Derb's Monthly Diary Revivified: Alan Colmes, Jigsaw Puzzles, And Black Dysfunction (It's Worse Than You Think)
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 [When I was blogging at National Review Online I posted a diary at the end of each month.  Each diary was a rag-bag of short pieces on random topics.  Some were penetrating social/cultural/political analysis, others were learnéd discourses about the fluff in my belly-button.  All my NRO monthly diaries, 2001-2012, are archived here.

When I moved to Taki’s Magazine in 2012, I suggested keeping up the monthly-diary tradition, but they weren’t keen.  We compromised on a “Quarterly Potpourri.”  The last one I did is here.

I asked Editor Peter Brimelow if he wouldn’t mind my reviving the monthly diary tradition here on  Peter said: “Sure, give it a try.”  Bless that man.

As with the NRO monthly diaries, these will usually end with a math note.]

 A decent Lefty.  I was on Alan Colmes’ radio show September 25th.  This was Alan’s “Friday Night Free-for-All,” where he has three invited guests and we bat around listener’s call-in questions.

I really shouldn’t do radio.  I can’t think on my feet, and am tormented afterwards by l’esprit d’escalier—thinking of what I should have said.  I console myself with Vladimir Nabokov’s apology for similar shortcomings: “I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, I speak like a child.”

The “Free for All” format works against me, too.  If just one of the other guests is garrulous, a retiring type like myself can’t get a word in sideways.

So why do I do it?  Well, there’s vanity, of course.  I like having that Fox News limo pull up outside the house to take me to Manhattan.  It impresses the neighbors.

Mostly, though, it’s that I like Alan.  Sure, he’s a Lefty, but one of the better sort.  You could see this in his August 31st interview with Jared Taylor—see both the closed-minded Lefty ideologue Alan and the fundamentally decent Alan.

In the Reconstruction phase following the end of the Cold Civil War, when Goodwhites at last have the total power they crave and we Badwhite advocates are being hustled off to the labor camps, Alan will be one of the small number of goodwhites saying, “Hey, wait a minute…”  He’ll probably end up breaking rocks in the Aleutian Islands with us badwhite zeks.

To some degree, in fact, this has already happened.  Alan’s show is a sort of Aleutian Island of talk radio.  Fox does little to publicize it and I assume—just from the fact of its being on Fox—that none of the big Lefty networks wants it.  The “Free for All” guests are low-rank bloggers and freelance writers. The callers are mostly lunatics.  I’ve heard Alan himself say: “I can’t believe I do this for a living.”

As George Orwell saw so clearly, it’s not just heterodox ideas that the Left hates, it’s human decency: the decency, for example, that believes even heterodox ideas deserve a hearing.

I doubt that anyone much on the Left likes Alan Colmes.

Peak white guilt?  Steve Sailer, apropos transethnic Jeb Bush saying that Democrats woo blacks by promising to “take care of you with free stuff”:

Jeb … has a Mexican attitude towards blacks.  [He] represents, like transgender Caitlyn Jenner and transracial Rachel Dolezal, the future. In an increasingly Hispanic and Asian America, African Americans are just going to have to get used to less White Guilt.
Is that true?  Are we at Peak White Guilt?

With all respect to Steve, I doubt it.  I am not at all susceptible to white guilt myself, but I know people that are.  It’s obvious to me from observing them that white guilt delivers great psychic rewards.

White guilt doesn’t do it for me personally; but then, neither does cocaine or an all-night contract bridge marathon.  As a great writer said: “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”

Twenty or thirty years from now we shall have figured out how reading Ta-Nehisi Coates or denouncing racial crimethink sets off floods of pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters in so many white people’s brains.  Until then white guilt will wax strong, whatever happens with demographics.

A pitiful addiction.  What does do it for me?  Well, eight years ago in a Straggler column I confessed, somewhat guiltily, my addiction to jigsaw puzzles.

Is jigsaw puzzling really a thing that a mature adult should be spending time on?  Possibly not; but it’s less socially harmful than wallowing in bogus race guilt.

