Saturday, January 31, 2015

Iron Chariots On The Creation Of The Early Parts Of The Bible

Yesterday I noticed a reference to Matt Dillahunty holding forth, in a video from his radio show, about the creation of the Bible. For any number of reasons, I didn't feel like sitting through the entire video, but I was curious to know what Matt might have to say on the subject. (Regular readers of this blog know that I am occasionally somewhat critical of the statements of New Atheists on historical topics.) I looked for a printed text by Matt on the subject. I didn't find much in that vein, although I did find a ton of links to Matt on video. I also found out that he is a founder of Iron Chariots, a wiki which describes itself as "intended to provide information on apologetics and counter-apologetics."

I posted the following quote from Iron Chariots about the writing of the Bible, and said it was pretty much okay:

"The Jewish and Christian Bibles are actually collections of what were originally a number of independent books. The overwhelming majority of Christians refer to the Bible as the combination of Hebrew Scripture, known to Christians as the Old Testament or First Testament; and the New Testament, which describes the life and message of Jesus. For Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, and some Protestants, the Deuterocanonical books — various writings important in the Second-Temple period of Judaism (often regarded by many Protestants as (or part of the) Apocrypha) — are considered to be part of the Old Testament and as such part of the Bible, although they are rejected by many Protestants and are not in the Hebrew Bible as accepted in modern Judaism. Some books considered deuterocanonical by Orthodox Churches are considered apocryphal by other Orthodox Churches and/or Catholics. For Jews, the term refers only to the Hebrew Bible, also called the Tanakh, which includes the Five Books of Moses (the Torah) as well as the books of the Prophets and Writings. Both Christians and Jews regard the Bible as divinely inspired, with widespread variation on its accuracy, interpretation and legitimacy. Archaeological study has shown that the primary elements the first five books of the Bible, especially Exodus, were around before the Old Testament was. They were found in several unrelated oral traditions around 500 BCE, but the oldest examples of biblical scripture were dated using radiometric dating to have been written between 325 and 125 BCE. The Bible is nowhere near as old as claimed by the majority of Jews and Christians)"

But overnight a couple of things occurred to me:

1) Iron Chariots sez "the oldest examples of biblical scripture were dated using radiometric dating to have been written between 325 and 125 BCE," and that date may be accurate for the oldest OT manuscripts from the Dead Sea Scrolls and Oxyrhychus, but a 7th-century-BC silver scroll has been found containing the Priestly Benediction (May the Lord bless and keep you[...]" etc. That's Numbers 6 24-26, by the way, and it's a good passage to keep in mind when people are trying to tell you that the early books of the Bile are all about Massacre all of the unbelievers and Rape your daughters and If your slave touches pigskin or a shrimp, slay him. If you have no idea who would try to tell you that the early books of the Bible are made up exclusively of such horrors, then you've been much luckier than I in avoiding the company of some simpleminded and fanatical atheist communities.)

2) The article sez "The Bible is nowhere near as old as claimed by the majority of Jews and Christians." What do the majority of Jews and Christians claim about it? I don't know, and I don't think the person who wrote the Iron Chariots article know either. I think a much more accurate statement would be something like: The traditional view was that Moses wrote the 1st 5 books of the Bible sometime between 1200 and 1400 BC. In the 17th century doubts about Moses' authorship of those texts began to be raised. Today scholars have very serious doubts about whether Moses really ever existed at all, and generally agree that if there was an exodus from Egypt to the land of Israel, it was much smaller and briefer than the one described in the book of Exodus. And furthermore, there is no evidence of written Hebrew of any sort, let alone the entire Pentateuch, as early as 1200 BC.

Still. Credit where credit is due: the above-quoted passage from Iron Chariots is miles ahead of a lot of the dimwitted nonsense you're going to hear from a lot of New Atheists about Bronze-Age goat herders and Constantine and the Pope writing the Bible at Nicea, and celibacy not being valued highly by Christians until about AD 1000, when the Vatican figured out how much more property they could inherit from clergy if the clergy were childless, and Aristotle being Belgian and so on.

However, unfortunately, the above passage is also higher in quality than much of the rest of the long Iron Chariots article on the Bible, and, and this is my point, much lower in quality than what you could learn from easily-accessible reference works such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica or the Cambridge Ancient History, not to mention more specialized works by legit Biblical scholars, which I ain't and those guys at Iron Chariots ain't either, not to mention actually *gasp* learning Hebrew and Greek and Latin and Aramaic and referring directly to the primary materials and becoming a legit Biblical scholar yrself.

Writing that Iron Chariots article rather than referring to the actual scholars is a real disservice to atheists who want to know what's up with the Bible. It's sort of an insult to those atheists to assume that direct contact with the real scholarship might give them Judeo-Christian cooties and that they might not be able to detect pro-religious bias in that scholarship all by themselves. (Of course, a lot of the legit scholars are actually *gasp* atheists and aren't going to give anybody religious cooties.)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Michael Paulkovich Has Dedicated A Page Of A Website To Me

Here it is.

I couldn't be more pleased. When people think of Michael Paulkovich, they should think of me. Oh, there are so many people to thank, and the orchestra's playing me off already... Thanks, Mom! I love you!

PS: Toward the bottom of Paulkovich's Bollinger-page:

I don't know why he is so desperate for a mythical figure to have actually existed, and all the sources Bollinger used to "prove" Jesus are poor - either known forgeries, or simply moot (too late to be even remotely compelling to prove a historicity).

He took the trouble to dedicate this entire long page to me, and he still hasn't noticed that I'm a mythicist, not sure whether Jesus existed or not.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Wait -- Batman Cured His Broken Back By Doing Push-Ups?"

No, Ragu, Batman isn't doing all those pushups to cure his broken back, he's just not letting a broken back get in the way of him doing his pushups. The way I don't let chronic tendonitis in my left elbow stop me from doing my pushups. The same way that... (Okay, start playing "Pomp & Circumstance" in the background, softly at first, and gradually crescendo until it's loud when I finish. Okay.) The same way that Kobe plays basketball on a broken foot and grimaces and complains, and the way Shaq would play basketball on a broken foot without grimacing or complaining, and the way that Barry Bonds...

Okay, h8ers, let's talk about Barry.

He may be a cheater and an asshole, but you know why he wore that armor on his right arm, you know why MLB let him keep wearing that armor? It's not because he and Bud Selig were pals. Selig never liked him any better than you do. It's not because Bonds paid somebody off. There was a perfectly legitimate reason why he was allowed to continue to wear those pads: it's because his arm was broken.

That's right, Amurrka: Barry hit his last 300 dingers on roids, but he hit his last 500 with a broken right arm. He broke it in the mid-90's, and 2 weeks later he was playing ball, and it never healed. MLB let him wear the armor because 1 fastball to his forearm would've shattered it into 100 pieces.

