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Wednesday, February 26, 2003
re: life, not work by joshua glenn

Chinese scholar Lin Yutang, author of The Importance of Living (1937), would have agreed with De Grazia. In a chapter entitled "The Importance of Loafing," Dr. Lin scoffs at the "American vices" of efficiency, punctuality, and the desire for success, which "steal from [Americans] their inalienable right of loafing and cheat them of many a good, idle, and beautiful afternoon." Shaking his head at the American go-getter, who strives for perfect efficiency even in his so-called "leisure," Lin suggests that Americans would enjoy living more if they could only learn to be "idle"—to drink, smoke, and loll in easy-chairs, like the Chinese do. East would meet West soon enough, he predicted, because the rapidly developing "machine culture" would bring with it increased amounts of free time for all—at which point the ancient Chinese "cult of the idle life" would "invade" the Occidental world.

Alas! How wrong he was. Lin's felicitous "Chinese Philosophy" was anathema even in the very country it extolled, as it turned out. (So much for the stereotype of the indolent, long-fingernailed, opium-smoking Chinaman!) Denounced as a member of the hated intellectual "leisure class"—how he must have shuddered at that particular choice of phrase—he was soonforced to flee to Hong Kong, where he died in 1976. If the gods are as cruel as they are rumored to be, you can bet that Disney's latest amusement park—each attraction carefully designed to restore the depleted energy of China's new middle class—will be built upon his grave.

the american cargo cult by peter klausler

I wrote these principles after reflecting on the content of contemporary newspapers and broadcast media and why that content disquieted me. I saw that I was not disturbed so much by what was written or said as I was by what is not. The tacit assumptions underlying most popular content reflect a worldview that is orthogonal to reality in many ways. By reflecting this skewed weltanschauung, the media reinforces and propagates it.

I call this worldview the American Cargo Cult, after the real New Guinea cargo cults that arose after the second world war. There are four main points, each of which has several elaborating assumptions. I really think that most Americans believe these things at a deep level.

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Sunday, February 23, 2003
same difference (via metadefiler)

wonderful days (via sensibleerection)

[:: comment! :]

Saturday, February 22, 2003
legal bricolage (via metatalk)

So Laurie Garrett and MetaFilter are mutually peeved. So? Well, there's something more at stake here than hurt feelings and email forwards. Remember, Laurie Garrett didn't just write some random email about her cats and her day at work. She wrote a long and reasonably detailed inside account of one of the most Zeitgeisty events on the planet.

historical materialism (via danny)

An appalling name for an important idea. Namely: that in explaining history, culture, etc., we should have recourse only to the actual actions and conditions of human beings, and not invoke Zeitgeisten, the genius of nations, the Holy Spirit, the logical connection of the governing ideas of society, etc.

[:: comment! :]

Friday, February 21, 2003
mitsu on "it won't end with iraq"

After the Cold War was over, we discovered that Soviet military spending had levelled off in 1975 to a growth rate of 1.3 percent per year, and stayed that way for ten years. It rose briefly during 1985-1987, to 4.3 percent per year, but this was due to decisions that had been made earlier. In 1988 Gorbachev began a round of budget cuts, bringing military spending back down to its 1980 level. Meanwhile, we were increasing defense spending by an average of 8 percent per year throughout that period. I think we got taken for a little ride.

It's not a big deal, however, since all that was really wasted was money --- on the other hand, most of our misguided adventures in the Third World were also an overreaction, but unlike the wasted money on the military, a lot of those have had long-term consequences which are positively destructive to our long-term security.

There is a pattern here: overestimate the danger of your opponent and you overreact, which hurts you in the long term.

harry on "sailing the wine-dark sea"

I think one factor in the Greeks' slow population growth was their systematic female infanticide; a househould that reared more than one daughter was extradorinary. The one exception to this rule was Ptolemaic Egypt, the most concentratedly fertile area in the ancient world, and the one best able to support a large populace.

The Greeks were extremely clever. Technologicallly sophisticated for their time, though, goes only so far. They lacked all sorts of things even the medieval West took for granted: the stirrup, the horsecollar, the modlboard plow, water wheels. They worked iron, but they weren't very good at it: there's an iron coreselet in the tomb believed to be that of Philip II of Macedon. It would not have been placed there had it not been something very much out of the ordinary.

Mr. Martens, it appears you have indeed caught me in a mistake. I don't like to make them--which, as my patient editor will attest, is something of an understatement--but it does happen now and again. If that ruined your enjoyment of my work, all I can say is that I'm sorry.

[:: comment! :]

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