The guild quests are too short and too easy, and more importantly way too generic. Only two of the mainline Thieves’ Guild quests involve thieving, and one of them is the initiation. You can make it all the way to Archmage by casting something like four spells, none of which require leveling your magic skills or upgrading any perk trees. The [SPOILER] that you get from the Companions quest can be totally ignored. But if you want more dungeon crawls fighting draugar and Falmer and bandits, you’re covered no matter what you pick.

            The Dawnguard’s pretty well fleshed out, I guess, but it’s also a dedicated DLC, so it had better be.

            – All the dungeons are too linear. The puzzles in them are insultingly easy, if they even qualify as puzzles rather than speed bumps.

            – Because encounter tables are based on your total skills, it’s really easy to screw yourself if you decided to level up the wrong thing. Decided to focus on alchemy? Hope you enjoy fighting that Draugr Deathlord when the only offensive options you’ve bought yourself in the last twenty levels involve poison, which it’s immune to. Leveled up Destruction magic? Whoops, all your spells do low, fixed damage and everything you encounter has a stupid amount of HP.

            – Getting rid of stats means that every character you make plays like every other character you make for the first twenty hours, unless you go out of the way to deny yourself options. Racial skill bonuses are trivial. Racial abilities are window dressing. Sure, you can build a conjurer or a melee alchemist assassin or a two-handed weapon fighter that smiths all his own gear, eventually, but those options are so totally dominated by others in the early game that you need to make life a lot harder for yourself.

          • Matt M says:

            Because encounter tables are based on your total skills, it’s really easy to screw yourself if you decided to level up the wrong thing. Decided to focus on alchemy? Hope you enjoy fighting that Draugr Deathlord when the only offensive options you’ve bought yourself in the last twenty levels involve poison, which it’s immune to. Leveled up Destruction magic? Whoops, all your spells do low, fixed damage and everything you encounter has a stupid amount of HP.

            Have you even played the earlier games?

            In Skyrim it’s very rare for you to screw yourself over unless you’ve really tried to.

            In Oblivion it was possible to do so, if you weren’t reasonably careful about what you were doing.

            In Morrowind it was like, “You better plan out your entire character progression with a pen and paper or you’re going to be dying to cliff racers relatively quick”

          • Nornagest says:

            I played Morrowind back in the day, but haven’t played Oblivion. I’m mostly thinking about this by analogy with Fallout 3 and New Vegas, though, which use the same engine but different and more complex character building.

            And I don’t think it’s that hard to screw yourself in Skyrim. True, specializing in alchemy takes a lot of work and you probably wouldn’t do it unless you really wanted to, but being a destruction mage is straightforward, tempting, and nonviable at high levels unless you installed mods or you’re playing on the easier difficulty levels. Archmage robes and the Morokei mask do a lot for the mana bottleneck, but DPS is still too low to be useful. You get some pretty good crowd control spells, though, which would be nice if Skyrim ever threw a crowd at you.

            Another good way to screw yourself is by leveling up Smithing before you get the resources for high-level armor and weapons, which is not hard to do.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            My biggest concern is just my tax rate. I don’t want to pay more.

            And the effective personal tax rate hasn’t changed a whole lot in 70 years. Marginal rate went down a lot in the 80’s (30 years ago!), but loopholes went down too, for little effective change. This is a very good example in favor of Conrad’s approach. The hyperbole is over the top, but real life hasn’t changed much. I agree we should mostly ignore the drama queens.

      • Deiseach says:

        I’d probably be classed as “Christian Right”, conveniently located just above that swastika (and given that Rao is a south-eastern/southern Indian name, I have no idea if that’s meant as a joke, a real “here be Nazis” indication or “y’know the swastika was originally ours and has a different meaning, you do know that?” Maybe a combination of those two – the dumb White Supremacists are so dumb, they don’t realise their symbol was taken from brown people cultures?)

        At least, I’d be somewhere in that quadrant, even though I have toeholds in other quadrants due to other interests/views 🙂

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Sure, but the Nazi swastika is backwards and crooked from the Hindu “good fortune” symbol. That probably means something.

          • bean says:

            This isn’t quite true. Both versions have long and broad roots worldwide. The Hindus and Jains used the same rotation as the Nazis, while the Buddists used the opposite one. But the US 45th Infantry Division also originally used the same rotation as the Nazis, too. (It was a Native American symbol, changed to the current Thunderbird in 1939.) The Nazi one was a diamond instead of a square, but even then, I don’t think we should read too much into it.

      • bean says:

        It’s been easy to miss with Iraq and Afghanistan dominating the headlines, but “peace” is usually a lot more violent than most people give it credit for. The 90s saw the US in Somalia, patrolling the no-fly zones over Iraq, and doing quite a bit in the Balkans. The 50s saw lots of minor commitments of US troops, not to mention things like the Suez Crisis. The 30s saw the Marines fighting various people in Central America all the time. I think we’re in a rather violent peace, not a full-scale war. That isn’t to say people who get shot in a “police action” don’t end up dead, and maybe his particular area is one of the ones that’s having an insurgency right now, but war metaphors only take one so far.

      • Tarhalindur says:

        I see four interpretations here.

        In one sense, Rao is blatantly wrong. The so-called Culture Wars aren’t what used to be called war and what now gets signified as hot war – there’s no gunfire in the streets, no missile strikes, no roadside bombs. With one notable exception the Culture Wars aren’t resulting in people getting killed in the street; they have served as a lightning rod for a certain kind of young hothead, but other things have served in that role in the past.

        In another sense – well, I suspect Rao is using “war” to point to one half of the same conceptual binary that Scott was pointing to with Conflict Vs. Mistake Theory, the one that I’d phrase a either good faith versus bad faith (or grab a couple from a certain pastime of my younger days and phrase as town vs. scum). In that sense he’s absolutely correct: AFAICT a lot of people these days, on both sides of the aisle, are arguing in bad faith, and that’s accelerating as more people run into people on the other side arguing in bad faith and responding in kind.

        In a third sense, while “hot war” isn’t a good description of the Culture Wars “cold war” just might be.

        In the fourth sense… I am darkly suspicious that Rao isn’t as wrong when he describes the Culture Wars as an actual war as I’d like. The Culture Wars aren’t a hot war… but they might be the buildup to one, ala the United States in the 1850s or early-1990s Yugoslavia. (Or worse: certain Red spaces have been reminding me of early-1990s Rwanda for a decade now, and parts of Blue have been heading in the same direction over the last five years or so.)

        • Aapje says:

          My expectation is that we will see something similar as in the 60’s/70’s, with quite a bit of domestic terrorism. Hopefully/probably it will then burn itself out.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Might get quite a bit worse than that. Suppose it does built to the point where we have large and activist white-rights type organizations. And suppose they attempt to assemble and march on Washington, Harvard, Google, or some other progressive strong point. What would you expect the response to be? I expect they’d be labeled terrorist militia organizations, and the response to be not George Wallace fire hose tactics, but live fire — nobody in Blue territory cares about the optics of shooting Nazis, after all. That’ll suppress it, temporarily. Then you’ll get real terrorism.

          • Matt M says:

            nobody in Blue territory cares about the optics of shooting Nazis, after all.

            The people who will be told to do the actual shooting might.

            My impression is that even in progressive strongholds like NY and SF, the actual beat cops are still largely red-tribe or at least red-tribe sympathetic. I’m not sure they could be ordered to initiative violence against a crowd of white conservatives. At least, not as currently structured. Not today, at least.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Nybbler

            Marches or other events by white nationalists or other groups categorized as far right usually see the police try to set up a cordon between the WNs or whatever and the counterprotesters. This happens in “blue” territory. The WNs and the antifa then both simultaneously complain that the police were obviously on the side of the other guys. I think you need to provide more evidence for what you expect, given that, when was the last time that American cops/National Guard opened live fire on crowds? Kent State? And that was incompetence more than malice.

          • Aapje says:

            @The Nybbler

            I don’t see the red tribe rallying behind actual Nazis. Alt-light perhaps and this may scare the blue tribe shitless, but I don’t see them having cops shoot at such crowds.

            In fact, I think that you are already very mistaken by applying the MLK playbook to the situation. The red tribe is not going to have mega-demonstrations in Washington, but rather places like Durham.

            I think that you need to keep in mind that the red tribe are exiters more than changers. So the actual risk may be more that:
            1. Extreme pillarization starts happening (separate schools, colleges, workplaces, etc) for the red tribe
            2. The blue tribe starts freaking out over this and tries to enforce certain laws
            3. Some schools, colleges, workplaces, etc say: no
            4. Cops get sent in
            5. Red tribe people wait for the cops with weapons

            A bit like what you saw in Spain with the attempt for Catalonian independence, where people tried to hold elections and keep the cops from removing the ballet boxes. But then with the people who wait for the cops carrying guns.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Aapje

            I’m thinking more Bonus Army than MLK. I don’t expect the marchers to be mostly actual neo-Nazis (there will be some in the mix, even if they’re put there by the FBI); I just expect that the authorities and press will paint them that way. Granted, I’m going way out on a limb here — the preconditions are

            1) The remaining legal barriers for discrimination against whites and males are swept away; the Supreme Court decides that equal protection only applies to “marginalized groups”.

            2) This is followed by a large increase in open discrimination against whites, men, and white men, and probably also Asians and Asian men. Those currently in power who would like to do so openly do, and a coalition of feminists and identitiarian whites, liberal whites who buy the stories told by the identitarians, and minorities pass laws establishing significant discrimination.

            3) An economic downturn occurs, leaving many white men in dire straits with an obvious scapegoat.

            Fortunately I believe 1) is unlikely at the moment, but I think given 1), the rest is inevitable in time.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      China as some sort of far left culture war power bloc is ridiculous

      • Aapje says:

        Yeah, I don’t know what he even means by that. Perhaps that the left tends to want more trade with China and that the right tends to want less?

        • gbdub says:

          That’s a globalist / protectionist argument, not one that breaks down nicely on the left right axis anymore.

          Hell one of the better things about Trump is that he’s managed to get a bunch of Berniebros on my FB feed to get educated on why tariffs are dumb.

          • Matt M says:

            If you think that’ll last, you’re nuts.

            Obama ran campaign ads against Mitt Romney bragging about the tariffs he placed on Chinese tires, and terrifying rust belt voters that Romney wanted to “ship their jobs to China”

      • aNeopuritan says:

        OTOH, if that position meant someone big mostly waiting on the sidelines but giving some support to one side, “Wahhabism” would fit on that corner. (And I mean mostly on the sidelines on the US only, of course.)

    • beleester says:

      Seconding your opinion – it’s a fascinating discussion, but I’m not sure I agree with him.

      I also want to highlight this comment:

      I’m not sure the result of any of these culture wars waged in cyber spaces can be measured in terms of anything worthwhile. […] At best, that platform is a transparent overlay to whatever life I already have. Any new human network I may have gained I can exploit on decentralized media such as email, or truly public media such as a park.

      This is true, not just for the culture wars but for any digital system: Information only has value inasmuch as it reflects something in the real world. The “territory” of the culture wars is infinite, weightless, and worthless. So what do you care if a particular forum is “won” or “lost”?

      Well, you care about the people on that forum, of course. But that feels sort of tautological – if the only reason you’re friends with those people is that they agree with you on CW topics, then obviously fighting the culture war with them will make you lose that connection. You need something more than that for it to actually matter.

      I notice that on smaller forums, like here and SB/SV, I’m much less worried about the culture wars flaring up, because I have other reasons to respect the commentators. I can bail out of the conversation and come back when we’re talking about science fiction or something. And when I see something I disagree with, I’m more likely to frame it as “They’re someone I respect who has some weird quirks” instead of “That guy is just wrong.”

      So basically, I’m not convinced that checking out of the online culture wars is harmful, either to yourself or to your “side.”

    • Viliam says:

      conflict between fans of traditional gaming and indie women in gaming

      I guess the joke is on me for expecting something better than this.

      I have no problem with people ever hearing only one side of the story, as long as they actually do not care about the topic. But if you write an article about something you say is a very serious stuff, and then you put something as the #1 example of this serious stuff… I guess I would expect something like 5 minutes of googling for info first. (Especially when the nerdy side is quite happy to explain stuff repeatedly, and typically does not give you the “it is not my job to educate you” treatment.)

      Seriously, even the opponents who say “lol, ethics in journalism” are more charitable than this, because they at least admit that there is something — even if you believe that it is incredibly naive, or just a pretext for something sinister — but at least, uhm, something.

      Unless the author is using the “show, don’t tell” technique to teach us about the culture wars, of course.

  6. fion says:

    Something I’ve been thinking about with the passing of Stephen Hawking: do we over-estimate how great a scientist is when they’re also a very good science communicator or are the great scientists also more likely to be good science communicators? (Or is it just coincidence?)

    Hawking and Penrose jump to mind as possibly the greatest theoretical physicists of our time. But they also wrote very popular books about their work aimed at general audiences. Are there equally great physicists who we don’t tend to think about because they don’t write pop science books?

    On the other side, there are certainly other great communicators who aren’t great scientists, such as Jim Al-Khalili and Brian Cox.

    To what extent do Hawking and Penrose deserve their reputation? What other examples are there of great physicists who aren’t great communicators, great communicators who aren’t great physicists, and people who are both?

    • Brad says:

      I wouldn’t assume that those two are the greatest theoretical physicists of our time. I have no idea who that might be because I know very little about the field. If forced to guess I’d go based on the Nobel Prize and named appointments at top universities. Hawkins and Penrose have/had the appointments but not the Prize, so I wouldn’t guess that they are/were at the very top.

      The last theoretical physicist I’d feel very confident in calling a giant without any research is Richard Feynman (d: 1988). Someone like NdGT who is doing interviews and other random things all the time, I assume is not a particularly successful scientist qua scientist.

      • fion says:

        Richard Feynman was, of course, also a great communicator.

        I’m not sure the Nobel Prize is a very good indicator. I feel it’s more a measure of the most groundbreaking discoveries rather than the most competent physicists (although obviously the two are related). There’s also a bit of an element of “in the right place at the right time”. Many physicists regard Hawking radiation as groundbreaking enough to be worthy of the Nobel Prize, but because it hasn’t been experimentally measured he didn’t get it.

        • Brad says:

          I realize it isn’t a perfect measure but I think it is probably better than fame with the general public.

          • fion says:

            Yes, I definitely agree with that.

          • fr8train_ssc says:

            It might be worth considering winners of either the Copley Medal (Royal Society’s Science Award) or Nation Medal of Science Laureates (US NSF) in addition to Nobel winners (Which Penrose, Hawking are included in) but also includes other highly competent sciences on the fringes (Claude Shannon is included under the NSF award for engineering, while the Huxleys are included in the Royal Society’s Award)

            Building off previous proposals for scientists that were influential but not necessarily great communicators, I would include Gerard T’Hooft, if only because of his work with Feynman, and Peter Higgs, and even working/arguing with Hawking on Black Holes

        • AG says:

          How does one know if a discovery is groundbreaking, unless its ground-breaking-ness can be clearly explained to others?

          There is a baseline level communication required for repeatability and reproducibility.

          This doesn’t mean that the least science-literate person has to get it. Success is success even if the proliferation is only to the person who creates the society-changing application. But it still has to get that far.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’ve heard that the Nobel committee (with the exception of whoever gives out the Peace Prize) is now so leery of awarding it to low-quality research that a major factor is living long enough to claim one.

          • BBA says:

            The Nobel Peace Prize committee is appointed by the Norwegian parliament, which kinda explains some of their recent questionable choices. (The others are chosen by various learned societies in Sweden.)

          • Protagoras says:

            @BBA, Recent questionable choices? As opposed to the kind of stellar selections they were making a century ago?