We do what we have to do. Because we're men. Even those of us who shave every day. And yr darn right I'm talking about shaving more than just my face! I'M A MAN!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Manilius, G P Goold, Rheinisches Museum, Perhaps More Life Left In Latin Than I'd Thought?

I had not been aware of Manilius and his work,

until, browsing in my favorite 2nd-hand bookstore, I came across the Loeb edition and translation by G P Goold. Glad I stumbled across this. I like Manilius. I was very surprised by the assertion on the Loeb dust jacket that Manilius' Astronomica is the oldest work on astrology which we possess, but the more I research that question, the more it appears to be true. Astrology goes back much further than Manilius, who wrote around the time of the change from BC to AD (and yet, astonishingly, makes no mention whatsoever of Jesus!), having been practiced in Mesopotamia long before there was a Rome, and astrology is mentioned in many works written long before Manilius, and also it appears that some entire works were devoted to it before him, but that this is the oldest volume whose text we now possess devoted entirely to astrology. (It also appears, unfortunately, that most of the Amazon reviews of Goold's edition/translation have been written, not by philologists, but by people who actually believe in, or even practice, astrology, but whaddygonnado.)

Just in case there was any doubt whatsoever in anyone's mind: I do not believe in astrology. But that will stop me from enjoying a 2000-year-old author who did believe in it, fervently, even, as little as my not believing in the literal existence of Zeus will stop me from enjoying Homer.

Manilius' feud with Lucretius doesn't bother me either, even though I'd naturally almost always side with Lucretius. It doesn't bother me because Manilius can write.

And so can G P Goold, who edited and translated Manilius for the Loeb series. I like Goold just as I like Manilius, and just as I was surprised that I didn't know who Manilius was, so too I was surprised that I hadn't heard of Goold. Goold mentions that the latest English translation of Manilius before his (1977) appeared in the 17th century. Which explains to some extent why I hadn't heard of either of them.

So, this one little Loeb volume acquainted me with Manilius, and with Goold, and an article referred to on page cxx of Goold's introduction was doubly an eye-opener, because it appeared to have been published in 1956 in the Rheinischem Museum, and, possibly, in Latin. Its title is in Latin. As time goes on, annoyingly, articles which have Latin titles in academic journals seem more and more often to be written in vernaculars, why the misleading Latin titles, academics? does it make you feel smart? it doesn't make you look smart -- but in this case I was hopeful. (Goold actually IS smart.)

You see, I'd often heard of the Rheinischen Museum (it's a journal about ancient Greek and Latin), but it had always been in connection with the 19th century and guys like Boeckh and Ritschl (who were among its editors) and Nietzsche (who published a couple of pieces in it -- yes, in Latin -- when he was Ritschl's protogee at the University of Bonn, before he switched from philology to philosophy and poetry). (PS, 28. January 2015: CORRECTION: Some of Nietzsche's contributions to the Rheinischen Museum were in Latin and some were in German) I'd had no idea that it was still in operation as late as 1956. And naturally if Goold had published something in a philological journal in Latin as late as 1956 then he was my boy all the more so, because journal articles in Latin had by 1956 become just a wee bit exotic, and, as regular readers of The Wrong Monkey know, I am for the preservation of Latin as a living language. (No, it ain't quite dead yet, that's bullshit. It's been feeling poorly the past century or so, and as we speak it might be getting sicker rather than recuperating, but it ain't dead yet.)

So I looked around, and not only was the Rheinische Museum still being published in 1956, it's still being published now, thank you, God, and every single bit of every issue of it from 1827 until 3 years ago can be seen here, absolutely free. (They wait for 3 years before putting new issues online.)

And not only is Goold's article in the Rheinischen Museum in Latin, but I've also found articles in Latin published in the journal as recently as 1993. Most of the articles in the Museum by the 1950's were in vernaculars, German or English or Italian or French, but by the 1950's most of the (annual) issues still had at least 1 or 2 pieces in Latin. Not as many as in the 1820's admittedly, and by the 1990's Latin pieces had become rarer still than in the 1950's, but still.

And the question is not Why do they still write things in Latin now and then but Why don't they do it oftener. IT'S A JOURNAL ABOUT ANCIENT LATIN AND GREEK. How on Earth does it make more sense to assume that its readers are fluent in German, English, Italian and French, than to suggest that its authors write in Latin? Some -- no, many journals, and not just journals about ancient literature, but also journals about mathematics and biology and other subjects still, were by the late 19th century still written mostly or often entirely in Latin, and the question is not Gee, why, did they do that, it's so quaint, but Why did they stop doing that, it's so stupid. An international language not favoring any one contemporary nation, truly, impartially international, and people just decided to stop using it, why? Stupid.

Well, it's not quite dead yet. I haven't checked all of the issues of the Rheinischen Museum yet, it may be that articles in Latin continue to have an occasional home there. It may be that other journals of which I'm not aware still accept Latin. Thank Christ, Oxford and Teubner and other publishers still put out new volumes with prefaces in Latin, at least. It's not the same as volumes of new original writing entirely in Latin which as late as 1900 still weren't so unusual even if they had nothing to do with the Catholic Church, which of course still published boatloads of Latin right up until 1962 -- but it's something.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sweeping, Hurtful Generalizations About Emos

Emos, goths, pagans, wiccans, hipsters, etc, are silly, pretentious, overprivileged White Folks.

If I had said that Whenever I say that in the company of pagans, a pagan posts a photo of a black pagan surrounded by 400 white pagans and claims that paganism is very ethnically diverse, demonstrating my point. C&W bands are much more ethnically diverse than paganism, and C&W bands aren't very ethnically diverse at all.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Oldest Surviving Manuscripts Of Certain Classical Latin Authors

The other day I was chatting with a learned chap, but not a Classicist, who repeated several times, obviously rather astounded by the fact, that the earliest known manuscript of Tacitus is from the 9th century. I was somewhat surprised that he was surprised, but, I repeat, he's not a Classicist. And so I thought that a blog post about the oldest known manuscripts of some Classical Latin authors might interest some laypeople. (A manuscript is something written in ink or pencil on parchment, papyrus or paper. The very oldest copies of Latin which we have are inscriptions, carved in stone as early as 700 BC.)

Most of the ancient Latin poets, novelists, historians, letter-writers and others who wrote before Christianity took over, whom we call the Classical Latin authors, are known to us from manuscripts copied out in the 9th century or later. There are some exceptions.

