Posted by: New Class Traitor | March 20, 2017

RIP Chuck Berry, and a musicological note

If there is any one figure who truly deserves the title “father of rock’n roll”, it’s Chuck Berry — and even those who would give the title to Little Richard would have to concede Chuck is the musical patriarch of all rock’n roll guitar players. Which does not mean he is the only influence — progressive and hard rock players, especially, drew inspiration from Western classical music and jazz — but Chuck Berry licks can be heard in guitar players from AC/DC’s Angus Young to, yes, the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones.

Chuck joined the Great Gig In The Sky, but his legacy endures. In an article linked in Instapundit’s obituary, a musical point came up that made me go ‘aha’ and deserves some elaboration:

One of the brilliant things Keith did was that he found Johnnie Johnson. He was the incredible piano player on those Chuck Berry records, and he was driving a bus. He came in and he was the heart of the band, infused it with authenticity, brilliance and generosity. Chuck was there as he had inspired us all but, through the process, Chuck was thorny at best, and a nightmare at worst, while Johnnie was a saint. Keith had come to the realisation that, unlike most guitar rock’n’rollers, Chuck Berry’s music was different; it was in piano keys, not in guitar keys. When Keith saw how Johnnie worked, he realised that, probably, Johnnie had been part of most of the songwriting that Chuck Berry did. Like a musicologist, a lifelong aficionado and student of Chuck Berry’s, Keith was just talking about what he had heard. He made a discovery which was in the film.

What does he mean, “guitar keys” and “piano keys”?

Guitarists who write songs on their own  tend to gravitate to keys that have one or more open strings in the guitar tuning they are in, preferably on the tonic (“ground note”), and if the dominant is also an open string, better still. This isn’t just for ease of playing, by the way — but also for the extra resonance/”ringing” that open strings add.

In standard guitar tuning (EADGBE), that causes lots of rock songs to be written in E, A, or D, less so in G or B. A similar argument applies to bass players who write songs, BTW: Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris (bassist, band leader, and primary composer) definitely favors E, A, and D (both major and minor each), with a fondness for modulations (key changes) to keys like F# minor.

Guitarists are well aware of this, and some deliberately use alternate tunings (scordaturas, in classical-speak) as a compositional device. (This is the reason, BTW, why you see e.g. John Petrucci change guitars so many times during a Dream Theater concert: retuning live would just take up too much time.) Some guitarists use just a single alternate tuning mainly or exclusively: e.g. Keith Richards uses open-G tuning most of the time (xGDGBD, where the x indicates he doesn’t use the lowest string). Many metal bands tune one or more half-steps down for a darker sound: I don’t quite know who started the trend, but I do know Jimi Hendrix tuned a half-step flat on “Voodoo Chile”, and surely inspired others to do the same (such as his onetime roadie “Lemmy”, later frontman of Motorhead). A very common alternate tuning in alternative rock and metal is “drop D”, in which the bottom string of standard tuning is lowered a whole step — this allows for playing power chords (=root-fifth-octave) with a single finger, permitting rapid power chord motions that would be nearly impossible in standard tuning. Guess what: most classic songs of a band like Tool are in… D.

Okay, what does all that have to do with Chuck Berry and his pianist? Look at the keys of just two of Berry’s best-known classics: B flat (Johnny B. Goode, a tribute to his pianist Johnnie Johnson) and E flat (Roll Over Beethoven). These are (somewhat) awkward keys on a guitar in standard tuning, and most guitarists who play in standard won’t use them if they can help it, let alone start writing songs in them. But they do  work just fine for boogie-woogieing on a piano 🙂 Actually, most guitarists I know will play Johnny B. Goode in A (as Ted Nugent did in his tribute to Berry), although the most famous Roll Over Beethoven cover (that by The Beatles) of course preserves the original key.

Keith Richards actually went as far as to suggest Berry co-wrote his songs with pianist Johnnie Johnson, which led to a notorious fistfight between the two. However, one need not reach that far or “pitch” that strongly (no pun intended) — there is a much more benign possible explanation. Berry’s first steady gig had started as a last-minute replacement for the soloist in Johnnie Johnson’s jazz trio (after saxophonist Alvin Bennett had suffered a stroke) — and presumably Berry had learned to “fit in” with Johnnie’s pre-existing piano arrangements. Not coincidentally perhaps, Eb and Bb happen to be the “home keys” for alto and tenor saxophones, respectively….

As a final note, allow me to include this letter by Carl Sagan to Chuck Berry:

carl-sagan-wrote-this-letter-to-chuck-berry-on-the-musicians-60th-birthday-to-tell-him-just-how-imp

Enjoy the Great Gig, Chuck.

 

Posted by: New Class Traitor | March 13, 2017

It’s a Booknado!

And… it’s the new CLFA Booknado, with several new releases from my fellow CLFA authors.

Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance

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The March 2017 CLFA Booknado blasts into town on the wings of an epic nation-wide tempest! Howling winds of freedom sweep away the dull, the didactic, and the formulaic offerings from Big Publishing. Read freely! Click on any book cover image below to learn about new releases and special low-price and free promotions*:

NEW RELEASES

Lost Children (The Minivandians Book 3) by Tom Rogneby
Ruarin and DaddyBear continue their journey home after surviving the dark of winter in the North. Old friends are there to help them, but tragedy and mystery await them in an ancient city.

