Max Gladstone books

The Blue Lady’s little church—she still felt weird when she used that word—was growing now, on Kavekana. Street kids told Lady stories to other kids. They came to Izza sometimes, asking which story was right and which wrong, and she, scared by what saying “wrong” would make her, guided the stories that did not fit her goddess into ones that did. She made new rituals and upheld the old. Two years had passed since they last mourned a god. They rescued kids from Penitents. Someday it would end, of course, in fire, or a knife across her throat, or with Craftsmen’s demon chariots in the sky. She didn’t have any illusions about what the world did to people who tried what she was trying. But she might as well build with passion, and enjoy the building while it lasted. What other choice did she have? Shivering in some godsforsaken corner until the world tore itself to shreds anyway? Because doom came. It found you wherever you ran. She knew that as well as anyone.

“The Ruin of Angels”

Just a reminder to anyone who didn’t know, that the Craft series by Max Gladstone has a fantastic thematic focus on tribes vs legalistic society.  It is probably the most endorsed modern book series for this blog.


The Legion of Lonely Men

By Stephen Thomas at Longreads:

In its aftermath, an inquiry found, unsurprisingly, that the majority of those who died were poor, old, and lived alone. More surprising was the gender imbalance: significantly more men died than women. This was especially strange considering that in Chicago in July of 1995, there were more old women who lived alone than old men.

What made these men more vulnerable than the women? It wasn’t physical circumstances. Both groups lived mostly in “single room occupancy” buildings, or SROs—apartments of one room in what used to be called flophouses. It was social circumstances. The phrase “No known relatives” appears repeatedly in police reports of the dead men’s homes. Letters of regret were found on floors and in backs of drawers: “I would like to see you if that’s possible, when you come to the city”; “It seems to me that our family should have gotten along.” The single rooms of the deceased are described as “roach infested” and “a complete mess,” indicating few or no visitors. The women, according to Eric Klinenberg, who wrote a book on the heat wave, had people who checked up on them and so kept them alive; the men did not. “When you have time please come visit me soon at my place,” read another letter, unsent.

What conditions lead to this kind of isolation? Why men?

The IKEA Humans

Jacobite article by Samuel Biagetti

Still, there is a good chance that Jennifer and Jason actually like their IKEA dressers, and prefer them to the old oak chest that their grandparents tried to foist on them. Indeed, the extraordinary popularity of IKEA testifies not only to its convenience but to its ability to appeal to the middle-class self-image. Jennifer and Jason are drawn to IKEA because it reflects who they are: they too are modern, movable, and interchangeable, their wants satisfiable in any neighborhood with a food co-op and a coffee shop. More fundamentally, Jennifer and Jason are untraceable, a “composite material” made from numberless scraps and pieces. They have a long catalog of home towns, and their accents are NPR neutral. They can probably rattle off the various nationalities in their family trees — Dutch, Norwegian, Greek, and Jewish, maybe some Venezuelan or Honduran for a little color. From these backgrounds they retain no more than a humorous word or phrase, a recipe, or an Ellis Island anecdote, if that. They grew up amidst a scramble of white-collar professionals and went to college with a scramble of white-collar professionals’ kids. Their values are defined mainly by mass media, their tastes adorably quirky but never straying too far from their peers’, and like the IKEA furniture that they buy in boxes, they too cut themselves into manageable, packaged pieces and market themselves online. They are probably “spiritual but not religious.” They have no pattern or model of life that bears any relation to the past before the internet. For all intents and purposes, they sprang up de novo in the modern city. Whereas the Veneerings’ high fashion covered over an essential vulgarity, Jennifer’s and Jason’s urbane style masks a hollowness.

