Sunday, January 31, 2016

I Just Encountered Someone Who Called Himself A Post-Theist

As always, when I meet an atheist like this one calls him- or herself something other than an atheist -- non-believer, skeptic, post-theist or what have you -- I wonder whether he or she has chosen the exotic self-identification in order to distance him- or herself from the New Atheists.

Assuming that this is indeed the case, I sympathize with the motive -- I rarely let a chance go by to distance myself from the New Atheists -- but I disagree with the tactic. I do not wish to surrender the name "atheist" to the New Atheists.

Before they came along, the most famous atheists were people like Schopenhauer, Marx, Nietzsche, Twain, Russell and Sartre. I am one of the inteelectual hers of those earlier atheists. The non-believers, skeptic, post-theists and what have you may or may not also be among their heirs and worthy successors. The New Atheists most assuredly are not.

Because those earlier atheists were more than just atheists. After they had told you that they were atheists, they still had interesting things to say. They weren't one-issue people, declaring all atheists to be good and all religion to be bad. They all realized that things are much. much more complicated than that.

One of the few things upon which New Atheists and I agree, and upon which I and all of the non-believers, skeptic, post-theists disagree, is that the term "atheist" denotes someone who does not believe in the existence of God or gods, and that it means nothing more or less than that.

Usually, theologians have favored, and atheists have rejected, terms which obfuscate rather than explain. Unfortunately, these atheists who insist they're have picked up a bad habit from the theologians. And it doesn't make atheism look any better when onlookers finally figure out that non-believer, skeptic, post-theist and all those other terms which some atheists these days choose to identify themselves as atheists while avoiding the term "atheist" -- that what all of those other terms really mean is "atheist," no more and no less. If we have to choose another term, then let's do like the New Atheists, and choose a term which leaves the term "atheist" in it, and call ourselves, for example, Steven Bollinger Can Haz Nobel Atheists.

(Sartre won a Nobel and gave it back. I'm sitting here thinking how rich I would have to be to follow suit. Sartre was stinking rich when he turned the Nobel down.)

'The Proud Tower' By Barbara W Tuchman

Tuchmann's Proud Tower was published 50 years ago in 1966, and covers a period which ended 52 years before its publication, the period from 1890 to 1914. In some ways the books feels much closer to the time it portrays than to the present. Most notably, it purports to present a portrait of the world before World War I, and consists of 2 chapters on England and 1 each on anarchists, the United States, France, Germany and socialists.

Eurocentrism, Tuchman haz it.

Among the places and people which do not appear in the book's index are China, Japan, India, Africa, Latin America and Gandhi. And even within its Eurocentric genre, the book is narrow for something claiming to deal with "the world." The items in the bibliographies (1 for each chapter) are mostly in English, quite a few in French, and, I believe, that's it. After reading her chapter on Germany, no-one with a sense of how much is lost in translation can be surprised to find that it was composed entirely of things either written originally in English or translated into English, plus Maurice Baumont's L'Affaire Eulenburg et les origines de la guerre mondiale. The items include something called Toward Understanding Germany by someone called Robery Harry Lowie. Lowie's effort may be magnificent for all I know. But many people have come quite a bit closer than Tuchman to "understanding Germany" very simply by learning to read German. A good half of Tuchmann's chapter on Germany, entitled, duh-duh-DUHHH, "Neroism is In The Air," in quotes, is about Richard Strauss. Mahler is barely mentioned, ditto for the Manns and Freud. Kafka, Musil and Rilke are not mentioned at all. Bahr gets 3 mentions and Kraus none. Nietzsche is described as if Tuchman knows him at 2nd or 3rd hand at best. Tuchmann writes, "Germany in painting had little but Max Liebermann." Translation: Tuchman hasn't heard of any German painters of the period except Max Liebermann. Sorry, Corinth, Blaue Reiter (that's en entire group of famous German painters of the period), Bruecke (that's another) -- well: sorry, Expressionism in general.

It's a good book, don't get me wrong. But perhaps it could have been even better if, instead of thinking of it as a book about the world before World War I, Tuchman had approached it as what it is: a book about England, the US, France, anarchism, socialism and Richard Strauss before World War I. Tuchman apologizes in the Foreward for the limited scope of this book ostensibly about "the world." But she doesn't apologize enough.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Burckhardt, Karl IV, Italianer von Karls Zeit, Priviligien

Seit Jahren strenge ich mich an, eine Seite, eine einzige Seite von Burckhardts Kultur der Renaissance zu verstehen, naemlich S 25-26 in dtv 1982, ueber des Kaisers Karl des IVten italianische Reise. "Eine der schmaehlichsten politischen Komoedien," nennt Burckhardt das. Karl reist nach Italien, verkauft -- irgendetwas, kehrt dann "mit seinem vollen Geldsack" wieder nach Hause, die Italiener lachen sich darueber scheckig, Burckhardt scheint sich als Deutscher darueber zu schaemen, ich weiss nicht was passiert ist.

"Priviligien" habe Karl verkauft. Was sind das? Vorrechte? Recht wozu? Warum waren sie, nach Burckhardt und nach diese sich scheckig lachendedn Italienern zu der Zeit und vor Ort, so viel mehr wert als ein Sack voller Geld?

Kann jemand mir erklaeren, was hier passiert ist, worueber die Italiener sich amuesiert haben and Burckhardt sich verschaemt hat?

It Makes Sense To Call It The Abrahamic Religion. Singular, Not Plural

I know that some of you know all of the following. Indeed, I'm sure that some of you know a lot more about all of this than I. Indulge me while I educate the Great Unwashed.

What I'm suggesting here is that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are one religion, not three. Three religions which agree on the basics and squabble over some details.

Jews and Christians (usually) have no problem seeing that they worship the same God. But some of them seem to get tripped trying to wrap their minds around the concept that Allah is the same God. I don't know whether Muslims suffer from the same confusion at all.

Allah and the Biblical God are one and the same, in fact. In plain and obvious fact. "Allah" is just Arabic for "God." Arabic-speaking Christians (there are currently over a million of them) refer to God as Allah. "Allah" is the Arabic version of the Hebrew "Elohim." (Arabic and Hebrew are closely related. "Salaam" = "shalom.") Some well-known Arabic phrases which are usually translated into English these days as "praise Allah" and "Allah is merciful" have sometimes been translated as "praise God" and "God is merciful," which makes much more sense to me, since that makes it much more plain to see that Jews, Christians and Muslims are all talking about the same God, and especially as we English-speakers have been translating "Elohim" all along as "God."

But you know, this entire post is only going to be of interest to people who actually want to understand what others are talking about. And I know that's not everybody.

I don't know whether this little linguistic difficulty is more or less of a problem in languages besides English. I would guess: even more of a problem in some languages than in English, and less in others. But I'm just guessing.

Jibril is Gabriel, Ibram is Abraham, Yusuf is Joseph, Musa is Moses, Harun is Aaron (Harun al-Rashid was a late-8th-century and early-9yh-century Caliph), Dawud is David, Suleiman is Solomon (Suleiman the Magnificent was a 16th-century Ottoman Sultan. I had thought that "Salman" was another version of the name "Solomon," but evidently I was mistaken about that), Ishiya is Isaiah, Irmiya is Jeremiah, Daniyal is Daniel, Isa is Jesus.

Friday, January 29, 2016

You've Got Less Than 700 Pages --

-- to contain your selection of the most exemplary expository prose ever written, to be published in 1980 and to represent in a way the erudition of the entire world up until then -- and you've chosen to include 5 pieces by Thurber.

