Cults and Context

(In which Happycrow shoots his mouth off and once again cements his place as the least popular man in America)

“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” – Friedrich August von Hayek

Traditional religiosity with its good and its ill is fading, and in its place spreads not rationality, but a thousand superstitious cults based on willful ignorance and the desire to find enemies.

We live in an era that embraces ignorance for the momentary advantage it gives in allowing its various partisans to devalue and dehumanize anybody who happens to belong to a different cult.

And the problem with dealing with cults is that cults survive solely upon jargon, and use it as their yardstick for identifying who’s in the cult, and who is an enemy to be sacrificed upon the altar of (self-)righteousness.

The cults have dominated the globe and scarred it for almost a hundred and fifty years.

1.  Marx spent years investigating labor conditions, writing romantic, idealized screeds regarding the travails of the working class and the follies of capitalism.

But in all his volumes of writing which we now call “Marxist economics,” it apparently never occurred to him that he needed to learn economics, or even what capitalism is and is not. His description of capitalism is a bad caricature of violence-backed corporatism. His “labor theory of value” is so obviously wrong that it can be debunked by any five-year-old with a preference for the really good dessert, rather than the one which merely took a long time to make. The lovingly hand-built Atari 2800 in a hobbyist’s garage won’t be out-pricing modern game consoles built on an assembly line anytime soon.

But for Marx’s cult, that simply meant that the entire world was wrong and needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. “Rebuilding” made a great tool for tyrants, madmen, and totalitarian thugs to erase a hundred million human victims from the earth.

2.  The next chapter was Keynesian “Economics.” Keynes’ theory of “animal spirits” or “consumer-sentiment-driven-demand” is just as woefully inadequate as Marx’s labor theory of value. In this case, the mistake was even simpler. Keynes, not being an economist, did not understand that “desire” and “demand” have different economic meanings. “Demand” does not mean that I would like to have something — it means that I am actively in the market to buy something and have enough money to purchase what I want to get.

That’s why supply-and-demand curves are never going away. No matter how rosy I feel about my economic outlook, if I can’t puchase a luxury car, the makers of that car had better not be over-producing on the assumption that I can.

His cultists live on today in the Federal Reserve, which is shocked that Americans have trouble saving, after having explicitly engaged in behavior known to repress saving. Now they are trying to sell the public on the idea that money is complicated, hard to understand, and can only exist with the strong and steady hand of government.

(Wrong. Money is the simplest thing there is, and arises without any central authority at all. Money is simply some item whose value lies primarily in the fact that people are willing to exchange it for other items. Gold. Salt. Cattle. Gummi-Bears. My Little Pony stickers.)

The public prefers to save for the future, both for emergencies and possible good things. So for the Keynesian cultists in the central banks, this simply means that the entire world is wrong, and the world must be FORCED to buy and to invest rather than to save.

Who knows what the late-21st-century version of The Cult Games will be? Probably something to do with coffee and lolcats.

124bspbysskhyg

Not exactly what DARPAnet was expecting its users to care about.

3.  The contemporary version of this is feminism’s slow movement from an egalitarian movement to a “Marxism of Gender.”

Originally, feminism stood for something very basic: equal rights and duties for men and women. The founding charter of the National Organization of Women? Strictly egalitarian and holding both men and women in high esteem. It has nothing to do with feminism today.

“NOTICE: This is a historic document, which was adopted at NOW’s first National Conference in Washington, D.C. on October 29, 1966. The words are those of the 1960s, and do not reflect current language or NOW’s current priorities.”

Yeah.  No kidding.

That lasted all of three years before being almost completely co-opted by Marxist hate-groups (the Redstockings were “Red” on purpose, and without irony), continuing the Marxist cult of class struggle. No longer an issue of creating equality between men and women, in all their individual glories, it instead insisted on the struggle between classes of imaginary “category-people.” God help the feminist who dares to deviate from whatever the current promulgated ideology — she will be erased from history as surely as the losing side from an Egyptian temple.

Which is a pity. Because Germaine Green, Julie Bindel, and others have had an awful lot of very important things to say over the years.  When you “no platform” somebody because they disagree with you, you are acting like a cultist who is horrified at the existence of a heretic.

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster…when you gaze long into the abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” – Friedrich Nietzche

Many of them are busy screaming at ghosts, believing the world to truly be an appalling and hopeless place because it fails to conform to their make-believe.

And its next chapter, the ongoing slog over Judith Butler and the alarmingly common-sensical notion that “Gender is performative.”  This is obviously true and readily-observable over time:  In the ancient Levant, masculinity meant collecting as many wives and having as many kids as possible.  In ancient Greece, being masculine generally meant being a pederast: having sex with little boys for fun, but with women for children. In 1950, being masculine generally meant that if you caught some bastard having sex with a little boy and beat him to death in order to stop that, your prison sentence was likely to be “time served” and the heart-felt thanks of the kid’s parents.

But like Marx, who wanted to opine about work without ever having had a job, or Keynes, who wanted to opine about economics without learning what “demand” means, today’s cultists want to take this common-sense, historically obvious concept without any understanding of either social or individual context and instead try to define “performative” as socially determined, rather than happening within a social context. And the left and right wings are equally guilty.

“Socially determined” implies socially directed.  Predictably, this means a lot of cultists telling everybody else how they should be “performing” their lives.

Cue “the Patriarchy.” It’s just as much cultist cant as the Labor Theory of Value or Keynes’ “Animal Spirits.” It’s certainly not the dictionary definition of Patriarchy.  To wit, does anybody think that Joe Six Pack’s testicles give him greater social and political power than Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, or, if you want real socio-economic firepower, Christine Lagarde?

IMF executive director Lagarde attends a news conference after a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels

My words determine the fates of nations.

