American Nations – A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America – by Colin Woodward – A Book Review – Part 1

This book has several faults.  One is that the author is an enormous progressive bigot.  He allows his sympathies with the progressive areas of the country to shade almost every aspect of the descriptive and critical content of the book.  Another fault is that he has subsumed the work of earlier authors and glossed over any ideas that don’t fit his world view.  But despite these ugly qualities the book provides a lot of very important information that can be valuable if carefully interpreted.

The thesis of the book is that the foundational cultures that colonized North America along with the remaining older cultures (Native American and Hispanic) account for the regional differences that still determine how people think, live and vote.  And that I think is a remarkable fact and taken along with an understanding of the motivations and psychology of these regional groups provides us with a better understanding of why things are happening the way they are and what best to do to influence the outcome of political and social struggles.

The clearest way to start thinking of what this book can tell us is to look at a map that divides most of North America by how it was colonized.  https://www.twincities.com/2013/11/16/which-of-this-writers-11-american-nations-do-you-live-in/

As a list, the Nations of the title are

  • Yankeedom
  • New Netherland
  • The Midlands
  • Tidewater
  • Deep South
  • New France
  • Greater Appalachia
  • El Norte
  • The Far West
  • The Left Coast
  • First Nation

What you’ll see is that the original Massachusetts colony has spread into an area that encompasses New England, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, parts of the surrounding states like Illinois (Yankeedom).  And to a slightly smaller degree Washington, Oregon and Northern California were its result (The Left Coast).  And the founding of Pennsylvania produced a discernible legacy that extends from the Atlantic in a relatively narrow band through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, then spreads into a larger area that includes virtually all of Iowa, northern Missouri, and large parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and both Dakotas.  And in fact, the strip then hooks around to include the majority of non-French eastern Canada.  All of this is denoted as the Midlands.

And in a similar way we can also see the results of the Virginia colonies (Tidewater) and the Deep South spread.  Because of the intervention of outside factors Virginia was prevented from spreading west, whereas the Carolinas went on to extend their way of life all the way down the Gulf coast to eastern Texas.

New Netherland is the Dutch founding in what is now New York City.  It is hemmed in by its neighbors to the North and South but is an extremely densely populated area with enormous commercial and financial clout.

A little less familiar is the origins of the Appalachian region.  This area was settled by lowland Scots, northern Britons and the Scots-Irish who fled poverty, oppression and civil strife in their homelands and spread out mostly from the Pennsylvanian, Virginian and Carolinian colonies to find freedom and autonomy in the mountains and forests of Appalachia and later go on to populate a wide band from western Virginia and the Carolinas to Northern Texas.  The states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and most of Illinois, Indiana and half of Oklahoma Missouri and Arkansas are the area called on this map Greater Appalachia.  More or less directly, the Appalachians, by cutting off access to the west, were responsible for the fact that the Virginia colonies never gained as much widespread power as its neighbors.

In a similar way the book goes to describe the founding and spread of the other “nations.”  New France and “El Norte” (the Mexican colonies in the southwest) are the most unfamiliar to most American readers but the information is easily digested and the way that these areas developed is relatively clear.

The Far West is the mountainous and high plains areas between the mid-west and the Left Coast that were populated in the wake of the railroads.  This area is defined by its relation to the federal government and its improvement programs.

First Nation describes the area in the north of Canada and Alaska and Greenland that are inhabited by the Inuit and other aboriginal peoples of the region.

In the next installment of this review I’ll discuss how the characteristics and ways of life of these different foundations set them in motion and how they collided with the outside world and each other over the course of several hundred years.

Who is 20BooksTo50K?

One of our readers here, Chemist, sent me this link in response to my link to Dave Freer’s post on sf short stories.  So I read it.

Turns out 20BooksTo50K is a a “community dedicated to helping authors with the business of writing.”  What could be wrong with that?  Well anyone who remembers the Puppy Wars over the Hugo nominations know that the scolds of science fiction would prefer to burn down their own awards rather than allow anyone who isn’t up on the current LGBTQ grovelling to get into the nominations.  so it surprises me not at all to hear that Puppy redux is happening at the Nebula awards over the nomination of several 20BooksTo50K authors.

