Summer Reading List 2023: First

I’ve had a hard time reading lately. My relationship took a disastrous turn last week, which put me behind even further than I’d like. But I’ve managed to push through the adversity and finish one of the goals I’d set for myself. Here we go.

Technology/History

Title: Now the Chips Are Down
Author: Alison Gazzard
Genre: Tech History
Year: 2016

Now the Chips Are Down is another entry in the MIT Press "Platform Studies" series. The series started in 2009 with Racing the Beam, a deep dive into the Atari 2600 and how its very peculiar implementation shaped the American video game market. Since then, a variety of authors have written about a variety of creative platforms. Most are game consoles, such as the NES (I Am Error) and the Wii (Codename Revolution), while some are home computers like the Amiga (The Future Was Here). A few don’t seem to fit in, such as Macromedia Flash (Building the Interactive Web) and the Amazon Kindle tablet (Four Shades of Gray), but there’s a cohesion to the series despite that.

This book falls into the "home computer" category, but it’s a very specific one that I’ve never used and never even seen in real life: the BBC Micro. As its name suggests, this was a computer built—well, contracted—by the British government.

Back in the late 70s and early 80s, the BBC was well-respected as an impartial presenter of the news. Today, of course, it’s a leftist propaganda outlet little different from the New York Times or Washington Post, but the Thatcher era was a different time. This was back when governments cared about building up their constituents, making them more informed, not less. As the UK was a technological backwater, missing out on many of the advances taking place in the US at the time, they needed something special to create the kind of digital literacy we now take for granted.

Their answer was the BBC Micro, a fairly large and expensive 8-bit home computer. Built by Acorn—the creators of other also-ran computers like the Atom and Archimedes—using the same 6502 processor that almost everyone else used, the BBC Micro had a few additions that made it unique to its time and place. Open, accessible expansion ports encouraged tinkering. Manuals described programming, an absolute necessity for computer owners in the years before I was born, in better detail than most of the competitors’ offerings, and the included dialect of BASIC is still regarded as one of the most advanced. The thing even had an adapter for Britain’s early attempt at a nationwide on-demand streaming service: Ceefax.

All this was part of the UK government’s attempt at getting its citizens, especially children, both interested in and comfortable with computers as tools. And that’s admirable. Too often today, we see the opposite: computers are expected to be black boxes, mere appliances that do whatever their creators tell them. The hacker spirit is actively discouraged through social and even legal means. But again, Britain circa 1981 was a different place. This was a country afraid of losing what little remained of its status on the global stage.

Gazzard harps on this point repeatedly in the book, always trying to paint the BBC Micro as innovative because of its intentions. It was used in education, for gaming, and as a way to connect people together. Okay, that’s great. The thing is, all that was happening with American home computers, too. And minicomputers in academia, and…well, you get the picture. The fact of the matter is that Britain really was behind the times, and no amount of praise for a government program can change that.

The book itself is light on details, and completely devoid of screenshots. The text has a few obvious typos, formatting errors, and grammatical mistakes. This is not the level of quality I expect from a Platform Studies book. The veritable fawning over the platform is a little over the top, though it is a welcome change from Super Power, Spoony Bards, and Silverware, which was written by an author who let his apparent hatred of the Super Nintendo shine through in his introduction and the tone of the book as a whole.

It’s good to be a fan of something. There’s nothing wrong with a nostalgic love letter. In this case, however, the nostalgia is just too thick. Any developer or even gamer who knows even the first thing about Elite knows it started on the BBC Micro, yet Gazzard feels the need to remind us of this on multiple occasions in the chapter about the game. She also dedicates full chapters to a low-budget educational adventure game and a Boulder Dash clone, acting as if these were innovative. But the truth is different. Oregon Trail came out years before Granny’s Garden, and it’s still played today. In the Repton chapter, she even admits that games with level editors already existed.

Overall, that’s the glaring flaw of Now the Chips Are Down. It’s actually too nostalgic, and that nostalgia gets in the way of the history. There aren’t enough whys or hows in the narrative, and I feel that’s where it falls short. Racing the Beam set the gold standard for the series. I Am Error and The Future Was Now both met it, and even exceeded it in places.

Here, there’s just no substance. The final chapter, for instance, combines Acorn’s future after the BBC Micro—they went on to create the ARM architecture, a curse for developers everywhere—and the Raspberry Pi, which started as an attempt at recreating the educational aspects of the platform. But the text is just so rushed. It feels like Gazzard is bored and wants to get through it so she can work on something else instead. And while this book, written in 2016 as it was, is mostly free of wokeness, there’s way too much emphasis on the sole female engineer on the Acorn team.

I did learn from this book. For that, I’m glad I read it. It makes me curious about a platform I’ve never used. I wonder why it was special, and why it’s so loved 40 years after its release. But Now the Chips Are Down doesn’t give me any answers except the author’s 200-page statement that boils down to, "I love it, and so should you."

LIVing it up

I don’t often talk about sports here on PPC. (As an aside, my original not-a-blog had a dedicated sports section. My, how things change in a generation!) The problem with major American sports is, like so many other parts of America, due to wokeness. The three major sports leagues—MLB, NFL, and NBA—all openly support a domestic terrorist organization. The NFL wanted to blacklist its best player for not getting an experimental and deadly gene therapy treatment; the tennis US Open actually did. NASCAR peddled a hate crime hoax and banned its biggest demographic from displaying symbols of their heritage. And the NHL might have backed off its requirement for players to support anti-human practices such as grooming and castration, but it never apologized for pushing them in the first place.

