Low and Dishonest

Fenster writes:

Fake news is mostly a matter of not covering certain things.  But it can also be a matter of indirection.


At its worst it dives right in and absolutely bathes in the warm waters of dishonesty, naked but oddly unafraid.

Here is a good example of the latter.

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Naked Lady of the Week: Polina Kadynskaya

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:


As far as I can tell Polina has two stage names: Viva and Georgia. Of the two I think Viva suits her best. She is a vivacious presence.

In looking through a bunch of her photos I was struck by how rarely she looks dirty or salacious. Gil Elvgren pin-ups have more edge than Polina.

She’s Russian, naturally. Does she look anything but Russian?

On theNUDE.eu she is currently the top-ranked model. Looks like she was also voted Newcomer of the Year for 2017.

Nudity below. Have a great weekend.

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A Not-So-Distant Mirror

Fenster writes:

Swedes are different from Norwegians and Lord knows they are both different from those crazy Finns originally from some place way far to the East.  But Danes are distinctive too.

The manner by which they have chosen to deal with the migrant issue is quite different from the Swedes, and telling in terms of cultural difference.  The Danes are trying to square a difficult circle, looking to limit the impact of cultural values they find uncongenial to their way of life.  That process requires them to actually stand for something, to define a way of life worth defending.  They can come across as harsh in limiting new arrivals and for insisting on assimilation for those already arrived.  But you can’t always beat intolerance with the same brand of tolerance that you like about your own culture.

I am sure the Danish way is no easy thing.  Coming to grips with what you wish to preserve about your own culture runs against the consensus view that universal values are bound to prevail if we just stick with them.

But there must be another level, too.  It would be one thing if a nation simply woke up one day to find many others with different cultural values had suddenly arrived unannounced in the middle of the night.  That would pose a set of challenges but at least the host nation would have not been complicit in its new predicament.

But what is it about Scandinavia–indeed all of Western Europe west of the Hajnal Line that we most associate with high trust civilizations–that seems to have invited the new values in?  What is it about those new values that appealed?  What is it about the old ways, as they were experienced, that made the new values attractive?

Again, let’s go to the videotape!

Department Q is a Danish crime mini-series–a trilogy, really, short but not so sweet. It concerns a pair of apparently mismatched detectives: your by-now clichéd world weary detective–the Dane–required by circumstances to partner with a Muslim from abroad.

One might think that since Sweden touts its virtues on immigration so loudly that you would find Muslims proudly showcased in Swedish noir more than you would find them in Danish noir.  But that is not the case.  Most Swedish crime films and mini-series simply ignore Muslims, as though they do not exist.  One way to do that is to shift the venue so that Muslims are not present, the better to find villainy among the deplorables of one’s own kind.  Here’s the description of the Swedish mini-series Saknad:

Police superintendent Maja Silver goes back to her old hometown in the Swedish Bible belt to see her daughter, when a terrible discovery paralyzes the small community.

To cut to the chase, so to speak: yes, the local pastor is the bad guy.

By contrast Department Q brings a Muslim right into a lead role.  The manner by which this is handled, though, is interesting and perhaps instructive to those of us on the other side of the ocean trying to guess at what is actually going on in Europe.

Here is a scene that gets to the nub of it.  Our Danish detective is not just world-weary in the conventional Sam Spade sense.  He is world weary in the Kierkegaardian sense as well.  He’s got that darned sickness-unto-death thing going on.

Consider this exchange in which the Muslim partner describes his faith while the Danish detective reveals his lack of it.

The Dane’s lack of faith is clearly killing him.  And though he resolutely defends his barren ways you see him circle his partner’s beliefs warily, obviously interested at some level.  He has lost God and faintly sees his partner as offering a path back.

His partner in turn is nothing but warm, sincere and non-dogmatic.

Carl, I don’t believe that I am going to Paradise, or up to meet my family when I die.  But I believe in something larger than us, and it makes me happy.

But he will have none of his partner’s bleakness.

You believe in a black hole.   That nothing means anything.  No thanks.

The Muslim partner, as it turns out, is more or less Danish–that is to say an ideal Dane who has retained the decency and values of our modern age but has found his way back somehow to belief.  He is, in effect, the Danish version of the Magical Negro in American narratives.

So one one level Department Q portrays Muslims in an intentionally naive way.  The Muslim partner is hardly threatening.  Yet Denmark would not be pushing back against Islamic values if it didn’t see them as a threat.

The message I see under the surface:

“OK, our culture has become enervated and we have turned to believers to help us reclaim belief.  But there must be some way for us to grow a spine while still holding on to the Danish ways we cherish.

We recognize now that there is a risk to accepting unlimited amounts of a harder-edged culture.  Bathwater comes with the babies.  Perhaps we should put a brake on the demand for more and deal squarely with the world that we have been complicit in making.  If we take active control of it, it is quite possible that the Muslims in our culture will not overwhelm our Danish ways, and that we can benefit from what they offer us.”