Having been a strong supporter of the Puppy writers (in terms of buying their books), I’ll have to check the authors in 20BooksTo50K to see if any of them click with me.

So many books, so little lifetime left.

Thanks to Chemist for the heads up.

 

Reflections on the Political Landscape

A while back I put Colin Woodward’s book, “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America,” in my wish list based on the Z-Man’s description of its importance.  I’m about twenty percent into it and I’ve got an idea of where it is going.  I also can tell that Woodward is a thorough going lefty but that there is a lot of useful information in the book.  The beginning of the book describes the origins of the various “nations” that he contends still underly the current political and cultural reality of the United States and its surroundings in North America.

As I said, there is a lot of slant to his description of the character of the various populations and you can tell where his sympathies lie and who he is virtue signaling to but there is also valuable information that actually helps to explain some general behaviors that can be observed at work today.

For example, Woodward waxes poetic about the New England characteristic of local autonomy and small-town democracy.  This is presented as a contrast to the feudal rule of aristocratic Virginia where great landowners lorded it over the common men and monopolized the government and the courts.  Supposedly this is still the reality today.  But anyone living in New England knows that any community that imposed any policies out of synch with the smothering regulation existing at the state level would be assaulted with the full force of the state’s judicial and administrative might and quickly the offenders would find themselves in prison and their families dispossessed and harassed out of the state.

One of the features of New England was its early adoption of universal education and the establishment of higher education as the basis of elite status.  This is also touted as a democratic virtue as opposed to the wealth-based basis of education in Virginia.  Looking at the present day it’s instructive to see that the educational situation is much changed.  The educational state of the poor even in New England has degraded to the point where claiming universal education is very debatable.  And the status of higher education has likewise changed to the point where elite status is more of a legacy condition than any kind of meritocratic status.  In other words, the state and poorer colleges have been degraded to where their degrees are approaching a worthless status whereas the high-status Ivy League schools are the domain of elite families and the affirmative action minorities that they include for the sake of appearances.

What seem to be happening is that the supposed egalitarian impulses of the New England nation and their descendants in the other Left dominated areas of the country have abandoned the pretense of equality and now embrace the model of an elect elite directing the lives of the rest of society as some sort of latter-day serfdom.  This conforms more closely to the Marxist model than any puritan world view.  And this of course makes sense.  As the New Englanders shed their Christianity, they reached out for what replaced it in their environment, the fashionable socialism of nineteenth century intellectuals.

I’ll have a full review at some point and other discussions of the ideas and the applications of these ideas to the present condition we find ourselves in.  Z-Man was right. There is useful information in this book overlaid with leftist smugness.

Dave Freer Over at Mad Genius Club Has a Post on Short Stories

Dave Freer over at Mad Genius Club talks about the change in reading habits that has more or less done in the short story (specifically in the Sf&F genres).  As a prospective author I am interested in the state of the publishing world.  Having so little time left for writing, short stories interest me but reading this article was not particularly encouraging.  Well, it’s interesting and comments to the post are good too.

A day short and a dollar late

Dave’s on our side of the political spectrum (part of the Sad Puppy brigade) and my grandson really liked his young adult fantasy book Changeling’s Island  so I read his posts often.

Galaxy’s Edge (Volume 9) – Retribution – A Science Fiction Book Review

This review is of the concluding volume of Jason Anspach’s and Nick Cole’s Galaxy’s Edge series.  But to be totally accurate it is the last volume of “Season 1.”  That’s right folks, science fiction series never die, they merely turn another page.

This episode carries forward where the previous volume, Message for the Dead,” left off.  Goth Sullus has defeated the Republic, been declared Emperor by the House of Reason, captured the entities controlling the Cybar army and looks to be ready to consolidate his empire.

