Monday, November 30, 2015

Dave's Gourmet Ghost Pepper Sauce

Ghost peppers, also known as bhut jolokia, are an extremely-spicy pepper, a specially-bred hybrid hotter than anything nature ever grew on her own. Not the hottest pepper ever bred by madmen, but pretty insane. They also are the first ingredient in Gourmet Dave's Ghost Pepper Sauce. I have never eaten anything which had ghost peppers added directly to it -- except for this sauce, and one other sauce in which the ghost peppers are the 4th ingredient, which is downright bland compared to Gourmet Dave's stuff and which I won't mention by name.

According to this chart, which looks pretty authoritative, ghost peppers measure 855,000 – 1,041,427 on the Scoville scale of spiciness, or 208.29 times hotter than a jalapeño. Gourmet Dave's Ghost Pepper Sauce measures 650,000 on the Scoville scale, 130 times hotter than a jalapeño. Or more than 250 times hotter than original Tobasco sauce. Around 300 times as hot as Sriracha.

Or as much as 1/3 as hot as standard US grade pepper spray, used by police for riot control.

I do not recommend tasting Gourmet Dave's Ghost Pepper sauce by itself. I have done that, and am going to be very, very careful not to do it again. Tasting a drop -- I repeat: a drop -- of the stuff made me feel as if I had seriously injured myself. A half hour later I felt okay, but I was surprised that I felt okay.

Much the same goes for handling the sauce and then rubbing my eye.

If I accidentally do drink another unmixed drop of the stuff, and there's nothing else in sight to eat or drink except Sriracha, I will unscrew the top of the Sriracha bottle and chug it. Because that will cool me off. I'm not joking and I'm not exaggerating.

You know what? I don't recommend this stuff at all. Like the movie Revolver, Dave's Gourmet Ghost Pepper Sauce is quite simply not for most people. It's in a whole different league from most hot sauces which have XXX's and warnings on their labels. Even Gourmet Dave's own Insanity Sauce, which won some sort of Hottest Sauce in the World contest some time before the Ghost Pepper sauce appeared, scores only 180,000 on the Scoville scale, which means that the Ghost Pepper sauce is more than 3/12 times as hot.

So what do I do with the stuff? I fix an entree with another sort of sauce, into which I have carefully mixed a drop of the Ghost Pepper Sauce. One drop -- one SMALL drop -- for an entree. And I'm pretty hardcore when it comes to spicy food. I just ate such an entree about an hour ago, and I'm still exhilarated, my eyes are still watering, my forehead is still sweaty and my belly is still burning. All from one little drop mixed into an entire entree of soothing blandness. One little bottle of the stuff will last me a long time even though I use it every day. And it's not just sheer hotness: the ghost peppers also have a distinctive citrusy flavor.

Don't touch! you've been warned!

Stupid New Atheist Memes

First of all, that's a picture of Epicurus, not Lucretius. Secondly, Lucretius never said anything so ridiculous. (And neither did Epicurus.)

All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant? No, unfortunately, not always. On the contrary, there have been many religious wars waged by people convinced that their own religion is either the best one, or the only true one.

And everybody knows that. Politicians using all religions? No, they very often pick just one, or two, and inflame the hatred of the ignorant for other ones. Everybody knows that too.

And as far as philosophers are concerned, as ridiculous as it may sound to the ridiculous person who made that ridiculous meme, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard and most of the rest of the most famous philosophers in the Western world have been religious, and most of the rest have been able to see the major differences between different religions. And one of the most ridiculous of the world-famous Western philosophers, Seneca, who actually did say something which was altered to be more ridiculous and become the text of the meme above -- was an atheist.

The atheist Nietzsche -- yes, he was an atheist. Theologians who try to tell you differently just haven't read his work very carefully at all -- wrote at great length about the differences between various religions. He was strongly opposed to Christianity. Although he didn't recommend another religion in its place, he did describe other religions as being at the very least significantly less bad than Christianity. A great deal of the book Der Antichrist consists of Nietzsche comparing Christianity to other religions. All of his books contain praise of the ancient Graeco-Roman world, which was for the most part not atheist, but pagan.

Nietzsche was thoroughly capable of seeing worth in various aspects and by-products of religions, plural, without ever becoming a theist, mono- or poly-. The person who made that meme at the beginning of this post, and the lunkhead atheists who are so eagerly spreading it and similar memes and busily misrepresenting Lucretius' work and making up inauthentic quotes, are obviously not at that level yet.

Yesterday I saw a meme with the caption "Atheist Church" and a picture of a library. (Not even a particularly large library.) I replied that what should have been there was a picture of a comic book store. No, not all atheists are comic book fanboys. I myself have not read any comic books since before I was full-grown, and even then I tended to prefer grownup books. Not all atheists are comic book fanatics, but the ones who post memes with inauthentic quotes, the ones who say that all religions are the same, the ones who say "Hey look, the Pope's wearin a dress! Hyuck, hyuck, hyuck." and "Believers are stupid, and we atheists are smart, hyuck hyuck hyuck!" do seem, for the most part, to have spent more time in comic book stores than in libraries.

And if they had spent more time exploring actual churches, besides the store-front snake-handling places their inbred parents dragged them to when they were kids, and mosques and synagogues and other places of worship, then they'd know that many of those places of worship are among the most beautiful things yet created by humans. If they knew that, well, probably some of them would re-convert. But maybe a few others would begin to see that things aren't always so black-and-white and cut-and-dried as their favorite memes with inauthentic quotes and pictures of the wrong guy would have it. If they left their parents' basements more often and walked around outside in a city or two now and then with their eyes open, they might learn more than by staying in their stupid online atheist bubbles with their heads up their asses.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

It Seems That Most People Who Saw Revolver Really, Really Hated It

I'm just saying that as a warning: I like the movie very much, but most people hated it. So don't take my positive review as a guarantee that you would like it. Don't go see it because of what I'm saying and then come back angrily to me because you hated it, because I warned you: most people hated it.

I've mentioned the film a few times already in this blog, in connection with chess: watching the movie has significantly improved my chess game.

Okay, as long as I'm warning you about the movie, I should mention that it contains lots of violence, nudity and vulgar language. Lots and lots and lots of all three, so if those are things which make you not like a movie, then there's no point in you watching this movie.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that you need to stop reading this blog post, because violence, nudity and vulgar language are not the interesting things to me about Revolver, and those interesting things can be looked into without seeing the movie, if it's not your kind of movie. The interesting things are: Kabbalah, and overcoming the ego.

Let's take the 2nd one first. This may be something that many or even most people are already familiar with, but it had eluded me until I watched Revolver: the concept of the ego as an enemy of the true self, the ego as an obstacle.

One of the things which the movie relates to the ego is the game of chess. Jake Green, the film's protagonist, played by Jason Statham, is released from prison at the beginning of the movie. He had done part of his time in solitary confinement in a cell between a chess Grandmaster and a con-man. Jake never saw either of them, but he did intercept many of the notes they passed back and forth, and he learned a little about chess. After his release, he becomes mixed up with a couple of loan sharks, Zach (Vincent Pastore) and Avi (André Benjamin), and plays some games of chess with Avi.

Before I ever saw Revolver, I had already noticed some of the ways in which ego interferes with playing chess. In some of my blog posts about chess I noted that over-confidence in my ability as a chess player leads directly to disastrously poor chess play. In Revolver, this interference is addressed much more directly. In the film, chess is one of the things which teach Jake about the ego. For example, the ego resists playing stronger players. It wants to win all of the time. Even though it's very plain to see that a chess player (or, as the chess players in the movie point out, a player in any sort of game) can only improve by playing stronger players -- which of course will involve a lot of losing, which offends the ego. In his games with Avi, after having studied chess in prison for years with not much else to do, Jake wins game after game, and after one of the many times Jake announces checkmate, Avi says with annoyance that he's not going to play Jake anymore.

But since watching the movie I'm playing stronger players much more, and surprise surprise, my game has improved quite a lot.