It’s not a perfect solution but the perfect is the enemy of the good.  Assimilation, despite the gauzy mythology that has developed around it, has a hard edge to it.  But is it too late for the Danes?  For Western Europe?  For the United States?


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Swedes and Norwegians

Fenster writes:

My ancestors emigrated from Sweden, close enough to the Norwegian border as to have my mother speculate that we might be part Norwegian.  She never explained the difference and so I grew up thinking the two nationalities were more or less peas in a pod, though in fact there are pronounced differences.

This was pointed out to me a while back by someone who frequents this site.  I had written about the Norwegian mini-series Occupied, remarking that there was a martial aspect to the show that I did not associate with the placid land of my ancestors.  He pointed to the different historical circumstances of the two countries, including their conflicts with one another.

You can see some of those changes playing out today, in the different ways the two countries (the people more than the elites) consider the question of mass migration.  I also watch a lot of Scandinavian mini-series and films and you can pick up some of the differences there, too.

Consider the film In Order of Disappearance.  It is a Norwegian film, directed by Hans Petter Moland.  The film concerns the troubles that fall upon Nils–a Norwegian in the film but played by the well-known Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård. 

Nils is an honorable and self-effacing man who dutifully plows the snow and keeps the roads clear in the mountains of Norway.  His son is killed after getting caught up in drug trafficking by Serbians and Nils is pitched into a new, harder way of being.   The plot, then, deals with the potential downsides of immigration, something that tends to be avoided in Nordic Noir, especially from Sweden.

Here is Moland discussing the film in the special features section of the DVD.  Note he is quite straightforward about the problem of Serbian crime and culture in Norway.  The Norwegian speaks:

What does a society do that is benign, innocent, that is completely unprepared for dealing with organized crime, and the cynicism and the harshness of someone who is so used to destroying other human beings?

And now on to Skarsgård, the Swede.

It’s a big mistake when you divide the world into good guys and bad guys because we are all  capable of the worst . . .

Glasses can be half empty or half full.

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Its High Phrases Acted Like the Music of Armies

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:


Young Cromwell in early boyhood received this Calvinist or Puritan spirit, in part no doubt from his parents, in part from the group of townsmen in Huntingdon with whom they were connected; but especially from the man whose natural place it was to give him his first training — Doctor Beard. This Beard was at the head of the Grammar School at Huntingdon; he was a Puritan Churchman, not without learning and with a reputation which extended far. He had written books upon his side of the controversy, notably one upon the common theme that the Pope was anti-Christ; he was a man engrossed in such things.

Beard’s influence upon Cromwell was strong and continuous, and Oliver’s interest in him long survived boyhood; it was apparent years after in middle life when Beard was an elderly man, and continued till his death. But there was another influence of great moment — of how great moment we know not by direct testimony but by its effect — and that was the appearance, as Cromwell was reaching puberty when the most vivid impressions are received, of what has ever since been known as the “English Bible.”

The Authorised Version was but the last of some few vernacular renderings upon the Protestant side; the rhythms of its most famous rhetoric came from a lifetime earlier; its diction was already somewhat archaic — and the more impressive — so that it established itself during the course of a very few years as a verbal inspiration and literal authority throughout all that section of Englishmen for whom it was designed. It was destined at long last — by the end of the eighteenth century — to give its colour to the whole nation. It was as the Mohammedans say of the Koran, “The Book.” Of all the cases in which the power of The Word has shown itself in the formation of societies this is perhaps the chief. Its high phrases acted like the music of armies; men drank of it and were set on fire.

Now that Book was first at work, I say, raising its earliest ferment in Oliver, just during those years when great verse or great rhythmic rhetoric most strongly seizes and stamps itself upon a mind. The new English Bible would have reached the household at Huntingdon when he was between thirteen and fourteen; he had it in his ears week by week and most probably daily, year after year, all through his early manhood. The influence was so violent that it produced in him (as in thousands of his contemporaries and scores of his social equals) that special vocabulary which seems to us grotesque but which soon became to them native. The strange names of half-savage Orientals, the metaphors drawn from the climate of Syria or the life of the desert, the characters of little highland tribes in Syria — three thousand miles away from England in distance, three thousand years in time — became in that group so thoroughly adopted that to this day men think of them as English. As for Oliver, the thing possessed him and spoke through his lips his whole life long.

Though a character is formed by thirty, though Cromwell was all this, the man on fire with the new Scripture and the man reading it in an atmosphere of Election and Conversion, yet the effect continued to develop in him. It was perhaps at its height shortly before he appears fully upon the stage, some four years before the outbreak of the Civil War, when he was nearly forty.

