Thursday, September 21, 2017

Another Casualty of Therapy

She calls herself “Help” and she shares all of her inchoate negative feelings, with her favorite advice columnist: Ask Polly. In this regard Polly is a kindred spirit.

I will spare you Polly’s advice, in which she displays her own self-centered vulnerability and suggests that Help, who feels like shit, should embrace her bad feelings. Help must have known that she was going to hear such blather from Polly. She has probably heard it before. The more she hears it the worse she feels.

You will notice that Help does not share very many details about her circumstances. We can conclude that she has cut herself off from the real world and has gotten lost in her emotions. This means that she has a serious problem, but it might also suggest that she has been taught that she can solve her problems by ignoring them and bathing in her feelings.

Anyway, since she is a millennial, she is not alone among her friends to be suffering from anomie:

I feel like I’m just walking in circles, forgetting each step as I take it. I’m relearning the same lessons over and over again, and there’s so much to remember. Do you feel better now than you did in your 20s? Does anything make more sense? My friends and I are all struggling, all sad, and all hoping for a time when we don’t feel like we’re frantically juggling all the shit and trying not to let too much fall.

I am not sure why these young women do not feel liberated from patriarchal oppression but you can probably guess.

What is Help’s problem? Simply put, she got out of her first relationship and now she feels less than good about herself. The decision seems to have been hers. It seems to have been a bad decision. She did not understand what would happen to her life once she tossed the man aside in the name of independence and autonomy:

Yeah, yeah, it’s another indulgent 20s letter. I don’t know who I am, blah blah. I got out of my first relationship this year, and I’m having a hard time believing that so much can be for nothing. Not just with him but with the friends I lost along the way. What was the point of it all? What benefit is there to the memory of him looking at me in that particular way when someone really sees you for the first time? What the fuck?

She is so confused that she seems no longer capable of making decisions. She is trying to follow her intuition, but, she was following it when she dumped her one true love. Now she seems incapable of accepting that she made a mistake:

If you’re in a tough situation, can you rely on your own intuition to guide you, rather than trying to figure out the right course based on what you think you should do but don’t trust yourself on, because doing what you thought was right at the time was actually really selfish and inconsiderate and wrong and you’ve really hurt people? I feel like I was born without a compass that other people have. A lot of the time, I feel confused about what the right thing to do is, at all. It’s like I now approach every question with all my lists and with opinions from everyone else and try to figure out the best way forward. But I never know which way is the right way, and which way will cause the least harm, and yeah, sure, which way will convince everyone I’m still a good person. (I’ve done enough therapy to know that’s embarrassingly important to me. Especially with now-ex-friends, and especially with now-ex-boyfriends that I’m still in love with.)

You will have noticed the parenthetical remark that gives it all away. She say that she has done enough therapy. Music to my jaded ears. Though, of course, she has done too much therapy.

She must have decided to do this as a result of some half-assed lame therapy. I am not surprised to see that it produces such bad results. After all, don’t therapists induce their charges to grow up and to become less dependent on a man, to feel more independent and autonomous?  Don't they want their female patients to explore their sexuality with a multitude of partners? The message may have been explicit. It may have been implicit. When she put it into practice she hurt herself, she hurt her ex-boyfriend and disrupted her social world. Many of her friends will not forgive her selfishness.

Now, she is writing to Polly, who likes telling young women to get into therapy and to feel their feelings. If she had a moral compass Help would be telling Polly that her advice sucks. After all, she did what Polly suggested. She got lots of therapy and felt her feelings. She also got lured into an ideology that wants women to be independent, autonomous and alone. Who knew that it was a formula for solipsistic self-involvement and bad decisions?

What does Polly have to offer her: more falling, more failing and more feeling. Anything is better than admitting that she did too much therapy and is incapable of accepting that she made a mistake.

Energy In the Wind

Nature lovers far and wide are kvelling over renewable energy sources… by which they mean wind and solar. By their imaginings more natural, less industrial energy sources will help us to return to nature. Isn’t that what we all want?

