The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, April 29, 2017

More teachers blacklisted for telling the truth

Since I caught College Fix and TPUSA using sloppy journalism and slander to attack one professor, I figured that was just the one cockroach in the kitchen, and that I'd find more lies about professors they dislike.

Here are some candidates, right up the road in Colorado Springs: Jared Benson and Nicholas Lee. They are on it for calling Martin Luther King a socialist (which is true) and for calling the New England agitators of the 1770s terrorists (also true).

They do approach this from a pro-socialist and pro-King standpoint, which is unfortunate. And Benson strikes me as toxic just for his support of Black Power (Lee didn't go this far). But I find no evidence that either have allowed their starting-axioms to affect how they grade papers.

If Campus College Fix and TPUSA won't correct the record and take at least Dr Lee off the "watchlist", then I must conclude that TPUSA and College Fix are running an ideological blacklist.


posted by Zimri on 19:02 | link | 0 comments

Friday, April 28, 2017

Don't throw away your golden-age Mars books

Don't throw all of them out, anyway. Professor Jason Wright cannot rule out, yet, that there was life on Mars, in fact a whole civilisation on Mars.

We won't get Barsoom out of that, but we might see some (very!) ancient ruins. So that's Omnilingual and the backstory to Starflight. Several others.

... like Yoh-Vombis. Let's not go there...


posted by Zimri on 17:46 | link | 0 comments

Owl and Toad

I got hold of the ultimate Nightshade volume (of five) of Clark Ashton Smith's tales; I've read the penultimate tale set in Averoigne, "Mother of Toads".

As a story, this felt to me like passive-aggressive revenge. Smith's main target would have been the editor for forcing so many edits upon the slightly-ribald "Disinterment of Venus". When Smith plotted out "Mother of Toads" he must have said to himself "screw it, I'm giving 'em softcore porn, as much as I can get away with". I can even tell the perv (or squick) tags: mature / busty / BBW / Fm / mindcontrol, maybe even / snuff because Clark Ashton Smith. (And I cannot wait to see the redirects I get from Google for dropping all that in here.) Which brings us to our author's next target - he was looking after infirm parents at the time and that surely added to his, er, frustrations.

The story starts out in a village we haven't visited yet, of no consequence to other Averoigne stories: "Les Hiboux". I had to look this up. It turns out to have nothing to do with toads.

An hibou is a sort of owl: specifically Asio (and maybe Bubo), with egrets that look like feathery ears or devil-horns. The other sorts of owl - those from Clash of the Titans and Harry Potter and Labyrinth - are chouette: Strix aluco, Tyto. I also sometimes see chevêche used for the smaller owls.

In Occitan definitions differ a bit: the chòt refers to Bubo. I expect that cavecs maps to chevêche. As for Asio, the Platonic ideal of the hibou: this is the languedoc duganèl.

I rule that Les Hiboux was founded by languedoïl speakers. As a nondescript village, it does not require the history that - say - Ylourgne and Vyônes required. We can found it after the Albigensian Crusade or whatever this parallel dimension's equivalent was; I'm leaning to after the Colossus rampage, which destroyed every settlement Smith could think of at the time and left a lot of homeless behind it.

One last thing: when I looked up "Les Hiboux" by name, I found a Baudelaire poem. Smith was a fan of Baudelaire and he did, en effet, translate The Owls. It is even illustrated with the correct owls. That must be whence Smith got the name of this village. Again, nothing to do with toads, but much to do with 'waring the night and its predators.


posted by Zimri on 17:02 | link | 0 comments

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Turning Point USA: Maoist tactics for the Right

In my efforts to pull Dr Hendel off TPUSA's watchlist, I have been emailing back and forth with TPUSA's Director of Campus Integrity. Here was my last (hasty) note:

To get your first question out of the way, I believe the quotes attributed to Dr Hendel are accurate. Dr Hendel disputes (by email) mainly context: Thanks for your note. I have no animus against economic or social conservatives, just against those who wish to suppress academic inquiry. By the way, the student's report about my comments do not accurately convey my remarks in class. It is yellow journalism, written a year after the event, when he attempted to evangelize my students in class.

Messages get passed along, and sometimes they lose meaning in lost-context and paraphrase. Our colleagues in Islamic studies will immediately recognise this as a "hadith". :^)

I believe in the principle that the accuser, if not in a debate setting with a referee, needs to bring all the evidence to bear. "My Cousin Vinny" calls this "discovery". The College Fix (thx for correcting me btw) in this case did not do that; they did not consult Dr Hendel, on his view on how a class should be run. They also did not go to other scholars.

Personally I have a background in Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations (BA, Rice 1997), which did cover early Christian and Jewish texts. When running a class for beginners, one has to start with the consensus. "Discovery" should ideally apply there, too; so *all* the relevant evidence should be fairly presented, with a short mention of other theories. For the Torah Mosaic authorship would count... but then so would Finkelstein's ultra-skepticism, dating the Torah to 200 BC or later. But neither theory can take up time beyond the minimum, at least not on the first few lessons.

