Wednesday, March 14, 2018


What makes an object pleasing or not? So much depends upon perspective.

This is a recent travel guide to Japan, published by one of the world's leaders in travel guides,

about 600 pages long, with, I'm guessing somewhere between 200 and 400 high-quality photographs taken in contemporary Japan. And assuming I didn't miss any, only 6 of those photographs show ground transportation vehicles: 1 picture of a bullet train, 2 of urban street traffic, 1 showing 2 taxicabs parked outside of a department store, 1 of a robot riding a bicycle at a science fair, and 1 of a tractor in a rice field. There is a also a picture of engines being manufactured inside a factory.

This is in a guide to the country which is the home of Honda, Accura, Toyota, Lexus, Nissan, Infiniti, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki, a country which manufactures about 10 million cars, trucks and buses a year, plus who knows how many motorcycles and bicycles, not me, is who. The city of Yokohama gets 6 pages of coverage, but the tires of the same name are not mentioned anywhere in the volume.

Is this a problem? I don't think it is. I doubt that very many people have approached this volume expecting it to contain a lot of info about the Japanese transportation industry. The guide does contain a lot of information about Japanese hotels and restaurants. How well does it describe the best that Japan has to offer in this regard? I have no idea, because I know practically nothing about Japanese hotels and restaurants.

I'm sure some of you are dying to know: no, I did not find any information in this guide about Japanese watches. (This is my Seiko 5.

There are many like it, but this one is mine.) If half or more of the information in a 600-page travel guide to Japan pertained to Japanese watches, you and I might be delighted, but most travelers to Japan would be disappointed and puzzled.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Latest Liberal "Bag of Nothing"

How dare these "Hollywood liberals" imply that anyone has ever suggested that anyone from the Trump administration has ever had any contact with anyone or anything which is Russian? I was hanging out with Jared Kushner recently, and he happened to see a bottle of vodka, and he had no idea what it was. He was about to try to use it to remove some dirt from ones of his shoes before I explained to him that vodka is something that people drink. By the way, he also had no idea what Russia was. He thought that Russia was a skin disease which cats sometimes get if they aren't ingesting a proper mix of vitamins. I had to explain to him that Russia is a large country extending from eastern Europe in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east.

Imagine Kushner's consternation, when I told him that some "liberals" like Mueller are trying to frame him for having improper dealings with people from a foreign country which, until recently, he had assumed was a feline skin disease!

Just try to imagine to shock felt by Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn, Anthony Scaramucci, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Wilbur Ross, Michael R Caputo, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Roger Stone and others, including Michael Cohen, Nigel Farage, Erik Prince (who some liberal hotheads describe as the founder of something they call "Blackwater") and Peter W Smith, at these so-called "allegations" that they have unreported business ties and contacts with officials, business people, banks and intelligence agencies from a country which they all had assumed was a cat's skin disease, and not a country at all, and that intelligence operatives from this so-called "country" are in possession of compromising personal and financial information about the President of the United States, and that there are all kinds of photographs and video and audio of half or more of them actually in this so-called "country" consorting with its government officials and various cronies of this murky figure to whom liberal refer as "Putin"?!

I mean, really! Who's kidding who, here?! Or should I say WHOM?!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Classical Studies and Reception Theory

I'm not sure how well I understand various literary theories. It may be that I am far below average when it comes to my ability to grasp them. I do, after all, officially have a mental disability, and this may be one example of it.

On the other hand, it may be that I understand literary theories better than almost anyone, and that above all, I understand how stupid and sad they all are, and how thoroughly there is no there there. Or it may be that my aptitude in understanding literary theories is about average.

It may be by far the most prudent to assume that the first of these possibilities is the case, that I have an unusually hard time distinguishing my discourse analysis from my post-modernism, and that therefore I should proceed very carefully. (I must apologize, and clarify in advance: I have not promised that I will proceed carefully, just acknowledged that I should.) For example, when I say that reception theory, extremely popular in the past several decades in Classical Studies (and perhaps in the academic study of literature more generally, I don't know), seems to me to consist of the study of the tradition of the Classics, which was a part of Classical Studies long before anyone called anything reception theory, plus a lot of pretentious malarkey, I ought to hasten to underscore that that's how it it seems to me, and that a lot of people with much more cred than I have gone on at great length about how it's actually a whole lot more than that,

and that i am the source of the malarkey here. Far be it from me to rule out, categorically, that my writing consists primarily of malarkey.

