Yes Kira, introverts exist

A RedState writer named Kira Ayn Davis (KAD) published a screed about introversion. While she makes some valid points about the pervasive victimhood culture and about people wanting to wrap themselves in the mantle of yet another victim group, she grossly overplays her hand when she argues that introversion doesn’t even exist. The title of her essay even suggests that introverts are really narcissists. Oh, for the love of dog…

I was told forty (40) years ago by a psychologist that I was an introvert. He did not in any way suggest there was any victimhood involved — that wasn’t a thing in the Europe of my youth — just that there is a temperament axis (one of the four Myers-Briggs axes, in his case) that spans all the way from complete extrovert to complete introvert with all shades in between. Also, that I was pretty far toward the introvert end of the scale. I have never seen myself as a victim for this—no more than I would for having blue eyes (somewhat rare in my ethnic group).

KAD argues that ‘normal’ (by which she means ‘extrovert’) people are also exhausted after being on their best behavior with company for two days. A number of FB friends sarcastically remarked they need a shot of alone time after two hours—as do I. (Just ten minutes of ‘processing time’ may do the trick.) My daughter — a textbook ‘socially outgoing introvert’ unlike her scholarly, curmudgeonly father — loves being in company and interacting with people, as long as she can ‘recharge’ periodically in a quiet room and process everything she just heard.  (This temperamental trait confuses the heck out of some people, unlike the more classic introverts.) Still, many people mistake introversion for shyness or anxiety — I can assure you many classic introverts have no trouble raising their voices during a board meeting (and have less restraint about voicing unpopular opinions than classic extroverts) or lecturing to a large audience about a subject they are experts on.

The terms ‘extrovert’ and ‘introvert’ were originally introduced almost a century ago (in 1921) by C. G. Jung, although he meant them quite differently from their current popular usage. Basically, a Jungian extrovert seeks energy and validation from others (the more the better) and thrives on group pursuits, while a Jungian introvert finds them in the inner self — in being true to one’s moral and intellectual convictions — and thrives on solitary pursuits. Needless to say, certain fields of human endeavor are more congenial to the extrovert (or outgoing introvert) than to the introvert — and conversely. Some extroverts have told me they would go insane doing the work I do or practicing my principal hobby (fiction writing) — and I would probably absolutely ‘aspirate’ at most sales and marketing jobs and loathe having to do them. (On the other hand, an introvert FB friend of mine briefly worked in car sales when he was between adjunct lecturing jobs — and his boss was told by some of the clientele that they felt good dealing with an honest, direct car salesman for a change ;))

My friend “W.”,  a polyglot like myself, is a classic extrovert. She loves working as an interpreter (since she gets to deal with people in real time) but when she was between jobs, the idea of doing long-form translation work was almost painful to her because of its solitary nature. I can interpret okay between certain language pairs, but definitely would prefer written translation work—long form and/or precise would be a plus, not a downside. Not because I don’t like interacting with people, but because like most introverts, I get joy not so much from pats on the back than from knowing I did the best job I could.

KAD has a point in that there is nothing unusual about introversion — but in making the point overzealously, she overreached and appeared to deny the concept itself. As H. L. Mencken famously quipped, all human problems have a solution that is neat, plausible, and wrong (often paraphrased as ‘simple, elegant, and wrong’). This applies both to those who are miscalling a completely normal temperament variation an affliction, and to those who seek to negate the very concept of introversion.


Saturday night music: “Prelude to a million years” by Tony Banks


Tony Banks was my first rock hero, as Genesis’s keyboardist for their entire existence as well as the writer of many of their signature songs. Quiet, shy, and introvert in person, he was the one-man orchestra that put the S in ‘symphonic rock’. He has issued a number of underrated solo albums (‘A curious feeling’ and ‘Still’ both have gems on them), but in semi-retirement he has devoted himself to writing orchestral neo-classical music. The results sound much like film music, with echoes of John Barry and Bernard Herrmann, and occasionally of Ralph Vaughan Williams and other late-Romantic English composers. Tony has released two albums of his orchestral work so far, “Seven” and “Six” (the titles refer to the number of pieces on each). This is a track from his upcoming third orchestral album, “Five”, taken from his official YouTube channel.