As I have written on this blog before, I've seen chess games where the very best players in the world -- Fischer, Kasparov and other world champions -- lost, analyzed by the world champion who lost. Whereas for the most part it's very unusual to come across games analyzes by the losing players. I keep analyzing games I've won, even though I realize how much my game could benefit from analyzing games I've lost. My ego is still directly interfering with my chess game to that extent, and I can see it, and I still can't bring myself to battle my ego that much. I believe I've analyzed a total of 1 game I've lost on this blog.

Oh well. Rome wasn't built in a day, and it's not as if I make my living from chess.

Revolver represents only the 2nd time of which I'm clearly aware in which a work of art directly, tangibly and immediately improved my life by explaining something about my own mind to me. The first time was decades ago when I read Gravity's Rainbow, which explained to me that paranoia consists of irrationally over-estimating the amount of attention other people pay to you. I just needed to remind myself that others had plenty of better things to do than participate in a plot against me, and poof, there went my paranoid tendencies.

Again, maybe that was everyday common knowledge to many or most people, but to me it needed pointing out.

Also, at the end of the movie several different people, not playing fictional characters, spoke about the ego. I think some of them were psychiatrists. One of them was Deepak Chopra, and he said something which I didn't find dopey. I like that. A few years ago, I was caught up in a feud between New Atheism and Chopra. In the meantime I have come to regard New Atheists as dopey. Who knows, maybe Chopra belongs on the long, long list of people and things about which the New Atheists are wrong.

The other interesting thing about Revolver is the Kabbalah symbolism: names, numbers, colors, mannerisms and other things refer to symbolism and archetypes of Kabbalah. I don't really know anything about Kabbalah yet, but the colors are purty, which I think is way cool, and the stories are interesting, whether they actually make sense or not. (And SOME of them probably DO!) I'm an atheist, but I've never let that spoil my appreciation of religious art.

For those of you considering watching Revolver -- remember, most people hate it, as I've warned you several times now -- there's a third thing I'd like to mention: Mark Strong, one of my very favorite actors. He gives the most brilliant performance in Ritchie's much-more-popular Rocknrolla, as the hard-as-nails Archie, and he gives the most brilliant performance in Revolver, as Sorter, a very quirky and extremely lethal hitman.

Chess Log: I'm Improving, Because I Watched Guy Ritchie's Film Revolver

The film has some very sound advice for the chess player hoping to go from poor to mediocre: play stronger players, and don't let your ego interfere with your progress. In the film, the stuff about the ego is said to apply to all areas in life. Tangible progress is much easier to measure in chess than in some other things.

5-0 blitz, I played White:

1. e4 e5 2. ♘f3 ♘c6 3. ♗b5 ♘ge7 4. d4 exd4 5. ♘xd4 a6 6. ♘xc6 bxc6 7. ♗a4 ♗b7 8. O-O h6 9. ♘c3 ♖b8 10. ♗f4 ♘g6 11. ♗g3 ♗d6 12. e5 ♗b4 13. e6 dxe6 14. ♕xd8 ♖xd8 15. ♗xc7 ♖d7 16. ♗g3 ♗xc3 17. bxc3 O-O 18. ♖fd1 ♖fd8 19. ♖xd7 ♖xd7 20. h3 ♖d2 21. ♖b1 ♗c8 22. ♖b8 ♘e7 23. ♗xc6 ♖xc2 24. ♗d7 ♖xc3 25. ♗d6 ♔f8 26. ♗xc8 ♖c6 27. ♗d7 ♖c8 28. ♗xc8 ♔e8 29. ♗xe6 ♘c8 30. ♖xc8 1-0 {Black checkmated}

Black's fatal mistake in this game was 21. [...] ♗c8. up until then, as far as I can see, the game was pretty even.

Another 5-0 blitz with me playing White:

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. ♘f3 cxd4 5. ♘xd4 a6 6. h3 ♘c6 7. a3 ♕a5 8. ♗d2 ♕c5 9. ♘xc6 bxc6 10. ♗b4 ♕b6 11. ♗d3 c5 12. ♗d2 e6 13. ♘c3 ♗b7 14. ♘a4 ♕c6 15. b3 d4 16. ♘b2 ♕xg2 17. ♖f1 ♕xh3 18. ♕e2 ♘h6 19. O-O-O ♘f5 20. ♗e4 ♗xe4 21. ♕xe4 ♖c8 22. ♕b7 ♘e7 23. ♘c4 d3 24. ♘d6 ♔d8 25. ♘xc8 ♘xc8 26. ♕xa6 dxc2 27. ♗a5 ♔e8 28. ♕xc8 ♔e7 29. ♖d7 1-0 {Black checkmated}

As early as 12. [...] e6 Black was cramping me with a strong Pawn storm, and by 16. [...] ♕xg2 I felt I was in some serious trouble. however, by my 22nd move I had achieved a strong counteratack. 26. [...] dxc2?? was a serious error on black's part, allowing me to begin the winning combination with double check on 27. ♗a5!

And yes, I'm aware that I'm continuing to let my ego interfere with my progress by continuing to focus on games I've won, which are flattering to my ego, rather than games I've lost, which might show me weaknesses in my play and allow me to improve tremendously. Grappling with the ego can be very difficult, even after you've become aware that that's what you're doing.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Claims That Ancient And Medieval Christians Didn't Take The Bible Literally Are Ridiculous

I'm extremely skeptical of the claims -- and lately theologians and people led astray by theologians have made many such claims -- that Christians and Jews were not literalists in bygone eras. The most extreme of such claims is that there were no literalists at all until the late 19th or early 20th century in the US.

All one needs to do in order to correct such impressions is to actually read texts written by ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Jews and Christians -- I myself am angrily waving a JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh in one hand as I type this with the other -- and see how little those earlier people resemble contemporary theologians' descriptions of them. The plain truth is almost exactly the opposite: before the early 19th century, non-literalist readings were made by only a minority of believers, and before the 17th century, of course, non-literalism, like non-belief, could only be very carefully hinted at between the lines if the author were not to be tortured and burned alive for his trouble.

From before Irenaeus to after Calvin, the number of Christian theologians who referred to the Bible as the perfect, inerrant word of God was -- all of them. The number who refer to it as the perfect, inerrant symbolic and allegorical word of God was none of them.

Once again, in our time, Christian theologians -- most certainly including the most progressive among them, who want so badly to find concrete proof that Jesus was gay-friendly or even gay, and feminist, and pro-choice, and anti-handgun, and pro-stem-cell-research, that they think they already have -- are making things up.

Once again, it seems that the only people not making up their own version of Judeo-Christian history are the fundies and the atheists. The atheists are bright enough to reject the tradition with horror, the fundies aren't, and the progressive believers should be, but they're in denial and they refuse to look at what's in front of them, unless what's kin front of them is a book or article by one of these contemporary theologians spouting nonstop nonsense about how how sophisticated the faith of the ancients was, and how the fundies have gotten it all wrong.

But this stuff about people hundreds and thousands of years ago reading the Bible very much as if they were 21st-century textual critics appears to be an article of faith among some 21st-century theologians, so that there's no debating it with them. It seems that the best people interested in the truth can do is discuss things without and despite them. When it comes to politics, the progressive believers are progressive. When it comes to talking sense about religion, they're as hopeless as the fundies.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Anti-Racists Formulate Concepts Of The Superman, Racists Come Along And Misunderstand Them

The comic book character Superman was created in 1933 by two Jewish guys who presumably were not Nazis.

The term superman is -- or was, for a while -- generally translated into German as Uebermensch. The Nazis often referred to themselves as Uebermenschen. The German term Uebermensch was coined by Nietzsche, who hated anti-Semites and racists in general.

In English, before the creation of the comic book character, the most prominent user of the term superman was George Bernard Shaw, also an anti-racist. Some people think that Shaw's support of eugenics was racist, but, on the contrary, he favored breeding across ethnic and class lines -- the exact opposite of racist goals of "racial purity." In direct opposition to racist pseudo-science, Shaw's assertions that benefits would come from broadening the gene pool are scientifically sound.

