The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, May 13, 2017

On not announcing stuff

No Man's Sky and Mass Effect Andromeda were each released in an unfinished state, and are both well on the way to be remembered as epic flops. Perhaps they were announced too early. Woolie's got a PSA on youtube concerning that: "STFU". Mainly concerning derivative games, but the same applies to new IP.

When I am working on something, I try not to announce it until I am done or near-enough. Mind you I'm not a professional, I'm not like Sean Murray and Manvier Heir.

The tragedy here for space-exploration gamers is that for these developers' arrogance the whole genre will suffer.

posted by Zimri on 13:24 | link | 0 comments

The Sasanian theory of Islamic origins

Emmet Scott in September 2013 floated: The earliest Islam, as revealed by archaeology, is in fact profoundly Persian. It's on New English Review Press's site. The next January, NERP would publish a version of that essay as the appendix to Scott's Impact of Islam. Emmet Scott has posted similar notions at Gates of Vienna last August.

NERP is dangerously close to a vanity press and its site struggles with bursts of traffic. Vox Day last night linked Scott's 2013 essay, for discussion, thus causing some overflows over at NERP this morning (so I've saved the article locally). If that NERP site is breaking for you, here is VD's excerpt.

There isn't much early-Islamic archaeology, but some has survived. The Dome of the Rock over the Jewish Temple ruin is dated "72", by consensus agreed to be 691 AD. This structure is in the octagonal, domed form of a Byzantine-Christian martyrion. Also in Egypt the Arabs took over the old Greek pagarchal administration wholesale, only later phasing it out with Arabic. So when we read of Sasanian-type coinage, keep in mind that this is Eastern only. In the West, Damascus struck a coinage involving Syrian themes of palm-trees and Saint John Forerunner's head. And there are plenty of Byzantine-type coins as well, mirroring Constantine's coinage with his two brothers, or the cross-on-steps. Even Scott, earlier on, notices that the first Arab coins to mention Muhammad, from the time of the Ummayad Caliph (sic) Mu'awiya (d. 680), display the figure of a man holding a cross - a garble of the evidence Robert Spencer had brought.

The garble is all over Scott's essay, such that the reader wonders where to erect the boundary between mistakes and revisionism. Did Yazdegird's death in 651ish AD occur in Mu'awiya's "Caliphate", as the essay writes? But the essay also has 'Umar ruling until 664 AD. Whuu...?

Also, the Qur'an existed as well. As an aside, Scott won't allow it before the 80s / 700s. The Dome (72 / 691 as noted) already quotes sizable extracts from the text, including sura 4. Sura 4 had, itself, quoted from several suras before it, mainly suras 3, 6, and 17. This means that these suras, at least, were already in the canon, generations before the Dome. Also there's hearsay evidence that Ibn al-Zubayr relied upon suras 14 and 22 in the 60s / 680s; I'm willing to credit it, as some of the hearsay is embedded in poetry (I've argued for this in mine own book, House of War).

As far as the Sasanian theory applies to the study of Islam-as-body-of-text: all are agreed that the Qur'an is a Samaritan / Jewish based document, with heaviest reliance on Moses. Further, the remnants of Christianity, mainly Syriac, litter the suras, with a grudging acceptance of Jesus always explained (away) as a prophet. This implies that the Arab religion over the first / seventh century was accommodating itself to Near Eastern Christianity. Even modern Muslims are coming around to this, cf. Mustafa Akyol, The Islamic Jesus.

Scott instead posits that the first Muslims lived in the tottering Sasanian court, seeking to bring basal Mosaists into harmony with the Aryan Dên. We now know what this Quranisation process looks like for Christianity; so in that light - if Scott is right - I would expect to see some religious Arabic or Middle Persian texts trying to rehabilitate Zoroaster and maybe Mazdak into the Ishmaelite schema. Exactly such texts were composed in shu'ubi and heretical contexts... in the third Islamic century. But we don't have such texts in the first decades, and I don't even see in what we do have the intertextual strain showing where Iranian-themed texts even used to exist.

To sum up, Scott's model fails to explain Western seventh-century AD archaeology and also fails to explain the Qur'an we have. For that, the Crone / Hoyland / Holland model works better: a Palestinian and Syrian movement led by Arabic-speakers that beat its alternatives, especially once it was able to draw resources from Egypt. By the time of Islam's re-orientation, so to speak, Islamic dogma was already deeply entrenched in pan-Semitic populations (former Aramaeans mainly), and pan-Semitic dogma (i.e. the Bible and midrash) was deeply entrenched in Islamicate culture.

Add to this that Emmet Scott believes that we're living in 1717 AD on account of three centuries mistakenly added to the historical record, as he has doubled-down in A Guide to the Phantom Dark Age (also 2014). Scott is an overly-excitable fellow with a penchant for conspiracy-theory. His theories on Islamic history should be addressed on their own merits, of course. But it remains a bad idea to cite them in a paper.

posted by Zimri on 08:30 | link | 0 comments

Friday, May 12, 2017

What Trump voters understood by "the swamp"

Under Barack Obama and Eric Holder, the national security services headquartered on the Potomac - including the FBI and the NSA - did not acquit themselves with honour.