[PS, 20. June 2016: LD Reynolds, Texts and Transmission, ed Reynolds, Oxford, 1983, says that the two oldest-known manuscripts of Latin poetry are a fragment of papyrus containing 9 lines by Gallus copied between 50 and 20 BC, quite possibly during Gallus' own lifetime (c. 70-–26 BC) and excavated at Qasr Ibrim in 1978, the only currently-known manuscript of Gallus, who until then had been known to the modern world only by the high praise of Ovid and other ancient poets; and the anonymous Carmen de bello Actiaco in a papyrus roll discovered at Herculaneum and unrolled in 1805. This manuscript was made sometime between the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and the eruption of Vesuvius AD 79, which buried Herculaneum in ash.]

Vergil, the papyrus fragment CLA VI.833. In the mid-20th century Lowe dated it to the 4th century, but more recently Seider has revised that to an estimate of the 1st or 2nd century.

There are 4th-century manuscripts of Livy (a papyrus), Gellius and Sallust (a papyrus).

The oldest manuscript of Lucan dates from the 4th or 5th century, as does the oldest of Terence.

The oldest manuscripts of Plautus and of the Elder and the Younger Pliny all date from the 5th century.

Authors whose oldest known manuscripts were copied in the 9th century include Valerius Flaccus, Julius Casar, Quintilian, Tacitus, Macrobius, Ovid, Ausonius, Petronius, Horace, Suetonius, Lucretius, Frontinus, Martial and Juvenal. Don't thank me -- thank Charlemagne. He turned this whole bus around.

The oldest known manuscript of Ammianus was made in the 9th or 10th century. The oldest of Tibullus was made in the 10th century, of Propertius, in the 12th or 13th century, and of Catullus, in the 14th century.

In the case of every single one of those authors, more recent manuscripts play a very important role in establishing the text (that is -- in aiding scholars to make their best attempt to guess what the original author actually wrote). [PS: Except in the case of Gallus, of course, because there ARE no known more recent manuscripts.]

All of the ancient papyri mentioned here have been discovered since the late 19th century. That 1st-or-2nd-century papyrus of Vergil is certainly sensational, but because it's a manuscript of Vergil, it's made less of a sensation among classical scholars than a manuscript of comparable age of, say, Catullus would. It's a little scrap of papyrus, and 7 manuscripts copied out before 500 contain most or all of Vergil's work, as does 1 more made before 600 and another made before 800. Likewise, there is quite a lot of the writing of Livy preserved on 5th century manuscripts, so the 4th century papyrus mentioned above, although quite a nice find, has not been earth-shattering to those studying Livy. On the other hand, 4 little scraps of papyrus containing writing by Sallust, copied before 500, have been found. AD 500, not such a dramatically early date for Vergil manuscripts, or even for Livy, a leading runner-up in the Abundance of Ancient Latin Manuscripts Sweepstakes, but all of the manuscripts of Sallust besides those 4 little papyri date from the 9th century and later, so those 4 little scraps of papyri are -- yeah, somewhat earth-shaking, if you're really into Sallust. (And you should be, he writes rings around everybody else I've mentioned except for Horace and Ovid.)

The fans of ancient Greek are having almost all of the fun with the papyri: millions, literally millions of ancient documents on papyrus have been unearthed since the late 19th century, and most of them are in Greek. I'm not sure whether the number of Latin and/or partly-Latin documents found among those millions has yet gone from the hundreds to the thousands. [PS, 18. November 2016: Timothy Renner, in his piece "Papyrology and Ancient Literature," in The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology, 2009, p 289, describing the corpus of Latin papyri found in Egypt (which is where the great majority of papyri have been found), states that there are "about two hundred known items at present."] So, good for the students of Greek, and as for us fans of Latin: papyri continue to be found.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

1 Tin Of Old Fisherman Roasted Eel In Rice With Other Proteins And Veggies --

-- along with 1 cooked bratwurst, a tin of anchovies, broccoli, onion, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, cilantro, ginger, allspice, paprika, cumin, basil, hot sauce and tomatoes -- is good! The eel is not a pronounced flavor among all those other flavors jostling for position, but it definitely adds to the overall experience, in flavor and also in texture.

What I like to do is chop up an onion and some other vegetable or vegetables -- doesn't have to be broccoli -- very fine, chop up some protein -- doesn't have to be bratwurst, anchovies and eel, that's just what I happened to have on hand this time. Doesn't have to be salt, black pepper, garlic powder, cilantro, ginger, allspice, paprika, cumin and basil either, that just happens to be a combination I like for this recipe. This time I added hot sauce and 1 big chopped-up tomato after the cooking was done.

But before I start to prepare any of those ingredients I put a frying pan onto a low burner and let it warm up while I do the prep. What I like to do is to put all the veggies, protein and seasoning into one bowl so that I can add them all to the pan in one easy motion.

When I was using a smaller pan I found that 1 cup of long-grained rice and 1 1/2 cups of water yielded good al dente rice. Now I've got a much bigger pan, and I've found that I have to use less water or the rice comes out too limp and soggy, so now I use 1 1/4 cups rice and 1 1/4 cups water. Use the proteins, vegetables and seasonings you like, and adjust the ratio of rice to water until it comes out the way you want it.

When the pan has warmed up, melt some butter in it, then put the rice rice in the butter and stir it very vigorously until every grain has butter on it. This should take about 2 minutes. Then turn the heat up to high, then add the water, then add everything else except the hot sauce and tomato, then put a lid on the pan and bring it to a good rolling boil.

When I've done this I've always put glass lids on the pans so I can see when it boils. If you use a non-see-through lid -- I don't really know what to tell ya. About 5 minutes on my stove brings the mixture to a boil, but of course stoves vary greatly.

When it's at a good full boil, turn the heat back down to low and simmer for 15 or 20 minutes or so, until the rice has reached the texture you like. When it's what I call done, some of the grains of rice on the bottom are brown and crispy, which to me is good. To me that's not burnt, it's an added element of crispy texture. If that's burnt to you, then shorten the cooking time, or if shortening the cooking time leave the rice too soggy, start with less water.

And then stir it all up, and then stick a fork in yourself because you're done. Unless you want to add something more, like hot sauce, or cheese, or fresh tomato, or whatever. Serves 4 or so.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Old Fisherman Roasted Eel

So that's what eel tastes like. -- Actually, this small tin of roasted eel from Old Fisherman in Taiwan tasted mostly like the sauce it was drenched in: sugar, salt, soy sauce, capsicum and MSG, according to the ingredients list. Underneath the sauce was a hint of something a bit more firm than limp, very dry and in need of drenching in something, and very, very faintly fishy.

I still don't think I really know what eel tastes like.

But the sauce was okay and the overall effect was not bad.

I guess I was expecting a wow experience from the texture of the eel, and I didn't get it. (Did I have any reason to expect such a wow texture?)