Recon: A War to the Knife by Rick Partlow
Tyler Callas is the pampered heir of a high-level Corporate Council executive, groomed from birth to take a seat beside her as a member of the ruling class of the Commonwealth society. But the bloody war with the alien Tahni has hit close to home and Tyler wants to join…

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Posted by: New Class Traitor | March 4, 2017

First or third person? To I or not to I?

One of the questions a beginning writer struggles with is: which person to write?

It’s also a subject that some writers are very passionate about. My Beautiful But Evil Space Mistress™, for instance, describes how she was taught one can only write “real literature” in the third person — and in response embraced first-person with a vengeance. (She does, however, state pros and cons in her article.)

You will have people arguing that first-person is only for beginners, because it looks easy. (“Play bass, because it’s the easiest instrument” comes to mind — not so, if you want to play like Geddy Lee, John Entwistle, Chris Squire, Jack Bruce, or any other bass virtuoso.) On the other hand, others argue third person is easier for a beginning writer, as you’re not tied to a single character’s POV (point of view, perspective) and there’s the largest variety of classic examples to ‘learn from by osmosis’.

Personally, I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The choice between third person and first person reminds me a bit of learning English vs. learning a “strong grammar” language like German, Russian, or Hebrew. English is much easier to learn than those, but paradoxically more difficult to master. As a beginning writer, I wrote my debut novel, On Different Strings, in third person omniscient because I basically couldn’t imagine how to tell this tale otherwise.

First, a couple more definitions:

  • grammatical person (which I prefer over the ambiguous ‘viewpoint’) refers to whether one writes as “I”, “He”/”She”, or (quite rare) “You”.
  • POV (point of view) is exactly that, POV. True, in first person you substantially have just one POV, except by stratagems such as included letters, reports, … or a telepathic protagonist. But in third person, the ‘camera’ can switch angles many times in a book. Doing so too abruptly may be disorienting, hence the oft-quoted rule: ‘no more than one POV per scene’.
  • as ‘voice‘ I would define the idiolect — the specific way of speaking — of each character, as well as (in third person) of the narrator. If one does not give them distinct voices, everything will merge into one ‘glop’.

First-person definitely complicates plotting and character description — I see it almost as a form of constrained writing. On the other hand, you do not have to worry about the mechanics of “proper” viewpoint switching as there is none. Also, it simplifies character “voicing”  — the narrator and the viewpoint character are one and the same. Also, it becomes more natural to hold back information from the reader and not give the plot away.

The first time I wrote anything in first person — which was The Tenth Righteous Man for the CLFA Anthology “Freedom’s Light” (the story appears in full in the “Free Preview” of the book on Amazon) — the people I sent it to all remarked on how “immediate” the writing was. (That it was based on truly mind-boggling actual events did not hurt.) Note that I did not write in a chatty contemporary American idiom: the character spoke in my head in his mother tongue, with the formality befitting his social status, and I tried to capture the cadence of that speech in the English prose I wrote.

Encouraged by the response, I wrote the psychological romance Winter Into Spring likewise in first person, but now in the American idiom of its Midwestern viewpoint character. Unlike in The Tenth Righteous Man, where substantially only a single ‘voice’ is heard, the second protagonist and their antagonist needed distinct speaking voices—the limited parts of the supporting characters less so.

In third person, as already mentioned, you can “switch camera angles”, you can get in multiple character’s heads (which is only possible in first person if the protagonist is a telepath), and you must have a distinctive narrator voice aside from the character voices. The narrator voice seems like a natural outlet for those who like to write more formal, literary language — this is a bug to some who want to read/write a whole book  ‘written the way people talk’, and a feature to the rest of us. In the case of On Different Strings, since one of the two protagonists is an academic of upper-class British background with a neo-Victorian outlook on life, his voice is the most formal and literary in the book, while the narration is more informal, though less so than the plain speech of his best friend and eventual soulmate, a rural Texan woman with limited education but immense musical talent.

Little did I know there’s more than one kind of ‘third person’. Pat Wrede distinguishes between three subtypes, for which I will quote her figurative descriptions (highlights mine):

  1. Tight third person (also known as intimate third-person, third-person-personal, limited third person, third person subjective, etc.) This is the viewpoint where the writer sticks with a single viewpoint character, providing his/her thoughts and emotions directly. The only way for the reader to find out the other characters’ emotions is for the viewpoint character to guess or infer them from what those characters say and do.
    [Wikipedia uses the term “third person subjective” for alternating single viewpoint characters.]

  2. Camera-eye third person (also known as third-person objective, observer-in-the-corner, third-person-impersonal, fly-on-the-wall, third person indirect, camera-on-the-shoulder, [third person dramatic], etc.). In camera-eye third person, the narrator does not give the reader anyone’s thoughts or emotions. The writer just describes expressions and actions, provides dialog and tone of voice – the stuff that a camera or observer could see, and nothing more. Sometimes the writer’s “camera” sits on one particular viewpoint character’s shoulder; sometimes it’s further away, or changes focus; but it always shows only what is happening from the outside.

  3. Third person omniscient [a.k.a. “all-knowing narrator”, a.k.a. just “omniscient” — what one might irreverently call “G-d perspective”, Ed.], in which the narrator is an invisible character who knows everything that has ever happened or will ever happen and everything that anyone is thinking or feeling, and who can report as much or as little of this as seems appropriate.

