Friday, December 1, 2017

Word of the Day: Anthropocene

adjective: Anthropocene
relating to or denoting the current geological age, viewed
as the period during which human activity has been the
dominant influence on climate and the environment.

Against the Grain
Today's post explores the new book by James C. Scott, Against the Grain

In it, Scott questions the long prevailing theory that sedentism, towns, and agriculture were great leaps forward in human well being. He attacks the myth that the early city states attracted people to them by offering better nutrition and leisure opportunities.

He contrasts this with newer theories that indicate quite the opposite. That early city states had to capture and hold large populations in bondage. That life as a barbarian was easier, healthier and freer.

One reason for this bias for the long prevailing view that city states and agriculture were good for humans is that these states kept written histories and the barbarians did not. These written histories were put down by the upper classes to emphasize their greatness.

The Noble Savage Redux

Scott points to a new genre of books questioning this establishment view of city states like ones by Charles Mann and Elizabeth Kolbert.

The - 1491 by Charles Mann

Before it became the New World, the Western Hemisphere was vastly more populous and sophisticated than has been thought—an altogether more salubrious place to live at the time than, say, Europe. New evidence of both the extent of the population and its agricultural advancement leads to a remarkable conjecture: the Amazon rain forest may be largely a human artifact - Without a Trace, The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

Since the origin of life on earth 3.8 billion years ago, our planet has experienced five mass extinction events. The last of these events occurred some 66 million years ago when a six-mile-wide asteroid is thought to have collided with earth, wiping out the dinosaurs. The Cretaceous extinction event dramatically changed the composition of biodiversity on the planet: Marine ecosystems essentially collapsed, and about 75 percent of all plant and animal species disappeared. Today, Kolbert writes, we are witnessing a similar mass extinction event happening in the geologic blink of an eye. According to E. O. Wilson, the present extinction rate in the tropics is “on the order of 10,000 times greater than the naturally occurring background extinction rate” and will reduce biological diversity to its lowest level since the last great extinction.

Writing, A Tool for Exploitation not Enlightenment

We often think of writing as a tool of creative expression but what if it was originally one of the main tools used to oppress and enslave man.

Levi-Strauss on the Functions of Writing from His 1955 book, Tristes Tropiques

Claude Levi-Strauss, the famous French anthropologist, speaks about how the development of writing invariably accompanies cities and empires. It is used to further the integration into a political system a considerable number of individuals into castes and classes. It is more often used seems as a tool for exploitation rather then enlightenment.

Grains and the Rise of Taxation

The taxability of cereal grains was what allowed for the rise of the state:


Other early staple crops were not suitable for taxation. Tubers (root vegetables) are too easy to hide (buried underground). Legumes (beans) are indeterminate, meaning there is not definite harvest time.

Domesticated Humans

Early states domesticated not only animals but humans too. These states needed enormous amounts of save labor to survive. Even then, these city states were fragile and often collapsed due to disease.

An example of this is the Great Wall of China. While many people know that it was built to keep invaders out, it also served the purpose of keeping a large slave population trapped inside.

China Travelers - Who built the Great Wall, when and why?

Why was the Great Wall of China built?The Great Wall of China was built to protect China from its enemies and invaders from the North, especially the Mongols. The Mongols were a tribal group that would regularly conduct raids into China. Despite the wall, the Mongols eventually conquered China. The Wall also kept Chinese citizens from leaving China.

Rise of the Narcissist

Scott argues that early states dominate archaeological and historical records beyond their true weight.and that there is an institutional, narcissistic bias toward funding city state research

Hunter gatherer nomads, while comprising the majority of human populations historically, left thin archaeological records

Further, written, cuneiform records exacerbate this bias because they are state centric records of taxes, tributes, royal genealogies and foundation myths.

When Hunter Gatherers Dominated

Scott argues that our state centric view of human history overlooks the fact that, until fairly recently, the vast majority of humans did not live in city states. For example, when the first major city states were founded in Mesopotamia in around 2,000 BC, there were roughly 25 million human inhabiting the planet and only several thousand lived in cities. It was only around the year 1600 when the human population living in city states overtook nomadic peoples.