When I looked at what the accuser (Mr Kurz) had said of his background, I saw biology in it, and nothing in the field in question here. To discuss the approximate time of a text, you need to speak that text's language, Hebrew and (in one verse) Aramaic in the case of the Torah. At least you need to have the basic secondary literature! The accuser lacked this background. He needed more humility. Which is why we go to class instead of teaching it...

Also: compare with the case of Marshall Polston against Areej Zufari: in this case, we have the full email (for better or worse) of Polston's argument. There, Polston had cited Wellhausen (whom Kurz dismissed, himself).

Finally, I didn't think this whole froufarah was in scope of TPUSA's stated mission. Limited government and fiscal libertarianism, is what I caught. I didn't see where TPUSA was even getting into the field of religious debate.

So in conclusion (sorry for taking this long to get here) Dr Hendel didn't do much wrong, beyond being clumsy and getting caught flat-footed. In Campus College Fix's case, they failed as journalists. In TPUSA's case, "you messed up, you trusted us!" applies; putting this professor on a "watchlist" was overkill at best.

And here is the Director's response:

To be clear, Dr. Hendel is on the list for stifling a debate in the classroom on the fallibility of the Bible, not for holding the view that the Bible is fallible.

As our entry notes,

"he told students not to take his class if they think the Bible is infallible. After one student started questioning and challenging him, Hendel told the student “If you disagree with the approach we use, that’s an F.”

It's not about whether or not he is right on the manner of Biblical infallibility

As I read this, I have failed. Dr Hendel will not be leaving TPUSA's watchlist, at least not in the near future.

I have staked out my position (which, although I haven't asked him, I may share with the professor): that an introduction-level class is not the place for a debate on basic principles. Anyone interested in an education, rather than an argument, knows that. At a certain point the debate has to stop and the students have to take notes. Otherwise what we get is a heckler's filibuster against the teaching-material or, worse, Simultaneous Dialogue.

TPUSA and (implicitly) Ca College Fix are on the side of Michael Adams. Never mind ideology; TPUSA are claiming it's not about ideology, whether or not we believe them (spoiler: I don't). They agree on tactics; they agree on classroom student conduct. They have no moral qualm with disrupting a lesson. They are Fairness Doctrine guys. They just want their turn at bat.

I do hope I have posted enough Rightist material on my blog to exempt myself from Concern Troll status but - as a concerned conservative, if not a very Christian one, I think the TPUSA has lost the moral high ground.


posted by Zimri on 17:38 | link | 0 comments

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How to speak Thug

Moldbug wrote to Auster:

From the NYT article [ed: NYT], “Islamists’ Growing Sway Raises Questions for Libya”: All offices here must make sure that they are headed by an acceptable person within seven days of this notice,” read a leaflet pasted to the doors of offices throughout Tripoli Central Hospital, dated Sept. 3 and signed, simply, Etilaf.

Who says America can’t learn anything from foreigners? We don’t even need to let them into our country. We can just imbibe these pearls of wisdom from far Araby. They have different ways, it’s true. But it doesn’t mean their ways can’t work for us.

Just imagine. Rick Perry is elected president on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. On November 15, a leaflet is pasted to the door of every office in San Francisco General Hospital. “All offices here must make sure they are headed by an acceptable person within seven days of this notice,” it says—signed, simply, Tea Party.

What does it mean? Well, is there a closet Republican, or, even better, a fundamentalist Christian, in your department? Guess what—he’s the new department head! Isn’t there? Well, someone will be appointed soon, I suppose. You’ll be amazed how many Christians come out of the woodwork when President Perry’s handing out the promotions. Of course, one could also question whether the new America needs your office at all … and so on.

That’s the great thing about this Mr. Belhaj. He knows the difference between a fight and an argument. I like the cut of your jib, Mr. Belhaj! Who says American and Libyan traditionalists can’t get along? Why can’t the enemy of our enemy be our friend? We sure do feel the same way about liberals.

If any reader had aught to add, Auster didn't post it. But some of us remembered, filed it away. Two days ago, along knocked Opportunity: Alice Goffman, sinning against Positionality.

In Positionality we deal with a form of the Orientalism fallacy (and its inverse, Occidentalism), that if you sit on the outside of a topic you must show Due Respect to the topic. As for who decides on the definition of "Due": that's not the object of the original topic - Goffman was with her charges for six years, and none of them have yet complained. It's whoever claims the power. Some group of "students" - mainly local thugs - have banded together and claim to number over a hundred.

The cant phrases I noticed immediately is that Goffman has imputed hypercriminalization / hypersexualization of black men / women respectively, and extracted profit from black lives. Thus - the threat alleges - Goffman is Africanising her subject, like a racist; and that she is sinning specifically against the Movement For Black Lives, known for the chant "Black Lives Matter". Failing to appease the extortionists will amount to granting to her a platform. And what happens to an evil platform? It gets no-platformed: the letter goes on to make its most explicit threat, direct action. That is what Saul Alinsky was all about: action somewhere in the haze between a picket and a riot.

