Notes on SJWs in general, and John McWhorter’s essay in particular

The Virtue Signalers Won’t Change the World by John McWhorter. Some thoughts:

His comparison of anti-racism to religion is as ill-conceived as others’ comparison of science to religion. It’s a leaky metaphor used to more than just discredit the logic behind an action, but to question whether the action is based on logic at all.

Explorations as to whether an opinion is “problematic” are equivalent to explorations of that which may be blasphemous.

Or, of that which are unsupported biases that can be and have been used to restrict fair treatment in the public sphere or to outright harm others. Again, comparison to religion is not needed.

[Those citing offense have a] performative joy in dog-piling on the transgressor.

Better: People feel a responsibility to tell someone that their beliefs and the actions they permit should not be tolerated in our society.

First, to what extent is it possible to alter human sentiment as opposed to actions and behavior?

Laws banning segregation did not stop people from the human sentiment towards segregation. You cannot, and should not if you could, create a law banning certain thoughts. But you should shun those who act wretchedly in public.

Third-wave antiracism is a call to enshrine defeatism, hypersensitivity, oversimplification, and even a degree of performance.

“Coddling” is the go-to accusation thrown at SJWs. The personal offense taken when another acts overtly rascist is an offense of a system that appears complicit if nothing is said against them and, importantly, if nothing is said at the moment of the action. Your dog making a mess on the carpet can’t be reprimanded a month later with any hope of the reprimand being effective.

Contrast this approach [of denouncing offensive speech] with that of people lionized today who worked within a racism none could disagree was more implacably overt and hostile than today.

“The fallacy of relative privation is dismissing an argument or complaint due to the existence of more important problems in the world.” — Wikipedia, List of fallacies

The black lawyer and activist Pauli Murray insisted in 1963 that none other than Alabama Governor George “Segregation Forever” Wallace be allowed to speak at Yale. She believed that the speech rights blacks had fought for so hard must be extended to people she found noxious.

“False balance, also bothsidesism, is a media bias in which journalists present an issue as being more balanced between opposing viewpoints than the evidence supports. Journalists may present evidence and arguments out of proportion to the actual evidence for each side, or may omit information that would establish one side’s claims as baseless.” — Wikipedia, False balance

What was necessary then does not need to be now. For example: giving evolution and creationism equal footing in 1850 was reasonable; doing that today is absurd. The winning argument is clear, and giving up respected space–say having a department of creationism at Oxford– would be wasteful.

But the black person essentially barred from the polls gains nothing from someone sagely attesting to their white privilege on Twitter.

Why not both fight poll taxes and fight overtly racist individuals?

The band Afterlife

So in college I met some great guys (where?) that were in a band called Afterlife. I wasn’t a real performer but would have liked to have played with them, and so I eventually hung with a different group of friends and more loosely disciplined musicians and they fit my casual undiscipline and let’s face it skillessness at the time. Still…

(The bassist from Afterlife, Jonathan, and I hung as pals and got into girlfriend shenanigans and partied and watched our first John Waters film together, perplexed and laughing, and generally slacked, and dated roommates to greater and lesser results but had an experience all the same. Some good times; some weird.)

Afterlife has been releasing in the last five years or so new albums. Again: discipline pays off. Full discography is:

  1. THE FROZEN SUN (1988)
  2. THE AWAKENING (1990)
  3. CURTAIN CALL (1991)
  4. COMPASS ROSE (2013
  5. BRAVE NEW WORLD (2016)

In our era of purging, I found two cassettes of their first two releases. “The Frozen Sun” and “The Awakening”. I don’t remember purchasing them, but I think the sticker for “The Awakening” says $5.00!

Do not be alarmed by the rectangular shape, these are cassettes!

They have several points of presence online:

I need to decide what to do with those classic, self-produced cassettes.


(Odd note: back in 2004 I had posted a random reference to one of the members. Completely unrelated subject though.)

Three works of classic literature

Updated 25 Dec 2018 (movies)

Updated 24 Feb 2019 (notes on The Canterbury Tales)

More lit when I purged my CDs. Beyond the pulp sci-fi were a few classics I’d never read but should have:

The Decameron, Beowulf, and The Canterbury Tales

The Decameron

First up: The Decameron. The edition I got is a translation by Mark Musa and Peter Bandanella, with 21 of the 100 stories (novelle) and essays spanning his contemporaries (seven, including three by Petrarca) and more modern ones dating from the 1700s to the 1970s and closing with a tight summary essay by the translators. The inclusion of the wide ranging essays was the primary reason I got this edition and sacrificed a copy with the entire Decameron. Quoting the preface:

The modern criticism includes a representative selection of past and current critical approaches to Boccaccio’s Decameron. Some essays reflect important historical interpretations (Ugo Foscolo and Francesco De Sanctis). Others illustrate particular critical methods–the philological (Auerbach), the philosophical (Scaglione), the formalist (Clements), the structuralist (Todorov), the rhetorical (Booth), the archetypal (Cottino-Jones), and the historical (Bergin).

While reading, I rewatched the light, fun indie film from 2017 called The Little Hours [ IMDB | MetacriticRotten Tomatoes ]. It takes a few of the stories from the book and combines them into a relatively continuous whole. The movie is set in the time the stories take place (mid 1300s) but it filters them through a modern prism. Recommended.