Ever since that Straggler column, kind readers have been sending me jigsaw puzzles for Christmas. Last Christmas I got a doozy: John Edward Goodall’s Bombardment of Algiers from the Ravensburg firm of puzzle-makers, in nine thousand pieces.

That’s a lot of pieces.  I paced myself through it, though, and completed* the puzzle on September 26th.  That means I averaged placing 33 pieces per day, December to September.

The last couple of hundred pieces were the most satisfying.  When you get to that point, you can’t stop until you’ve finished.  “For goodness sake come and have your dinner,” griped Mrs D, “You can finish the stupid puzzle later.”  I replied with a famous line from one of Chairman Mao’s poemsYi jiang sheng yong zhui qiong kou—“Use the last of your strength to pursue the beaten foe”—and pressed on to final victory.

Photographic evidence of puzzle completion here.  (Click on the wee picture for a larger version.)

*Except for that one last unsolved space.  You can just make it out at top left in the picture.

It’s worse than you think.  Black underclass dysfunction, that is.

Living as we do in conditions of strong voluntary residential segregation, we get only glimpses.  For a fuller picture, talk to someone who’s worked at the interface.

A cop, for example.  One of my neighbors is ex-NYPD.  He: “There weren’t a lot of blacks in my precinct, no more than 20 percent.  The crime was 95 percent black, though.  People don’t know…”

And a friend at one of my dinner clubs, a big fearless bear of a man, taught Phys. Ed. and coached sports for thirty years in mostly-black New York City public schools.  He: “As bad as you think it is, it’s worse.  People just don’t know…”

81dvPy-3PML._SL1500_[1]These people—decent, honorable men both, dedicated to their professions—know.  Fred Reed, who rode in Washington, DC cop cars as a crime reporter, knows.  The contributors to this book know.

Do I know?  I don’t think I really do, not at that level.  Do you know?

Keeping fit with Derb.  A reader asked if I do regular exercise.  I certainly do.  Gotta keep toned, and T levels respectable.

On alternate days I either eat lunch or do a workout.  On workout days I do three sets each of bench press, curls, and pullovers, 30 reps each set, small dumbbells (30lbs, 25lbs, 50lbs).

At my age the muscles can do what the joints no longer can, so more reps with less weight is the rule.  While pumping I listen to Great Courses lectures, currently Prof. Greenberg 30 Greatest Orchestral Works.”  After workout I chug a big glass of protein drink in lieu of lunch.

Two or three times a week I drive to Caumsett state park nearby and ride my bicycle four times round, which is ten miles.  For variety I sometimes go clockwise, sometimes counterclockwise.

(There is no motor vehicle traffic inside the park.  I don’t ride my bike in traffic; heard too many horror stories.)

With that, clean livin’, righteous thoughts, an’ home cookin’, I figure I'm good for another 20 years, DV.

Peak jobs, maybe.  I’m a bit less impressed by the looming prospect of driverless vehicles than the news reports seem to be, having ridden a riderless vehicle daily for several months a quarter-century ago.

That was the Docklands Light Railway in London, where my wife and I lived 1990-91 in a flat we bought on mortgage.  (Purchase price £100,000.  We sold the flat in 1993 for the same price.  It would nowadays sell for around £350,000.  That sound you hear is my teeth gnashing.)

looknodriverWell, that Docklands region of east London is, and was, served by the Docklands Light Railway, whose trains have, and had, no drivers or conductors.

The next logical step—getting rid of the rails—is taking a while, but I’ve no doubt we’ll get there.

They tell you in Economics 101 that the blacksmiths, coachmen, and carters of the horse era became the mechanics, chauffeurs, and truck drivers of the automobile era.  But what will they become in the age of autonomous vehicles?  What will the Economics lecturers of 2030 tell their students?

Oblomovitis.  The only one of the Seven Deadlies that gives me much trouble is sloth.  Boswell reported Dr Johnson as saying that “he always felt an inclination to do nothing.”  Me too, Doc.

oblomovitisThis is the worst time of year for us so afflicted.  Anyone who’s been through school and college is to some degree, for the rest of his life, on the academic calendar.  There’s that long summer break when nothing much needs to be done; then the September panic to get back up to speed.