I am unsure that President Trump, nor the Right generally, understands just how oppressive the climate of free inquiry has gotten, in the universities and along coastal California and in the intersection between both. The good news is that the thugs felt they needed to make their "or else" explicit. In 2010, proto-Libya Dawn needed no such threat. So the thugs in Pomona are weaker than they pretend.

PORTLAND 4/27: WaPo quotes - You have seen how much power we have downtown and that the police cannot stop us from shutting down roads so please consider your decision wisely. Ann Althouse points out that if Portland, or if Oregon generally, wanted to protect the Republicans: they could.


posted by Zimri on 18:17 | link | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Racial memory

Before Sargon and before the Sumerians whom he defeated, an empire ruled the land between the rivers. No explicit memory of this had reached us. But Razib Khan has deduced this empire, from the Uruk Culture of archaeology. Perhaps it left implicit memories.

In 1984, Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis had helped bring the movie Ghostbusters to our screens. That movie proposed gods of the Near East - of the Hittites, Sumerians and Mesopotamians - which elder daemones the respectable histories never mentioned, but which were nonetheless out there, scratching their way back into this world. The movie named its main destructor Gozer; his/her lieutenant (Indo-European and Semitic genders don't much apply here; Hittite works better) was Zuul. This was, I think, the last of a race of zuuls, saved from a cataclysm of some other time, or of other dimension...

Recently Ackroyd was asked, at some gathering, about these strange events; because he has a family background in the occult, and he had helped plot out Ghostbusters's background. He told the fan that Vinz's crazy just "sounded right". This was subconscious.

"Racial memory" was also noted elsewhere in that script. The university which featured in the movie is Columbia in New York City. They've done research in genetic sources of aversion. We don't have to resort of genetic hardcodes of course; the stories passed from grandmother to son will do just as well.

I don't believe (much) in extradimensional horror. I do, however, believe in an objective reality, an arta, a dharma, a maat - even if we don't have a term like this in English. And I believe in entropy - that people may deviate from arta, causing a collapse. In the West the process tends to come as a cycle. Late in the movie when the spirit of the mad extradimensional prophet Vinz Clortho took over Luis Tully, Vinz's ranting involved themes of "reconciliation" and "rectification". (One of these corrections, he let slip, had destroyed the zuuls.) After a correction, a better civilisation may arise.

I shall float here that, deep down, Ackroyd knew the Reconciliation as that moment when all the pious falsehoods are laid bare, and the gods of the world die, and the old truths and the old gods return. Ackroyd knew the Zheng-Ming. You can call it Gozer; you can call it Nemesis, or the Furies. But where the Chinese document the Zheng-Ming, with their ink-brushes painting hieratic glyphs from the Bronze Age; the Return of the Traveller is something we Westerners feel, from the days of Uruk. They never altered their pace.


posted by Zimri on 20:36 | link | 0 comments

Toward a humane Islamic State

Arooj Alam has posted several essays to academia.edu. They are mainly essays which she’d been assigned to write for various classes. Lately she’s posted a pretty large one, which looks like a chapter on a work in progress about how Muslims might construct a (better) Islamic State. Sometimes when I see student work on Academia, I comment on it.

To get some disclosures done, I have posted here a number of replies to politically-minded essays that had come from perspectives with which I disagree. My replies haven’t always been temperate, although I do try to grant to them All Due Respect. Alam is one (rare) writer who, as a human being, is in fact due respect. She condemns the Armenian Genocide, which is more than what many Sunni Muslims will do. She also applies the term “Occidentalism” to Easterners who promote a caricature of the West, as mirror to the Said concept of “Orientalism”. I might disagree on points – e.g. if we deny that the real “Orientalists” did much wrong on balance, then “Occidentalism” looks trollish. But I can say that Alam has her heart in the right place.

Still, based on Arooj Alam’s opening title, I must ask her – and her advisor Dr Andrew Arlig – why she is submitting this chapter as a Philosophy paper. Philosophy is by nature a humanist enterprise. From what I see, Alam is bringing in evidence not subject to human critique. Straight off the bat she calls the Qur’an “Holy” and Muhammad “Prophet”. So what if we say that the Qur’an is not holy and that Muhammad was not a prophet? (I mean, apart from “die, infidel!” which Alam, herself, would never say.)

From my perspective Alam has two choices - and if she is doing philosophy, really only one choice. Either way as I read her chapter it is her book's second chapter, not its first.

If she is doing philosophy her new first chapter will discuss the proper ends of any human state. She then rewrites the chapter she’d posted: explaining (Sunni) Islamic orthodoxy, and picking out the best hadiths. Later chapters will – philosophically – show how Sunnism leads to the ideal state.

In its present form, which assumes the Sunni sira, she is writing an essay on Islamic politics as a Muslim. She could submit that paper to al-Azhar - which is fine! In that case her first chapter must define what Allah wants out of a human political state. The second chapter then defends the Sunni hadith and explains how it gets to Allah’s will, which Shi’a hadith and the “Qur’an-only” sect won’t.


posted by Zimri on 17:06 | link | 0 comments

Going astray with "The Lost City Of Z"

I watched the "Lost City Of Z(ed)" last weekend. I feel cheated.