But the sauce was okay and the overall experience was not bad. It was far from the worst $1.79 I ever spent on food. Andrew Zimmer says to always try strange food more than once. Well, he gets paid to say things like that, and fortunately, I don't have to try something a 2nd time if I don't want to. But I'll be trying these eels again to see if the experience grows on me.

I haven't tried to Old Fisherman eels with fermented black bean sauce yet:

If anyone reading this is an eel connoisseur I'd be very grateful for any tips on where to get the good stuff, preparation (Should I have put those eels with that sauce on rice instead of just scarfing the contents of the tin?), or anything else you might like to share. Hòu huì yǒu qī. (I realize that eels are a highly-regarded cuisine in many other parts of the world besides China -- London, for example -- but I said hòu huì yǒu qī because the food reviewed in this post came from Taiwan.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How I Came Up With "Jesus Charlie"

I wonder how many of you kids are old enough to remember the AIDS ribbon. It seems to have slipped away into history at some point, but in the early 90's, people started wearing red ribbons as a symbol of solidarity with victims of HIV/AIDS. I happened to know a guy at the time who was very active in HIV/AIDS activism, who for a period of time was somewhat notable for being one of the few people is his milieu who didn't wear a red ribbon on his lapel. (Actually, the ribbons were often pins in the form of red ribbons, like the pins in the form of the US flag.)

He said to me something like the following:

"I don't mind you wearing the ribbon. I don't mind these people wearing it --" We were in an office of an AIDS service organization at the time, and he waved his hand to indicate "these people," the others in the office -- "but, right or wrong, when I see the ribbon, all I can think about are the goddam hypocrites who wear it. Politicians who wear the ribbon to get the gay vote, and then do nothing in office to help us, or actually block funding for research. And those asshole rock stars -- I won't name names, but I've heard some stories that I think are true, about some millionaire celebrities who wear an AIDS ribbon and then don't give one cent to AIDS research or emergency support, or give less than they spend on wax for their fucking Lamborghinis. Those fucking parasites, making careers off of people suffering and dying.

"Maybe I'm completely wrong about this. Maybe a celebrity wearing a ribbon, even if that's the only thing they do, maybe they still help us a lot. Maybe a politician wearing the ribbon actually does us more good than he's able to personally undo. And for all I know there are 1000 people wearing the ribbon who really help in meaningful ways for every one of those assholes who wear it to get over or to make themselves feel like good people. Making I'm just inventing a problem that isn't really there, but I'm not going to wear the fucking ribbon."

He was a very charismatic and persuasive guy, and I suppose I had a case of hero-worship going on with him. Not long after that conversation, I stopped wearing the ribbon too. Right or wrong, I stopped. Some people asked me why I stopped, and I told them, and some said Okay, and some said Oh that asshole (the guy who got me to stop wearing the ribbon), that egotistical asshole, he's accusing OTHER people of using AIDS for their own good? He could give LESSONS on making a career out of other people's suffering, etc, etc. A lot of people love this guy, and a lot of people absolutely hate his guts, and say that he charms people in order to subjugate and use them. I love him. Maybe the h8ers are right, and he's got me bamboozled. I think they're wrong, but I'm not absolutely sure about anything. My views on life in general and what it all means are often very murky. All the more so when it comes to people's motives and the way they interact.

Fast-forward 23 years or so, to yesterday. I ran into somebody on Facebook who struck me as a bit pompous and self-righteous. (He's an atheist, naturally.) Rightly or wrongly, I was annoyed by him and felt little admiration for his style. I clicked onto his page, considering whether I ought to just block him and save myself the aggravation which might come from attempting to communicate with him -- and on his page I saw a picture of someone holding up a "JE SUIS CHARLIE" sign. But the picture was shot from such an angle that the "E" in "JE" was very close to the "S" in "SUIS," and the person holding the sign was covering up the "I" in "SUIS" with his or her finger, so at first glance it actually looked very much as if the sign read "JESUS CHARLIE." It probably helped that I was thinking that the self-righteous Facebook user might want to "come down off of his Cross," so to speak.

In addition to that, ever since I'd first started seeing the "JE SUIS CHARLIE" signs last week, I'd been thinking about the AIDS ribbon, and my charismatic controversial friend who never wore it. And I wondered how many of the people holding the signs had never heard of Charlie Hebdo before the shooting, and/or couldn't read a word of French, and/or had no idea what the magazine they were claiming to be was like or what it stood for. And I'd been thinking about the survivors at Charlie Hebdo, looking at all the "JE SUIS CHARLIE" signs, and I wondered whether they spotted anybody who they knew damn well didn't support them, and thought to themselves, Look at that asshole exploiting our misery...

And that's how I came up with "Who is this Jesus Charlie guy?" That, and also, I can read French, and I had read some pieces in Charlie Hebdo before the shooting, and I figured, if anybody could appreciate an edgy mockery of the "JE SUIS CHARLIE" signs, it just might be the survivors at the magazine, because they're all about humor that makes you wince and exclaim, "Oh no, that's wrong!" at the same time that you laugh so hard that it physically hurts. Not entirely unlike Seth MacFarlane's work. If any of the survivors ever happen to hear about my little joke, and it offends or hurts them, then I sincerely apologize. I meant the joke as a tribute to them and their fallen co-workers, from one brazen loudmouth to some others. I don't feel the need to apologize to anybody else about it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Who's This Jesus Charlie Guy And Why Are So Many People So Fired Up About Him?

-- what, too soon?

"Everything's A Situation"

-- that's my favorite line from "NYPD Blue," which, more than 2 decades after it premiered, is still the gold standard for American broadcast-TV partial nudity.

Gail O'Grady, Amy Thankyoujesus Brenneman, are you kidding me??? Guh...

Where was I?

Ah yes: "Everything's a situation." Scott Allan Campbell (IAB Sgt Jerry Martens) said that to Jimmy Smits (Det Simone) in some situation which also involved Dennis Franz (Det Sipowicz). I have no idea what the situation was, I'm sure I forgot everything about the situation pretty quickly except that line and what it meant. To Dennis Franz, everybody from Internal Affairs was a rat, you never told them anything, you didn't have anything to do with any of them and that was that. To Jimmy Smits, Scott Allan Campbell was a human being standing in front of him telling him that everything was a situation, and the two of them found a way to work together and get something done.

I recently quit a Facebook group because I was unable to resolve an argument with a group member, and the group member was an admin, so I couldn't block him. He insisted that a religion is a set of beliefs, and that you can criticize the beliefs without criticizing the believers. I don't think you can. I think a religion is a group of people, and that this stuff about a religion being a set of beliefs is a convenient excuse for bad behavior on the part of some atheists, who heap scorn and abuse on a religion, and then add, "Now, don't get mad, because I wasn't criticizing any people, I was only criticizing their beliefs."