One of the few sports where the woke haven’t fully taken over is golf, and that’s for a few reasons. One, it’s an individual sport with low popular appeal, so Blackrock and the other ESG pushers just don’t see a need to inject idiocy into it. Two, golf is, unlike most professional sports played in the US, truly a global game. Many of the players are Asian, and Asians in general just don’t have time for the alphabet soup crowd. (And they hate “racial equity” nonsense. That’s something that’s common to Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans, as far as I can tell.) Yes, one of the greatest golfers of all time is black, but almost nobody cares about that. To anyone watching golf to enjoy the spectacle, Tiger Woods is Tiger Woods. He’s easy to pick out of a crowd, sure, but we’d much rather remember, say, his performance in the 2008 US Open than his response to George Floyd’s death.

Of course, the PGA Tour is an American institution, and thus it is vulnerable to woke influences. Over recent years, they have crept in. They still aren’t very noticeable, compared to other sports, but they’re there. Pride Month celebrations and rainbow logos are the main illustration, but being woke isn’t just about supporting those who hate humanity. It’s also about supporting the global neoliberal order. Much like in tennis, where the Australian Open tried to censor supporters of Russian players, the PGA has it out for anyone who doesn’t swallow the US-EU-NATO narrative. And that’s where our story begins.

Rock the casbah

Saudi Arabia is one of the most barbarous regimes on the planet. That’s indisputable. Their treatment of women, for example, is heinous by any standard other than their own deranged one. They use their leverage as one of the world’s major oil producers as a bludgeon to prevent their crimes against humanity from being investigated or prosecuted. True, they aren’t the worst, but they’re definitely near the top of the list.

But they’re also filthy rich. Much like the United Arab Emirates, the Saudis have begun investing in sports. Part of this is image rehabilitation, but the rest is just simple good business sense. The oil won’t last forever. (Well, it will, because abiotic methane production is a thing, but that’s a different post.) Investing in other ventures is a hedge against the future, and sports are always popular. They also draw huge crowds; even Qatar managed that for its ill-advised World Cup last year.

Thus, it’s no surprise that the Saudi government’s slush fund decided to get into golf. The problem is, they’re Saudis, and the woke hate Saudis. Now, this isn’t for the normal reasons you and I should hate them. Oh, no. Progressives will instead point to the execution of the journalist Jamal Kashoggi a few years ago, as well as the Riyadh regime’s religion-based stance against homosexuality. To the left, these are crimes far worse than torturing political prisoners or imprisoning rape victims.

Even though woke mind virus hadn’t infected the PGA to the point of killing the host, the Tour’s leadership wanted nothing to do with Saudi “blood money”. So the princes decided on the Bender plan: they’d create their own golf tour with blackjack and hookers. They called it LIV Golf, and they hired one of the game’s greats, Greg Norman, to build it.

LIV promised a refreshing change from the staid formula of the PGA. They announced that their tournaments would be 54 holes instead of 72, with no cuts and a team-based format that encouraged every golfer to carry his weight. Oh, and the purses would be massive. In all, it would be something like a Champions League of golf…assuming anybody joined.

Of course, they offered huge contracts to the world’s biggest names. Tiger Woods reportedly got an offer of nearly a billion dollars just to sign. He refused, but others did not, and the LIV roster filled out with a host of top-tier players, quite a few blue-chip golfers, and some younger stars who likely wouldn’t be able to make a name for themselves in the crowded PGA field.

The PGA leadership, as well as those who didn’t take the offers, called this treason. They accused the LIV supporters of selling out, taking dirty money, and (worst of all for a progressive) supporting an enemy of America. Never mind that the Saudis are technically our allies. They’re enemies of the woke, and that’s all that counts here.

Alien vs. Predator

The PGA and the progressive monoculture did its best to fight LIV. Mainstream media closed ranks, issuing hundreds of press releases disguised as news articles, all talking about the heroic PGA golfers fighting against the “defectors” of LIV. They mocked the small schedule, as if a nascent tour could manage more than 10 events on such short notice. They most likely interfered in negotiations to keep LIV off American TV networks, and apparently banned any coverage of the tour on their websites.

In every case, the reasons were the same, and the columnists repeated the talking points almost verbatim. LIV was “sportswashing”, a made-up term that goes back to the woke distortion of the concept of original sin: to the left, some crimes can never be forgiven, only avenged. No matter how many years pass, we’re not allowed to forget that the Saudis killed a journalist! They don’t support gay marriage! These two facts, according to progressive logic, mean that Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s worst abusers of human rights.

It’s okay if the US imprisons political protestors without trial or charge. It’s fine that Israel operates the world’s largest open-air prison. Child trafficking is just part of the Ukraine’s culture, apparently. And locking people in their homes, closing their businesses, and seizing the assets of those who didn’t comply? Just par for the course, if you’ll pardon the pun. But anything other than total obeisance before the protected classes is truly unforgivable.

A few years ago, sports columns rarely delved into politics. Lately, of course, they’ve been getting worse and worse about not staying in their lane, but golf was one of the few exceptions until LIV came along. And it got especially bad when the Saudi tour announced its schedule, and the progressives saw that it included courses owned by Donald Trump. That, I can only assume, was the final straw, and the reason why so much vitriol was poured into reporting for a sport whose usual scandals are drunk driving and divorce disputes.