In case this wasn’t obvious, most classic works of literature were historically written in third person omniscient. And in fact it is still widely used to great effect. But yes, there is intrinsically a bit more ‘distance’ from the characters — which may be a bug or a feature, depending.

And then there’s alternating persons. One variant, alternating first person, is fairly common in genre romances: the narrator voice switches back and forth between the two sides of the relationship, usually at chapter breaks or at most at scene breaks. Some indication is needed to see which character’s side of the tale we are told: simply putting their name in italics atop the chapter/scene seems to work reasonably well.

Rarer, and to many readers disorienting, is alternation between first persons and a third-person narrator. I have seen this used to great effect, but it strikes me as the literary equivalent of a Jack Russell Terrier (or its American cousin, the Rat Terrier): I couldn’t imagine a better dog than mine, but they are not for first-time dog owners.

There are additional modes of telling a story. A fairly old one is the epistolary novel, which first became popular in the 18th century — Dangerous Liaisons and The Sorrows of Young Werther come to mind. The tale is told through a sequence of letters, documents, newspaper articles… sometimes interspersed with small connecting passages. In a contemporary or futuristic novel, Email messages, blog posts, instant messaging chats,… can be used in a similar fashion. In fact, limited inclusion of epistolary material can greatly enrich a first-person or third-person tale: consider, for instance, the quotes from the fictional Encyclopedia Galactica in Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, or the ‘book within a book’ The Theory And Practice Of Oligarchic Collectivism  inside Orwell’s immortal Nineteen Eighty-Four.

At the end of the day, of course, there is no single answer: whatever gets the tale told most compellingly works.

Posted by: New Class Traitor | March 1, 2017

The Great Realignment by Nitay Arbel

[Another guest post at Sarah Hoyt’s place]

According To Hoyt

*Nitay had sent me this post before I did yesterday’s, and he thought it had been rendered obsolete by yesterday’s post.  I think rather, it is a good complementary post, showing I’m not air-dreaming. The symptoms are there.*

The Great Realignment  by Nitay Arbel

“Masgramondou” shared a most interesting article: http://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/02/theresa-mays-new-third-way/ about Theresa May in the UK, about whom he is about to post on his blog https://ombreolivier.liberty.me

[UPDATE: https://ombreolivier.liberty.me/the-darling-trumps-of-may/ ]

In its very opening sentence, the article strikes a chord that resonates much more broadly than the UK:

Forget left and right — the new divide in politics is between nationalists and globalists. Donald Trump’s[..] nationalist rhetoric on everything from trade to global security enabled him to flip traditionally Democratic, blue-collar states and so to defeat that personification of the post-war global order, Hillary Clinton.

The presidential election in France is being fought on these lines, too. Marine Le…

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Posted by: New Class Traitor | March 1, 2017

Of heaps of stones, facts, or words — a guest post by Nitay Arbel

My guest post at the writer’s blog Mad Genius Club.

The Scientist must put things in order. Science is built of facts, as a house is built of  stones [and a book of words]. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house [or a stream of words a book].
(Henri Poincaré.)

 

madgeniusclub

Of heaps of stones, facts, or words — Nitay Arbel

Thus spake our Beautiful but Evil Space Mistress’s sensei in “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long”:

What are the facts? Again and again and again — what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” — what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!

Amen. It is impossible to do science (or engineering) without facts, just as it is impossible to write a book without words. But are facts all that is needed? Or for that matter, are words all that is needed to write a book?

Robert Heinlein always liked Renaissance (wo)men, and had he ever met the French polymath Henri Poincaré…

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, my new romance novella “Winter Into Spring” is available for free on Kindle through February 15 at   https://www.amazon.com//dp/B06X6CXLLD

Posted by: New Class Traitor | February 12, 2017

Novella “Winter Into Spring” out on Kindle for $0.99

 

Veronica “Ronnie” Zielinski is a librarian in the Chicago suburbs. She’s always dreamed of writing, but has never dared pursue her own dreams — the needs of others have always come first. Until one day, a mysterious new library patron changes her life by opening her eyes to her self-imposed prison and encouraging her to break free…

[Here’s a little something while I finish one or both of my novels in progress]

Posted by: New Class Traitor | January 20, 2017

“Deplorables” as a “geuzennaam” (linguistic reappropriation)

Today the 45th President of the United States will be inaugurated. I did not vote for him, and many of my friends voted not for him as much as against his opponent. I wish the new POTUS strength, guidance, and clarity of vision, as any POTUS has his work cut out for him right now.

His supporters, both the enthusiastic and the reluctant, are referring to themselves as “Deplorables”, or even, with a pun on a musical and classic novel, “Les Déplorables“. This is actually a classic example of “linguistic reappropriation” at work: Trump’s opponent, Hilary Clinton, had referred to Trump supporters — or indeed to the half of the country that doesn’t vote D — as “a basket of deplorables”. Trump supporters rallied around the insult and took it up as a “nom de guerre” (battle name). [I still believe that was the moment she lost the election.]

This phenomenon is actually quite old, and the Dutch language even has a word for such an insult reappropriated for self-identification: “geuzennaam“. The term goes back to the 16th Century, during the Spanish rule over the Lowlands.