The natural mode of living for most humans until recently has been nomadic since only small portions of the globe were naturally suited to agriculture.

Missing the Point

By focusing on state, we miss the fact that most humans throughout history did not live within confines of it. These historical states were also relatively weak compared to the fierce nomadic bands that surrounded them but this too is often overlooked since historians most often focus on the classical ages of these states.

The peaks of city states were often short and state rule more often resembled what we all the dark ages when rule was fragmented and ineffective.


domestication of fire, plants, animals
concentration of food and population

fire rendered previously inedible plant digestible,
nutritious and palatable
large brain and small gut attributable to this

domesticated grains provided reliable calorie source

domesticated animals can eat things we find indigestible
this making these calories available to us

Rise of the Weak

domestication changed genetics of domesticated plants and
they became less robust requiring constant attention less
did domestication also not effect human
word of the day domus
compared to hunter gatherers agriculture was confined,
crowded, linked to calendar
burden #1 more onerous
burden #2 epidemiological diseases due to concentration
burden #3 taxes


why states collapse
often chain of events
rarely recorded in written record
3 main fault lines
urbanism leading to deforestation floods and siltation
intensive agriculture lead to salinization of soil

barbarians raiding states
spending on defense
spending on tributes (protection money)

became trading hubs for nomadic peoples
main commodity traded was slaves
state replenished work force via wars of capture


south africa case excavation shows
earliest layer cats eating hominids
later layers humans eating cats with fire
decisive factor in transforming fortunes of mankind
hominids used fire 400k years before modern humans

much of world's fauna fire adapted (pyrophyte) due to human
used it to clear old vegatation
and replace with grasses and desirable shrubs
that created desirable hunting grounds
***niche construction***

fire externalizes the digestive process
gelatinizes starch, denatures protein
chimpanzees require a gut three times as big as ours
humans eat far less food and expend a lot less energy
extracting nutrition from it
allowed us to eat a much greater range of foods
allowed neanderthals to colonize northern europe

Smaller Guts, Larger Brains

efficiency led to changes
guts less than have size
smaller teeth
brain three times larger than other mammals

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Bourgeois Aspirations

Catching up with posts. These items date from October 2017 but are still just as relevant.

Deep State - Golden Shower Dossier

Daily 2017/10/15/wsj editorial board accuses beltway media and democrats of trump dossier coverup

Salient points....

Fusion GPS was founded by three former WSJ reporters:
  • Glenn Simpson
  • Peter Fritsch
  • Tom Catan
Fusion GPS paid former spook Christopher Steele to produce it.

The Justice Department covered up sourcing of dossier abetted by Glenn Simpson's media buddies who chose to ignore the story.

The dossier is the centerpiece of the ongoing Trump/Russia collusion investigation

Fusion gps was working for a hillary ally when it produced the dossier.

The US Government cited in application for surveillance of trump campaign chair carter page FBI paid steele 50k to continue investigation

Glenn Simpson has ties to russia. He worked to roll back magnitsky act under which the US punished Russian Oligarchs for the death of a Russian whistle blower.

Two russian partners of Fusion GPS were sent to meet with trump on 6/9/16 to try and entrap campaign.


99% Invisible had a great podcast about the long running plan by Los Angeles to contain homelessness to the skidrow section of downtown:

99 Percent Invisible - The Containment Plan

An interesting aspect of the show was the review of the origins of the term, "skid row."

Wikipedia - Skid Row

It comes from an area in Seattle, current Pioneer Square, where loggers used to skid (slide) logs up the skid road (log road), current  Yessler Way. This area in Seattle became notorious for as a den of squalor where lumber jacks would go blow their hard earned wages on booze, gambling and prostitutes.

Nowadays, Skid Row means an impoverished area where bums congregate full of drug dens, liquor stores and red light districts.

For many years, Los Angeles had its own skid row area downtown where there was an unofficial agreement to coerce homeless people to go in order to keep them away from other areas. It seems that this agreement is breaking down and the homeless are now gradually being driven away.