Rather, it’s become a shorthand for “sexual business as usual,” and the tragedy is that as a short-hand, it devalues the idea that there are very good reasons for differences in those sexual and gender performances, including many that drive the cultists, right-wing, left-wing, and otherwise, NUTS.

“The Patriarchy” works for an awful lot of women, many of whom are continuing to have kids and pass their sexual and gender preferences to the future. There are an awful lot of women who do, in fact, like it when men check them out in passing. There are a lot of women for whom “sexy” is fundamentally reassuring, rather than oppressive.

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And Andrea Dworkin wept.

There are a lot of women who LIKE pink sexy, pink, and sexy-in-pink. And there are a lot of women who like to show off their bodies to hugely-appreciative audiences.

In contemporary pop-culture terms, there are a lot of women out there who would far rather spend two nights with Tony Stark than a month with Captain America or the rest of their lives with Hawkeye. And others who wouldn’t settle for anything less than Hawkeye The Total Family-Man.

And there are a lot of folks who are not at all offended by dudes showing off, either.

sexy-firemen-picture

Happycrow’s waifu will scrutinize this image closely. For research purposes.

But for some men and women, this is their vision of hell. “Business as usual” doesn’t work for them.

We’re biological machines. This holds true whether you’re steeped in the Marxist doctine of abstract collectivist group humanity concerned about “toxic masculinity,” or the most Bible-thumpy of all right-wing Bible-thumpers for whom “be fruitful and multiply” is a MANDATE for permanent baby-bumps on Mama and “don’t dare dream of working less than sixty hours to support that family” for Papa.

This isn’t what NOW was thinking of in 1966.  When did “different strokes for different folks” become heresy?

And as I’ve said elsewhere, we have to come up with ways to “solve for human heterogeneity.” It’s not going to be easy.  There are very good reasons for that heterogeneity. Each has advantages in different contexts. A wildly libidinous pro-sex person is more likely to reproduce successfully. Also more likely to transmit one or more horrifying social diseases. The asexual, less likely to do either. The future belongs to those who show up: “lots of kids” usually rules, but sometimes “one kid, reluctantly, but no disease” may totally be the winning formula.

The notion that “performative” means “individually mutable for the greater good” (as defined by either left or right) is, like the Labor Theory of Value or The Animal Spirits Approach To Economic Demand, laughably false. Social “performance” does not mean that we can simply pick up and put down sexual personae like actors on a stage.

If it did, we could presume that the sex-positive and the asexual could swap places at will without suffering from doing so. But you’re not taking a sex-positive person who hangs out in a “play” group on Wednesdays and Thursdays with her six closest friends and their guests, and denying her any and all sex without irritating her mightily. And you’re not taking an “ace” and throwing him into said “group play” without traumatizing him.

Neither can you take somebody in the living hell of completely failing to identify with their own sexual apparatus, and tell them, as many right-wing cultists do, “hey, those are your balls, just get over it.”  Saying “you’re not standard-model, therefore you shouldn’t exist and we don’t give a shit about your troubles” is no more excusable than advocating for all the cis-hets to go die in a fire. Both are predicated upon Othering people who deserve human empathy.

If a lot of people have problems with your preferred solution, that might be a clue that you should spend less time virtue-signalling and more time looking for solutions which can work for everybody.

  1. A trans-dude should be able to use the bathroom with which said trans-dude identifies without suffering a presumption of ill will.
  2. Parents should also be able to make sure that pedophiles can’t simply pretend to be trans-dudes in order to have easy access to prey on children.

This is a thorny problem with real, actually-legitimate beefs on both sides.  If your reaction to those two points above is to simply write one off as bullshit, you’re part of the problem.

And if, when you make arguments on these issues and the public response is scorn, incredulity, and guffaws, you’re either a genius ahead of your time…

“Wegener’s hypothesis in general is of the foot-loose type, in that it takes considerable liberty with our globe, and is less bound by restrictions or tied down by awkward, ugly facts than most of its rival theories. Its appeal seems to lie in the fact that it plays a game in which there are few restrictive rules and no sharply drawn line of conduct.” — RT Chamberlain

“Utter damned rot!” –WB Scott

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Oops.

….or perhaps you need to spend less time “virtue signalling” and more time trying to understand what it is people don’t like about what you’re saying, and why, so that you can actually improve your arguments. Stop acting like a Cult member arguing from identity. Your efforts are meaningless posturing unless they can convince people who disagree with your position that you have legitimate issues to address.

We should be looking for solutions that work for everybody. And when we get to “everybody,” that means ALL THE INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE, not “enable the categories of people I like, and to hell with all the rest of those bastards.”

Because only a cult sacrifices real people to appease imaginary category-people.  And if your take on the world is “I’m one of the Virtuous Few, and the World is Filthy and Wrong,” well, I don’t want to be dogmatic…but I’d recommend a combination of curiosity and decaf.

Brass Frog 2016 Video and Photo Links

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECdHZsVDI1aW8tUGc

I’m not all that media-savvy, so the only way I know how to handle all these files I’ve uploaded to my google drive is via links in a blog post. I can’t seem to get them to embed. Anybody who’s media-savvy is welcome to put these in more user-friendly form.

But if you competed at Brass Frog, I’m pretty sure I got you in stills or video.

