Are there really no-go zones?

The “hard” definition of a no-go zone is an area of a city that is functionally sovereign, because law enforcement has more or less given up there. Instead, the area operates under some other system of law not sanctioned by government, with local unofficial enforcement structures. People who aren’t part of the subculture or ethnicity of the no-go zone are strongly urged not to go there and would likely be attacked if they did.

The “soft” definition is an area that has high crime, where police response time is typically slow, and where outsiders are advised not to go, at least not at night by themselves. Street gangs often dominate instead, and even sometimes offer protection services to locals. (This last phenomenon was described by Sudhir Vankatesh in his book “Gang Leader for a Day.”)

The evidence suggests hard no-go zones (as defined above) probably don’t exist, at least not in the West. Some news articles claim they exist there anyway, and then other news articles have a field day debunking the first ones, and then pro-immigration people have a field day Twittering about it and calling everyone who believed the stories paranoid and xenophobic.

Soft no-go zones certainly exist, and can be found in almost every city in the world. They have many common names: the hood, rough areas, blighted areas, ghettos, sketchy neighborhoods, etc. But “no-go” is a misnomer, since basically anyone could go there and, 99 times out of 100, not experience a confrontational incident of any kind. So they’re not really no-go zones at all. More like “don’t start a fight there” or “don’t go there and act a fool” zones.

But some aspects of hard no-go zones do exist in some of the soft no-go zones, and I suspect this is what people latch onto when they claim hard no-go zones exist in London or Paris or Stockholm or Dearborn.

For instance there are definitely areas where residents for whatever reason have more faith in, or loyalty to, their own local authority structures than the surrounding government. This was true in many black neighborhoods in the 1970s, and is part of how the Black Panthers rose to prominence. Some ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods have their own ambulances just for Jews and I’m sure the rabbis and their organizations there have a surprising amount of power.

Of course the most notorious example is Muslim enclaves that seem (to outsiders anyway) to basically be run by local clerics. Maybe cops can still patrol there, and maybe white non-Muslims can live or work there without being attacked very often, and this nullifies the “no-go” label, but operating behind the walls of those neighborhoods there is sometimes concealed a surprising amount of activity inaccessible to–or even sometimes at odds with the interests of–the wider nation. This is what we see from some of the sex slavery operations or terrorist recruitment organizations that have been uncovered over the years.

The above is the picture painted for me by many people who either live in or near those so-called no-go zones, or who seem to have read up on it and earnestly tried to determine whether no-go zones are real. My impression is that the most damning descriptions are simplistic exaggerations, but that those who scoff at the existence of no-go zones are naively discounting a lot of what’s really there.

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PUAs are betas by default

In a monogamous society, a man with a wife is much more the alpha archetype than a guy who picks up women in bars.

The reason why is obvious when you write it out loud: in the raw animal sense, manliness is about asserting your territory, and you do that much better by marrying a wife and creating children who carry your last name than by leaving a long string of bar tabs and angry exes.

Grand UFO hoax?

I am 95% confident this news story about a retiring FBI employee’s release of information on UFOs is a hoax. A grander one than I think Americans have had in a while, but a hoax nonetheless.

If I’m right, I can only guess about the possible significance of the story’s timing or who might ultimately be responsible for crafting it. Even if I had better than random guesses, they wouldn’t be worth much unless I could also predict how the story will evolve as people respond to it. So, I won’t guess.

What makes metal not heavy?

I like heavy rock music but metal has never struck me as heavy. Metal fans are usually outraged or dumbfounded by this, so I’m attempting to articulate my reasoning.