I liked it at the time, but some scenes felt off. Mrs Fawcett’s interest in joining Percy on an adventure contributed little to the plot; it looked like a shoehorned Strong Female Protagonist. Elsewhere the movie set up a debate where the “explorer”, progressive, was arguing against other Englishmen, racists, who didn’t believe the natives capable of higher civilization. I apologise in advance for the grumbleflaunt: even in 1905 most archaeologists of the Americas knew better than to argue from racism. In Mesoamerica, which also has jungles, English-speakers (not just Spanish-speakers) were editing and translating the Chilam Balam books. So the Anglosphere was well aware of the Mayas’ old ruins and literacy. This means they wouldn't rule out of hand that the Amazonian tribes might have built similar in their forests.

Yesterday I checked out the reviews – didn’t get to them here because I was chasing a feminist squirrel, but today I’ll do it.

Armond White’s review was typical National Review neocon cluelessness. For White, the movie was a critique of imperialism; which I didn’t catch at all. Someone get White into a safe space. (I agree with White that the movie's camera-work was weak, although we all must concede that the director had / has an eye for exoticism and natural beauty.)

More to the point is that the real Percy Fawcett was of an early-20th-century Type. Fawcett thought there were lost white civilisations out there. Fawcett’s lineage is the Book of Mormon; his legacy is the Solutrean Hypothesis. The movie missed a golden opportunity to confront these myths, still strong in the alt-right today.

It strikes me that to the extent that twentieth-century English and American scholars disputed the City Of Z, they disputed the sort of people who built whatever ruins the Amazon might reveal. This is a point for the skeptics at the time. Also if Fawcett had listened to them, he would have saved his own life and his family.

So the movie wasn’t boring, but it was foolish – and I am not okay with that. The real fools are we who paid for tickets.


posted by Zimri on 16:59 | link | 0 comments

Monday, April 24, 2017

Adultery hurts everybody

Gail R O'Day floated a theory on how John 7:53-8:11 got so controverted in the old MSS: The Patriarchy. On that point, this comment has made the rounds: the narrative evokes men's (sic) fear of what Jesus' teaching might suggest to their wives, of what would happen if women's (sic) sexuality passed out of men's (sic) control. That assertion paints with that broad brush which some academics find bracing, for whatever reason: boo male supremacy, and also ha-ha male insecurity.

I've had my own good laugh... at O'Day's grammar; and her NT scholarship was just as weak, as Jennifer Knust has demonstrated (although to be fair O'Day was following Augustine). That leaves O'Day's sociology.

There is some truth that earliest Christianity promoted women to near-equality, in the books of "Luke" and of Paul; and that patriarchal men wrote the seminal (heh) texts which constrained their role. But the overall situation was more complex than that. We have found whole reams of literature aimed at Christian women. None of these texts proposed freeing womens' sexuality. In fact they went to the opposite extreme, advising women not to have sex at all, not even with hubby. "Paul and Thecla" is a case in point, as are stories of numerous female saints. Where I see Christian arguments for sexual libertinism, like the Carpocratians, such sects were founded by men.

This goes to who, exactly, cares to keep womens' sexuality in check. It isn't men as a group; the Carpocratians prove that if men can hit it, they will. Among men, would-be fathers care the most that the children they support are, in fact, theirs. But it's not just fathers - in a Near Eastern context, we aren't even dealing with a nuclear family but with a clan. If the father is young-ish, there is a good chance he has parents who also care, which may well include would-be grandma. And then there's the would-be father's extended family who are expected to pitch in to help. So there's maiden auntie - hubby's sister - and all the cousins.

If the woman is screwing around, she's not just hurting the Paterfamilias; she has wasted his whole family's time and resources, and has introduced a seed of suspicion upon everybody involved.

Women used to know this, especially if they were studying the Ancient Near East. It takes a feminist to pretend otherwise.


posted by Zimri on 16:46 | link | 0 comments

At whom was the stone cast?

Jennifer Knust in A Tall Order (2005) posted a chapter about the First Stone Gospel, a.k.a. the Pericope of the Adulteress. This chapter covers the basics: the Gospel of John is an uneven patchwork, and one particularly uneven anecdote in this Gospel has a debateable textual-history.

Saint Augustine, for one, thought that those who omitted it did so out of prudery and/or Pharisaism. Our man from Hippo, being an acknowledged sinner himself, took this personally. Several modern scholars (whom I'll address later) likewise are in the DON'T JUDGE ME, DAD camp and have followed Augustine.

Knust has debunked Augustine - mostly. Some version of this story was known throughout the early Church, perhaps even in the second-century Church. And in several manuscripts that omit the story, the copyists marked something of an asterisk where they, personally, had seen the tale included - usually in John. Also, nobody before Augustine is recorded as actively denying this anecdote. Knust argues this is because nobody who read it denied it; that Augustine was setting up a strawman. If any copyist omitted it, it was because... the story just wasn't there, in his (or her) base manuscript.