Nietzsche first mentions the Uebermensch in Also sprach Zarathustra, published in 1883. Shaw first mentioned the superman in his play Man and Superman, written in 1903, first performed in 1905. It has often been erroneously asserted that Shaw got many of his ideas directly from from Nietzsche. Shaw himself attempted to clear this up, saying that, although he liked Nietzsche's works very much, he first began to read them after he had read assertions that he had gotten various ideas from Nietzsche -- but the error persists. When Shaw read Nietzsche, he found that they had much in common -- such as being frequently misunderstood by people who very annoyingly claimed to be championing their causes without first having gone to the trouble of reading their works.

An annoying tendency which still hasn't died out.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dream Log: Steven Saul Bollinger Berenson Of The Wrong Homeland Monkey

I dreamed that I, Steven Bollinger, also known as The Wrong Monkey, author of this blog and perenniel contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature, was also, to a certain extent, the fictional Saul Berenson, big CIA muckety-muck portrayed by Mandy Patinkin on the TV series "Homeland." I wrote this blog and was myself, but I also had a huge magnificent beard like Saul's, and I worked at CIA headquarters in Langley. Working on this blog was my job at the CIA. No-one seemed to have any doubt that success on the blog, high readership and my professional success as a writer, equaled a good job done for the CIA and better security for the US.

However, at the moment my methods were unpopular. I was working on a computer program which, I was convinced, would bring more traffic to the blog and greater safety to the world. However, my colleagues -- young punks, most of them -- had very little if any confidence in my abilities as a programmer. It seemed clear to me that my program was working, but mysteriously, no one else seemed to notice that traffic on my blog had sharply increased.

A man who resembled Dar Adal, the fictional colleague of the fictional Berenson on "Homeland," came to invite me to have some waffles for brunch with him. I'd recently started jogging and didn't feel the need for all of that syrup and butter, but Dar was very insistent.

Everything seemed connected: the blog, espionage, jogging, waffles -- it all seemed like one seamless thing.

Walking to the restaurant which Dar had recently discovered to get our waffle brunch, the topic of conversation gradually turned from Dar raving about the waffles at this place, which Dar assured me would blow my mind, to Dar complaining about Carrie Mathison (the fictional character portrayed by Claire Danes on "Homeland," Saul's protégé and friend). Carrie was convinced that some vital intelligence was being passed at dog shows, and was spending a lot of time among the people who showed dogs, despite the CIA director threatening her with suspension or worse if she didn't stop this line of inquiry. Carrie herself had gotten a dog for the first time in her life and was bonding with it. As usual, many people seemed to think that Carrie had finally gone permanently insane, and very few people besides me/Saul could see that she was continuing to function at genius level.

The neighborhood we were walking through on our way to the restaurant was beautiful: full of high-end shops, with broad sidewalks which had recently been paved with tiles in dark earth-tones. Many trees lined both sides of the street, it was a pleasantly brisk autumn morning, there were a few leafs in various bright colors on the sidewalks, the laughter of schoolchildren on recess was faintly aubible. The whole area was like an embodiment of the very principles of prosperity, calm, good health and other good things.

But before we reached the restaurant, the dispute about Carrie had become so heated that Dar began to grab and push me in anger, and I turned around and headed back to the office rather than risk getting into an actual fistfight with Dar, who was also a friend as well as a colleague.

Everything seemed connected in my mind: the blog, the CIA, computer programs, jogging and eating healthy, waffles, the beautiful neighborhood, the laughter of children, dogs -- everything. As I walked back to the office I felt very frustrated, because I thought that Carrie could understand such connections much more clearly than I. I wanted to talk to her and ask her to explain the connectedness, or at least try to make it more comprehensible to me. But at the moment she was undercover with the show-dog people, and very hard to reach.

At the office I checked the stats for the traffic on my blog, and it seemed as clear as could be that my programming had increased the traffic tremendously.

Then it occurred to me that no-one else had looked at the stats on the terminal in my office. The blog stats were classified and encrypted and tightly controlled, I couldn't access them on a phone, and neither could anyone else, unless they were an excellent hacker, or had some kind of clearance which I didn't know for sure that anyone had.

Otherwise, the blog stats were only accessible on the terminals at Langley and a few other CIA offices around the world. I had assumed that my snot-nosed young colleagues, who had remained so strangely unimpressed by my program and its effect on the blog's traffic, had been looking at the same data as I -- but now it occurred to me that perhaps an enemy hacker had separated my terminal from the others, so that either I was looking at falsified stats about the blog, or everyone else was, or maybe even both.

Then I woke up.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

me r munkee. me mayk art.

me r munkee. me mayk art.

uh thing cald New Masters Academy sez


that izz verr naiss. ai luv yu tu, New Masters Academy. butt yu sed MASTERPIECE OF HUMANITY and me r munkee.

thats ok. yu prolly dint reelaiz yu wirr dissing munkee an eluhfunt artists wen yu rote that.

i think eluhfunts r awesumz. kittiez tu. that iz just mai opinyun.

i laik kittiez butt sumtaimz thay wil skrach yu or bait yu an it hertz. but thats ok cuz kitties r littel an prolly sumtaimz thay git skeered. if yu hold owt yr hand tu uh kitteh hoo duznt no yu, jist hold yr hand neer thuh kitteh, it will cum up an snif yr hand an that maiks it les skeered and it wil not skrach or bait yu so mutch. ai don no wai that wurks butt it duz.

sum peepl say that wee munkees smel bad. me r sorree iff that r true. maybee it r not tru an peepl hu say that don no munkees.

sum peepl smel. butt prolly not on purpuss.

sum peepl r verr naiss. sum peepl grum munkeez. that iz naiss. wee munkeez grum eech uthur to b kleen butt allso kuzz it feelz naiss.

sumtaimz munkees bait peepl, butt that izz mostlee kuzz weer skeered. sorree.

ai luv yu. bai.

ps me r chimp. sum hyoomuns git mad when yu cal chimpz munkeez sted uv ayps. sorree.

ai luv yu. bai.

Friday, November 20, 2015

"It's better to have no religion at all, just Jesus, himself, alone." -- ACTUAL QUOTE

Actual quote from a real person:

"It's better to have no religion at all, just Jesus, himself, alone."

My fellow atheists, this is a perfect example of why many of you are way too excited about all those polls claiming that "religion is in decline." Someone tells the pollster they're not religious, but what you don't see when you read the poll results is them saying, "I don't need religion -- just Jesus!"

But you should sense it, because quotes like the one above are now so common that nobody but me remarks upon them. Once again, I have to do everything by myself. (A perfect example of why I deserve the Nobel Prize in Literature.) It's the people who often call themselves SBNR or "spiritual but not religious," whom I often call "religious but in denial about it" or "the disorganized religious." And of course, these people who don't call themselves religious are finding each other and organizing into groups that they don't call churches or temples, led by people they don't call clergy -- place where they get together and talk about how great God is and discuss His plan.

Similar to religion? Gee, ya think?

Yes, it's identical to religion. Identical to early Protestantism in most cases: people leave their churches because the churches are "doin' it wrong," and start their own, more self-righteous and Bible-obsessed groups.

At the very least, those doofuses taking the polls should become aware of all this, and adjust their polls to distinguish between atheists and the disorganized religious -- but as I've said before, sociologists aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer either.

Stupid disorganized religious, stupid atheists, stupid pollsters -- I'm surrounded by idiots! And no, this doesn't make me feel smart. Not at all -- I've allowed a bunch of idiots to surround me!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

If You Insist That Christianity Is Directly Descended From Mithraism --

-- you resemble a fundamentalist in not seeming interested in learning about the actual history of the two religions. The fundamentalist will say that all resemblance comes from Mithraists copying Christians. You say the opposite. And both you and the fundy are clearly grinding axes. Excuse me, but some of us would rather study history.