It may be tempting to call Jennifer and Jason, and the the group of people whom they represent, “cosmopolitans.” ( And indeed, IKEA, with its vaguely exotic Swedish names, provides a dash of cosmopolitanism on the cheap.)  However, Jennifer and Jason are something newer and more bizarre than cosmopolitans: as Ross Douthat aptly pointed out in the wake of the Trump election, the increasingly insulated college-educated classes of the coastal cities do not grapple with real, substantive differences in beliefs and values, associating instead with cliques of like-minded classmates. In addition, classic cosmopolitans seek out what is best in others’ traditions while showing a fierce pride in their own — a Jordanian extolling the majesty of Petra, a Mexican diplomat breaking into lines of Octavio Paz, etc. Westerners like Jennifer and Jason show no such pride or attachment, instead leaping at opportunities to mock the foibles of their native lands.

That’s Amore

sam[ ]zdat

daysofbeingwild4final Lasch. continued from here and then here


Donald Trump wins, so The New Yorker ponders Jason Brennan’s argument against democracy:

Brennan calls people who don’t bother to learn about politics hobbits, and he thinks it for the best if they stay home on Election Day. A second group of people enjoy political news as a recreation, following it with the partisan devotion of sports fans, and Brennan calls them hooligans. Third in his bestiary are vulcans, who investigate politics with scientific objectivity, respect opposing points of view, and carefully adjust their opinions to the facts, which they seek out diligently.

While it’s nice that our future epistocrats are so relatable, that’s exactly what gives me pause. Why is a book about how politics should be cold and calculating trying to sit down and have a beer with me?

If epistocracy is the best system and you can…

View original post 5,782 more words

The Craft is Not The Community

I think Otium undersells why shared external goals and shared internal community get linked together so often (namely, the energy of a big goal can unite a group, and being part of a close knit tribe can increase efficiency working together and get people to put in more hours), but overall this is a good cry to seriously consider your priorities in large groups and projects.


Epistemic status: argumentative. I expect this to start a discussion, not end it.

“Company culture” is not, as I’ve learned, a list of slogans on a poster.  Culture consists of the empirical patterns of what’s rewarded and punished within the company. Do people win promotions and praise by hitting sales targets? By coming up with ideas? By playing nice?  These patterns reveal what the company actually values.

And, so, with community cultures.

It seems to me that the increasingly ill-named “Rationalist Community” in Berkeley has, in practice, a core value of “unconditional tolerance of weirdos.”  It is a haven for outcasts and a paradise for bohemians. It is a social community based on warm connections of mutual support and fun between people who don’t fit in with the broader society.

I think it’s good that such a haven exists. More than that, I want to live in…

View original post 2,239 more words

Cthulhu Lies Dreaming

Exploring Egregores

r__lyeh_by_sammael89-d5lhrk1[1]What can anyone add of the Great Old One Cthulhu? By far the most famous  of Lovecraft’s creations, He has also become the most popularized, neutered, and generified. He’s a great big dragon that sleeps under the sea and wants to devour thousands of souls for breakfast. Let’s make an ironic college club around him and name it Campus Crusade for Cthulhu? Eh.

Everyone reading this already knows the most evocative line about this egregore:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.

He is a sleeping god. He is beyond death. And He drives you insane with contemplation of him. Okay fine to all that, but we’ve been inured to such things. What is special about this egregore, that defines him apart from being “the one most often turned into a plushy toy by now.”

Well for one, we know…

View original post 1,080 more words

Piracy and Emergent Order: Peter Leeson’s An-arrgh-chy and the Invisible Hook


Buccaneer of the Caribbean, from Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates

After our long trek through Siberia, I wanted to change things up and do something rather different for Anthropology Friday, so today we’re reading Peter Leeson’s work on pirates. Strictly speaking, it isn’t quite “anthropology” because Leeson didn’t go live with pirates, but I’m willing to overlook that.

The Golden Age of piracy only lasted from 1690 through 1730, but in those days they were a serious menace to ships and men alike on the high seas. In A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates, (1724,) Captain Charles Johnson complained:

“This was at a Time that the Pyrates had obtained such an Acquisition of Strength, that they were in no Concern about preserving themselves from the Justice of Laws”

Pirates stalked the ocean’s major trade routes, particularly between the Bahamas, Caribbean islands, Madagascar…

View original post 2,179 more words