Best of Los Thunderlads

(The following was originally posted by Acilius on 9 December 2008)

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Teamwork

Last month, I mentioned that  the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain was releasing two new albums.  Our copies arrived last week, and Mrs Acilius and I can give them enthusiastically positive reviews. 

fidicula-inter-angelosThe Christmas album, referred to on their website as “Christmas with the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain” but labeled as Fiducula inter Angelos (“Miniature Lyres among the Angels,”)  does not after all include the performances they issued last year as a virtual album called “Never Mind the Reindeer.”  Those performances are still available on iTunes.   I do miss the rendition of “The Holly and the Ivy” from last year, but new tracks like the “Wenceslas Canticle” and a vocalese version of  “Winter Wonderland” more than make up for its absence.  Their “Jingle Bells Canticle” gets us (Mr & Mrs Acilius and the dogs) dancing every time we hear it.  Here’s ukulelehunt‘s review of the album. 

live-in-londonIn a comment on last month’s post, ukulelehunt’s proprietor Al Wood, a.k.a. Woodshed, gave it as his opinion that Live in London #1 is the UOGB’s best album yet.   I agree, though Mrs Acilius still leans toward Precious Little.  She plans to walk down the aisle to that album’s recording of “Finlandia” when we make the “Mrs” part official in May, so it has a sentimental importance to her.  Though when we listened to Live in London #1 and heard Hester Goodman’s rendering of “Teenage Dirtbag” as a ballad of adolescent lesbian angst, Mrs Acilius was so enthusiastic I wondered if she was about to suggest using that instead.  She assured me that her enthusiasm was strictly political, stemming from a conviction that sexual minorities need representation in music.  That she has a crush on Hester is purely by the way.  Here is an unflattering picture of Hester sitting next to George Hinchliffe that I could look at if I were in a jealous mood, which of course I never am.    

(more…)

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Best of Los Thunderlads

(The following was originally posted by Acilius on 18 September 2008)

Via Weirdomatic:

Approaching the event horizon

Approaching the event horizon

More pix from this artist available at his website.

Best of Los Thunderlads

(The following was originally posted by Acilius on 18 July 2008, and is still the most viewed post in the history of Los Thunderlads.)

Ukulele Hunt’s latest video of the day showcases New Zealand’s Anna van Riel playing a nifty little tune of her own composition. 

She’s also on youtube as half of the acoustic duo Bellebird; here they play their song “Too Strong Daddy,” apparently in their living room.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEzCkncyI-Q

Of course she’s on myspace; the videos are registration-only, but there’s music available on the home page. 

http://www.myspace.com/annavanriel

And the band’s myspace page has several free songs.

http://www.myspace.com/bellebirds

http://ukulelehunt.com/

Best of Los Thunderlads

(The following was originally posted by Acilius on 13 May 2008, as a note on the June 2008 issue of The Atlantic.)

A lively, pleasant read this month. 

Some articles about Barack Obama.  Joshua Green’s “The Amazing Money Machine” leads to the idea that no two successful presidential candidates use the same fundraising model. 

Marc Ambinder’s “HisSPACE”, about Obama’s ideas on using the Internet to make government operations more visible, contains this sentence:

Communication and transparency are virtues only up to a point; as students of bureaucracy know, both eventually become an enemy to efficiency. 

But of course it is precisely at the point where transparency becomes an enemy to efficiency that it becomes a virtue.  The last thing we want is a really efficient bureaucracy.  An inefficient bureaucracy is a nuisance, a waste, a headache.  A truly efficient bureaucracy can make life so easy for its clients that it leaves them no opportunity to achieve or create anything.   

Transparency is like all other institutions of democracy: worth everything in the fighting for, worth nothing once achieved.   Even a moderately efficient bureaucratic system can absorb the formalities of democracy and domesticate them thoroughly.  Nietzsche wrote about this several times.  In Twilight of the Idols, he issues his customary harsh dismissal of the institutions of liberalism (”reduction to the herd animal!”,) but does then qualify his contempt:

As long as they are still being fought for, these same institutions produce quite different effects; they then in fact promote freedom mightily.  Viewed more closely, it is war which produces these effects, war for liberal institutions which as war permits the illiberal instincts to endure.  And war is a training in freedom.  For what is freedom?  That one has the will to self-responsibility.  That one preserves the distance which divides us.  That one has become more indifferent to hardship, toil, privation, even to life.  That one is ready to sacrifice men to one’s cause, oneself not excepted.  Freedom means that the manly instincts that delight in war and victory have gained mastery over the other instincts- for example, over the instinct for “happiness”… How is freedom measured, in individuals as in nations?  By the resistance which has to be overcome, by the effort it costs to stay aloft. (from section 38, as translated by R. J. Hollingdale in the Penguin Classics version)

Needless to say I would not endorse any of this without reservation.  But I do believe that the proper growth of the human person requires freedom; that “the will to self-responsibility” is a major part of freedom; that freedom can exist only where all power has definite limits; and that the only thing capable of limiting power is conflict with an opposing power.  Conflict itself, not documents or other formalized procedures resulting from conflict, is what ensures freedom.   So in that limited sense I agree with Nietzsche. 

Gregg Easterbrook’s “The Sky is Falling” looks at the possibility of a disastrous meteor strike, analyzing as an example of inefficient bureaucracy NASA’s failure to live up to Congress’ mandates to map the inner solar system.  Locked into a metric which calculates success as a function of the number of astronauts deployed, the space agency wastes billions pointlessly repeating its Nixon-era triumphs, leaving undone work that might, quite literally, save the world. 

