Bruce Lee club. In last month’s diary I gave notice that I’d be at a December meeting with Bruce Lee enthusiasts.
A Hong Kong-based outfit named Infinity Studios has produced a life-size bust of Bruce Lee for sale, in a limited edition, at $4,000. Yes, it’s a bust, not a statue: a remarkably lifelike model, but only from the waist up.
Some Bruce Lee fans here—the same ones I reported having had lunch with in my July 2018 Diary—have put in an order for one of these busts. They’re having a dinner in its honor at Angela Mao’s restaurant in New York City when the bust arrives at some December date not yet precisely specified. They’ve invited me and I shall of course be attending. I’ll report back in next month’s diary.
The date turned out to be Saturday, December 3rd. I spent all afternoon with the enthusiasts and had a most enjoyable time of it.
There are Bruce Lee fans all over, by no means only in the USA. Charles Damiano, whom I met on December 3rd, has a YouTube channel about Lee with more than eleven thousand subscribers.
Here in New York City and its suburbs there seem to be only myself and Angela Mao who (a) acted in one of Lee’s movies, and (b) live locally, and (c) enjoy participating in these occasional get-togethers. So there we were on December 3rd at Angela’s restaurant in Queens, welcoming the arrival of that $4,000 Bruce Lee bust.
A fan poster of the young Derb being knocked down by Bruce Lee
The bust is beautifully made, with terrific attention to detail. The hair is, so far as I could judge, real hair; the eyes look like real eyes; the skin looks and feels like real skin. I didn’t realize that the arts of simulating human tissue had advanced so far.
Yoke those arts to Artificial General intelligence (which half the experts recently consulted say will be with us before 2061) and… Katy, bar the door.
Well, it was fun to party with these people, and of course flattering to be treated as a celebrity, if only a very minor one. I’m an enthusiasm enthusiast: I enjoy being among people who share some harmless enthusiasm, whatever it is. I think I’d have a good time at a gathering of lepidopterists or stamp-collectors. There’s always something to learn, and what better way to learn than from people who love their subject-matter?
On this occasion I was particularly obliged to one of the Bruce Lee enthusiasts who works in graphic design and has an appropriate skill set. He made up a neat montage for The Way of the Dragon featuring the 27-year-old me just realizing that I’m about to become the recipient of one of Bruce’s flying feet. Many thanks for that, Ed; and yes, he did one for Angela, too.
Angela told us, by the way, that she will shortly retire from the restaurant business. So if you want to meet a genuine Bruce Lee costar (I was only an extra) while enjoying some really good Taiwan cuisine, get your booking in at Nan Bei Ho.
Dandelion and Burdock. We keep an insulated flask of hot water on the countertop next to the kitchen sink. I’m an early riser. My first task in the morning is to pour hot water from that flask into a glass tumbler for Mrs. Derbyshire to drink, conveniently warm, when she appears a half-hour later.
Pouring the glass this morning I noticed that the flask water had a faint brownish tinge. I pointed this out to my lady when she showed up. Had she added something to the flask water?
”Yes, burdock. It purifies the blood.”
Knowing her weakness for traditional Chinese herbal remedies, I did not object. In any case I know burdock of old.
Back in my 1950s English childhood my family took periodic delivery of soda—or ”pop” as we called it—from a firm named Corona. Each delivery was a mini-crate of six bottles, each bottle closed with a complicated wire-and-plug stopper. The six bottles were six different flavors: orange, strawberry, ginger beer, and so on.
One of those flavors, which I particularly liked, was ”Dandelion and Burdock.” I suppose there was some kind of English (or perhaps Welsh: the Corona firm was based in Wales) tradition behind that, but as kids we just enjoyed the taste of the stuff.
This morning in the kitchen with my lady was, so far as I can remember, the first time in sixty-some years I have heard the word ”burdock” spoken. Cue Marcel Proust. For a moment there I was back in that other kitchen, the one my dear Mum ruled over in my childhood, begging her for a glass of Dandelion and Burdock.
Is Dandelion and Burdock soda still available? Yes! God bless the internet!
NY AG LETITIA JONES vs. VDARE FOUNDATION: Why is lawfare legal? You heard it here first: VDARE.com is engaged in lawfare with the office of New York State’s Attorney General, indefatigable Social Justice Warrior Letitia James, pictured right.