If I understand it correctly, the study of Classical Literature can be seen figuratively as movement in two opposite directions: the editor of a Classical text uses the evidence, mostly manuscripts of the primary text, to approach, as nearly as he or she can, the text as the author intended it. In the case of an ancient text which survives in a great number of manuscripts, one of the tasks of the editor is to eliminate from consideration those manuscripts which do not contribute to the establishment of the text. For example, if it is proven that an entire group of manuscripts derive entirely from another existing manuscript, than that entire group may be of very little or no interest to the editor in his capacity as editor. The study of that text's tradition, on the other hand, starts with the author and travels in the opposite figurative direction, studying the ways in which the author's text has reached readers directly via manuscripts and printed edition, and indirectly via translations, and other literary works which imitate or otherwise make reference to the first one, and also in other media such as visual art, music, movies and what have you. No matter how many manuscripts of one text there may be, it's somewhat harder to say that any of them are of no interest whatsoever in studying the text's tradition. Not to mention printed editions and translations, which may be of interest in editing a text as well, but primarily in cases where the other manuscripts are missing or have gaps or mistakes which cannot otherwise be remedied.

It seems to me that both of these directions, if you will, are perfectly natural ways of studying Classical literature. (Ah. I might as well mention now, in case I forget to later, that reception theory has greatly increased the number of texts which are considered to belong to the Classical canon -- mostly by including works composed at later dates.) Traditionally, more weight was given by Classical scholars to the editing of text, and the constant effort to improve upon previous editions. Editing texts was the dog, and study of the transmission was the tail.

Reception theory says that studying the transmission of the texts is the proper focus of literary study, the dog itself, with textual editing being relegated to the role of the tail. Except that reception theory goes farther, and claims that there is nothing of significance to be studied before that interaction of text and reader: the reception.

Except that they go farther, and seem to be, in some instances, quite hostile to the editors. And here, if not sooner, is where reception theory begins to seem like malarkey to me, because if the text with which the reader interacts is not rigorously defined in some way, such as, oh, for instance, its relationship to the text which the author wrote -- not the only way in which a text can be defined, to be sure, but a valid example! -- then we're no longer talking about the text at all, but anything and everything, which is to say: we're talking about nothing.

It may be that before reception theory, the editors went too far in dismissing the effect of the text which they constantly strove to improve. It seems to me that both editing and study the transmission are perfectly natural things to do, and that there's no need to choose between one or the other, or to decide which one is the dog and which the mere tail. I'm more temperamentally inclined toward studying the transmission in all of its sometimes vast variety. But I'm convinced that both directions, inward toward one imagined original text and outward into all of its sometimes far-flung effects and permutations, are essential parts of studying Classical literature.

I suppose it's much easier for me to say the latter than it is for academics, who have to argue over syllabi and degree requirements and so forth.

Still: Reception theory often presents itself, in so many words, as a "provocation" to more traditional approached to Classical Studies. Maybe there was a great deal lacking in earlier approaches to the Classics, which called for a radical break.

Maybe. Still, it is very easy to provoke, and to have provoked, to have upset someone, is far from a guarantee that one has said anything of any worth. The latter is not necessarily so easy.

I don't know very many of the players involved. I worry that reception theory may be discounting the worth of scholarly editing, which would be disastrous if reception theory proves to be more than a passing fad. But perhaps I misunderstand completely, and the provocation of which reception theory seems so proud is a provocation of which it should be proud: for example, it it's a challenge to entrenched tendencies of sexism and racism and other forms of bigotry within Classical Studies.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Praise From Obama or a Diss From Trump

I'm not good at making money. I would like to have lots and lots of money, but I never have had much. I think my difficulty with making money is one result of my autism. But I'm not sure about that.