“In the Basement of the Ivory Tower” gives “Professor X” the opportunity to speak the unspeakable- some of the students he teaches in two-year colleges are wasting their time taking classes when they would be better off working.  Not that it’s their fault; jobs which never involve a bit of research or sustained sequential reasoning now routinely require four-year degrees. 

www.theatlantic.com

Best of Los Thunderlads

(The following was originally posted by Acilius on 22 October 2007 as a note on an issue of The American Conservative)

The highlight of the issue is a piece by psychotherapist Jim Pittaway analyzing American nationalism in terms of the therapeutic model of “Criminal Thinking.”  Pittaway explains that “the unholy triad at the core of antisocial thinking is narcissism, impatience, and need for control.”  “The narcissistic predator carries senses of special entitlement and deep grievance.”  Because his view of himself is so exalted, he cannot recognize that his behavior has brought unjust suffering upon anyone else.  As an example of this kind of pathology, Pittaway quotes United States Senator Jon Tester.  “Refereeing a civil war in Iraq has distracted us from fighting a war in Afghanistan.”  As if our troops were just minding their own business, quietly making their way to the home of Taliban/ al Qaeda, when they took a wrong turn and wound up in the middle of this mysterious conflict in Iraq. 

In the context of a disordered nationalism, impatience and the need to control others combine to create a sense that one’s leaders are in fact omnipotent, and that if there is evil in the world it can only be because those leaders have defaulted in their duties.  ”In this construct, any failure to control must necessarily be failure on the part of whoever was supposed to do the controlling; the core idea of America’s potential to control everything can never be questioned.  This logically absurd notion is an irreducible component of both the criminal personality and our New Nationalism.  So, like the habituated criminal, nationalist America does not have to accomodate society around us and instead must pursue ever more desperate measures to control things that cannot, and ought not, be controlled.”  These “ever more desperate measures” form a ”kind of progression of increasingly less desirable outcomes experienced by the Criminal-Thinking offender when he tries to take control of the situation, loses it, escalates, and winds up dead or in prison for crimes he never intended to commit when he started out.  As long as he cannot self-regulate, and the criminal thinker cannot, he is doomed to play out to the end.” 

Pittaway gives two ways out of nationalistic Criminal Thinking.  As you would expect in a magazine called The American Conservative, one way out is an appeal to such American exemplars of the republican tradition as Lincoln and Jefferson, claiming that they both preached and exhibited self-restraint.  “Self-control — not controlling others — is at the heart of American patriotic tradition.”  The grimmer way out is the path Germany traveled after the Third Reich.  “When you’re living in the rubble you’ve created, narcissism is difficult to sustain.  When you have to engage in a daily struggle to survive, impatience is useless if not deadly.  When you have been defeated so thoroughly that you lack both capability and will to resist those who beat you, you don’t control anything.  By 1950, those same German people and their leadership reverted to pro-social thinking in government.” 

http://www.amconmag.com/2007/2007_10_22/article1.html

In the same issue Dave Lindorff reports on a bizarre incident that occurred this August 29, when without authorization a crew loaded a B-52 with six cruise missiles armed with live nuclear warheads and flew across the country.  Even more bizarre, six airmen connected with the incident have died in the weeks since.  Most bizarre of all, the story has barely received notice in the mainstream press. 

The cover story argues that conservatives will need to share more than hatred of Hillary Clinton if they are to win the 2008 elections.  An article about Graham Greene expresses amazement that G. W. Bush recently mentioned The Quiet American when he himself so obviously embodies the worst traits of that novel’s two protagonists.  Uri Avnery reviews Mearsheimer and Walt’s The Lobby,  Neil Clark decries the British Conservative Party’s leftward drift, and Pat Buchanan expresses nostalgia for Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy.

Best of Los Thunderlads

(The following was originally posted by Acilius on 20 November 2007)

Via antiwar.com:

In 1958, the New Left sociologist C. Wright Mills made a seminal contribution to political science in his book The Causes of World War Three by introducing the concept of “crackpot realism.” He applied the notion specifically to the intellectual outlook of top government officials, especially the ones known as the “serious people,” who have proven their capacity for dealing with important practical affairs by, say, managing a giant corporation, such as Halliburton or G. D. Searle, or a huge educational institution, such as Texas A&M University or the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.

Mills’s key insight was that although such people have indeed been movers and shakers, they have moved and shaken within such a constricted milieu of experience and training that in most respects they are fools. Despite having developed supreme confidence in their own judgment and a corresponding contempt for other people’s views, they are astonishingly ignorant of many workaday aspects of the world and bewildered in the face of unexpected difficulties. As government leaders responsible for matters of war and peace, they have a tendency to paint themselves into corners of their own making and, then, seeing no way out, to conclude that their only escape lies in dropping bombs on somebody. As Mills observed, “instead of the unknown fear, the anxiety without end, some men of the higher circles prefer the simplification of known catastrophe.”

From Robert Higgs (a crackpot himself, but one who is capable of writing a good column) at http://www.lewrockwell.com/higgs/higgs68.html

Best of Los Thunderlads

(The following was originally posted by Acilius on 4 Sep 2007.)

The following paragraphs began an article by Columbia University’s Mahmood Mamdani comparing Western attitudes to Iraq and Darfur.  The article originally appeared in the LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS in March and was reprinted in THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE last month. 

The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency

Mahmood Mamdani

The similarities between Iraq and Darfur are remarkable. The estimate of the number of civilians killed over the past three years is roughly similar. The killers are mostly paramilitaries, closely linked to the official military, which is said to be their main source of arms. The victims too are by and large identified as members of groups, rather than targeted as individuals. But the violence in the two places is named differently. In Iraq, it is said to be a cycle of insurgency and counter-insurgency; in Darfur, it is called genocide. Why the difference? Who does the naming? Who is being named? What difference does it make? (more…)

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