Great Stick:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECZmlNcWNNcXA2c1E

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https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECQlFHRmI0cVpVc0E
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECcW1DeDJFVDFqTTg
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECRWU1eG5CbHJseUE
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECcm12OGNKN3UxTnc
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECTUVtdlpEUlJwbGM

Cudgel:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECMGZvX2oyeFM4MVU
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECT2hka29LMHEyY0U
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECTEVUVDJKaW0yWTQ
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECanYydGZXQmxfMms
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECZHFxRWxvenBzMVE
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECcDY4MFlGN09CWEE
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECT0o3WTNGbnJMaEU
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECNVhPVlJfX2hhTk0
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECVDlmblUxVV9kQjg
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECQ0p4VkVPZFRLWk0
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECb195ZjExc1hrMGM
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECcFpXbFpUYnRMVW8
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECbXBsR0NpSlR1UmM

Assorted Stills:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECOUxlaDRpbGwtVTA
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECVVZUQWJTQWgxaDA
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECNFZITXNGVFVHeFk
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECM0FaYzB0Q2t3RHc
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECY0dULWZVSGVBUDQ
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECd09Mdmktb3Zta2c
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECeXJmYTRsUHFPZjQ
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECcWFkUlpZR3hCNVk
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECb1h1ZmZydTZGZUk
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECcWxVQ3p1MDVuUTg
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECOXVxMGtFbndiekU
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECRk5HMFh2WFRVcGc
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECQlZ6OWI2Z2NEN28
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECWlFoR3QtRThSOFU
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECOEtaZXozcDNuWkU
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECVWEyTXJGYTk3OW8
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECdncyZUxCd1BTWWs
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECUDhiMUZiQ0NaV2M
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECNlE1MFZsWm1hUmc
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECMmN2RFFvUnpweG8
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECNzAyRF9RV0xfRWM
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzMYjPfUwbECQmRJcDZ0Z2VOaVk

How to Love Dipshits

It’s the Silly Season in America again, when the Wars of the Tribes grows most fierce and racism shows its unrepentantly ugly head.

No love is lost between the race of Blue People and the race of Red People.

During the Quiet Seasons, if you asked somebody “what do you think about Public Figure X,” the answer would, for most normal, sane people who are mere conscripts in the Wars of the Tribes, be “I have no idea. Tell me about Public Figure X and what he or she is doing or saying.  Also, is it worthy my time and energy to actually care about Public Figure X?”

During the Silly Season, all that is suspended.  During the Silly Season, the conscripts have a simple response:  “Public Figure X is the Other and I will believe anything I am told about this person by my alpha pack members.  To do otherwise is unthinkable and will result in my expulsion from the tribe.”

The Great Red Tribe and The Great Blue Tribe are not the only tribes, of course.  But their sickness infects everything. It infects things which it shouldn’t, which have nothing to do with Public Figures At All.

—-

Everything you just read is a lie.

The Great Red Tribe and The Great Blue Tribe are, actually, quite small.  Oh, their influence is just as vast as one suspects.  That’s not the lie.  The lie is what the Tribe Members say to the Conscripts.  They say “you are part of the Great Belonging that is the Good Tribe, and We Must Come Together To Stop The Bad Tribe.”

The conscripts aren’t members of the tribe.  They do not gain the spoils of tribal victory, nor suffer the loss of their castles during tribal defeat.  They are, in fact, not a part of the daily life of the Tribes at all.  Only during Silly Seasons do the actual Members of the Tribes pay attention to the conscripts at all, in the great war of “we push harder with more conscripts.”

It’s a new invention for the Tribes.  They used to ignore the conscripts completely, and laugh about the idea that they should take part in The Life of The Tribes.  But the world changed and the conscripts were allowed to see the Tribal Life, and to take part in it.  Few did.  Most simply assembled when whistled for, every few years. The Members of the Tribes do not identify with the Conscripts — they do, in fact, self-identify as Other Than Conscripts, at all times.

Except the Silly Season.

The Conscripts are aware of the situation.  They are also aware of the flu.  Sadly, awareness of the flu does not equate to immunity to the flu.

I, personally, have a variation on the flu. It is called Clinton Derangement Syndrome.  Rather than simply looking at the Clintons and saying to myself “wow, that’s ironic: they do more damage to their own Blue Tribe than the Red Tribe does,” and then moving on in life, I have a shocking ability to actually care about what wretched pieces of scum I believe the Clintons and their allies to be.

I shouldn’t.  I have a life, and they are not part of it.  But memes are a form of meta-life, and they are highly, highly contagious.

I don’t hate sick people.

I am inoculated against some memes, because I have the Pythagorean Theorem.  I am inoculated against others, because I have Bastiat and a comprehension of emergent orders.  But I have no defense against others.  And neither do my fellow conscripts.  I’m infected, and, it turns out, a plague-carrier.

That I am inoculated against “bad economic ideas” does not mean that I am inoculated against any other variety of bad narratives.  I am, in fact, riddled with infectious and self-destructive narratives, such as “if my child doesn’t finish everything on her plate, I must finish it off rather than wasting food, even if said behavior is directly responsible for keeping me fat.”

No amount of sitting quietly in a corner will allow us to observe every narrative which infects us.  The Five Flavors Dull The Palate.

We need better narratives.

We learn things over time.  Collectively, and individually, and gradually, we learn lessons. How to crawl. How to walk.

Other things need to be learned.  I’m working on one called “how to be a valiant Conscript without being infected by The Madness of the Tribes and its Hatreds.”

It’s not easy. Every Tribal Meme on Facebook was originated by some Member of the Tribe thinking “lets go infect some Conscripts.”  It works.  I’m sick, shot through with memes that have nothing to do with me, and everything to do with The Wars of The Tribes.

It’s hard to love your enemy.

But it’s hard to hate somebody just because they’re infected.

Girls (and half-orcs) just wanna have fun

wearealivelg2

The Good Life

Insta photo editor1440206724945

Renders by the wifey.

whatswrongwithyoulg

emarmorcrop

Sabre: Remedial Cutting and Moulinets

Students with any kind of athletic background will find performing the basic cuts to be easy.  The problem for them is not that the cuts are difficult, but that they will be perceived as too boring to practice.  These students will believe that they have mastered basic cutting when they have not.

