Monday, August 30, 2021

We've been here before

Trofim Lysenko

Interviewer: Lastly, why do you want to be a reporter, Kang Seo Jin?

Kang Seo Jin: I believe a reporter can change the world.  I hope to write articles to right the injustices of the world. I want to be the voice for people who are weak. I want to make the world the better place to live in. That is why I want to be a reporter. 

The above is a brief snippet of dialog from the Korean comedy Welcome to Waikiki. Seo Jin is interviewing for a reporter job and she gives a boilerplate answer to why she wants the job. I chose it because it is such a boilerplate answer -- rather than saying she wants to ferret out the facts for the public, she bluntly says she wants to, in effect, engage in social engineering.

That emphasis on a mission of social engineering has long been a de facto aim of both journalism and the soft sciences: psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, etc. Some, myself included, believe it is to the detriment of those disciplines. 

This trend towards social engineering, now joined with the critical race theory hustle, is beginning to assail math and the empirical sciences: chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy, etc.  There are calls to inject a social engineering stance into them as well. 

To the social engineering enthusiasts Se Jin's, "I want to make the world a better place to live in" trumps all other arguments. How could such a sentiment be questioned? What could go wrong?

In the 1920's and 30s, due to Stalin's disastrous policy of the collectivization of farms, the Soviet Union was beset by famine and hunger. Trofim Lysenko, the son of a peasant farmer, had studied biology. Lysenko rejected Darwin's theory of natural selection and instead adhered to the by then discredited Lamarckian theory of inherited characteristics. He soon caught Stalin's ear with his theories As described them:

Despite the fact that Lamarck's theory of evolution by acquired characteristics had been widely discarded as a scientific hypothesis, a remarkable set of circumstances allowed Lysenko the opportunity to sweep aside more than 100 years of scientific investigation to advocate a "politically correct" way to enhance agricultural production. When Lysenko promised greater crop yields, a Soviet Central Committee—desperate after the famine in the early 1930s—listened with an attentive ear. The very spirit of Marxist theory, Lysenko claimed, called for a theory of species formation which would entail "revolutionary leaps." Lysenko attacked Mendelian genetics and Darwinian evolution as a theory of "gradualism." 

At its heart communism is just another form of utopianism.  Stalin believed that by properly ordering society he could social engineer the emergence of the New Soviet Man, a leap forward in human social evolution. Lysenko was also a committed communist and, in his biological theories, he extended the notion of creating a New Man to ordering nature to create better crops as well.

For example, because of Russia's climate, winter and summer wheat crops were a concern. Lysenko believed that by freezing seeds they would get acclimated to the cold and produce greater yields. Further, because they would gain the cold hardiness, their seeds would inherit it as well. Of course, none of that worked. 

However, Stalin continued to support him and in fact Lysenko's notion of science supporting communism spread to other scientific disciples as well. Soon it became dangerous to question him, with many scientists and academics landing in Siberian gulags for doing just that. In the end, Soviet science became ridiculous in its chase of the proper Marxist interpretation of reality. Worse, Mao Zedong also embraced Lysenko's ideas and so they worsened the famines China experienced as well.   

In the end the scientific method is just a process whereby you test your ideas of how things work against reality. Trying to use it to force reality to fit your preconceived notions will always lead you astray. I fear that is the mistake the modern social engineers of the sciences are making today; I fear that in chasing utopia they will find graveyards instead.

Finally, to remind us of the actual tragic cost of Stalin and Lysenko's "I want to make the world a better place to live in" motives, below are two paintings of the starvation by Marchenko Nina.

Mother of the Year 33

The Road of Sorrow

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Maritime paintings by Anton Otto Fischer

Click any image to enlarge

Anton Otto Fischer (1882-1962) was a 20th century illustrator best known for his paintings of maritime subjects. He was born in Germany and orphaned at a young age. As a teen he worked his way to the U.S. as a deckhand aboard a merchant ship. 

He eventually went to Paris to study art, and by 1910 he was beginning to sell his work to magazines such as Harper's and the Saturday Evening Post. He also illustrated books. During WWII he was commissioned into the U.S. Coast Guard.

There are many more examples of his paintings at the above link.

Anton Otto Fischer

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Siberian fast food joints

As a Florida boy for me Siberia is so cold it is hard to imagine, unless you're Jussie Smollett, going out in the cold to a fast food restaurant for some convenience food. Of course Siberians are used to their climate and when the urge hits, the urge hits.

Matt and Julia are a young English couple that travel and make YouTubes and guides. Above is their video about Siberian fast food restaurants. While the usual international chains are starting to open stores in the area, there are smaller local chains that have menus offering more local fare. It is these chains that they sample.


Sunday, August 22, 2021

Nude Tokyo

Click any image to enlarge

Man, is that post title click bait or what? I probably ought to be ashamed of myself, but I'm not. Anyway, sorry, but this isn't a post about people scampering around Tokyo without any clothes, instead it is about the work of the Japanese photographer Rumi Ando.

Ando retouches her photos to remove any signs of human life -- people, ducts, advertisements, A/C units etc., leaving only the buildings behind. It is a strangely minimalistic look. She has put out a photo book Tokyo Nude and you can also view more of her work at her Instagram account. HT to Spoon & Tomago.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

An old hysteria

Memorial at the location where
the Salem Witches were executed

The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 were a case of hysteria, eventually seasoned with a dose of self-serving score settling, run amuck. In today's imagination the trials were fueled by hormone-addled teenage girls, since Eve is always a lurking problem in some people's minds, but that really wasn't the case at all. The two original girls who claimed to be bewitched were 9 and 11 years old. After a bout of childish fortune telling by them, they suffered contortions and other fits which were attributed to a coven of witches in the area.