No Nietzsche. No Marx or Santayana. No Bellow, Russell, Aristotle, Confucius, Homer, Livy, Bollinger, Kant, Voltaire, Cervantes, no Manns, neither Thomas nor Heinrich nor Klaus nor Erika nor Golo, no Twain [PS, 30. January 2016: I'm very pleased to say that I was mistaken: Mark Twain, cleverly disguised under the name "Samuel L Clemens," DOES in fact appear in the Norton Reader, 5th edition, shorter, dispensing some delightful "Advice to Youth" on pp 436-438.] or either of the James boys, not a single Adams or Lincoln, no Freud, Wittgenstein, Gibbon, Hume, Rousseau, Heidegger, Runciman, Rabelais, Grimmelshausen nor Garcia Marquez, because you felt it necessary to include James Thurber

Five.

Times.

No. It won't do, Norton Reader, 5th edition, shorter!

This will not stand!

No Thucydides! None!

Yeah, Thurber's good.

Kinda.

Is it possible to like both Susan Sontag and Quentin Tarantino?

And yes, I am wondering whether Annie Leibovitz ever felt in the middle. (Oh, good news -- Annie Leibovitz is not dead! Really. I double-checked.) For a while, Leibovitz was Sonntag's lover, and the #1 celebrity photographer in the world, and Tarantino was the hottest celebrity in the world -- all at the same time. I have found photos of Tarantino by Leibovitz.

Hey, what the Hell do I know, maybe the three of them were great friends and it didn't bother Quentin that what what Susan wrote seemed to diss him.

Hey, what the Hell do I know, maybe Sontag loved Tarantino's movies, although some surfing seems to indicate that most people who know who she was and who he is seem to assume, as I have, that she really, really did not.

I felt a little uncertain about deciding that I hated Sontag (as a writer -- I never met her personally, and if I had, I'm the sort of person who can very easily hate the writing and love the person what wrote it) after having read just 2 sentences she'd written, but that was nearly 44 hours ago. Now I'm up to 12 sentences or more, and 11 of them made me want to throw the book and/or PC across the room, and the 12th was a cheap laugh at the expense of people suffering a very painful mental illness. There's no doubt about it any more: Sontag was the Hegel of the 20th century, a pretentious jackass who somehow became a worldwide superstar among would-be intellectuals.

(Look, I'm not even a huge Tarantino fan. [Like many other people, I find some of his work tediously pretentious -- hey, maybe he and Sontag bonded over their love of being unbearably pretentious! What the Hell do I know?] I have watched Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown over and over and I'll watch them again, but I'm not crazy about every one of his movies. But it seems to me that you have to be crazy not to see that Pulp Fiction was a Huge Cultural Event -- and in a good way. And the several sentences which I personally have read of Sontag's summary of cinema's first century, which was published in Parnassus 3 years after Pulp Fiction was released, read to me like the work of someone who either had never heard of Pulp Fiction, or wouldn't recognize a Huge Cultural Event if it caused her lover to repeatedly photograph its director.)

I'm so angry as a result of having ingested those 12 sentences in less than two days that I'm going to have to stop now. (Also, I have a couple of things that I need to do.) I might return to the subject of Sontag, or I might not. I don't know if it would be fair to her to continue to write about her writing having only read a dozen or sentences of it, and I don't know if it would be fair to myself to continue to read writing which I dislike so intensely. One need not drink the whole ocean to be sure that it is salty; on the other hand, if one stays hundreds of miles away from the ocean, one may not be the best qualified to write about it, nor necessarily the most interesting writer for those who like to sail.

'The Force Awakens': Box Office Is Slowing Down

Box Office Mojo's weekend forecast reports that the box office revenue of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is slowing down. When it comes to the North American box office, the US plus Canada, Force Awakens is playing in 2556 North American theatres, 809 less than last weekend. Box Office Mojo predicts the film will earn $9.86 million in North America this weekend, a drop of over 30% even though the winter storm greatly impacted last weekend's ticket sales.

The latest Box Office Mojo all-time worldwide box office chart shows Force Awakens still holding at #3 with $1.9497 billion, still $237.1 million behind the all-time #2, Titanic, and its total of $2.1868 billion. $237.1 million seems to me like a long way to go when the domestic weekend box office is expected to plummet to under $10 million.

I would imagine that almost all of the real die-hard Star Wars fans in the world have now seen Force Awakens at least once. I'm no expert -- my previous posts on the box-office earnings of this movie have made that much abundantly clear -- but it seems to me that the chances of Force Awakens overtaking Titanic for all-time worldwide #2, let alone surpassing all-time #1 Avatar and its total of $2.788 billion, have very much to do with how many of those die-hard fans are going to buy tickets to see the movie in theatres again. There may be very knowledgeable wizards somewhere with actual reliable estimates about how many such repeat tickets can be expected to be sold from this point on, but so far I have not found nor even heard about such wizards.

There's also the possibility that suddenly, for some reason, vast numbers of people who were not interested in the movie up until suddenly will become interested -- like The Rocky Horror Picture Show on a larger financial scale -- but I would guess that such a sudden widening of a movie's appeal must be like a show-biz version of winning the lottery, not realistically to be expected, and very hard indeed to predict.

My predictions: Will Force Awakens pass $2 billion in worldwide box office? Yes? Will it overtake Titanic for #2? Yes -- but perhaps not until a re-release. Will it catch Avatar? No. Well, maybe. But definitely not before a re-release.

And as I've said before on the blog, I cannot emphasize how strongly how silly it is to focus on these numbers which the movie industry for some reason (tradition? I don't know why) makes public, without access to the huge amounts of revenue which movies earn without the exact figures ever being made public, from cable and broadcast TV and home video and merchandising, the last of which is especially huge in the case of the Star Wars franchise.

PS: I've seen Avengers: Age of Ultron now, and I liked it but didn't love it. I had a bit of a meh-there's-not-so-much-here-that-the-earlier-Avengers-and-Iron-Man-and-Hulk-and-Captain-America-and-Thor-movies-didn't-have feeling -- and I haven't even seen every single one of those earlier ones.

PPS: Susan Sontag REALLY sucks! Publishing an oh-if-only-there-were-a-rebirth-of-passionate-cinema piece of nauseating pretension three years AFTER 'Pulp Fiction' was released?! Get out of my office!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

What's The Secret To Connie Britton's Hair?

Translation

So the other day I began to read a piece by Sartre, "Les maos en France," which begins:

"Je ne suis pas mao. C'est pour cette raison, je pense, qu'on m'a demandé de présenter ces enquêtes."

For a moment I was confused, and thought that Sarte was saying that he had been asked to write about Maoism in France because he wasn't Mao. Then of course I realized that he was saying that he had been asked to write it because he was not a Maoist, and that "mao" is French for "Maoist."

I think that for many people whose native language is English, not just me, saying "mao" instead of "Maoist" will sound very strange and wrong. Perhaps more so the weaker our French is, and mine is not Proustian. Even before we begin to wonder just exactly how "mao" is pronounced in French.

But of course, unless we have some familiarity with Chinese -- and I don't -- we can't judge which is the more quaint transliteration, "Maoist" or "mao."

I envy people whose guardians educated them well and took them on international tours while they were still small children, they must have a much better instinctive grasp of the size and diversity of humanity. It was not until my late 20's that I first traveled to a non-English-speaking part of the world and saw bookstores with familiar worldwide bestsellers on their shelves with titles which looked bizarre to me, and had to grasp, not just know, but also feel and see, that Hundert Jahre Einsamkeit was no more bizarre and wrong a title for Gabriel García Márquez' masterpiece than One Hundred Years of Solitude. And then on semester break I went to Paris and was confronted with Cent ans de solitude. And, for example, La guerre et la paix, when I was still just getting used to Krieg und Frieden, and still having a hard time accepting that Krieg und Frieden was every much as legitimate a falsification of Tolstoy's novel -- because to translate a text means to fuck it up unless the translator is as great a writer or better the original, and often even then -- as the War and Peace I'd read for the 1st time before I was full-grown.

Of course, no one had to explain to me that things are translated into many different languages, especially things like great works of literature. But I had to actually be in those bookstores in order to really feel it, in order for a sense of what world literature is to begin to sink in to my consciousness.