Valentine’s Day Promotion: On Different Strings and Winter Into Spring both FREE today and tomorrow

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the novel On Different Strings (“A genre-busting love story” as one review site described it) and the romance novella Winter Into Spring are both FREE today and tomorrow

Adding X-ray content to Kindle books: a guide for the impatient

My guest post at Mad Genius Club on how to add “X-ray” content (e.g., character biography lookup and concordance) to your published Kindle book.

Mad Genius Club

(This is a guest post by author Nitay Arbel)

One of the nicer features of reading an ebook on a Kindle (or in the Kindle app on a smartphone or tablet) is that you can press and hold on a word  and see its definition, or on a place name and see a brief description. Many of the more recent books go one step further, and add “X-ray” content: one can click on a character name, say, and get a brief description of the character.

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Power distance in the cultural clusters model

I blogged yesterday about David Livermore’s ten cultural clusters and the dimensions used for the “cluster analysis”.

Mrs. Arbel raised an eyebrow about the concept of “power distance”(PD). In his model, a culture with low PD is one with little hierarchy, where people at all levels are involved in decision making, and where there is little social distance.

That Latin American and Arab cultures have very high power distance comes as little surprise. That Nordic culture with its aggressive egalitarianism — “Jante law” (basically: don’t think you’re better than us and don’t make yourself out to be) — would qualify at the other extreme comes as little surprise either.

But Anglo culture? Sure, the USA, Canada, and Australia have a strong egalitarian streak in different ways — but old-school Britain was notoriously class-conscious, and to some degree still is. (In fact, I have argued that in recent years we’re seeing the emergence of a caste system in the USA itself, and that Trumpian populism is to some degree a reaction against a Brahmandarin [sic] elite perceived to be as overbearing as it is incompetent.)

Or how does Germany fit into low power distance? In old-school Germany, titles were almost sacred — to this day, I get addressed as “Herr Doktor” when I travel there on business, except by people with whom I am on a first-name basis, or as they say there “wir dutzen uns” (i.e., we use the informal second person form “du” to address each other rather than the formal “Sie” – like “se tutoyer” In French.) And let’s not even get into high military rank or the German word “Kadavergehorsam” (Freely: blind obedience to orders) — even as this is something of a caricature, as any serious student of military history knows.

Tellingly, however, the respect accorded credentials and rank goes together with a distaste for ostentation on the part of the credentialed and ranking. Salary gaps will be comparatively small, and even very senior officials will live comparatively modest lifestyles. And merely being born in the right family does not get you very far, unlike in Latin America, say. (Historically, there was of course the hereditary nobility, whose privileges were formally abolished under the Weimar Republic. But even they were expected to pull their weight, e.g., in the military.)

And what about Latin-European society, which is ranked as having “moderate power distance”? Livermore classifies both France and Israel as Latin-European, but while credentials do grant you deference in France, Israelis will address almost anyone by their first names by default — pupils will address school teachers thus, and even senior professors will be addressed as “Chaim” or even a nickname, rather than “Dr. Yankel” or “Prof. Yankel”. Ordinary citizens will think nothing of accosting even government ministers and speaking their minds to them. In fact, it is hard to think of a society with less power distance than Israel! — and it is an outlier in other ways as well, in particular being much less risk-averse than the rest of the Latin-European cluster. (Can you imagine Portugal or Belgium as “Startup Nation”? Yeah, right.)

In a sense, German society’s low power distance expresses itself in a way that’s orthogonal to how that goes in some parts of the USA. Americans (outside the Scandinavian-influenced parts of the Midwest) are fairly tolerant of garish and ostentatious lifestyles than Germans or especially Scandinavians, but generally not of standoffish behavior — I have heard more than one European express irritation at “phoney informality” on the part of Americans. As Israel grows more prosperous, I see it evolve more in the US than in the European direction of low power distance.

