Consummate dilettantism!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's History!

But in spite of Said's insistence on a reading of Michael Foucault that situates discursive formations in historical processes of institutional domination and hegemony, much recent critical theory has merely gestured toward history -- no sooner completing the gesture than appropriating history to support ahistorical -- and even antihistorical -- readings of texts.
What is this shit? Nonsense Marxist poststructuralist garbage, that's what; I'm so tired of this pseudo-intellectual "historiography" business. Such readings go on endlessly about these ridiculous theories that are so evidently irrelevant to objective history -- shut up already! Study history, not historiography! Study society, not sociology! Of course bias exists -- it's hardly news. The best we can do is to try to surmount it as far as we are able, not to write ceaseless diatribes about how it renders any proper study of history impossible. And don't you dare tell me there is no such thing as history: Things happen in the past. Your task as a historian is to record them as best you can. Do feel free to add a little flavor, though. Call me old-fashioned, but I miss the days of flagrantly racist and gleefully partisan history books; they're a blast to read! This trash? Not only is it completely unrelated to history or anything else, it's also extremely tedious and not worth anyone's time. I'd take Nicolás Monardes over Foucalt any day of the week:
[...when they wished to] make themselves drunk and [...] out of judgment [they chewed a mixture of tobacco and coca leaves which ...] make them go as they were out of their wittes [...]
Fun, fun, fun! See why people did history once? There was no "history" -- history was a doctor writing about coca chewing, a missionary writing about his travels. I think a good bit of contemporary drivel of the type above can be traced to the academization of history, for when your job is contingent on how seriously you take yourself and how much you publish (and how many "novel theories" you can come up with), the incentives to create pretentious noise greatly multiply.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Middleman Fallacy

Obama said he wants to eliminate the "middle men" lenders that he says add inefficiency to the system — "that's a premium we cannot afford, not when we could be reinvesting that same money in our students, in our economy and in our country."
This is what I call the middleman fallacy, which has led again and again to the persecution and murder of such economically successful groups as the Jews and the Armenians. People resent success, but more than that, they resent those individuals that serve as middlemen. As the argument goes, these people are barriers to direct exchange, and they hike prices to take a cut off the top, becoming fabulously wealthy by doing no real work at all. Of course, it's complete nonsense; the role of middlemen is critical in any modern society. Experts at getting goods from place to place and identifying demand and supply (the efficient allocation of resources), they free producers from worrying about efficiently transporting items and consumers from seeking out distant sources. In short, they reduce costs for both parties involved.

But the argument is not just wrong, it's dangerously wrong, and it's a shame to hear it from Obama.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Chinese On The Internet

On the one hand we have this:On the other we have this:Despite the fact that only 10-20% of Chinese use the internet, the language is its second most popular. With China's increasing modernization, these figures are set to explode, and I predict with some confidence that within twenty years Chinese will become the internet's #1 language.

Conclusion: Although I am decidedly reserved about the prospect of Chinese overtaking English as a global lingua franca (in fact, I do not think it will ever happen, for reasons I make clear here), I think learning Chinese is a solid investment if only for the reason mentioned in this post.