Rollins's Review, August 20
On my favorite Substack columns this week
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My second review is late because the dog ate my homework.
Grant Smith’s H2F Man is one of my favorites. I find militaria fascinating, Grant is a very nice guy in person (at least, on the phone), and he is a 6’7” giant of a man (unusual people have unusual perspectives) who has written flattering things about me. All that would add up to my reading him regularly anyway, but this particular column is high Gonzo art. The scenario he presents seems utterly batshit until you realize that
He’s completely sincere.
While his projected outcome is not predictable in advance, he’s not wrong on any verifiable facts.
He makes his point in such a way that that you have to acknowledge the validity of his arguments, even if you don’t agree with them.
Holly Math Nerd is one of the most important writers on Substack. Not because she has as many subscribers as she deserves, but because it is rare to see someone shine their moral spotlight so unflinchingly on both themself and on others. Yet while she ruthlessly interrogates her priors and refuses to make a special case of herself, she at the same time manages to give herself and others the benefit of the doubt. Compassion and clear-eyed judgement don’t always go hand in hand—it’s a tricky needle to thread, and she does it brilliantly. Her piece on Sam Harris is both a lament and a rhetorical scalpel. Recommended.
Letters of Note is a beautiful blog reposting…well, what it says on the tin. Insightful, wise, sad, triumphant letters from or to famous people.
I love Brian Potter’s Construction Physics. I knew nothing about construction when I started reading, and very little about physics. Having read his newsletter for the past few months, I am now confident I could start a construction company based around the idea of prefabricated institutional buildings designed so as not to make the people who work in them miserable. He makes incredibly esoteric concepts seem straightforward and interesting.
Brown-trousering the naughty 24/7 like Spider Jerusalem, Chris from Karlstack is a mean-spirited, bloody-minded journalistic chainsaw incandescent with righteous indignation. The world would be a better place if we had another twenty of him, and academic parties to which he was invited would be full of nervous smiles. His columns are neither nice nor polite, but The Truth is in them.
I read some non-Substack blogs, too. I’m inclined to like Casey Johnston of She’s a Beast, because while I haven’t ever lifted heavy, I have a deep appreciation (and a personal soft spot) for chicks who do. She is extremely solid on method, her links are on point, and she’s a thoughtful person.
Another non-Substack favorite is Bret Deveraux’s A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry. Bret is a military historian who also sometimes writes about realism in the military logistics of The Lord of The Rings movies. The linked post is a retrospective on one of his most popular series, “This. Isn’t. Sparta.” In both the post and the series, he digs into the reality behind the legendary Spartan military machine, revealing that not only was Sparta not actually very successful as an army, but that the victories it did achieve came in large part due to the fact that 65% to 85% of Spartans were slaves who the ruling class treated brutally by the standards of Antiquity. (For contrast, 32.3% of Americans were enslaved on the eve of the Civil War.) ACOUP is one of the best blogs on the internet, bar none.