An alternate problem happens when a student has no athleticism upon which to draw.  Some students will not have engaged in “watch a movement mimic a movement” behavior since they learned to mimic their parents’ gaits as small children.  It is very important that these students not be left behind while other students are being held back until they can actually perform the cuts that they think they are performing.

This challenge should not be under-estimated: many individuals go through life not actually knowing where their bodies are in space.  If introduced to the joy of elegant movement, these students will often turn out to enjoy practice immensely, and to practice more diligently than their supposedly more-gifted peers.

Here is an alternate method for teaching the basic cuts and moulinets.

  1. The fencer holds the sabre forward, with the point high and to the right. The student then makes Cut 1. The instructor takes care to make sure that the cut is perfectly linear and does not wobble.
  2. Once the blade reaches the end of the cut, the blade should be pointing down and to the left. The student flips the blade over, and makes Cut 4, bringing it back to the original position. The instructor coaches the student to keep the cut purely linear, retracing the line of Cut 1.

The process is inverted for Cuts 2 and 3.

Though the classic targets of Cut 3 and Cut 4 are to the inner thigh, in this case, the student is made to perform the cuts at a higher angle so that he learns how to recognize the location of his limbs in space, and how to regulate his movements.  Usually the student will need to look at a target, thinking of bringing Cut 1 down into the joint of the neck and shoulder, and out of the ribs under the armpit, and vice versa for Cut 4.

Once the student has a reasonably-firm grasp of how to regulate his arm’s movement in space, keeping his cuts on the proper angle, you can introduce moulinets.  At this point the student is very likely to be frustrated because this cutting method fights the weight of the sabre, rather than using it to advantage. This is especially a problem for students who have never been graceful or physically powerful who are likely to wear out quickly.

We teach remedial moulinets as follows:

  1. Have the student start with the sabre forward, and make Cut 1. The student then proceeds to make Cut 2, repositioning the blade in order to be certain the angle is right.
  2. The instructor has the student make Cut 1 again.
  3. The instructor, standing closely behind the student, then physically assists the student in making a moulinet from Cut 1 to Cut 1, taking care to help the student feel the power generated by the moulinet.
  4. The instructor helps the student moulinet Cut 1 and Cut 2 while another student parries, making sure that the student can feel the cuts change from somewhat-awkward “line movement” to feeling more like hammer blows.

The moulinet is introduced to this student not as a way of transitioning between angles of attack, but as a way of gaining power in order to make an attack. This will allow even the smallest, weakest, and clumsiest of students to throw powerful cuts within a session or two.  The instructor physically assists the student in making these cuts so that the student can get a “body memory” of what the correct motion feels like.

Once the student has reached the stage where the basics of the cut can be performed, he or she can join the other students in practicing cut angles and blade alignment.

Common recurring problems and simple solutions: it is helpful to have raw materials for same handy.

Problem: Solution:
Student cannot distinguish edge from flat Provide student with wide cardboard sword/sabre to improve tactile awareness of edge alignment.
Student cuts a low horizontal and then up rather than making a rising diagonal cut Student has allowed cutting-hand hip to drift forward out of a correct On Guard position, affecting motion of lead shoulder.
Student shortens the cut, tightening the bicep Tie fabric gently around the elbow, providing the student tactile feedback.

Sabre: Counter-cutting

Once your opponent has come to close quarters and both of you are attempting to gain advantage over the other, it is very common for beginning fencers to lapse into a pattern of “take an action, return to guard, take an action, return to guard.”  This “act then reset then act” pattern is unavoidable when one is first learning how to put the various pieces of fencing together, but it’s hugely counterproductive when actually fencing. We want to take an action, and then continue taking action until we win the encounter.

A solution to this is counter-cutting, using attack as offense. We counter-cut specifically because many times our opponent will launch an attack when we are not on guard, and our blade is positioned somewhere else.    The point to counter-cutting isn’t simply not to get hit – we do not counter-cut simply to ward off the opponent’s blade!  Instead, just like our basic parries, our counter-cuts are intended help us achieve a point of advantage.

Counter-cutting achieves one of two things:

  1. Stopping the attack by striking the opponent
  2. Redirecting the opponent’s attack so that the attacker is left vulnerable

Here are various examples of ways which we can counter-cut:

Opponent: Fencer:
Cuts 1 Cuts 1 at opponent’s hand
Cuts 2 Cuts 2 at opponent’s forearm
Cuts 3 Cuts 2 at opponent’s wrist
Cuts 4 Cuts 4 at opponent’s wrist
Cuts 1 Cuts 2 and thrusts
Cuts 2 Cuts 1 and thrusts
Cuts 3 Cuts 4 and thrusts
Cuts 4 Cuts 3 and thrusts

And so on.  This is by no means exhaustive – for a fully-developed list of examples, see the synoptic tables at the end of the manual.

In the first examples, we are not simply standing still while attempting to cut the opponent. We are moving our body so that we redefine the geometry of the engagement (just like we do with basic parries), while cutting in such a way that even if we do not stop the blow outright, we deflect it onto an angle where it will not hurt us.

In the second four examples, we use the curve of the sabre to our advantage by cutting into the side of the opponent’s blade and pushing it past us.  To finish the action by thrusting into the opponent, all we need to do is return to On Guard, and the fighting geometry places the thrust for us.

What our system will never do is to assume that a counter-cut will stop the opponent.  For instance, our method explicitly defends the legs, whereas most systems either ignore the legs, or treat it as an invitation, “refusing the leg” by stepping backwards while striking at the opponent’s head.  This is fine for a sporting bout where the action is stopped on a hit. But what if the blow does not stop the opponent?  What if it misses, or the blow simply lands flat out of sheer bad luck?  What if fighting has dulled our blade, or his hat stops the blow?  Numerous historical cases exist where an opponent was struck several times in the head without being stopped.  In this case, nothing stops the opponent from simply continuing his attack with a thrust into our torso.  By actively protecting the leg, we ensure that this doesn’t happen.