Crystal Nights - The Nazi Public Relations Machine

Mike Rowe had an interesting podcast on how sophisticated public relations techniques developed by Edward Bernaise, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, both Jews, were put to use by the Nazi Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels:

Mike Rowe Podcast - Episode 78 Give that Man a Cigar

It turns out that Goebbels was highly influenced by of book by Bernaise that dealt with Public Relations, a new field created by Bernaise with ideas taken from his uncle Freud:

Crystallizing Public Opinion

Terror Dactyl

Interesting Joe Rogan podcast with fellow stand up comedian Bert Kreischer:

Joe Rogan #1024 - Bert Kreischer

Bert talks about riding the Terror Dactyl ride when he worked on a Travel Channel show:

They also discuss Cameron Hanes finishing the Moab 200 Ultra Marathon:

They also discuss lucid dreaming:

lifehacker - Lucid Dream Workshop

I thought the Sensory Deprivation tanks were a long forgotten fad but, apparently they are making  a comeback. There is even a place nearby where I may even go check it out:

Mental Illness Myths

The Sword and Scale podcasts had an excellent episode on the Scrivo Murder:

Sword and Scale, Episode #100 - The Scrivo Murder

Most interesting is the interview with Sarah L Desmarais. Sarah is an Associate Professor of Psychology at North Carolina State University. One of her specialties violence risk assessments.

According to Sarah, surprisingly, mental illness only accounts for a small increased risk, 3 to 5%,  of violence. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, the mentally ill are more prone to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.

Professionals currently use the risk eight most powerful risk factors identified by Andrews, Bonta and Wormith  in a 2006 paper and mental illness does not make the list:

1. History of antisocial behavior
2. Antisocial personality pattern
3. Antisocial cognition
4. Antisocial associates
5. Family and/or marital problems
6. School and/or work problems
7. Leisure and/or recreation problems
8. Substance abuse

Identity Politics and the Death of Progressisism

Sam Harris at Waking Up continues to cry salty progressive tears over the loss by Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump. Here is actually gets over his ranting and tries to understand what really happened:

Sam Harris, Waking Up, What Happened to Liberalism?

Sam interviews Mark Lilla who recently wrote The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics.

It must gall Steve Harris to have Lilla quote Bannon on the fact that politics requires persuasion and a unified message, not self expression.

Unfortunately for progressives the more they fall under the spell of identity politics, the less unified is their message and the less others are able to identify with it.

Further, Lilla posits that non college educated people care much more about basic issues like wage, schools and economic problems than identity.

The question is why the Democrats are unable to focus on those items that the vast majority of people care about. Lilla posits that they live in a bubble and do not understand how much things like class and religion matter. Part of the problem is that Americans are less upwardly mobile than before so many liberals do not have any experience with people less fortunate than themselves.

Democrats move to the Left presents fundamental issues because the US has never favored socialism:

NYT Review Of Books - It Didn't Happen Here Why Socialism Failed in the United States

Werner Sombart wrote a book about this in 1906 entitled, Why is there no socialism in the United States. He stated that the US was not inclined to Socialism because we are are a country of Bourgeois aspirations. Our elites up have not tended to be hereditary.

Democrat's like Hillary push the wrong buttons with these types of voters. They do not talk or dress in a way that falls within this groups comfort zone. Trump, on the other hand, is aspirational since he matches a poor man's idea of a rich man.

Lilla notes that  male french politicians put on suit and tie when they speak but American presidents roll up sleeves. American politicians need to appear to be like regular people.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Roger Mayer - Guitar Effects

Roger Mayer - Guitar Effects

Fuzz Tone

In a recent Netflix Production Jimmy Page, of Led Zeppelin fame, credits Roger Mayer with developing the first effect that he used, a fuzz tone:

While he may  of used the Roger Mayer fuzz tone initially, others credit the Sola Sound MKII as the effect that he used on some of his best recordings:


Roger developed the Octavia for artists like Hendrix:

Dark was the Night

Death Don't Have No Mercy in This Land