For 9 years, the main thing I've been doing to try to earn money is writing this blog. That may be absurd. But I don't know what else to do.

I don't know how to market my blog. Some days I have very high page counts, some days very low. Some individual posts get many more views than others. But whatever happens, it's a surprise.

I daydream a lot about becoming financially successful. (Maybe that's a big part of my problem right there: maybe successful people never daydream about success. That would go directly counter to all of those motivational speakers and authors telling people to visualize success. But I don't think that necessarily means it's incorrect.)

The nearest approaches to success I've had so far with the blog, the biggest amounts of pageviews, have come when someone with a large readership mentions one of my posts: a popular blogger, or a magazine not terribly far from The Main Stream.

And so I daydream about people like Barack Obama doing things like tweeting about my blog. Seems like something like that could be a big boost toward my having something people would call a career. There are many people who could be a big help to me with a single mention, but I've been thinking -- daydreaming -- that perhaps no single person could help me more with a single tweet, than Barack Obama.

Then today I thought: what if Donald Trump tweeted about me? Would that help me even more than a tweet from Trump?

I can't imagine Obama tweeting something negative about me: either he'd have something nice to say, or, surely, he wouldn't go out of his way to diss a nobody like me. I can't imagine Trump tweeting anything but negative things about me. And as we know, he not above going out of his way to diss nobodies.

A tweet from Obama, something along the lines of:

"Here's a blog written by Steven Bollinger, an interesting writer who's not very well known. Essays on all sorts of topics, from wristwatches to renewable energy to politics to ancient Latin, and many other things. Thoughtful, witty, fascinating writing."

-- would almost certainly catapult me into what is known as a career. But what if Trump tweeted something like:

"Small-time creepy loser disabled autistic blogger, sympathetic to loser NYT and loser MSNBC and lib Dems, takes pathetic potshots at me. A complete loser in life, jealous of my huge success. What a pathetic jerk! Sad!"

? Many, many people now say up whenever Trump says down and night whenever he says day, and who can blame them? Almost certainly, many people would praise me and my writing just because Trump dissed me, without ever actually going to the trouble of reading something I'd written. Many others no doubt would actually read my blog because of Trump's tweet, and some of them might like it.

I wonder whether there's some action I could take which would lead directly toward my having financial success, something which has never occurred to me, but would've occurred to almost every non-autistic person in my position?

I wrote above that almost every reaction to a post on this blog is a surprise to me. There is one exception: posts like this one, in which I write about how badly I want fame and fortune, almost always get far fewer pageviews than my average post. That makes me sad for several reasons, one of which is that I think these posts are very interesting and entertaining. It's okay to laugh at these posts, it doesn't necessarily mean you're missing the point.

Dream Log: FB Meet-Up in the Mountains

Last night I dreamed I was meeting face-to-face for the first time with some Facebook friends: mostly friendly, non-judgmental, leftist, pro-science Christians.

Our meeting place was in a mountainous region. We parked in a lot surrounded by shops selling things like candy and tourist-y knickknacks. From there we had to keep going up on foot, up a very steep slope. We had the choice of climbing the mountain slope itself, or taking some stairs which were enclosed in sort sort of white plastic. I started to climb these stairs, but as they went higher the white plastic enclosure got closer, and very soon I became claustrophobic and climbed back down.

Then I noticed that there was another set of stairs. These were in a very spacious and sturdily-built stairwell of the kind one sees in fine early-20th-century public buildings in large US cities.

In the dream, the stairs were not entirely enclosed from the elements. It was very cold, there was snow on the ground, I had left my winter coat in my car, and after I had climbed a great distance, I realized that I should not have. As I climbed the stairs back down, I reflected that all of this physical exercise was good for me.

At the top of the stairs, we made various remarks about how this or that person was either just like this or that one had pictured him or her, or entirely different. After that sort of talk had died down, there was a lull in the conversation which seemed like it might last, but soon several lively conversations were going on on a variety of topics. I ended up talking about the stairwell with a young married couple. The young husband (there was a husband and a wife in this couple, in the traditional manner) went on for a while about the stairwell and the turn-of-the-20th-century American public architecture which it represented. In the dream, he seemed to be making many profound points, but now, awake, I can't remember any of them.