Of course, anybody who knows me at all well knows that I occasionally insult people. But I freely admit that that's what I'm doing. Watch, I'm going to do it some more right now:

Earlier today I watched a nauseating video of some yahoo who's a rather well-known professional religion-baiter and winner of at least one Atheist of the Year award, spewing abuse on Catholics. It occurred to me that parts of his tirade could have come word-for-word from an anti-Catholic rant by a leader of the KKK; it ended up with something like "[...]the Catholic Church hasn't done good in the world, and fuck you for saying it has!" Huh. 1500-some-odd years, over 1 billion people currently, and they haven't accomplished a thing, eh, Perfessor? And fuck anybody who dares to say something different? As someone who's been homeless and given food and shelter from Catholic churches and clergy, I would be remiss not to point out that I have experienced things personally which seem to indicate that this particular atheist leader is full of shit. He's the epitome of the kind of atheist I don't want to be associated with, the kind of New Atheist who I hope will make New Atheism fail, when atheist leaders emerge who understand how everything's a situation. Atheist leaders who, for example, can appreciate some of the things which Pope Francis is doing.

When you ask a group of atheists what they think of Pope Francis, some will go into the standard Catholic-bashing rant, including, of course, a mention of pedophile priests and the standard charge that the Vatican isn't doing anything against sexual abuse. Some, on the other hand, might have noticed that Francis introduced laws specifically mentioning such abuse as criminal offenses in Vatican City. A year and a half ago. In his first action as Pope to do with the laws of the state he governs.

Some atheists view Catholics the way Sipowicz views Internal Affairs: they're all evil, they're the enemy, period, done, there's no discussing it with them. Some look at Francis the way Simone looked at Sgt Martens: they see an actual human being who wants to change a few things and help. I look at Francis and I see someone more likely to change things in the Catholic Church for the better than all the New Atheists put together. Yeah, I don't believe in God, and yeah, there are a lot of other things besides that I disagree with Francis about: gay marriage and priestly celibacy come immediately to mind. If I ever meet someone I don't disagree with about something, I'll be sure and let you know. I can't recall having met such a person yet. My world isn't black-and-white, it's all grey.

Everything's a situation. These groups that haters hate, they're all people. Most Catholics hate the child abuse and want it dealt with. Most Muslims hate terrorism. Most Germans aren't Nazis. Most Southerners aren't racists -- the yahoo I mentioned above, the one who sounds like a Klansman when he rants against Catholics, he's a white Southerner, and might well become indignant if someone assumed, because he's from the South, that he's a racist -- as well he should. Might mention some of the many white Southerners who've fought and continue to fight for civil rights -- as well he should. I don't assume that he's a racist because he's a Southerner. I don't even assume it just because he's batshit-crazy on the subject of Catholicism.

And I'm also not going to claim that I didn't just insult him, but only his beliefs. Yeah, I insulted him. I felt he deserved it. I stand by my verbal abuse.

PS, 14. January 2017: Apparently I'm not the only one who ever thought that "everything's a situation" is pretty deep for being just 8 syllables long: "NYPD Blue" itself quoted the line. These days the show is on TV about 70 or 80 times a week, and now and then I watch an episode, and recently I was watching an episode which must have aired a couple of years after the one described above, and once again, there was tension between the squad's detectives and IAB, and Simone said something like this to Martens (reconstructed from memory, not an exact quote) : "I try to learn something each and every day if I can. A while ago you said something to me that stuck: 'everything's a situation.' 'Everything's a situation.' That was my lesson for that day." And I don't remember what that particular situation was, but apparently, Simon and Martens were once again able to work things out.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Open Letter To Bill Maher

Hey, Bill. Last night on Jimmy Kimmel, you said:

"We have to stop saying when something like this that happened in Paris today, we have to stop saying, well, we should not insult a great religion. First of all, there are no great religions. They're all stupid and dangerous. And we should insult them, and we should be able to insult whatever we want. That is what free speech is like."

And here is some more of what free speech is like:

It's very depressing, but not at all surprising, that you jumped on the opportunity of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy to make one horrible thing seem to be all about Islam, you stupid islamophobic fuck. What you and Harris and Dawkins and all your dopey fans don't get is that Muslims are horrified by this massacre, the same way that anybody is horrified by any atrocity. They're kinda like people that way. They're speaking out against this horrible deed and saying that it was not done in their name, and you don't give a flying fuck. The same way that you make ISIS all about Islam and don't give a flying fuck that most of the people that ISIS have tyrannized and displaced and tortured and executed, and most of the people bleeding and dying fighting ISIS, are Muslims, and pay no attention to all of the majority-Muslims states who have denounced ISIS.

I agree with you that all religions are stupid primitive nonsense, and that the sooner they become history the better it will be for mankind. That's not rocket science, you don't need to spend so much time patting yourself on the back for having figured out something that simple. I'm not a believer attacking you for disrespecting religion, I'm an atheist attempting to point out to you that you and your nitwit New Atheist buddies are making atheism seem repulsive to most people. You're not helping.

Religions aren't the only form of stupid primitive nonsense currently plaguing mankind. Bigotry is stupid primitive nonsense, and it can be 100% religion-free, as you and the New Atheists constantly demonstrate by constantly holding billions of Muslims accountable for the deeds of a few psychopaths. What would it have been, if atheists, back in the 20th century, had reacted to every one of the atrocities of the KKK by saying: "See? This is what Christianity is like!"

One of the things that would have been is, unhelpful. The same way that it's unhelpful for you yahoos to insist that Islam is barbaric or "Medieval" and that Christianity has become more civilized than that, at the very same time that so many Muslim civilians are collaterally killed and maimed by the militaries of majority-Christian countries, countries which often enough pick the very unfortunate name of "crusade" to describe the military efforts in which those civilians are being killed and maimed.

You've figured out that religions are nonsense. Whoop-de-fucking-doo. You're right, they are. To quote William Goldman: "Give the genius a box of fucking Mars bars." Now, what are we going to do about that in a world where most people still are religious? Are your words and actions helpful? Or are you mostly just irritating, like some math-wiz Poindexter in elementary school who constantly rubs it in to everybody else that he can solve problems they can't solve, and never helps anybody with their assignments, and in general more than utterly fails to make math more sexy to the other students?