I happened to be reading some French newspapers in 1998 when Joschka Fischer was the brand-new Foreign Minister of Germany, and was confused at first by the frequent occurrence of the word "baskets" in the headlines. Until it clicked: sneakers. Fischer had caused a bit of an uproar when he first rose to national prominence as a legislator in Germany and came to work wearing blue jeans and sneakers. Fischer was the first Green politician to appear in legislatures. Greens in the 1980's didn't wear suits. Occasionally tweedy jackets and-or loosely-knit ties with their uniform jeans. Looking at the chronology, it seems to me that the Greens may have been a major international force behind the creation of casual Fridays.

Anyway: sneakers. Basketball shoes. That's how and when I learned that "baskets" is French for "sneakers." "Baskets" sounds silly to you? (It surely did to me at first.) Stop for a moment and meditate on how "sneakers" sounds. It has been speculated that the majority of the universe, the greatly prevalent element, is stupidity. That may be. Or maybe it's just silliness. Compared to stupidity, a universe made of silliness wouldn't necessarily be so bad. Think of how Kevin Smith, who I gather believes God exists, portrayed God in his movie Dogma: a smiling, mute, very sweetly silly and childlike Alanis Morissette. Where was I?



PS: Susan Sontag SUCKS!!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Thrift Stores And Norton Anthologies

Today at the Salvation Army thrift store I got a copy of vol 3, The Beginnings of Critical Realism in America, 1860-1920 of Vernon Louis Parrington's Main Currents in American Thought, for 21 cents including tax. I wish I had examined the volume a little more closely before purchasing it: whatever intrinsic interest Parrington's ideas might have had for me is impaired by the low quality of the paper of the books acidic pages, yellowing and fragile and unpleasant to the touch. I don't know when this volume was printed: a Harbinger Book H023 $2.45.

Still working on this vol 3 at the time of his death in 1929, Parrington writes "Marxian" instead of "Marxist." For some reason I like that much more than I can justify or explain.

What a great contrast is presented by the various Norton anthologies familiar to several decades' worth of American English majors! Do English majors still read Norton anthologies? The paper is great, thin and strong like the paper in some well-made Bibles -- some Norton volumes are over 2500 pages long without becoming at all unwieldy -- a delight to the fingertip's touch and barely yellowed even when several decades old (Do English majors still read books printed onto paper?) -- but the content is frustrating, because the longer works are usually abridged and leave you wanting more. Put that same paper into all of those volumes Norton abridged, and then sell those to me at the thrift store for 21 cents a volume!

Okay, actually, the Norton anthologies are actually pretty good -- or perhaps I'm doting and nostalgic at the moment, looking at the ones I still have from my undergrad time. Actually, I think I have more from thrift stores than from my student days. I know I got this 10th edition Norton Reader, copyright 2000, over 1200 pages, at a thrift store very recently. I just opened it at random and saw pieces by Amitav Ghosh and Susan Sontag. I'm pretty sure I've never read an entire piece of writing by Sontag. So I was thinking just now: maybe it's time to remedy that. So I read the first 2 sentences of Sontag's Century of Cinema, closed the volume again and said: no, it's time to put more trust into my own taste, even may taste from rather long ago. No Sontag for me just now, thank you very much.

I like Ghosh, though.

November Election Questions

Constantly pundits -- true: not all of them -- opine that Trump will not be the Republican Presidential nominee, and it seems more and more that they're simply unwilling to think that it's possible because the possibility appalls them, and not because they have crystal balls.

But if the GOP does nominate Trump, how many Republicans will vote for the Democratic nominee? And how many would vote for Hillary but not Bernie, or vice-versa?

There's been plenty of speculation about Trump running 3rd-party, but how about the other way around, if Trump is the GOP nominee and a more mainstream Republican runs 3rd party? Such a 3rd-party run would be a way for Republicans to stop Trump without explicitly admitting that they were handing the Presidency to Hillary or Bernie.

I don't like Bernie. I think the distance he is to the left of Hillary is greatly exaggerated for some reason. I think that distance is pretty much imaginary, as is Hillary's lack of liberal credentials. Who's done the most to extend health insurance coverage to more people in the US? No, not Barack -- Hillary. Who's been the most powerful advocate for women, minorities, the disabled? Hillary. All she does is actually get stuff done.

It seems to me that the only way a Republican can win the White House in November will be if Bernie turns out to be even more stupidly egotistical and destructive than he seems to me to be, and runs 3rd-party. The average voter doesn't see that a 3rd-party vote is in effect a vote for the candidate you like least. A 3rd-party vote for Bernie could be a vote for Trump. Such considerations are incredibly clear and simple to me, but, frustrating as it is, they apparently are beyond the average voter. Many of the people who voted for Nader in 2000 are both too stupid to do the math it takes to see that they cost Gore the Presidency, and too stupid to grasp how much better a Gore Presidency would've been than what we got with W, which is truly too fucking stupid to pour piss out of a boot, but what are you going to do, people are stupid.

It would be unforgivable if these considerations turn out to be beyond a US Senator who caucuses with Democrats like Bernie, or unimportant to him. I would never be able to forgive Bernie if his ego turns to be more important to him than stopping the damage that Trump would do as President. If Hillary gets the Democratic nomination, and I think she will, and a good damn thing too, then what Bernie does will be extremely important -- not just in terms of not doing what he has said he won't do, the nuclear option: a 3rd-party run -- but also how soon he drops out and how energetically he campaigns for Hillary. Now and very very energetically would be just fine with me, Bernie, you schmuck!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Christianity

What if Jesus actually said the exact opposite of some things people say he said? What if he said, "If someone hits you, don't just turn the other cheek!" or "If someone steals you cloak, don't just hand them your cloak too!" or "The meek never inherit anything. Stand up for yourself!" ?

Those statements make much more sense than what everybody says Jesus said.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not customizing my own version of Jesus, the way that almost all Christians have because it's impossible to live like Jesus in the New Testament, turning the other cheek and giving stuff to people who've robbed you and going with meekness as a strategy toward building wealth. I'm an atheist, not a Christian. I'm just saying that some aspects of Christianity are especially divorced from reality even compared to other religions, and that this basic, built-in unreality is a very serious problem. After thousands of years of pretending to follow a code of living which no-one follows and which no-one should follow...

Well, it's a problem. A mental problem. For which I have no brilliant solution right now, sorry. I really wish I had some brilliant suggestion about what to DO about this. But I don't. I just imagine that it might be good if some of us would occasionally face the unreality of supposedly living under this code which no one follows because no one can or should follow it because it's a dream world, as unreal as can be.

Just ponder this now and then, if you're so inclined. Thank you.

New Chronology And Mythicism

Recently I came across the New Chronology of Anatoly Fomenko and others. I had heard of this stuff before -- claims that conventional chronologies of ancient and Medieval history were drastically mistaken, and that most of what we think of as ancient history actually happened after AD 1000 -- but this is the first time I've taken a closer look at it.

I haven't yet (knowingly) discussed historical topics with proponents of this New Chronology, but for some reason I can vividly imagine how I would react to them, and it's strikingly similar to the way that Biblical scholars react to mythicists, people, including me, who think that it's possible that Jesus is a legendary character and was never an historical figure.

I've complained many times on this blog about the way that Biblical scholars react to mythicists: they dismiss us contemptuously.

I would have difficulty reacting to someone talking to me and advancing Fomenko's ideas about history in any way other than contemptuously dismissing them. Some propositions are simply beyond the pale: that God or Santa Claus exists, that Muslims in general are pro-rape, or, as Fomenko asserts, that Suleiman the Magnificent (16th century AD) is the actual Biblical Solomon (10th century BC) and built the Hagia Sophia (in Instanbul, built by the Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD, originally a church, for a long time a mosque and now a museum), which is the actual Biblical Temple of Solomon.