In Brussels, on April 5, 1566, a group of several hundred minor nobles marched to the palace of the Spanish governor, at the time Margaretha Duchess of Parma (an illegitimate daughter of Charles V), in order to present a writ of grievances against the Spanish administration in general, and its brutal repression of Protestantism in particular. (Protestant public sermons, so-called “hagepreken” [hedge preachings], were a capital offense.)

When the Duchess was upset at this disturbance — the wedding feast for her son being in progress at the time — her counselor, Charles de Berlaymont, is supposed to have said, “fear not, Madam, they are nothing but beggars” (N’ayez pas peur Madame, ce ne sont que des gueux.). The petitioners got wind of the term, and promptly called themselves “les Gueux” in French, “de Geuzen” in Dutch. The term stuck and quickly carried over to all opponents of Spanish rule. The bloody repression of the Geuzen by the Duke of Alba would bring on the Eighty-Year War as well as the Dutch Revolt (in which the modern Kingdom of the Netherlands was born).

Some prominent historical examples of “Geuzennamen” in English are “Tories” and “Yankees”. In Middle Irish, Toraidhe meant “outlaw, robber”, and the term was applied as an insult to English loyalists and royalists of various stripes. Somehow the name stuck, and since the 19th Century “Tory” is used by friend and foe to refer to a member or supporter of the Conservative Party.

In the US colonial era, “Yankee” was originally a derisive term for Dutch Americans. Several etymologies are possible: “Jan Kees” (pronounced Yan Case, informal name for “Johannes Cornelis” [John Cornel], two very common Dutch first names), “Janneke” (little John), a corruption of “Jonkheer” (Dutch for “squire”, cf. the German cognate Junker and the origin of the town name Yonkers, NY). During the American Revolution, the British and loyalists made fun of the revolutionaries as “Yankee Doodles”: the song (based on a much older melody) predictably became a revolutionary anthem, and is now a staple of the US military marching band repertoire. Later the term was, of course, reappropriated again…

“Redneck” is another such term. Originally it referred to the sunburns people with light skin color acquire when working fields in the Southern US without adequately protecting themselves from the sun (cf. the cognate Afrikaans term “rooinek” used by the Boers for South Africans of Anglo origin). It then became an insult to Southern whites and their allegedly retrograde ways, then was reappropriated by them as a self-identification.

Languages changes constantly — even as human nature is remarkably unchangeable. And speaking of change: Today we celebrate the end of what has arguably been the most dysfunctional and divisive presidency in the history of the US. As I wish his successor well, I do remember Pete Townshend’s classic lyrics:

I tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We won’t get fooled again…

Posted by: New Class Traitor | January 18, 2017

$0.99 Kindle promotion, “On Different Strings”, January 18-25

In honor of the release of the CLFA anthology, “Freedom’s Light: Short Stories”, I am running a $0.99 Kindle promotion on my debut novel,  On Different Strings: A Musical Romance” starting January 18, 2017 at 00:01 AM Pacific.  (As always, Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the book for free year-round.)

Bookhorde.org’s review called it “a genre-busting love story”.

Basic RGB

Amazon blurb:

Guitar virtuoso Amy Ziegler ekes out a precarious living as a teaching assistant in the Mays College music department. One day a mysterious older student shows up: Ian Keenan, an engineering professor and closet songwriter. Opposites attract, and music is the language of the spirit.
Each is passionate about music, and each has been deeply wounded in love. Thus a weird yet wonderful friendship grows between the reserved English academic and the outgoing small-town Texan girl who grew up in poverty. Each secretly starts yearning for more, but the world has other ideas. Soon they become caught in a maelstrom between rivals, exes, their own pasts, activists, and campus bureaucrats. Will the rapids tear them apart, or will love and sanity prevail?

You can “look inside”, or download free sample chapters, on  The book’s Amazon page .

Reviewer praise:

A genre-busting love story. It […] challenges preconceptions and leaves the reader questioning common wisdom. It is also a bit of a suspense thriller. And there is an element of Kafka. (Bookhorde.org)

I’m not usually a big fan of the Romance genre. This book is just different…The characters are very well-developed… I knew I would give this story a very high rating, because I realized how badly I wanted them to succeed, though it seemed impossible. Mr. Arbel subtly drew me into his tale so thoroughly that I was emotionally attached to his characters. (Reviewer DukeEarle)

An interesting twist on the classic May-November romance and both lead characters are wonderful. The main “baddie” […] comes across as both believable and sympathetic…This book is a great example of how you can write a scorching romantic story without explicit sex. (Reviewer FrancisT)

As always, Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the book for free year-round.

Posted by: New Class Traitor | January 16, 2017

Released on Kindle: “Freedom’s Light: Short Stories”

The first CLFA anthology “Freedom’s Light: Short Stories”  is now out on Kindle. The hardcopy edition will follow in a few days.

Net proceeds will benefit the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). I have read all the other stories in the anthology and, believe me, you won’t regret buying this!

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From the Amazon blurb:

Net proceeds from the sale of this anthology will be donated to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending liberty, freedom of speech, due process, academic freedom, legal equality, and freedom of conscience on America’s college campuses.