          • Nornagest says:

            Woodrow Wilson’s not bad, but my favorite Peace Prize selection is still Henry Kissinger.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Nornagest
            Didn’t Tom Lehrer say that he was quiting comedy because the Kissinger award had rendered satire obsolete?

          • A1987dM says:

            living long enough to claim one

            Yes, that’s literally the only reason why Robert Brout didn’t get one when François Englert did.

            I seriously think that not allowing Nobel prizes to be awarded posthumously makes no sense.

    • bean says:

      There’s definitely a set of skills involved in breaking complex things down for the general public that is separate from understanding the complex things in the first place. I won’t say that they’re totally orthogonal, though. To do a good job of communicating, you need to understand what you’re trying to communicate in the first place, and understanding it better improves your ability to communicate it. But there’s limits to how much knowledge helps. I’d suspect that if we ranked the top 20% of theoretical physicists at how good they were at science popularization, it would correlate a lot better with their instructor rankings in an “intro to theoretical physics” class than it would with their ranking as physicists.

      And then there’s the occasional Sagan, who’s really good at communication, and a terrible scientist…

      • Jaskologist says:

        I knew Sagan was a bad historian, but in what ways was he a bad scientist?

        • bean says:

          He was one of the leaders behind the whole “nuclear winter” thing, and his handling of the issue borders on gross misconduct. All of the analytical choices inflated the magnitude of the effect, which just so happened to correspond with his political views. And I mean doing things like choosing outdated models what were more sensitive to soot than the more recent and sophisticated ones.

      • Well... says:

        And then there’s the occasional Sagan, who’s really good at communication, and a terrible scientist…

        I’ve heard the same thing said about Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

        • bean says:

          Tyson hasn’t been outrageously wrong like Sagan was, but he’s definitely not a working scientist in the same way. He’s been pretty much exclusively a science communicator and administrator for the past couple decades. There’s a tradeoff between doing research and doing communications. Research is complicated and messy, and particularly in a field like physics isn’t going to boil down quickly into something you can feed the general public. And it’s a matter of time and energy, too.

        • Deiseach says:

          I’ve heard the same thing said about Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

          Funny, I’d have said deGrasse Tyson was a worse communicator; at least, I’ve never wanted to punch Sagan in the face!

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Yes, but from my (very infrequent) visits to my university’s Astronomy club your reaction is decidedly atypical…not that I disagree with you, particularly when Tyson decides that his expertise in Science! renders him qualified to offer judgment on virtually any public issue of the day.

          • Well... says:

            I find his treatment of religion condescending and dismissive at its most charitable. Not the dispassion and humility I’d expect of a true scientist.

            For his part, Sagan only attacked astrology.

          • Deiseach says:

            For his part, Sagan only attacked astrology.

            Pleasantly surprised when I read the novel Contact, going in I expected when we got to the religious character and the treatment of religion in general that it would be the usual “scientist bashes the dumb ignorant believers with the imprimatur of REAL SCIENCE! behind them” and it wasn’t at all like that.

            By contrast, de Grasse Tyson (though I’ve read it was really Seth MacFarlane’s baby) kicking off the new Cosmos with that cartoon about Bruno and evil wicked heretic-burning St Robert Bellarmine had me rolling on the floor laughing (the stylised art-style made St Robert look like he’d slathered on the Maybelline mascara for the heretic trial).

            Contrast Our Hero (“I just want to read books! And frolic through the meadows looking at the stars! What’s so wrong with that?”) and Our Villain (“Hellfire/Dark fire/Now gypsy, it’s your turn” – oh sorry, wrong cartoon”).

    • Randy M says:

      How do you judge the worth of a theoretical physicist? Presumably by how many theories later accumulate more evidence.

      • fion says:

        That’s definitely one important factor, but it’s not the only one. I definitely sometimes get a sense, when reading a paper that “wow, this is some really good work” and sometimes get a sense that “they’ve not considered such-and-such, this assumption is probably wrong etc.”

        Another factor might be… insight? Not quite the right word. More capable theorists seem to be able to ‘guess’ what sort of avenues might be worth pursuing, or what sort of questions might be worth asking. Less capable theorists are perfectly able to work through some calculations analysing the consequences of different theories, but they don’t have that… sense of direction? that more competent theorists have.

    • smocc says:

      Hawking doesn’t deserve the popular reputation as a scientist that he has, but he does deserve a good reputation as a scientist. The measure I’m using is something like “when he says something new how many other scientists pay attention and how seriously do they take it?”

      My impression is that whenever Hawking says something new about science the general public pays a lot of attention and takes it very seriously, whereas only scientists in his subfield of general relativity and cosmology pay much attention and they don’t take it much more seriously that if it came from anyone else. I get the same impression about Penrose. I can’t say how accurate this is because I am not in their subfield, but that also says something about the limits of their influence. I also get the impression that scientists roll their eyes a bit at both of them, especially Penrose.

      So while both of them deserve to be on the list of influential 20th century physicists, neither are close contenders for the top of the list. Physicists who I imagine are, in no particular order: Einstein, Feynman, Landau, Weinberg, t’Hooft, Dirac

      My list is obviously biased to my subfield of particle physics, of course.

      • rlms says:

        I interpreted the timeframe being people of Hawking and Penrose’s generation. If you exclude Einstein, Feynman, Landau and Dirac from your list, do Hawking and Penrose win spots?

        • smocc says:

          Good question. Maybe. What time frame are we talking about? Physicists who did their most important work from 1960-1980? Anything after 1960?

          I guess this is also where my bias as a particle theorist comes in. I take t’Hooft much more seriously than Hawking, but in checking Wikipedia I realized Hawking was responsible for more important ideas from that period than I had remembered.

          I’d like to see a survey of working physicists that asks for ratings of something like “how seriously would you take a new idea from [insert famous physicist]”

          • rlms says:

            I was just going by age: I’m not a physicist so I don’t know when different physicists worked (I hadn’t heard of t’Hooft or Landau before your comment).

      • fion says:

        I probably do count as in the same subfield as Hawking, although I’m a mere PhD student so my impressions may be off.

        But my impression is that if a paper came out on, say, black hole thermodynamics and it had Hawking’s name on it, then people in my field would pay much more attention than if it had somebody else’s name on it. I’ve never had any impression of eye-rolling.

        Penrose I’m not so sure about. Certainly nobody takes twistor theory seriously, but I think most of his work is very well-regarded. (Well-regarded is, of course, not the same thing as great.) Now I think about it, I think Penrose has strayed from his field more, making very unconventional arguments about consciousness and its relation to quantum gravity. That sort of thing probably causes rolled eyes.

        I would argue that Einstein is head and shoulders above the rest. His work was paradigm-shifting in several different fields. He was visited by aliens or some shit.

        Of course, these things are easier to judge in retrospect. I think this is related to @rlms’s point that your examples are mostly somewhat older. Limiting yourself to (to pick an arbitrary point that includes Penrose :P) people born after 1930, do you think there are any “greats” other than Weinberg?

        [EDIT: no need to reply to the last bit. I see your conversation with @rlms has continued along these lines.]

      • hyperboloid says:

        I realize that asking people about their favored interpretation of quantum mechanics is kind of an easy way to get very smart people to say very strange things, but didn’t ‘t Hooft go off on something about a Superdeterministic hidden variable theory awhile back?

    • Ed Witten is highly respected in the field, but little known outside it.

    • quanta413 says:

      Just to counter the listing above of mostly famous particle physicists, John Bardeen was a giant of the 20th century. He’s probably the most underrated theoretical physicist (although also an experimental physicist/engineer) of the 20th century (by the public), since no one recognizes his name outside the field.

      He got two Nobel prizes in physics although both were shared. One for his research discovering transistors. The incredible importance of transistors is hopefully clear. The other for the BCS (Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer) theory of superconductivity.

      There’s a huge public bias towards interest in particle physics, cosmology, etc. Maybe they have better publicity guys or something. If you want influential scientists who are underrated, look at condensed matter, atomic and molecular, etc.

      • fion says:

        Ok, I’ve been getting Bardeen confusion. I was about to say “Wow, this Bardeen guy is amazing, he’s also The Guy for cosmological perturbation theory.” Then I realised that was a bit of a stretch, so I googled and found that I might have been thinking of William Bardeen, who was John Bardeen’s son and was actually in theoretical physics. Then I decided to actually look up a paper and found this, which is by James Bardeen, who is John’s other son! One of those genius families. But thanks for pointing out John Bardeen. Clearly an exceptional physicist and one about whom I knew nothing.

        I think it’s also a good point about cosmology and particle theory getting more publicity. I guess they’re sexier? Like, do you want to know about some complicated electronics or do you want to understand the fundamental building blocks of the universe?

        I dunno. I obviously share the public’s bias in this, since cosmology is my field.

    • For evolutionary biology, Gould is the obvious example of someone with a very large public reputation that he arguably didn’t deserve. For economics it would be Galbraith. I’m reminded of Krugman’s comment that after reading up on evolutionary biology, he concluded that Gould was the Galbraith of that field.

      • [Thing] says:

        This piqued my interest, and a quick Google search turned up a transcript of this 1996 talk: What Economists Can Learn from Evolutionary Theorists.

        But there is another interesting parallel: both economics and evolution are model-oriented, algebra-heavy subjects that are the subject of intense interest from people who cannot stand algebra. And as a result in each case it is very important to distinguish between the field as it is perceived by outsiders (and portrayed in popular books) and what it is really like. We all know that economics is a field in which the most famous authors are often people who are regarded, with good reason, as not even worth arguing with by almost everyone in the profession. Do you remember that global best-seller The Coming Great Depression of 1990 by Ravi Batra? And I guess it is no secret that even John Kenneth Galbraith, still the public’s idea of a great economist, looks to most serious economists like an intellectual dilettante who lacks the patience for hard thinking. Well, the same is true in evolution.

        I am not sure how well this is known. I have tried, in preparation for this talk, to read some evolutionary economics, and was particularly curious about what biologists people reference. What I encountered were quite a few references to Stephen Jay Gould, hardly any to other evolutionary theorists. Now it is not very hard to find out, if you spend a little while reading in evolution, that Gould is the John Kenneth Galbraith of his subject. That is, he is a wonderful writer who is bevolved by literary intellectuals and lionized by the media because he does not use algebra or difficult jargon. Unfortunately, it appears that he avoids these sins not because he has transcended his colleagues but because he does does not seem to understand what they have to say; and his own descriptions of what the field is about – not just the answers, but even the questions – are consistently misleading. His impressive literary and historical erudition makes his work seem profound to most readers, but informed readers eventually conclude that there’s no there there. (And yes, there is some resentment of his fame: in the field the unjustly famous theory of “punctuated equilibrium”, in which Gould and Niles Eldredge asserted that evolution proceeds not steadily but in short bursts of rapid change, is known as “evolution by jerks”).

        Sick burn!

        But on a more serious note, I’ve heard people level essentially the same accusation at Scott, Eliezer, and other Rationalist big shots. Are they right? Is there a way to tell without attaining PhD-level expertise in various relevant fields?

        • What was interesting to me about that Krugman piece was that I agreed with essentially all of it, not only the comments on Gould and Galbraith but the link between economics and evolutionary biology, a subject I’ve written on. I think of Krugman as a bad guy, for various reasons, but he also is, or at least was, an economist, which in an important sense puts us in the same tribe.

        • Aapje says:

          @[Thing]

          But on a more serious note, I’ve heard people level essentially the same accusation at Scott, Eliezer, and other Rationalist big shots. Are they right? Is there a way to tell without attaining PhD-level expertise in various relevant fields?

          No one is always right. Trying to find godlike people whose opinions you can always believe is a mistake.

          That said, some people are more often right than others. When there are conflicting claims, Scott has a tendency to find the strongest evidence (meta-studies and the like), to examine multiple kinds of evidence and is aware of the causes for the replication crisis. Also, he has the very powerful combination of not being too eager to believe in the orthodox, but also not being overly eager to believe anti-orthodoxy.

          In my experience, his effort posts tend to be pretty close to the strongest evidence that we have and many people with PhD-level expertise do a lot worse.

        • Chalid says:

          I really enjoyed the whole Krugman talk and it’s relevant to recent discussion here about how one should think about evolution. He discusses the relationships between evolutionary biology and economics, the general power of thinking about an equilibrium arising from the interactions of self-interested individuals, and the different attitude toward disequilibrium processes by practitioners in each field.

        • pontifex says:

          Krugman is wrong, though. Punctuated Equilibrium was controversial when Gould and Eldredge first talked about it in the 1970s. In particular, if you look back at the Modern Synthesis, you can see that it’s all about gradualism– abrupt change is never supposed to happen.

          Nor is punctuated equilibrium an obvious result of thinking of things in terms of equilibria. It’s totally self-consistent to believe that the natural world changes abruptly, but then organisms gradually evolve to become better adapted to the new environment. Darwin believed this, for example. And even had to explain away the abrupt changes in the fossil record as missing data (an explanation which we now know is wrong).

          Also, population genetics (which Krugman seems obsessed with) is actually a pretty small part of evolutionary theory. Recently I was listening to some lectures on evolution, and the presenter said that population genetics wasn’t even important enough to be on the final exam. It was just one lecture out of more than a dozen. Just because something is more mathy, doesn’t make it automatically more scientifically important. A lot of the models used in population genetics seem questionable at best (something it shares in common with economics, I guess).

        • quanta413 says:

          A lot of the models used in population genetics seem questionable at best (something it shares in common with economics, I guess)

          I resent the implication that population genetics is as unsuccessful as economics.

          I mean, at least population geneticists can make reasonable inferences about the past (and when you have historical, phenotypic, geographic, and linguistic data, things usually matches up in the expected way). I’m not sure neoclassical models of economics even manage that.

          The future is… well… uh… LOOK! AN APATOSAURUS!

          • pontifex says:

            Luckily population geneticists don’t have to play the role of high priests of The Economy. So they can admit that they don’t know things (usually) 😉

          • Economists not only can admit that they don’t know things, they have a theoretical argument for why they can’t know some of what people most want them to know.

    • DavidS says:

      Something much pettier I’ve been thinking about with the passing of Stephen Hawking is a friend of mine who studied natural sciences at Cambridge and complained to me one day about how just when he was getting some good work done in some room off the labs, ‘bloody Stephen Hawking shows up with his really loud chair’.

      This may have been the moment I realised that the concept of privilege wasn’t totally useless.

      • JulieK says:

        This may have been the moment I realised that the concept of privilege wasn’t totally useless.

        “Self-centeredness” and “lack of consideration” would also have done.

        • DavidS says:

          I didn’t mean so much because he had a privileged background he reacted like that. More that it was a pretty sterling example of first world problems. ‘How can I do my important study of science with bloody Stephen Hawking popping up all the time getting in the way’ etc.

    • Matt M says:

      It probably depends on who you mean when you refer to “we.”

      If “we” is “the general public” then I’d be willing to bet that if you took a family-feud style survey of “Who is the greatest living scientist” then Neil DeGrasse Tyson probably gets #1. Bill Nye probably finishes in the Top 5. Sheldon Cooper probably makes the Top 10.

      • AG says:

        I’m betting people get tech+business and scientist mixed up and list Bill Gates and Elon Musk and Tim Cook. Another chunk will forget about the “living” part and say Steve Jobs.

      • The Nybbler says:

        #10. Planck
        #9. Feynman
        #8. Mendeleev
        #7. Mendel
        #6. Darwin
        #5. Maxwell
        #4. Newton
        #3. Bohr
        #2. Einstein
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
        #1) Frankenstein

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          Didn’t Frankenstein’s one famous experiment end pretty disastrously, though?

          Plus the guy only published the one paper, as far as I can tell, and no one other than his nephew claims to have replicated his results.

        • Nick says:

          Oh come on, Newton could surely be replaced with a true hero like Galileo or Giordano Bruno.