But things have changed by the beginning of this book.  Because Sullus has thrown in with the House of Reason, the loyal and valuable core of his Black Fleet and Shock Troopers are disillusioned with him and are leaving in droves to join up with the small remnant of the Legion that has escaped destruction.  The book has all the remaining cast of characters from the earlier books and centers on the activities of now General Chhun and Kill Team victory and Aeson Keel and his crew as they team up to stop Sullus before he can consolidate his hold on the galaxy.

A separate story line sets up the arc of the future Season 2.  Prisma Maydoon is sheltering on a refuge planet supposedly safe from the war blanketing the rest of the galaxy.  But danger finds her and she must save herself from a deadly attack.  During this trail she decides that her fate is to find out what Goth Sullus is in order to destroy him.  This leads her to escape from her refuge and head out of the galaxy to advance to the next stage in her development and face her destiny.

The war and battle scenes live up to the excellent past of the series.  The characters are engaging.  The Prisma Maydoon story is a little too adolescent girl with magical powers for me.  I guess Buffy the Vampire Slayer, River Tam and all their spiritual sisters have used up all of my empathy for four foot ten inch super girls.  But that is just a small part of the book and the story is great.  There is plenty of revenge to enjoy and lots of action to relish.  And the story is faithfully completed (for the most part).  Highly recommended.

White Shoe: How a New Breed of Wall Street Lawyers Changed Big Business and the American Century by John Oller – Book Review

Tyler over at the Portly Politico sent me this recommendation. I read the review and it sounded interesting for you history buffs.  Here’s his message followed by the link to the original book review at the bottom of the post.
A buddy of mine wrote a great book review for his blog, Corporate History International, that I thought might be of interest to you.  It’s a review of John Oller’s White Shoe:  How a New Breed of Wall Street Lawyers Changed Big Business and the American Century.  He touches upon some of the historical parallels between the Progressive Era and our current times, albeit subtly.

 

White Shoe: How a New Breed of Wall Street Lawyers Changed Big Business and the American Century by John Oller

New White Shoe Review for You

 

Mining the Benedict Option for Practical Advice – Part 1

As I mentioned I’m seriously interested in starting some kind of local organization to allow me to impact the community around me. But other than hot air of, which I possess an abundance, I was short on practical know-how.   I started re-reading Rod Dreher’s,”The Benedict Option,” and I think it will be useful.  I previously reviewed it last year.

A Short Book Review of Rod Dreher’s – The Benedict Option – Part 2

But now I’m looking at it more as a handbook, so it will take a good deal more time to weigh the information to decide what is helpful to me.   At this point, at the very least it has given me a number of resources for researching directions to go.  If anyone else is looking for ways to build alternative social platforms I recommend that you take a look at Dreher’s book. There are definitely some useful starting points at the very least.  And even if your position is non-religious there are things to think about in this book.

 

 

31DEC2018 – Best of 2018 List

Here’s my retrospective on 2018, completely subjective of course and whenever I can’t make up my mind or I don’t want to leave something out I’ll cheat and provide more than one choice.  And that’s one of the wonderful things about being the boss, you get to break the rules and do what you want.

 

Best Quotes of the Day

Some are political, some philosophical and some just human nature.  The order is just chronological of their appearance on the site.

 

“In the many forms of government which have sprung up there has always been an acknowledgement of justice and proportionate equality, although mankind fail in attaining them, as indeed I have already explained. Democracy, for example, arises out of the notion that those who are equal in any respect are equal in all respects; because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal.”

Aristotle

 

“No state will be well administered unless the middle class holds sway.”

Aristotle

 

“When there aren’t any smart decisions, I suppose you just have to pick the stupid decision you like best.”

Orson Scott Card

 

“No one likes the fellow who is all rogue, but we’ll forgive him almost anything if there is warmth of human sympathy underneath his rogueries. The immortal types of comedy are just such men.”

W. C. Fields

 

“Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”

H.L. Mencken

 

Carpe diem!  Seize the day!  Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have. It is later than you think.