  1. Halloween/B-slasher movie crap–in band names, album names, logos and artwork, song names, and lyrics–is just silly, and it seems like almost all metal bands use it profusely:
    1. Satanism, vampires, goth stuff, etc.
    2. Gore imagery
    3. Themes of sexual deviance
    4. Latin or pseudo-Latin
    5. Norse or pseudo-Norse
    6. Themes that are clearly trying to be edgy or highlight one’s edginess
    7. All the above seems designed to frighten people, but who is actually frightened by any of this? Old ladies? Simply the fact that it’s so obviously trying to be frightening makes it lame and ineffective.
  2. Metal vocals are usually impossible to take seriously:
    1. Cookie monster-style
    2. Pterodactyl-style
    3. Both of the above tend to amount to a grown man trying to do an impression of a typical Hollywood interpretation of what a demon sounds like, which means juvenile stupidity is built into these kinds of metal vocals at every level
    4. When metal vocals don’t use either cookie monster- or pterodactyl-style, they often use this kind of over-exerted hyper-masculine style that I find really fake and postured, like a guy who uses steroids to look tough but is actually weak and in poor health (and for whatever reason this style of metal vocals always sounds auto-tuned!)
  3. Metal drumming might be technically difficult, but the effect is typically boring:
    1. Hammering away 16th notes on the double bass pedal doesn’t add any oomph to the music, it just makes it sound like your car’s got a flat tire
    2. Sometimes when it’s fast it sounds like very precise punk drumming, which then sounds out of place because now I’m expecting “Screw the system” and instead getting “Screw dead nuns in the middle of a pentagram, domicilus matreamus basementus, with, like, lots of blood and guts and dead babies everywhere and stuff”
  4. Metal guitar riffs usually aren’t heavy. Sometimes it’s because…
    1. They sound like electrified baroque harpsichord music
    2. They stay in one key/tempo the whole time
    3. They only use the flat fifth, perfect fourth, minor third, and major second over and over again
    4. They sound like pinball machines
    5. They are too wall-of-sound or too complex to discern clearly
    6. They are too repetitive and become mind-numbing
    7. They lack dynamics or pauses
  5. Keyboards (ugh):
    1. A wash of “choir”, “strings”, or “synth” effects, makes music smoother and less heavy because it removes contrast. A song can be heavy if only a few parts of the song have keyboard in them, but the heavy parts will never have keyboard in them
    2. Using an actual harpsichord effect is just ridiculous

Heavy music hits you in the chest, knocks you back a bit. Metal mostly seems like an attempt to be spooky or abrasive, and usually not a successful one. The fact that it’s trying so hard makes it even more of a failure.

Now, I know someone is going to say “What about [this unusual sub-genre of metal I care about]? You’ve never heard of it, so you don’t even know what you’re talking about and therefore you shouldn’t be writing anything about metal! Metal is way more diverse than you’d realize, if you ever listened to anything other than, like, Metallica!”

Well, send me a representative example of that sub-genre and I’ll either show how it already maps to one or more of the bulleted items above, or I’ll add new bullets to accommodate it, or it’ll turn out that there actually is one heavy sub-genre of metal, which doesn’t affect my point about metal in general.

In fact, if anyone can find examples of metal you think is heavy and also avoids all the traps listed above, I’m interested in listening to it.

Is there a War on Christmas?

A lot of people seem to scoff at the notion there’s a war on Christmas. I understand why: several of the most famous news stories about people getting in trouble for saying Merry Christmas turn out to be satirical, and you have very low odds of actually meeting anyone who’s truly offended by the phrase.

On the other hand, the phenomenon of Christmas carols being erased from school musical performances was pretty real, although not universal. And many advertisements substitute the word “holiday” when they clearly mean “Christmas,” as in electronics retailers offering “holiday” sales when basically nobody is buying expensive electronics gifts in celebration of Thanksgiving or New years. (Or Duwali or Hannukah for that matter.)

Taking Christmas down a notch by pointing out it’s mostly derived from a collection of pagan rituals is increasingly popular, especially since those kinds of factoids tend to go viral on the internet, although since they’re not subjective I’m not sure it could be called evidence of the War on Christmas.

There have indeed been cases of nativity scenes being taken down. Some of these have been on public buildings, where there is a popular misconception that no religious symbolism is allowed–but it’s an understandable misconception. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there are cases of nativity scenes being taken down from private property, though I don’t know of any specifically off the top of my head.

What about Google doodles always saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”? I’m unconvinced by these as examples of the War on Christmas since Google serves a global user base, many of whom might not celebrate Christmas even in a secular way.

So at the end of the day I think the existence of a War on Christmas depends on how you define it. I don’t think it’s a ludicrous fallacy to say such a thing is going on, but it isn’t going on in an obvious and overbearing way either.

I also think that conservatives who live in very multicultural, liberal areas are more likely to feel like they’re living in a dystopia. Conservative culture isn’t in the drinking water the way liberal culture is, so it’s easy for those people to feel isolated and put upon. If you’re inclined to scoff at the notion of a War on Christmas, you should remember that first.

The button

Somewhere out there is a person you haven’t met yet, but who you will one day meet and care deeply for, and eventually love with all your heart.

Now imagine a button. If you press it, there is an X% chance that person will be killed right after the button is pressed, even though he or she did nothing wrong. You won’t get in any legal trouble, though a lot of people might consider you a murderer.

But there’s a further catch: if you don’t press the button, your life will become much more difficult. It will be harder to do the things you want, to achieve the things you try to achieve. You will be hampered down. You will lose sleep. You will lose money. You will experience moments of intense pain.

How large a number would X have to be before you’d refuse to press the button?

Decide on a number before reading on.

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