        • AG says:

          #0) Mrs. Frizzle

      • mrjeremyfade says:

        That’s pretty negative, but probably also correct,

      • fion says:

        I don’t think I’d ever heard of Neil DeGrasse Tyson until a few years ago. And I remember my confusion when somebody told me that Bill Nye wasn’t the same person as Bill Nighy. :/

        I think pop scientists might be quite country-specific. It’s probably telling that in my comment I mentioned Jim Al-Khalili and Brian Cox, who are both British, and you’ve mentioned Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye, who I believe are both American.

        (It’s also true that Hawking and Penrose are British, but I think that’s more of a coincidence, since their fame is probably more international than Cox and Al-Khalili.)

        • DavidS says:

          Another Brit here who hasn’t really heard of Neil DeGrasse Tyson or Bill Nye. I have no idea who most UKers would name now as the person I suspect would have got 90% of votes is no longer with us. Maybe with the lack of an obvious leader it would go to Dawkins just because he’s well known and has a faction who would tend to buoy him up.

      • johan_larson says:

        Now you got me wondering who might actually be the greatest living scientist. For much of the twentieth century, the answer would have been Einstein, but he’s dead. He might have held the title from 1905, his annus mirabilis when he published four groundbreaking papers, to his death in 1955.

        James Watson, who discovered the structure of DNA (with Francis Crick), is still alive and might rate.

        Another candidate is Kary Mullis, who discovered PCR. He’s also alive.

        Noam Chomsky is among the most cited sources in academic papers, and revolutionized linguistics. He is still alive.

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          Chomsky might rate. Politically, he’s a crackpot, but most* scientists are, in their day. Why shouldn’t 17th century scientists dabble in alchemy and 20th century scientists dabble in communism?

          *Maybe not most. I should reread Scott’s post on this subject if I can remember the title.

          • DavidS says:

            This is interesting as because Chomsky is so much reference in political contexts (and because I saw a very strong critique of his approach to linguistics, though ‘strong’ here should be qualified by my utter ignorance of the subject), so I’ve never known whether to think of him as a scientist or more generally ‘discoverer of stuff that is actually there’ or more a good spokesperson for some ideological position or other.

          • Chomsky is definitely a proper linguist, not somebody whose scientific practice is determined by his political ideology. In fact if you’re going to put linguistic theories on a left-right scale, I’d put Universal Grammar somewhere towards the right—I mean, it’s an explicitly anti-blank slatist theory, it says that linguistic capabilities are genetically encoded in the human mind rather than learned. And one of the critiques that’s sometimes made of it (not so much UG itself but the theories of syntactic structure which are associated with it) is that it’s Eurocentric, it’s based too much on extrapolating from English and not taking into account the full diversity of human language. But in general, linguistics is not that political a field and these debates are not about politics. Whether somebody likes Chomsky’s linguistics is pretty orthogonal to whether they like his politics.

        • Michael Handy says:

          Mullis is also a bit of an eye-roller (his defense of Astrology in particular.) PCR is basically his one solid discovery, and it’s kind of an open secret that his collegues had more to do with it than Mullis sometimes lets on (He wasn’t overly popular.) What a discovery though.

          In any case, the base principle is Michael Smith’s. Mullis made it practical to use.

        • BlindKungFuMaster says:

          It was my impression that Crick was the brilliant one.

          Mullis is crazy.

          And Chomsky … someday I’ll find out what exactly he is famous for. Whenever I read about him it seems to be some really vague stuff, like that humans have an inbuilt language faculty, with a merge operator …

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Scientists are fairly and rightfully judged by their ability with rhetoric, which anyone would recognize under their former job title of “natural philosophers.” Academia is lousy with people publishing refutations of subparagraph 3(b) in journals that 1000 people read. 10 Sheldons would be a bargain trade for one Sagan/Feynman/etc.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I disagree. Adding a marginal science popularizer just makes it more likely that someone will subscribe to “I fucking love science”. Most people are incapable of understand something like theoretical physics so making it more popular adds very little value. Meanwhile, if someone can refute someone else’s theory, even just a small part, that adds to our understanding of the universe. Scientific geniuses move our society forward. Popularizers don’t.

      • Randy M says:

        I think, if true, that’s saying more about the value of theoretical physics than it is about the value of science promoters.

      • bean says:

        The values seem orthogonal. A scientist is necessary to push out our collective understanding of the universe. A science communicator is necessary to transfer that knowledge to a form that normal people can understand. And I’m not sure what value to put on that. I think that almost all science popularization, particularly stuff like theoretical physics, is basically entertainment. There’s no real way that this is going to impact the daily lives of the people who consume it, except that they’ll like IFLS stuff on facebook. To some extent, this is true of all popularizations (even battleship popularization), although I do think that history and practical sciences (everyday physics, chemistry, and the like) are a lot more likely to be useful. A detailed analysis of battleship armor isn’t really useful except as entertainment, but giving people a better understanding of the drivers on defense procurement is going to raise the sanity level on defense issues just a tiny bit.

  7. Odovacer says:

    At what age do children stop being cute/adorable?

    Ozy had mentioned bringing her child to a SSC-meetup and some of the responses mentioned she should arrive early because small children/infants/toddlers can suck up all the attention in an area. I agree with that assessment. I’ve also noticed that even though small children/infants do very little, people tend to talk about them more than older children, unless there’s something special going on in the older child’s life.

    Personally, I’d say around age 7 or so, children stop being adorable. They can do a lot more things, including sass back. And they are quite a bit bigger than toddler size. I’m think that has something to do with it too.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      Personally, I never stopped being adorable. But I do think you are right. Most kids probably peak at age 3 and when they turn 7 they tend to become much more independent and at the same time much more self-conscious. I also think that when they stop being totally transparent, all those not so nice traits that everybody has are taken much more seriously.

    • quaelegit says:

      I think it depends on other factors more than age. You can have an adorable, outgoing 10 year old suck up all the love and attention in a room (heck even older, although at some point I guess this starts mapping more to “popular/charismatic conversation participant”). You can also have sullen or upset three year old that is does not trigger “cute” reactions (or younger — does anyone think the screaming baby on an airplane is cute?*).

      Also I don’t see why you think “cute” corresponds to “gets talked about a lot”. Small children probably get talked about more because they aren’t participants in the conversation. Older kids are more likely to be following along and participating (e.g. by sassing back) and then it becomes awkward to talk about someone like they aren’t there.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      1/4 of your age all the way up to 15, where they stop being adorable for everyone.

    • Brad says:

      I’m a fake uncle to an extremely sweet tempered five year old and somewhat bratty three year old sister. I don’t know if adorableness is quite the right word but their respective personalities definitely color how I view them.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Well behaved 10 year olds can be adorable, eventually they hit puberty and ‘adorable’ becomes not the correct term.

        Perhaps the better question is how long can a kid without a good temperament be adorable? 18 months? 3 years?

    • ilikekittycat says:

      When they stop lying because of their short-sightedness/immediate anxiety at having lept at a bad decision, and start lying in cold blood. Varies by age/temperament

    • CthulhuChild says:

      The only cute child is mine, everyone else has and stupid children. Age not relevant.

    • For what it’s worth, our meetups generally have some small kids, including my granddaughter who is terminally cute. It doesn’t cause any distraction, aside from parents occasionally having to change a diaper or something.

      The girls, three of whom are pretty much regulars, generally end up in the play structure in the back yard, otherwise unused since our children were kids.

  8. Edward Scizorhands says:

    I hate science reporters.

    Can someone here tell me what it actually means that “7% of Scott Kelly’s DNA has changed”?

    • John Schilling says:

      It means that you have good cause to hate science reporters.

      An unspecified fraction of Scott Kelly’s DNA “changed”, which I expect mostly refers to epigenetic expression of genes rather than literal resequencing of DNA base pairs. Unfortunately, the relevant paper hasn’t been released yet. Of the DNA whose expression changed, 93% returned to normal within a few days of return to Earth and the remaining 7% retained the observed changes.

    • outis says:

      They are really no worse than any other sort of reporter.

  9. quaelegit says:

    Hey guys, I’ve got a mostly silly question that I’ve been thinking of asking here for a while:

    In a friend’s “Bible as Literature” class, his professor claimed that the fruit of the tree of knowledge was intended to be an orange, because that was the common fruit of the time and place. This seems like a wildly improbable claim to me (citrons & lemons were a rare delicacy in the Roman Empire, oranges didn’t make it to Europe until the 10th century AD and I think they got to Iran a few centuries earlier but still well after most or all of the Bible was written) — but this is my friend’s recollection of a small point from a class he didn’t like several years ago.

    So, SSC historians, exegesists, kabbalists, forensic botanists… any idea what the explanation might have been? Am I totally wrong and oranges actually were common in the middle east/eastern Mediterranean in the the first few centuries BC/AD? Is my friend mis-remembering the fruit? Was the professor being deliberately edgy to get the class’ attention?

    (I’m mostly asking to see if anyone has a guess to reconstruct the professor’s point– less interested in the general arguments of what the fruit was, if that’s a thing, more interested in the meta-question of “why would someone guess an orange”?)

    • Jaskologist says:

      It’s a weird guess on a lot of levels. They wouldn’t have had the sweet oranges we know, but they did have some less appetizing members of the citrus family. Even accepting the idea that there’s a specific kind of fruit being referenced, oranges seem an especially bad guess.

      I’m aware of (much later, probably Medieval) rabbinic stories which try to identify the fruit. One said it was grapes, with the implication that wine is problematic. Another said it was the pomegranate, which didn’t seem to have any particular implication. At least both of those would have been common and important fruits then.

      • AG says:

        Pomegranate probably chosen for the connection for Persephone.

      • quaelegit says:

        Heh, that’s one of the articles I read when it first came up. I think I explicitly asked my friend if the professor meant lemon or citron, and friend clarified that the professor meant an orange (but then Idk if my friend knows what a citron is, and this was a pretty offhand comment about a class he took years ago and didn’t care about much).

        I saw those suggestions on the (a?) Wikipedia page, and also wheat(?!), I think? But nothing related to citrus, and google didn’t turn up anything either, so I thought I’d ask here in case anyone happened to know something or have and interesting guess. I think friend mis-remembering or professor being edgy are pretty likely (though boring) explanations.

    • rlms says:

      My guess is that the professor meant citron rather than orange — that does seem to be a plausible candidate.

      • quaelegit says:

        That’s what Jaskologist and I seem to have defaulted to, but my friend claims he meant orange rather than lemon or citron (although I don’t know if my friend knows what a citron is — I didn’t before googling citrus in the Roman Empire).

        Man, the fingered citron is quite creepy looking.

    • S_J says:

      I don’t know the availability of citrus fruit in that time frame, nor whether it was more or less available in earlier time frames.

      My first thought is that the Roman Empire times are too late to affect the Forbidden Fruit mentioned in Genesis. But that’s a pedantic detail.
      (Wiki gives a range of dates from 500 BC to 1000 BC for the final version of Genesis. The oldest Hebrew copy of the complete Torah is part of the Masoretic Text, circa AD 900. But there are fragments dating back to 100 BC in the Dead Sea Scrolls collection. And there are parts of the Septuagint/Greek version of Genesis which date to ~ 200 BC.)

      It’s been common for a long time, among European artists who draw images of Bible scenes, to draw the Tree as an Apple tree, and the Forbidden Fruit as Apples. I’m not aware of any translation that gives the Forbidden Fruit any name other than…Forbidden Fruit.

      I’ve known a few people to get pedantic about whether the Fruit was an Apple, but I’ve never heard the argument that it was intended to be an Orange.

      • quaelegit says:

        > My first thought is that the Roman Empire times are too late to affect the Forbidden Fruit mentioned in Genesis. But that’s a pedantic detail.

        Agreed, but that’s the time period the internet talks about, and if they didn’t have a given fruit in the 1st century BC they probably didn’t have a couple centuries before that either 😛

        Re: apples, translation, pedantry

        I got the sense that artists settled on apples somewhat later — possibly during or even after the Renaissance. I’m not sure on that though, and I’m no expert in art history. It does seem (from Wikipedia) that the original words used did map better to a general term like “fruit” than a more specific one like “apple”. “Orange” is just such an out there guess that I’m kind of hoping there’s a story behind it. Maybe not though.

      • jeqofire says:

        The period where the English word apple was more generic seems relevant, but it also coincides with the period I’d expect most of this artwork to originate, and that tends to be more from continental Europe. Was the apple / generic fruit conflation just an early Middle English thing? Germanic? Something tells me that the Romance languages and Latin didn’t have this feature, but I have not done that research. However, that the French word for potato is literally “apple from the Earth”, leaves me not especially confident either way.

        • Nick says:

          I’ve always wondered about the coincidence of malus “bad, evil” and malum “apple” in Latin, whether maybe some author deliberately equated the two on account of being homonyms. But I’ve never seen any evidence of it.

        • quaelegit says:

          Latin does have the conflation (malum = apple/fruit). A lot of specific kinds of fruit get called “malum “, e.g. “malum Persicum” (Persian “apple”) = peach; “malum Punicum” (Punic, as in Carthage, “apple”) = pomegranate. I think Greek did too (but I’m not sure if that’s a common term, or one that was used in any versions of the Bible).

          (Also @Nick — looks like Latin “malum” came from Greek “melon”. EDIT: and I’ve wondered the same thing, but don’t have anything to add on that front either. Wiktionary etymology on “malus” meaning evil is inconclusive.)

    • Deiseach says:

      Okay, totally amateur half-assing off vague memories here:

      (1) The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge could have been anything; there is one theory that it was translated “apple” because of the pun about “apple/evil” in Latin. My understanding is that the original text just says “fruit” (unspecified)

      (2) Some people like to think it was pomegranate because of other mythical/symbolic associations, I think someone else proposed it was a melon (don’t quote me on this) and it’s possible someone could have said “lemon”. EDIT: I see quaelegit got in there about “melon” from the Greek, and yeah, I’ve read that “melon” basically means “round (fruit)” and can be applied to other round things, so melons, apples, oranges, peaches – pick your favourite round fruit! 🙂

      (3) There isn’t any definitive “the fruit was…” declaration that I know of, so thinking it could have been an orange/citrus of some variety is not impossible, but it’s not Gospel (so to speak) either

    • Tamar says:

      Orthodox Jew here, I’ve heard lots of things in that context, including: Orange (or other citrus, but usually described as orange), citron specifically, grape (but not to imply wine is a problem – the idea was that the fruit was only temporarily forbidden and would have been permitted to them that evening on the first Shabbat for Kiddush/the blessing over wine had they had the self-control to not break the commandment to abstain from it at the proper time), pomegranate (I think I’ve heard this one, anyway), wheat (yes), I think also bread (can’t be sure whether I’m misremembering or if this is just a variant on the ‘wheat’ answer). Orange/other citrus because the argument is that the word for apple would have referred at the time and in that place to citrus and not to apple. Sounds from the other comments like it referring to the orange as we know it not so plausible.

      • quaelegit says:

        Aha! A lead! Do you remember where you heard the orange claim?

        • YehoshuaK says:

          Talmud, Berachot 40a.
          “A Beraita taught: What was the identity of the ree from which Adam ate?

          “Rabbi Meir says it was the grapevine, for wine brings much suffering to people, as it says (Gen 9:21) “And he drank the wine and became drunk…”

          “Rabbi Nechemiah says it was the fig, and the same thing which they used badly they later used well, as it says (Gen 3:7) “And they sewed together fig leaves…”

          “Rabbi Yehuda says it was wheat, for a child does not learn to identify his father and mother until he consumes grains.”

          These rabbis lived in the early imperial period, around the 2nd century C.E.

          The midrash (Bereshis Rabbah) adds a fourth view.

          “Rabbi Abba of Acco said it was the citron, for it says (Gen 3:10) “And the woman saw that the tree was edible…” The only tree with edible wood is the citron.”

          Interpretation is left as an exercise for the reader.

