“Ultrasociety” by Peter Turchin

Paleo Retiree writes:

The book’s complete title: “Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth.”

A stimluting, clear, fast and provocative attempt to explain via the principles of cultural evolution and population biology how humans learned to co-operate on the kind of immense scale that characterizes modern life. Consider the layers and intricacies of organization that are required for, say, the building of an airliner or the running of a cellphone network. How on earth did we tribal primates get to be able to do that? That’s the question Turchin is concerned with here.

Turchin’s basic idea is that, just as over zillions of years evolution produced complexity in creatures, so did evolutionary pressures at the level of human groups produce societies capable of ever more complex ways to trade, defend ourselves, create, and organize our lives. The mental trick required here is to think of societies — from tribes to kingdoms to early states to empires — as organisms that grow, compete, adapt (and succeed or fail) in much the same way species do. Over time, we learned how to run and inhabit societies considerably more complicated, large and powerful than the small groups that, in the Paleo sense, we’re crafted for.

A startling consequence of looking at things in this light: war, defeat and disease don’t play the roles they usually play in history books (tragedy, collapse, etc). Instead we come to see them as the culling-and-pruning forces in the evolutionary process. We try a lot of shit. Most of it goes nowhere and dies off. Meanwhile, the handful of innovations that do gain traction race through the world’s societies and are incoporated into yet newer political organisms. And evolution rolls on …

Fwiw, this is all catnip to me, and on a primitive level I not only buy the ideas completely but feel happy to the point of exhilaration to be exploring the world of these thoughts.

There are definitely going to be people who object to Turchin’s notions, some of them for perfectly decent reasons. For instance: Is group selection (which we now apparently call “multilevel selection”) in fact a real thing? There are people out there who I respect a lot who think that it isn’t or that it’s, at best, an insignificant factor. Another: Is Turchin doing nothing more than telling just-so stories? That’s a common objection to the notions of evolutionary biology and especially evolutionary psychology. Yet another: Isn’t this all awfully amoral? Shouldn’t we be deriving character-building lessons from the history we contemplate and read about? (But evolution is anything but moral.) I can’t deny that I indulged a few moments when I found myself imagining what kind of go the progress-skeptic English philosopher John Gray would have at Turchin’s ideas. I’d enjoy reading all the above, by the way. Stimulating debate, yay.

Turchin, who began as an evolutionary biologist and has since turned his attention to history and founded the school of “cliodynamics” — essentially an attempt to bring the rigor of statistics and math to bear on history, and to make the study of history more scientific and less literary than it can often tend to be — published “Ultrasociety” himself, bless his heart. Much like blogging, the self-publishing of books offers benefits (freedom, openness, quirkiness) and perils (unprofessionalism). And “Ultrasociety” does sometimes feel like it could have used one more editorial pass than it got. Turchin has, to put it mildly, a lively, brainstormy mind, and the effort of pulling his thoughts together sometimes shows. Also, the book’s tone wobbles, uncertainly if likably, between the very sophisticated and the hyper-accessible. But I’m pleased to report that in general the book features a lot more of the benefits than the deficits of the self-publishing approach. It’s great too that, as a writer, Turchin has a very amusing line in droll, rueful ’n’ soulful Russian humor.

Warmly recommended — and, as one Amazon reader-reviewer writes, “A lot to think about!”


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Naked Lady of the Week: Lauren Crist

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:


What quality of Lauren’s is most appealing, her fairy-like litheness, or the smidge of peasanty inelegance that graces some of her features, like her nose or chin?

I don’t want to judge either quality in isolation.

She’s Czech. That’s all I know about her.

Her nipples when hardened are quite impressive.

Nudity below. Enjoy the weekend.

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Quote Du Jour

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

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Pope Brody Issues an Encyclical

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

Like the Pope issuing a bull, New Yorker film critic Richard Brody has declared Louis CK’s I LOVE YOU, DADDY to be a “disgusting movie that should never have been acquired for distribution in the first place.” I’ll skip the plot summary and head straight to his conclusions:

What Louis C.K. never does, in “I Love You, Daddy,” is consider in any practical or emotional detail the reasons why the relationship between a seventeen-year-old woman who hasn’t filled out a single college application and a sixty-eight-year-old man of wealth and accomplishment might be inadvisable—why the difference between them is more than a number. For instance, there’s no reckoning with differences in experience or in power—because the movie takes pains to put China and Leslie on equal footing. What goes on between China and Leslie is depicted as no prurient romp (it’s never actually clear whether their relationship is sexual). Rather, the movie makes it look as if Leslie is offering China a blend of Black Mountain College and Fitzgerald’s Riviera. Leslie takes China to Paris on his private jet, which is filled with his entourage of stylish young bohemians lounging cheerfully and playing music. The merry troupe also surrounds Leslie at a Paris banquet where he holds court, and keeps him company on his yacht, where China conspicuously cuddles with a young British playboy—while Leslie sits in the background, watches them, and types away on a classic Olivetti Lettera 32 portable typewriter. China’s trip with Leslie and his retinue is her education, an education greater than college, and it’s also his artistic inspiration.