Johnson was actually quite industrious.  The real literary poster guy for purposeless sloth is Ilya Ilyich Oblomov, the protagonist of an 1858 novel by Ivan Goncharov.

To quote the Wikipedia précis:

Oblomov is a young, generous nobleman who seems incapable of making important decisions or undertaking any significant actions. Throughout the novel he rarely leaves his room or bed and just manages to move from his bed to a chair in the first 50 pages.
I made Oblomov’s acquaintance early in life.  My college in London, 1963-66, was a half-hour’s walk from the West End, so I took in a lot of shows.  One was Son of Oblomov, with comedian Spike Milligan as the title character.

programmefromsonofoblomovpriceoneshillingMilligan mainly just ad-libbed his way through the show. At one point his servant handed him a letter, which Milligan opened and read out loud.  Halfway through a sentence he suddenly stopped; then forcefully uttered the syllable “PTOO!” in a way that actually managed to sound Russian.  The servant looked momentarily perplexed, then stepped forward and turned over the page for him.  Well, you had to be there.

(It was Milligan whom the satirical magazine Private Eye described as a “filthy Irish pervert.”  Milligan threatened to sue the magazine for defamation on the grounds that he was not Irish.)

Ever since then I’ve kept Oblomov in mind as an anti-model.  If not for Ivan Goncharov and his creation, I’d have returned to my home town and never stirred therefrom.

lifesgreatestsecretReading list.  This month I read Matthew Cobb’s new book Life’s Greatest Secret: The Race to Crack the Genetic Code.  I came away much wiser about how we arrived at today’s understandings in genetics, but not without effort.

Cobb doesn’t spare you the details.  Be ready for passages like this.

When Ochoa’s laboratory reported that with poly(5U1C) they got high levels of phenylalanine and lower levels of proline and of serine, this was interpreted in terms of the relative proportions of the possible coding triplets.  Starting with the known fact that UUU coded for phenylalanine, they claimed that proline was coded by 1U and 2Cs (either CCU, UCC or CUC) and serine was coded by 2Us and 1C (either UCU, UUC or CUU) …  [Ibid., p.198.]
Got that?

Cobb brings you right up to date with current topics like GM foods, the origins of life, and the CRISPR techniques for editing the genome.  He is firm and clear on the very restricted scope of epigenetics, contra the social-science nurturist zealots.

Epigenetics remains fascinating, but it is an adjunct to our understanding of the complexities of gene regulation and the origin of plasticity, not a radical new model of inheritance and evolution.  The fundamental claim of [Francis Crick’s] central dogma [of genetics] is that once information has gone out of the DNA sequence into protein, there is no way for it to get back into the genome. Despite the existence of epigenetic inheritance in certain unusual circumstances, this statement remains true.  We know of no way in which the information expressed in proteins can alter the DNA sequence.  [Ibid., pp.259-260.]
There is a bit of virtue signaling at the very end about “increasing the number of scientists from ethnic minorities” and addressing “inherent inequalities in our education system,” but it has a perfunctory look about it.  Perhaps it’s just something the publisher insisted on.  I’ll give the author a pass.

In short, not a bad read; but not an easy one either.

Math notes.  I recently put up a post here about the blogger Education Realist.  Well, ER has a math quiz for you.  To be precise, simpatico educator Grant Wiggins, who died May 26th, had one and Ed Realist is giving it a re-airing.

The first three questions are:

  1. “You can’t divide by zero.” Explain why not, (even though, of course, you can multiply by zero.)
  2. “Solving problems typically requires finding equivalent statements that simplify the problem.”  Explain—and in so doing, define the meaning of the = sign.
  3. You are told to “invert and multiply” to solve division problems with fractions. But why does it work? Prove it.
As you can see, this is a conceptual knowledge quiz.  WARNING:  If you are mathematically sophisticated, you will probably over-think the questions and may not do as well as a bright high-school senior or undergraduate less steeped in math.  Life is very unfair that way.

John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He's had two books published by FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and From the Dissident Right II: Essays 2013. His writings are archived at

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