— Hilaire Belloc

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The Rule(s) of Three

Fenster writes:

Why do so many things come at us in threes?

Perhaps I should not put it that way.  To me it is less that the world is ordered into threes than it is that our minds may be comfortable reading three-way divisions into an otherwise messy reality.  It is tempting to think that the world tends to break out, like all Gaul, into three parts, but perhaps there may be something about our cognitive structure that prompts us to think in terms of three. Do our brains trick us into seeing three when it is not there, or is there some underlying three-ness to things?

My daughter is attending a Jesuit college in the fall.  I am not Catholic but listened with devout attention to a theology professor explain to parents at summer orientation what it means to be a Jesuit institution.  Over and over again he came to a situation or phenomenon that he placed into a three-way vessel for discussion.  It was so pronounced that I thought it was subtly intentional, and perhaps a reference of some sort to the Trinity, and I asked him a question along those lines in the Q&A.

He took the question in, paused, and then acknowledged that while he had not thought of it that way relative to the Trinity he was aware of how common it was to think in threes. Since a good deal of his talk involved the dialectics of conversation his answer was along those lines.  Perhaps, he said, there is a conventional way of thinking about something and then two other ways of thinking about it, one on each side.  He seemed to be saying that if there is a three-ness to the way we think it has to do with the give and take of conversation, as a part of learning.

I agree with that.  I wrote here that learning is a three way thing, citing the old Buddhist wisdom . . .

When I had not yet begun to study Zen thirty years ago, I thought that mountains are mountains and waters are waters. Later when I studied personally with my master, I entered realization and understood that mountains are not mountains, waters are not waters. Now that I abide in the way of no-seeking, I see as before that mountains are just mountains, waters are just waters.

. . . later recycled by Donovan into:

First there is a mountain then there is no mountain then there is.

Our Jesuit teacher at orientation reminded us that all learning is a conversation.  My idea meets another idea and out of that comes something else.   One, two, three.  A dialectic.  Thesis antithesis synthesis.

Learning is not primarily a matter of the accretion of new facts on top of the old. It’s more a process of disruption, in which a former settled view becomes unsettled, then becomes settled again in a new way. First you know you know. Then you are made unstable by knowing that what you know may not be true. Then you once again know you know. That’s called learning–the disruptive accretion of falsehoods providing useful new perspectives.

So there is some truth to education being a three way thing as it involves conversation and disruption.  But is that it? I wonder if it isn’t more than that.

Consider the wide range of things that are captured in threes.  Consider as well the resemblances between three-way groupings of different phenomenon.

You can start with Freud’s division of mind into ego, superego and id.  This conception is no longer considered scientifically justified.  But there is something going on with it.  What?  Why is it compelling to think of ourselves as embodying energies related to will and passion, then reflection and conscience, then identity and action?

In the 1930s the political scientist Harold Laswell remarked that Freudian conceptions of ego, superego, and id coincide quite well with the three branches of government proposed by the framers (executive, judicial, and legislative, respectively). It is as though Madison recognized that humans are composed of warring impulses, that human institutions reflect human imperfections and that each impulse ought to be separately named and housed in order to maximize the chances of healthy governance.

I wrote an academic paper once on the field of what is called public service motivation.  This area of inquiry involves defining and measuring the reasons people are motivated to enter public service.  A key methodological distinction accepted by many in the field is itself a three-way thing.  People might be motivated toward public service for rational reasons, norm-based reasons or affective reasons.   Rational (I reason my way to my goal) maps to ego and executive.  Norm-based (I should do these things) maps to supergo and judicial.  Affective (I am driven to do these things) maps to id and legislative.

Why?  Evolutionary science Paul MacLean has posited the idea of a “triune brain”. Under this view, the brain can be functionally divided into “a part related to habits and instinctive behavior, a part related to emotional and social behavior, and a part related to higher cognitive and semantic processing” with each part having developed through the evolution of the species.

There are many other “rule of three” candidates for mapping, such as Aristotle’s three types of argument.  Ethos, or appeal to ethics, maps to norm-based.  Pagos, or appeal to emotions, maps to affective.  Logos, or appeal to logic, maps to rational.

To say nothing of the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow and the Three Stooges.

Or just consider BC’s motto:

Be Attentive

Be Reflective

Be Loving


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The Dog that Didn’t Bark, con’t.

Fenster writes:

Being able to spot a fake news story is a valuable skill but truly “fake” news is a somewhat overblown issue.  Media literacy nowadays is at least as much a matter of what Sherlock Holmes termed “the dog that didn’t bark.”  Holmes solved The Adventure of Silver Blaze but noting that a dog ought to have barked if the racehorse was removed from its stable by an unfamiliar intruder, and the fact that it did not revealed the guilty party. The corollary to dogs not barking where the press is concerned is the decision not to cover things.  We see that a lot.  I think it is revealing in and of itself.

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