The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, April 22, 2017


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. Revisited here.

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.

For this para-historical province up to the eleventh century, one early outside view comes to us from contemporary author 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 for Averoigne is characteristically horrific. More so, I think, than Smith’s published Averoigne tales had allowed for it. For instance I do not see the “diabolism” in the Church hierarchy, except for bishop 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.

As for Averoigne’s twelfth century, this much the other authors left to Smith. Who is no longer around to tell us much. But for that century's 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 a King outside his chosen province, even during the Hundred Years War. Lovecraft (I know, he's not Smith) 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.

UPDATE: Maybe it's not Auvergne.

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 1166 (when Azédarac takes the staff) 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, core Averoigne feels like it belongs to the border-Languedoc [UPDATE 5/5/2017: a counter]. Relative to that, the name Les Hiboux is displaced in time - the fourteenth century, perhaps. Another exception, wholly foreign, is Faussesflammes, which should be Flammesfausses in French; this 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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Yellow journalism

Earlier today I solicited input from Dr Hendel and from the Tea-Party, excuse me "Turning Point USA". It being Easter, I can see why it might take a day or two for TPUSA to get back to me. In the meantime the good professor has responded...

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.

On most of this, I am letting Dr Hendel have the last word; I have laid out the evidence, and it is left to you, dear readers, to decide. To one point, though, my eyes are drawn: to the allegation of yellow journalism, including misleading reportage.

The only journalism done here (besides mine today) was done in the College Fix thirteen months ago. I had tacitly assumed that the Fix was in, so to speak; just as Dr Hendel alleges. However it now occurs to me that this case still needs to be made. In particular TPUSA didn't ferret out the #fakenews. I have asked TPUSA to revisit a case, so - if they read here, and if they care about their reputation as campus watchdogs - TPUSA will return to what the College Fix did last year.

I detect two sins against journalism from the College Fix in their article.

Most egregiously, I read no comment from the defence; I do not even read a "no comment" - hell, I don't even see the professor's name directly, although it's hinted twice through links. If I, dissident-right nobody, can find time to email some stranger in Berkeley, then so can the College Fix. And it is slimy to write an article that maligns a man's integrity, in this case as a teacher, without facing him directly or saying his name. That is Jon Scalzi, Gamma tier bullshit.

Also the College Fix needs to learn how scholarship and teaching are done in other contexts. On the former, there are plenty of scholars (that is, not me) who could discuss the pros and cons of the Documentary Hypothesis: against Mosaic authorship, and against other theories. I've not been looking at this field much for 15 years or so, so I don't know who's still alive and alert, but a troll through Hendel's postings with a view to the footnotes should come up with some handy names. As far as teaching goes, maybe talk to a veteran teacher in an unrelated field on how they deal with classroom critics.

Since the College Fix didn't do any of that, their article is transparently one-sided, to the point it doesn't make their case. And now the whole integrity-kick they've been on has booted them in the backside, with the Biblical-archaeology community now divided, once more, from the Christian Right, and the Tea-Party looking like over-excitable paranoiacs, again. And College Fix will now have trouble the next time they get a Hot Story On Campus Oppression. Because, frankly, nobody likes to respond to dishonest hacks.

So yeah: "yellow journalism" fits the College Fix of 2016, and might even be too kind. They've tightened up their standards this year, but not yet enough to annotate what they'd written last year.

UPDATE 4/26/2017 - TPUSA wrote back yesterday, asking for more detail; I tried to provide it. They also informed me of my errors here in calling College Fix, "Campus" or "Daily" Fix. I've, er, fixed those. But as of now, Dr Hendel is still on the watchlist.

posted by Zimri on 17:29 | link | 0 comments


Le Dildo de Charlie Brown chez Ace discusses the Snowflake Phenomenon. His take is its emergence from the Left. Ace is a Right site. But as often happens - this is a problem for the Left as well.

Put it this way: in college, you will hear and read stuff you don't already know, or "know"; and if you are a special snowflake, you are going to be butthurt at the stuff you hear and read. There was once a time when the prof could say to the class: these are the basics, you're being graded on your knowledge of the basics, if you disagree then save it for the essays and the final exam, and footnote your work. If you prove me wrong that is awesome. But if you're going to be an ass piping up in class all the time, there's the door.