Sabre: Basic Defenses against Attack

Nota Bene: experienced fencers will see many holes in what is presented here. This is unavoidable – the following blog post is for the benefit of neophyte students at Great Plains Sword and BBQ who are still learning what a cut is (that is not a joke) and how to perform a basic block correctly.

Cuts are always numbered from the point of view of the person making the cut, not the point of view of the defender.

For the most basic exercise, we consider attacks like this:

  1. Descending forehand cut (to upper-body target)
  2. Descending backhand cut (to upper-body target)
  3. Rising forehand cut (to lower-body target)
  4. Rising backhand cut (to lower-body target)

The system considers “horizontal” cuts ( those which are neither rising nor falling) to be crude attacks which are easily defended against, and will be treated as a forehand or backhand blow more or less depending on the height at which the blow is thrown.  Thus, a high horizontal forehand cut will be considered semantically equal to a Cut 1.  (Note that this assumes similar “handedness.” A right-hander fencing a left-hander must treat forehand as backhand, and vice versa)

The system not having its origins in English, it does not distinguish between “blocks” and “parries,” though for convenience I will usually refer to a “block” collectively as defenses which stops the blade, whereas the word “parry” will not carry connotations of either “hardness” or “softness.” The word in this context is simply synonymous with “defense.”

Basic Defenses

Attack Defense
Cut 1 Parry 1
Cut 2 Parry 2
Cut 3 Parry 3
Cut 4 Parry 4

There are numerous subtleties to making the blocks which need to be explained:

  1. The body turns, typically no more than a maximum of thirty degrees from the centerline, in order to get the blade lined up with the angle of the attack.
  2. The hand turns the blade to create a 90 degree angle between the incoming blade and the parrying blade, while the arm rises or falls as needed to create contact. (Against a horizontal cut, the defender will not bother to ensure a 90-degree cut, because the attack angle does not require it – in this case the defender will simply ensure that the defense locks the incoming cut to the outside where it cannot be readily converted into either a thrust or a continued cut on a different angle).
  3. The blade is held in the center of the body, and the arm never drifts left or right of the defender’s center line in order to block or parry. For parries 1 and 2 the point is up, for parries 3 and 4 the point is down. In parries 1 and 2 the forward point of the blade forms a ramp which deflects incoming blades.
  4. The shock of the incoming blow is received on the blade and absorbed by the weight of the body, rather than using grip or shoulder strength to keep the parrying blade stable on impact.

Parries such as this are used in order to help the defender dictate a fighting geometry where the location of the opponent’s weapon is known. By doing this, the defender does two very important things:

  1. Removes the “guessing-game”
  2. Establishes superior positioning so that a riposte is always successful

The basic riposte will usually be whatever cut, thrust, or other action is required in order to return to guard, with the fighting geometry altered so that doing so puts the weapon through the opponent. There are edge cases.  What if the blow is thrown at the midsection?  In this case, we parry depending on the origin and angle of the cut.  For the “Basic Model” here, most rising cuts will still be met with parries 3 and 4, and most descending cuts will still be met with parries 1 and 2.

This is the first, base level that a student of the sabre should master.  This is not sophisticated fencing. That said, if the student is able ONLY to reliably parry incoming blows while setting up favorable fight geometry, mastering this basic skill will make the fencer a credible opponent who can hold his or her own against a more experienced opponent — and have a decided advantage over a peer-level opponent who has wasted time building castles of elaborate parries and athleticism on a foundation of sand.

Let Sykes-Picot Die

I hear a lot of rhetoric from the political right looking at the Middle East saying “Iran is the problem.”

That’s horrifyingly shallow thinking.

You can’t simply say “Iran is the problem” and posit that as an argument. It’s facile and unproductive. If “Iran is the problem,” what’s the solution? Erasing Iran from the map? That’s a non-starter and should especially be a non-starter for people who are supposedly looking at the region through a lens of human rights.

(Nota Bene, political left: you guys still support the mustachio-twirling, truly evil thugs known as Hamas, so don’t start strutting too hard. Your shit stinks, too.)

Iraq and Syria survive on paper, but in everyday practical life they are both dead and gone. The Sykes-Picot treaty needs to be allowed to die formally so that the Sunni tribes currently under ISIS’ thumb have some alternative which can support their needs and interests. Currently they have none.

Let’s look at some of the facts on the ground:

Syria

  • S1. An Alawite rump state is probably guaranteed no matter what happens, due to Russian and Iranian support and the desire to avoid the unpleasant spectacle which will occur if said rump state is forced into minority status in a larger Syria without having lots of guns (i.e., lots of Sunni extremists murdering lots of moderate Alawites).
  • S2. Given the opportunity, Al Nusra will behave very badly. If ISIS’ Evil Quotient is roughly one Mega-Nazi, then Al Nusra is definitely in the 600-700 kilonazi range. They probably won’t shoot little children in the head for needing to eat during Ramadan, like ISIS does… probably.
  • S3. The Druze don’t want to be run by sunni tribes, but they’ll back the strong horse, because that’s how they survive. They may or may not be a somewhat-competent buffer state for Israel (a Saudi ally) to feel secure.
  • S4. The Syrian moderates who were legitimate pro-democracy protestors are dead and gone as viable actors. We had our chance to give these people meaningful support.  We blew it, nobody credible considers them resurrectable, let alone a player.