Or, as Fomenko asserts, that Aeneas found Rome in Italy in the 14th century AD. Or that the events described in the Old Testament occurred from the 14th to 16th centuries AD in Europe and Byzantium, centuries later than the events of the New Testament, which occurred in AD 1152-1185. Or that the histories of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome as we know them today were invented during the Renaissance by scholars who based these histories for the most part on documents which they themselves forged.

I would have a very difficult time remaining polite if someone were to confront me with assertions like these. Very much the way that Biblical scholars often seem to find it difficult to remain polite when one of us mentions that he's not convinced that Jesus existed. If I replied at all to Fomenko or one of his fans (who include former chess world champion Garry Kasparov), I would say that the amount of things someone needs to be ignorant of in order to accept such cockamamie nonsense is staggeringly huge. The number of people who would have had to have been in on the conspiracy of historical falsification is ridiculously huge. The amount of science which would have to be completely faulty in order for the New Chronology to hold up would be huge and would include things like carbon-14 dating. Millions or billions of artifacts would have to have been mis-dated by hundreds or thousands of years by people dating them for a living, using many methods, of which carbon-14 dating is just one. These mistakes would have to have been committed by people presenting their finding publicly for peer review for several centuries now.

Biblical scholars sometimes compare us mythicists (just to be perfectly clear: I'm not at all sure whether Jesus existed or not. I could absolutely eventually be convinced that he did or that he did not) to people who believe in nutty stuff like this New Chronology.

And in some case, mythicists actually are as crazy and ignorant as that.

But I'm not. But why should you believe me? Well, as far as I'm concerned you don't have to take anybody's word for anything. More research is needed -- everywhere, all the time, about everything. By all means, research everything further. I'm completely for that. Research me if you feel the need to, by all means. Read Fomenko if you want to, if you're not yet convinced that he is, in fact, crazier and more ignorant than I am. Think for yourselves. Please. If you come to the conclusion that Fomenko is right and that academic historians are wrong and/or lying for some reason, well, okay then. But in that case be prepared for the fact that I'll probably consider you to be a little slow.

Yes, I'm saying that I consider Garry Kasparov to be a little slow -- when it comes to history. The only place I've seen geniuses who were smart about everything is in fictional characters in TV shows and movies. In real life I've never encountered anyone with no serious weak points mentally. Kasparov is a genius at chess and a bit slow in the study of history. I'm good at language acquisition and quite bad at sarcasm detection. I'm sure I have other mental weak spots of which I'm unaware, because one reason why people have these weak spots is because they're unaware of them, and remain stubbornly unaware of them somehow even when other people repeatedly point them out, and I see no reason to assume I'm unique in this department.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Funny And Not Funny

I was googling gotenbibel, which if you capitalize it is German for Gothic Bible -- or you could also call it die gotische Bibel, or the Ulfila-Bibel or the Wulfila-Bibel -- when I saw that someone named Eugen Gabowitsch claimed that it was a forgery. I had never heard of Eugen Gabowitch, whose name may or may not be commonly spelled Eugene Gabovich or Gabovitch in English. But on German Wikipedia I learned that Gabowitsch supported the ideas of Anatoly Fomenko, the foremost proponent of the silliness known as the New Chronology (Chronologiekritik in German), which asserts things such as that the conventional chronology of the past 2000 years is off by 1000 years or more, that Rome in Italy was founded by Aeneas around AD 1380, that the Bible was written during the Council of Trent (1545–1563), that Suleiman the Magnificent, who is the actual Biblical Solomon, built the Hagia Sophia, which is the actual Biblical Temple of Solomon, and like that.

Suddenly Michael Paulkovich doesn't seem so bad any more, does he?

When I saw that someone was claiming that the Gothic Bible, conventionally dated to the 4th century AD, was actually forged some time after AD 1600, I was not immediately convinced that this wasn't a competent scholar claiming forgery. The association with Fomenko is enough to convince me that Gabovich was a buffoon and non-historian. (And the Bible couldn't have been translated into Gothic in the 4th century if the Bible itself wasn't written until the Council of Trent, now could it?)

What disturbs me, and what might disturb you to learn, is that the other supporter of Fomenko's ideas about chronology named by German Wiki, other than Gabovitch, far and away Fomenko's most prominent admirer and booster, is Garry Kasparov, former world champion of chess, described by more than a few experts as the greatest chess player of all time. Right up there with Morphy, Alekhine and Fischer.

Unfortunately, Morphy, Alekhine and Fischer were all completely insane, and now it appears that Kasparov may be as well. I don't know. The connection to Fomenko is actually the first non-chess thing I've learned about Kasparov other than that he's interested in politics and opposed to Putin. Unfortunately, German Wiki isn't wrong, it seems that Kasparov really does support Fomenko's centention that 1000 years' worth of what most of us think of as the past 2000 years has been made up by a conspiracy of scholars. A Google search more than comprehensive enough to thoroughly refute Fomenko confirms the close and cordial Kasparov-Fomenko relationship. James H Billington, Librarian of Congress from 1987 to 2015 and one of the most highly-renowned historians in the US, suggests in his book Russia in Search of Itself, published in 2004, that if it hadn't been for Kasparov's support, Fomenko's New Chronology might never have been taken seriously by more than a handful of kooks -- as opposed to millions of kooks, which seems to be the case.

Morphy, Alekhine, Fischer and now Kasparov. I think we need to seriously consider the possibility that chess is bad for your brain. (I'm not the first to suggest it. This possibility is the main theme of Nabokov's novel The Defense, the source of the recent movie The Luzhin Defense.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"When you see a notification icon[...]"

"[...]on the left side of the status bar, drag the Status Bar down to display the Notification panel. Tap a notification to open the related application, such as messaging call list, or event."

I really have to wonder whether that would've been more helpful, and/or if the operation of my new phablet would be less mysterious to me, if, anywhere in the manual, there was some indication -- a photograph, diagram or just a verbal description -- of where I can find the status bar, or Status Bar, as it were, and/or what it looks like.

Wouldn't it be great if something, somewhere came with an owner's manual which actually got you all set?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Old Man And The New Phone

Okay. I bought an LG Stylo -- I think that's what it's called -- *googling* -- yep, I bought an LG Stylo at Radio shack today and got a $30/month Auto-Boost® unlimited-data plan from Boost mobile while I was there. Just now when I googled lg stylo I saw that it comes with a stylus. I found the stylus. After I got home from Radio Shack I had to call Radio shack again to ask the guy to tell me again where the power button was. Then I looked for an owner's manual, didn't find one and thought, Oh well, I guess I can figure this out without a manual.

Then I found the manual. The first thing that caught my eye was the advice to charge the phone. After a while I found where the battery-charge info is (not sure I'll be able to find it again first thing next try. This is a learning experience), saw that the battery was around 30%, looked around for the charger, and thought that they didn't give me a charger. Oh well, I thought, I can use the charger from my Motorola Droid, right? That's what the U in USB means. So I plugged it into the Droid's charger. No prob, I thought, I can charge them both with one charger. I plugged the Stylus into the Droid's charger.

A little while after that I found the charger that came with the LG.

I'm autistic, and for an autistic person, generally speaking, Change Is Wrong. It's difficult. The LG is much larger than the Droid, which makes me uncomfortable. I don't know if it will tell me with a blinking light that someone has called or texted or emailed me. This makes me uncomfortable. I really like that blinking green light on the Droid, a lot. It has been life-changing.

So you see, I see, change is not always bad.

This phone is about change. (And about another phone line which is going to be disconnected.) The unlimited-data plan is about change. I don't know what to do with unlimited data, but I want to find out. If you know some of the things which are done with unlimited data, please tell me. Don't assume that any information would be too elementary. Pretend that I just arrived from another planet yesterday. When it comes to mobile devices, that's not such a big assumption about me.