Horace

 

“And this is the simple truth – that to live is to feel oneself lost. He who accepts it has already begun to find himself, to be on firm ground. Instinctively, as do the shipwrecked, he will look around for something to which to cling, and that tragic, ruthless glance, absolutely sincere, because it is a question of his salvation, will cause him to bring order into the chaos of his life. These are the only genuine ideas; the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce.”

Soren Kierkegaard

 

If civilization had been left in female hands we would still be living in grass huts.

Camille Paglia

 

Best Books Reviewed

Fiction

I’ll have to go with the Galaxy’s Edge series:

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/01/18/legionnaire-galaxys-edge-volume-1-by-jason-anspach-nick-cole-a-science-fiction-book-review/

Over the course of 2018 I read and reviewed all eight of the volumes in the main series (first volume linked above) and they only got better as the series went along.  It was good old mil-sci-fi space opera.  I assume I won’t live long enough to see the end of the series but so far that isn’t a problem.  I look forward to the next installment soon and am in no way tired of this particular universe.  Kudos to Anspach and Cole.  Long may they stoke their dumpster fire at the Edge of the Galaxy!

 Fiction Runners Up:

“The Hidden Truth” by Hans G. Schantz

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/10/30/the-brave-and-the-bold-book-3-of-the-hidden-truth-by-hans-g-schantz-a-science-fiction-book-review/

Schantz has also upped his game as his series progresses and the “The Brave and the Bold,” the third volume, is the best so far.  Kudos to him.

 

“Southern Dust” by Caspar Vega

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/08/25/southern-dust-by-caspar-vega-a-science-fiction-and-fantasy-book-review/

Vega is an acquired taste for me and as I’ve written about him, “It’s for those who like gritty crime dramas with a staccato, post-modern, minimalist writing style.”  Even though my tastes are a little more conventional I appreciate that there is an audience for the more unusual so I look around for interesting stuff.  As I’ve said before, your call.

 

Non-Fiction

The two books listed below provide two different takes on the way to interpret the results of ancient DNA analysis.

“The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution” by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending

“Who We Are and How We Got Here; Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Past” by David Reich

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/05/24/the-10000-year-explosion-a-book-review/

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/06/18/who-we-are-and-how-we-got-here-ancient-dna-and-the-new-science-of-the-past-by-david-reich-a-book-review/

 

David Reich being an academic embedded in the politically correct culture of the university system treads ever so gently around the edges of how the science of human genetic history should be interpreted.  Cochran and Harpending are much more direct and sometimes possibly presumptuous in the conclusions they draw from the evidence.  Both books together tell a fascinating story of how much we now know about the complex and diverse origins of the various human populations.

 

Best Movie

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Incredibles 2

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/07/08/the-incredibles-2-a-science-fiction-fantasy-movie-review/

This is a kids’ movie but it far exceeds any of the other “superhero” movies for just plain entertainment value.  I won’t say it was as original as the first installment but it mostly kept to the spirit of the original and provided a fun vehicle for parents (or grandparents) to enjoy a movie with their kids.

 

Older Movies

True Grit

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2016/12/07/true-grit-the-duke-the-dude-and-the-dutiful-daughter-part-i/

 

This is a twofer.  For younger folks I’ll only recommend the new version by the Coen Brothers.  For people who grew up on the John Wayne movies of old I recommend they view both movies back to back in chronological order.  They each have facets to its advantage.  Each differs slightly from the source material.  But each is a fine movie.  And I’ll also recommend the novel that is the source for the movies.  It also has facets that aren’t available in either movie.

 

Music

Country Music

Album of the Year

Colter Wall by Colter Wall

Song of the Year

Pan Bowl by Sturgill Simpson

My music choices are very idiosyncratic so I won’t try to justify them.  To paraphrase a recent annoying politician, they just reflect who I am  Pan Bowl is an older song from Simpson’s 2014 album.

 

TV

The only truly notable television I watched in 2018 was the State of the Union address by the president.  Everything else was at best just okay.

 

On – Line Articles

 

Here are the articles that I thought were informative on our political situation.  There were many others that were intersting but these seem to encapsulate the developments in the political thinking this year.  Basically it’s the red-pilling of the normies.