I wasn’t aware it was a movie’s job to consider in any practical or emotional detail the reasons why the relationship between a seventeen-year-old woman and a sixty-eight-year-old man of wealth and accomplishment might be inadvisable. Wouldn’t such practical and emotional details be readily apparent to any halfway thinking adult watching the movie? But perhaps Mr. Brody is worried that the average audience member will not have his remarkable mental powers and thus, unlike him, will need all the practical and emotional details spelled out so he really understands why such a relationship is inadvisable.

That’s the over-all idea—and the doctrine that Louis C.K. puts in his male characters’ mouths and justifies as “feminism.” Whether in Glen’s lecture to China, in which he defines feminism for her as “independence,” or in Leslie’s lecture to China, in which he argues that feminism is about opposing a patriarchy that is hardly more oppressive than a matriarchy would be, Louis C.K. assumes from the start that women’s power is equal to—even superior to—that of men.

Oh good heavens, now I’m starting to understand! CK is questioning some of feminism’s fundamental assumptions. No no no, we mustn’t have that! Men are always oppressors and women are always victims. The Narrative told me so!

The result is, in effect, an act of cinematic gaslighting, an attempt to spin the tenets of modern liberal feminism into shiny objects of hypnotic paralysis. The movie declares that depredation is liberation, morality is tyranny, judgment is narrow-mindedness, shamelessness is creativity, lechery is admiration, and public complaint is private vanity. And it does so with a jocular self-deprecation that frames its screed as a personal journey through loss to self-awareness by way of a newfound respect for women’s virtues and desires—and a newfound skepticism about moral verities. (It also pushes other buttons of cavalier affront in the guise of uninhibited freedom, as in Glen’s use of the N-word early in the film.) In scene after scene, “I Love You, Daddy” depicts or evokes women making decisions—in private life or in the professional realm—that men feel constrained to accept. In short, it says that whatever authority men have isn’t really worth much, but it’s all they have and they’re entitled to it.

Until fifteen minutes ago, hip progressives never tired of declaring that depredation is liberation, morality is tyranny, judgment is narrow-mindedness, shamelessness is creativity, lechery is admiration, and public complaint is private vanity. But not anymore! Whew, hard to keep up with the dizzying page of change in modern life!

“I Love You, Daddy” does all this without any complex or self-questioning artistry; with merely functional craft, it dispenses character traits, embodies messages, underlines every intention. Though two hours long and closed-ended, it is only a simulacrum of a movie. There is no ambiguity, no ambivalence, no second level of meaning, no irony, no glimmer of self-doubt—nothing but the channelling of a revolting sense of entitlement, of rights exercised without responsibilities. Louis C.K. has, and should have, the absolute right to make this movie and show it any way he can; but no responsible distributor should ever have decided to buy the rights to the movie from him (as The Orchard did, for five million dollars) or to promote it and release it. It’s good that the release of the movie has been cancelled—but it’s lamentable that it took the outing of Louis C.K.’s actual misconduct, rather than the movie’s own demerits, to get it off the calendar.

If we were to dismiss all movies that had minimal ambiguity, ambivalence, or irony, we’d be throwing out nearly every Hollywood movie ever made. Funny how Brody slams CK’s “revolting sense of entitlement” while telling us in the next sentence that, yeah, sure, OK, I guess CK should be allowed to make and show the movie (damn you, free speech and First Amendment!), but then defines for us plebs exactly how responsible distributors should act by never promoting or releasing it.

When I was young, this kind of censorious, moralistic shaming was the M.O. of organizations like Bill Donohue’s Catholic League and the enlightened set would react with great scorn. Remember when liberals fought for the right to offend?

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Juxtaposin’: Manhatta(n)

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

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Naked Lady of the Week: Christina Lindberg

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:


It’s about time we showered NLOTW honors upon the estimable form of Christina Lindberg. Like previous NLOTW honorees Pam Grier and Edwige Fenech, the Swedish Lindberg made her name in the exploitation cinema of the 1970s. She was soft, weirdly placid, and remote — like a figure out of a fairy story. Who wouldn’t want to see her spoiled?

Her face suggests a cross of Asia Argento and Britney Spears.

Lindberg’s most famous film role is surely her starring turn in “They Call Her One Eye,” if only because Tarantino has referenced it so liberally. But I much prefer “Sex & Fury,” a Japanese “pink” picture that’s lurid, stylish, and extravagant — the perfect setting for a cool jewel like Christina.

Upon leaving show business, she took up a career in journalism.

Nudity below. Enjoy the weekend.

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It’s a New Day in America!

Fenster writes:

At a time of rancor and divisiveness it is good to remember: it’s a new day in America!

It’s always a new day in America.

America . . . it’s a new day!

President Frank Underwood

A new day in America, you’re gonna be proud again.

