Monday, March 29, 2021

Why is it always the hard stuff?


 Yeah, yeah, I'm really trying to stay away from politics, but the latest dispatch from the cancel culture wars has me rolling my eyes so far I can see the inside of my forehead. Some goofballs at Oxford have decided that sheet music is inherently racist. 

Huh?

Well, it is predominantly white and sprinkled with little black dots. And as an untalented, very amateurish musician, I used to avoid pieces of music that had too high a proportion of black dots... What? That's not what they mean? 

It's not, I gather, about the physical appearance of the page. Rather, there are some inchoate word salads - they don't rise to the level of 'argument' - about how dead white males like Beethoven used sheet music, and therefore... oh, whatever. 

The same article mentioned that Middle English and Old English literature are also being tipped into the racist dumpster. 

And for quite some time now I've been seeing the "Math is racist" cry. 

So, just asking: why is it always the hard stuff that gets labeled racist and canceled? 

An uncharitable sort just might begin to suspect that "It's racist!" is the excuse du jour for people who don't want to turn their brains on.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Etymology takes away the magic


 There was something about the word condottiere. It didn't conjure up a romantic image exactly - I do understand that the condottieri were not, by and large, nice people - but it seemed, oh, exotic? Dashing? Like this statue of Bartolmmeo Colleoni in Venice? 

So, the first book I picked up on the subject pointed out that etymologically, condottiere derives from condotta, which means "contract." Yeah. A condottiere was somebody who had a condotta. In short - a contractor. 

It just doesn't have the same exotic aura, does it?

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Escapism


 I'm taking a vacation from current events, because the daily onslaught on liberty, history and common sense has begun to depress me. Reading the news these days makes me feel as if I'm repeatedly hitting myself on the head with a hammer.

So... following a bit of reading on 15th century Florence in the interests of keeping up with my online book club's study of Machiavelli, this magically talented condottiere strolled into my head and started talking about his career. 

I've decided to shove the current work-not-really-in-process onto a back burner; it was stalled out in a scene where the new office manager tries to push the dictates of Critical Race Theory onto the paranormal working group, and you know what? That's not funny any more. Not in the current atmosphere, anyway. Instead I'm listening to what Gian Galleazo No-last-name-yet has to say. And instead of waking myself up with coffee and the news, I'm starting the day with coffee and more reading on Renaissance Italy - not just Florentine politics in the time of Machiavelli, but everything from housewives' "books of secrets" to studies of arms, armor and warfare styles of the condittori. 

Because, you know, I have to read something over the coffee.


Friday, February 12, 2021

A Modest Proposal

 I'm disturbed to find that in the current debate over transgender athletes, even right-leaning news organizations seem to be adopting what I find to be a completely false framing of the issue. Case in point: I just saw the headline "North Dakota House Passes Bill Banning Transgender Athletes from High School Sports Teams."

But when I clicked over, the first sentence in the Daily Wire article read:

The North Dakota state House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that requires school athletes to participate on sports teams that correspond with their biological sex.

 Does this ban transgender athletes from anything? I don't see it. It appears to me to be saying that if Jim wants to wear a skirt and call himself Jean, fine, but he's still eligible for the boys' team. Does not say that Jim can't participate. 

It's known that post-pubescent males have significant athletic advantages over females - lung capacity, upper body strength, overall muscle mass, etc., etc. They might conceivably have a problem with gymnastics, but there is no case for allowing people with male bodies to "compete" with females in weightlifting.

It's known that in most athletic fields, female athletes' best records are well below those of male athletes. That's the reason for women's sports to begin with! We want our young women to compete with each other in an arena where dedication and hard work make a difference, not to form a permanent underclass who will never "win" while there's a "transgender" man who wants to scoop up the trophies. Don't we? 

If certain scolds in our population are offended by the very concept of "boys" and "girls" I can think of two solutions.

1) Do what North Dakota has just very sensibly done, but tweak the nomenclature. We will no longer have boys' and girls' or mens' and womens' teams, just Teams of People Who Happen to Have XY Chromosomes and other Teams of People Who Happen to Have XX Chromosomes. Sure, it's awkward to say, but it's not nearly as silly as being required to call certain people ze/zir or other manufactured pronouns.

2) Scrap the division of teams by sex entirely and let each sport be represented by just one team whose members are the best-performing athletes in the school. Sure, this destroys women's sports in one blow, but that may be better than the death by a thousand cuts in which each young woman's athletic record is held hostage for the first boy in her school sport who decides he'd like to compete as a girl. At least it makes clear up front that women are now to be sacrificed to the pretense that men can become women simply be saying so. 

Oh, but the people who do this don't want to make that clear, do they?

And that's why I find headlines such as the one on the Daily Wire article so irritating.

 


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Simplifying history


 My online book club is reading The Prince. I rather wish we'd picked Discourses on Livy instead, because I find Machiavelli's thoughts on republics more interesting and more relevant to the present day than his (possibly ironic; there's a lot of debate on that) comments on principalities. Oh well, c'est la vie. Anyway, his references in The Prince have made me realize how ignorant I am of Renaissance Italian history, so I've been doing some background reading and have come to the following "conclusions":

1. Given any two Italian states X and Y that border one another, X attacked Y (or vice versa) at some time.

2. Any prominent figure apart from Girolamo Savonarola betrayed somebody else to the Borgias at some time, and I'm not sure about Savonarola. (Good only to the date of Cesare Borgia's death.)

3. Somebody invited France in to support their claim to somewhere. Somebody else invited Spain in.

and finally, the only one relevant to the present day:

4. Our current situation could be worse. If our Republic fails, it will be.

I realize all this is something of an oversimplification, but honestly, the shifting alliances and wars make my head hurt. Anyway, I've already simplified my "understanding" of history by deciding:

5. All kings of France were named Louis.

6. All prominent medieval figures were named William, unless they were named Matilda/Maud. (You haven't lived until you've written a scene featuring three historical characters all of whom were named William or some variant thereof.)

It's not much of a stretch to extend this system to early Renaissance Italy. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Sarah Hoyt nails it: this occupation is set to fail

 I've been slowed down by the lovely muscle relaxants the doc prescribed for my pulled back muscles, which he warned "might make you slightly drowsy." Ha. Make me fall asleep sitting up, is more like it. But while I've been dozing, others are paying attention. Today Sarah Hoyt described a fascinating parallel to current events... in the 17th century Spanish occupation of Portugal. (Me: What? The Spanish occupied Portugal? Nobody told me about this!) 

She writes:

The funny thing — stop me when this sounds familiar — that Spain would probably have won the battle, long term, almost certainly, if they’d come in and governed with Portuguese best interests at heart, and let the cultures and families merge.

Portugal didn’t even have a very strong sense of national identity at the time, and noble families had property in both families.

But they came in set on “reducing” the Portuguese. It involves a program of destroying the statues of the conquered people, and the stories of their heroes. It involves giving away prized possessions that brought in wealth (in Portugal’s case various colonies given away in the dowry of Spanish princesses) for the glory of the invaders. It involves forbidding the mother-tongue and replacing it with the invaders’s speech (A-men and A-women!) and it involves in general making the invaded country feel its humiliation, in the hopes of making it want to die.

 Remind you of anything? Yeah, me too. And she predicts Americans will react to the current regime as badly as the Portuguese did to this ham-handed attempt to flatten them.

My prediction is a crash of internationalism, a revival of a love of nationality and each nation’s character and heroes, and a glorious upraised middle finger to those who’d be global masters, Winnie the Xi and the UN included, and possibly with petards.

 Click through and read the whole thing: Reducing An Occupied Country

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