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/03/23/american-greatness-pick-of-the-day-total-political-war-by-matthew-j-peterson/

 

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/04/15/a-different-kind-of-red-shift/

 

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/05/29/john-derbyshire-post-electoral-gold-for-the-stupid-party-the-anti-anti-white-vote/

 

http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/10/25/our-revolutions-logic-angelo-codevilla-an-on-line-article-review/

 

Humor

Trump vs

These are of course the most subjective things to judge.  I just kind of liked these a lot.  I admit they are absurd but such is life.

Trump vs the Hell Storm (Part 1)

Trump vs the Hell Storm (Part 2)

Search hell Trump vs the Hell Storm (Part 3)

 

Photos

Here are my favorite photos of the year.

Landscape

 

 

Nature

American Museum of Natural History, New York City, Sony NEX 5N, Sony 24mm F\1.8 APSC lens
macrophotography with Sony A7 III, Minolta 200mm f\4 macro lens and extension tubes, long horned beetle
Monotropa uniflora, Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens
Sony A7 III with the Sigma MC-11 Adapter and the Sigma 180mm f\2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS for Canon

 

Who Can Replace a Man? – by Brian W. Aldiss – An OCF Science Fiction Book Review

Aldiss was a British science fiction author and “Who Can Replace A Man” is the name of a short story collection published in 1965.  From my exposure to the English films and theater from that time period they seemed like a thoroughly unhappy bunch.  A lot of that shows up in Aldiss’s stories.  There’s a dreariness and an almost claustrophobic atmosphere to some of his work which I can’t enjoy.  But mixed in with these will be a gem.  Out of the fourteen stories in this collection two of them are excellent and highly recommended.

“Old Hundredth” is the story of a megatherium (giant sloth) riding on a baluchitherium (sort of like a prehistoric giant rhinoceros) in search of transubstantiation into a musicolumn.  This piece of insane storytelling is remarkably enjoyable and feels like some kind of impressionistic water color of a beautiful landscape rather than a science fiction story.  I’ve always greatly enjoyed rereading it.

The story “Who Can Replace a Man?” is more prosaic and recognizably science fiction in its content but it provides a self-consistent and believable vision of what a world of robots would be like after humans disappear.  It’s fun even when it’s bleak.

After these two stories recommendations become qualified.

“Poor Little Warrior!” is the story of a time travelling brontosaurus big game hunt.  It follows in the footsteps of Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder,” but outdoes it in grimness.  It has that British mid-century dreariness but has some cheerful horror at the end.  To each his own on this one.

“The Impossible Star” is equally grim but does include and interesting imagining of how proximity to a black hole might affect the human animal.  I’ll give it a passing grade.

Finally, “The New Father Christmas” is dreary enough but so odd that it gets points for holding my interest.  I’ll give it a D+.

The rest of the stories, although they have interesting facets are just too downbeat for me to enjoy or recommend.  If you do decide to read the New Father Christmas and enjoy it then maybe you can find value in the rest of the collection.  Once again, to each his own.

The Inside Baseball of Film Versions of “A Christmas Carol” – Part 1

Anyone who has been reading my posts on this site for more than a year knows that I am a Christmas Carol fanatic.  So as a fair warning I’ll just say that this post is only for true Christmas Carol devotees.  Every word of it is subjective and dedicated to minutiae.  I have four versions of the film that I like and each has an aspect in which it excels the other three.  Every year I re-evaluate the films and debate with myself on trivial points that would have exactly zero importance to the overwhelming majority of the human inhabitants of planet earth.  Here goes.

Material that wasn’t in the book

A Christmas Carol was a novella.  It is brief and in places lacks details about the characters and events.