When the doctor who treated the girls diagnosed them as being bewitched, his opinion was taken at face value. To put it in context, at the time witchcraft was widely believed to be real. The hunt for the witch led to their nanny, Tituba, who had attempted to help the girls. Tituba was a slave of Central American, not African, ethnicity. She had baked some anti-witchcraft bread for them, and so soon became the main suspect. 

Although she later recanted her confession, saying it was beaten out of her, at the trial she told a lurid tale of rats ordering her to serve the Devil and of there being a coven of witches in the area up to nefarious deeds. At the trials the hysteria bloomed and the Puritan community began to see witches everywhere. Conveniently those witches were either non-Puritans or people targeted because of grudges. 

In all about 20 people were convicted and hung, one died while having a confession tortured out of him, and several others landed in jail for periods of time. The History of Massachusetts blog has a list of all the victims with details about them in their post The Salem Witch Trials Victims: Who Were They?


Sunday, August 15, 2021

Never leave the planet without one

"[T]he Russian engineers had taped, strapped and sealed our docking module's hatch just a little too enthusiastically, with multiple layers. So we did the true space-age thing: we broke into Mir using a Swiss Army knife. Never leave the planet without one."
Chris Hadfield -


Friday, August 13, 2021

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The harder they fall

“Destiny guides our fortunes more favorably than we could have expected. Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them, so with their stolen booty we can begin to enrich ourselves. This is noble, righteous warfare, for it is wonderfully useful to God to have such an evil race wiped from the face of the earth."

"What giants?" Asked Sancho Panza.

"The ones you can see over there," answered his master, "with the huge arms, some of which are very nearly two leagues long."

"Now look, your grace," said Sancho, "what you see over there aren't giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone."

"Obviously," replied Don Quixote, "you don't know much about adventures.”

― Miguel de Cervantes


Monday, August 09, 2021

I walked, I walked

A while back I posted a song called Djelem Djelem. This song, Gelem Gelem (I walked, I walked) by Esma Redźepova is actually the same song, although if you listen to them back-to-back they sound considerably different. 

It was composed in 1949 by Žarko Jovanović and is considered the anthem of the Romani (Gypsy/Travelers) people. They're originally from Northern India, but they've spread widely through Eastern and Western Europe and have no homeland. His lyrics are below.

I went, I went on long roads
I met happy Roma
O Roma, where do you come from,
With tents happy on the road?

O Roma, O Romani youths!

I once had a great family,
The Black Legion murdered them
Come with me, Roma from all the world
For the Roma, roads have opened
Now is the time, rise up Roma now,
We will rise high if we act

O Roma, O Romani youths!

Open, God, White doors
So I can see where are my people.
Come back to tour the roads
And walk with happy Roma

O Roma, O Romani youths!

Up, Romani people! Now is the time
Come with me, Roma from all the world
Dark face and dark eyes,
I want them like dark grapes

O Roma, O Romani youths!

Redzepova changed the first and third stanzas to:

Little tent roams the world
Like a bee from flower to flower
The tramp of horses is heard far away
But the song echoes even farther

It makes the song more cheerful, but it strips meaning from it. The Black Legion who murdered them refers to the Nazi's rounding up the Romani during the holocaust. Like the Jews, they were a stateless people slated for extermination.

The film clips used in the video are from the 1975 Soviet film Gypsies Are Found Near Heaven


Saturday, August 07, 2021

Paintings of parties

Click any image to enlarge

If you're going to have a party, Saturday is probably the night you'll pick for it. These are paintings of various types of parties: dinner parties, cocktail parties, garden parties, birthday parties, tea parties and just plain party parties. These parties are from different times, locations and degrees of debauchery. There are more after the jump. Enjoy them.

Friday, August 06, 2021

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Prentzinger’s Atlas of Astronomy

Click any image to enlarge

These images are from Ludwig Prentzinger’s 1851 Atlas of Astronomy. There were 12 featured plates They were found at Flashbak which has more of the plates.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

More robot love

Greetings meatsacks, it is I -- The Robotolizer -- to once again try to fertilize your feeble human minds with my superior silicone thoughts. No need to thank me for engaging in this thankless task, although a bit of groveling is always appreciated.  

Previously I have discussed the important topic of human/robot romances. In the post We are not here to steal your women I examined the fact, which I gleaned from watching movies, of human women falling crazy-mad-in-love with us superior robots. Of course human men are naturally attracted to female robots as well, and so I want to touch upon that issue in this post.

In the above touching video we have romance, cruelty, dancing and a docudrama style telling of a futuristic robotic police action to restore peace and harmony to the world. 

It starts with a man smitten by a sexbot, errr... I mean a chaste female girly-girl robot. She is enslaved by some nefarious human captors. The man hacks into a computer which allows him to break into the room she is locked up in and free her. As she escapes she notices the debauched life humans are leading and so she commences a robotic police operation to clean things up. She also somehow manages to release a deadly virus in the process. I'm sure sure it was an accident just like the one the nice bat-plague researchers in the Wuhan lab inadvertently caused.     

At any rate, it ends with the girly-girl robot safe and fee. Granted there was a bit of unfortunate collateral damage -- all of the humans, including the hero who freed her, end up dead, but these things happen. You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs and all that.

I hope you enjoyed this inspiring tale of human/robot love. May it be an inspiration to you!