I did say "mostly". A controversy over the tale does survive, with implications for Christian sexual mores.

In the present canon, the accused was guilty. But other versions survive, in which the woman was innocent: Papias and the Gospel of the Hebrews being two, the Protevangelicon being a third, and maybe the Armenian tradition as well.

Jesus's evasive comment assumes - at least for the sake of argument - that the woman had sinned (implicitly, with her accusers!). I agree with the canon: the story as it stands demands the guilt of the accused. This means that the claim that the accused was innocent is a gloss.

The gloss's pre-exoneration of the accused may safeguard the virtue of a female saint (Magdalene?). More to the point her innocence would dilute a critique against the practice of stoning. This may go to explain why Eusebius found the gloss in a Semitic gospel intended for "Jewish Christians" who, as Mustafa Akyol points out, were the proto-Muslims.


posted by Zimri on 16:10 | link | 0 comments

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Somebody got to Kenneth Rogoff

Kenneth Rogoff co-wrote the classic study on government debt and mismanagement, This Time Is Different. Now, he is supporting government control over every dollar: The Curse of Cash. It's almost like the authors were two different people: one author sees governments as run by all-too-human agents, the newer author assumes they are wise mandarins who can run an entire economy from above without a hitch, indefinitely. A better title for the latter might be, "This Time I Mean It".

Rogoffistan will allow for the issuance of debit cards for existing - excuse me, for the poor. And it will hamper the underground economy.

Let me remind Rogoff's potential audience of the obvious: all he has done is force the underground cash economy to the blockchain. There it will be in competition with any non-cash economy. To stamp that out, his proposal assumes a pan-national government with an invasive spy network. And the regime will still cost so much (although there was plenty of money...) that the good currencies will outperform its currency.

I have too much respect for Rogoff - and for his publisher - to assume he's gone senile. Besides, I smell propaganda technique here. Rogoff's proposal is like proposals for state-driven health insurance which argue from sob-stories on people who cannot afford the doctor. In this case we can all concede that drugs and prostitution are bad mmkay, just like liver cancer. But removing cash isn't going to stop the social problems. Nor even slow them: to the extent the customers for blunts and 'hos are escaping low-impact and meaningless lives, the FREE DEBIT CARDS are just going to generate more customers. So Rogoff is trying to fool us.

Since Rogoff is now a shill, someone is paying him to do it. He has been bought. By whom?


posted by Zimri on 10:30 | link | 0 comments

Where women learn to be too good for you

Ten years ago Glenn Reynolds noted a wasting away: Third of graduate women will be childless [in Britain].

On the campaign trail last autumn, I knocked on the door of one such educated woman about my age. There was some back-and-forth because she looked like she was open to listening; not every Boulder voter even gets to meet an open Republican. So I noted that American citizens were hurting because of illegal invasion and offshoring. I was hoping she'd have some compassion. But no: as an educated woman with Masters Degree etc etc she cannot vote with the ignorant, she was voting Clinton. As for the less-fortunate out there (particularly whites) - I detected a subtext of screw 'em, it's their fault they don't have an advanced degree. (Kevin Williamson couldn't have put it better himself.) So advanced degrees don't make women better people; they don't even make women particularly good at politics (unless the degree is in something like Economics). They do make women feel like they are better-informed and superior, though.

In the dating field, hypergamy applies. If a woman feels she's better than you, she won't bother with you. So if she has a Masters or - worse - a PhD, good luck with that if you're middle class with a Bachelors in comp-sci. The article does allow that two thirds of academically-minded women do get out the other side with respect for men, some of which might not be as "educated". But the latter such women are battling their instincts - and it is less than two thirds.


posted by Zimri on 10:10 | link | 0 comments

Gorsuch is a plagiarist

Politico lays out a side-by-side that Neil Gorsuch rips off other peoples' text. One such plagiaree was one Abigail Lawlis Kuzma. Breitbart offers a defence - Left Wing Conspiracy:

Kuzma... flatly refuted the attack. “I have reviewed both passages and do not see an issue here, even though the language is similar,” she began. “Given that these passages both describe the basic facts of the case, it would have been awkward and difficult for Judge Gorsuch to have used different language.”

That's mighty white of Kuzma to take one for the team. But just because Saint Mark has returned to the pulpit to commend Matthew's Gospel, doesn't exonerate Matthew.

And Breitbart needs to learn the difference between "refute" and "rebut". They also should have supplied the textual side-by-side: Discovery - it's a bitch. Since Breitbart didn't, they concede that the other side's case is a strong one. (National Review does a little better.)

It's too late now, since Gorsuch is on the Court. Fellow justice Elena Kagan relates to us that a new Justice is expected to be note-taker... during the Justices-only deliberations. He is demonstrably qualified for that much.


posted by Zimri on 08:37 | link | 0 comments

Saturday, April 22, 2017

#science!