A whole new world

Earlier this week, all that ended with the surprising announcement of a merger between the PGA and LIV, as well as the European tour that is so unimportant that I don’t even care to look up its name for this post. In the agreement, all three tours get to keep some measure of autonomy, but they’ll be overseen by a board that is, for the most part, made up of Saudi picks. And the PGA gets a Saudi on its policy board. Oh, and whoever’s running the princes’ sports fund has right of first refusal for any future investors into the PGA Tour.

That’s not a merger. That’s a buyout. And it’s hilarious.

All the talk about blood money and sportswashing and human rights abuses went up in flames with this announcement. The reams of digital paper spent trying to convince golf fans that they should care about a random journalist who died years ago were wasted. Vilifying Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau backfired, and now we get to watch Rory McIlroy, probably the most outspoken supporter of the PGA status quo, cry about it.

Progressives on sports news sites are so shocked that they can’t even write a coherent article about it. All they can do is parrot the usual phrases as if trying to recite warding spells. They’ve even expanded this to include the mainstream falsehoods about the 2020 election (which was rigged) and the 2021 US Capitol protest (which was not an insurrection), thanks to the Trump connection.

But all their objections are hollow. They’ve been exposed as hypocrites and liars. They never really wanted what was best for the game of golf. I’m not saying that LIV did, but it’s certainly willing to try new and interesting things like, you know, not destroying a sport for political gain.

The woke mind virus is our enemy. In that, we take the allies we’re given. Whether that’s Russia fighting to prevent the globalist cabal from completing their villainous agenda or the leaders of random African countries giving their lives to expose the truth of the so-called pandemic, those of us on the side of right, on the side of humanity and Enlightenment, will accept any aid. For this instance, it is the Saudis with their near-infinite pool of money that has put the progressives in their place. I’d still hold a gun pointed at them—trust is earned, not bought—but I’ll at least shake their hand while I’m doing it.

Summer Reading List 2023

Here we go again. Sorry for being a little late on the post this year, but real life is increasingly becoming a factor. Once again, it’s time for my favorite annual tradition, the Summer Reading List challenge. I’m hoping to complete it for the 8th year in a row, and I’ll eventually get anyone else join in.

The rules haven’t changed from the beginning. They’re so unchanged, in fact, that I’m just going to copy them verbatim from last year’s post. The only added wrinkle for me is that I’m also doing my “Read 12 Great Books in 2023” challenge, so I’ll limit myself to only counting one of those for the Summer Reading List.

Really, they aren’t rules, but more like guidelines. This isn’t a competition. It’s a challenge. What’s important is that you’re honest with yourself.

  1. The goal is to read 3 new books between Memorial Day (May 29) and Labor Day (September 4) in the US, the traditional “unofficial” bounds of summer. (For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere reading this, it’s a winter reading list. If you’re in the tropics…I don’t know what to tell you.)
  2. A book is anything non-periodical, so no comics, graphic novels, or manga. Anything else works. If you’re not sure, just use common sense. Audiobooks are acceptable, but only if they’re books, not something like a podcast.
  3. One of the books should be of a genre you don’t normally read. For example, I’m big on fantasy and sci-fi, so I might read a romance, or a thriller, or something like that. Nonfiction, by the way, also works as a “new” genre, unless you do read it all the time.
  4. You can’t count books you wrote, because they obviously wouldn’t be new to you. (Yes, this rule exists solely to keep me from just rereading my books.)

As always, I’ll search for something new (at least to me!) and share it with you when I’ve finished reading it. I’ll post it over on the fediverse (mikey@freespeechextremist.com is my main account there for the time being) and in more depth here at PPC, but feel free to discuss your own reading adventures wherever you like.

Have fun, and keep reading!

Great Books: The Coleridge Double Feature

My beloved convinced me to watch Dead Poets Society last weekend. A great movie, for the most part. The story was a little jumpy in places, but far better than modern films in terms of narrative coherency. I finally understand a lot of references I’d seen a thousand times before, as well as what must be the founding idea of one of my favorite bands. And seeing the meme of Boomers—when they were still teens, in this case—only ever resisting authority when nothing is on the line so poignantly illustrated was enlightening.

Movie night also spurred me to get back to the Great Books task with gusto. The Romantic period provided many works that earned permanent places in the Western canon, even if the official list is missing many notables. (Seriously, just one Byron work? Nothing by Shelley—either one of them—or Tennyson? Whitman is overrated and a tyrant’s loyal pet besides, but even he didn’t make the cut!) Fortunately, I found a couple of good choices and gave them a shot. With that in mind, enjoy the Coleridge special.

Great Books 3: Kubla Khan

There’s no boat
There’s no river
No shore
Journey’s over
— Blind Guardian, “Sacred Mind”

First up is “Kubla Khan”, which doesn’t put the “book” into “Great Books” at all. The entire poem is 54 lines, and could easily fit on a single page. According to Coleridge himself, it was supposed to be at least 5 times longer, but he was interrupted during his furious recollection of a drug-induced hallucination, and the vision faded before he could write any further.