  10. Rusty says:

    Another excellent choice would be the Warlord Trilogy by Bernard Cornwell. He is a terrific writer. Again not what some would call fantasy but when your main characters include Merlin . . .

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      Cornwell writes the best battle scenes of any writer I’ve read. I ate up his Sharpe series mostly for the Peninsular battles, cheerfully accepting that I was reading essentially the same book 20 times.

      • DavidS says:

        Yep: and the main character in the Warlord Trilogy is the same guy as Uhtred from the Saxon books (to the point that Uhtred is Saxon but partially raised by Vikings and IIRC correctly the guy in the Warlord books is a Saxon raised by Britons. Admittedly the more direct parallel would be if he was a Briton raised by Saxons, as the dynamic in Arthurian times has Saxons play the roles Vikings did later. But it has the whole ‘between two worlds’ thing.

        Plus both of them are basically common as muck, lack book smarts but are brave and resourceful and so valued by the people right at the top while attacked by sneering middlings. Which is of course also Sharpe.

        Basically, Cornwell always writes the same story but it’s a really good story so I’ll happily read it. Presumably there are equivalents on the side of historical fiction which focuses on corsets rather than shieldwalls…

        • Rusty says:

          I think that is underselling the Warlord Trilogy a bit. What he makes of the Arthur myths is really ingenious and the story itself was extremely moving (at least for me). I agree that he does so one basic battle scene and very well at that but I think in this trilogy he showed something more.

  11. powerfuller says:

    Poetry buffs of SSC, how would you scan the following lines?

    To a green thought in a green shade

    Thou foster-child of silence and slow time

    That our word may be established shall we gather up the sea?

    Yurtle the Turtle was king of the pond

    I was planning on writing an effort post on some controversies in English prosody, but I’ve held off because the more I thought about it, the less faith I had in arriving at any coherent conclusion, and because I wasn’t sure it’d be of general interest to SSC. I can go ahead and put down my initial thoughts, but I’m curious to get other people’s scansions before coloring responses with my own.

    • quaelegit says:

      I’d be interested in reading your thoughts! Scansion was my favorite part of translating the Aeneid in high school (and that’s Latin not English, but a lot of same concepts apply…)

      I would say the last one is straight dactyls with an interrupted/short foot at the end (is that enjambment? I’m rusty on this, going from the Wikipedia page on meter).

      I would say the first one is a unstressed foot (maybe a Pyrrhic from this list) followed by a Spondee. Unstressed, Spondee, Unstressed, Spondee.

      The second one I’m not sure how to scan.

      The third one I have an idea for but I’m not sure how to describe it. (u u – u u u – u u u – u u u -) Is how I would scan it in — well I’m cheating and using stressed/unstressed instead of long/short. I realize this probably isn’t very clear and I’ll keep reading and try to come up with a better way.

      • Nornagest says:

        Interesting, the second one scans much more easily than the first to me (mostly as iambs, but I’d also stress “slow”).

        • quaelegit says:

          With both #1 and #2 it wasn’t immediately obvious to me. I tried a couple things, and as soon as I came up with the above scansion for #1 I felt strongly that it was correct. (I think rahien.din’s scansion of #1 more or less agrees with mine, except I’m not sure about primary/secondary stress, and that gives me more confidence). With 2, I’m not happy with anything I’ve come up with yet, and I don’t agree with your or rahien.din’s scans. Let’s just say I’m no good at Keats 😛

    • rahien.din says:

      To a green thought in a green shade : little crescendos, like a waltz
      x x \ / x x \ /

      Thou foster-child of silence and slow time : iambs with an evocative reversal near the end
      x /x / x /x x \ /

      That our word may be established shall we gather up the sea? : driving and locomotive
      x x / x \ x/x \ x /x \ x /

      Yurtle the Turtle was king of the pond : Seussian dactyls
      /x x /x x / x x /

      / Primary stress
      \ Secondary stress
      x Unstressed

      • Iain says:

        This is a more precise version of what I came up with. I rounded secondary stress up to primary stress in the first two and down to unstressed in the third, but otherwise had the same scansion.

        (Also: am I the only one who initially interpreted this as four lines of a single poem, and got really confused on the last one?)

        • Randy M says:

          (Also: am I the only one who initially interpreted this as four lines of a single poem, and got really confused on the last one?)

          It’s not? I just took for granted that I don’t really get poetry, but kind of liked it as an ironic encapsulation of the Dr Seuss book.

          • quaelegit says:

            Heh, for me at least the different meters made it clear that they were not from the same poem!

            It probably also helped that I recognized the 2nd and 4th line (although I thought the #2 was Shakespeare but it’s actually from Ode on a Grecian Urn).

          • I recognized three of the four but not the first.

        • rahien.din says:

          (Also: am I the only one who initially interpreted this as four lines of a single poem, and got really confused on the last one?)

          Heh, you’re not the only one.

        • yodelyak says:

          Yep, not the only one. I really hate a lot of recent poetry, because it reads like this–it’s blind to how it *sounds*. Although I don’t have any useful ability to talk about what’s different in these four lines, not really. At an earlier point in my life I just pointed people at Frost’s Fire and Ice and said “See? See?” a bunch of times before I realized most people (most Americans?) don’t get poetry, and don’t like spending time with the fact, or in the presence of people talking about poetry. Life is so short–I wish I had time to learn all this!

    • dark orchid says:

      Making up my own notation here, x = short, o = long, capitalised = stressed:

      1. oO oO oO oO

      2. oO oO oO oO oO

      3. xxO oO oO oO oO oO oO

      4. Xxx Xxx Xxx O

      Actually, 3. would also scan ok as “xxO oO oO o* xxO oO oO” with the * a pause.

      The spaces are an attempt to divide it into bars musically, in 3. this would make the short syllables half as long as the long ones; in 4 the first 3 bars are triplets and the second bar presumably has a pause at the end.

    • powerfuller says:

      Hey everybody, thanks for the responses! I’m glad to see the variety of scansions, including paying attention to different aspects of the lines than I was thinking of myself (namely, length and pauses, as quaelegit and dark orchid do).

      I’m going to restrict myself, for now at least, to discussing accentual-syllabic meter, where you pay attention to combinations of stressed and unstressed syllables, as opposed to long and short. Quantitative verse in English is interesting, but I’ll save that for another time.

      The controversy I’d like to discuss is whether spondees (two stressed syllables in a row) exist in English poetry. This has generated a surprising amount of heat, with both sides seemingly convinced the other is composed of idiots with tin ears. I don’t really have time to do a decent job of it tonight, but I’ll be able to post something more substantial tomorrow. Until then, once again, thanks for responding.

      Also, apologies for the unintentional cento.

      • Nornagest says:

        They seem to show up in Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” (written by Shel Silverstein). Stresses italicized, two stressed syllables bolded:

        Well, my daddy left home when I was three, and he didn’t leave much to Ma and me:
        just this old guitar and an empty bottle’a booze.

        Now I don’t blame him ’cause he run and hid, but the meanest thing that he ever did —
        was before he left he went and named me Sue.

        More Shel Silverstein would be a good place to start looking.

      • rahien.din says:

        Can I contribute? Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog.

        More seriously, some lines from Heaney’s “Blackberry-Picking” :

        Late August, given heavy rain and sun

        Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.

        Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.

        With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned*

        We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.

        A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.

        The consecutive stresses create a childish sort of cadence, and this evokes not only the physical sensation of tramping through wet grass and briars while carrying buckets, but also the childishness of picking too many berries to eat before they rot in the cowshed. When in the final couple of lines Heaney launches into iambs, these seem swifter (and more mature) for having emerged from the clunkier rhythms that preceded them.

        * Anytime someone tries to tell you that English contains no spondees, you can reply “on top big dark blobs burned” and be done with it.

        • powerfuller says:

          That poem is a great example. I’m of the opinion too that, c’mon, they clearly exist, but as I wrote below, a few of those spondees could be explained away as demoted stresses (“more” and “grey” particularly), and “fresh berries” could be considered as belonging to different feet (iamb, anapest, trochee, anapest), so two heavy stresses together, but not a spondee. “Top big dark blobs burned” is harder to finagle, haha. Though I think when critics can’t shoe-horn a line into the meter they want, they’re tempted to write it off as just breaking the meter outright.

      • Telminha says:

        +1. I enjoyed reading this thread. I rarely see people interested in poetry nowadays.

    • powerfuller says:

      Veteran of the Spondee Wars

      As I said above, when I talk about metrical feet, I’m referring to combinations of stressed and unstressed syllables, not long and short.

      A lot of the arguments here are discussed in length in the essays collected in “Meter in English”, though I think my take on the two sides adds some new thoughts. The debate has a longer history than that, but I’d need a little more time to track it, and it’s not that interesting (Fussell disagreed with Saintsburg, who disagreed with Guest…). People more or less agree that spondees (can) exist in prose, but not in poetry. “It was fun, fun, fun, fun!” is a silly sentence, but it seems obvious it contains 4 heavy stresses in a row. So why not in poetry?

      The difference in opinion depends a lot on one’s basic understanding of what meter, rhythm, scansion, and a metrical foot mean. The most significant difference is whether one understands a foot to be a descriptive name given to a set of syllables, or whether it is a unit of internal comparison. I’ll call these two camps the “inter-foot” scanners and the “intra-foot” scanners. The inter-foot camp understands the spondee to be a set of two heavily stressed syllables, but the intra-foot camp understands it as two equally heavily stressed syllables. Or, put another way, whether you consider the syllables heavy relative to the line, or relative to each other. I should note it’s assumed by both camps two stressed syllables can be side-by-side when belonging to different feet.

      So, the inter-foot method of scanning a line would be to get a feel of the general rhythm, then find any groupings of heavy and light stresses according to their natural, prose-like values. They would scan the first two lines above as:

      to a GREEN THOUGH | in a GREEN SHADE, or xx // xx // (pyrrhic spondee, pyrrhic spondee)

      thou FOS | ter CHILD | of SIL | ence and | SLOW TIME, x/ x/ x/ xx // (iambs with pyrrhic spondee)

      The intra-foot scanners would start at the beginning of the line and compare the first two syllables against each other, determine the foot, then move on to the next pair. Thus:

      TO a | green WORLD | IN a | green SHADE, /x x/ /x x/ (trochee iamb pairs)

      Thou FOS | ter CHILD | of SI | lence AND | slow TIME (straight iambs)

      I think the inter-foot method does a far better job of describing the rhythm than intra-foot; it just ruins the line to my ears to overemphasize the “and” and deemphasize “slow,” though “and” is heavier than “lence” and “time” heavier than “slow.” That gives it too much of a shoe-horned rhythm.

      But the intra-foot camp would reply that scansion only talks about meter, not rhythm. Rhythm is the extra quality you discuss after scanning. In which case, why bother scanning? It seems to give very little new information beyond the general meter of a poem (iambic pentameter, dactylic tetrameter, etc.), which is pretty easy to establish without scanning at all. The debate raises the question of what the role of scanning is.

      Though I have my biases, I’ll try to list out the pros and cons of each method.

      First, the intra-foot method: one big advantage is that you can scan a line as you read it for the first time, since you don’t need to know the feet ahead to determine the one you’re on. This leads to its second advantage, that it encourages greater consistency among scanners. Taking the third line above, “That our word may be established shall we gather up the sea?”, “be,” “shall,” and “up” would be stressed, whereas the inter-foot scanners may disagree, depending on how they personally read the line.

      This line also demonstrates a third advantage, that intra-foot scanning better captures the phenomenon of promotion and demotion, where secondary stresses become lighter or heavier in order to fit the meter. This was discussed a little up-thread; rahien.din scanned a few secondary stresses, whereas Iain rounded them up or down. Though secondary stresses certainly exist in nature, I’m not sure you could add them to a theory of prosody: you couldn’t retain much agreement among scanners, and the number of different feet needed would become unwieldy. Without promotion/demotion, a lot of iambic poetry would become unrecognizable as such. For example, taking a random line from The Faerie Queene:

      “Were housed there within, whom he enlargen might.”

      I would read “there” and “he” as promoted stresses; otherwise the iambic feel become tenuous with 2 pyrrhics. But that’s in part because the poem is so regular; I might consider them unstressed in a different context. The smoothing effect of intra-foot scanning can help one appreciate the underlying meter in many cases.

      cont.

      • powerfuller says:

        Spondees continued

        As for the downsides of intra-foot scanning, as aforesaid it makes scansion less useful as a tool to describe rhythm, and it does violence to many lines by forcing a more sing-song reading. In addition, though the intra-foot method seems to simpifly prosody by making spondees and pyrrhics unnecessary, it ends up adding other entities to compensate: since “him at,” “a friend,” and “fast friend” are all called “iambs,” the intra-foot scanners inevitably start talking about “light iambs” and “heavy iambs.” At that point, why not just use the other terms, understanding that “pyrrhic” means “light iamb” and “spondee” means “heavy iamb”?

        Finally, a big disadvantage of intra-foot scanning is that it can’t account for triple meter (dactyls, anapests) without a sleight of hand. Intra-foot scanners tend to acknowledge they exist, but I’ve yet to read a good account of how to identify them according to the syllable comparison method, without resorting to the overall feel of the poem. The Suess line is clearly dactylic or anapestic, but if you went through the line comparing syllables side-by-side, you’d get:

        “YUR tle | the TUR | tle WAS | KING of | the POND”, /x x/ x/ /x x/, neither clearly iambic or trochaic.

        To read it as the more natural triple meter, you have to acknowledge that 2 syllables in each foot are “equally” unstressed, which undermines the whole “two syllables or equal stress never exist next to each other” idea. I would agree that two perfectly equal values are extremely rare, but it seems more useful to go with “in the same range.”

        Also, the promotion/demotion thing can backfire with 3 syllable feet. Above, rahien.din gave the example:

        “We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.”

        Which I would scan as x/ xx/ /x xx/. The trochee followed by an anapest means there’s 3 unstressed syllables in a row, which would tempt one to promote “in.” So it would 3 trochees with a short last foot? Seems more convoluted than helpful, here. But I think part of the intra-foot theory is the doubt that you could have 3 unstressed syllables in a row without one of them getting a little more weight.

        The pros and cons of the inter-foot method are mostly the opposite: it reflects a more natural reading of lines, but it can obscure the meter; it makes scansion a more robust tool to describe rhythm, but it leads to less consistency among scanners; it doesn’t account for promotion/demotion very well, but it easily accounts for triple meter.

        It seems to me that intra-foot scanning reflects the experience of reading a poem for the first time, whereas inter-foot scanning reflects that of rereading a poem. Indeed, I think a lot of what counts as rhythm is this clash of experiences, the sudden realization that a line of poetry is actually quite different than what you thought it was, so rhythm has a sort of temporal dimension dependent on the reader that’s not captured well when talking about the poem as a static product, as scanning more or less requires us to do.

        Also, it’s an open question of how important it is that the theory of prosody we use to analyze a poem reflects the theory the poet used to write it. Did Keats have iambs or pyrrhic-spondee in mind when he wrote “silence and slow time”? Does it matter? I’ll try writing about that later.

        Finally, Robert Wallace in the book linked above suggests that if we added the 4 syllable foot xx//, the “minor ionic,” or as he calls it, the “double iamb,” to standard prosody (along with the iamb, trochee, anapest, and dactyl), we could probably account for almost all pyrrhics and spondees in English, obviating their use, since that’s by far the most common combination. I’m on the fence about it. Whether we need any of those more exotic Greek and Latin feet, like the amphibrach – x/x – or the choriamb — /xx/ — is another question I’ll take a crack at later.

        • Tarpitz says:

          It seems to me that two of the better known verse passages in the English language at least plausibly contain feet which are unstressed-stressed-stressed (no idea if there’s a name for that).

          And by opposing end them. To die – to sleep,

          The old lie: dulce et decorum est
          Pro patria mori.