Now, Matt Ridley explains the truth about wind energy. (via Maggie’s Farm)  It’s a harsh truth, so, take a deep breath before plunging in:

Even put together, wind and photovoltaic solar are supplying less than 1 per cent of global energy demand. From the International Energy Agency’s 2016 Key Renewables Trends, we can see that wind provided 0.46 per cent of global energy consumption in 2014, and solar and tide combined provided 0.35 per cent. Remember this is total energy, not just electricity, which is less than a fifth of all final energy, the rest being the solid, gaseous, and liquid fuels that do the heavy lifting for heat, transport and industry.

Such numbers are not hard to find, but they don’t figure prominently in reports on energy derived from the unreliables lobby (solar and wind). Their trick is to hide behind the statement that close to 14 per cent of the world’s energy is renewable, with the implication that this is wind and solar. In fact the vast majority — three quarters — is biomass (mainly wood), and a very large part of that is ‘traditional biomass’; sticks and logs and dung burned by the poor in their homes to cook with. Those people need that energy, but they pay a big price in health problems caused by smoke inhalation.

If we relied on wind, how many turbines would we need to build? Ridley has the answer:

If wind turbines were to supply all of that growth but no more, how many would need to be built each year? The answer is nearly 350,000, since a two-megawatt turbine can produce about 0.005 terawatt-hours per annum. That’s one-and-a-half times as many as have been built in the world since governments started pouring consumer funds into this so-called industry in the early 2000s.

How much land area would the new turbines take up?

At a density of, very roughly, 50 acres per megawatt, typical for wind farms, that many turbines would require a land area greater than the British Isles, including Ireland. Every year. If we kept this up for 50 years, we would have covered every square mile of a land area the size of Russia with wind farms. Remember, this would be just to fulfil the new demand for energy, not to displace the vast existing supply of energy from fossil fuels, which currently supply 80 per cent of global energy needs.

Do not take refuge in the idea that wind turbines could become more efficient. There is a limit to how much energy you can extract from a moving fluid, the Betz limit, and wind turbines are already close to it. Their effectiveness (the load factor, to use the engineering term) is determined by the wind that is available, and that varies at its own sweet will from second to second, day to day, year to year.

And, of course, you want to know how much energy it would take to build all of those wind turbines:

It gets worse. Wind turbines, apart from the fibreglass blades, are made mostly of steel, with concrete bases. They need about 200 times as much material per unit of capacity as a modern combined cycle gas turbine. Steel is made with coal, not just to provide the heat for smelting ore, but to supply the carbon in the alloy. Cement is also often made using coal. The machinery of ‘clean’ renewables is the output of the fossil fuel economy, and largely the coal economy.

A two-megawatt wind turbine weighs about 250 tonnes, including the tower, nacelle, rotor and blades. Globally, it takes about half a tonne of coal to make a tonne of steel. Add another 25 tonnes of coal for making the cement and you’re talking 150 tonnes of coal per turbine. Now if we are to build 350,000 wind turbines a year (or a smaller number of bigger ones), just to keep up with increasing energy demand, that will require 50 million tonnes of coal a year. That’s about half the EU’s hard coal–mining output.

The solution is not in wind and solar. It lies in natural gas. I am sure that you knew that already:

The truth is, if you want to power civilisation with fewer greenhouse gas emissions, then you should focus on shifting power generation, heat and transport to natural gas, the economically recoverable reserves of which — thanks to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — are much more abundant than we dreamed they ever could be. It is also the lowest-emitting of the fossil fuels, so the emissions intensity of our wealth creation can actually fall while our wealth continues to increase. Good.

And let’s put some of that burgeoning wealth in nuclear, fission and fusion, so that it can take over from gas in the second half of this century. That is an engineerable, clean future. Everything else is a political displacement activity, one that is actually counterproductive as a climate policy and, worst of all, shamefully robs the poor to make the rich even richer.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Postmodernism and the End of Art

To one ‘s shock and dismay one discovers, upon finishing Jason Newman’s article about postmodern art, that young Newman is a student journalist. This is shocking and dismaying because his article is so remarkably good. One cannot imagine an American student, no less an art critic, doing as good a job. 