Donald Trump, announcing his economic agenda

It is a new day in America, and it is a time for all of us to step forward together for children, since they own the future.

Marian Wright Edelman, Children’s Defense Fund, on Obama’s election

Americans wanted hope and they got it; from the Palatino/Gotham typeface combinations, to the bright, optimistic photography—everything laddered back to the fresh, “new day in America” messaging.

Meredith Post, A Historical Perspective—The Rise of Branding in Politics, writing about Obama’s branding strategy

Whoa, it’s a new day in America, and you know why? A thing happened that is GOOD for transgender people, specifically involving their God-given right to drop the kids off at the pool in public places. For real! A federal appeals court in Virginia has ruled that banning trans people from using bathroom facilities that match their gender identities is WRONG AND BAD under Title IX.

Evan Hurst, Radical Liberal Judges Affirm Bizarre Transgender Pooping Rituals, Wonkette

It’s a New Day in America – Now What?  Ralph Egues from the National Hispanic Landscape Alliance takes a look at what the new administration in Washington means for labor in sodgrass.

Ralph Egues, Turfgrass Producers International

We’re at an eve of a brand new day in America, and it feels good being here in Chicago. All this technology, I’m being beamed to you, like in Star Wars and stuff. It’s great.

Will.i.am, quoted in Kari Coe, 8 Times Rappers Became Holograms, XXL

It’s a bright new day in America, filled with challenges and opportunities for the future. . . . Microbes are an incredible tool from an engineering perspective, as they are programmable, self-repairing, ubiquitous, exist in limitless variety, and require little upkeep. 

Jack M. Cackler, Powering the Future with Microbes, The Harvard Crimson

It’s a new day in America, and what better way to celebrate the first African-American president than with Al Pacino’s thriller 88 Minutes? What, you don’t understand why that’s appropriate? Maybe that’s because you’re racist.

The Flop House Podcast

I hope this is a new day in America, and I hope and pray the restriction to 30/100 patient limit for buprenorphine doctors is lifted immediately.

Terry Carson, quoted in Probuphine: A Game-Changer in Fighting Opioid Dependence, National Institute on Drug Abuse

Back to the study hall, men. Tomorrow is a new day in America, and many challenges remain. But always remember the motto of our great Dominican college:,  Veritas. Truth.

Father Raymond St. George, quoted in Let the Word Go Forth, Knights of Columbus, Columbia Online Edition

I believe we are on the brink of a new day in America. “God is not finished with America yet!”

Dan Cummins, Make America Godly Again

It is a new day in America. . . . When you support John Hagee Ministries, you are part of “our voice” that is taking all the gospel, to all the world, for every generation.

John Hagee, Righteous Revolution

Thirty years ago, affirmative action may have been a necessary step to open the doors of American universities and companies. It helped to correct a history of racial discrimination propagated by whites, but it’s a new day in America.

Dana White, Who Says I’m Inferior?, Heritage Foundation

It’s a new day in America and nothing seems clear except perhaps uncertainty. . . . The great need for new public works practically everywhere across the entire nation has become obvious to all.  

Sergeant Brownfield, Brownfield Listings

Why We’re Liberals brings clarity and perspective to the possibility of a new day in America.

Eric Alterman, Why We’re Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America, The Nation Institute

Fascism’s New Day in America

Rick DLoss, Socialist Currents

But what I did not expect was the level of comradery and esprit de corps and enthusiasm here in D.C. like it’s a new day. It’s a new day in America, man.

US Rep. Clay Higgins, D-La., looking forward to the Trump-Pence administration

It’s a new day in America, and it is a new day at Express.

Express Employment Professionals CEO Bob Funk announcing new benefits for its full-time corporate employees

It’s a new day in America, if an exceptionally gloomy one, and it’s a new era for Diane, who quits the firm she co-founded with plans to retire to the South of France, only to lose her life’s savings in a Madoff-like investment scheme. 

Sam Adams, on the Good Wife spin-off show The Good Fight, Slate


The sun is now rising over Nairobi. It’s time for a new day in America as well. It’s time to listen.

Pearce Godwin, Founder & President of Listen First Project

Folks, together we embark on a new day in America where we ask not what our country can do for us, but what we can do to make our country’s beef jerky great again.

Phil A. Mignon, Three Jerks: the original filet mignon beef jerky


Allah has blessed us and has helped us against those who reject faith.  Who reject hope.  Who reject change.  Who reject a dawn of a new day in America and in the world.

Imam Plemon, The Significance of Barack Obama

It’s a new day in America! Drown your sorrows (or celebrate your victory) with big-ass tires, V8 power, and a classic nameplate.

Tom McParlan, Get A Crazy Discount On A Corvette Right Now And Feel Better About America

Now it’s a new day in America and the monsters are crawling out of the shadows again.

Justin Rosario, We Should Be Extremely Worried About The Spike In Anti-Semitic Violence, The Daily Banter




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