          • powerfuller says:

            *Looking it up* Ah, the bacchius! I think those examples could both be scanned as belonging to different feet. The strong caesura in each line makes it seem proper to group them together, but whether caesuras should change scansion is an open question. Also, I don’t hear as strong a stress on “them,” but different ears and all that:

            and BY | op POS | ing END | them to DIE | to SLEEP

            you could probably eliding the “th” or “to” to keep it feeling like a 10 syllable line.

            the OLD | LIE DUL | ce ET | de COR | um EST

            Spondee in the 2nd foot, but otherwise iambs. Scanning it with the caesura would give:

            the OLD LIE | DUL ce | et de COR | um EST

            which now has 2 interesting feet, and is a foot short. Ought the rule of parsimony favor the first reading? Also, the 1st foot here could be considered a spondee with anacrusis (an extra syllable beginning the line not belonging to the meter), but I’m loathe to do that in a 10 syllable line. I think the strongest examples of the bacchius are when they’re at the end of the line, where it’s hardest to scan them differently. Can’t think of an examples, but something like:

            this “DUL | ce ET | de COR | um EST,” | an OLD LIE…

            but then maybe you could call it hypercatalexis (extra syllable at the end), and ignore it. I don’t think people scan feminine endings as amphibrachs, they just scan them as iambs with a feminine ending. But it’s debatable how many terms ought we use to describe these things. I’ll try to keep these examples in mind when I do a write up on the subject!

        • dark orchid says:

          It was a long while ago when I learnt to read hexameters in Latin, but – correct me if I’m wrong – there it was always six feet, either a dactyl (long-short-short) or a spondee (long-long) with the stress always on a first syllable. Our Latin teacher taught us to read the lines rhythmically, that is a spondee is a bar |♩♩| and a dactyl |♩♫|.

          I also vaguely remember that feet 5 and 6 were almost always dactyl-spondee, in that order.

          Which makes me wonder, surely some poets have written hexameters in English too as it was such a well-known classic verse form? I can’t think of a famous one off the top of my head though.

          • powerfuller says:

            Evangeline by Henry Longfellow is one of the most famous English poems in dactylic hexameter, though in English that usually means mostly dactyls with a few trochees throughout. I don’t know any poems that cleave more closely to the Latin form.

            For other classical forms, Thomas Hardy’s The Temporary of All is a poem written in Sapphic stanzas. I do know some English poets have tried writing in quantitative verse, but I’m not familiar with any examples. There’s no agreed upon way to measure the length of English syllables, so what counts as long or short can vary a lot from poet to poet.

      • rahien.din says:

        You could consider how the meter performatively encodes or evokes meaning. For instance, with the Keats line :

        silence and slow time

        In this scansion, there is no distinction between [silence] and [slow time] in terms of parentage. To my reading, “slow time” serves as an epithet, leaving little ambiguity as to whether time could proceed quickly or slowly.

        However, the silence is evoked by the sudden intrinsic pyrhhic (“-lence and”), and the slowness of time is evoked both by the natural slowness of the spondee, and by how the reader must pause upon the reversal of metrical feet (or, the violation of the expected iambic pentameter). It is a sort of metrical onomatopoeia.

        silence and slow time

        In this scansion, “and” has special emphasis, while “slow” is deemphasized. This creates a distinction between [silence] and [slow time], as it strongly implies that it is unexpected that they would share in the urn’s parentage (which leads us to question why that is). And, to my reading, if “slow” is thus deemphasized, it suggests that “slow time” is less an epithet and more a subset of “time.” Thus, the line is a compression of “Thou child not only of silence, but, unexpectedly, also of the kind of time that creeps slowly.”

        However, this occurs at the expense of any onomatopoeically evocative potential.

        • powerfuller says:

          That’s a great observation! I hadn’t thought much about how the scansion changes the meaning in that line. I suppose the next step is to ask what it means if the scansion is intentionally ambiguous? Like is there a suggestion that silence and time first appear different or distinct, but then later they appear the same, as the metrical reading slides into natural one, or vice versa? Could we have it both ways? Maybe that’s why these academic debates get so heated; the entire meaning of a poem could be at stake.

          These kinds of effects are part of what I love about poetry, but make me suspect that discussing them is discussing what constitutes a better reading of the poem, rather than a more accurate reading per se, which may just be a way of talking about taste. I don’t think developing or defining good taste versus bad is an unacceptable objective. But sometimes talking about aural effects in poetry feels like rationalization or soothsaying; you can read something like “driving” or “obstructive” into a spondee with equal ease. Still, I’d rather grope around in the dark after that than judge a poem (solely) by its moral worth or value to society or whatever.

          • powerfuller says:

            Another thought I had about the two readings of the line: I realized I probably would not read meaning into the strictly iambic version because iambic meter is the norm, and meaning via meter is achieved by difference from it. I am used to reading iambic meter as a blank canvas with variations and substitutions as the coloring. Otherwise, I’d be thinking too much about how the meter affects the meaning of “thou foster-child,” when I don’t think it does. Paul Fussell has an interesting discussion in Poetic Form about this subject (though to the conclusion that free verse has no meaning attached to its meter/rhythm). Meaning can definitely be encoded in other rhythmical aspects of the line. Maybe “Oh wait, it actually is iambic,” is meaningful, but I’m not used to reading that way, and I can’t think of other examples.

    • rahien.din says:

      By the way : cool question and fascinating post!

      • Iain says:

        Agreed.

        One other observation: having looked up the original context for each line, I stand by my scansion for the second, third, and fourth lines, but don’t think the first scansion works in context. The Garden beats you about the head with iambic tetrameter, and while that’s an awkward fit for “To a green thought, in a green shade”, changing the meter in a single line feels worse.

        • powerfuller says:

          Thanks, both of you!

          Oh man, Iain we may just have to agree to disagree on the Marvel line. There are enough trochees in the initial feet of lines throughout the poem that I can understand arguing for the trochee-iamb reading, but reading that line as straight iambs just feels wrong to me, haha. I think going by “What would Marvel do?” trochees makes more sense, but that kind of thinking can prevent one from seeing when an author is doing something bold or trying something different. To me, the reading the pyrrhic-spondee combos matches the stanza’s idea of the mind rushing to create its own perfect, enclosed space. But like I said in response to rahein.din, that’s just me arguing for a preferred reading of the poem. I’m beholden to my reading because that’s what makes it one of the highlights of the poem.

        • quaelegit says:

          @Iain

          Darn, you’re right about the garden. It forces unatural (IMO) stressing in other places too: “Meanwhile”, at the beginning of the same stanza, ought to be a trochee.

          Edit: didn’t read powerfuller’s response before writing the first part of this comment. There’s definitely some trochees sprinkled around (“Little, alas, they know or heed” is one trochee + 3 iambs), and sometimes he’s willing to mess around with word order to keep things iambic (“No name shall but your own be found.”) so I think the fact that he didn’t do so with “to a green thought in a green shade” says something.

          On the other hand, maybe he does mean for the “a”‘s to be stressed and it doesn’t sound as forced to him.

          [Edit the third: I also agree this was a fun and interesting post, and thanks for writing it up powerfuller!]

    • (Not a poetry buff and don’t know much about scansion but I can tell you where I read a stressed syllable)

      da da DA DA da da DA DA
      da DA da DA da DA da da DA DA
      da da DA da da da DA da da da DA da da da DA
      DA da da DA da da DA da da DA

  12. Tarhalindur says:

    For the other Practical Guide to Evil readers in the commentariat, one of the more unintentionally amusing signs I’ve seen lately: “Triumphant for Christ”. (May she never return.)

    • Anonymous says:

      Needs some context.

      • beleester says:

        A Practical Guide to Evil is an ongoing web novel. There’s a character in the backstory known as “Dread Empress Triumphant, may she never return.” Every time they mention Triumphant’s name, they follow it up with “may she never return,” because she was apparently just that scary.

        So if you’ve been reading that series, “Triumphant for Christ” can be interpreted a bit differently, in an amusing way.

  13. dnabrams@gmail.com says:

    I didn’t have the patience to wait for the next classified thread, so here goes:

    Do you enjoy working on the puzzles that get posted here? Are you good with figures?

    I am looking to hire someone part time to do data analysis. The advantage to this job is that you can work from home and set your own hours. The job requires you to be smart, diligent, and also somewhat creative — because you won’t necessarily know what you are looking for until you find it. Also, if you are the sort of person who has lots of unfinished projects, this is not the job for you.

    Above all, you should be able to maintain confidentiality.

    If interested, please email me — dnabrams at gmail

  14. johan_larson says:

    Summer blockbuster season is just around the corner. What are we looking forward to?

    For me:

    Star Wars: Solo
    The Incredibles 2
    Sicario 2: Soldado

    All sequels. Welcome to modern Hollywood, I guess.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Infinity War and X-Men: Dark Phoenix

      I am….scared for Solo.

      • johan_larson says:

        Dark Phoenix is coming out November 2. Maybe a little late for summer blockbuster season.

    • cassander says:

      Star Wars: Solo

      Why? I mean this question sincerely, can’t see any possible way that this will end up being good.

      • johan_larson says:

        The trailer looks good — not great, but good. And “Rogue One”, the last A Star Wars Story, was well worth watching.

        Obviously Alden Ehrenreich won’t play Han as well as Harrison Ford did. But that’s ok; we’ll see Han as the brash kid he was rather than the smooth criminal he became.

        • cassander says:

          The last half hour of Rogue One was quite good, I thought the first hour was execrable. As for the trailer, I saw exactly what I expected to see, a which was a fan service-heavy origin story that I don’t think will work well in practice because it’s trying to string together a bunch of throw away lines into a coherent story. I hope they pull it off, I originally had high hopes for the star wars stories, but I’m expecting the worst, especially given the substantial production issues.

          • John Schilling says:

            Rogue One showed that Disney is willing to take risks with the spin-off stories that they aren’t willing to take with the core movies. That, plus the well-established character of Han Solo, is I think reason for hope and the trailer at least doesn’t destroy that hope.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I hope it’ll be a fun movie with Han Solo and Lando and the Millennium Falcon. Donald Glover’s outfits look amazing, and that alone may be worth the price of admission. (Also, in episode IX, can we please get Rey dressed in something other than rags?)

        I fear Kathleen Kennedy with her “Force is Female” gender politics will not allow masculine archetype Han Solo to remain unemasculated (what’s the opposite of “emasculated?” “Masculated?”). Lando gets to keep his masculinity because he’s black. Remember, Han described the Falcon as “the ship that made the Kessel run.” He never said he was flying it. My prediction is Emilia Clarke’s character actually piloted the Falcon (with maybe Lando copiloting) during the record Kessel run and Han is lying by omission to take credit for accomplishments by strong independent wymynz and POC, because Kathleen Kennedy must character assassinate all your white male heroes.

        • CthulhuChild says:

          … I thought ep VII Luke was a pretty big step up in terms of masculine badassery, as compared to whiny adolescent Ep IV-VI Luke (who just barely became an adult by series end). Also, if blackness is what allows a character to be traditionally masculine, please explain Finn’s continuous histrionics.

          I’m not saying your prediction is necessarily wrong. I just think that viewing the new movies as gender-warfare in space lacks explanatory power. Seeing them in terms of generational politics makes a lot more sense to me (the struggle of inheriting legacies, the struggle to stay relevant, etc). So I can totally see your prediction coming true, but not because grrrl power, but because it continue the theme of questioning the narrative of luke/han/leia’s generation (IE, what exactly are the kids trying to live up to).

        • mdet says:

          Other than the treatment of Poe in Last Jedi, what makes you think that Han Solo would be emasculated? As Cthulhu pointed out, Luke wasn’t emasculated, I wouldn’t call Kylo, Force Awakens’ Han, or any of the men in Rogue One emasculated, most other action blockbusters still have manly men in my opinion (The Rock, Liam Neeson, Vin Diesel, Bruce Willis, etc all still have careers).

          It seems to me like you’re extrapolating based off one piece of evidence (Poe in Last Jedi), but tell me if I’m missing something.

          Edit: I even scrolled Kathleen Kennedy’s filmography as a producer on Wikipedia and couldn’t find any trend of weak or unmanly male protagonists

          • CthulhuChild says:

            Mdet, to be fair, Han wasn’t emasculated but he was executed (spoilers). That doesn’t bode well for traditional masculine values. And while Kylo isn’t emasculated, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to read him as embodying toxic masculinity, and therefore can be seen as part of the feminist narrative that Conrad Honcho finds so objectionable.

            I don’t agree with Conrad’s perspective (like I said, I basically see Kylo and Rei as typifying two ways Millennials deal with the Boomers legacy), but reading it in terms of gender is not unreasonable. The fact that female characters seem to be incapable of making mistakes is also a bit odd (all conflicts originate with the actions and decisions of male characters).

          • mdet says:

            I agree that Kylo definitely embodies the “toxic masculinity” trope, especially given that he’s opposite a humble and level-headed female protagonist. But the Anakin of the prequels was exactly the same. So I don’t see “feminists are inserting gender-politics into my Star Wars!”, I see Kylo as taking an existing theme in the canon and attempting to explore it more thoroughly than the terribly-written prequels did. I agree that the female characters flawlessness, Rey in particular, is a problem because it makes her character incapable of growing or developing in any meaningful way.

            But personally I feel that traditional masculinity is more threatened by movies like the Transformers franchise, where nearly every male character is a rambling, incompetent, insecure mess, than anything I’ve seen so far in Star Wars. And Michael Bay is hardly the radical feminist. But that’s me.

            Edit: Thinking more, might “toxic masculinity” be built into the franchise? The Light side of the Force is characterized by a stoic sense of detachment, duty, and pacifism. The Dark Side is its mirror — entitled, self-aggrandizing, and violently unstable. Pretty much epitome of TM, no? Of the Sith presented in the films, only Anakin & Kylo fully act like this though, so maybe I’m reaching. Either way, I think Kylo’s character is a good attempt to explore how Darth Vader was depicted in the originals vs how Anakin was depicted in the prequels (sort of like how you frame it as a generational legacy)

            Edit 2: Then again, I’ve also heard some say that the scenes when Yoda and the Jedi Council tell Anakin that doing his job as a Jedi requires repressing his anxieties and his love for his mother are TM epitomized. So maybe emotional repression and lack of empathy aren’t Force aligned traits

        • Fahundo says:

          Luke died after a fight he didn’t even go to. He’s the laughingstock of the galaxy now.

    • ManyCookies says:

      Looking forward to watching Incredibles 2 and Deadpool 2 in theaters, and looking forward to the RedLetterMedia reviews of Infinity War and Solo (and Ocean’s 8 if they do that).

      • Mwncsc says:

        While I think all the franchises (along with film in general) are in steady decline, the rise of long-form reviewer-analyst-entertainers has made the situation a lot more bearable. In particular, I’m thinking of RLM for film and Shamus Young for video games.

        If not for their reviews, I likely would have disengaged from popular films and games altogether. Now at least I can take some enjoyment from media that I otherwise find depressing.

  15. BBA says:

    The Committee on Foreign Investment in the US just blocked a proposed acquisition of Qualcomm by Broadcom. I’d like to discuss it, because it’s weird on multiple levels.

    First off, CFIUS itself is odd. Formed in the 1970s as an advisory body, it’s basically a committee of the Cabinet, which in itself is unusually parliamentary for our presidential system. A law dating to the 1980s panic over Japan buying America out from under us empowers CFIUS to block a foreign acquisition of an American company on “national security” grounds. It’s only been invoked a handful of times, while in another handful of cases CFIUS scrutiny induced foreign buyers to back out of their bids. Lately it’s been more controversial for some deals it approved – Dubai Ports buying P&O in 2006 (and immediately selling P&O’s American assets in the face of public outcry) and Rosatom buying Uranium One in 2010.