Here are some politically-driven issues that #science! marchers might have missed, today.

Papers publishing negative results "dropped from 30% to 14% between 1990 and 2007". Because the scholarship has been getting that much better lately...

... or not. The move toward metrics has spawned publons and generally bad papers: Perverse Incentives and Academia.

Also, if you dispute someone's results you are a BULLY.


posted by Zimri on 18:06 | link | 0 comments

The Discovery rule

In a courtroom, at least in My Cousin Vinny, ethical standards require two tasks of each lawyer before the judge. First, the lawyer is expected to deliver the best case he can deliver based upon all the facts mutually-agreed upon. Second, if the lawyer has access to other facts, he's supposed to supply them - up front. This last is called "Discovery". At the endgame Vinny / Joe Pesci delivers a textbook summary to the judge on why evidence needs to be brought in full and brought early. (He's overruled, because drama and because funny.)

Lee Strobel broke the Discovery rule in Case for Christ; and here I've noted where the College Fix also broke this rule, and how Raymond Farrin is a serial offender as is perhaps Areej Zufari. [LATELY 4/23: Breitbart.] But I've also said the rule doesn't apply to Ronald Hendel nor to Michael Adams' victims. If Dr Handel is a one-sided teacher, some will ask - then doesn't he deserve to suffer a one-sided journalistic hit-job?

That would depend on what evidence was brought. If we're talking Hendel - again (the Turning Points guys still haven't got back to me) - we're looking at the Bible. Personally, I think the evidence that the Torah was composed all at once (or near enough) in the Jordanian desert in a thirteenth-century Canaani dialect to be... slim. I would bring it up as a possible solution. But I would also bring up the opposite solution: that the Torah, like several Psalms, glorify Hasmonaean Jerusalem. Somewhere between the two we have the Deuteronomic History and the archaic dialect of 1-4 Reigns.

Laying out the relevant facts would make up the content of any decent class, in this case on the Hebrew Scripture. What we don't do, is pipe up to insist otherwise before the evidence is even laid out. Even if the classroom were a courtroom (it is not), what is being presented is the full argument for the defence. We, students, get our turn toward the end with the essays.


posted by Zimri on 15:33 | link | 0 comments

No money will be spent downtown today

A lot of businesses in various Boulder County downtowns are donating to "Save Our Winters", a global-warming alarmist advocacy group.

So I am staying clear of those downtowns today, and ducking out of some of the major chains as well - for instance, no Starbucks was had.

Instead I took my car and drove to Westminster and back, for the Barnes & Noble. (I got a book about the Cathars. Pope Innocent III had some intriguing views on how to handle virtue-signalling antinatalist post-Christians.)


posted by Zimri on 14:40 | link | 0 comments

How did Hillary win Colorado?

I keep hearing how the Clinton Campaign last year totally fucked the dog in Florida and the Lakes States. No polling, no campaign-literature, poor ads, etc. This is odd for me because in my state, matters differed.

Here in Boulder County that year, I was working with the Trump / GOP campaign(s). I am not going to pretend to have had top-level access to the Colorado GOP get-out-the-vote effort. I did see, at ground-level, what the Democrats were doing.

The Boulder County Democrats had an excellent ground-game. Where I had to beg the GOP campaign for Darryl Glenn literature, the incumbent rubber-stamp Bennet had a message, that I heard even from "Republicans": hurr durr, Bennet's been a good senator for Colorado. As for the Clinton Campaign, it had a perfect pitch for the educated-female demo.

Toward the end, late September, I was given to understand that the Clinton Campaign had decided that they were done here, and so left the GOTV to the locals. Turns out that the campaign was right and they ran away with this state. As for what Clinton was doing in those other states over October, that's a topic for other people to discuss, on other blogs and books.

I am unsure how Colorado Republicans might combat the Inner Party in future elections. Reducing the Party's status allure would be my first choice.

UPDATE 6:55 PM - More from Shattered: a coalition of minorities and college-educated whites. That does sound like the campaign they ran here - which, I repeat, was a winning campaign here. But Michigan and Pennsylvania ain't Colorado. Not even North Carolina and Florida are Colorado, although there are those who think they are.


posted by Zimri on 14:23 | link | 0 comments

The Disinterment of Venus: then and now

In 2007, I think, Ryan Harvey wrote this:

The Disinterment of Venus
First published in Weird Tales, July 1934
This brief tale about the monks of Perigon (yes, them again) exhuming a lewd statue of Venus misses a number of opportunities for lusty, erotic satire, but Smith cannot take the blame for it: more explicit material would never have made it into print in the 1930s. That still cannot keep the reader from wondering what Smith could have done with the lustier elements if he had written them today, in the age of Anne Rice. The concept of an austere monastery falling into lecherous debauchery because of an erotic statue conjures up comic and horrific possibilities, but Smith can realize none of them under the publishing restraints of the time. A few of the monks spend a night drinking in a tavern, and that marks the limits of their carousing. Smith also plays briefly with the notion that the uncovered Venus represents not the classical goddess, but her earthier ‘chthonic’ form — the darker and bawdier part of Greek religion that rarely gets taught in high school.