It's not clear which of the two religions is older. It's not clear that either directly borrowed anything at all from the other.

And anyway, it seems to me that an actual atheist wouldn't favor any religions, on account of being... you know -- an atheist. (Yes, I am accusing New Atheists of atheisting improperly.)

If you know me, you know that I'm all about the primary sources. Read modern historians if you want to, but check their work: look at the materials from which they formed their writing, and see for yourself whether you would come to similar conclusions. And yaaay, Maarten Jozef Vermaseren collected the small amount of evidence of Mithraism still existing in the Corpus Inscriptionum et Monumentorum Religionis Mithriacae.

Dream Log: Missing Modern Art

I dreamed I was living in a hostel-like building: some people had rooms of their own to live in, others, such as myself, did not. I was staying in a large room with about a dozen other people. I had a small cabinet next to my bed.

Regarded from the outside, the building we were living in resembled a one-family house on a suburban street, with a small patch of lawn. One night I stayed up all night on the lawn painting a canvas about four feet tall by six wide. other than its size, my painting had a general generic resemblance to some made by Julian Schnabel. The upper left quarter of the canvas contained one short word, the rest of the picture was abstract and had a visual quality reminiscent of the texture rough wood or torn burlap, although it contained a wide palatte of colors. I painted by the porch light until the sun came up, having no trouble seeing what I was doing. Shortly after dawn the painting was done. (In real life I'm no painter.)

Then someone stole it. I went around confronting local thieves and fences, trying to get my painting back. The painting was well-regarded by the local art community, and most people seemed to think it was worth high four figure or maybe a little over $10,000.

I couldn't remember what the word was in the upper-left quarter of the painting, and that hampered my search a bit. But I was sure that I would recognize the painting if I saw it. The thieves and fences were uncooperative, and some started to claim that I hadn't really made the painting. The local artists and art dealers were not much help, because they were afraid of the thieves and the fences. The police were divided between people who were afraid of the thieves, and people working for the thieves.

I wasn't afraid. It surprised me that I wasn't afraid of anyone, but I wasn't. Sometimes people pointed guns at me, and still I wasn't intimidated. I was determined to get my painting back, and I was still busting into thieves' and fences' homes and places of business and pushing them around and searching for my painting, and telling them that I wasn't planning to give up, and the simplest thing for them would just be to give up what they'd stolen, and then not bother me any more in the future, when I woke up.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Latin's Not Dead

And I don't feel like debating it. If you say Latin is dead, you're dead. inside. Or maybe you jokers who've been saying for hundreds of years now that it's dead, maybe consciously or subconsciously you want to kill it. In some cases there's definitely no "maybe" about it. Why would you want to kill a language? What's wrong with you?

In the 3rd century BC Plautus wrote hilariously crude comedies, in the 2nd century BC Terence wrote much more polite comedies, in the 1st century BC Julius Caesar wrote about his exploits in Gaul, in the 1st century AD Pliny the Elder wrote a long work much like an encyclopaedia which is known as the Natural History, in the 2nd century his son wrote some famous letters, in the 3rd century Tertulian ranted and raved in a famous manner, in the 4th century Ausonius wrote beautiful poems, in the 5th century Augustine did his thing, in the 6th century Gregory of Tours wrote of appalling goings-on, in the 7th century Isidore of Spain wrote another celebrated encyclopaedia-like work; his is called the Etymology, in the 8th century the Venerable Bede wrote a history of England, in the 9th century Einhard wrote a biography of Charlemagne, in the 10th century Widukind wrote a history of the Saxons, in the 11th century Anselm of Canterbury wrote celebrated theology and philosophy, in the 12th century William of Tyre wrote a magnificent history of the Crusades up until his own time, in the 13th century Thomas Aquinas wrote a metric ton of theology, in the 14th century William of Occam wrote philosophy which didn't contain that now known as Occam's Razor, in the 15th century Enea Silvio de Piccolomini wrote a very great variety of things, in the 16th century Giordano Bruno wrote things which got him killed, in the 17th century Johannes Kepler wrote books which greatly advanced the science of astronomy, in the 18th century Giambattista Vico wrote a liber metaphysicus, in the 19th century Karl Marx wrote a dissertation on the Emperor Augustus, in the 20th century GP Goold published at least 2 papers on Manilius in the Rheinisches Museum, and in the 21st century Stephen Berard published Capti, a novel, the first volume in a planned 7-part series --

-- and what do all of those written works have in common with many thousands of others? Couple of things. They're all still read today. And they were all written in Latin.

Which is not dead. Between the 3rd century BC and now quite a few languages have been born and then died, while Latin has just kept on going. The only European language now alive which has been continuously alive in both written and spoken form for longer than Latin is Greek.

So just shut up, rather than trying to tell me that Latin is dead. Just shut up.

Dream Log: Real And Unreal Cities

Like many other people who have spent most of their adult lives in big cities, I grew up in rural areas, dreaming --literally and figuratively -- about big cities. Since I had spent very little time in big cities, my childhood dreams about them were, of course, quite unrealistic. For some reason, many of my dreams about big cities still have that same unrealistic quality, featuring a lot of really gorgeous-looking extremely-big buildings which have never existed.

Shortly before I went to bed last night I saw the latest episode of "Homeland." The episode was set mostly in Berlin, as is most of the current season of the show, and partly in Amsterdam. The establishing shots of Amsterdam, the wide-angled shots of downtown areas, clearly were really shot in Amsterdam. While watching the show I wondered how many of the scenes set in Amsterdam with Claire Danes and other major cast members were actually shot in Amsterdam, and how many back in Berlin. I was thinking, if that's fake Amsterdam shot in Berlin, it's pretty good fake Amsterdam.

Then this morning it occurred to me to wonder how many of the scenes set in Berlin might actually have been shot on a Hollywood sound stage, or in Canada, or Pittsburgh, or wherever. Part of the reason that more big-budget movies and TV are shot in southern California than anywhere else is because the area offers locations which can look like anywhere on Earth: the polar regions, the tropics, the Sahara, mountains, prairies, ancient Egypt, the moon -- you name it. And for over 100 years Hollywood has just kept on getting better at looking like anywhere. It used to disappoint me after I learned that so many movie and TV locations were faked. Now I just see it as one more aspect of film-making which can be done well or poorly, and I appreciate it when it's done well. Many movies set in NYC and shot in LA look much more like NYC than many shot in NYC. That's a fact. If any director has made a really good and convincing movie set in LA, with lots of exteriors, which was shot entirely in NYC, that director is an awesome genius. It's a lot more difficult than the other way around.

So anyway, I went to sleep thinking: Real Amsterdam? Fake Amsterdam? And maybe subconsciously I was already thinking: Real Berlin? Fake Berlin? (Clearly, a lot of it is real Berlin, including a fair amount with main cast members. I'm just wondering whether the Berlin in the show is 100% Berlin.) And I dreamed about a very unrealistic-looking Cologne, Germany. Way too many skyscrapers, and most of the other buildings were also unrealistically tall. Germany doesn't do skyscrapers the way the US does. 14 of the 15 tallest buildings in Germany are in Frankfurt, which gives it a skyline rivaling that of Cleveland, and not rivaling Chicago or NYC, or even LA.

So yeah, this dream-Cologne had an entirely unrealistic emphasis upon the vertical. Even in the dream I thought, Hey, is this Berlin or something? But the city in the dream was much more rife with skyscrapers than the real Berlin or even the real Frankfurt. It was more like the real Hong Kong, skyscraper-wise, than anything in Europe. (East Asia is doing skyscrapers even more than the US, these days.)

And the dream was mostly about a friend and me walking up and down and around on open-air staircases on apartment buildings way, way up in the air, among glassed-in skyscrapers, in nice short-sleeves weather with gentle breezes, visiting people who had big luxurious apartments with spectacular views of many skyscrapers all jammed together in an entirely unrealistic downtown Cologne. It felt a lot like we were flying.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Saying That There Are No Peaceful Muslims Is As Stupid As Saying That There Are No Violent Christians

Or no Jews who eat shellfish. Or no Hindus who eat beef. Or no Buddhists who don't meditate.