I mentioned that none of what he had said explained why this stairwell was semi-exposed to the elements, while most stairwells of its kind were fully enclosed within buildings. I hadn't meant to upset him with this remark, but it seemed I had greatly upset him. He turned away and didn't seem to want to talk any more. Then I woke up.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Papyri of the Iliad; Also: Academic Conventions

In my recent blog post entitled Manuscripts, I wrote:

"[...]several months ago, I sent a email to a distinguished scholar, asking him whether he could round out some areas of my knowledge of the Oxyrhynchus papyri project: Are any of the papyri still in the boxes Grenfell and Hunt put them into between 1897 and 1904? Are we approaching the state of things where all that is left are tiny little pieces of papyrus? Questions like that.

"He hasn't gotten back to me. That hurts my feelings, but it's entirely his prerogative, of course. Finally today I sent an email to the general guestions-and-suggestions-etc address of the Oxyrhynchus project, which is perhaps where I should've inquired to begin with."

In Studies in the Text and Transmission of the Iliad, Munich & Leipzig, 2000, p 87, West writes that, as the Egypt Exploration Society wished, he did not give any details of the 850 unpublished Oxyrhynchus papyri (Correction: 827 unpublished papyri used by West in his edition, plus 23 first published in Manfrdi et al, Papiri dell'Iliade, Florence, 2000. I think. Much of what I write in CI and about Classics on my blog should be proofread by experts before anyone thinks of taking it seriously, because of things I don't know and full-time academics do know.) used in his edition of the Iliad, 1998--2000, and he thanks them for their permission to now include their inventory numbers and summary details in his catalog of papyri of the Iliad, which contains a total of 1569 items.

Because of those details, I can see that those 850 papyri which in 2000 were either unpublished or published for the first time, are certainly not inconsequential little scraps. They seem generally to be about as big as most of the Homeric papyri already published. This does not give the impression that the Oxyrhynchus project is almost all out of significant papyri. I need to try to find out how many more have been published in the last 18 years, and discovered in that time, if the existence of those latter have been made known to the public.

To judge from West's pointed expression of thanks to the Egypt Exploration Society for their permission to divulge details about unpublished papyri, maybe the reason that neither the above-mentioned distinguished scholar nor anyone else from the EES has yet gotten back to me with details about unpublished papyri is that such details are conventionally thought of as proprietary secret knowledge of the EES, only rarely made public in extraordinary circumstances, such as when a scholar of West's stature is involved. I'm ignorant of the ways in which things are usually done in Classical Studies and papyrology, Perhaps I've been making making requests for information which are generally considered impolite at best. Consultation with some Classicists and papyrologists about mores and conventions, learning a little about the way things are usually done, certainly would do me no harm, and might save both myself and some scholars a great deal of future embarrassment.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"The Big Bang Theory" : Fake

I'm talking about the TV show, not the well-known theory in physics.

"The Big Bang Theory" is just fake "Malcolm in the Middle." They even have theme music by Barenaked Ladies, who are the fake They Might Be Giants, who made the theme music for "Malcolm in the Middle." "Malcolm" is made by and about authentic geniuses, including TMBG; TBBT is made by fake geniuses, and its characters are crude stereotypes of geniuses, just as BNL are crude imitations of nerds, and specifically, crude, inept imitations of TMBG. TMBG, besides being geniuses, are too nice to call BNL on this. I'm not.

The repeated guest appearances by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking on TBBT do not refute my thesis; instead they show 1) that quality sitcoms are not Tyson's or Hawking's area of expertise, and 2) how desperate the producers of TBBT are to demonstrate (to themselves most of all) that they are really smart.

The presence of scientist and actual smart person Mayim Bialik in the cast (in a role as stereotypical and tired as the rest) does not refute my thesis. Let's see what you or I would do if offered that much money (reportedly Bialik receives half a million dollars per episode currently) after several years' worth of slowed-down career.