Most of the people you and I have to live with are religious, and aren't going to suddenly drop their religion and exclaim, "You're right! Thank you, Bill!" just because you insult them. Just try to keep that in mind. I don't think you should stop criticizing religion. I'm not going to stop criticizing religion. I'm not going to stop criticizing atheists when they're stupid and obnoxious for no damn reason, either, and I'm not going to stop telling comedians when they're not funny. We have to live with these people, these believers. I'm not trying to tell you what to say or do, I'm just saying that I don't think you're particularly funny when you talk about religion. Extremely monotonous, but not very funny, not full of the extraordinary insights which make for truly funny jokes. You're very funny most of the time, but when you get on religion, it's time to channel-surf for a minute because we've all already heard you say what you're about to say 100 times and get some fucking new material about it for the love of Jesus, so to speak! I'm not asking you to shut up, I'm begging you, on behalf of millions of fans who are getting more and more bored, to wise up. I believe in free speech just as much as you do, and I'm just as strongly opposed to people being killed over writing magazine articles and drawing cartoons as you and 99.9%+ of the rest of the people on this planet are, you stupid ugly fat-faced fuck.

Your pal,


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Chess Log: 1. d4 d5 2. ♗f4 e6 3. a3 ♗d6 4. ♘f3? ♗xf4 5. ♘e5 ♗xe5 6. dxe5 ♘c6 7. f4 ♘ge7 8. e3 d4 9. ♗b5 O-O 10. ♗xc6 ♘xc6 11. O-O dxe3 12. ♕f3 ♕d4 13. ♖d1?? e2+!! 0-1 {White resigns}

Well, what is there to say about this? What could White have done on his 13th move? Kh1 or c3 would've been an improvement over the game move. ♕e2 might've been even better. After the game moves, White could've continued with 14. RxQ E8=Q+ 15. Qf8 QxQ 16. KxQ and been down only a Rook and a piece. 14. Kh1 loses very quickly whether Black responds with e7xR=Q+ or QxR+.

(It kudden hoyt.)

Some Aspects Of My Autistic Experience Of Life

On "Homeland," Saul once said to Carrie, "You are the smartest and the dumbest fucking person I have ever met." The producers apparently liked that line: they added it to the audio of the next season's opening montage. (I like how cable series still have what would have been considered "full-length" opening montages on network TV until 1990 or so, when the networks started making them shorter and shorter, and/or running the main credits over the beginning of the episode, sometimes eliminating the opening montages altogether, not to mention what they do with the closing credits. All to make more time for commercials. NOT TO MENTION RUNNING GODDAM COMMERCIALS DURING THE SHOWS, POP-UP COMMERCIALS ALONG THE BOTTOM OF THE SCREEN, THAT ARE GETTING BIGGER AND BIGGER AND LONGER AND LONGER, AND MAKING OUR LIVES MORE AND MORE CLOSELY RESEMBLE CONSTANT NIGHTMARES. Maybe 1990 was when the MBA's started to take over network TV from people who actually knew something about TV and to systematically ruin it, as they've ruined so much else in our lives. Anyway, although I like how cable shows still consider opening credits to be worth doing, it disappoints me that they tend to run identical opening credits every season. The only exception I know is "Homeland," so good for them.)

Anyway, the line struck me too, because more than once someone has said the same thing to me. One difference is that it hasn't been said to me when I was a top-echelon CIA agent by my good friend, a former and future Agency Director, but when I was working for minimum wage at McDonald's, or for 50 cents an hour above minimum wage at a national-chain bookstore, or for 2 bucks an hour above minimum wage for a year-round outdoor graveyard-shift job in Alaska. Yes, it was colder than a welldigger's ass. Colder than penguin shit. Colder than -- well it was pretty cold, and I had chronic bronchitis, so I finally had the sense to quit before it literally killed me.

But I'm accepting that I've had it this way because I'm autistic. Not because I'm lazy or something like that. On some of the aforementioned entry-level jobs, some co-workers, emphasizing my exceptional intelligence more than my exceptional stupidity, assumed that soon I would be moving up in the world. They seemed to take it as a given that I was going to be doing something much more interesting and making much more money doing it.

Over and over I encountered such assumptions about myself, and before I was diagnosed, these assumptions puzzled me. I always felt more convinced by the assumptions of different people, who assured me that I would never amount to a sack of shit. Now I know that I'm autistic, and those two radically-different attitudes toward me and my aptitudes, taken together, make sense. Am I a genius? No. Am I a moron? No. I'm a genius and a moron. I'm a mutant. An alien in your midst. (Have no fear: I come in peace.) Sometimes I can solve a problem that's had you completely stuck and sometimes you'll need to explain something to me like I was 5 years old.

Some autistics have elite, top-government-clearance jobs. I don't think Carrie Mathison is autistic, but she's definitely neurologically divergent, and being atypical on a fundamental, neurological level often brings with it being very smart and very fucking stupid compared to average. Some autistics die homeless or in institutions and will never get even the lowest-level government security clearance. Most autistics my age or older haven't been correctly diagnosed. Consider Rain Man: correctly diagnosed even though he was older than I in 1988, smart enough to help you count cards in a 6-deck shoe, but too stupid not to tell the casino that you're counting cards. Didn't even seem to understand that he'd done something wrong by letting them know. The Feds aren't going to give him any kind of security clearance. In fact, it's pretty hard for me to imagine any sort of job for which Rain Man would be suited, other than charging admission for people to come and observe him. And believe me, I've given it a lot of thought. Why? Because I have a lot in common with him.

My arithmetical ability to do things like count cards in a 6-deck shoe and multiply 4-digit numbers in my head is somewhat less than Rain Man's, but it's way, way above average. And my tendency to tell the casino that we're counting cards seems to be very high -- my sense of what is appropriate or inappropriate to say in a given situation is very weak, that is. I'm guessing here, going over events in my mind which completely puzzled me at the time and trying to figure out what happened. Sometimes I'll figure out years after the fact that I should have said something at a particular point, or shouldn't have said what I did. After years of pondering it the way Rain Man ponders Abbott & Costello's "Who's On First?" sketch without getting it at all. Sometimes years after the fact I'll figure out something that someone said in a joking way.

For example, about 15 years after the fact, I finally put it together that a guy I'd known had been making fun of me by comparing me to Rain Man. (Politically-correct folks: sit the fuck back down and shut the fuck up, this was a very nice guy, an extremely nice guy, a perfect example of the point I often try to make in this blog that you can be extremely politically-incorrect also and a loving, generous, caring Left-wing Democrat staunchly opposed to all bigotry and prejudice, or politically-correct and also a hateful asshole.) That's why he would often mimic Rain Man and say thing like : "Yeah... Yeah... Yeah, definitely." He was mocking me, because, apparently, sometimes I act a little bit like Rain Man. Or maybe much more than a little bit. This was 1997, 10 years before I was finally diagnosed.