I wonder what that stylus does except make me think of the only time I've seen a mobile phone with a stylus, which was in an episode of "The Big Bang Theory," in a flashback, and the stylus, apparently, was so out-of-date that the audience found it hilarious. What was old is new again. Although C-Net sez that the Stylo's stylus is... just a sec... "more of an afterthought." They also refer to the Stylo as a phablet, I word I had never encountered before owning a phablet and bringing home from Radio Shack and googling its name.

Old man in outer space, that's me.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

This Is Why I Tend To Avoid Amazon Marketplace

Amazon Marktplace is when you buy stuff on the Amazon website from someone other than Amazon.

Like I did on January 6th. Reluctantly. I always buy directly from Amazon if I can. In this case I almost considered contacting Amazon and asking if there were any possibility of my obtaining the item in question directly from them. But I went ahead and purchased from an Amazon Marketplace seller, from a 3rd party. I did this in part because the item listing said "ships from (a part of the US very near where I am.)"

Well, it's 11 days later, and I don't have the item. I was thinking that maybe this seller was the sort of class act that ships a 10-ounce package on a $60 order by parcel post in order to save $1.13.

Oh, if only. Today I got an email from Amazon saying:

Shipping information has been updated for your order, placed with ************ on January 6, 2016 [...] Shipping Carrier: DHL Global mail Ship Date: January 6, 2016 Shipping Speed: Standard Carrier Tracking ID: ******************************

I'm not exaggerating, they gave me a tracking number that's 30 digits long. (Of COURSE DHL has never heard of it.)

Would they use DHL Global Mail to ship a package a short distance within the US? Is it POSSIBLE to use DHL Global Mail for something like that? I'm guessing it's more likely that the package is shipping from somewhere like Kyrgyzstan, and that DHL didn't bother to give it a tracking number for 11 days because anyone familiar with how it's being shipped (and that sure aint me) knows that there's absolutely no way it's going to be anywhere near its destination within 11 days.

One thing seems pretty sure: the Amazon Marketplace seller lied to me. They said the package would be coming from nearby, and it's not. Well, two things: they didn't waste any money on express postage, because these days an express package won't take 11 days to ship from Kyrgyzstan to Amurrka's heartland.

And it's not the first time an Amazon Marketplace seller has screwed me over like this. And I want them to pay -- pay money, because I think they're the sort of company that knows the value only of money, and not of things like honesty, reliability and customer service.

And for all I know, it could be the same company doing the same thing to me for not the first time, pretending to be more than one Amazon Marketplace seller. Maybe they wait until their customer ratings on Amazon are too poor to go on anymore, and then change their name and pretend to be another company.

Amazon -- do you want to be doing business with people like this? Honestly.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Only Answer, And The Truth

"The only answer is true hair gel." "The only answer is true vegan diets." "The only answer is true Islam." "The only answer is true Christianity." "The only answer is true pilates." "The only answer is true atheism." "The only answer is true hemp -- not weed, not the stuff potheads smoke, but hemp, the kind George Washington make rope out of. It's a miracle plant and only it can save the planet." "The only answer is true switchgrass." "The only answer is true love." "The only answer is true heart change." "The only answer is a true heart transplant." "The only answer is true pacifism." "The only answer is true equality." "The only answer is true education." "The only answer is true two way communication." "The only answer is True Detective." "The only answer is true survivalist stockpiling diversity." "The only answer is true sexuality." "The only answer is true chastity." "The only answer is true Parmigiano Reggiano -- not that junk they sell at the supermarket." "The only answer is true peanut butter -- not that junk they sell at the supermarket." "The only answer is true heroin -- not that junk they sell at the supermarket." "The only answer is true high-powered hollow-point ammunition -- not that junk they sell at the supermarket." "The only answer is true change in Washington." "The only answer is true marital fidelity." "The only answer is true commitment to polygamy." "The only answer is true innovation." "The only answer is true preservation of tradition." "The only answer is true yoga -- not that junk they sell at the supermarket."

Perhaps you've begun to suspect that I don't actually believe that there is only one true answer.

But you're wrong.

I


am the only true answer! I must become extremely rich and famous, extremely soon -- for the good of the entire planet! Surely you can see that! Some might claim that I'm being greedy and selfish, but no, when you think about it, it's actually quite a noble sacrifice on my part. It's civic-mindedness by a conscientious citizen of Earth. It sort of brings tears to your eyes.

And time's a wastin'. I'm still not sure exactly how the nomination procedure for the Nobel Prize in Literature works, but I read something somewhere about each country sending names of candidates to the Nobel committee in February, which is right around the corner, and I still haven't been published in the New Yorker once!

The word must go forth at last! From billboards, bumperstickers, TV and Internet and print ads, on T-shirts and on the seats of snug sweatpants won by especially attractive people. The topic must trend, it must be on all lips and in all minds:

The only true answer is The Wrong Monkey!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

I Just Upgraded to Windows 10. The Upgrade Took 12 Days

Haha, just kidding -- it only felt like 12 days. It was more like 3 hours. I'm not sure whether the colors on my accustomed websites are more vivid now, or if it only seems that way because I was away from them for so long. Hm, but I'm away from them 8 hours a day when I sleep, and sometimes even longer. The colors may be better somehow.

With the help of a YouTube video, I learned how to turn off off Windows 10. After all of that aggravation learning how to call up the Power function on Windows 8 by swiping the cursor at the right-hand edge of the screen, it's now back to clicking again like earlier versions of Windows: click the Windows icon at the lower-left hand of the screen, and a box appears containing various things including a clickable Power button which when clicks gives options including a clickable Shut down button. Some of the older Windows users out there may remember when you turned the thing off by clicking instead of swiping.

The very top border of the screen is now grey. I don't like that because it reminds me of when earlier versions when from blue to grey when they were whatever you call it when you have to click before you can navigate on the screen. Or whatever you call it. I better go now, I obviously do not possess the jargon to properly write a post like this. In conclusion, so far Windows 10 has not been a nightmare (window 8 was a nightmare at first), but I've only been on it for 20 minutes.

I took the plunge because AARP says 10 is more secure than 8 (or 8.1 which is what I was actually using).

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Abraham

"You know Abraham probably didn't exist, right?"

You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? No, actually, I don't know anything about the probability or improbability of Abraham's existence. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I see no reason why there couldn't have been a man who lived in Mesopotamia in or around the 18th century BC and heard voices telling him to move to the area which would later become Jerusalem, where, in obedience to the same voices, or voice, he prepared to sacrifice his son, but then changed his mind and sacrificed an animal instead. None of the above strains my credulity in the slightest. It's all entirely possible. As far as how probable or improbable it all is, I don't have nearly enough data to say.

And neither do you.

Claims that Abraham was the first monotheist seem much more farfetched to me than claims that he may have existed.

Of course, when considering the historicity claims of legendary figures, there is always the question of how closely history must fit the legend before one is justified in saying that the figure existed. I don't see how there can be an absolute and objective answer to this question. If someone existed who preached everything in the Sermon on the Mount, but he existed in the 2nd century BC and was named Nathan, is he the historical Jesus, or does he prove that there was no historical Jesus? What if Nathan lived in Syria and died in Damascus? If we find evidence of a 5th century baron in Britain who was married to a Guinevere and befriended to a Lancelot, and ruled over a territory of 5 acres, have we found the historical Arthur, or proven that there was no historical Arthur? What if his wife was named Portia and their friend was named Offa? Where do you draw the line between an historical figure and an historical source of a legendary figure?

I'm only asking these questions, not offering answers to any of them.

No, actually, I will offer an answer: I'm not interested in drawing such lines, but I am intensely interested in increasing our knowledge whenever possible. Finding out what actually happened in times and places where legends began is a process of historical research, and finding out how legends grew and developed is also historical research, and the more explicitly clearly the one investigation can be distinguished from the other, the better.