What law does A-G James think we have broken? We don’t know. Probably the answer is ”none.” She just doesn’t like our opinions and is using the power of her office to commandeer our time in responding to document requests and demands for explanations, and our resources in legal fees to manage our replies to court orders.
No doubt the A-G would be very happy to discover that we have been guilty of some picayune legal transgression; but failing that, she can at least hope to bankrupt us through those legal fees. Lawfare.
We are of course not the only victims of lawfare. The NRA has felt the lash of A-G James’ disapproval and numerous individual citizens associated with the Trump administration have been similarly harassed.
As a character in a great novel explains:
The charges against Jeff and Lenny, for example—there’s no way the government could make them stick. But they don’t have to, you see? They are the government. You’ve got a lawyer? They’ve got ten lawyers. You’ve got ten? They’ve got a hundred. So what if their case all comes to nothing? They can still drag it out for years. Jeff and Lenny will go bankrupt paying their lawyers. Nobody on the Street will give them a job ever again. They’ll be forty years old, broke and unemployable, and there’ll be no place they can go to get their reputations back. The government doesn’t have a department for that.
How can this be legal? How can it be legal for Leviathan, on a whim, or driven by ideological zeal, to prey on the time and resources of private citizens or small donor-funded organizations with the aim of driving them into poverty and silence? (Give to VDARE.com’s Legal Defense Fund here.)
Why don’t we have laws to restrain this?
If only we had a major political party that would stand up for the little guy against the mighty power of Leviathan!
Suicide watch. A study out of Duke University in North Carolina claims to have found a genetic basis for suicidal tendencies aka ”self-injurious thoughts and behaviors”—that’s SITB to the mental-health professionals.
This was a GWAS—I’m sorry, but to engage with this stuff you have to know the shorthand. GWAS stands for ”genome-wide association study.” The Duke researchers worked from a database of nearly 640,000 personal genomes matching off gene variants with susceptibility to SITB. Four genes in particular were more prevalent in suicidal people. Oh, you want to know the names of the genes? Here you go: ESR1, DRD2, DCC and TRAF3 [Identification of Novel, Replicable Genetic Risk Loci for Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors Among US Military Veterans, JAMA Psychiatry, December 14, 2022 (PDF)].
Not much of a surprise there. I think it’s common knowledge that suicide runs in families. Ernest Hemingway comes to mind: He shot himself dead in 1961, 33 years after his dad shot him-self dead.
Less well-known is the case of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Ludwig was the youngest of five brothers; three of them—Hans, Kurt, and Rudolf—died by suicide at ages 25, 40, and 23.
(Ludwig himself died at age 62 after a short illness. When the doctor told him he might live only a few days, the philosopher replied, ”Good!”)
Minor irritations. Very minor, but I’m going to record it anyway.
I’m watching TV. A commercial comes on advertising some wonderful new pharmaceutical product—Derbadrine, perhaps. There are the usual thirty seconds of testimonials from grateful customers followed by a minute and a half of warnings about terrifying possible side effects. It ends with the voice-over warning: ”Do not take if you are allergic to Derbadrine.”
So I should not take a medication that I’m allergic to. Duh! How stupid do they suppose us to be? I think I know.
More on suicide. Canada has had legal assisted suicide since 2016. In the year 2021 more than ten thousand Canadians ended their lives with medical assistance. That’s around one in thirty Canadian deaths that year.
Before proceeding I’ll just note that there’s a distinction commonly made between euthanasia and assisted suicide. If a medical professional delivers the coup de grace, that’s euthanasia; he killed you. If the patient himself does the final deed, after being helped to it by a doctor, that’s assisted suicide. To further confuse the issue there’s ”palliative sedation.” That’s when a patient requests to be kept under deep sedation until he dies.
Euthanasia is of course homicide, and so far as I know illegal everywhere (but see below). Assisted suicide, on the other hand, is gaining ground. In the Canadian system until now a patient, in order to qualify for assisted suicide, has had to have (a) an irremediable physical condition causing him intolerable suffering, and (b) sufficient brain function to understand the decision and its consequences.