    But this is also an odd deal for CFIUS to be getting involved it. Broadcom is basically an American company: it’s listed on Nasdaq and its main offices are in California, but a predecessor’s tax dodge put its nominal headquarters in Singapore. If Broadcom were to move its nominal headquarters to Delaware like the rest of the S&P 500 (and they’re planning to), CFIUS would have no power to block the deal. It could still be challenged on antitrust grounds – and given that Broadcom and Qualcomm are both major designers of wireless communication chipsets, I think it probably should be. But rather than go that route, which would require judicial approval, the administration is using “national security” to just shut the merger down without giving Broadcom a chance to challenge it. Ooookay.

    But the kicker is the reasoning. This isn’t like “the Arabs are gonna own our seaports” or “the Russians are gonna own our uranium”, we’re not concerned about the Singaporeans owning our microchips (setting aside that Broadcom isn’t even particularly Singaporean). Instead, the thinking is that Qualcomm has a massive R&D operation that’s working on 5G cellular technology, while Broadcom is a relentless cost-cutter focused solely on current chip sales. If Broadcom buys Qualcomm for its chip design and guts R&D to save money, the patents on 5G will be almost entirely in the hands of Qualcomm’s Chinese competitor Huawei. This is, to say the least, an unorthodox argument, but the weirdest thing is it actually makes sense. If you accept that “national security” is grounds for blocking a takeover, “the Chinese are gonna own our cell phones” is entirely in line with previous cases. It’s just, using it against a company that isn’t Chinese? That was once, and will soon again be, American? Ooooookay.

    What do you think, sirs?

    • Matt M says:

      If you accept that “national security” is grounds for blocking a takeover, “the Chinese are gonna own our cell phones” is entirely in line with previous cases. It’s just, using it against a company that isn’t Chinese?

      File this one in the “Life continues to look more and more like an Ayn Rand novel every day” category for me.

      • BBA says:

        Well… were you expecting Trump to heighten the contradictions like this? Because this isn’t the deep state of Obama holdovers. These are high-ranking Trump appointees signing off on this, and the man himself.

        (My guess is that if it were the deep state in control, or Hillary in office, this would be challenged on antitrust grounds like a normal merger.)

        • Matt M says:

          Not really. I think “this kind of nonsense continues/gets worse regardless of who wins elections” is pretty in-keeping with the Randian vision!

    • The Nybbler says:

      Maybe it’s a feint. The Trump administration doesn’t want to block the merger, but they’ll face a lot of pressure to do so because of the antitrust issues. So they block it with this other method, Broadcom moves back to the US, the merger goes through, and Trump tells merger opponents (falsely) “Sorry, nothing we can do”, while claiming credit for bringing Broadcom back to the US.

    • Deiseach says:

      If that is the reasoning, I think they’re just using “nominally headquartered overseas so a foreign company” as the handle (like getting Al Capone on tax charges). An appeal to patriotism (“it’s good for the country if we have our own 5G patents so please don’t asset-strip the company”) probably wouldn’t work against the short-term market interests of Broadcom, so “if they won’t be good of their own accord, we will make them be good” is at work here. I don’t think forcing persons or companies to be virtuous is necessarily good or effective, but if you’re trying to balance genuine national interest versus globalist open borders profit motive, then the stick is more likely to work than the carrot.

      I wonder, though, if there isn’t also some element of “make foreign-headquartered US companies move back home” at work too? If Broadcom is planning to move back to Delaware, this might be a way of signalling to other companies “hurry up, don’t drag your feet, get back to being US-headquartered companies and things will go easier for you”, if Trump is going to wage protectionist trade war?

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      If Broadcom buys Qualcomm for its chip design and guts R&D to save money, the patents on 5G will be almost entirely in the hands of Qualcomm’s Chinese competitor Huawei. This is, to say the least, an unorthodox argument, but the weirdest thing is it actually makes sense.

      I think this is the meat of it. Trump and CFIUS want the US to remain big players in wireless tech satandards, and that pretty much means Qualcomm. If Broadcom were domiciled in the US (they will be) and promised to make 5G and whatever comes next a priority, it probably would have been different.

      • BBA says:

        One thing I may not have made clear above is this is a hostile takeover. Qualcomm doesn’t want to be bought and has also been opposing Broadcom’s bid in all the conventional ways. Their lawyers, seeing that Broadcom is technically foreign and the new administration is more xenophobic nationalistic than its predecessors, raised this off-the-wall argument with CFIUS, and (surprisingly to me) it worked.

        This from Matt Levine a few days ago, whose latest on the story is that, since Broadcom is likely to try again once they’ve moved their domicile back, Qualcomm’s management is lining up a competing bid to take the company private, with financing coming from Japanese megaconglomerate SoftBank. This could potentially be challenged on exactly the same statutory grounds as Broadcom’s bid, but avoids the Huawei/5G issue, so what does CFIUS do then?

        (For what it’s worth, I basically support Qualcomm management on this, partly for reasons discussed above but mostly for the irrational sentimental reason that a Broadcom takeover would be bad for San Diego, where I have family and which I like a lot better than most cities.)

  16. Well... says:

    I’m getting into podcasts, looking for suggestions. I like long-form conversation-style podcasts such as Joe Rogan’s and Sam Harris’s, as well as Intelligence Squared debates.

    Topics I’m interested in listening to people talk about: philosophy of technology, evolutionary biology, astronomy, geology, some contemporary politics (e.g. I find Michael Malice’s stuff about North Korea fascinating), history, first-hand accounts of people who’ve had unique extreme experiences, etc.

    Based on these preferences, what other podcasts (or particular episodes of podcasts) do y’all recommend for me? Please include descriptions along with recommendations.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Hardcore History is generally considered the good standard of history podcasts. It’s long but deeply engaging. Highly recommend the Blueprints for Armageddon series.

      Any “History of X” series is generally comprehensive and informative. Many like “History of Rome”. I’ve been listening to “History of China”.

      Vox has a series called “the weeds” that’s more about getting deeper in to policy issues rather than the outrage of the day. It’s still Vox though and if you can’t get over that, you may not enjoy it.

    • DavidS says:

      I think one important thing for podcasts is if you like a continuous story or jumping around. For history, if you like continuous stories I’d recommend Mike Duncan (History of Rome, ‘Revolutions’ which covers English Civil War, American War of Independence, French Revolution, Haitian revolution, Latin American revolutions, now on revolutions of 1848 and will at some point cover Russia).

      I enjoyed Hardcore History but less than Mike Duncan: they’re very different styles. Dan Carlin is much more dramatic and hammering home certain themes he wants to make a point about. Mike Duncan feels like more of a dispassionate historical study (which doesn’t mean it’s just a list: Mike clearly sets out his own theories and conclusions. But Dan wants to emphasise ‘imagine what it would be really like living in a trench’ whereas Mike is more ‘this is why I think the evidence suggests that the French Revolution’s persecution of the Church was a key factor in resistance to it and ultimately the overthrow of the revolutionary government’.

      If for episodic jumps into individual topic (and covering a huge variety of topics over science, history, philosophy, literature etc.) would recommend In Our Time. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘conversation style’ but In Our Time is literally the host talking to 3-4 academics on a given topic.

    • lvlln says:

      I’m a fan of Julia Galef’s Rationally Speaking podcast. In each episode, she interviews one person kinda like Joe Rogan or Sam Harris does, though her episodes are a lot shorter than theirs, at under an hour long, I think. The general theme she follows is rationality, so stuff like cognitive biases, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology. I think the only sponsor she’s had is GiveWell, and she’s had people on from the effective altruism movement.

    • rahien.din says:

      Another vote for Dan Carlin’s “Hardcore History.”

      I like “Very Bad Wizards” for informal (and foul-mouthed) conversations on philosophy and ethics.

      I have enjoyed “Reuters War College,” which is a series of interviews between two war-oriented journalists and various guests. They have an obvious lefty bent (and sometimes they interview people who seem hacked off) but it’s entertaining and usually informative.

      “Hard Pass” was an interesting look at marketing and business (at least, for a relative newby such as myself). The hosts are a little left-y, and kind of snotty, but they had perspectives I didn’t expect, and they frequently disagreed with one another. I learned some stuff. There have been no new episodes in about a year, though.

      I used to listen to Sam Harris’ “Waking Up” more frequently. He interviews some fascinating people, and hasn’t been afraid to post interviews during which he had genuine confusion or strong disagreement. His interview with Scott Adams and Rjndao Erpentos were particularly interesting. Lately, it seems like he bends every interview back towards one of his pet issues, no matter the starting point, so, that one has fallen off for me.

      Topics I’m interested in listening to people talk about: … geology …

      I honestly did not believe that there were geology podcasts, and I was totally wrong. Rule 34 strikes again. I found one that seems to meet your criteria. I haven’t listened to it but I feel compelled to prove it exists!

    • Atlas says:

      first-hand accounts of people who’ve had unique extreme experiences

      Jocko Willink’s eponymous podcast. Jocko is a former Navy SEAL who served and was decorated in Iraq, and his podcast is often long-form discussions with intellectuals or veterans about serious matters. (He’s appeared on JRE and Waking Up.)

      Ezra Klein’s eponymous podcast. Klein is, though you likely already knew this, the founder of news website Vox dot com. He just has good, sophisticated conversations with people and also journalists about their lives and work: economists, comedians, entrepreneurs, reporters, et cetera.

      The BBC’s radio program In Our Time, which is released as a podcast. Host Melyvn Bragg invites three high ranking British academics to discuss a subject in their area of expertise, usually covering history, philosophy, literature, natural science and religion. Wonderful.

      (possibly a controversial pick) Stefan Molyneux’s Freedomain Radio. Molyneux is a libertarian turned sort of all-trite. He discusses politics, history, economics, science and culture primarily, often with notable guests, with varying degrees of insight. Not without his flaws, certainly, but I find Molyneux a consistently intelligent and entertaining podcaster. (Helps if you want to add some relatively far right content to balance your media diet.) Check out his interview with Steve Hsu, for starters.

    • aNeopuritan says:

      History Extra, IIRC, is similar to In Our Time in being episodes about varied subjects, with a pro-Britain oldwhiteprivilegeddude host (not necessarily the guests).

      AskHistorians is a(n excellent) subreddit with its own podcast. The main contributors are often but not only titled historians, in either case Left-Liberal (I’d say *not* crazy SJW, as history isn’t that screwed yet), which may predict subject choices. Do make sure you listen to the 2 episodes about the Tarascan Empire, at least; those, if nothing else, should please anyone.

      Research on Religion is what the title suggests, which includes history, with a USian Christian oldwhiteprivilegeddude host (again, not necessarily guests – and no, it’s not just Christianity, though it *is* overrepresented).

      Radio War Nerd has both military history and current foreign policy, with what I’d call the sanest politics out there: Leftist without being dogmatic or retarded*. They just, not only interviewed a former Rojava volunteer, but stared down a few of their own listeners who complained about a guest who dared disagree with them (voicing some opinions usually found as fairly mild Rightism). Like Clash! below, its episodes are partly paywalled – some episodes are free, and there may be free samples of those that aren’t.

      Clash! with Carl Zha and Nathan Hale is a child of RWN: Carl was invited into RWN to talk about Uyghur history, and they encouraged him to get his own podcast, which he and Nathan did. Among other things including current politics, they’ve talked about the formations of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Iranian societies. Yasha Levine has talked about the Internet’s history in both Clash! and RWN – listen to those.

      History of Latin America, History of Southeast Asia, and Iroquois History and Legends are sequential histories of the peoples in question (plus separate “legend” episodes in the case the title suggests). For Latin America the pre-Columbian part is short but a good summary, and it’s finished; it’s just gotten to the first Castillian settlements. For Southeast Asia, episodes start short and grow longer as there’s more information known about a time and place, and it’s at WWII now; dates for the first 1 or 2 episodes may be suspect because the author is … a YECist (but otherwise both his person and the history presented seem extremely decent). For the Iroquois: they just had a legend episode after the end of the US War of Independence, and they make a point of emphasizing that people on both sides of all the conflicts were *people*, good, bad, and both.

      Ottoman History Podcast and Samurai Archives Podcast aren’t sequential, and have invited academics to talk about different aspects of those countries. The first has a huge archive, with the subjects you’d expect by (competent, sane) Left-Liberals: much cultural, economic, environmental, gender, and minority history (among others) … and no military history – otherwise, it’s *excellent* stuff. As you might expect, Samurai Archives is *heavy* on the military history (at least one participant has been an (US) officer, even – so *this* bunch of academics isn’t obviously Liberal), but other subjects do appear; I’ve an impression that some episodes are too short to go into as much detail as I’d like.

      My strongest recommendations would be Ottoman History Podcast and Iroquois History and Legends for history-only, and Radio War Nerd, and Clash! if you don’t mind getting both history and current affairs.

      *: the few places where I’d say you’d get equally sane politics in a different format would be ecosophia.net and meaningness.com .

      [Not history] I downloaded, but haven’t listened to yet, Voices of DARPA episodes.

  17. christhenottopher says:

    So there’s a new JAMA study on the relative costs and outcomes of major developed countries that suggests in many ways the US is not an outlier on many measures. Here’s one notable thing I noticed, the US was close to the median for “out of pocket costs as a percentage of household consumption (2.6% of household consumption, same level as Denmark and less than Australia, Sweden, or Switzerland, Canada by contrast was 2.3%). Looking through the causes of the cost difference, a huge driver was health care salaries, with the United States being higher on every position including just the nurses. This doesn’t seem to be driven primarily by too many restrictions on physician numbers since again, the US while somewhat low on the list, still wasn’t that far off the average (the US having 2.3 physicians per 100,000 vs the average 3.3 and the lowest ratio being the UK with 2.1 per 100,000).

    My interpretation of this data is that A) Baumol’s cost disease strikes again and the Random Critical Analysis position that health care costs are mostly driven by being wealthier with higher living standards rather than the eccentricities of US health care is supported, B) The US does not look that bad on almost everything except life expectancy/mortality during child birth which may be driven by non-healthcare factors, C) The narrative of “the US healthcare system is a disaster that must be torn up by it’s roots” seems overblown. But I’m curious what other SSCers think of this study?

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      I had a long write-up ready to go, and then thought I should instead give the tl;dr version: Basically there is nothing new here, and the authors don’t seem interested in trying to push any points that might rankle anyone.

  18. JohnBuridan says:

    Last night had a dream that I was in a large pavilion during a rainstorm. Tyler Cowen, whom I never met, was there, and when a horse in the pavilion bit someone I know, I leaned over to Tyler and said “I bet you think that while we might view horsebites as a bad thing, in fact they generally are good for society, allowing people to demonstrate care for each other and work with horses.”

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Horsebites allow people to demonstrate care for each other, yes. I personally take a Shetland pony around to bite my loved ones.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Sounds like your subconscious understand Tyler Cowen pretty well.

    • Nick says:

      Tyler Cowen was in one of my dreams too, except in this one he was buying up the local housing market. This makes much less economic sense than yours does.

    • aNeopuritan says:

      I want to dream as intelligently as you when I grow up.

  19. Le Maistre Chat says:

    So Angela Merkel just ran unopposed for a fourth term as Chancellor, winning 346-315.
    What’s the deal there? I pattern match “running unopposed” to the old Communist bloc and other sham democracies.

    • dndnrsn says:

      The chancellor is elected by the Bundestag. It’s not like a candidate or a party running unopposed in a general election.

      • Randy M says:

        Was it basically a no-confidence vote, or an actual election that her opponents, despite amounting to 47% of the voters, were unable to find a candidate to run?

        • dndnrsn says:

          I’m not an expert on German politics, but it sounds an awful lot like a non-confidence vote. This has been the longest gap between the parliamentary elections and election of a chancellor since WWII, and the amount of time it took to form a coalition was also quite unusual.