Iraq:

  • I1. The Kurds don’t want to be run by anybody but themselves, but they’re going slowly so as not to get Turkey and Iran both upset. With their long border, they potentially make an admirable buffer-state for Iran. Diplomatic exchanges are happening, albeit slowly and painfully.
  • I2. The Sunni tribes are under ISIS’ thumb, aided and abetted by Erdogan’s hilariously brazen support for ISIS. Turkey can’t create a Sunni secession movement because of their fear of the Kurds…currently. They could in theory go along with supporting something which allowed S-P to go away so long as it guaranteed Turkish territorial integrity. Currently, said Sunni tribes have nobody to go to and nobody to support them.
  • I3. The Saudis aren’t our friends any more than the IRGC is (c.f. S2 above), and engage in just as much anti-Shia murder as the Iranians do in reverse. (Arguably the Saudis are actually America’s biggest geopolitical foe, more dangerous than Russia, Iran, and China combined, but that’s an argument for another post).  They will, however, back the formation of a Novo Syria so long as they had some ability to shape affairs, and would likely agree to arm them as well.
  • I4. The Iraqi Shia have well-established and entirely legitimate reasons both to fear Saudi influence and oppose any return of the Sunnis to political power, and it is entirely legitimate for them to perceive themselves in the victim role to consider Iran by far the lesser of the various evils with which they have to deal. Some of the militias are extremist sectarian groups, but they came into existence for very good reason.
  • I5. South-Central Iraq is still fundamentally a tribal society in which power will go to clan and sectarian interests rather than be distributed based on anything recognizable as a classical liberal state in Western terms.  This is also true in Kurdistan, but to a lesser extent.
  • I6. It is very expensive for the IRGC to continue fighting ISIS, and lots of Iranians are fed up with money being spent to support foreign-policy ventures when the economy at home is in pretty dire straits (some but by no means all of which can be attributed to international sanctions).  Iranians are, however, deeply upset about Sunni terrorists constantly blowing up Shia mosques and bombing Shia civilians — and they are right to be. American conservatives who lash out at Iran for supporting terrorism while turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s support for sectarian mass-murder are on the wrong side of history and behaving like world-class hypocrites.

Given this, the only humane solution which makes any sense is to let Sykes-Picot go away, and to create a state which gives the various Sunni tribes in present-day Syria and Iraq some option other than getting run over and slowly tortured to death by ISIS.  Convincing Iran that it is in their best interests to allow this, and convincing the Saudis to stop aiding and abetting the mass-murder of Shia, is thorny and difficult. There are questions that would have to be considered carefully by all the local political actors in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iran.

But peace without some state to create security and local representation is impossible.  It’s the Thirty Years’ War all over again, ending only when all sides are so exhausted that even the Russians no longer have any Dagestani salafists to sling into the fight.

With a new state, security and peace, no matter how difficult, is possible.

Now if only we had some actual diplomats skilled in “the art of the possible.”

How to Moulinet with the Sabre

So we’ve seen in class that in this lineage, we cut on an X pattern, targeting the base of the neck, the flank, and the inner thigh.

Cuts 1 and 2 are falling cuts. Cuts 3 and 4 are rising cuts. Odd numbered cuts are always fore-hand cuts, and even cuts are always backhand cuts. We practice lateral cuts forehand and backhand during warm-ups, but we don’t make extensive use of them in solo drills. The basic practice, then, is to begin to combine them in ways which are efficient and elegant.

Elegant: a movement is “elegant” when it produces the greatest possible motion for the least possible strain. Whether an elegant motion is restrained and delicate, or bone-crushingly powerful, it feels effortless. Strain or “muscling” is always a sign of bad technique or improper practice.

How does one elegantly cut 1,2: 1,2: 1,2 over and over? We make this happen by making Cut 1, and then inserting a “connector” movement. This connector-piece, in combination with the originating and following cut, is traditionally called a moulinet or molinello.  We will break this down into discrete parts, rather than relying on “hope” for you to magically possess enough body awareness that you do it correctly by accident, and then recognize that accidental victory as correct.

Most students get told to do many, many repetitions of their cuts and moulinets, but without being told explicitly what it is they are supposed to be repeating.  And then we, as instructors, have the gall to actually be surprised when students stop practicing because it’s harder than it needs to be and the perceived cost/benefit ratio of training goes pear-shaped for the now hopelessly-frustrated student who has just picked up a repetitive strain injury “efforting” like mad in order to try to learn.

And then we blame the student, rather than ourselves for having provided shit-quality instruction.

The Stupid, It Burns

It’s also tragic, because one of the truly glorious things about the system which we’ve inherited is that unlike other systems of fencing, every single advanced technique we use can be expressed as a variation on our basic cutting practice and moulinets. The only difference between those who develop great skill in this lineage, and those who don’t is a willingness to perform these drills while exploring what the movements are and how they can be turned into applied geometry while fencing. I have not been back to Hungary in ten years, but on my last visit I routinely out-fenced students with far greater athleticism, and I did so precisely because I paid very close attention to the basic drills of the lineage rather than cranking them out mechanically and then “looking for the sexy stuff.”  Csaba was already teaching us the sexy stuff — most of us just hadn’t realized it for lack of mindfulness when practicing.

Most students instinctively know how to cut 3,4: 3,4: 3,4. The turn of the blade required from forehand rising cut to backhand rising cut is immediately intuitive because the elbow drops at the end of the cut, and we like living in gravity where dropping our elbows isn’t actually work.

Students regularly have trouble with the “connector-piece” transitional movement of 1 and 2, however.

  1. To moulinet from cut 1 to cut 2, you do the following:
    Make Cut 1.
  2. Flip the blade over so that instead of having the cutting edge leading the motion, the blade is now reversed, and the point is furthest from the body. When this is done, you should feel the movement in your shoulder, and you should feel the muscles and skin in your arm move as the forearm bones flip over. You should not, however, feel strain in your shoulder, or feel your elbow “jump” upwards. If this happen, your shoulders and arms are too tight, and you need to pay extra attention to your limbering-up exercises.
  3. Your elbow is now in a low position, and depending on your body shape and the precise angle of the cut, it should be somewhere vaguely as high as your navel or lower stomach. Raise the elbow until it is higher than your head. As your elbow came up, your hand went along for the ride, too, and your weapon is now raised from its previously lowered position.
  4. Allow the point to fall behind the plane of your shoulder as your elbow lifts.
  5. Make Cut 2.