Back to the story of Abraham and what may have inspired it -- what I find particularly interesting about it is the thought that the story of the near-sacrifice of Isaac may have been inspired by a culture's transition from human to animal sacrifice. Many cultures go through such a transition -- most or all cultures if James Frazer was right. Perhaps there was no historical Abraham, and the story of Abraham and Isaac, in which there was no human sacrifice whatsoever, but almost one single instance of it, may have gradually developed as a more comfortable way of remembering a time when human sacrifice was routine. Or perhaps there was a man who was about to sacrifice his son, but stopped and sacrificed an animal instead, and this one man's story was remembered and embellished because that was more comfortable than remembering that human sacrifice once was routine.

Monday, January 11, 2016

'The Force Awakens' Is Now 3rd All-time In World-Wide Box-Office

Okay, this is my 8th report on the worldwide box-office earnings of Star Force: The Force Awakens, and I think I'm starting to get a better idea of what I'm talking about, and why my earlier reports were somewhat muddled. This is how it looks to me now, kiddies:

When it comes to North American box-office, US plus Canada, I can given a fairly exact report of how much the movie has taken in as of a day or two ago.

When it comes to box office in other countries, the situation varies by country. This is what was throwing me off in my earlier reports. The Force Awakens is showing in more than 60 countries. Some of them are reporting the box-office total on roughly the same schedule as North America, which is reporting $812,011,043 as of January 10, yesterday. Some are providing the total as of January 7, some January 3, some as of December 27.

So it occurred to me that the best I can do is sort of like what an election-night reporter does when he or she says that so-and-so-many votes have been counted so far from so-and-so-many precincts.

So far, a total of $1.7334 billion in worldwide box office has been reported for The Force Awakens, with the counting still underway.

That must be why the all-time world-wide box office chart at Box Office Mojo highlights current and recent releases in yellow: they want to make sure all the votes are counted before they give an official total.

How many more countries will The Force Awakens play in, countries where it hasn't opened yet? Gee, I wish I knew. It seems like it opened within a day or two of the North American opening in most countries, but it only opened last Saturday in China. There is a report of $53 million for the first two days of box office for The Force Awakens in China.

The current, incomplete total of $1.7334 billion leaves The Force Awakens $453.4 million behind all-time #2 Titanic and $1.0546 billion behind all-time #1 Avatar. Will it catch them? I'm not even going to go there, Girlfriend!

And no, I still haven't seen The Force Awakens. I haven't seen Titanic or Avatar either. I think James Cameron sucks. Out of the current all-time worldwide top ten, I've seen #5, Marvel's The Avengers and #10, Iron Man 3. I plan to see #7 Avengers: Age of Ultron when it comes to cable. And that's probably when I'll see The Force Awakens, too: when it comes to cable. Unless someones drags me to a theatre while it's still running in theatres. That could happen. They wouldn't have to pull all that hard. I've liked JJ Abrams ever since 2001 and the 1st episode of "Alias." (You want me to watch a network TV show? Do what "Alias" and "24" did: air a commercial-free feature-movie-length episode.)

While I'm going down the all-time world-wide box office chart, let me look at #11 through 20: I've seen two of them: #16, The Dark Knight Awakens, and #20, Jurassic Park. I like The Dark Knight Awakens okay, but Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight was an impossible act to follow. I like about 3 minutes of Jurassic Park. Spielberg gets a good shot every now and then, a few seconds' worth of striking moviemaking at a stretch. But sitting through an entire Spielberg movie is usually a high price to pay for those occasional pleasing moments. Minority Report is the only entire Spielberg movie I like. (I'm sure he's sleepless and tearful because of my lack of approval. I can hear him now: "Sure, I have billions of dollars and many awards and I've been married to one of the most beautiful and talented women on Earth for 30 years -- but how much of is any of that really worth when Steven Bollinger says that I suck?!")

Well cheer up, Steve: you're not nearly as untalented as James Cameron, and you can tell everybody I said so!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Dream Log: Thwarting A Bomber

I dreamed I was walking along a sidewalk through a suburban neighborhood of ranch-style houses when suddenly another man joined me, a stranger, a big guy who looked a little bit like Brad Garrett (Raymond's older brother on "Everybody Loves Raymond"), and began chattering away, telling me some of the main points of his biography, where he was from, what he liked to do and so forth. I don't remember any details from that part of the conversation. It wasn't so much a conversation as a monologue. I hadn't said one word. At one point I considered crossing the road just to get away from him, but I decided to let him think, or pretend, that I was interested in what he was saying.

He was carrying a metal briefcase. He stopped walking, held the case up with both hands, patted it with one hand and said, "There's a lot of C-4 in here." He nodded in the direction of the nearest house and said, "It's gonna blow this place sky-high."

It was a rather handsome house, although somewhat 1970's-middle-class, painted white, with reddish-brown roof tiles. The lawn was very neatly mown and there were flower beds to the left and right of the front door. That door had a large glass pane in it, and within the glass was some gold or brass scrollwork.

He had taken a couple of steps up the driveway toward the house's front door before I tackled him from behind. The case slid away from us, from the driveway where we were onto the lawn, out of our reach. He was big and very strong and I was only able to keep him still with difficulty, but I got his arms pinned underneath him, lay on top of him and started yelling: "Call 911! There's a bomb in the briefcase! Call the bomb squad! There's a bomb in the briefcase! Call 911!" etc.

There were several people within earshot: they stopped and looked at us. Nobody seemed to be calling 911 at first. For a while I thought I might have to try to hold the guy down with one hand while I got my phone out and called 911 with the other, but it was only a few seconds before the bystanders snapped out of their initial shock and someone was calling 911. Some people came near but I yelled at them to stay back because of the bomb. A woman's voice yelled, "What can we do to help?!" I answered, "Tell the police there's a bomb and to please hurry." A man's voice said, "Done. They say we should hear the sirens any minute now -- " and as a matter of fact, before he was done talking I could hear them.

What seemed like a half-dozen uniformed police men and women pried me off of the other guy and put handcuffs on him. After they had separated us, I noticed that my heart was pounding and that there was a sharp pain all the way up my arms, and I couldn't move my fingers: they were frozen into claws from the effort of holding the guy still.

The bomb squad unit arrived. An ambulance was also there. I was carried to the ambulance. Everyone except the bomb squad was moved a long distance away. After a little while I felt okay again and was able to convince the EMT's that I was okay. When I walked away from the ambulance, a crowd of people walked toward me, civilians and people in various uniforms, all smiling at me. I said, "It's a good thing I'm not black, I'd probably have 40 or 50 bullets in me by now." Some people laughed or smiled at that, others frowned. Some looked like they were trying not to act like they knew I had a point.

A man's voice said, "They've disarmed the bomb!" The group cheered and many hands slapped me on the back and shook me by the shoulders.

Friday, January 8, 2016

"Why Do You Feel The Need To Identify As An Atheist?"

Why do you feel the need to ask me that question? Couldn't you go out and play in the middle of a busy street instead?

The answer is: Because I don't believe in the existence of deities. That's the usual answer.

But that's not what all these passive-aggressive little rodents are really asking. What they really want to know is why don't I just keep it to myself, please? And the answer to THAT is: Why not talk about it? The answer is: Screw you.

I identify as an atheist because I can. Just doing my little bit to try to keep theocracy from returning.

The Term "Textus Receptus" Doesn't Always Refer To The Bible

Not everyone has had the advantages I have. Before I became mixed up with all of these lunatics arguing about the Bible and Jesus and related things, I had already become somewhat familiar with Classical scholarship in general and the editors of ancient Latin in particular. Because of that, I was aware that people discussing the Bible use some terms as if they applied only to the Bible, while those terms actually have more broad uses.

There's the term "textus receptus," Latin for "received text." Some people are using this term to refer to several 16th-century printed editions of the Greek New Testament, and nothing else. But since well before the 16th century, the term "textus receptus" has referred to most familiar or generally-accepted form of any text, Biblical or not.

(And by the way, it is not true that the makers of the King James Version referred only to one of those 16th-century printed editions when preparing their version of the New Testament. I know it is not true, because they made many notes referring to differences between this "textus receptus" and various manuscripts.)