Now the Canadians are relaxing the rules. As of next March they will expand the right to assisted suicide to include patients whose only affliction is mental illness—”tired of life” cases they’re called [Canada prepares to expand assisted death amid debate, by Anna Mehler Paperny, Reuters, December 11, 2022]. That’s causing a bit of a fuss up there.
As it should. Mental illness is a very slippery concept, with no precise definition. In the old Soviet Union, and in today’s China and North Korea, disagreeing with the ruling party is counted as mental illness. Many people would say that wanting to kill yourself is a species of mental illness just by itself, creating a nasty logical knot.
This is a zone in which thoughtful, intelligent people can hold very different opinions. I’m a personal-autonomy absolutist. My life is mine; I can do what the heck I please with it—although, as a social creature and loving husband and father, I’d prefer that anything I do not cause pain to others.
There doesn’t seem to be any innate prejudice against suicide. In Western culture it’s historically been associated with shame, but not as a shameful act in itself. The first two suicides in Western literature (I think) were King Saul, through shame at having lost the battle of Mount Gilboa and grief at seeing his sons killed (1 Samuel, 31) and Ajax, through shame at having lost a contest of wits with Odysseus (The Little Iliad). Elsewhere—notably in Japan—while the shame connection is still there, suicide can be a very honorable act.
A more person more religious than I am might argue that no, my life doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to my Creator. I should trust Him to dispose of it as and when He thinks appropriate.
And then there are all the slippery slopes to be taken into account. If a person of property is taking too long to die, grasping relatives might game the assisted-suicide laws to speed things up. Yes, I guess they might; but a bigger danger, in my opinion, is that in our corporatized, bureaucratized healthcare systems grandma’s continued existence may show up as too much of a negative on the balance sheet of some insurance company or healthcare provider.
We should also bear in mind a thing that I think people are aware of in a vague and general way, but which I can attest to personally, having heard about it all through my childhood in stories told across the dinner table.
My mother was a professional nurse in a small provincial town. She had worked all the hospitals, knew all the doctors and most of the nurses. It was common knowledge among them that doctors, faced with a patient who was suffering and not going to get better, would help the patient on his way with a double shot of morphine or some such.
Doctors who did this were breaking the law—committing murder, in fact. Euthanasia always has been, and still is, illegal in the U.K. The motive here was pity; it’s not easy to watch someone die a lingering, painful death when you can do something to spare him.
There was in fact a famous instance of this. In early 1936 the British King, George the Fifth, was seventy years old and in very poor health. He only got worse, and in his last days was in distress and only semiconscious. His physician, Lord Dawson, gave him a lethal mix of morphine and cocaine to see him on his way. This only became known fifty years later when His Lordship’s private notes turned up. Lord Dawson had long since been dead himself at that point, so he couldn’t be tried for regicide.
So in the matter of assisted suicide there’s a lot to take into account. A lot of reality, not all of which fits neatly into a structure of moral absolutes. Darn that reality!
Sharpe’s Progress. Back in my September Diary I noted a first contact with Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe novels.
I can now report that these novels are seriously addictive. There are twenty-two of them altogether, following the career of Sharpe—an English soldier of low origins—from 1799 to 1821; from campaigns in India through the Peninsular War in Portugal and Spain to Waterloo and beyond.
I haven’t yet reached Waterloo and beyond. I’m currently reading number seventeen, in which Sharpie has returned to England after taking part in the Battle of Vitoria and finds the motherland more dangerous than the battlefields of Iberia.
No spoilers, though…
As reported in September: having field-tested Cornwell by reading one of the non-Sharpe novels, I purchased a boxed set of the first five Sharpes.
Yes, they proved addictive, but not addictive enough that I wanted to spend fifty dollars on numbers six through ten. I fell back on the resources of my local municipal library, which can get any book for you from affiliated branches if you don’t mind waiting a few days. With their assistance I borrowed and read numbers six through fifteen.
At this point Christmas was well in sight. The heck with traipsing down to the library, I thought; I’ll ask Santa to do me a favor. I asked, and he did. Under the tree on Christmas morn was a boxed set of numbers sixteen through twenty and individual numbers twenty-one and twenty-two. Thank you, Santa!