As ever with human relations, one can reduce a complex reality to a model that is simple, elegant, and has significant predictive power — but one needs to be aware of its limitations. A model is not a theory – “Ceci n’est pas une réalité”

Meeting of the spirits


By accident, I stumbled on the YouTube channel “Fredneck” of the guitarist of a fusion jazz cover band named General Zod. In the following video, they offer a worthy tribute to one of my all-time classics in the genre, “Meeting of the Spirits” by the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

The intro (which is a bit distorted on my CD of the original) begins with a rather strange chord progression based on minor-major chords: C#add#9 — Dadd#9/C# — C#add#9 (another voicing) — Cmadd#9/B — C#9#11/G — F/E — G/F — G/A — F/G.

The main section is a modal 6:4 jam in the F# Phrygian mode (i.e. the 3rd mode of the D major scale). The riff is a based on arpeggiating a mutant version of the familiar Phrygian i-IImaj7 progression: F#m is “jazzed up” to F#b9 without the 3rd (the individual notes are F#2 F#3 C#4 G3 E4) and Gmaj7 is spiced up to. Gmaj7b5add6 (individual notes G2 F#3 C#4 B3 E4). In a 6:4 meter, the arpeggiation follows a 5-5-2 pattern. The repeated riff is most easily played using the thumb to fret the bass note.

The “spirits” that meet are guitar, keys, and violin. I literally never tire of this progression for jamming over. Enjoy!



New year and Novy God in Israel


I was asked a number of times by FB and IRL friends abroad whether there was any sign of Christmas or (Gregorian) New Year’s celebrations in Israel.

Now while there is a nontrivially large Christian community in Israel, the largest denominations (the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem among the Arabs, and the Russian Orthodox Church among non-Jewish immigrants from the FSU) are both “Old Calendarist” — they use the Julian calendar for religious purposes. (I have blogged previously about how the ancient Roman calendar evolved via the Julian calendar to the Gregorian one that has literally been made an international standard through ISO 8601.) At present, the Julian calendar runs 13 days behind the Gregorian, so Russian Orthodox Christmas falls on January 7. The largest group in Israel to observe December 25 may well be foreign workers (typically in-house caregivers) from the Philippines, who tend to be either Roman Catholic or sometimes Protestant.

However, there is another celebration that one sees on January 1, particularly in cities with a large Russian community: Novy God. Because it often involves accouterments that have become associated with Christmas/Yuletide in the West (such as the red caps and decorated trees, as well as a Ded Moroz/”Father Frost” figure akin to Santa Claus), some Jewish Israelis actually mistake it for a Christmas celebration.

In fact, of course, Novy God (Новый Год) is simply Russian for “New Year”. Tsarist Russia had hung on to the Julian calendar for civil purposes as well: hence the “October Revolution” actually took place on (Gregorian) November 7, 1917. The new regime almost immediately switched to the Gregorian calendar (and skipped the dates February 1-13, 1918 to catch up). Religious celebrations of any kind quickly became suspect (both because of associations with the old regime and because the godless religion of communism does not suffer competitors). However, nostalgia for winter celebrations associated with Christmas remained, and many Russian yuletide traditions were informally transferred to the nearby January 1. This practice acquired some official sanction following a December 28, 1935 op-ed in the Pravda by a party functionary, and in 1947 Novy God was even made a national holiday. [*]

After the fall of communism, the celebration as a generic/nondenominational winter holiday continued—in Russia, the week from Novy God to Russian Orthodox Christmas is now a winter holiday week. In Israel, it is not unusual to see secular Jews of Russian origin mark Novy God, although Orthodox Jews of similar background tend to eschew the celebration, saying Jews already have a winter holiday of their own (Chanukah). There is also something surrealistic about holiday traditions involving snow and frost in Israel’s coastal plain (where one is lucky to see actual snow once in 50 years) — but the same of course applies to Christmas celebrations in the Southern Hemisphere…

Happy New Year! 2017 was the year of Kek, the Egyptian idol of chaos. Will 2018 tell 2017, “Hold my beer”? At any rate, may it be a year of joy, health, and fulfillment for you all. “Praise G-d! The old year is at an end.”

[*] As a footnote: the author of the “New Year trees” letter, Kiev party secretary Pavel Postyshev, is considered one of the architects of the Holodomor/”Harvest of Sorrow” in Ukraine. Hence, Ukrainian nationalists understandably want nothing to do with the celebration. Four years later, Postyshev himself fell prey to the Great Purges—one might see a measure of karmic justice in this.