          • Björn says:

            The story is more or less like this: Before the election, there was a so called grand coalition between the social democrat SPD and the conservative CDU/CSU. As the CDU/CSU had far more votes, the chancellor was Angela Merkel. Her leading style is very bureaucratic, and when the opposition is able to put an issue on the public mind, Angela Merkel “steals” that issue and implements her own solution. When the opposition made it clear that gay marriage would be a topic in the election, Angela Merkel introduced it herself immediately before the election (There was a majority for it for a long time, but the CDU/CSU did not act on it because they were afraid it would piss of their more conservative voters.)

            This is very problematic for her coalition partner, the SPD, because they can not build up an own profile, and while Merkel steals their voters from the middle, there are also parties in the parliament that are more leftist or more green. So after the election, which did not go well for the SPD, they declared that they would not enter another grand coalition.

            Angela Merkel then tried to form a coalition with the FDP (market liberal) and the Greens, but the FDP endet the coalition talks. The reason seems to have been that the FDP was afraid that they would not be able to keep their profile against Merkel (the last CDU-FDP coalition under Merkel went really bad for the FDP).

            So the SPD grudgingly went into another coalition with Merkel, as they are afraid they would lose even more votes in a reelection. As Merkel had now collected a possibel majority in the parliament, her chancellor election took place. You can see from the fact that she got 32 less votes that the coalition has seats that not everyone from her coalition is happy with her.

        • Protagoras says:

          The right had more seats in the Bundestag than the left, and the biggest left party went for the grand coalition, so it would have been pretty pointless for either of the remaining left parties to put up a candidate, as in addition to having only a small number of seats between them, they would not work with one another (The Left, the ex-communists, seem to have trouble both with reluctance to work with others and with others being reluctant to work with them; the Greens, while not nearly as bad, also have a little bit of trouble playing well with others). Merkel leads the largest right party; again no point in the lesser right parties proposing candidates. Though one could imagine the Alternative for Germany doing so; they’re the new right-wing troublemaker party. But apparently they were also satisfied to vote not-Merkel without trying to advance their own candidate.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yeah, I guess this is just one of those things that happens when the legislature elects the executive. The contested, democratic part all happens when votes are cast for the Bundestag (very different from the American Congress! 😀 )

    • Anonymous says:

      AFAIK the German system has some pretty strong and intentional status quo bias.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      That election is basically a formality, I guess like the electoral votes. The real thing happens earlier when the Bundestag is elected. The Chancellor is elected after somebody managed to form a coalition that has the required number of votes.

      The fact that it was somewhat close is indeed a no-confidence vote. A couple of dozen people of her coalition apparently didn’t vote for her.

  20. rahien.din says:

    Inspired by today’s Wondermark : is creativity just a form of unfaithful remembrance? IE, do we just remember things with low fidelity (with respect to their content and/or their borders) and react to them as novel?

    In which case there are two sources of creativity : having more things to remember, or, having a greater potential for low-fidelity remembrance.

    • AG says:

      I’m not sure I follow the link from remembering to creativity. To be creative is context-dependent: what is novel in a small pond in reinventing the wheel in a larger one.

      Consider the development of music: the largest differences in genres come from isolation, of cultures not knowing what their neighbors are doing. But this means that within the one culture, traditional ways are more reintrenched. Rock splits from R&B because of rockists, but in the modern day, artists who operate off of experimental fusions of the two sound like each other, and it feels like no new distinct genres are being created. Hamilton blows the minds of those who stick to Broadway, but non-musical enthusiasts disdainfully compare its rhymes to Macklemore.
      Artist A releases one album where all tracks are in a single genre, and then their next album contains tracks from new genres. Artist B releases albums where each track is a wildly different genre from the previous one begins to sound samey across albums. Which one is more creative?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Coworkers say I am very creative. I think I’m just applying a wide repertoire of old incidents to the current challenge. (I see no need to tell them my version out loud.)

    • aNeopuritan says:

      “Many a man fails as an original thinker simply because his memory is too good.” – Nietzsche.

    • cassander says:

      this is not a very convincing piece. On point one, all the examples he lists as support for free speech are blue tribe shibboleths. I’d be much more interested in seeing their answers to “Should an anti-muslim priest be permitted to teach in a public school?” or “Consider the question of whether someone who is anti-gay marriage be allowed to make a speech in your community?” a point the author acknowledges, but doesn’t directly address.

      point two seems too unspecific to be meaningful.

      point three the author admits isn’t actually a myth, and jumps to some more left wing shibboleths.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        On point one he gives two graphs, one from the left, one from the right.

        • cassander says:

          I think that example is very weak. A coup is so unlikely a prospect that it can be treated more dispationately than something more politically salient.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Maybe, but that’s far from a blue-tribe shiboleth.

            Here are all 5 questions. Everyone is tolerated more, except racists, but even they are holding steady. (This doesn’t break it down by age.)

          • keranih says:

            Define “racist”.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Douglas, that blog really proves the point better than anything. I didn’t even know what a “militarist” was, and more to the point military takeover of the government doesn’t necessarily endanger identity politics (!!!). That’s the kind of thing that users like dndnrsn would use to attack moderate and slightly liberal people, but the thing is, as the guy says:

            In other words, it’s likely not Liberalism itself doing the work here

            Nah, it’s progressivism. I don’t know if extreme liberals are also a progressive group – they might be – but it’s entirely possible that extreme liberals are the old-school types, in which case my biases are confirmed. And that’s what I came here for, really!

            …but also, it proves the point that there is a campus left wing issue, it’s just a campus progressive issue specifically

          • Chalid says:

            Define “racist”.

            if you click through to the survey, it says:

            “Consider a person who believes that Blacks are genetically inferior…”

            followed by questions about whether such a person should be allowed to give a speech, whether their books should be removed from the library, and whether they should be allowed to teach.

            Support in all cases is pretty steady since 1975 among all political groups.

          • Deiseach says:

            Define “racist”.

            if you click through to the survey, it says:

            “Consider a person who believes that Blacks are genetically inferior…”

            Hang on, I thought the new agreed definition of racism and racist was “person who benefits either personally or as part of a dominant group from structural racism because their ethnic group are the ones wielding power in the society” and that it had nothing to do with thinking non-white people are inferior?

            So the next time someone is delivering a finger-wagging lecture about “no, stupid, we’re not saying you being racist means you’re in the KKK, it means you benefit from structural racism in society and have absorbed those embedded attitudes which means you need to consciously work to remove them”, yes it does mean that “you’re in the KKK”?

            For anyone who is wondering “What point are you trying to make or are you just being offensive?”, it’ this: there seems to be a push to present “when we talk about racism we mean structural racism and power plus opportunity, not personal attitudes someone has” as the working definition when “racism, racist” is used in discourse, argument, and media pieces. But I don’t believe that, I think “racism and racist” are still being used in the old context of “thinks non-white people are inferior” and that even if the “structural racism” theorists genuinely use this term as-is, they have equally imbibed unconscious attitudes embedded within their understanding so they do flip to “you personally think non-white people are genetically inferior” when in the heat of argument.

          • beleester says:

            @Deiseach: Using the stricter definition of “racist” in this case actually makes their case stronger – if bog-standard “blacks are genetically inferior” racists are still tolerated, how much more so are the people who are only racist in the more extended sense of the term!

            …Sorry, were you actually arguing against the study’s conclusions, or did you just want to make sweeping generalizations about how everyone on the left is wrong?

            EDIT: Okay, that was unnecessarily mean, but seriously: The entire point of this article is that the sort of leftist you’re railing against isn’t actually very common, so I am a bit upset that you chose here of all places to deliver a broadside against my half of the aisle.

            To respond to your actual point, I agree that it’s bad to conflate those two kinds of racism, but I also think that “institutional racism” does describe something noticeably different from the standard variety, so there should be a word for it. If you can think of a catchy term for it that can’t be easily conflated, I’m all ears.

          • Deiseach says:

            beleester, I think right now we’re in a transitional space where terms like “racist” and “fascist” are being flung about with no real tangible definition; we’re stuck between the old “fascist as in Hitler and Mussolini” and “fascist as in your opinions are the opposite of mine” and the “KKK member” versus “systemic” versions of racism.

            So the older, simple meanings which a great many people would have been familiar with and used are no longer sufficient, and the new ones are so embedded in certain places and strongly associated with the theoretical – as you say, “the sort of leftist …isn’t actually very common” that they are as yet confined to only a section of people who understand (or not!) their proper usage, but we’re constantly seeing these terms being used and not at all sure which definition is intended.

            And this muddled usage is powerful. People can and do whip up internet frenzies over “X is a racist!” or otherwise guilty of “problematic” thought or speech – see the hiring/firing story here – and yet it’s more opaque than ever exactly why any one person is being condemned.

            So yes, perhaps only a very few are using such terminology, but it is seeping out into wider use, and the people acting on such labels have less knowledge of what is meant – they are reacting on the gut level to the older meaning that has the emotional punch of “lynching and burning” meaning of “racist”, while using the new theoretical model of “everyone is a racist because society is racist because systemic racism” and until we get an agreed-upon definition that is universally understood when it is said “Y is a fascist” do we mean “actual Nazi as in National Socialism” or “Nazi as in ‘punch a Nazi’ which in effect means anyone to our right” there is only going to be continuing muddle, to the point where flinging around “you’re a racist” is now meaningless.

            I’m a racist/fascist/homophobe/whatever? Instead of being ashamed and wanting to change my bad ways, I’ll now accept that label because hey, why not, if I’m a deplorable I will never be acceptable to you until I become your carbon-copy so I’ll accept those labels since they don’t mean anything more than “boo, bad guy!”

          • and the “KKK member” versus “systemic” versions of racism.

            Except that the non-systemic version in common use is a lot weaker than “KKK member.” Someone quoted the definition used in a poll, which was someone who believes that some races are intellectually inferior to others. Taking that as a statement about the average, not a claim that all members of one race are intellectually inferior to all members of another, which I think hardly anyone, including KKK members, believes, it’s a factual claim that may well be true.

            But publicly expressing it may well get you labelled “racist” by people who have never heard of the systemic definition. Indeed, Brad has come pretty close to claiming that publicly expressing it, at least if done at all often, means you are someone not worth talking with.

    • The Nybbler says:

      On the first point, on the one hand you have a survey. On the other, you have events being actually cancelled and disrupted (see FIRE disinvitation database). The lack of visibility of an effect on the indirect measure doesn’t cast significant doubt on the direct one.

      On the second point, this time there’s a survey I can’t get to. The title, however, is “Navigating Pluralism: How Students Approach Religious Difference and Interfaith Engagement in Their First Year of College”, so I’m rather suspicious of it’s actual relevance.

      The third point is just an attempt to wave away the problem.

      • Chalid says:

        There’s nothing incompatible about increasing disinvitations and the survey; disinvitations are due to small subsets of the population which will not swing population-wide survey numbers.

        What the survey *does* do is challenge some of the more sweeping conclusions about millennials/leftists/college students/whatever as a whole that people sometimes draw after seeing disinvitations.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        I’m pretty confident that if one or two public universities in Texas or Oklahoma dismissed a couple professors who advocated for gay marriage, the author of this piece would freak out.

        All this talk about “rare incidents” would go right out the window.

        Anyway, I graduated college many years ago, but even then you had to be pretty careful not to publicly express views or tell jokes which were un-PC. You did so among people you trusted and you didn’t put it in writing. I imagine things are worse now.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      The most worrying tidbit I learned looking through this is on something they cited but did not actually discuss.

      See this.

      On page 10 there is a chart indicating that just over 1/3 of students think hate speech should be protected by the First Amendment. Since hate speech is often defined as anything that doesn’t agree with the leftist mythology, we have lots of people saying that Republican speech should be outlawed. Yes I am exaggerating a bunch here. But it is troublesome that students don’t have a lot of faith in free speech.

      • Montfort says:

        Yes I am exaggerating a bunch here

        I appreciate that you freely admit it, but I think a better choice would be not to conflate the no doubt wide array of different ideas the respondents have about what, exactly, “hate speech” means with the single most worrisome idea of what “hate speech” might mean. I think this ambiguity in definition would be worthy of much concern if people were voting on a law or constitutional amendment (because then the vagueness can be later reinterpreted with legal consequences), but as a survey question it’s just a way to inflate the numbers. It’s pretty much asking “do you think the first amendment should protect speech you find to be worthless and mean?” – which is probably not going to be a big winner except among political nerds and people who’ve recently had their ideas called worthless and mean a lot (and here, before making the obvious rejoinder, note that >50% of republican students thought hate speech shouldn’t be protected).

        A better basis for your worry would be the 30% of students who support their school being able to restrict political opinions “offensive to certain groups” – though again, it’s not clear how many of them would restrict what kind of speech. “Offensive to certain groups” covers everything from “end affirmative action” to “religion is dumb” to actual genocide advocacy.

      • Brad says:

        72% of Republicans think flag burning ought to be illegal. There are far more Republicans than college students. Are you worried about that?

        • Which would you regard as a greater violation of free speech:

          A law against flag burning.

          A law against public speeches expressing some set of ideas–say public discussions of evidence that average IQ differs by race.

          • Brad says:

            The first is viewpoint based discrimination while the latter, at least the way you wrote it, sounds like content based discrimination. So the former.

            Turn that around: do you think laws against flag burning are merely de minimis violations of free speech?

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Brad, a ban on flag burning is a ban on one particular symbolic way of communicating some ideas. That’s bad.

            A ban on public presentations of Muggle Realism is a ban on just about every way of communicating some ideas. That’s worse.

          • Evan gave the same answer I would. “De minimis” may be an overstatement, but forbidding one symbolic act to express a view is a much less serious infringement than forbidding all acts that express that view.

          • Brad says:

            Frankly I’m quite disappointed in tepid at best defenses of an important First Amendment victory which is still very much a live issue and the subject of a somewhat seriously mooted constitutional amendment because it distracts from talking about an largely hypothetical threat.

            The President of the United States and more than half of Republicans think that people that burn the flag should be stripped of their citizenship and a forum allegedly with a plurality of libertarians shrugs its shoulders? And I’m supposed to believe that it doesn’t make any sense to situate self declared libertarians as part of the right wing in the US?

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Brad, if I thought the ban had any real chance of becoming law, I’d be protesting a lot more. It’s got numbers behind it, and one very unpopular President – but just about no one in the Establishment, no judges voicing even vague sympathies, and AFAIK hardly any other politicians.

            What makes you say the flag burning amendment’s being “somewhat seriously mooted”? I haven’t heard anything about it in years.

          • Brad says:

            If I recall correctly it was in the R platform several times and was actually introduced in Congress more than once. That’s a heck of a lot more serious attention then a hate speech amendment has ever gotten.

            There seems to be a real double standard in play.

          • Brad says:

            It’s at a tangent, but it is probably worth pointing out that the Fighting words doctrine is largely considered a dead letter at this point. While it has never been overruled since Chaplinsky in 1942 the Supreme Court has never again ruled for the government on a fighting words argument. I’m not aware of any cases in the lower courts either, but I’m not nearly as sure of that.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think keranih is implying it should be okay to punch people who burn flags. Just that he pretty much wants to, and won’t shed a tear if a flag burner gets punched.

            I think it should be legal to stand in the middle of Harlem with an “I hate n*****s” sign like Bruce Willis in Die Hard 3. And anybody who punches him (or worse) for doing so should go to jail. But I’m also not going to be surprised when he gets punched (or worse) and nor will tears be shed. Same thing with flag burning.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Conrad Honcho, Huh. I have a black friend who told me of an experience she had in a chat room, where somebody messaged her to say he liked her handle (which was based on a band she liked). That other person’s handle was “Ihaten*****s”, without the stars, so the conversation was short and awkward, but she’s an amazingly nice and forgiving person, so she told me that she figured he probably didn’t really hate black people but was just being an edgelord. It hadn’t occurred to me that he might also have been a Bruce Willis fan (though still an edgelord, clearly).