What we did get is inspiring. I mean that literally. Lines 4-5, “Through caverns measureless to man / Down to a sunless sea,” are the direct inspiration for not only the name, but the entire setting of one of my favorite games. The name and idea of Xanadu gave rise to numerous songs, from the execrable 80s hit to the fairly decent Blind Guardian track I quoted above. And history tells that none other than Teddy Roosevelt, when he was near death in the Amazon, lay in his tent reciting the opening stanza to keep himself conscious.

Over the course of only a few lines, Coleridge describes what is very much an otherworldly vision. Certainly nothing the Mongols could have—or would have—built even in their heyday. Authenticity isn’t the point, however; this is all about painting a picture with words. And what a beautiful picture it is.

My long hours playing Sunless Sea led me to see the games setting of the “Unterzee” everywhere I looked in the poem. The game overtly references this, too; one of the major “enemy” factions of the Hollow Earth sea is the Khanate, and it is very heavily implied that they inhabit the remnants of Xanadu.

Great Books 4: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The sea has never been friendly to man.
At most, it has been the accomplice of human restlessness.
— Joseph Conrad

Since “Kubla Khan” was so short, and I was still the only one awake, I knew I had time to read a little more. So why not go to the other Coleridge poem on the Great Books list? “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is much longer, totaling over 600 lines, and it tells a much deeper story. In seven parts, it runs the gamut from folktale to exploration to horror, perfectly capturing the Romantic spectrum in a single work.

The Mariner was the sole survivor of an expedition that got blown off course, ending up in what we now call the Southern Ocean. He’s telling his tale to a random guest at a random wedding, and his audience of one grows increasingly amazed and concerned by the story he hears. Of course, when that story involves a voyage through the icy maze of the far South, a vengeful spirit, and a crew being killed and then having their bodies inhabited by angels, well, how would you react?

In a few places, the rhyme and meter are a little suspect. The story itself, on the other hand, is downright fun in places. It’s very clear that this is one source of a lot of “ghost ship” stories in modern media, such as Pirates Of The Caribbean. Whalers in the early 19th century, who may have been the true discoverers of Antarctica, probably looked around for an albatross when they were lost in the ice and fog—and knew better than to kill it.

Yes, this is a poem that can best be described as cinematic.

Extra Credit

Oh, sweet Christabel, share with me your poem
— Nightwish, “Beauty of the Beast”

The woman of my dreams was still lost in hers when the Ancient Mariner finished his tale, so I continued perusing the Coleridge collection I downloaded from Project Guterberg. Not far from the two poems I’d already read, I saw “Christabel” in the table of contents. That name jogged my memory, reminding me of a line in a song, which I’ve quoted here. A minute or two of research, and I discovered that this poem was indeed the inspiration of the Nightwish song. Not surprising, since they often reference the Romantics, directly or indirectly.

Deciding that there was nothing to lose, I gave it a shot. Now, I have to admit some confusion. The tale of Christabel makes very little sense to me. It’s clear that she finds another woman, Geraldine, in the woods near her father’s manor. Geraldine was abducted and, for some reason, left behind by her captors. Christabel takes her in, they spend the night together, and they meet with the baron in the morning. He realizes who his uninvited guest is: the daughter of a fellow lord, an estranged friend from long ago.

That part was easy. It’s everything else that left my mind spinning. There are so many references to “a woman’s sin” that I have to assume Coleridge was implying either some serious envy or an actual sexual encounter between the two women. The way Christabel reacts when her father speaks his intent to send Geraldine back home could point to either possibility.

But that’s the mark of good poetry, isn’t it? It doesn’t come right out and tell you what’s happening. It leaves room for interpretation. Poets, like the bards of old, tell a tale in a different way than the historian. That is what Robin Williams’ character was trying to teach in Dead Poets Society. Poetry isn’t something that can be calculated or rationalized. It’s inherently irrational and subjective. Different people will find different meaning, and that’s okay.

Great Books: An Essay On Criticism

It took longer than I thought, but here’s the second in this series. Much of the delay came from looking for something that interested me and that I could fit in my increasingly busy schedule. In the end, I chickened out and picked a short work that I could finish in a couple of days: Alexander Pope’s An Essay On Criticism.

We’re back in the Enlightenment with this one, though a little farther into it than Areopagitica. The essay is really a poem, because Pope was, at heart, a poet. It’s written in a style typical of English verse at the time, rhyming couplets that wouldn’t be too outlandish to most school-aged readers. And this is already a hallmark of the era, because the Enlightenment was the last true poetic era. Since then, we’ve gone from poetry to prose as the mainstay of literature, and maybe we lost something along the way.

Pope’s verse, however, is not something that is lost. In fact, this essay, which totaled only about 30 virtual pages on my tablet, provides modern English with no fewer than three popular idioms that have stood the test of time. “A little learning is a dangerous thing,” the author states, and we still know that to be all too true. “To err is human” and “fools rush in” both originated here; the second half of the latter, “where angels fear to tread,” is also popular in…certain genres of music.

Beyond these catchphrases, there’s not much to this “book” that makes it great. It is, as its title states, an essay on criticism. Specifically, Pope takes exception to those who are too quick to offer destructive criticism. (If only game journalists would heed his words!) The critics who pan a work because it either doesn’t follow the established rules of a genre or follows them slavishly, both find themselves in his crosshairs. And that’s basically all there is to it.

Okay, there’s a little more substance. The author tries to call back to Antiquity, which is a common theme for the period. The Enlightenment, in a way, was a counter to the Renaissance: where the 15th and 16th centuries were all about building—or discovering—a new world, the 17th and 18th did a lot to tie that world back into the half-forgotten times of the Greeks and Romans. The reemergence of secular philosophy and the advancement of the sciences pushed humanity forward, yet still gave it a familiar anchor.