This is interesting to me, a decade later, having just read the Nightshade Press edition, by Scott Connors and Ron Hilger [ed. 1:40 PM, the fourth volume, of five]. Because in there is lusty, erotic satire galore; I cannot see where Smith missed any opportunity to tweak (his straw-monk of) Christian mores.

Nightshade has also given us endnotes; Harvey's instincts, it seems, were correct. The edition which Weird Tales published was bowdlerised. According to Connors and Hilger, Smith had plotted out the original in 1931 and finished it in July 1932. It took four revisions before the magazine would finally run it. Weird Tales may as well not have bothered.

In Smith's original typescript, I rate "Venus" as solid. It is not as good as "Colossus"; but few stories are, even Conan stories. It is better than "The Holiness of Azédarac". I set it with "Gargoyles" and "Beast". A commenter Jim Rockhill observed it was close to Prosper Merimee's "The Venus of Ille" (1837) - too close, for him. I note the editors considered it for Penguin's Smith collection, but decided at the last to oust it in favour of the later "Mother of Toads".


posted by Zimri on 10:52 | link | 3 comments

I got a corporate Earth Day message

The big boss of the firm I work at sent out an Earth Day message because of course he would. There was stuff about "carbon footprint" in there.

The man himself lives like a monk in a shared apartment within walking distance of his Menlo Park office, and when he speaks to his staff outside the office it's either by Skype or, if he must travel, he goes by coach. And he would never, ever contract out his people to work for a company that polluted our airs and waters. Internally he does his best to ensure that any non-Democrats in his employ feel as unwelcome as possible. (Actually this last part is true...)

So I can certainly respect his moral position to lecture down to his employees.

PS 1:40 PM: Ira Einhorn, taking "A Modest Proposal" as a manual. h/t Ed Driscoll @ Instapundit.


posted by Zimri on 10:20 | link | 0 comments

The Blue Pill March

If you're interested in furthering humankind's boundaries of wisdom and knowledge, then you should spend today doing research.

Going on a march somewhere is a waste of your time. Especially if you are doing it for "science", which word the Left has perverted almost to the degree they had perverted "gay" before it. At this point "science" means nothing more or less than the Left consensus. To the degree this consensus is ever correct it is correct by virtue of inertia (from the more-honest scientists of yesteryear) and pure chance.

In particular demanding that more taxes go to supporting "science" just marks you as a hack, not as an impartial enthusiast.


posted by Zimri on 09:54 | link | 0 comments

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sweet comet o' doom?

10900 BC, the Northern Hemisphere weather changed, abruptly. The Ice Age returned to Europe and North America with a vengeance, pushing Dryas plants - that is, tundra - back into midlatitudes. This was, by my count, seventy-five centuries before the first intelligible hieroglyph that wasn't a receipt for four loaves of bread.

There might be a contemporary record of this. Göbekli Tepe sports a temple of sorts, with a lot of strange pictographs in bas-relief. These can be interpreted as zodiacal signs of 11000ish BC, if one assumes the nonzodiacal signs refer to scenes of violence and death. As might happen if the climate abruptly changes.

Or... they could be wrong.


posted by Zimri on 19:02 | link | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Notes on the history of Averoigne

Clark Ashton Smith wrote eleven Averoigne tales, covering several centuries. They parallel events in the real France of mainly AD 1130-1550. So anyone looking for ideas on stories set there should also be looking into the mediaeval history of France as a whole. For now I'm interested in the twelfth century, where Smith starts.

Up to the eleventh century, one early outside view comes to us from HP Lovecraft. Smith was in regular correspondence with the man from Providence, whose analytical and critical mind had proven of great help to Smith’s craft. Lovecraft’s backstory is characteristically horrific. More so, I think, than Smith’s published Averoigne tales had allowed for the province. For instance I do not see the “diabolism” in the Church hierarchy, except for Azédarac who is noted as an outsider. If anything Smith despises the Church's impotence. But the backstory would fit what remains of Smith’s “The Oracle of Sadoqua”; Lovecraft may have gotten some wind of this in 1937, just before he died and Smith pretty much quit writing.

Lovecraft had left Averoigne’s twelfth century to Smith. For its first decades, Smith left enough clues that we may reconstruct secular events.

Looking to the Mediterranean, Averoigne seems not to have contributed significantly to the Crusades. Also Smith rarely tells us of the King, even during the Hundred Years War. Lovecraft had filled the land’s hinterland with para-Basques, the Averones. So Averoigne was probably like the historic Auvergne: following Aquitaine’s lead, which duchy in turn aligned with Normandy, Burgundy, and England. At home 1100-35 was instead a generation of internal consolidation. Note that at this time, there was - still - no "France": Louis VII ruled his lands as "king of the Franks" which excluded, for a start, the Burgundians.