Newman begins with a salient point. However much the world is gaga over Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup can boxes and Brillo boxes—a critique of consumer capitalism, didn’t you know?— the artist filled his own home with the real thing, with art that had withstood the test of time:

However, when he died in February 1987 the world got a real look at Andy Warhol and what he really considered to be “worthwhile art.” Behind the doors of his neo-classical townhouse the rooms were not furnished by piles of Brillo boxes or indeed stacks of soup cans but objects of a rather different style. Classical busts sat on mahogany tables, portraits lined the walls, and on many surfaces sat fine antiques. Warhol had chosen to adorn his house with pieces that had stood the test of time, pieces that followed the old rules on aesthetic value, but most importantly pieces that would have been shunned in the art world he had created and dominated.

What is modern art? Newman tells us that it’s a fraud, a con perpetrated on unknowing collectors who want to feel like they are part of the intellectual elite. I know what you are thinking: it couldn't have happened to a nicer group of people.

He says:

… the mantra of the modern artist: willing to expose society’s greed, consumerism, and corruption so long as he receives generous compensation for doing so. The contradictions of Andy Warhol’s public and private tastes, along with the inherent contradictions present in modern art, expose it for what it really is – a fraudulent enterprise that does not stand up to close scrutiny; a con perpetrated by talentless hacks and the elitist snobs who give them both funds and oxygen.

One feels constrained to point out that a few collectors treat these artworks like penny stocks. They buy tons of it from young artists and hope that some of it will be worth a fortune. Of course, it’s all a game of musical chairs. You might end up with your walls covered in junk, looking like the biggest fool. Like the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes—dutifully quoted by Newman—you will feel sorely inconvenienced if anyone, especially a student journalist, tells you that it’s all junk.

Such art is offered up to the intellectual elites, especially to the know-nothing elites called celebrities:

The fact is that from the time of Marcel Duchamp’s urinal to Damien Hirst’s pickled shark and beyond, the only people able to afford these modern art pieces have been the elite. An elite who, afraid they might fall behind the latest trend, nod their approval at a giant sculpture of a pair of buttocks (a Turner Prize-nominee), eager to show that they, like their elite friends but unlike the masses, “understand.”

It has all, Newman continues, lost the value to shock. It has become boring:

The whole modern art scene has become stale; the ugliness, the obsession with the scatological, and the gratuitous levels of sexually explicit content are now tiresome clichés. While conceptual artists no doubt like to see themselves as being experimental, revolutionary, and unorthodox they have simply become boring. From painting with it (The Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili) to tinning it (Artist’s Shit by Piero Manzoni), the uses of faeces has well and truly been exhausted by these charlatans. Pieces that were once seen as shocking no longer shock, the taboo has been broken, displaying a sexual explicit piece is now no more revolutionary than painting a bowl of fruit.

Obviously, anyone can do it. It requires very little skill and no craft. It’s a world where talent does not matter:

Behind the grandiose pieces and the attention grabbing works created purely for shock value lies a very important question: “Where is the skill and ability in all this?” No skill is required to place a rotting cows head in a glass cube with an insect-o-cutor (A Thousand Years by Damien Hirst). No ability is needed to set up a room with a light that switches on and off (Work No. 227: The Lights Going On and Off by Martin Creed, a work that won him the Turner Prize). It is most probably the case that the electrician who installed said lights and the abattoir worker who severed the cow’s head possess more skill and expertise than either Mr. Hirst or Mr. Creed.

Among the intellectual patrons of this nonsense is the Frankfurt School. The thinkers associated with this school peddled Marxist fairy tales and wanted to stand firm against fascism. Recently, they have been treated as near-prophets for having predicted the rise of Donald Trump. Of course, no one cares to remark that their crystal balls became especially murky when they failed to understand the catastrophe of Marxist governance.