The stories are:

  1. The Tenth Righteous Man (Nitay Arbel)
  2. Martian Sunrise (Matthew Souders)
  3. Backwater (Lori Janeski)
  4.  The Birthday Party (Daniella Bova)
  5. Dollars on the Nightstand (Bokerah Bromley)
  6. The City (A.G Wallace)
  7. The Nomod (Henry Vogel)
  8. Sara (Chris Donahue)
  9. Room to Breathe (Marina Fontaine)
  10. Victory Garden (Tom Rogneby)
  11. The Unsent Letter (Brad R. Torgersen)
  12. Credo Man (Carol Kean)
  13. The Fighting Beagles and the Attack at Dawn (Nick Cole)
  14. Shirt Story (Arlan Andrews)
  15. Polk’s Prophetic Property (W. J. Hayes)
Posted by: New Class Traitor | January 14, 2017

The ‘Rashomon effect’ in book readers – Nitay Arbel

Guest post at Sarah Hoyt’s place.

According To Hoyt

*Oh boy is this true.  Sometimes radically different books.  I’ve been shocked to find that AFGM is a feminist opus, or DST a communist paean.  (Admittedly that one, shared with a friend, almost caused his co-workers to send for the men in white coats, as it kept him suddenly breaking into cackle for weeks.)*

The ‘Rashomon effect’ in book readers – Nitay Arbel

Writing and publishing my first novel (“On Different Strings”) was a learning experience in many ways. One that especially struck this “writer’s apprentice” here was: how X people can read the same book — yet afterward, all have read a slightly different book.

I have encountered a similar phenomenon in my day job as a scientific writer/editor. With a long scholarly essay or scientific paper, it is not unusual to discuss it with people afterwards and find one’s head scratching about why they are taking away a…

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Posted by: New Class Traitor | January 11, 2017

Anthology “Freedom’s Light” coming January 16

On January 16, the CLFA anthology “Freedom’s Light: Short Stories” will be released on Kindle: Logotecture, Inc. uploaded the final proofread eBook, and are shooting for simultaneous paperback release.  It is available for pre-order.

Net proceeds will benefit the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). I have read all the other stories in the anthology and, believe me, you won’t regret buying this!

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From the Amazon blurb:

From the members and associates of the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance (CLFA) comes Freedom’s Light, a collection of short fiction that celebrates the human yearning for liberty. These stories will extol the value of human rights and the sacrifices of those who defend those rights. This collection features works from a wide variety of genres and a diverse set of authors, including Hugo Award nominee Brad R. Torgersen and 2016 Dragon Award winner Nick Cole. Freedom’s Light will entertain us and elevate the humanity we all share.

Net proceeds from the sale of this anthology will be donated to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending liberty, freedom of speech, due process, academic freedom, legal equality, and freedom of conscience on America’s college campuses.

The stories are:

  1. The Tenth Righteous Man (Nitay Arbel)
  2. Martian Sunrise (Matthew Souders)
  3. Backwater (Lori Janeski)
  4.  The Birthday Party (Daniella Bova)
  5. Dollars on the Nightstand (Bokerah Bromley)
  6. The City (A.G Wallace)
  7. The Nomod (Henry Vogel)
  8. Sara (Chris Donahue)
  9. Room to Breathe (Marina Fontaine)
  10. Victory Garden (Tom Rogneby)
  11. The Unsent Letter (Brad R. Torgersen)
  12. Credo Man (Carol Kean)
  13. The Fighting Beagles and the Attack at Dawn (Nick Cole)
  14. Shirt Story (Arlan Andrews)
  15. Polk’s Prophetic Property (W. J. Hayes)

 

Posted by: New Class Traitor | January 4, 2017

Climatologist Judith Curry saying farewell to academia

Judith Curry, the Georgia Tech climatology professor vilified by her peers for trying to have a meaningful dialogue with CAGW skeptics, is taking early retirement from academia to focus on a startup company dealing with long-term climate forecasting. http://www.cfanclimate.net/

The moneygraf from her letter:
“[…] I started to realize that academia and universities nationwide were undergoing substantial changes. I came across a recent article that expresses part of what is wrong: Universities are becoming like mechanical nightingales. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/universities-are-becoming-mechanical-nightingales

“The reward system that is in place for university faculty members is becoming increasingly counterproductive to actually educating students to be able to think and cope in the real world, and in expanding the frontiers of knowledge in a meaningful way[…]”

It is always sad to see the departure of any academic who is truly committed to the spirit of free inquiry. Here’s wishing her the very best in her new venture and I hope to be hearing more of her!

Climate Etc.

by Judith Curry

Effective January 1, I have resigned my tenured faculty position at Georgia Tech.

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Posted by: New Class Traitor | December 31, 2016

Year of the Black Swan by Christopher M. Chupik

2016: year of the Black Swan indeed. More Black Swans to come in 2017.

J. S. Bach, Das Alte Jahr Vergangen Ist BWV 615 (“Gone is the Old Year”) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UzzHMe_Wtg

Here’s wishing you a fruitful and fulfilling 2017. And those of us facing dark hours, let us heed the words of Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going”

According To Hoyt

Year of the Black Swan by Christopher M. Chupik

How messed up was 2016? Let’s put it this way: Chuck Tingle getting a Hugo nomination
doesn’t even make the Top Ten of Crazy.

If 2016 were a TV show, you’d be thinking that the writers have lost their ever-loving minds in their determination to jump every shark in the ocean. Most years toddle into the world like the New Year’s Baby. 2016 exploded from the torso of its predecessor like a chestburster and soon grew into a full Xenomorph, bent on the destruction of all human life. Mostly, celebrities.