The FBI allowed a terrorist attack upon American and European citizens in Garland, Texas; and local security - who were not warned - had to stop it themselves.

Meanwhile the NSA discovered some gaping bugs in Microsoft software which, likewise, they did nothing to fix. Some hackers leaked the bugs instead. Two months later, we're in a worldwide ransomware crisis.

We who voted for Donald Trump, knowing his flaws, would like our national-security personnel to work on actual, like, security and not on whatever they deem is In The National Interest. We would like them to quit playing games and start fixing problems.

posted by Zimri on 17:25 | link | 0 comments

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Child abuse in Boulder

I was walking along a Boulder street (the city, technically). White woman and white child - seven years old maybe, male. The latter in glasses; a little scrawny.

The nasty woman had dressed her son in a shirt "sushi rolls not gender roles" - this one.

It is possible that the malnourished seven year old boy in question had picked up that slogan outside the house, and asked for the shirt by name. Maybe. My understanding is that such noxious notions (common in this city) are what these people called "fathers" are supposed to fix.

posted by Zimri on 17:31 | link | 0 comments

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Britain first, North America next

I am a patrilineal R1b'er, like most Britons. Razib distills the latest paper: R1b is Bell-Beaker. Bell Beaker might have been a mixed population back in the Continent, especially west. But having been mixed, once they got to the British Isles they figured - screw it, we're taking it all for ourselves.

So now R1b is most British men. (As for their sisters, those matrilines are a little more complicated. My dad's mother was an Irish mtDNA "T".)

So the Celtic takeover of Britain was more like the English takeover of North America than like the Spanish takeover of Mesoamerica or, for that matter, the contemporary English takeover of Ireland. I'm sure there were some British equivalents to "Cherokee princesses" lingering here and there - Connacht, Pictland, Snowdon - until the Romans showed up. Most of those would have been as fake as Senatrix Warren.

SHOULDA POSTED THIS THEN [IT's 5/11]: Bell beaker blog.

UPDATE 5/17/2017: For one of my distant paternal ancestors, M269 or R1b1b2, researchers detect a post-Ice-Age "recent radiation". There are 110 million M269 children. Relevant to the bellbeaker main paper, my more recent ancestor is indeed R1b-S116/P312. These boys are Yamnaya from the steppe; almost certainly IndoEuropean speakers. The Tocharians were R1b1 too, where the indigenous population of Europe was I2a and G2.

posted by Zimri on 18:07 | link | 0 comments

See, I told you so

After Erdogan mouths off about how Israel is "occupying" Jerusalem, Trump meekly backs down and reneges on his promise to recognise it as Israel's capital.

(I confess that I was - partially - wrong at the time, which was the 2016 election; I'd predicted that Trump was going to lose... having made this promise. Because I didn't think Americans were such schmucks they'd believe a lie so transparent. Plan B was if he'd win, then he'd break the promise. Either way Jerusalem wasn't going to be the recognised capital 2017-20.)

If you had believed his promise, or any such promise made by a candidate, you're stupid. They always promise this and they always lie.

UPDATE 5/11: Hope is on the way! He'll still have the promise to run on.

Give it up, Donald. You're just not that good a liar.

UPDATE 5/17: So that's that.

posted by Zimri on 17:39 | link | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

On topic of self-immolation

Confederate Yankee, Bob Owens, has ducked out the exits. In his words: In the end, it turns out that I’m not strong. I’m a coward, and selfish son of a bitch. I’m sorry.

This was, for those paying close attention, exactly what I've been arguing against lately...

For any others considering the easy way out, I'll make one request: if you know in advance you're going to be sorry, then don't do it. If the devil is telling you that you're a coward and selfish, then at least chicken out to the nearest therapist and at least be selfish enough to save yourself.

People do care. Find those people and stay close to them.

posted by Zimri on 22:03 | link | 0 comments

Monday, May 08, 2017

What happened to the cult compound?

I didn't tell you what happened to le culte de la flamme chantante after Onfrei discovers it. Part of writing is to decide what story-threads to exclude; another part, more controversial, is to decide what to leave hanging as a tease for more stories.

I was careful (or cowardly) enough to move the compound off the Tim Kirk map, to the southwest, deep in the Massif Central. So when Nathaire redivivus smashes his way up and down the province, and when the Beast of the Comet does the same on a smaller scale, this site isn't in their scope, any more than is Nôtre Dame in Paris.

As for the sudden loss of the cult's influence - I don't know yet. Maybe the destroyers in "Beyond the Singing Flame" visited our planet too. Maybe the portal guttered out on its own. Most likely Simon de Montfort, dealing with the Cathars elsewhere, sent up a crew to squash this smaller sect, just to be sure.