It's pretty freakin' stupid.

And -- I've said this before but it bears repeating -- making ISIL's actions about Islam as a whole is pretty insulting to Muslims in general, and especially insulting to most of the people who are actually in combat against ISIL. Most of those people are, of course, Muslims.

Bill Maher asks, "Why do they hate us?" without bothering to be specific about who "they" and "we" are. Lots of people are always trying to tell Bill why some Muslims hate some Christians, but Bill's not listening. If it's not about Islam as a whole, then to Bill, we're naive liberals.

What do I, an autistic American atheist raised in a Protestant Christian family, have in common with the vast majority of those of the world's Muslims who know who Maher is? I've never opposed the fight against ISIL in any way, and Bill Maher frequently pisses me off.

Friday, November 13, 2015

"Die WIRKLICHE Philosophie Des 19. Jahrhunderts" Nach Spengler

In dem Untergang des Abendlandes, DTV, 9. Auflage 1988, S 479-81, gibt Spengler eine Liste von mehreren Dutzenden Buechern, Theaterstucken, Opern und Pamphleten, die er "eine Uebersicht ueber die wirkliche Philosophie des 19. Jahrhunderts" nennt. Es ist eine sehr interessante Liste. Aber wie so sehr oft bei Spengler, obwohl etwas sehr interessant ist, fragt man sich, ob das Interessante auch ueberhapt sinnvoll ist, von tiefsinning ganz mal zu schweigen. Spengler wollte mit dem Untergang eine "Umrisse einer Morphoplogie der Weltgeschichte" schreiben. Ich denke, das ist ihm voellig mislungen, dass er aber stattdessen und unabsichterweise etwas faszinierendes schrieb, das einsam in seiner eigenen Katagorie dasteht. Spengler war ein Reaktionaer, ein Rassist und ein Wirrkopf, aber ganz anders als die allermeisten Reaktionaeren, Rassisten und Wirrkoepfe ist er gar nicht langweilig. Vorausgesetzt dass man ihn nicht ernst nimmt, enthaelt sein seltsam magum opus etliches Wertvolles.

Also, zu dieser angeblich wirklichen Philosophie des 19. Jahrhunderts: es ist weite davon, die schlechteste Auswahl von 19jahrhundertiger Schreibungen die ich je gesehen habe. Vieles davon finde auch ich ganz gut.

Fragt sich aber, wie die Authoren dieser Philosophie Spengler gefunden haetten.

Fuer jemanden wie Spengler, der die ganze Welt mit seinem Buch umfassen will, ist diese Liste kaum umfassenderweise international. Nicht nur, dass Schriften aus Nord- und Suedamerkia, Afrika, Asien und Ozeanien voellig fehlen. Dachte Spengler, dass waehrend des ganzen 19. Jahrhunderts nur in Europa (wirklich) philosophiert wurde?

Ich denke, dass er vielleicht eben das wirklich gedacht hat. Und dass in einer gewissen vergangenen Epoche nur in China, in einer anderen nur in Aegypten (wirklich) philosophiert wurde usw. So eine Art von Wirrkopf war er: er war nicht gluehend mit Hass noch triefend mit Verachtung fuer die meisten Menschen der Welt wie viele Rassisten. Er war vielmehr die Art von rassistischem Wirrkopf, der glaubte dass er in einem "europaeischen Zeitalter" lebte.

Aber immerhin: wenn ich richtig gezaehlt habe, gibt es 20 deutschspraechige Werke auf dieser Liste von angeblich wirklicher Philosophie, und dann nur 14 nichtdeutschspraechige. Das heisst: von der urspruenglichen Sprache her gezaehlt, obwohl Spengler einigen Titeln in deutscher Uebersetzung nennt. Also: 2 Werke von Schopenhauer, 1 von Proudhon, 1 von Comte, 3 von Hebbel, 1 von Feuerbach, 1 von Engles, 3 von Marx, 5 von Wagner, 5 von Ibsen, 1 von Darwin, 1 von Mill, 1 von Duehring, 3 von Nietzsche, 3 von Strindberg, 1 von Weiniger und 2 von Shaw.

Nicht nur, dass dies eine ausschliesslich europeaische Liste ist; es ist eine fast ausschliesslich germanische. Nichts auf dieser Liste von Spanien, oder Italien, oder Polen oder Russland. 32 von 34 Werken in germanischen Sprachen, und dann 2 auf Franzoesisch. Und auf Deutsch nichts von Goethe; 4 Opern und eine Pamphlete von Wagner aber nicht Faust. Und nichts von Heine. Schwer, mir vorzustellen, dass Nietzsche sich gern auf einer solchen Liste gesehen haette, nachdem er sich die Muehe gemacht hatte, mehrere Werke und zahllose Bemerkungen in den ueberigen Werken seiner Feindschaft mit Wagner zuzuwidmen, und zwar gar nicht zuletzt Wagners Mitmachens in Deutschtuemmelei und Antisemitismus wegen. Oder Proudhon, Comte, Hebbel, Feuerbach, Engles (wusste Spengler ueberhapt, dass Engles ein ganzes anti-Duehring-Buch schrieb?), Marx, Darwin. Shaw war ganz laessig wenn man ihn auf Listen setzte; er erklaerte dann und wann ruehig, warum er nicht auf dieser oder jener Liste gehoerte, schien aber gar nicht aufgeregt uber solchen Sachen zu werden. Und so muss ich an seiner statt empoert werden.

Was denkt ein so emsiger Deutschtuemmler wie Spengler, dass er hoch priest, wenn er Internationalisten wie Proudhon, Comte, Hebbel, Feuerbach, Engles, Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche und Shaw als Schoepfer einer wirklichen Philosophie lobt?

Zeigt diese merkwuerdige Liste dass Spengler gelegentlich besser als seine Nationalismus war, dass er Besserem und Tieferem gegenueber gar nicht blind und taub war?

Oder zeigt es vielleicht, dass er gelegentlich (oder staendig?) Buecher hochpries, welche er gar nicht gelesen hat, und ganz einfach aus Unwissen so tut, als haetten Marx und Nietzsche mehr mit Wagner und Duehring als mit Goethe und Heine zu tun?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

There, I Said It!

I never admired Lady Di all that much. Yes, she was much more intelligent and serious than most of the British royals -- gee, set a low bar much? Also, I always hated her hairdo -- THERE, I SAID IT!

I can't watch Rachel Maddow any more. Life is just too short for: "There is this thing... this thing which happened. In a certain place. Just a little while ago. And this thing. Which happened. About which I am going to tell you. On this show. Tonight. My viewers. Has enormous consequences. For the lives of many people. In many ways" In the time you just spent saying nothing whatsoever, you could easily have told me what happened, and three other things. And the thing is, I know at this point that the not saying anything has barely begun. I literally can't stand it any more -- THERE, I SAID IT!

You dweebs who play Dungeons & Dragons: you're just as pathetic as those meatheads who play fantasy sports. You meatheads who play fantasy sports: you're just as pathetic as those dweebs who play Dungeons & Dragons --THERE, I SAID IT!

Every living creature is unique and precious -- THERE, I SAID IT!

I'm glad Pete Rose is banned from the Hall of Fame and every other aspect of Major League Baseball, not because I think his gambling was so bad -- i don't even know all of the details about the gambling -- but simply because I dislike him personally, and have since he was an active ballplayer and I was a little boy -- THERE, I SAID IT!

Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and William Randolph Hearst weren't merely colossal jerks, they were sociopathalogical monsters -- THERE, I SAID IT!

I don't like earrings, ever, on anybody, and apart from watches I have very little use for any other kind of jewelry -- THERE, I SAID IT!

You Can't Talk To Some People -- Or At least You Shouldn't

When you've become convinced that someone isn't listening, and that talking to them would be a waste of your time, what remains? Talking about them.