Not all deaths were tragic losses, though. Fidel Castro’s oft-delayed departure from this world finally happened, the dictator leaving behind a legacy of misery and economic ruin best exemplified when the vehicle transporting his earthly remains broke down during the funeral procession.

Along with the deaths, the progressive status quo has…

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Posted by: New Class Traitor | December 28, 2016

Dystopic on: “Technocrats and the Worship of Intelligence”

Consider this post to be something of an expansion on the concept of the Brahmandarins. Technocracy is one of those things which sounds perfectly good on the surface, but can lead to absolute tyranny in short order. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, technocracy is, in essence, rule by technical elites. For instance, your media would be run by trained, credentialed journalism experts. Politicians would be groomed and educated to be leaders from an early age. You could not, for instance, be President if you did not attend the proper schools, earn the proper certifications, and demonstrate a certain set of requirements, like IQ, or perhaps an impressive set of grades in your debating classes. […]

Naturally, none of these technical elites would need to consult with you and I on these matters. If you are not one of the elite, you would need to be quiet and accept the rulings of your superiors.

The flaws in technocracy are very obvious, to any who care to see them. First and foremost is the matter of trust. Even if we were to concede that the trained, technically-minded elites were better than the hoi polloi, how could one be assured that they were not pulling the wool over the people and taking advantage of them? After all, just because you’re intelligent doesn’t mean you’re honest.

Similarly, being able to design and build rocket ships does not confer upon you the ability to manage and run organizations of rocket scientists. It’s a known problem among STEM folks, and a problem I suffer from personally, that technical ability and management ability are often mutually exclusive. I couldn’t manage brothel in Thailand with a US Navy aircraft carrier in port. But I can write and engineer software all day long. The intelligence and talent I possess is suited for certain things, and ill-suited for other tasks. Nobody would ask me to be a therapist, that’s for sure.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, technocracy denies a voice to the peasantry. We’ve tried that before. We call it feudalism and those feudal elites were called nobles. They knew themselves to be more intelligent and better-suited for leadership than those dirty plebs. Why, they could afford a costly scholarly education for their children, when desired, and the rag-wearing farmhands could not. And there was the Divine Right of Kings to consider, also.

What prompted this screed?

Go read the whole thing. Eric S. Raymond earlier explained how escalating complexity makes technocracy even less viable than before .

Of course, technocracy or, more generally, transnational oligarchic collectivism [*] are the wet dreams of all too many Brahmandarins who fancy themselves as the ‘anointed‘ oligarchs.

 

[*] a portmanteau of John Fonte’s “Transnational Progressivism” and George Orwell’s “Oligarchic Collectivism“.

Posted by: New Class Traitor | December 21, 2016

Much Ado About Paper Books

Sarah Hoyt expands on the shape of things to come in the publishing world: when people give away bookcases for free on CraigsList, and voracious readers give books away by the thousands, you know paper books will eventually acquire curio status except in some niche markets.

According To Hoyt

*This post is in its entirety a copy of a post just published at Mad Genius Club (under another title.)  I don’t normally do this, but it’s such a long post, took me so much time (and I need to shower and write the paying stuff) and besides I think it will spark different discussion here, among mostly readers than there among mostly writers.  Feel free to comment on both blogs, if you wish, the discussion will take different paths.  I am shocked at how long this ran, but I think it needed to be said, and also available to refer to later, for good or ill.*

One of the puzzling things about the writing business, right now, is that “nobody knows anything” (or in proper vernacular “we don’t know nothing.”

So I am continuously puzzled watching indie authors who are doing better by an order of magnitude than any…

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Posted by: New Class Traitor | December 19, 2016

Neologism of the day “peacock issues”

“Mr. Open Source Software”, Eric S. Raymond, penned this must-read open letter to the D party to please get its act together , lest they consign themselves to complete irrelevance.

I’m starting to be seriously concerned about the possibility that the U.S. might become a one-party democracy.

Therefore this is an open letter to Democrats; the country needs you to get your act together. Yes, ideally I personally would prefer your place in the two-party Duverger equilibrium to be taken by the Libertarian Party, but there are practical reasons this is extremely unlikely to happen. The other minor parties are even more doomed. If the Republicans are going to have a counterpoise, it has to be you Democrats.

Donald Trump’s victory reads to me like a realignment election, a historic break with the way interest and demographic groups have behaved in the U.S. in my lifetime. Yet, Democrats, you so far seem to have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

The whole long essay is a must-read that I cannot do justice by selective quoting. Unfortunately it will fall on deaf ears among those who need it most.

In passing, ESR coins a new term:

Speaking of virtue signaling, another thing you need to give up is focusing on peacock issues […] while ignoring pocketbook problems like the hollowing out of middle-class employment.

Again, this advice has nothing to do with the rights or wrongs of individual peacock issues and more with a general sense that the elites are fiddling while Rome burns. For the first time since records have been kept, U.S. life expectancy went down during the Obama years, led by a disturbing rise in suicides and opiate addiction among discouraged unemployed in flyover country. A Democratic Party that fails to address that while it screws around with bathroom-law boycotts is willfully consigning itself to irrelevance.

“Peacock issues” are related to Thomas Sowell’s use of the term “mascots” and to “virtue signaling“, as ell as to the psychological concept of a proxy. They are issues that affect only a very small number of people (and that could be addressed ad hoc with fairly little effort) but are priceless as feathers to preen, and flags to wave to ‘rally the troops’ and instead push a sweeping agenda. Any actual benefit to the people involved in the peacock issues is secondary, if not outright irrelevant.