I think I've mentioned before on this blog that I've seen the term "Oxyrhynchus papyri" used to refer to ancient Biblical manuscripts on papyrus found at Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, as if those were the only papyri found at Oxyrhynchus, when in fact, out of the over 5000 Oxyrhynchus papyri published so far (out of more than 1 million excavated), only a small fraction have to do with Christianity in any way.

People often use the terms "textual transmission" (the process by which a text goes from the author to the reader) and "textual criticism" (examining the manuscripts and/or other evidence of a text and attempting to restore as nearly as possible the original text) as if they had only to do with the Bible, when actually they are applied to any and all texts, and very frequently to ancient non-Christian Latin and Greek texts, as well as Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Flaubert or whom have you.

The term "Codex Vaticanus" is widely used these days, it seems, to describe one Biblical manuscript, although the phrase "Codex Vaticanus" actually means nothing more than "manuscript in the Vatican Library," and there are lots and lots of manuscripts in the Vatican Library." A more proper designation for this particular Biblical manuscript is Vat. gr. #1209, Vatican Library Greek manuscript number 1209. You can see the phrase "Codex Vaticanus" applied to many other manuscripts in the writing of Classical scholars. But since there are so many manuscripts in the Vatican Library, these scholars generally provide a key at the beginning of each piece of such writing, giving a more precise definition of what they mean by "Codex Vaticanus" -- or, if the piece of writing refers to more than one manuscript from the Vatican Library, which is not at all usual, the key may inform the reader that throughout the text, for example, "M" will refer to Vatican Library Latin manuscript #3225, "P" will refer to Vatican Library Palatine Collection manuscript #1631, and so forth. M because the manuscript belonged to the Medici before the Vatican acquired it, P for Palatine. These examples are the abbreviations used by RAB Mynors in his edition of Vergil, published in 1969. He doesn't use the phrase "Codex Vaticanus" to refer to every manuscript of Vergil in the Vatican Library which he has used in the preparation of this edition, because 6 of the 21 manuscripts he used are from the Vatican Library.

The 27th edition of the Nestle/Aland Greek New Testament makes use of dozens if not hundreds of New Testament manuscripts from the Vatican Library (in addition to thousands of other New Testament manuscripts from elsewhere), and, since "Codex Vaticanus" means nothing more or less in Latin than "manuscript from the Vatican Library," the editors of that edition came up with a different abbreviation to refer to each one.

I don't know how often actual legitimate Biblical scholars use such terms as if they were never used outside of Biblical studies or in their literal Latin meanings, or whether this is just one more example of Wikipedia and TV shows about the Bible conspiring to make mankind more stupid. Some of the articles on Wiki having to do with textual transmission and textual criticism have recently been improved to more clearly indicate that this things do have a life apart from Biblical studies. (Years ago I used to make some corrections on Wiki myself, but I stopped because they weren't paying me enough.) A Google search for textus receptus might give you the impression that the term never meant anything other than those 16th-century printed editions of the Bible. (Btw, in Classical studies, "edition" is usually used to mean "printed edition," as opposed to "manuscript.") The sheer number of Web pages using the term "textus receptus" in this narrow sense drown out the others, unless you refine your search extensively. You have to search for something like "textus receptus" -bible -testament -gospel in order to get results indicating that this is not all just about the Bible.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Someone Asked What Version Of The Bible People Use

KJV, Revised Standard, New American Standard, Today's English Version (officially approved by the RCC 1993), Abegg-Flint-Ulrich Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh, the Coptic-English-French critical edition of the Gospel of Judas et al by Kasser et al, the Casiodoro de Reina Santa Biblia, theTraduction œcuménique de la Bible, Bijbel: vertaling in opdracht van het Nederlands Bijbelgenootschap bewerkt door de Daartoe Benoemde Commissies, vol 3 of the Expositor's Greek Testament ed by Nicoli, some Russian version, some Syriac version, Die Heilige Schrift uebersetzt von Menge, some Armenian version, the Rahlfs-Hahnart Septuaginta, edito altera, the 4th edition (1994) of the Stuttgart Vulgate, and the 27th edition, 5th, corrected printing, of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament.

I think that's all of them for now. Sure would like the Gothic Bible. And a Luther Bible with the actual 16th-century orthography. And a Georgian bible. And Ethiopic. And Coptic (all I have in Coptic now are, as mentioned above, the few apocryphal works from the Codex Tchacos).

PS: To try to cheer myself up from all the homophobes and book-burners and other morons responding in the thread ("Any version is good for tinder, heh heh heh." "Queen James was completely gay, heh heh heh." "I rely on the FSM archives, heh heh heh." "I use the Skeptic's Annotated Bible, so I'm protected at all times from religious cooties, heh heh heh." Etc. Risu inepto res ineptior nulla est.), I went ahead and ordered a copy of the Gothic Bible from Amazon, so add that to my list.

(4th-century Gothic. More than 400 years older than the next-oldest thing written in any Germanic language. One thing I've come to understand by studying history is that new things don't occur to most people naturally; someone has to do a new and strange thing, and then people become accustomed to the idea, or they don't, and if they don't the thing may not be done again for a long time. In Western Europe in the 4th century, they spoke whatever language they spoke, a Germanic language in some cases, and either they knew how to write in Latin, plus Greek in a few cases, or they didn't write. It didn't occur to people that there was any reason to write anything in any Germanic languages. Except for this one guy who translated the Bible into Gothic. And then 400 years later, around AD 800, as a part of his massive support of education which mostly meant education in Latin, Charlemagne encouraged some people to write some things in German, the first things written in German. And the writing in the Germanic languages still didn't really catch on until after AD 1000.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why Have There Been So Many Stories About The Danger Of AI Wiping Out Or Enslaving Humanity? Ultron! Of Course!

Why are so many people suddenly worried about artificial intelligence wiping out humanity? Why are so many scientists -- mostly dingbats, but also including a few you'd think would know better -- warning about this supposed danger?

It's because Avengers: Age of Ultron -- #5 all-time in worldwide box-office -- was released last spring, and its plot features a sentient robot who thinks he must destroy humanity on order to save Earth, who can only be stopped by the combined efforts of all of Earth's superheroes.

That's where this bizarre fear of AI has been coming from.

I love it when something suddenly makes sense.

This makes sense inasmuch as I now see where where all the fear of AI is coming from. That fear itself is still as nonsensical as it always was. There are all sorts of ways humanity could wipe itself out -- pollution, nukes, etc -- but we're not going to create evil (and/or misguided and/or they have a point) super-intelligent machines which will do it for us. That's just silly.

(I'm not dissing the movie, I'm sure I'm going to like it a lot. I don't have to buy a sc-fi movie's premise in order to enjoy it.)

Correction: My Prediction About The Weekend Box-Office Of 'Force Awakens' Was Correct! [PS: ACTUALLY, NEVERMIND, BECAUSE... WELL, READ THE PS]

On Sunday I blogged that Star Force: The Force Awakens would finish the weekend in 6th place in all-time world-wide box-office . I said this based on Box Office Mojo's projection on Sunday afternoon. But the total projected by Box Office Mojo, $1.5108 billion, was low by $17.5 million. The movie's corrected worldwide box-office through Sunday is $1.5283 billion. So after Sunday it was in 4th place all-time, not 6th.

Which means that the prediction I made last Friday, that it would be in 4th or 3rd place by the end of the weekend, was actually correct.

I made a correct box-office prediction. This is strange and confusing to me.

PS, 6:32 PM: Hold everything. I actually don't know whether this or my other predictions have been accurate or not because the foreign totals come in 1 country at a time and are added as they come in. Some countries' results come in faster than the North American totals, some come in a day later, some a week later. So I must say 'nevermind' to ALL of my predictions on this blog concerning the worldwide box office of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

I Just Saw A Commercial...