But Pope treats that anchor as something closer to a life raft, clinging to it against the tide of progress. His insistence that poetry is only above criticism when it is in the style of Homer or Virgil is conservative in the extreme. It’s dogma, but for authors. Which is what you would expect from a Catholic in 1700s England, so you can’t fault him too much. Still, it’s disheartening to see someone held up as a leading light of an enlightened age acting so…dim.

The verse itself is nothing special, either. The idioms that have persisted did so because they had a nice ring to them. They were the advertising jingles of their time, is the way I read it, and that’s why they have such staying power. Beyond them, you have a fairly repetitive procession of rhymes—something Pope even complains about from other authors!—and a deluge of Classical references that, I have to assume, went over the heads of many readers in his own day. Yes, they were more well-read than kids these days, but how many of them knew where Aristotle was born?

I’ve tried writing poetry. It’s hard, and it’s very much an art form. Despite my shortcomings and Pope’s admonitions, I’ll still criticize his inability to get to the point. Verse should tell a story. Using it as an attack ad diminishes it and its creator. While the contortions he had to use to make even a semi-coherent argument out of these stanzas prove that he knew what he was doing, they also obscure the point he was trying to make. It’s a very salient point three centuries later, so it’s a shame that it’s so impenetrable. A lot of critics could do with the wakeup call.

The war rages on

It’s been a year since Russia crossed over the border and began its “special military operation” to liberate ethnic Russians in the Ukraine. Since then, the war has grown in scope, evolving from a border skirmish into what might be the prelude to World War III.

But all that evolution, all that expansion, has been one-sided. NATO, and more specifically the US, has poured billions upon billions of dollars into the Zelensky regime. Meanwhile, Russia expanded its conscription call-ups, but has otherwise been patient. Too patient, really. They have ignored blatant threats from supposedly neutral powers, not to mention actual terrorist attacks carried out by the United States. Any one of the dozens of incidents would be a valid casus belli, yet Putin has ignored the very obvious provocations at every turn.

That’s good for all of us, of course, since it keeps us out of a war that could very well escalate into something that makes WWII look like a schoolyard slap-fight. One has to wonder, though, how much more it will take. How many more times can we poke the bear before he awakens to tear our face off?

Because this much is clear: the US cannot win a war against Russia. Why? The answer’s very simple, and it’s the reason why the first two world wars started at all. Any fight that reached that level wouldn’t be the US versus Russia. No, there are too many alliances and treaties and defense pacts for that to happen. Instead, Washington would call upon its allies in NATO, which effectively covers all of Western Europe, as well as Turkey. Meanwhile, calls would go out from Moscow, forcing China, Iran, and possibly India to make their own decisions.

Yes, the NATO bloc outnumbers Russia on paper, and even has a technological advantage, but the past few years have shown how hollow this really is. Growing unrest throughout the Americas and Europe would cause any mass conscription—the only way to get a manpower edge over China—to be met with outright revolt. Diversity hires in the military have hollowed out its core, pushing the best of the best out to make way for a new wave of globalist-friendly forces. The technology often requires specialized knowledge to even operate, and the latest versions have seen almost no use in the field yet.

In other words, all the supposed advantages have fatal flaws. On the other side, things aren’t as grim. True, China’s economy is teetering due to its aging population and low fertility—something the whole world shares, but the effect is most pronounced in East Asia. Other than that, where is the weakness? Russia’s military is top-notch; even their private paramilitary (i.e., mercenary) companies can run roughshod over Ukrainian regulars, as is currently being shown at Bakhmut. The Kiev regime has no counter for hypersonic missiles, or even a mass wave of cheap Iranian drones. Despite its glaring flaws, China still has an unparalleled manufacturing base that can be converted to a full wartime mode with devastating effect.

The best the West can hope for is a stalemate, a war of attrition that accomplishes nothing but millions of dead soldiers and, in certain parts of the world, civilians. Everything old is new again, history repeats itself, and we are on the cusp of learning first-hand why World War I was called “the war to end all wars”. Except that this one would end a lot more than that.

Worst of all, those in power know this, and yet they continue on their path. The only attempt at a peace talk was almost a year ago, not long after the war began, and it was sabotaged by the UK. Now that Zelensky sees he has effectively infinite money coming in from abroad, why even bother with the facade? No one other than Vladimir Putin can stop the Ukraine from sending every one of its able-bodied—and, in some cases, disable-bodied—citizens into the meat grinder, because the ones who otherwise have that ability no longer have the inclination.

That, more than anything, is why I continue to stand against Zelensky, against NATO, and against my own country’s so-called government on this matter. Putin is showing actual regard for his countrymen, his ethnic brethren. He has accurately called out the West’s hypocrisy and the rot of progressivism eating away at its foundations. He has taken a stand for humanity, rather than against it, and he’s one of the few world leaders brave enough to do so publicly. After seeing what happened to others who have tried (Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and Shinzo Abe, among others), we could fault him for stepping down, or at least toning down his rhetoric, but he has done the opposite. We need more people like that in power, instead of the mental hospital that passes for the executive branch these days.