From one of the essays I learned that there’s another, more faithful movie version directed by Pasolini from 1971. I can’t find a good copy streaming online so I’ll probably purchase The Criterion Collection’s set called Trilogy of Life which includes The Decameron [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ], The Canterbury Tales (perfect for when I read that next), and The Thousand and One Nights. (The latter I had failed to read fully a few years back from my Everyman’s Library edition titled The Arabian Nights, translated by Husain Haddawy.) The Pasolini trailer for The Decameron looks bonkers, and the 70s music is… something.

Notes I had taken while reading the essays:

Frame story

7 women, 3 men, open and close by the author, 10 days, 1 narrator per day, 10 stories each day

Opens with a detailed, grim description of the plague in Florence. Stories taken from classical sources, farce, fabliaux (fabliau/fabliaux/fablel/fable, obscene and humorous), Florentine gossip, anecdotes. Each day has a theme. Common with novella. Sometimes explicit theme, sometimes uncertain. Peril and wit, strife and good fortune, unhappy love, treasonous wives, etc. Villa as middle ground between the stifling city and the open country. Day 1 and 9 have no specific theme and act as bookends, day 10 deals with noble deeds and how man can be moral in a secular world.

(novella has more varied characters, locations, and social class than in fablels, the novella definition changes, short, “Unity and verbosity are mortal enemies.”)

Populated by all classes, ~338 characters, 83 women mentioned by name, >250 men, compare with Dante’s Comedy 50 years prior which had ~20 women and most were historical, not contemporary.

The Decameron is the human comedy cf. Dante’s The Divine Comedy

The Decameron is an accomplishment of such decor and vigor as to make the minor creative works seem anemic by comparison and to overshadow the pedantic virtues of the compendia


Dante closed one work and Boccaccio opened up a new one.

Placed between the High Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In the Middle Ages priest and knight were supreme, as was Christianity. This changed to the pragmatism of the merchant class. The story of the Jew and the duplicate rings he gave to his sons (I, 3) viewed as a metaphor for the equality of all Abrahamic religions was unthinkable prior. From a time of spirit to that of nature. Move from spiritual to earthly leaves behind the prior’s structure, Decameron is chaotic with different stories, no unity of style.

Depicting man’s passions and ingenuity over spiritual supremacy and devotion. Women cleverly flouting conventions for appearance and not being judged: hiding infidelity from their husbands, being kidnapped and having sex with multiple men but being presented as a virgin, being evil and lying but then saving another’s social standing. Saving appearance is a virtue. Noble woman is chastised by her father for having an affair with a commoner. Her reply: “we are all made of the same flesh.” Social leveling.

No donna angelica, untouchable. Sexual desire becomes acceptable as the beloved.

Boccaccio later wanted the book burned and was talked out of it by Petrarca. Boccaccio became a misogynist. Boccaccio’s change in styles throughout his life matched his change in cities and surroundings. Courtly to allegory to merchant class.

Writers at the time memorized stories like musicians memorize music.

The lives of the great Italian writers overlap:

Major works:


Naturally skilled in grammar, educated by Giovanni, father of his friend Zanobi da Strada, Boccaccio’s father made him go into accounting (common in Florence) then the law.

Greek teacher Leonitus Pilatus from Thessaly, Petrarca learned from the monk Barlaamo from San Bacilio Cesariense.

Very poor most of his life, had to transcribe books, they later became part of a library.

Boccaccio’s writings:

  • 4 works of lesser quality, ~1330s, exaltation of love
  • 4 skilled written in Florence, 1340s, more allegorical
  • 4 learned studies, reference for men of letters, 1350s, often revised, sometimes difficult to classify, essays, biographies of ancients and contemporaries

Other works:

  • Filocolo, book five was also a frame story told by young aristocrats, “written between 1335-36. It is considered to be the first novel of Italian literature written in prose. It is based on a very popular story of the time, Florio e Biancifiore.”
  • Eclogues
  • Ninfale
  • Teseida
  • The Love of Areita and Palemone
  • Fiametta
  • Ameto, frame story, Comedia delle ninfe fiorentine, 1341

Updated 25 Dec 2018 (movies)

Got the movies, realized they’re Blue-ray and I don’t have a Blue-ray player, purchased Blue-ray player.

Booklet and three movies

The Decameron was much better than I expected. The trailer was cheesy 70s escapades; the actual movie was beautiful, sometimes static, sometimes sweet. The film is constructed of stories from the book threaded together into somewhat of a whole. Though characters may not know each other, they exist in the same world and may pass each other in the street. In many of the stories, Pasolini expressively lingers on characters’ faces and expressions. There was much casual nudity that felt of the time (1300s). There’s an added story of Giotto painting a mural that was threaded though the actual stories taken from the book. His process of inspiration included some wonderfully framed shots of the city and the people populating it, and the ending with him was perfect.

Updated 24 Feb 2019 (notes on The Canterbury Tales)

Finished The Canterbury Tales. Notes.

Three Jean Rollin films

I had heard of him tangentially but had never followed the leads until I saw several of his films on Shudder. French, stylized, a bit low-budget yet attractive. A good reference for Rollin’s films is DISCOVER–where to start with the films of Jean Rollin from IMDB. I went with three in the vampire series, minus his first feature “The Rape of the Vampire”:

The Nude Vampire (1970)

The Shivers of the Vampires (1971)

Requiem for a Vampire (1971)

Continue reading Three Jean Rollin films