For instance, the book never says why Scrooge’s father treated him so poorly.  In the 1951 version it is stated that his father held it against him that his mother died in his childbirth.  And in the same version a similar grudge exists as the reason why Scrooge dislikes his nephew Fred.  It is shown that his sister Fan died giving birth to Fred.  In the 1984 version the same reason for his father’s dislike for Scrooge is presented.  But the death of Fan during Fred’s birth is not added.  What is interesting about these additions is that based on the original story they would be impossible.  In the book Fan is quite a bit younger than her brother Ebenezer.  Therefore, their mother couldn’t have died at the birth of her older child.  I suppose Fan could have been Ebenezer’s half-sister but I don’t imagine that a twice married man would still be holding his first wife’s death as a grudge against his son.  So, this addition is spurious.  But it is extremely dramatic and provides a timely reason for both father’s and son’s misanthropic behavior that could be somewhat excused and so leave room for deserved forgiveness.  And it has a highly effective scene where the older Scrooge hears his dying sister ask for his promise to take care of her infant son Fred.  We see that the younger Scrooge never heard the dying plea and the older Scrooge gets to belatedly beg his beloved deceased sister’s forgiveness for his heartless treatment of her only child.

And notice that the 1984 version borrows both the discrepancy of Fan’s age and the spurious grudge of Scrooge’s father but neglects the equally spurious grudge of Scrooge for his nephew.  I guess they thought those additions gave resonance to the story.

In both the 1951 and 1984 versions Scrooge’s fiancée is introduced during the Fezziwig party scene and give a name (Alice in the earlier version, Belle in the later).  Neither this early link to Scrooge’s life or the name show up in the book.  In addition, in the 1951 version it skips the scene introducing this woman’s later life with husband and large family but instead substitutes a scene during the Ghost of Christmas Present section where Belle is volunteering at a shelter for the poor.  Now whereas tying Scrooge’s love to the Fezziwig era of his life is fine and in fact better than the way the book presents it, I do not particularly favor the poor shelter addition.  It seems unwarranted.  I think the scene where she is surrounded by her family is dramatic enough in that it illustrates what happiness Scrooge has lost.

In the book the Ghost of Christmas Present visits the house of Scrooge’s nephew Fred.  The dinner guests are presented enjoying games such as blindman buff and forfeits which I take to be word games such as twenty questions.  One of the rounds determined that it was a disagreeable animal that growled and lived in London.  And, of course, it turns out to be Uncle Scrooge.  In the 1984 version the story is adapted so the dinner guests are playing a game called similes where they need to guess the end of a simile.  When Fred asks his wife to complete “as tight as,” she replies “your Uncle Scrooge’s purse strings.”  Scrooge hears this while in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Present.  After his repentance and on the actual Christmas Day he meets his niece and discussing the game of similes he advises her that the simile, in case it came up, was “as tight as a drum.”  Nicely played.

From the book we know that Jacob Marley died seven years earlier on Christmas Eve.  And we are informed that Scrooge inherited his house.  What the 1951 version does is tie these facts together in a scene.  We have Jacob Marley’s charwoman come to the office and interact with Bob Cratchit and Scrooge.  Then we have Scrooge being warned by a dying Marley that their misanthropy would endanger their immortal souls.  And this then links both the charwoman’s stealing of his bed curtains and bed clothing and her later spurious appearance after the last of the spirits depart and Scrooge wakes up on actual Christmas morning.  In this scene the charwoman (identified incorrectly as Mrs. Dilber) is bringing in Scrooge’s breakfast and witnesses his reformation into a caring human being.  His manic happiness frightens her and when he gives her a gold sovereign coin as a present, she assumes it’s a bribe to keep her quiet about his strange behavior.  When he tells her it’s a Christmas present and he is quintupling her salary she is overcome with happiness and rushes off with her own characteristic version of a Merry Christmas greeting.  I find this addition to the story especially apt.  In the story the charwoman selling Scrooge’s bed curtains comes off very negatively.  But humanizing her by including her positively in the scene about Marley’s death and allowing a rapprochement with a penitent Scrooge on Christmas morning improves the story and ties these aspects of the story together in a way that gives the story more depth.  It reinforces that Scrooge’s repentance touches every aspect of the world we have been shown in a positive way.

Overall I’d say that the film additions to the plot have been acceptable and true to the spirit of the story.