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Brad-

            The President of the United States and more than half of Republicans think that people that burn the flag should be stripped of their citizenship

            Citation needed? The wikipedia article keranih pointed us to make no mention of such an extreme remedy.

            Like most of the others in this thread, I might be worried about it becoming illegal if it did not seem so very unlikely. I would be even more worried about the scenario you pose, but it goes beyond merely unlikely to completely preposterous. I can imagine someone saying it as rhetoric, but would bet large sums at enormous odds against it happening — unlike prior restraint on expression of certain right-wing viewpoints.

          • Brad says:

            http://reason.com/blog/2017/10/10/republicans-are-far-from-consistent-cham

            A new poll from the Cato Institute throws some discouraging light on the overall state of public opinion regarding the First Amendment.

            According to the topline poll results (to which I received advance access), 72 percent of Republicans would support making it illegal for an American to burn or desecrate the flag. A little more than half of Republicans would punish the desecrators by stripping them of their U.S. citizenship, something Donald Trump suggested (to great and deserved indignation) a few weeks after he won the election last November.

            Despite constant declamations from the right on the importance of religious freedom, 67 percent of Republicans favor a law to “prohibit face coverings in public spaces.” Nearly half would ban the construction of mosques in their community. That is much higher than among all Americans (28 percent) and among Democrats only (14 percent).

            Yet the departures on the right may be even more noteworthy, particularly given how much pleasure conservatives take in decrying the behavior of their political adversaries. In fact, 72 percent of Republicans in the poll said that colleges and universities are not doing enough “to teach young Americans about the value of free speech,” and 90 percent think political correctness is “a big problem this country has.”

            But it’s hard to claim a position of moral authority on the First Amendment when, at the same time, you approve of government force to punish those who speak, dress, protest, or worship in a manner you don’t like.

            @Doctor Mist

            Like most of the others in this thread, I might be worried about it becoming illegal if it did not seem so very unlikely. I would be even more worried about the scenario you pose, but it goes beyond merely unlikely to completely preposterous. I can imagine someone saying it as rhetoric, but would bet large sums at enormous odds against it happening — unlike prior restraint on expression of certain right-wing viewpoints.

            With all due respect I see no evidence at all for your or others’ claims that a hate speech exception to the first amendment is more likely than a patriotic exception to the first amendment. I believe loathing is shading into paranoia and destroying calibration. And on the flip side rose collared glasses are blinding some to what’s really going on inside that big right wing tent.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            According to the topline poll results (to which I received advance access), 72 percent of Republicans would support making it illegal for an American to burn or desecrate the flag. A little more than half of Republicans would punish the desecrators by stripping them of their U.S. citizenship, something Donald Trump suggested (to great and deserved indignation) a few weeks after he won the election last November.

            now that all the other right-wing posters have valiantly tried to downplay this to avoid looking hypocritical, it’s on me to…downplay this, to avoid looking hypocritical

            luckily it’s not that hard to do: wanting to punish flag-burners is super annoying and a disquieting trend which definitely tarnishes the shine of the right-wings’ otherwise solid position on free speech in Current Year. That said, the act in and of itself isn’t necessary to convey a message and it’s not something you can do without realising, so the real threat is the sort of definition creep you see with hate speech currently; if “anti-patriotic” speech is suppressed, then that’s a big deal. However at present this doesn’t seem likely to occur, and basically only the worst anti-patriotic act is being targeted; it does expose that, essentially, most people are hypocrites, but only at the edge in this case.

          • Brad says:

            @AnonYEmous
            I think doubling down on a flag burning exception to the First Amendment is not big deal makes the situation far worse, not better.

            Like the ACLU people that go around calling themselves libertarians and/or spend a huge amount of time attacking others for being insufficiently pro-free-speech are rightly held to a higher standard.

            When a group of people like that give their ideological allies a pass, my first thought isn’t “wow, they must be really well calibrated and have a good sense of priorities”.

            I mean you seem more annoyed that the survey is making your team look bad than that more half of Republicans and the President of the United States wants to strip citizenship (!) from people because that have expressed themselves in ways they don’t care for.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I mean you seem more annoyed that the survey is making your team look bad than that more half of Republicans and the President of the United States wants to strip citizenship (!) from people because that have expressed themselves in ways they don’t care for.

            I think it’s more like a bravery debate issue. “Americans have become too unpatriotic! We’ve got pinkos and traitors running wild! We don’t just need more patriotism, we need to jail flag burners and strip of them of their citizenship!

            Do I believe Republicans will say those things to pollsters*, and Donald Trump will say them to anyone? Yes. Perhaps I’m simply in denial as to just how hypocritical my side is, but I think if you actually put Republicans in voting booths and said “pull this lever and the law of the land will be that flag burners are imprisoned and striped of their citizenship” I do not believe anywhere near 50%-72% of them would pull the lever.

            I also don’t think the majority of people who chant “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want them? Now!” would actually execute police officers. I don’t like what they say and I find it threatening, but I perhaps naively believe them to be slightly less bloodthirsty than a plain reading of their words might lead one to believe.

            * Republicans/right-wingers are also particularly contemptuous of pollsters. I propose a corollary to the Lizard Man Theory that when Republicans are polled, the Lizard Man Constant is doubled.

          • Matt M says:

            * Republicans/right-wingers are also particularly contemptuous of pollsters. I propose a corollary to the Lizard Man Theory that when Republicans are polled, the Lizard Man Constant is doubled.

            Wholly agree, and offer up myself as an example. Whenever I’m given any sort of poll, I almost always pick the most extreme right-wing option, even when it does not match my true beliefs.

          • Brad says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            That’s a fair enough position to take. But what about pink haired college students? Do you think that they not only *really* believe everything they say, but also are going to hold onto those beliefs for the next 20-30 years?

            I know we are on the same side of the culture war is overblown question, so here’s your opportunity to apply that.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            When a group of people like that give their ideological allies a pass, my first thought isn’t “wow, they must be really well calibrated and have a good sense of priorities”.

            So now that I’ve explained it to you, let it be your second thought. I don’t perceive a hatred of flag-burning to be anything but a general case of “hypocrisy at the margins”, and until it seems that this hypocrisy will escape the margin and move to more general cases, I don’t care. Nor would I care especially much if pink-haired college students wanted to ban only the worst of the worst; I wouldn’t like it, but I wouldn’t waste much time thinking about it either. But they also want to ban people who aren’t that bad, and especially they want to ban them to prevent their arguments from becoming known.

            I mean you seem more annoyed that the survey is making your team look bad than that more half of Republicans and the President of the United States wants to strip citizenship (!) from people because that have expressed themselves in ways they don’t care for.

            Again, it’s one very specific way (!) which is well-delineated and can be avoided if necessary with ease. In all honesty, it comes off as more like right-wing virtue signalling than anything truly serious. When it becomes more serious, I’ll be more worried.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But what about pink haired college students? Do you think that they not only *really* believe everything they say, but also are going to hold onto those beliefs for the next 20-30 years?

            I think they engage in hyperbole they may “believe” but do not alieve, and they will eventually mellow out. In this same thread I also talked about how every group of 20-year-olds throughout history has said their ideas will rule the world when all the old people die out…and then they just become the old people.

            Now, I also believe they will hold on to the less extreme versions of their ideology, and so if there are enough of these people or they gain enough power (perhaps spread out through HR departments across the land) the result will be a cultural shift in their direction. But Cthulu swims left. He doesn’t sprint.

          • Aapje says:

            In this same thread I also talked about how every group of 20-year-olds throughout history has said their ideas will rule the world when all the old people die out…and then they just become the old people.

            And you get new kids with a new counterculture and then the old people freak out.

          • rlms says:

            How concerning would a law against Koran burning be?

          • Both Koran burning and flag burning raise an interesting issue in intellectual property. Existing copyright law gives me no control over my book once it has been sold. On the other hand, “moral rights” rules in Europe give an artist some control over his work even after sale.

            I know one unpublished writer who doesn’t want to be published, in part because if she were someone else could write a story using her characters in ways she doesn’t want them used. I have at least some sympathy for the attitude.

            One could imagine a version of IP law in which the rights transferred to the buyer were limited in various ways, rather like the ways in which property rights in land are limited by easements and licenses–in this case held by the original creator of the work. That might include a restriction on the reuse of characters or setting, even in ways that don’t violate copyright law at present. It might include restrictions on symbolic actions that make use of the property–such as burning a Koran or a flag if we imagine somebody started out with ownership of the associated IP.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Yes. I argue against it whenever the topic comes up. Semi-regularly when I was in the Army (where I was sometimes though not always in the minority), much less often since then due to my social circles. I only have one friend who’s notably right of center and not distinctly libertarian, and we’ve argued about it once or twice.

          That said, I agree that it’s -less- concerning for three reasons:

          1) flag burning tends to have a nice partisan divide. I generally feel that I can trust various left/liberal types to oppose efforts to criminalize it, and courts to back them up (I look at Texas v. Johnson and I note a split among the conservative faction, which I find significant). On the other hand, I worry more about the possibility of a new left-right alliance on “hate speech” much like the one that existed briefly on obscenity/pornography. So I guess you’d say I worry about those republicans to the extent that they’re likely to sit down and compromise with liberals and draft a law that amounts to “We’ll let you outlaw reprinting The Bell Curve if you let us outlaw burning Old Glory.”.

          2) I think that a flag burning law, while it sets a bad precedent, does not set AS bad a precedent as creating an entire category like “hate speech” would. Note that this is one of the reasons I object to the existence of our current “obscenity” exception in the first place.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t see how a smaller percentage college students wanting to add an exception to the First Amendment can reasonably be more concerning than a larger percentage of Republicans wanting to do the same.

            The Republicans currently control both houses of Congress, the White House, and the nearly enough states governments to force through a constitutional amendment. Also, 5 of the 9 Supreme Court Justices were appointed by Republican Presidents.

            Meanwhile, the preferred candidate of college kids barely vote and their preferred candidate for President didn’t even make it out of the primaries.

            I’m not a big fan of the “yeah but control of the culture” argument in the best of circumstances, but we are talking about actual formal government actions here. This is where soft power is the least relevant.

            Sorry but a lot of the posts in this thread look very much like like teamball to me.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            You don’t seem to actually be engaging with what is being said. Most of the people here have said “Yes, it DOES both me” and you’re treating that as “meh” without any justification. Let me be more clear:

            -I am modestly (~60-65%) confident that no such amendment or law will be proposed over the next four years.

            -I am very (80%) confident that any such proposal will fail to secure enough votes to pass because I predict that enough libertarian-leaning republicans will defect.

            -I am supremely (>90%) confident that any legislative victory would be overturned based on the Texas V. Johnson precedent, and I am equally confident that the current SCOTUS would not in turn reverse that precedent. You apparently missed the part where Texas v. Johnson was not decided cleanly along “conservative vs. liberal bloc” lines.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t see how a smaller percentage college students wanting to add an exception to the First Amendment can reasonably be more concerning than a larger percentage of Republicans wanting to do the same.

            Does the size of the exception matter?

            Also, how worried are you about democrats who want lots and lots of large exceptions tot he 2nd amendment?

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t see how a smaller percentage college students wanting to add an exception to the First Amendment can reasonably be more concerning than a larger percentage of Republicans wanting to do the same.

            You’re palming a pretty big card when you compare “college students” with “Republicans”. It would be more honest to use, e.g., “voters” as your point of comparison.

            Republican voters who mostly want anti-flag-burning laws are matched against roughly equal numbers of Democratic voters who very much don’t, on a battlefield designed to require supermajority support for substantial victories and supervised by a Supreme Court that has proven resistant to anti-flag-burning laws even when most of the justices were appointed by Republicans

            College students, by comparison, represent an overwhelming majority of the collegiate population, and college administrators have proven to be an unreliable safeguard of first-amendment rights.

            It is not unreasonable to believe that the college students have more potential to cause actual harm.

            I’m not a big fan of the “yeah but control of the culture” argument in the best of circumstances, but we are talking about actual formal government actions here.

            No, you are talking about implausible hypothetical government actions here.

          • Brad says:

            @John Schilling

            Republican voters who mostly want anti-flag-burning laws are matched against roughly equal numbers of Democratic voters who very much don’t, on a battlefield designed to require supermajority support for substantial victories and supervised by a Supreme Court that has proven resistant to anti-flag-burning laws even when most of the justices were appointed by Republicans

            College students, by comparison, represent an overwhelming majority of the collegiate population, and college administrators have proven to be an unreliable safeguard of first-amendment rights.

            Talk about palming a big card. For many college campuses the First Amendment is utterly irrelevant, a fact that somehow seems to get omitted an awful lot.

            Even in the case of public universities, university administrators, like every other organ of government are subject to state and federal law overseen by the courts, including the Supreme Court. Yet somehow “university administrators” are the unit of analysis in one case while legislatures and the Supreme Court are in the other. Not, say, rogue police officers who have been known to arrest flag burners in spite of Texas v. Johnson.

            No, you are talking about implausible hypothetical government actions here.

            Mark V Anderson and others are talking about far more implausible hypothetical government actions yet somehow you didn’t see fit to make that response to him.

            My teamball hypothesis is looking stronger by the minute.

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            -I am modestly (~60-65%) confident that no such amendment or law will be proposed over the next four years.

            -I am very (80%) confident that any such proposal will fail to secure enough votes to pass because I predict that enough libertarian-leaning republicans will defect.

            -I am supremely (>90%) confident that any legislative victory would be overturned based on the Texas V. Johnson precedent, and I am equally confident that the current SCOTUS would not in turn reverse that precedent. You apparently missed the part where Texas v. Johnson was not decided cleanly along “conservative vs. liberal bloc” lines.

            What are you predictions over the same period of time for hate speech laws being passed and upheld?

          • Brad says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Does the size of the exception matter?

            Perhaps, but you still need to multiply by the probability. I’m sure there’s one guy out there that wants to repeal the First Amendment entirely, are you terrified of him?

            Also, how worried are you about democrats who want lots and lots of large exceptions tot he 2nd amendment?

            I don’t care. I think the speech, press and assembly clauses of the first amendment, as interpreted since WWI, are good and important on the object level. My support doesn’t come from a meta level belief that the Constitution was handed down from heaven and every word of it is sacred.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Perhaps, but you still need to multiply by the probability.

            Well, probability of an anti-flag burning amendment I put at about 2%.

            Probability of the de facto illegalization of hate speech is…pretty much 100%. It’s already happened with the campus Codes of Conduct

            Probability of de jure illegalization of hate speech in the next 20 years…I’d give it 20%. Politics is downstream from culture and the Kids These Days value “no hate speech” more than they value “free speech.” However, every group of 20-year-olds since the beginning of time has said “our generation is the future! The things we value will be the law when all the old people die!” and then they get a job and a mortgage and a family and suddenly Glorious Revolution doesn’t seem so glorious.

            That said, you also need to multiply by harm. Banning flag burning bans…flag burning. It doesn’t ban any of the other million ways people express their contempt for America. Banning “hate speech,” though, bans essentially an unlimited amount of speech.

          • Brad says:

            @CH

            Probability of the de facto illegalization of hate speech is…pretty much 100%. It’s already happened with the campus Codes of Conduct

            This is just plain wrong. FIRE brings and wins lawsuits every year. I don’t know what Fox News is telling you, but public universities aren’t some constitution free zone.

            Well, probability of an anti-flag burning amendment I put at about 2%.

            Probability of de jure illegalization of hate speech in the next 20 years…I’d give it 20%.

            You are of course entitle to your own predictions, but given the data linked in the OP, the relative size of the two groups, and the success the Republican party has had at gerrymandering and Republican Presidents have had in putting relatively young justices on the Supreme Court, even most recently when the vacancy arose under a Democratic President, these predictions seem way off to me.

          • Trofim_Lysenko