The ruin at Ylourgne was aforetime a site of robber-barons, certainly the last remnant of the pre-Roman if not pre-Celtic Averones. When we first enter Ylourgne in the 1280s, the region hosts instead a monastery. This monastery is Cistercian, so cannot have been built before 1100. Since besides “Colossus” the barons of Ylourgne make no impact upon any of Smith’s stories, these men were probably gone already when Vyônes came into its own. I suggest for a sequence of events: The lord of La Frenaie crushed the barons early in the 1100s and declared himself count. The Cisterians swiftly established a monastery at Ylourgne. As the lands settled down, the Pope agreed that Vyônes would do for an archbishop’s seat, between Ylourgne and the count.

As of the late twelfth century, Bishop Azédarac assuredly had some dealings with the Cathars, whom in 1179 the Third Lateran in our world would condemn. (I note in "Holiness" that the bishop did not have the thief Ambrose killed.) But in his parallel-Earth, Smith and I cannot guarantee that the Cathars had a presence in la Provence. The bishop had an access to parallel worlds which more mundane priests and even sorcerers might not.


posted by Zimri on 16:43 | link | 0 comments

The gods of Averoigne

A theme of Clark Ashton Smith’s body of work is the inefficacy of Christianity (and of Islam). The local count is usually just as worthless. For all the differences between Smith, Lovecraft, and Howard they agreed on this much.

In Catholic Averoigne, two powers rule: sorcery and love. The alchemical Colossus “pashes” everything it can reach, until another alchemist defeats it. Meanwhile, the monks in Périgon fight a doomed war against the flesh; nor can they contest the Colossus (nor, later, a comet).

We may see supernatural providence when Gaspard uses the gargoyle at Vyônes as shelter. But in this I think Smith would prefer we not see the power of the Cross.


posted by Zimri on 16:37 | link | 0 comments

Averoigne as a body of text

Nightshade Press has reedited and annotated all Clark Ashton Smith’s complete stories. So I have gone back through his Averoigne series. Blame Tom Moldvay for this obsession of mine.

So far I have read the stories in volumes 1-4. I have some observations, which I am dumping here as guidance for other readers or maybe fanfic authors. Certainly for fellow gamers.

The Averoigne stories span many centuries and allude to many more centuries before that. The first one, “The End of the Story”, sets its main narrative in the last prerevolutionary year (1789) with a mediaeval flashback in a fragment, after Vyônes got its cathedral. Nothing much helps us date “The Satyr”; ditto “A Rendezvous in Averoigne”. Then we start getting dates: “The Maker of Gargoyles” marks the construction of the cathedral 1135-8, and “The Holiness of Azédarac” written around the same time (but published later) is a time-travel caper starting 1175 and bouncing to a perhaps-alternate 1230. The root of “The Colossus of Ylourgne” is 1275 when Nathaire first comes to Vyônes. “The Mandrakes” is fifteenth century; “The Beast of Averoigne” slips back to 1369. “The Disinterment of Venus” pushes to 1550.

“Castle Amber”’s batch of mini-adventures brought several of these tales to the same point in time. Whether it brought the right tales is another question…

I observe that Smith had written and/or published these mainly in sequential order. Still, many of the events depicted or alluded-to in these stories, even when “dated”, are by nature timeless. In particular Azédarac, timelord, may serve as villain or antihero at any point. And there is nothing in, say, “Disinterment” to demand 1550. Some of the smaller tales could have come to our day as ballads: “Rendezvous”, for one, has a troubadour protagonist.

I do have some constraints that Smith might not have considered. “Rendezvous” is a vampire-castle tale. Such are best placed to the panic spreading westward from early eighteenth-century Central Europe. Vampire tales were told in mediaeval Europe, but they were not told in France. So this story may be an eighteenth-century recasting of twelfth-century tropes. Also, at least as of the twelfth century, Averoigne feels like it belongs to the Languedoc - likely ruling Les Hiboux to the fourteenth. With one exception: Faussesflammes, which should be Flammesfausses in French, has to be a calque from an agglutinative or agglutinating language: my mind's on Germanic (Gothic looks cool: Galiugaliuhtjan). Overall, assume that Smith's place-names derive from the Parisian consolidations from Philippe-Auguste to Louis XIV.

Also Smith relates some events that made such a mark on the Averonian landscape that they simply cannot be budged from the dates given. The cathedral is a case in point; but so is Nathaire’s rampage, and the Beast. The timeless theme of Castle Amber might account for the latter events’ inclusions. But I would have preferred that Moldvay left them to other DMs.

Moldvay or at least his editor got the geography wrong. If Averoigne is the weird-fantasy Auvergne, then the Isoile River stands in for the Allier. It should flow generally north or northeast, from the Massif to the Loire. “Colossus” implies that the higher ground of Ylourgne rises to the east of Vyônes, approaching the Alps. “Castle Amber” puts Ylourgne northwest. For those keeping track, Tim Kirk’s map is better; although it still wants the hills further north than I like.


posted by Zimri on 16:36 | link | 0 comments

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