The process for transitioning from Cut 2 to Cut 1 is precisely the same. Some notes:

All blade movements come from the torso and shoulders, and the many large muscles surrounding the shoulders.
Remember, beginning practice requires BIG movements. Later on, you will likely not need to raise the elbow anywhere near so high while making the cut transitions — but nothing can replace having gradually molded your body so that you can do so.

  • You are holding your weapon in either your left or your right hand. Therefore, the experience of moving your weapon through the moulinet/molinello is asymmetric — you should expect this, and pay attention to this.
  • The connector-piece of the moulinet is movement.  It takes time. In fact, it takes about as much time as is required to make the cut itself. Pay attention to the timing of that — it will become very important once we actually practice cutting and moving our feet at the same time.  You cannot speed up your cuts by taking short-cuts with the quality of this transitional movement.
  • Minor creaking and cracking in the shoulder is normal, as the joint is taken through ranges of motion that ordinarily don’t get used driving a desk. PAIN in the shoulder is not, and needs to be addressed.
  • “Work through” bruising and muscle fatigue. Never work through joint pain. We are not professional soldiers or warriors who require these skills in combat and for whom a debilitating injury in the long term is an acceptable trade-off for immediate or short-term survival.
  • Practice will convert this from a very clunky, angular set of motions, into something that is fluid, elegant, and even fun to perform. It will also improve the health of your joints while providing very mild aerobic exercise.
  • The transitional movements unlock a thousand dirty tricks, many of which your opponents will never have seen before, and against which they have no real defense so long as the rest of your techniques are performed correctly.
  • If it hurts, walk away. Do something else. Come back to it a half-hour later.
  • Ten really attentive, playful, mindful repetitions done carefully over the course of a week creates greater skill than a thousand repetitions done mechanically while resenting the need to practice, with the brain off in lala-land of “I hate this can we stop soon.”

Once you have the movement fluid, you can start to really play with this and turn it into something you own. Once you actually own it, you’ll get the ability to start doing amazing and wonderful things with a blade.  ANY blade, long, short, straight, or curved.

A render

One of my wife’s renders. She’s getting more skill.

em

Hungarian Military Sabre Calisthenics

This is very lightly altered from what I was taught by Hidan Csaba. Though the exercises seem rather fuddy-duddy and unfashionable, if one pays careful attention to them mechanically, one sees that they’re actually very intelligently designed for helping to liberate and protect the joints. If a person who is a total physical wreck were to do these twice a week, and then gradually shift to doing them daily, they will do wonders to liberate the body.

  1. Standing in (roughly a) horse stance, twist body to swing the arms behind you. As taught to me, palms are down in mid-air, and go back and forth as though zipping along the top of a table – no twisting the arms or flapping them upwards or downwards.
  2. Raise knee into air as high as comfortably manageable. With sole of foot pointing to ground (“foot flat”), rotate foot in circle clockwise 20x, counter-clockwise 20x. Repeat with other knee.
  3. Holding the arms out to the sides and held straight, circle the shoulders in clockwise, then counter-clockwise circles. This is sometimes done ten times, sometimes twenty.
  4. This is my addition, because unlike students, most older adults are cubicle-farmers and are predictably over-tight in the chest (many times, what people cite as back pain, is back pain — happening because the problem is in the chest).  Variations of it are all over the martial arts world.  Raise the hands up your center-line, and then fan them out like wings as far behind the plane of your body as you can go.  Feel free to round the back during the arm raise, and round open and lift up the chest during the “wing spread.”  Ladies, the chest raise corresponds exactly to “sticking your tits out,” and do not be afraid to do so.  This exercise will loosen the chest in general and eventually help to loosen the ribs around the sternum, which is frequently tight on strong men and on women with large chests, due to the simple amount of weight hanging on the front of the torso.
  5. Keeping your elbow to your side by having your opposite hand hold your bicep, make a circle in front of you with your body.  If you pay close attention to your shoulder, you will feel it moving in the socket, which we want.  Most of us who work on keyboards have our palms turned down during much of the day, tightening the tendons connecting the front of our shoulders and our chests (this is not quite anatomically accurate, but is easily felt by having a partner hold soft hands on the front of your shoulder while doing the exercise).
  6. In the same position, make circles with the wrists.  I tend to do this one sparingly, since it can tire the fore-arm and can be a real problem for those with tennis elbow, but the lion’s share of your focus should not be on strengthening your wrist, but rather on loosening it, so that it will be supple enough to perform false-edge techniques later.
  7. Supplemental to this, would be taking your hands palm up, and extending them as far to the side as your shoulder rotates without shrugging, while the elbows remain pinned to your side, and then extending the hands outward, the elbows moving as if on a track.  Hold the hands as it stretching out from the fingers, which should otherwise be straight but not stiff.  This is a variation on a well-known ballet exercise and has parallels in the internal martial arts. The first part of it is a stretch strongly recommended by my colleague Jim Fesler, who is a highly-skilled body-worker; the latter is my own variation.  it is not part of the traditional exercises as I learned them.
  8. From a rough horse-stance, rock the pelvis forward and back several times, as if hula-hooping, and then in circles in either direction, as if hula-hooping badly.  Teenage males may insert their own commentary.
  9. Either rotate the head in circles, or else shift it side to side.  The shoulders and spine should not move in an exaggerated way, but should be allowed to rearrange itself so that the motion happens inside the entire body rather than being focused on any one vertebra. I tend to do this as a side-to-side exercise.  Hidan Csaba did it both ways, sometimes in the same practice, sometimes apparently as a variation.
  10. Holding the hands together, palms and forearms together and fingertips forward, flap the wrists so that the hands go from side to side.