If you still support the Ukraine after all this time, after seeing the aims of Zelensky, NATO, and the globalist cabal, then I can only see you as anti-human, just as they are. You’re standing for Drag Queen Story Hour, for the mutilation of children, for mass imprisonment, for depopulation. You’re standing against the last defense of the Enlightenment, against the bonds of shared culture and nationality. “Slava Ukraini,” you say? How about “Slava miru” instead?

A month with Nim

A few weeks back, I posted about my adventures in writing a kernel using the Nim programming language. Well, I’m still working at it, and I thought it would be fun to give a progress report. Fair warning: this is going to be one of the most technical posts I’ve written in a long time. If you’re not familiar with a lot of programming and OS terminology, you’re going to have a hard time following along.

The language

Let’s start by looking at my language of choice. Nim is an odd duck in the world of programming languages. In purpose, it sits in that mid tier between low-level languages such as C and “application” languages like Python. This middle space used to be the sole domain of C++, but recent years have seen a growing crop of contenders: Rust, Go, D, Vala, Swift, Zig, and so on.

Nim is definitely one of those. Syntactically, it shares a lot in common with Python, most notably its indentation-based structure. But it’s much closer to the metal. Since it compiles to (a very cryptic subset of) C rather than some kind of VM bytecode, you get a lot of optimizations for free, thanks to the GCC and Clang teams. Thus, you’ve got this great mix of high-level sugar and low-level power, which is really what I was looking for all along. And the Nim community, unlike Rust, does it without sacrificing basic scientific facts such as sexual dimorphism!

Still, being a good programming language—even a lower-level one—doesn’t make something good for writing an operating system. That’s the downside of D, for example; there, the language itself is solid, but its standard library relies on garbage collection, making it a no-go.

I bring up that specific example for a very good reason: Nim’s standard library just works. It’s almost all “pure” code, where the devs eat their own dogfood. The system module is hard-coded to use what amounts to a set of compiler intrinsics, but everything else is built off them. In an OS kernel, where you can’t expect to have a bulky runtime available, this is a dream come true. I only had to implement a dozen simple C functions (strlen, memcpy, etc.), hook in an allocator (liballoc is a good default for “hobby” OSes), and that was it. I don’t even have all the hardware initialized yet, but I already have access to dynamic arrays, hash tables, string formatting, and all those other goodies.

Of course, nothing’s ever perfect. Nim gets very verbose when you’re working so close to bare metal. The developers’ insistence on defaulting literal values to signed integers is a pain, because anyone who has ever worked at the assembly level knows that you have to use unsigned numbers for things like bitfields. Also, converting between integers and pointers (another thing absolutely necessary in OS programming, and absolutely antithetical to the “safe code” movement) is overly verbose. Yeah, I could use a template or macro or something, but…ugh.

The system

I’m going to continue with this project until I get bored or run out of ideas. Since building the bare-bones kernel in the previous post, I’ve expanded its scope. Now, I’m planning out a microkernel OS centered around a message passing interface. The catch is that it’s intended to be a single-user system; there will be “profiles” for multiple users to store their own programs, files, and so on, but only one user will be running it at a time. Other users’ data will be hidden away, though I do envision a kind of shared space.

Another design concept I’ve been toying with is doing away with processes. They’ll just be threads that don’t have a parent instead. So running a program will start a “main” thread, and that thread can then create children or siblings. Child threads inherit some state, and the parent has some direct control of their lifecycle. Siblings, on the other hand, are independent. This also affects IPC: parents and their children can use shared memory far more easily, and the design will reflect this.

The microkernel structure means that very little will run in kernel-space. The physical and virtual memory allocators are already in place, though I may redesign them as time goes on. Some hardware abstraction exists; I’ll need lots more before I can even consider a 0.1 release. I’m currently working out how I want to write the scheduler and mapping out system calls. Almost everything else will live in user-space. There’s no reason not to.

I’m calling this project Concerto. As with most of my works, that’s a name with multiple meanings. A concerto is, of course, a kind of musical composition where many instruments support a single lead—this is, to my eyes, essentially the musical equivalent of a microkernel. It also connotes many working together (i.e., in concert) to create something grand. And I can’t deny a bit of a political jab: concertos are a distinctly Western form of music that came from the era of Enlightenment. As our enemies insist on dragging us into a new Dark Age and the destruction of our heritage, every reminder of what we have built is welcome.

So that’s what I’ve been doing in the free time that is no longer as copious as it used to be. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Great Books: Areopagitica

As I said last month, I plan to read 12 of the Great Books in 2023. In this dark time of censorship and anti-Enlightenment, where cancel culture causes good men to be barred from society through no fault of their own, it seemed prudent to begin with something that represented liberty and free thought.

John Milton’s Areopagitica is often cited as the seminal argument in favor of a free press and one of the reasons the Founding Fathers not only created the First Amendment, but fought for their freedom in the first place. Written as a letter to the English Parliament, the relatively short work (my copy from Project Gutenberg was about 60 pages at the high zoom necessary for my failing eyesight) manages to be dense with both content and allegory.

The history behind Areopagitica is the history of the Reformation and the English Civil War. To prevent supposedly heretical and seditious tracts from finding their way into the public sphere, the aristocrats of Parliament wanted to create an official printing license. No book could be printed unless licensed, and unless it made it through their handpicked censors. That way, they reasoned, all the “bad” works would be weeded out.