Newman describes the Frankfurt School:

Like the Dadaists, their genesis was in the interwar years but also like the Dadaists their influence really only started to be felt in the post-War years. They too came out of the first half of the 20th century traumatised. They were appalled by the rise of fascism, but also crestfallen at the failure of Marxist-Leninism to deliver utopia. Having conducted a postmortem on Marxism, they formed their own new ideology, still heavily influenced by Marx but with a new emphasis on the cultural rather than the economic. Like the Dadaists, they also felt the old traditions should be thrown on the rubbish heap of history – faith, family, and the nation had to be destroyed. And, like the Dadaists, they were convinced the subjective was king and objective truth was dead. Affirmation and construction were to be abandoned for desecration and destruction.

Have these postmodern artists finally destroyed art. One expects that they did not. One hopes that a new generation will restore the value of art… that is, if they have the skill to do so:

Having succeeded in destroying the underpinnings of art, declaring everything to be art–and moreover good art–while emptying the word ‘beautiful’ of meaning, modern artists are now stranded on an open prairie. With no fences to restrain them or give them direction, they wander aimlessly, often getting lost in the process. The very term “art” now means nothing. For if everything is “art” then “art” is everything, therefore why define it as “art” at all? Why have galleries or exhibitions?

Pigeons Deserve Dignity and Quality of Life

The story does not come from The Daily Mail. It does not even come from The Onion. Hold on to your hats, this story was reported by the Wall Street Journal.

It’s about Lisbon, Portugal’s war against its indigenous pigeon population. Apparently, the situation is so completely out of control that a small group of pigeon lovers has tried something new and more humane. Instead of gassing the pigeons or feeding them to the reptiles at the zoo, this group has created a pigeon hotel, a facility where pigeons can feel good about themselves, where they are treated with respect and dignity. If they lay their eggs in the pigeon hotel, the volunteers remove all but one egg… apparently, to make omelets. They believe that this will control the pigeon population... without even using contraception.

As I said, this is from the Wall Street Journal. The report begins thusly: 

In Lisbon, where city officials say the bird population is above the normal level of five for every human, pigeons swarm cafes in search of table scraps. Their droppings crown the city’s statues and coat its antique architecture.

One Lisbon resident spoke for many:

Cristina Saiago, who is fighting a losing battle to keep bird feces off the flowers hanging from her balcony, is one of many Lisboners whose view of the birds is considerably less munificent.

“Pigeons are flying rats,” she said.

How are things working out in the pigeon hotel? The Journal explains:

The obvious question, of course, is whether coddling pigeons is an effective way to hold down the population. So far, only a dozen pigeons have moved into the house, and Mr. Vieira, the hygiene director, said his office still gets 300 to 400 calls a month from citizens whose homes, cars and clothing have been slathered in droppings.

“We want to give the pigeons security and a space that is only theirs,” says Joana Antunes, a 28-year-old lawyer who oversees the house with five other volunteers.

“Pigeons deserve and need dignity and quality of life,” she says.

After all, pigeons have rights too. But, dignity and quality of life. Offering dignity and quality of life by using a cheap trick to turn their progeny into omelets. Someone has completely lost her mind. You knew it would be a lawyer.

How is the new plan working out? Glad you asked:

Since the shelter opened in May, the birds haven’t exactly flocked to it. A dozen of the house’s 63 total nests are occupied. As a result, only 111 eggs—including some found outside the house—have been confiscated. The city continues to catch and gas the birds, killing anywhere between 20 and 400 on a given day for a cost of €500.

One would like to say that the pigeons were smart enough to see through the ruse. But, truth be told, they are not smart enough to avoid being gassed by the municipal authorities.

Something There Is That Loves a Wall

Robert Frost once wrote that “good fences make good neighbors.” When Sarah Palin quoted the line to show that building walls was a good thing, Andrew Sullivan retorted that the narrator in the Frost poem was arguing with his neighbor against the neighbor’s wish to build a wall.