How The Internet Says “Do Not Touch”

Trigger Warning:  May horrify philosophy freshmen who still think Plato’s Divided Line is the coolest thing ever.

I have noticed,  in my many short years on this mudball, that there is a certain kind of argument which indicates THIS:

Warning!  This person has issues and entering into a discussion/argument with this person will only make you frustrated and them unhappy. Warning: do not engage.

Wow, Happycrow! Is it because they’re a conservative?

No.

A liberal?

Stop that.

Libertardians?

Now you’re just trolling.

You wrote this!

Yes, sometimes I even troll myself. It’s what happens when you dedicate yourself to the study of dangerous assumptions.

You’re stuck up.

Yes. I’m opining via a blog, at the world. You’re just now figuring this out?

They’re getting bored.

Oh. Yeah.

So here’s the Yardstick.

If a person takes Event or Factoid A and says “This is illustrative of Societally-Overarching Issue 1-1A,” this is an unhappy person who is seeking validation that He or She is One of The Good People.

You cannot engage with this person. The fundamental reason the argument has been made is not an Intellectual Inquiry into the Legitimacy or the Causes of Phenomenon 1-1A.  The argument has been made because the person in question is seeking an answer to the fundamental question “why am I unhappy?”  People who do this have chosen not to look at the world around them and learn from what happy people do —  instead, they have chosen to pin their unhappiness on abstract phenomena tied to the vices and failures of Other People.  As soon as you pile in against the “specific occurence proves Abstract Phenomenon,” all you’re doing is refusing to validate them. At best, you will wind up with an endless series of No True Scotsmen arguments, as said person desperately tries to justify their worldview in order to support themselves emotionally.

At worst, you just lost your friend or acquaintance by labelling yourself as “that asshole who doesn’t get it and is so mean.”

The Stupid, It Burns

And it’s your fault.  YOU chose to raise an issue without paying attention to the context in which it was happening.  You made a dangerous assumption, and now you’re upset because, well…it burns. And nothing you say will help you with this person now, because this person just decided “you’ve upset me by pulling off the One Band-Aid allowing me to salvage my sense of self-worth, so you are Bad People.”

You know the sort — the holier-than-thou do this regularly.  Doesn’t matter whether it’s Holier-Than-Thou, religious flavor(tm), or Holier-Than-Thou, Atheist Flavor(tm). Holier Than Though, Total Bae Social Justice Warrior Flavor(tm), or Holier Than Thou, The Un-biblical Suck And I Must Therefore Sue The Gays, Yes All of Them Flavor(tm).

The behavior is, at its core, a defense mechanism, no matter what Socio-Political Sauce you pour on it.

You can tell this because the person you’re looking at is pissed off at abstract people.  Like the Klan Bigot who can’t stand black people — unless it’s Bob.  Bob’s okay.  For a black guy.  In fact, he helped with my AC last week. Why can’t All Those Black People be just like Bob?

As soon as you hear “all those” or any flavor of similar abstraction – men, women, christians, muslims, atheists, all those category-words, you know what you’re dealing with.

In fact, you should pretty much beware of plurals in general.

He *did* warn you.

Abstract People don’t do anything. They can’t, because Abstract People don’t exist. Abstract People don’t sin. They don’t grab your butt. They don’t hurt other Abstract People.  Abstract Phenomena don’t exist.  If you were hurt by an Abstract Person or an Abstract Phenomenon, you were hurt by a ghost.  (In the example above, Bob wasn’t hurt by “racism.”  Bob was hurt by Fred, who’s being a bigot).

A person who is angry with Abstract People is a person who is haunted by ghosts.  And a person only devotes the energy to allow a haunting because they’re tormented with their own failures and frustrations.

“I’m not touching you!”

There are only two things you can do for people like this.

  1. Be sympathetic.  Some people suffer because they choose to. Others have honest-to-goodness Shitty Things happening to them.
  2. Do something to help them have a nicer day.

If, for any reason, distance, time, or social context won’t allow you to do one of those things, leave them alone! 

When you see a suffering person, your goal shouldn’t be to argue with them.  You can’t help them. They’re not in a head-space where they are in a position to care about, let alone learn from, an intellectual argument.  Your goal should be to either help them out, or stand aside.

Incoming Eyeball, or The Power of Awesome?

Not even Squirrel Reiki will help.

They, and only they, will decide when they’re ready for emotional antibiotics and weight-lifting.

Rose Garden! The Home Edition.

Here at Chez Happycrow, we HATE mowing grass.  Even with a scythe, which is a valuable source of must-needed exercise for a guy who used to walk everywhere and do martial arts four or five days a week, and now drives a cubicle and a car.

Not counting, of course, much-needed breaks for cat yoga.

Not counting, of course, much-needed breaks for cat yoga.

So we’re doing legacy roses, grape arbors, crape myrtles, and bamboo.

  • Legacy roses are awesome. And, mostly unkillable.
  • Bamboo is awesome. And, mostly unkillable.
  • Grapes are awesome. And once established, mostly unkillable.
  • Crape Myrtles are awesome. And once established, mostly unkillable.

Sense a theme? This is “jungle rules” gardening.  Put in four invasive, aggressive, hard-to-kill plants that you like. Let them duke it out.  Here’s just the roses and some of the young bamboo culms. I’ll follow up later in the summer with the crapes once they’re blooming out.

rose10 rose11 rose1 rose2 rose9 rose7 rose8 rose5 rose4 rose3

Down the road, the legacy roses here will get their old canes trimmed out, and pegged up high on the bamboo, which will act as living scaffolding in order to create arbors you can walk in and under.  Right now, our roses stop traffic on our little street… if it comes off as hoped, in three or four years we’re hoping that they’ll bring traffic to our street.

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