Milton expertly tears down this argument, and his counterpoints still stand strong four centuries later. Banning books doesn’t kill the ideas within them, and every attempt to control society in that way has failed—good Protestant that he is, our author continuously refers to the Inquisition’s index of prohibited literature as the most egregious failure. His other point is also a salient one: reading something awful doesn’t make you an awful person; conversely, if you were already prone to vile tendencies, not having a book about them isn’t going to change your mind.

The marketplace of ideas wasn’t a concept that existed in 1644, yet its roots are laid down here. Let people use their reasoning abilities, and they will see which books are worth studying, which are worth printing and selling and buying. Prevent them from exploring, and they will become slaves, intellectually stunted and only able to think what they are told. (One might also say that John Milton predicted the NPC meme, as his argument accurately describes those who support lockdowns, vaccine mandates, carbon credits, and the war criminal in Kiev for no reason other than because the TV told them to.)

Of course, even a work so defining has its flaws. Mostly, they come from the thick religious allegory. Areopagitica isn’t peppered with Biblical references, like so many other proto-Enlightenment works; it’s caked in them. And, while Milton correctly recognizes that the Bible would, if it were properly examined, be one of the first books on any blacklist, he can’t quite make the logical leap that it should be held to the same standards as any other book.

He also falsely equates “good” with “Christian”, stating that one category of books which deserves to be banned is those that are impious. But this would censor many of our greatest works. It would silence the voice of his contemporary, Spinoza, among many others. While common sense tells us that there is an argument, however weak, to be made for censoring outright lies and fraud, freedom of the press must also include freedom of religion. Milton’s failure to recognize this is a product of his time: England in the 16th and 17th centuries was torn apart by the Reformation, as monarchs and despotic “protectors” alike took turns using force of law to persecute their religious enemies.

Despite all this, Areopagitica was a good read. It shows that people nearly 400 years ago faced the same problems we face, and some of them had some of the same thoughts about how to solve them. Censorship is never the answer; on this, Milton and I agree. On the other hand, we’ll have to agree to disagree on the limits of the free press. For me, it is absolute. But that’s because I was born after the Enlightenment, rather than in the years just before it.

For art’s sake

I never liked art class in school. In elementary school, I skipped art assignments whenever possible, and only finished them reluctantly. Middle school? I became a teacher’s aide for no reason other than to avoid hitting art’s spot in the rotation. And I outright failed the class in high school, though that was as much because of a teacher who hated me as it was my apathy.

But that’s specifically visual art, and there are other kinds. While I can’t draw anything more complex than a stick figure, I’m no good at any musical instrument, and I wouldn’t make it five minutes into a clay sculpture without needing to wash my hands, I like to think I’m a decent writer. I’m a (self-)published author, after all. So, as much as I don’t want to admit it, I’m an artist.

Thus, the arts have become my concern. They should be yours, too, but not for the reason you think.


Art is an expression of culture. That’s really its primary purpose, when you think about it. Great peoples produce great, er, people, and those people produce great works of art. The Renaissance is rightly praised for its works in many fields, works which evoke a certain “feel” that we as human beings can sense. Even if you don’t know a thing about Florence in the 15th century, you still get the sense that Renaissance creations belong to the same general time and place. Likewise the Gothic cathedrals, classical Greek architecture, or elaborate Chinese calligraphy.

Looking at modern art, however, you can only see a culture in decline. A sick culture, maybe even a dying one. And it doesn’t matter which of the arts you investigate; you’ll find the same problem in all of them:

  • Mainstream popular music is now largely based on repetitive patterns of monotonic drumbeats instead of, say, harmonized melody and vocals. Lyrics—the only sort of poetry still produced for public consumption—are typically uncreative, bearing little fit to meter or rhyme, and restricted to a few set topics.

  • Television and film have all but given up on new ideas, instead preferring endless sequels, reboots, and adaptations. Most original content being produced is in the form of sitcoms catering to the lowest common denominator or scripted “reality” shows. Characters are more like caricatures, lacking depth or motivation.

  • Literature suffers the same characterization problems in fiction, added to the low quality of modern prose. No one, it seems, can write in a “high” literary style anymore. Popular books tend to be either biographies or wish-fulfillment fantasies, with everything else considered “niche” in some way.

  • Modern architecture has fully adopted the brutalist style, eschewing attempts at beauty or emulation of classical grandeur in favor of bland, forgettable constructions. Cookie-cutter homes, McMansions, and the ever-popular “box of windows” commercial building dull our eyes and make even a vibrant city feel lifeless.

I could go on, but the other arts are very minor today (sculpture and poetry) or, as with something like photography, simply repeat the same problems as above. Better than listing problems is finding causes, then solutions.


The cause, of course, comes down to politics. The arts are almost wholly controlled by progressives, and the destruction of culture is one part of the overall progressive agenda. It comes from communism, originally, and who would have guessed that the ideology responsible for over 100 million deaths would also want to kill cultures? But that’s the goal, really. Creativity is individuality, and culture is individuals of like minds building something greater.

While I never like to use absolutist terms, this is one case where it’s appropriate. Progressivism and communism are just plain evil. By definition, as anti-human ideologies, they must be. And, as Tolkien reminds us, evil cannot create. It can only destroy and pervert. It’s only natural, then, that corrupting forces would drag a culture’s creative output down to the low levels we see today.