The use of “peacock issues” is of course not limited to the Brahmandarin political left  — they have just become egregiously addicted to the tactic in recent years.

 

Posted by: New Class Traitor | December 17, 2016

Trump and the rage of the Brahmandarins™

[These somewhat rambling observations were originally posted as a Facebook note.]
In recent weeks, we have witnessed ever-more cartoonish examples of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Even those of us who have been sharply critical of Trump (such as www.thelibertyzone.us)  are staring on with a kind of revulsed fascination as our chattering class descends ever deeper into the pits of insanity. So do those who merely voted against Hillary rather than for Trump, such as the razor-sharp “Dystopic” or the underrated historical novelist Roy M. Griffis.
I move professionally in circles where lib-left “virtue signaling” is taken for granted, especially inside the US. (Academia outside the US, while no less in the grip of a collective moral superiority complex, at least tolerates dissenters to some degree.)
As I was perusing Trump’s cabinet list in the Times of London the other day, I was struck not so much by the names — some ‘feck yeah!’, some ‘well, OK’, some ‘meh’ — as by what wasn’t there. The ‘Brahmandarins™’ had been left behind, as it were. Allow me to expand.
Traditional society in India has myriad little jatis (“births”, freely: castes), but they ultimately derive from four (plus one) major varnas (“colors”, freely: classes). While caste membership and profession are more fluid than generally assumed by Westerners, these five major groupings do exist to the present day, and are mostly endogamous. From top to bottom, the varnas are:
  1. Brahmins (scholars)
  2. Kshatryas (warriors, rulers, administrators)
  3. Vaishyas (merchants, artisans, and farmers)
  4. Shudras (laborers)
  5. Finally, the Dalit (downtrodden, outcasts — the term “pariah” is considered so offensive it has become “the p-word”) are traditionally considered beneath the varna system altogether, as are other “Scheduled Castes” (a legal term in present-day India, referring to eligibility for affirmative action).
The upper three varnas bear some resemblance to the three Estates of the French ancien régime: clergy, nobility, and the bourgeoisie (le tiers état, the Third Estate). American society used to be a byword for social mobility (“the American dream”) — but a stratification has set in, and it takes little imagination to identify strata of Dalit, Shudras, and Vaishyas in modern American society. The numerically small subculture of military families could be identified as America’s Kshatryas. So where are the Brahmins? (No, I’m not referring to the old money Boston elite.) And why am I using the portmanteau “Brahmandarins” for our New Class?
In India one was, of course, born into the Brahmin varna, and they actually delegated the messy business of governance to the varna below them. In China’s Middle Kingdom, on the other hand, not only was the scholarly Mandarin caste actually the backbone of governance, but in principle anyone who passed the civil service exams could become a Mandarin.
Originally, these exams were meant to foster a meritocracy. Predictably, over time, they evolved to select for conformity over ability, being more concerned with literary style and knowledge of the classics than with any relevant technical expertise.
Hmm, sounds familiar? Consider America’s “New Class”: academia, journalism, “helping” professions, nonprofits, community organizers, trustafarian artists,… Talent for something immediately verifiable (be it playing the piano, designing an airplane, or buying-and-selling,… ) or a track record of tangible achievements are much less important than credentials — degrees from the right places, praise from the right press organs,…
The New Class should be more like the Mandarins rather than the Brahmins, as in theory (and to some degree in practice) 1st-generation membership is open to people of all backgrounds. Heck, that includes even this electrician’s son here 😉
In practice, however, this class is highly endogamous, and its children have an inside track on similar career paths. (Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart” made this case to a fare-thee-well.) Thus one finds 2nd and 3rd generation New Class members, whose outlooks on life tend to be much more insular and collectively self-centered than that of their 1st-generation peers. (It is important not to over-generalize about one’s fellow human beings: some of the fiercest fellow ‘renegades’ I know were to the manor born.) In that respect then, the New Class does resemble the Brahmins. Hence my portmanteau “Brahmandarins”.
Engineers (whose academic training at even second-tier colleges is much more rigorous than that of the journalism major at a big-name school) are arguably closer to artisan Vaishya than to Brahmandarins. They need to build things that actually work, you know.
Now how does this tie in with Trump and his cabinet? In the last several Presidential elections, Brahmandarin D candidates (Obama, Hillary) were pitted against Kshatriyas (McCain) or Vaishyas (Romney, Trump). While the D party used to be one with which particularly Shudras (laborers) could identify, over time it has increasingly become a patron-client coalition of Brahmandarins and Dalits. Kshatriyas overwhelmingly lean R, while Shudras and Vaishyas (other than high finance) became increasingly disaffected from D and either moved to the R column or tuned out of politics.
Sometime in 2008, I had an eye-opening encounter at a fundraiser for a scientific cause. A lawyer for a major donor, after various patronizing remarks after our scholarly pursuits, told some of us in intimate conversation that of course we should support Obama. (Interestingly, the usual appeal to ethnicity was not made.) One of us asked the lawyer what would be his ‘performance benchmark’ for a successful presidency. Tellingly, the otherwise so voluble lawyer was left at a loss for words. Eventually, his argument boiled down to ‘Obama is one of us’. Which “us”? Not scientists, obviously. Nor Jews, obviously (the lawyer, my colleague, and myself are all Jewish). No — Brahmandarins, members of the New Class.
Peggy Noonan recently coined the phrase “patronized by our inferiors”. At the time I couldn’t come up with anything as concise and withering, but the whole framing of the argument struck me as a hybrid between the Cosa Nostra and “mean girls” cliques at the middle school my daughter was then attending. Around the same time, I discovered Thomas Sowell’s priceless “Vision of the Anointed” whose subtitle “Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy” could be emblematic of the entire phenomenon. A critique that had built itself up in my head, in inchoate fashion, was laid out here in concise, crystal-clear prose.
Fast-forward to the present. In the last several Presidential elections, Brahmandarin D candidates (Obama, Hillary) were pitted against Kshatriyas (McCain) or Vaishyas (Romney, Trump). Unsurprisingly, Brahmandarin presidents tend to appoint cabinet and senior aides from among the Brahmandarin caste, while Trump’s appointments came almost exclusively from the Vaishyas (Exxon CEO Tillerson for State, various other execs), and Kshatriyas (Mattis, Flynn, Kelly). It doesn’t matter that most of these people have real-world achievements to their names than a Robbie Mook type can only dream of: they are “ignorant” (read: insufficiently subservient to New Class shibboleths), “hate-filled”, etc. — All short-hand for “not one of us”.
For those same people who keep on prating about how open they are to foreign cultures (the more foreign, the better to “virtue-signal”) are completely unable to fathom the mindset of their compatriots of a different caste: they might as well come from a different planet as from a different country.
There’s only water/In a stranger’s tear
Looks are deceptive/But distinctions are clear
A foreign body/And a foreign mind
Never welcome/In the land of the blindYou may look like we do
Talk like we do
But you know how it isYou’re not one of us!