After 15 years I figured out he did his Rain Man routine in order to mock me, which gives me hope that eventually the real Rain Man, with the loving, dedicated, although occasionally impatient and not necessarily always politically-correct help of the young Tom Cruise, may finally figure out what the "Who's On First?" sketch is about. It does not give me a lot of hope that I will ever be a certain sort of sparkling social butterfly who gives inspiration to the next Noel Coward. I'm more likely to inspire someone like the next Mel Brooks or the next Farrelly brothers. (And that's okay.) Like Sheldon Cooper on "The Big Bang Theory," I have a crazy-high IQ while at the same time there are very important, basic areas of human intelligence in which I'm very, very stupid. No doubt there have been very many incidents in which I have behaved very stupidly and never noticed that something was wrong. Sheldon's Mom had him tested but she didn't follow up with that specialist, so I've had several years' worth of opportunity to become more aware of my neurological situation. I don't have a prestigious job like Sheldon, but I can drive (3 speeding tickets and 0 collisions in 39 years). I don't know Klingon but I know Latin. Sheldon's pronunciation in German is just freaking terrible for someone who insinuates that he's read Einstein untranslated.

Where was I? Just recently I've become aware that I constantly go off on tangents and that this is common among autistics. Been doing it all my life, just very recently became aware of it and began to ponder the consequences of it in my social interactions with the Earthlings.

Then there's eye contact: I'm not so good with the eye contact. Back in 1988, that acting teaching in Acting 101, did he tell us about how we could look at another actor's forehead onstage, and to the audience and even to the other actor it would would look exactly as if we were making eye contact -- is that something he always said in Acting 101, or did he toss in that tidbit because he noticed that I pretty much couldn't maintain eye contact for more than a second or so at a time? I've been working on eye contect in therapy, but I don't see any reason to expect that I'll ever become normal in that respect. "Look me in the eye, boy!" "Nossir, don't think I'll be doing that."

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Valete. E pluribus unum. Aio, quantitas magna frumentorum est.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Being Smart -- A Good Thing, Or What?

Not long ago, in an online discussion, in the middle of a somewhat garbled rant which I didn't try very hard to decipher, someone asserted that a certain cultural tendency had been around for 2000 years.

I replied that the tendency has existed for at least 30,000 years, and maybe much longer than that. Maybe 100,000 years or even longer.

The writer of the first comment asked me, with an lol or 2, why I was bringing numbers into this, and claimed that -- something like: nobody knew what the real numbers were because "they threw the numbers out when they made the calendars," and called me a smart guy.

I pointed out that it was he who had brought numbers into the conversation, and quoted Catullus: "Risu inepto res ineptior nulla est." (More than 2000 years old, that quote.)

He responded with a couple more lol's, repeated his charge that it was I who had brought numbers into the conversation, and asserted further that a smart guy had been called out. I went back to his original comment, thinking that I might want to go to the trouble of cutting and pasting the part about the calenders and 2000 years -- it would be a good opportunity, I thought, to point out that calendars as well as religion were more than 2000 years old -- but I saw that he had edited the comment and removed the part about 2000 years.

So I gave up on that guy, and here I am talking to you instead.

It seems that everybody likes to think they're smart. (Cue the Fredo Corleone "Not like everybody says. Like -- stupid! I'm smart!"-- clip.)

I watched "The West Wing" for several seasons until I decided that it was a Democratic fantasy world, a fantasy of great Democratic success distracting us from the real world, and that reality urgently needed more of our attention, as indicated by non-fictional events such as George W Bush being elected President. "The West Wing," famously employing several former Clinton White House staffers as technical advisors to achieve its hyper-"realism," went so far in its denial of reality as to create a Republican Presidential candidate clearly based on W, Gov Robert Ritchie of Florida, and have Jeb Bartlet resoundingly beat the fictional W in his re-election. In 2002, just to put a cherry on the sundae of unreality.

Not only does Bartlet trounce Ritchie, there is a specific moment, quite a while after the re-election campaign has begun, when he decides he's going to trounce him. It's during a private meeting of the two, sometime after Bartlet has inadvertently been caught on-air insulting Ritchie for being dumb, and immediately after Ritchie, in their private meeting, very deliberately insults Bartlet for being smart. Bartlet gets up to go and tells Ritchie he's decided to kick his ass (his words.)

The theme of intelligence is emphasized over and over in "The West Wing" -- mostly in the form of it being remarked that Bartlet and his staffers are incredibly smart, just the most intelligent people in the entire USA. Above, I mentioned the denial of political reality embodied in the show creating a W-like character and having the Democratic hero trounce him. Is that the extent of the denial involved in the program -- or is the constant emphasis on how brilliant the regular characters are also overcompensation for feelings of insecurity on the part of the actual former White House staffers and "West Wing" technical advisors about their own intelligence?

And who feels insecure about their intelligence? Those who have reason to. Actual geniuses don't go around screaming, "I'm not stupid, like everybody says I am!" I don't think they generally need constant reassurance that they're smart. Maybe "The West Wing" was realistic inasmuch as the Clinton staffers did constantly tell each other that they were astonishing geniuses.

Think about how much taller Rob Lowe is than George Stephanopoulos, and then try to tell me that no flattery, conscious or subconscious, was going on on "The West Wing." (For all I know, Lowe is actually more intelligent than Stephanopoulos. He certainly has a better sense of humor.)

Anyway, I'm not nearly smart enough to have any idea of what to do about all of this. Well... you could vote for Democrats -- real Democrats, not the feel-good fictional kind with which some Democrats in Hollywood have been flattering me and you and themselves. Voting for real Democrats will increase support for real education.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Who And What Is A True Philosopher?

Different people have very different opinions and criteria about who is and isn't a great philosopher. Some say Ayn Rand is a great philosopher, I'd say she's just a crude creep who encourages other crude creeps to feel good about themselves, when they shouldn't. Recently I finally broke down and read a book by Karl Barth, Einfuehrung in die evangelische Theologie, because some people insisted that Barth was the greatest philosopher of the 20th century. After hearing such high praise, I was hugely disappointed. (Number of Christian theologians who have impressed me at all: still 1: Kierkegaard. And he only impresses me in those moments when he stops being theological.) But I might still actually dislike Barth less than Popper, whom I very recently read, submitting to the rave reviews of many different acquaintances. And I really don't know what to think of Sloterdijk, or Heidegger. They're both much more interesting than Rand, Barth or Popper. I don't know whether Sloterdijk and Heidegger are driving at things I approve or disapprove of. Either way, I approve very highly of interesting prose, and I'm not being flippant here, quality of prose is far from a trivial thing for me. I've finally figured out that I thoroughly loathe what Spengler stands for, and completely disagree with the basic tenets of his philosophy, which compared cultures to organisms -- but the man can write.