Precisely why Sullivan knew which one of the neighbors was correct, we do not know. The last line in the poem, quoted in my first sentence, is the neighbor’s response—to the effect, that boundaries can contribute to neighborliness. Once you have a wall you can no longer intrude on your neighbor’s property without reason or permission. Isn't that the more civil solution.

Anyway, we know from Israel that walls work. When Israel constructed a wall to separate it from West Bank terrorists, lo and behold, terrorist acts from that region stopped. What is wrong with that?

Now, Hungary is reporting on what happened when it built a wall to keep Middle Eastern refugees out of the country. 

Breitbart reports (via Maggie’s Farm):

Speaking on the second anniversary of the government’s move to seal Hungary’s border with Serbia — which is also an external border for the European Union — Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Chief Security Advisor, György Bakondi, announced that the fences have caused illegal immigration to collapse from 391,000 in 2015, to 18,236 in 2016, to just 1,184 in 2017.

“The system of technical barriers is the key to the success of border security, and without it, it would be impossible to stop the mass arrival of immigrants”, the security chief explained.

Of course, Hungary was responding to Angela Merkel’s foolish open borders policy:

Hungary had to respond rapidly to the migrant influx which burst upon Europe after Germany’s Angela Merkel announced there was “no limit” on the number of asylum seekers her own country would accept, so its frontiers are defended by twin fences peppered with watchtowers and patrolled by thousands of newly recruited border guards rather than a solid wall — which would have taken longer to construct.

Nevertheless, as it has been steadily reinforced illegal migration has slowed to a trickle — drawing the ire of open borders activists like billionaire financier George Soros and globalist officials at the European Union and the United Nations.

Naturally, the United Nations took serious offense to the notion that Hungary might open its borders to whomever wanted to enter the nation:

For example, UN Refugee Agency chief Filippo Grandi visited the border and complained: “When I was standing at the border fence today, I felt the entire system is designed to keep people, many of whom are fleeing war and persecution, out of the country”.

Grandi also called on Hungary to get rid of the border-spanning transit zones it has established, which allow all asylum seekers entering the country to be detained while the validity of their claims are assessed.

One reason for the wall was to stop terrorists:

The Hungarians introduced these zones after it was discovered that many of the Paris 2015 terrorists had passed through their territory — a step-change from other EU member-states, which leave migrants more or less at large, with sometimes deadly consequences, in obedience to EU law.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Power of Shamanism

It doesn’t do much for your faith in shamans, but it has a certain entertainment value.

A shaman in Indonesia jumped into a crocodile infested body of water to recover the body of a teemager who had been attacked there the day before.

As it happened, the shaman did not have the powers that he thought he had.

The Daily Mail reports:

This is the moment a man claiming to have supernatural control over crocodiles died after one of the reptiles appeared to drag the shaman under water.

The man, named Suprianto, died after the suspected crocodile attack in Kutai Kartanegara, Indonesia, despite his supposed powers.

In the shocking video, he is seen swimming into the waters to look for the body of a teenager, called Arjuna, who was attacked the previous day.

But Suprianto was dragged under mid-mantra as he was swimming and chanting while on a mission to find the boy.

I hope you caught it. He was attacked while “mid-mantra.” Now, if only he had been able to complete his mantra, his stunt might have had a happier ending. Or better, he should have remembered to tell the crocodiles of his powers.

The moral of the story is: What would we do without the Daily Mail?

Why Are Suicide Rates Among Female Veterans So High?

Here are some awful statistics. According to the Veterans Administration suicide rates among veterans is significantly higher than rates among non-veterans. Most of those who are committing suicide are veterans of the Vietnam War.

Suicide rates among all veterans is 22% higher than suicide rates among non-veterans. Yet, and here is the most disturbing point, suicide rates among female veterans is 250% higher than among female non-veterans. Obviously, this group does not include very many female Vietnam veterans.

Now, tell me why America’s experiment with a gender neutered military is such a good idea?