Slow motion. Fingernails, says the folklore, grow at a speed of one nanometer per second. Put it another way: In a billion seconds—which is to say 31 years, 251 days and change—your fingernails would grow to a length of one meter if you allowed it to happen. I suppose some Hindu fakir or Chinese Mandarin has allowed it to happen, but I don’t intend to.
I do, though, wish my own fingernails would speed up a bit. My September-October adventures in helping to move large, heavy items of furniture left me with a couple of badly bruised fingernails.
Those unsightly bruises are moving forward up the nails at the regulation speed of 2.237 billionths of a mile per hour, but…
James Webb telescope. If you enjoyed my rant about ”the incompetent, impotent jellyfish of Britain’s Conservative Party” here at VDARE.com the other day you will double enjoy Gregory Hood’s much longer and equally vituperative column at American Renaissance, December 30th.
Gregory did me the honor of quoting me in his piece, so I shall quote him back.
In neo-reactionary circles, some muse that Americans might have been better off without the Revolution. The current state of once-Great Britain is the strongest justification for having tarred and feathered Tories. Conservatives under Boris Johnson did nothing to reverse the stifling climate of political repression, Orwellian surveillance, and woke jargon choking the Mother Country.
[White Renegade of the Year—2022, December 30, 2022]
Nothing is exactly what they did, for sure. Evidence turns up daily in the news outlets. Sample self-explanatory headline: Royal Astronomical Society CANCELS NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope over claims its namesake discriminated against gay employees—and orders its 4,000 members to stop using the telescope’s name in studies, Daily Mail, December 21st.
As I noted a year ago: In response to similar demands over here, our own NASA stood firm on common sense.
Leaving aside the fact that James Webb [Not the Senator, James E. Webb was NASA Administrator 1961-1968] is not known to have had any active part in firing homosexuals, this ignores the other fact that in the 1960s approximately ninety percent of Americans were homophobic by the standards of 2021. Indeed, never mind the 1960s: In 1986 the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court quoted in support of his written opinion the traditional view of homosexual sodomy as, quote, ”an infamous crime against nature,” end quote, to no public outcry at all.
Here’s the encouraging bit. NASA, to their credit, have announced that they will not rename the telescope. It will go on being the James Webb Space Telescope.
U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
Math Corner. Before I get to a brainteaser, let me just note that lawfare has an academic equivalent over in Britain.
The context here is efforts by university administrators over there to ”de-colonize” the teaching of math—or, in Britlish, ”maths.” Pushing back against those efforts there is a bill, the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, currently before Parliament. It has a clause giving academics and students the power to sue universities if their freedom of speech rights are breached.
In an all-too-typical act of willful self-harm, Britain’s jellyfish government has tabled amendments to the bill, which would mean that academics could only use those powers as a ”last resort,” after first pursuing complaints through the procedures of the relevant university and the higher education regulator.
A group of math professors has petitioned the Education Minister for those amendments to be dropped. In their petition they say:
We do not think this [amended bill] would give us the protection that we need. Universities have vast resources and power compared to individual academics. If academics are required to exhaust all internal processes and then spend up to 12 months taking their complaint through the Office for Students before they can begin the lengthy process of going to the courts, we believe that the personal cost of raising any complaints would be far too high, rendering the system ineffective.
It’s not precisely lawfare, but it’s the same general idea. If the dissidents won’t shut up, let’s PROCESS them into silence.
OK, brainteaser time.
The days are long gone when I could invite readers to tell me something interesting about the number of the New Year. Nowadays everybody and his uncle has a website listing all you could wish to know about 2023.
I haven’t checked all such websites—who’s got the time?—and the one I linked to there describes itself on December 28th as incomplete, with a promise of more to come. It does, however, tell us that 2023 is a Harshad Number: that is, a number that is divisible by the sum of its digits.
I noticed something not mentioned: 2023 is also divisible by the sum of the squares of its digits. So far as I know there is no family name for such numbers. I hereby baptize them the Derbyshire numbers. Quick now: How many Derbyshire numbers are there less than 100?
And as penance for my sniffy remarks about Twitter in my December 23rd podcast, here is a slightly—only slightly—more difficult timewaster that I saw tweeted on December 19th under the Twitter handle ”Fermat’s Library.” The caret of course indicates exponentiation.
Brainteaser: Which is greater, 1000^1001 or 1001^1000?