Progressives control Hollywood, and so we see cardboard cutouts instead of characters, protagonists who are chosen based on how many diversity boxes they check, and transparent morality plays instead of stories. The same groups own the hubs of music distribution—radio, streaming, whatever—and that gives us a succession of rappers who eke out a couple of hits before being killed in a Chicago shootout. Their stranglehold on publishers led to a reader revolt some years back, and now they’ve brought the same drama to video and tabletop gaming.


It’s hard not to see this as a controlled demolition of culture. But the intentions are irrelevant. What matters is how we respond to what can only be considered a threat to our people and our history.

As content creators, we should always be looking for alternative platforms and distribution channels. Make our art available where the censors and gatekeepers can’t touch it. Sites like Odysee and Rumble for videos, Substack for short written works, and so on. Federated, censorship-resistant content platforms such as the fediverse. Anywhere indies can go, you should think about being.

Even before that, though, we should create great works from the start. Pen an epic novel where the hero is a straight white male if that’s appropriate. Write a song with an uplifting, complex melody and lyrics that tell a story about something other than drugs or relationships. Learn Blender or whatever so we can get cartoons that aren’t transparent indoctrination drawn in CalArts style. Embrace who we are: Americans, products of the Enlightenment, the Space Age, and everything in between. Let that identity shine through in your works. Be proud of your heritage, not ashamed of it.

And for those who have the means, where is your support? Where are the conservative and libertarian patrons of the arts? Those who wail and gnash their teeth about the Left’s iron grip on art do nothing to stop it. Even when they do step up, it’s entirely in a reactionary manner, and that just isn’t tenable. Where is the wholesome Hollywood? Where are the conservative counterparts to Tor and Penguin?

Ordinary people dislike bad art. Otherwise, “get woke, go broke” wouldn’t be a saying. But they also enjoy good art. There’s a market out there. Look at indie gaming. Look at streaming. Except possibly for blockbuster movies, we have the tools to make art that competes with the progressive drivel for a fraction of the cost. All we need is investment from those who claim their support.

It’s not enough to complain. You also have to do something about the problem. If you don’t, you’re a part of it. Creators, keep creating. That’s how we can win. Everyone else, be willing to put your money where your mouth is, because art requires an audience.

A barebones kernel in Nim

I’ve been fascinated by operating systems for a very long time. For someone who genuinely loves low-level programming, they’re the lowest you can get in our modern age, barring a few microcontroller applications. So I’ve spent the occasional weeks over the past 20 or so years looking into the field, wondering if there’s a way to make my mark on it. At the same time, I’ve been looking at ways to write those low-level programs.

Combining those two threads of research has led me to create Nim Limine Barebones.

What is it?

It’s pretty simple. This is a port of the Limine Bare Bones tutorial kernel to the Nim programming language. It doesn’t do much; it’s literally the “Hello World” of OS development. But it can be used as the start of something much greater.

Why Nim?

I’ve looked at a lot of different languages that purport to be suitable for low-level “systems” programming. I settled on Nim because I wanted to learn something new, but also because every other option has a flaw.

  • C is the gold standard for OS work, but it’s really a horrible language. Especially when you don’t have the luxury of an operating system to protect you from, say, filling every byte of memory with garbage.

  • C++ is one of my favorite languages anyway, but using it on bare metal is harder than you might think. A freestanding implementation has to throw out most of the standard library (i.e., the bits that make C++ worth using), so you’re mostly left with C plus classes.

  • Rust might be a decent language, but its syntax is as ugly as the politics of its developers. I’d never use it for an unpaid project.

  • Go, from all I’ve read, requires a hefty runtime to get started, and Google has no inclination to change that. It’s also a language I find annoying for some irrational reason.

  • D is pretty much the opposite of Rust in both politics and syntax. It would be a great choice if not for a bit of runtime you just can’t get rid of. Oh, and the fact that nobody can seem to agree on what, exactly, the language should be.

  • Zig looks okay, and I found it extremely interesting when I delved into it a few months back. Alas, it’s just too immature for production use, and the latest revisions of the compiler have completely removed some necessary options for bare-metal development.

Nim isn’t perfect by any means, but what I’ve seen so far makes it look like a good “better C” that doesn’t require too many hoops to get the runtime out of the way. For application development, it wouldn’t beat out C++ for me—things like multiple inheritance are just too useful—but at the OS level? Sure beats trying to write my own std::vector. (Seriously. Where are the minimal STL implementations to go along with mlibc?)

Why Limine?

Most OS tutorials are centered on Multiboot. After all, it is kind of a standard. Here, though, I went with Limine. It’s a little more obscure, and much newer; the project is only a few months old here at the start of 2023, as it is intended to replace the older Stivale bootloader.

Limine has a lot of advantages, in my opinion. It’s entirely 64-bit. It sets up a call stack for you, which mostly cuts out the need for assembly in the boot phase. Framebuffers are sensible, there’s an integrated terminal that can work until your own is ready, and it’s just nice in general.

That said, it does have its annoyances. It requires a “higher half” kernel, and that makes paging a necessity sooner than it should be. But the page tables Limine gives you are intentionally sparse. And for this project in particular, dealing with an array of function pointers is just awful. Surely there’s a better way.

Conclusion

All told, I’m happy with what I wrote. It’s a good start, and it fills a niche that nobody else was really looking at. Yes, there’s another barebones Nim kernel out there, and I took inspiration from it. I like to think I’ve provided a better starting point for myself and anyone who would like to follow in my footsteps.