Hegel is one of the most highly-esteemed philosophers of the past 2 centuries. And yet, his contemporary Schopenhauer called him worse than worthless, a charlatan who heaped together piles of bullshit meant to sound like philosophical statements. I think Schopenhauer was exactly right about Hegel. I think Schopenhauer was right most of the time. Then again, he wrote some stuff which was utterly stupid, some of it antisemitic, a lot of it sexist.

I'm not sure how far you'd get as a philosophy student quoting Schopenhauer approvingly on the subject of Hegel. I suppose it would vary greatly from school to school, and would generally be risky to your grades. Much riskier still might be if you agree with Nietzsche on the subject of Plato. For many if not most people interested in Western philosophy, Plato is one its pillars and triumphs. For Nietzsche Plato is a catastrophe for Western civilization and a very, very bad man.

To answer the title of this blog post by not answering it: I would encourage you to decide for yourself who and what a great philosopher is, because a true philosopher truly thinks for him- or herself, and if you're not a philosopher yourself what's the point in studying philosophy? Ah, but I suppose that many of you asking who and what is a great philosopher are primarily philosophy students, on your way to becoming philosophy professors, and while I suppose it's possible to be one of those and also truly be a philosopher --

Don't put too much stock into my skepticism, or Schopenhauer's skepticism, about the conflict between being a philosopher and being a professor of philosophy. Schopenhauer's bete noir Hegel was a fabulously successful philosophy professor, and I failed in academia because I'm autistic and I was undiagnosed when I was a student.

That doesn't necessarily mean that Schopenhauer and I are wrong. Decide for yourself.

Then there's the question of how much my opinion of whether you're really a philosopher or not counts. Decide for yourself about that -- if you really want to be a philosopher. (It's not for everybody.)

Why Am I So Angry At Michael Paulkovich?

That's what some people want to know. I'll keep trying to explain. (Some people have urged me to just let it all go. Hahaha. Haha. Hahahaha. No, I won't be doing that.)

I suppose it can't hurt to keep repeating, near the beginning of each of these rants, what many people seem to keep overlooking: not only am I an atheist, I'm far from certain that Jesus ever existed. I'm not criticizing Paulkovich for saying that Jesus never existed, I'm criticizing him for not knowing his ass from a hole in the ground about ancient Judea and Galilee and the question of Jesus' historicity, while trying to pass himself off as some sort of expert.

Actually, I'm angrier at the people who publish Free Inquiry than I am at Paullkovich. Someone described Paulkovich's article about "the 126 silent historians" as a striking example of sloppy thinking and sloppy research. But I don't think that what Paulkovich did here was research at all. Him posing as a researcher, and Free Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism continuing to stand behind him, is an insult to all actual researchers in ancient Greek and Latin, including the sloppy amateur ones like me. Sloppy research would have been if he had actually studied the writing of some ancient writers, and then drawn some dubious conclusions from that study. Mis-translated a few Greek and Latin words, not understood some obvious issues of context, things like that. In the case of 40-some of his 126, it's obvious that he didn't study their writing because there is no writing left to be studied. If he had actually read the Latin version of the story of Jason and the Argonauts, or another writer's book on architecture, or the Satyricon, the only surviving work of Petronius -- the same Satyricon upon which Fellini based his movie of the same name -- or the half-dozen verses of love poetry which are all that remain of the work of another writer on his list of 126, etc, etc, he would have known that there was no reason to expect to find Jesus mentioned in those works, and furthermore, he would've realized that anyone who was actually familiar with those writers would know that it was ridiculous to look for mentions of Jesus in their work. He would've realized that he'd be exposing himself as a charlatan posing as someone who'd done some research.

If he had taken the trouble to actually do some research into the extent of all the surviving work of ancient Greek and Latin authors, he would've realized that there are barely 126 historians among them, let alone 126 who mentioned Judea or Galilee, let alone 126 who would've mentioned a wandering preacher with all of 12 followers, who was one of the many people Pontius Pilate had crucified. He would've learned that apart from the Bible and some of the Old and New Testament Apocrypha and the Dead Sea Scrolls and Josephus, there's very little surviving ancient writing of any kind from that time and place, and that it's very big news among actual contemporary historians whenever any little scrap of more is found.

I'd really like to know just exactly how Paulkovich came up with that list, and where he got the notion that it was a list of 126 HISTORIANS. I'm picturing him gathering information from sources like jesusneverexisted dot com and the blogs and books of some of the wackier mythicists. There's simply no way he could've come near anything resembling a reliable reference work, or conferred with anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Roman Empire and its literature, and still come up with that list. Perhaps he thinks that most people familiar with ancient Greek or Latin are a part of the Plot. I'm just speculating here. It's actually very difficult for me to imagine just how that list of 126 names came to be, and just exactly how Paulkovich came to believe that historical writing from all 126 of them had survived.

And yes, there is also the little detail that it is extremely well-known, even among mythicists, that 4 of the people on his list, Josphus, Tacitus, Suetonius and Pliny the Younger, actually do mention Jesus and/or Christians.

And that the first 3 of those 4 actually are historians, quite unlike most of the 126, showing that the rate of "silence" of ancient historians about Jesus is actually rather low.

And yes, there is also the little detail about how Paulkovich bases his assumptions about what would have had to have been written about Jesus if he'd existed, on the Bible's claims about Jesus. That is to say, if Jesus had really healed all of those people and risen from the dead and so forth, more people would've noticed. Either Paulkovich is being inconsistent here in looking for evidence of a supernatural Jesus, or I have been wrong in assuming that Paulkovich is an atheist who doesn't believe in the supernatural. Whatever. At this point of silliness I don't much care anymore. But to some people, this assumed inconsistency apparently is a big deal.

And of course all of this still leaves the question untouched of how those responsible for the publication of Free Inquiry managed to miss all of this.

Well, at least Paulkovich didn't claim that there were newspapers in ancient Jerusalem, and that big stacks of them are still lying around, along with detailed records of every criminal case which came before Pilate -- all very suspiciously free of any mention of Jesus. There actually are some people, aside from the religious believers in Jesus' miracles and resurrection, who are running around making claims about Jesus and the historical record which are even more ridiculous than Paulkovich's. (Unless I'm giving him too much credit, and he actually does make such claims in his book. I haven't read his book.)

There's nothing particularly unusual about Paulkovich. There are very many people talking and writing about the historicity or lack of historicity of Jesus without having more of a clue on the subject than he does. It's mysterious to me that so much energy is expended flapping their gums about it, and such a tiny fraction of that much energy learning about what they're constantly yapping about. It's mysterious, and it makes me angry. And it makes me that much more angry when we're talking about people who claim to value rationality and free inquiry and knowledge and solid research so highly.