...shot in a crowded plaza downtown in a city, might have been Rome, I'm not sure. An attractive young woman walks past leading a dog on a leash. Several young men notice her and seem attracted. The woman sits on a bench and unhooks the dog from the leash. The dog runs off. One of the young men approaches and sits on the bench next to the woman. He appears to be making small talk (the sound was off and if they were speaking Italian I might have had trouble keeping up anyway).

He reaches a hand toward the woman's lap -- where where she is holding a white plastic jar. He takes a bite-sized piece of food from the jar, eats it, seems to like it, the woman smiles encouragingly and encourages him to eat more, he takes another morsel and eats it.

Just then the woman's dog comes running back. She tosses the dog a morsel from the same jar, and then turns it around so the man can see the label. From her smirk and his embarrassment, it's clear that the label identifies the jar as containing treats meant for canine, not human consumption. The woman walks away with the dog, and the man sits there with his hand on his forehead.

And... this could have been a commercial for doggie treats, or women's fashion, or men's and women's fashion, or the Roman Catholic Church, or a hidden-camera TV show (or not a commercial at all but a clip from a hidden-camera show), or a public-service announcement with a very generic message like "Things aren't always what they seem," or something else. As I've said before on this blog, I think that perhaps advertising sells less than either the general public or the people paying the ad agencies think, and that sometimes the most significant thing going on is the making of an interesting short film. I love the GEICO gecko and the GEICO pig and some other GEICO commercials (Remember the one with Peter Frampton?), but I've never had a GEICO insurance policy and I don't plan to get one.

'Force Awakens' To Finish W'End In 6th In All-Time W/W BO

On Friday I predicted that Star Wars: The Force Awakens would finish this weekend in 4th or 3rd place all-time in worldwide box-office.

I missed again. Not all of the figures are in yet, but Box Office Mojo projects that The Force Awakens will finish the weekend with $1.5108 billion, #6 all-time, less than than $9 million out of 4th place, but more than $158 million shy of 3rd.

I believe this series of posts on the latest Star Wars movie's box-office has proven one thing conclusively: I am not a wizard at box-office predictions. In the light of my misjudgments of the movie's business thus far, if you were to ask me how soon The Force Awakens will be in 3rd place all-time, I would answer, "Good question, Sparky!" If you were to ask me whether it will eventually surpass Titanic to take the #2 position, or out-do Avatar and become the new #1, I might say something like, "Let's see if we can find an expert somewhere, and ask him or her!"

Random Thought

I've blocked a lot of people on Facebook -- no, really: a lot. No, really, you don't understand: A LOT.

If I were to unblock all of them right now, would traffic on my blog increase? (I link my blog posts on Facebook.) Would it increase enough that my lifelong dream of being a professional writer would come true?

There's one way to find out!

PS: 3 hours after I started unblocking people and 1 hour after I finished -- like I said, there were a LOT of them! -- the results are still inconclusive.

My 2nd Attempt To Read "Robert 's Rules Of Order, Revised"

My first attempt was when I came across a hardcover copy among my father's books. This must have been before I was full-grown, in the 1970's or even possibly the late 1960's.

It didn't hold my interest back then. I found it literally impossible to read. I was not able to maintain my focus upon it. In short, it was appallingly boring.

Decades later, disappointingly, it still is. More than that; now, not only do I find General Henry M Robert's book impossibly tedious. I am now also convinced that I would have disliked the man himself intensely. That's a rash sort of judgment in cases, like this one, where someone can't write very well at all, giving hope that there may be a personality not reflected in their writing. Still, I think that enough of Robert's personality shows here and there through the mud of his prose to allow me to make that judgment. I admit, I make this judgment on scant evidence.

Unless I have overlooked something, there is not within this entire wretched volume (Robert's Rules of Order, Revised, with a Foreword by Henry H Robert III, New York: william Morrow, 1971, ISBN 0-688-31374-4) a single reference to another written work, except in a footnote on p 300, and I quote: "Watson vs Jones, 13 Wallace US Supreme Court Reports, p 679. This case was decided April 15, 1872." Watson vs Jones was a dispute over the rights of ecclesiastical councils.

The subject of Robert's entire book, the rules and procedures by which Murrkin legislatures and other groups go about their business, is very interesting to me. This makes Robert's Rules of Order different than the Dover reprints of textbooks on advanced mathematics and physics which I got at places like Salvation Army thrift shops in recent years, hoping that perhaps I could kindle an interest in such things in myself. I held those hopes for various reasons: for one thing, as a schoolchild I showed prodigious abilities in math, up through intro to calculus in the 10th grade, after which I was not required to take any math courses. Because I hated math. I never took an elective math course, not in the rest of high school and not in college, was never even slightly tempted to do so. This was a great disappointment to my mother and to various math teachers. They thought that if my talent could be combined with an enthusiasm for math, I might do great things.

And from the time I was a small child until now, I've easily been able to see their point. And a further reason was that my brother, an engineer, has some familiarity with advanced math and physics, and I thought that if I did too, he and I might have more to talk about. So I got those Dover reprints of textbooks from the thrift store, and -- that hoped-for enthusiasm was not kindled by contact with advanced math. It seems I'll remain just something of a Rain Man-type arithmetical prodigy (although not quite as good as Rain Man), and never a actual mathematician. And of course, the Rain Man-type stuff is much less in demand these days, now that calculators are so cheap and plentiful.

On the other hand, it scarcely needs mentioning that neither I myself nor anyone at all acquainted with me and my abilities would have the slightest difficulty imaging me as a US Congressman or Ambassador to the United Nations or POTUS or Pope.

Perhaps Alice Sturgis' Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure will prove more helpful to me, than Robert.

Or perhaps it'll be even worse, how the Hell should I know?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Library At Ancient Alexandria

I like that movie with Rachel Weisz, I like it a lot,



but it's not a strictly historical documentation, it's a work of imagination. There is no evidence that Hypatia was interested in the theory of heliocentrism. She certainly could have been. But we don't have any evidence of it.

We know for sure, though, that the destruction of the library at Alexandria and the murder of Hypatia did not happen in the same big riot. In AD 391 the Coptic Pope Theophilus (who was not one of the Roman Catholic Popes, the title "Pope" was used separately by Copts) ordered the destruction of the Serapeum, a pagan temple in Alexandria which may or may not have still contained a part of the great library's collection of manuscripts. No contemporary accounts of the destruction of the Serapeum mention the library. Hypatia was killed in 415 or 416, and contrary not only to Agora but also to many other films, novels, paintings and pseudo-historical books, she was likely around 60 years old at the time.

The Library might have been gone long before Hypatia was born. It might have been destroyed once, or badly damaged and then restored several times. Plutarch, Aulus Gellius, Ammianus and Orosius all claim that Julius Caesar destroyed the library in 48 BC when he was besieging Alexandria and set fires to his own ships and the fire spread first to the docks and then further into the city.

The next major candidate, chronologically, for the destruction of the library is the war in the 270's when the Emperor Aurelian suppressed a revolt led by Queen Zenobia of Palmyra. In the course of this war parts of the city which may have contained the library were badly damaged.

Then comes AD 391 and the closing of the Serapeum.

Then there was the Muslim conquest of Alexandria in 642. Several Muslim accounts of that conquest state that the great library was still there when the Muslims arrived, and was destroyed by them. However, the earliest of these accounts was written more than 500 years after the fact.

I think I can sum this up very nicely for you: anyone who says that they know when and how the library at Alexandria was destroyed, is wrong.

I might as well add: anyone who says that they know how big that library was, and how great the culture loss was when it was destroyed, is wrong also. Yes, it's quite reasonable to envision it as a very great and very regrettable loss. But there have been a very great number of losses of ancient Classical literature, occurring over many centuries, from Ireland to India. The cultural loss at Alexandria is just a small part of the overall loss.

But chin up, because some of that stuff is being re-discovered! Most spectacularly in the papyri found at Oxyrhynchus.