[In response to the FB note, “Dystopic” honored me with his own observations.]

UPDATE: “Tamara W.” comments on Facebook:

Charles Murray’s book “Coming Apart” talks about the combination of geographic isolation (segregation by income/politics), elite schools (public and private) where their children all socialize, ideological conforming by the “elite” institutions all creating an elite population that has prime access to top corporate jobs, NGOs, government positions under Democrats. They base morality as adherence to the ideology and thus see all who disagree as evil/stupid and look down on those beneath them as at best unenlightened/uneducated and at worst people the world is better off without.
Then they actively discriminate against conservatives and the middle and working class, seeing them as “not a culture fit” or actively deprecating them.
 UPDATE 2: I’d be remiss not linking Angelo Codevilla’s classic “The ruling class“. Yes, the Brahmandarins are a gentry, not an elite — and “credentialed” is not the same as “educated”.
UPDATE 3: welcome, Instapundit readers!
UPDATE 4: Two more good reads in response:
(a) Fran Porretto at  Bastion of Liberty weighs in and links his early 2014 blog post about Class And Caste In Twenty-First Century America. Read the whole thing.
(b) “Remodern” artist Richard Bledsoe looks at the Brahmandarins and their effect on the art scene
“not only the ideological, virtue signalling style of art, but also the self-absorbed, alienating products of the Ivory Tower approach, status symbol art made to cater to the expectations of elitist curators, trophy hunting collectors, and other art snobs.”
He then recounts how the neo-figurative “remodernism” and “Stuckism” movements arose as a grassroots reaction.
Posted by: New Class Traitor | December 13, 2016

The CLFA December Booknado!

Last day of #CLFA #Booknado! #conservative #libertarian #fiction #NewBooks #bookworm #KindleDeals

Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance

booknado-grfx-christmas

A furious blast of fiction freedom blows away the tired, the formulaic, the predictable, and the didactic! Click on any of the images below to learn more and buy the fresh fiction listings in the December 2016 installment of the CLFA Booknado!

NEW RELEASES

planet
Planet of the Magi: A Space Fantasy by Erin Lale
Expected to grow up to become a Magus, a wielder of dark magic, Dije rebels by seeking the forbidden white magic — and then faces an alien invasion.

Quest to the North: A Minivandians Tale by Tom Rogneby
After the battle that ended the first book in the Minivandian’s series, Ruarin and her companion search for their friend in the deadly lands to the North.

Scout’s Law by Henry Vogel
Terran Scout David Rice put the long-lost colony of the world of Aashla back in contact with the rest of the galaxy. Now he must fight to protect Aasha’s early-industrial…

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Posted by: New Class Traitor | December 10, 2016

First ever CLFA-endorsed anthology goes on sale!

A steal at just $2.99 for the eBook version! Featuring my own “The Tenth Righteous Man” as the opener.

Amazon affiliate link.

Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance

flNow available for pre-order!

From the members and associates of the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance (CLFA) comes Freedom’s Light, a collection of short fiction that celebrates the human yearning for liberty. These stories extol the value of human rights and the sacrifices of those who defend those rights. This collection features works from a wide variety of genres and a diverse set of authors, including Hugo Award nominee Brad R. Torgersen, 2016 Dragon Award winner Nick Cole, and many lesser-known but talented and entertaining liberty-loving authors. Freedom’s Light entertains while it elevates the humanity we all share.

Plus, your purchase helps an organization dedicated to re-opening the Western mind! Net proceeds from the sale of this anthology will be donated to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending liberty, freedom of speech, due process, academic freedom, legal equality, and freedom of conscience on America’s…

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