There are two people here who, I'm convinced, wouldn't listen to me if I tried to get through to them. The first quotes one of the more far-fetched passages in the Bible and seems to have no doubt that it's 100% true -- because it's in the Bible.

The second, who seems to have the opposite problem, replies to the first:

"Why is it that not one independent historical source ever mentions any of these things happening? Possibly because they didn't happen, and once again the wholly babble is a lie? Hmmm."

Oh, it makes me angry, how stupid this "the Bible is a lie" talking point is! All the more stupid because the people parroting it think of themselves as the voice of reason, as rationality incarnate. A collection of over 60 texts, with dozens of authors, is not "an" anything, it is more than one thing. It shows you how these two idiots are the flip side of one another, this all-or-nothing approach to the Bible. To the one it's absolutely all true, to the other it's absolutely all "a lie."

Who talks that way about a book by one author, let alone a compilation of works by many different authors?

In this case, the Bible verses quoted as Gospel truth are actually from one of the Gospels and have to do with one of the less-believable details of the Biblical account of Jesus' life, and the New Atheist was dutifully responding with the party line: "No historical sources mention Jesus."

So why is this, hmm? Could it be that Jesus never existed?

Yes, hmm? it could be that Jesus never existed. But one of the long list of things which these smug hmm? -ers don't want to hear is that very few non-New-Testament sources say anything at all about Judea and Galilee between 6 BC and AD 40, and one of those sources, Josephus, does mention Jesus, and not just in the discredited Testamonium Flavianum that they're always talking about because it's been discredited, but in a second passage as well.

They don't want to hear it. They don't want to have an intelligent conversation about 1st-century Judea and Galilee, they wouldn't recognize such a conversation if it slapped them in the face.

So, Is Joshua Feuerstein Jewish --

-- or is he just a Nazi with an extremely Jewish-sounding name, like Alfred Rosenberg?

Happy Kwanzaa, y'all!

(I KNOW I'm not the only one who's been wondering!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Great Big Fat Guy, Day 12

So, have I lost any weight yet in these 12 days? That's a good question. The place where I live tilts. This means that if you put a lacrosse ball on the floor or an orange on a counter, it will roll east. It also means that scales are useless.

I did another one of the 3-miles walks just now. I feel good. I feel fat, but I feel good.

To that person who, 30 years ago, said, as I was entering the room: "He sort of LOOKS like a bowling pin," and then there was an awkward silence as people wondered whether I'd heard, and put it together with my name -- different Bollingers from different parts of the world pronounce the name in quite a variety of different ways. My family employs the German-Swiss pronunciation, with the first 2 syllables sounding like "bowling," the g swalled, the e an unaccented schwa and the r pronounced -- if you're reading along, yes I did hear you, yes I did put it together, and I've completely forgotten everything about you except that one thing you said, and that I never thought you were as funny as you did.

As far as I know, I am related to no Bollingers involved in the invention of Bollinger Bands or the creation of the swanky champagne.

1841. And Latin. And Ohio.

The Ohio State University was not founded until 1870, and was originally conceived as an "A&M" school, concentrating on agricultural and mechanical studies. I have not been able to determine when courses in Classics were first offered at the university, nor when a Department of Classics was established. Ohio State's law school was founded in 1891, so by that time, at the latest, Ohio State legal students surely must either have been offered some instruction in Latin, or expected to have gained some proficiency in the language elsewhere, before receiving their law degrees. The university had a baseball team by 1881.

I have learned not to trust my memory: as time goes by, things I've seen grow larger or smaller or more impressive or less impressive, in my memory, than they really were when I saw them. Countless examples have taught me how my memory distorts things. 25 years ago my interest in and knowledge of Latin was much less than it is now. So the fact that around 1990 I was wandering through the stacks of the Main Ohio State library and came across what seemed to me to be an absolutely huge collection of volumes of ancient Greek and Latin, does not mean that the same collection would look huge to me today, because along with the passage of 25 years comes the fact that in 1990 I was much less able to make a coherent assessment of a collection of Classical texts: I had much less knowledge to apply to what I saw. However, there is no doubt whatsoever that the layer of dust I saw resting upon row after row of Loeb's Classical Library and the Oxford Classical Texts, was the thickest layer of dust I have ever seen, anywhere.

There simply could not have been a more eloquent single image of an academic discipline which was much less studied at a particular university than it had once been.

All the same, one should keep in mind that although by 1990 I had learned to spot a row of green or red Loeb's or black (under the dust covers) Oxford Classics at a glance, I was not yet familiar with the orange Greek and light-blue Latin volumes from Teubner. So that it is just possible that next to those rows of Loeb's and Oxford Classics which looked so mighty to me at the time, covered with that immense amount of dust which made me so very sad -- Ah say Ah say it is just possible that right next to those dust-covered volumes were immense amounts of Teubner volumes rubbed clean of dust from constatnt and eager use.

Just possible, but, it seems to me, not bloody likely. For one thing, although I cannot be at all certain, I believe that the volumes I saw were shelved by author, rather than Loeb being segregated from Oxford and both of them from whatever other publisher.

Another possibility occurs to me: that huge layer of dust may not have meant that a once-popular field of study had fallen from favor. It may have meant that those Loeb and Oxford (and other?) volumes had never been in great demand by the student body of Ohio State. Perhaps the bulk of those volumes had been the gift of some philanthropist who was smitten with the Classics and had no idea that he or she was about to cast pearls before swine.

Both Ohio University and Miami University, Ohio, are considerably older than Ohio State.

When Miami University opened in 1824, its curriculum consisted of Greek, Latin, algebra, geography, and Roman history; the only degree offered was a Bachelor of Arts.

Now THAT'S more LIKE it!

That, unfortunately, is also everything which I have been able to learn regarding the use and cultivation of the Latin language up until 1841, in the territory which in 1803 became Ohio, the 17th United State.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Trump -- Feuerstein 2016

What do you think: would that ticket be enough to destroy the GOP forever? Let's hope it does.

I don't know what else to say about the Starbucks cups nonsense. I saw a headline telling how Feuerstin went on CNN and got called out for being a bigot, and my reaction wasn't: Good! Even CNN sees that this guy is full of shit! It was: Feuerstein got on CNN, with this?!

Part of me says I shouldn't say anything, that doing anything other than ignoring all of this nonsense is just playing into Joshua Feuerstein's hands. Or Feuerstein's and Starbucks', which in a way is even worse because Starbucks coffee is really awful.

So I guess I'll stop talking about it now, and continue shaking my head in silence. Happy Kwanza, y'all!

Monday, November 9, 2015

I'm Having An Extremely Difficult Time Finding Information About Classical Scholarship In Peru

Yes, I'm sure that this would be much easier if my Spanish were better, thanks for asking.

Why Peru? Because the University of San Marcos in Lima has been in continuous operation since 1551. (Sorry, Harvard.)

No results found for "classical scholarship in peru".

No results found for "erudición clásica en Perú".

Ah, but soon after that, we find that "erudición clásica" in Spanish does not mean the same thing as "Classical education" in English: the study of ancient Greek and Latin literature.

Okay, I guess next we'll try filología.

"filología en peru" yields 2 hits.

Hm, it would seem that filología, in Spanish, like philology in English, does not always mean the study of ancient Greek and Latin.

The search filología peru, without quotation marks, makes me think that filología might indicate the study of Classics in Spanish even less often than does philology in English.

"classical scholarship in spain" yields many links containing references to a book with exactly that title by a certain D Rubio.

Aaaaaand, hard work made me quit -- for today! I shall return, Peru!

Comment To Support A Petition To Award Me The Nobel Prize In Literature!

Just comment saying "Yes!" in order to support the petition.

Or, if you feel strongly enough that I must NOT be given the Nobel, comment and say "No!"

Feel free to include your reasons for or against in your comment.

