Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for August 26th, 2022

Color has been disappearing from the world

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Read this post. Weird but true — and why?

Written by Leisureguy

26 August 2022 at 4:14 pm

Posted in Daily life

“The Opposites Game”: a video

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Written by Leisureguy

26 August 2022 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

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Joseph Tainter: “The Collapse of Complex Societies”

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Albert Wenger has a review in Continuations of a book that sounds interesting and relevant:

Given the ongoing decay of our institutions and their utter failure to address the climate crisis it is not far fetched to ask whether we are headed for some kind of societal collapse. A highly relevant book is Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies, published in 1988. I had two key takeaways from reading it.

First, there are way more examples of complex societies collapsing than I was aware of. I was of course familiar with the collapse of the Roman Empire and was also aware of Mayas in the Yucatan (having visited there) but Tainter provides at least a dozen examples, including several societies that I had never heard of before. He also rightfully points out that complexity so far is the historical exception and widespread complexity (meaning the world being dominated by complex societies is a particularly recent phenomenon). So the takeaway here is in part that we really aren’t very deep into the current complexity phase and that the past track record over longer time periods isn’t exactly encouraging.

Second, Tainter proposes a very simple and general mechanism leading to collapse: declining marginal returns to complexity. Over time the benefits of complexity diminish and its costs increase. When that happens societies become prone to collapse from (a) having not enough reserves to deal with shocks and/or (b) parts of society that are bearing a disproportionate share of the cost of complexity resisting. He then analyzes the role of this mechanism in three collapses in some detail, including for the collapse of the Roman Empire. One striking feature of that particular collapse is the massive currency devaluation over hundreds of years that has strong echos in today’s world.

Tainter gives many reasons for why the benefits of complexity decline over time and its cost rise. One that he doesn’t discuss much but that is particularly pertinent to today, is the accretion of laws and regulations. While these are essential tools for maintaining complex societies it is particularly easy to see how over time their benefits decline and their costs rise when you only ever add laws and regulations but never do a partial or complete rewrite. It is the societal equivalent of the accumulation of technical debt in startups.

Are there ways of avoiding collapse? First, as Tainter points out, quite a few societies don’t collapse but simply go into a long decline and then get taken over by other societies. He thinks that this is a possible scenario for many societies today because they are surrounded by other complex societies (this does, however, leave open the possibility of many societies collapsing at about the same time). Second, Tainter also points to examples of avoiding collapse through a . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 August 2022 at 3:42 pm

Peeling Back the Myth of a “White” Midwest

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Britt Havorson and Joshn Reno write in Sapiens:

A DESOLATE WINDSWEPT field, bisected by a two-lane road, fills the television screen. The camera pans over a man’s dusty hat on the seat of a truck, the tip of his cowboy boot, then up to a pair of grain silos, and finally to a tiny clapboard Christian church. A gravelly masculine voice intones, “There’s a chapel in Kansas, standing on the exact center of the lower 48.” Swaying wheat stalks move through the frame, light filtering through their silhouetted branches.

The narrator of this two-minute Jeep ad, which aired to around 96 million viewers during the Super Bowl in February 2021, is none other than singer Bruce Springsteen. With few visual references to Jeep products, the ad is focused instead on reaching across political divides by identifying commonly shared U.S. values. “All are more than welcome to come meet here,” Springsteen says, pausing before adding, “in the middle.”

He continues: “It’s no secret the middle has been a hard place to get to lately, between red and blue, … between our freedom and our fear. Now, fear has never been the best of who we are.”

While Springsteen talks in a solemn, almost reverent tone, more images follow in quick succession: a shiny-coated horse, a waving American flag, a diner. Springsteen himself kneels and lets a handful of soil fall through his fingers as he reminds viewers to remember their “common ground.” A crescendo of fiddle strings sonically closes out the ad, the setting sun again visible across the rural landscape.

There is a lot going on in this ad, pointedly titled “The Middle.” Perhaps most obviously, it communicates an overriding sense of mourning or nostalgia for a certain version of the United States—a tacit understanding of the way things once were and perhaps should be. In some ways, this longing is connected to the real hardships of deindustrialization in the Midwest and beyond. What the commercial does not do, at least not in a direct way, is talk about race. And yet, it is implicitly about white folks—or, better said, about white suffering and white loss.

Our new bookImagining the Heartland, is about the Midwest and its role in shaping white supremacy in U.S. culture. Whiteness, we argue, is often inchoate and hard to recognize—and that’s key to its enduring power. Not only is it a form of identity or a reference to a person’s skin color but also a cultural system of power and resources that many individuals participate in without being fully aware of it. Narratives and practices centering white individuals and families remain dominant precisely because they are so ubiquitous and seem neutral.

Public discussions about Black experiences in the U.S., by contrast, are often framed as inherently political. School book bans have recently surged nationwide, with many targeting titles about Black experiences—from Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give to George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue, among others. As part of a broader wave of book bans and removals motivated by issues of race, gender, and sexuality, proponents of banning often use coded claims that censored titles contain “divisive” or “controversial” material, particularly if they deal with race and racism.

Meanwhile, the implications of banal cultural messaging like the Jeep ad often go unnoticed. While the ad did draw some criticism, it failed to spark widespread public conversation about race and white supremacy back in 2021, even though it was shot and aired just weeks after the January 6 insurrection. That’s because U.S. Midwestern tropes—verdant fields, small towns, flat terrain—have long been associated with whiteness and the traits that supposedly represent the best of America: white virtue and hard work, as well as white self-governance and practical reason.

Among other things, white loss and white nostalgia are central but less publicly discussed dimensions of so-called replacement theory. This racist fantasy foretells of a future U.S., supposedly deliberately engineered by (usually Jewish) elites, when white people will no longer be a numerical majority. Replacement theory relies not just on fear of “others” but on imagining an ideal community, self, and world in peril.

Replacement theory moves people, at least in part, by producing an emotional state of longing: a desire for a particular way of life, one that seems worthy of protecting and fighting for. This longing incites a select few—such as the recent mass shooter who targeted Black shoppers at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York—to extreme violence.

As we see in the Jeep ad, the desire for such a mythical past is tied not only to whiteness but also, even more explicitly, to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 August 2022 at 3:10 pm

Oceans Give, Oceans Take

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Written by Leisureguy

26 August 2022 at 1:29 pm

I Coloniali, the Omega micro, and iKon’s Shavecraft Short Comb

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As in yesterday’s shave, I again used Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave, and extruded a blob of shaving cream directly into the damp brush, then worked up the lather on my pre-shaved stubble. I was once again surprised by the wonderful fragrance of this shaving cream. Perhaps it’s the rhubarb; whatever it is I like it, and the lather the cream produces is exceptionally thick, slick, and protective. It’s really a first-rate product, and I wish it were still available.

iKon’s Short-Comb razor is very nice indeed. Although at the link it is described as “Aggressive Level Shave,” I think that must refer to performance and not feel. It is indeed highly efficient, but it also seems perfectly comfortable now that I have learned its preferred angle, which has the handle well away from my face with the razor riding on the edge of the cap. I got an extremely smooth result quite easily (that’s the “aggressive” bit) with no damage to my face at all (that’s the comfortable part). At $35 (sale price at the link), I would say it is a great bargain. If you do get one, mind the angle.

A splash of Geo. F. Trumper’s Coral Skin Food finished the shave, and just for good measure I mixed in a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Lavender Cream: “robust black tea base rounded out with calming flavours and aromas of lavender and vanilla.”

Written by Leisureguy

26 August 2022 at 9:07 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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