Today it happens that the "muscle", as Click noted, to shout down the prof is on the Left. Some people on the Right want in on this power but are evil for asking, and - more to the point - aren't getting sympathy for it.

I say that for teachers, snowflake students are a universal problem. Teachers in general, as long as they coddle the Left, won't be able to claim moral authority to shut off Right whiners. A teacher might get people like me on their side, if the prof is lucky, but our support - as you've noticed - is conditional at best. The teacher also won't be able to shut off Left whiners when Zhang Tiesheng learns to work the levers.

posted by Zimri on 10:56 | link | 0 comments

The Tea-Party's blacklist

Having dealt with Kurz and the Rightists he's run off to tattle to, let's look at the outfit posting that blacklist on his behalf, "Turning Point".

TPUSA's acronym is too cute by half, being not only a reference to the Communists (CPUSA) but also, I suspect, one to the Tea-Party - likely by way of that stupid "Coffee-Party" (CoffeePartyUSA).

Outside their knowledge of American history, at least those running their blacklist have some holes in their transcripts. They have no sense of the difference between Hendel's syllabus in his own classroom and Hendel's Leftism outside it. Just like they cannot tell the difference between the TPUSA's own stated goals, which are economic and political-theoretical, and a side-issue like an outside study of the Jewish Bible. UPDATE 5:30 PM - I can offer some additional advice on how to spot yellow journalism.

I have contacted TPUSA.

posted by Zimri on 08:28 | link | 0 comments

That's an F

On Biblical Archaelogy Review, Ronald Hendel from Berkeley has posted an opinion, "Biblical Scholarship at Risk", for the May issue. In the meantime he has uploaded the editor's draught to It develops his comments at Daily Californian.

The rebuttal is to "Turning Point USA", a soi-disant Student Movement for Free Markets and Limited Government. They'd put Hendel on their Professor Watchlist. That entry develops the College Fix. It names the student who has made a national case out of the role of impartial scholarship in academe: David Kurz. You wanted it, you got it...

To get some stuff out of the way: I have sympathy for students shut out of classroom discussions in which their professor has gone rogue. I defended Marshall Polston, for instance.

As for Dr Hendel, I concede he does write like he lacks sympathy for American conservatives at large, and not just "fundamentalists". His article pretends to fear patriotic defenders of ignorance in a dawning era of right-wing political correctness. You don't say this stuff if you think conservatives have a point elsewhere, like on... free markets and limited government; you especially don't sneer at "patriots" (and do I detect an old-school jibe at Morning In America?). You also don't say this stuff if you ever opposed political correctness from the Left. You say this stuff if you've picked your side and as for everyone else, they're not your friends. Based on that, it is fully in character for the man to say the words David Kurz transcribed:

Don’t take this class if you believe the Bible is inspired or infallible. This stuff isn’t taught in synagogues or churches because they don’t want to piss people off. … Anyone can take this class, as long as you play by the rules of the game. … If you disagree with the approach we use, that’s an F.
[Q. There's a correct answer?] Correct. [Q. Evidence that Moses did write the vast majority of the Pentateuch?] “That doesn’t exist. [Q. It does!] I don’t want people who are going to disagree with me all semester. [Q. Debates?] Not in this classroom.

(UPDATE 5:30 PM - Hendel sends a response.)

As an aside, I admit I emitted a laugh at BAR's newfound care for Biblical scholarship. Back when anti-Israel ideologues were citing the minimalists, the minimalists were the enemy. But when that scholarship goes against Christians, it's all about the Sanctity Of The Classroom. Whatever, dudes.

Still, pace the College Fix and David Kurz ... they're wrong. Hendel is correct that the evidence, internal and external, points strongly against Moses' authorship of the Torah. The rival Documentary Hypothesis, to which Hendel subscribes, does have its problems; but a newbie coming into the class for the first time isn't going to have the tools to take it down. Especially if he knows no Hebrew and hasn't seen the Septuagint, the Samaritan Torah, or the Dead Sea Scrolls. Just piping back "no it isn't" isn't an argument.

The rules of the game at this point in a student's career are to sit down, shut up, take notes, and learn. Those rules are fair, and necessary for any teaching to take place. If the student doesn't have that humility, he is destined for ignorance all his life. All that, and the Blutarsky on his college record.

posted by Zimri on 08:26 | link | 0 comments

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