Many thanks to the douchebags who started the petition to get Phil Collins to stop recording music, for giving me the idea. And for making me laugh and laugh and laugh, at the thought that they think they can do anything to Collins. And also, yesterday, when I found out about those douchebags and their petition, I researched "Take Me Home," a record I always liked, although I never had a clue what the lyrics were about -- and I found out that "Take Me Home" is a protest song, protesting the incarceration of people in mental institutions. So now I like it even more. I like it so much now that it makes me cry.

So thanks for that too, douchebags!

Sacrifice: James George Frazer Explains It All For You

In case anyone hasn't already read James George Frazer's The Golden Bough: thousands of years ago most or all religions were based around human sacrifice. How many thousands of years depends on which culture we're talking about. The Aztecs and the Mayas still sacrificed humans 500 years ago. Human sacrifice came from people's observations of plants and from the beginnings of agriculture: a plant died, but then parts of the plants, the seeds, came back to life as more plants. Animal sacrifice was a step away from human sacrifice in the direction of not being religious at all. The ancient Greeks, Romans and Hebrews all practiced animal sacrifice. The animal sacrifices began as a quite conscious substitute for the human ones. Then as time passed the human sacrifices were pushed down deep into the subconscious, that place where things can be extremely dangerous if they're not dug up, dusted off and examined. Actually, the title The Golden Bough refers to human sacrifices performed by Romans not so long before Classical (ca 100 BC -- AD 100) Rome, the memory of which made the Classical Romans very uncomfortable. A case for the Truth Hurts Department.

The story of Abraham and Isaac comes from the time of the transition from human to animal sacrifice. The concept of Jesus as Savior is a huge step back, mentally, toward the time of human sacrifice.

It's all pretty clear, simple and straightforward once you've grasped it. And wise people write great books to help us grasp things.

So give me a Nobel Prize, you ungrateful turds!

Sorry. (But SHEESH! What have I got to do?!)

As always, I recommend the 12-volume unabridged version of The Golden Bough. But the 1922 1-volume abridgment is better than nothing, *sigh, sneer*, I suppose. The abridgment does away with all footnotes, and for reasons which I no longer even want to understand, many of you out there in the general public just hate footnotes. Heaven forbid you should ever read a footnote and understand an author's justification for what he or she writes.

Many people have objected to Frazer because he referred to "savages" and "civilized" people. I don't want to argue about this. If you want to argue about it, you should have no problem finding people who will either attack or defend Frazer for the use of such words, whichever side you're not on.

It seems to me that Frazer was not racist, and used words like "savage" and "civilized" because those were the words which people around him in Oxford used when they referred to people around the world. Certainly, plenty of Frazer's contemporaries in Europe were racist, in quite horrible ways. Frazer's big fan TS Eliot, for example, was quite nastily racist. But it seems to me that Frazer used similar terms, but in different ways, not judging people according to their ethnicity, and not claiming that "civilized" people were superior to "savages." (And, by the way, also not claiming that "savages" were superior to the "civilized," as did Rousseau -- although Rousseau actuallly never used the phrase "noble savage.") Again, I'm not interested in debating this. You think I'm wrong? Fine, I'm wrong. Plenty of people will be eager to agree with you, and many others will be eager to dispute what you say. Have fun, and give 'em all a great big kiss from me.

Now about that Nobel...

Sunday, November 8, 2015

What's That I See Approaching? Ah Yes -- It's The End Of My Rope

I'm tired of trying to explain basic entry-level stuff about the New Testament to New Atheists who talk and talk about it but don't listen. Or read books. Read this

and get back to me.

Don't want to read a book? Good! Then don't get back to me!

Don't believe a Catholic priest like Raymond Brown was capable of writing an objective book about the New Testament? Good! Go back to your Iron-Chariots-Rational-Wiki-jesusneverexistedDOTcom echo chamber, and don't get back to me!

What Bothers Me About "Progressive" Religious Believers

I write a lot on this blog about what bothers me about New Atheism. For a short time, when I first heard about New Atheism, I assumed that I was a New Atheist: I'm an atheist, and I'm fairly loud-mouthed. However, I very quickly learned that New Atheists are very deficient in their knowledge of what we in the English-speaking part of the world have agreed lately to call the humanities, and determined to stay that way.

That ain't me. Therefore, I am a Steven Bollinger Can Haz Nobel Atheist. And maybe you are too.

Hopefully it's fairly obvious, upon even slight acquaintance with me, what bothers me about religious fundamentalists.

What bothers me about "progressive" Christians and Muslims and observant Jews and Sikhs and Hindus and other "progressive" religious believers -- "progressive" always in quotation marks, because there is nothing progressive about this thing which annoys me -- is that they have exchanged one category of ignorance of history for another.

"Progressive" Christians no longer believe that Adam and Eve or Noah or Abraham existed, they don't all believe that Moses existed, they're willing to debate the accuracy of the Biblical accounts of the size of David and Solomon's kingdom.

Sometimes they readily acknowledge that Mary wasn't a virgin when Jesus was born, that there's no reason to believe he was born in Bethlehem or was related to David or walked on water or cured the blind or the lame or the insane or raose Lazarus from the dead or himself rose from the dead. So why exactly are they still Christians? That's a good question. It's a very good question. Do they think that living a lie is good for their children somehow? Are they just networking on Sunday mornings?

They are scientifically literate, they know that life on Earth is billions of years old and that the universe is billions of years older still. Some of them are very competent scientists. (Some fundamentalists are very competent scientists too, of course, but with the "progressive" believers, expertise in science involves far less cognitive dissonance.)

And all of that is great. What is not so great, what bothers me, is that "progressive" believers very often insist that members of their faiths centuries ago regarded their holy texts the same way they do. "Progressive" Christians say that fundamentalism, literalism, regarding the accounts of things in the Bible to be literally true, is a recent development, going back to the 19th century, perhaps as far back as the very late 18th century. But no further.

Which is sheer nonsense. That it is sheer nonsense is one of the things about which fundamentalist Christians and I agree. Just look for the phrase "word of God" in texts dating from before the 18th century -- look for it in the Bible, for instance.

I submit that what began to happen in the 18th century was that people could begin to write things which were openly NOT literalist without fear of being tortured and killed for it, for the first time, in Christian-controlled territory, in about 1400 years.

I further submit that this is obvious to anyone who's read a lot of things written in those Christian-controlled places during those 1400 years. The amount of stuff which you have to ignore or tell yourself is "just allegorical" in order not to see this is huge. The number of people imprisoned and/or killed for doing science, because their work seemed to some authorities to challenge a very rigid view of the Bible as the ultimate source of truth is huge. Roger Bacon, Giordano Bruno and Galileo are only the most famous cases. People aren't burnt alive because their laboratory experiments seem to conflict with allegories.

And yet this is what many, perhaps most Christian theologians and scholars of the Old and New Testament canon and apocrypha will tell you, often with mountains of mind-fogging jargon. (A mind has to be fogged to believe it.)

Christian theologians have not stopped writing straight-up bullshit. The "progressive" ones these days -- and a lot of Biblical scholars and Biblical archaeologists -- have merely started to write a different kind of straight-up bullshit.

This seems so obvious to me. It seems to me sometimes that very few people -- not even academic historians -- want to investigate history on even the most superficial level, if what they found would conflict with certain preconceived notions which they cherish. New Atheists don't want to check Paulkovich's list of 126 names -- the fact that he says he's an historian and that his conclusion pleases them is enough, why risk being displeased by checking the man's work? "Progressive" Biblical scholars want to believe that there was no fundamentalism in Medieval and Renaissance times -- why disturb that belief by honestly looking at what stares them in the face all day long every day in their jobs? (Perhaps including some very solid reasons to wonder whether or not Jesus existed?)

Nietzsche knew what I was talking about. Was it really syphilis which drove him mad -- or was it that every day, everywhere he looked, he clearly saw things which everyone else refused to look at or talk about?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Chess Log: What?!

