Assorted Things of Interest

Boy it's hard to come up with new titles for every random thoughts post.
  • So I realized there is one Western work about robots in society that I like: Automata, by Gabe and Tycho. It kinda pisses me off, though, because I sorta prefer it to their usual strip. Which is saying something—Penny Arcade is about the only day-in, day-out joy I have. I just prefer serious stories to comedy.

  • Tycho, incidentally, is probably the best English prose stylist currently alive. I flatter myself I can come up with better stories than him (though I should probably be glad he doesn't do serious stories that often), but he's got me beat by four lengths in the matter of style. The man just makes words and sentences do these tricks, like a flea circus—like his own analogy of what Zerglings do in the hands of an expert Starcraft player. And he does it literally every other day; there's basically no newspost in which he doesn't deliver at least one sparkling gem.

  • Bakuman—not to be confused with Bakugan—is an awesome little manga, though it's probably a little "inside baseball" for most people. It's slightly perilous, though; now that I know the thought process that goes into producing shonen manga it's a little hard to watch or read things like Black Cat. The tip-top samples of the form, like Naruto, can mostly get away with it, though. Apparently shonen manga, like laws, are like sausages—if you like them, you should never watch them being made.

    And Bismarck would know about the aspects of the legislative process you don't want to see.

  • So I'm probably the only person who gets annoyed when patriotic Americans say America's the greatest country that has ever been—or at least the only one who gets annoyed for the reason I do. See, I don't actually think they're wrong, or far wrong (I'd give France under the Direct Capetians a slightly higher score, but only slightly, and #2 ain't bad). I just don't think most Americans have a right to say it, because Americans are incredibly ignorant of their own history, let alone other countries'—therefore they're not qualified to judge.

  • Why does France under the Direct Capetians get a higher score? Never had slavery, women could always vote (yes, I'm not exaggerating), and economics was organized on the guild model—private property without grotesque inequality. There were also huge leaps in manufacturing, architecture, science, and philosophy.

  • More generally, reading Jaki and several other books reveals that, in fact, the West had already surpassed both Byzantium and the Islamic world, in every field except astronomy and medicine, by the 11th century. The Byzantines were sending engineers to Italy for training in the early 12th century—because the Byzantines didn't have the mechanical saw or the fullering machine (in case you wondered, they were powered by water wheels). The west actually surpassed the East in astronomy by the 13th century, and in medicine by the end of the 14th.

    Also, though they weren't any better than Islamic or Byzantine physicians, 11th-13th century Western physicians were, in many ways, better than 19th century ones. Their surgeons routinely got "union by first intention" (no scarring), understood the rudiments of sanitation, and even made occasional use of opium as an anesthetic. Why did medicine fall so far by the 18th and 19th century?

    Let's just say ancient Rome and Greece didn't much use anesthesia, and let you figure it out.

  • How weird is it that, apart from Psych and Burn Notice, the only live-action shows I can stand to watch are iCarly and Wizards of Waverly Place? Remember how I said kids get everything? Yeah, that apparently includes shows with decent writing. And timing. Comedic timing is the make-or-break of a sitcom, and those shows have it down. It even excuses their occasionally-slightly-clumsy acting.

  • So it's difficult to see how most modern states don't count as oligarchies—that is, rule by a minority for its own benefit. A lot of people don't realize it, because most of them seem to think "oligarchy" means "plutocracy". That's a common type, but a technocracy is just as corruptible, if not more so—since there's much less element of chance in expertise than in wealth, there's more pride involved in technocracy than in plutocracy.

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