Surely some ruin remains; and if a curious reader of "The Cult" were to rediscover the site, such would be a disaster almost beyond telling...

posted by Zimri on 16:34 | link | 0 comments

Sunday, May 07, 2017

The founding of a rapture-cult

I'd read "City of the Singing Flame" over a decade ago. Last month I found out that Smith published a sequel, "Beyond the Singing Flame" - this answered the central question of the original, what happens within the flame at Ydmos. But... I really hated Smith's answer: that here was a backdoor to Paradise, acquired by hidden knowledge. As a depressive myself I rate this sort of talk as evil - and at least one member of Smith's circle, Robert Howard, would later take his own life at a too-young age. So I started musing over how best I, myself, could confute this gnostic blasphemy. A counter-story would get the job done.

The general form of the counter-story wasn't the hard part. Its antagonist was inevitable: that the Flame's gatekeepers, in any world, should organise themselves as a (death-)cult. It was more challenging to find its most-appropriate setting. At first I thought, hey, let's have some archaeologists dig an ancient Earth ruin - how about prehistory, under the current Black Sea or high and dry near the Caspian. But then I remembered that Smith himself had written a world of straw-Catholics, whose commons might seriously consider the Flame as an alternative to mainline Christianity.

That world is Averoigne in para-France. And the best time in Europe for a debate over gnosis and Rapture is the late twelfth century AD, about when the Cathars were gaining steam in the hinterlands. Averoigne is not Languedoc in most of the relevant stories (cf. "Les Hiboux"), but in the twelfth century it could have been at least near-enough.

In my chosen setting, I also got to use Azédarac, whom Smith had used to voice his own cynicism; so the second act of the three-act play takes place in Ximes. I treat Azédarac as a plot-device. Earlier draughts had imposed upon Azédarac a greater rôle but I realised that Onfrei, protagonist, needed more agency.

That led me to pivot to a love-story. Why is the Flame such an evil? My argument is that Rapture is evil because it destroys sentient life, or at least removes it from us; and its Cult is evil because it exploits love. (I have other antiRapture arguments here.)

A love-story, especially starring a late-teenage boy, means Male-Gaze. I am male myself so I must write what I know. But I'll concede to the feminists this much: they did challenge me to allow to the Madeleine her own agency and choices. (Not for the first time.) I do hope I did justice to the Madeleine's choices. As for the MRAs, they can read the story as a 6000-word tale of a Shit Test. Because that is what The House of David is all about - bringing people together.

The love-story also wrote the whole ending for me. HP Lovecraft himself had taught that the ending was the most important part.

For verisimilitude I wanted to frame the overall story such that, somehow, rumour of it had got to us. So I framed it as a deposition / confession to proto-inquisitors - the Inquisition itself wasn't yet an Office. This MS would be stored in a vault, intermittently copied, and damaged. This way I could end with the, like, ending and not epilogue it with that cliched Smith / Lovecraft bit where Onfrei seeks out again the allure of death and damnation.

As a story featuring music I wanted Onfrei to be an expert in music. Problem: I am not a musician and I know nothing of music theory - so goes that "write what you know" thing. But what I needed was mediaeval music theory anyway, the so-called Modes. So I read Cecil Gray's 1925 book; I also hunted for how mediaeval theorists applied Modal templates to works of various type. The twelfth-century Western Christendom having defined Onfrei's boundaries, the Singing Flame can then twist and break them.

Also I limited my story's colour-palette. Most permanent buildings in the Auvergne are dark grey, from Massif basalts, and I've applied the same to the stone dwellings here. Wherever there is a person or place or thing important to the plot, I sought out in it what is like a fire: the Madeleine's auburn hair, the bishop's eyes, and of course the Martyrion (Christian-speak for Temple). My inspiration in this is the comic form: the comic of "Cult" will be coloured black-and-white with shades, except when highlighting something and then it takes the yellow-to-red spectrum. No green; no blue, and purple only in the portrait of Ydmos we glimpse once.

posted by Zimri on 11:23 | link | 0 comments

The Cult of the Singing Flame

I've been working on a project over the last few weeks. Now I am (provisionally) done so here it is: "The Cult of the Singing Flame", on Its synopsis: The teenaged monk Onfrei leaves the abbey Périgon and the young woman he has courted, to compose music for the Bishop of Ximes. But an unholy new seduction awaits him there, that may consume him and all he loves...

I listed this story under the Tragedy / Horror genres, although its chord also bears a strong undertone of Young Adult Romance. And yes, I rated it T. If you want to look up the very-nsfw "assais" then go for it (let's do... FLANG!), but the details aren't necessary for the story.

For category, I couldn't find Averoigne nor general Clark Ashton Smith; all I found was Zothique. So I just stuck my story with "Cthulhu". The alien flute is a nod to HPL's "Azathoth"; this got me to the Clark Ashton Smythos.

posted by Zimri on 10:59 | link | 0 comments

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