5-0 blitz, I played White:

1. e4 c5 2. ♘f3 ♘c6 3. d4 ♕b6 4. d5 ♘b8 5. b3 d6 6. ♗e3 g6 7. ♘bd2 ♘d7 8. ♘c4 ♕c7 9. ♗f4 ♗g7 10. e5 ♘xe5 11. ♘cxe5 dxe5 12. ♗g3 ♕a5 13. ♘d2 e4 14. ♗e2 ♗xa1 15. ♕xa1 ♘f6 16. c3 O-O 17. ♘c4 ♕d8 18. O-O b5 19. ♘e5 a6 20. ♖d1 ♗b7 21. c4 b4 22. ♘c6 ♗xc6 23. dxc6 ♕c8 24. c7 ♖a7 25. ♕e5 ♖e8 26. ♕xc5 ♘h5 27. ♕xa7 ♘xg3 28. fxg3 e5 29. c5 ♖e7 30. ♖d8 1-0 {Black resigns}

Black's strongest move would have been to move the King and allow White to capture the Black Queen, and continue on with 1 Rook and 7 Pawns against White's Queen, 1 Rook, 1 Bishop and 7 Pawns. If Black captures the Rook, White re-takes with the Pawn, gets a 2nd Queen and takes Black's Rook as well, leaving Black with no pieces and 7 Pawns against White's 2 Queens, 1 Bishop and 6 Pawns.

I'm used to playing opponents rated hundreds of points higher than I and being stunned by the finish. But up until now it was always the higher-rated opponent who provided the stunning finish. Honestly, I cannot account for how I did this. I'm stunned.

Trying To Account For Differences Between Online And Offline Behavior

I'm an atheist, I've been an atheist for 40 years, I've never hidden it, and I've gotten along just fine with a lot of theists and rarely had any problems with them over differences in worldviews. That's been my meat-world experience. My cyber-experience of contact between atheists and theists could not be more starkly different. It has been mostly them fighting and being very rude to each other, and conversations on religious topics are constantly interrupted by verbal abuse from people on either side -- if, that is, there was anything resembling an attempt at discussion to begin with. I don't know what this means. Some possible explanations:

1) I may have been fortunate in the people I've met face-to-face over the course of my life.

2) I may have been unfortunate in the people I've met online over the course of the past 5 years who argue about religion.

3) The people I've met face-to-face and those I've met online may be very similar people, who behave very differently depending upon whether they're interacting face-to-face or in cyberspace.

I was raised by liberal Christians. There was never the slightest hint of my parents disowning me or wanting nothing more to do with me, because I was openly atheistic. A lot of the atheists I've met online were raised by fundamentalist Christians, and they have been disowned and shunned by their families. Over and over again this turns out to be the background of people supporting irreligious billboards and trying to have the 10 Commandments removed from public buildings, and other atheist efforts which I tend to find useless or worse. And these are the same atheists I see behaving very rudely online toward theists -- Christians, mostly -- who are behaving very rudely toward them. (Cousins, feudin' and fightin'?)

So it may just be that the people meet face to face are not those I meet online.

It may be that atheists who come from liberal backgrounds like mine are either hanging out in different places online than I am, or that they are not as vocal as I am about being atheists, or both.

Or it may be that many people's manners are much worse online than offline. Maybe the very same people I meet face-to-face, who seem to take my atheism so calmly in stride, are actually very upset with it, but hide their dismay from me, and take it to the Internet, where they unload in the manner I'm accustomed to seeing online.

Whatever the reasons, the contrast between the behavior I see offline and that I see online is very striking. Perhaps it's very autistic of me to find the difference striking, while the neurologically-typical see nothing strange about people behaving very differently in the 2 spheres.

Syriac Icons

Thomas touching Jesus' wound:

Palm Sunday:

Another Palm Sunday:

The Ascension:

St George:


Here's a very embarrassing photo from 2003: embarrassing for Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear and Wen Yann Shih:

I'm surely not the only one wondering whether Ben Carson ever really went to medical school? If not, that would be very embarrassing for Johns Hopkins. (Carson was the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1984 to 2013.)

If Ben Carson ever feels embarrassment, he hides it well.

Friday, November 6, 2015

I Don't Even Know What Fantasy Sports Is

And I don't want to know, and I'm proud I don't know. I strongly suspect that it's even more closeted-gay than gladiator movies and regular sports are. If I'm wrong about theism and there is a God and St Peter is running the Pearly Gates and he asks me to justify my life, my first response will be to look him in the eye -- even though I'm autistic and it's often very hard for me to look people in the eye at all, and I can rarely do it for more than a second or so at a stretch even if I'm really relaxed -- and to say, "I never even bothered to learned what fantasy sports is. You can tell already just by the name that it's for huge closet-cases."

And then I'll stroll on into Paradise.

Another Atheist Facebook Group I've Quit

Actually, it's a group for atheists and theists. There are relatively few groups which are actually for atheists only. Instead of "an atheist group," I should call something like this "a group where atheists and theists can get together, insult and verbally abuse each other, hurl simplistic slogans and strawmen, and not listen to each other."

So what am I saying? That such groups are not filled with the creme de la creme of atheist and theist intellect, and do not provide discourse of a high order?

Yes. I'm saying it. These groups are gathering places for idiots. There are a few intelligent people among the retards, to be sure, but the dumb ones are driving the smart ones away. (Case in point: me, right now.)

So this group I'm in. Lately atheists there having been making posts with pictures of starving or horribly disfigured children and asking, "Yeah! Where's yr perfect God now, hah?" Then just now I saw one with a disfigured baby, asking why religious people didn't donate to charity instead of just saying words like Amen.

That's right: this turnip was asking Why aren't there any religious charities?

Imagine the kind of bubble you need to live in not to know about the many religious charities in operation all around us. If you've spent time in some of these Facebook groups, you don't need to imagine anything, you've been there and you've heard it with your own eyes.

So I blocked the idiot who posted that, and I posted the remark that, C'mon now fr cryin out loud, ya don't have to believe in God in order to notice that there are religious charities!

And right away someone commented that it was the least the religious could do after all the harm they'd done over the course of thousands of years. And I didn't feel like trying for the thousandth time to explain why comments like that are asinine. And since he was an admin and I couldn't block him, I just quit the group and came here to complain instead.

This is what Michael Ruse is talking about when he says that the New Atheists are a bloody disaster.

Well. Keep calm and carry on. The search for intelligent life on Earth continues.

Great Big Fat Guy, Day 7

In my last Great Big Fat Guy post I mentioned that I've never been much of a runner. But last night I dreamed about running and enjoying it a lot more than I usually do, running really fast and for quite a while, and I remembered that recently, I have enjoyed some long and fast spontaneous spur-of-the-moment runs while I've been out for a walk.

But when I was awake this morning I thought: wait a minute: have I actually run like that a few times recently (over the course of the past year or so), or have I only dreamed about it a few times recently?

And the strange thing is: I honestly don't know whether I've done that for real or only in dreams. I mean: I know I've had a few short bursts of running of up to maybe 50 yards or so. But I was thinking that recently I'd run a lot farther than that at a stretch. And I don't know whether I really did, or if I just dreamed it. Isn't that weird?

My lower legs are fine. No shin splints or other serious injuries. It was just some muscles waking up and yelling, "Hey! What are you DOING to us?!" They're with the program now.

I have some aches and pains, but they're all okay. Some fitness enthusiasts who are young and lucky enough never to have faced serious injury or illness yet like to say,

"Pain is just weakness leaving the body."

But that's not always true. Sometimes pain is a broken bone or a kidney stone, to give just 2 examples with which I am personally familiar.

But the aches and pains I'm having now are just weakness leaving my body.

Always remember to stretch. A lot. How much should you stretch? If you can, go and watch a high-level track team stretching, see how long it goes on and on. Stretch a lot, do it carefully, stop when it hurts.

In conclusion: Katy Perry remains very, very, very pretty. To be painfully honest about it, I don't know if I like any of her songs besides "Firework." But there's never been any law against watching a music video with the sound off. Thnk yu verr mutch pleez! Ah still thinkz that Katy iz sooper awesumz!!! (I'm a tiny little kitten!!!)