Saturday, September 23, 2017

More Paulkovich Yet Again

Michael Paulkovich has published a new edition of his book No Meek Messiah. Actually, it appears that the new edition came out some time ago, and I didn't notice, in part because the new edition or editions -- I'm not sure how many editions there have been altogether -- has or have a completely different title: Beyond the Crusades. According to the publisher of the new version, American Atheist Press,

"It includes an exhaustively researched 19-page appendix that provides
citations for the controversial 126 'Silent Historians' of Chapter 49
and serves to rebut critics who erroneously claimed that some of the
writers on the list were not applicable or even pre-Jesus."

Well. I guess that shuts me up, once and for all. Seriously, though, I'm torn between a morbid curiosity on the one hand about just how Paulkovich has doubled down here, and on the other hand, profound, cringing embarrassment for him.

Does the change in title make sense? I have no way of knowing: I haven't read the book in any of its editions. I haven't read the article which was excerpted from it in Skeptical Inquiry either. Paulkovich has accused me of not reading that article, and he may have accused me of not having read his book either. In either case he would be correct. All I have addressed is Paulkovich's list of 126 names of people he calls "the silent historians," 126 people who, he claims, should have been expected to have mentioned Jesus if He had existed.

There are very many good books in the world, far more than any one person could ever hope to read. I have to have some incentive to read any particular book. Some times a page is enough to convince me that a certain book is not for me. In the case of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, one sentence was enough. In the case of No Meek Messiah and/or Beyond the Crusades, those 126 names were much more than enough. And I have tried to make the case that they ought to be enough to convince any reasonable person that Paulkovich is talking -- through his hat, as people used to say in quainter times. I have tried, and I have been very disappointed to have to come to the conclusion that most people who care a bit one way about Paulkovich either already knew what I was talking about -- just a few cases, these. Academics in one of the "relevant fields," mostly -- or they wouldn't really investigate the list of 126 names at all, trying to find out who, Paulkovich or I or perhaps neither, knew what he was talking about when referring to those 126 people, but were quite content to assume that Paulkovich was full of it if they were convinced that Jesus existed, or that I was full of it if they had their doubts that Jesus ever existed.

More nuanced positions, such as having doubts that Jesus existed but still thinking that Paulkovich was full of it, or being certain that Jesus existed but still thinking that I am full of it, seem to be represented by as few as 1 1/2 people: I am not certain Jesus existed, and Tim O'Neill may or may not think I am full of it. I don't want to speak for Tim on this point. See his comments under the very earliest article in the first link in this post.

There is one thing I find quite remarkable about the new edition or editions of Paulkovich's book, the edition or editions entitled Beyond the Crusades: Robert M Price, one of the most famous of all contemporary mythicists, who probably served as a college professor "in the relevant fields" longer than any other mythicist in the US if not the world -- Ah say Ah Say Robert M Price has written a Foreword for the new edition or editions. Whether this is a new low for Price, or just more of the same, I am not familiar enough with his work to say. Or maybe my wondering about that merely shows that I am terribly naive to assume that professors who write Forewords for books tend to read those books first.

Neglected Geniuses

Hey, here's a group that discusses the history of the Roman and Byzantine state. "...from 753 BC to AD 1475." Oh. No. No, no, no, no. The link to the group shows a picture which they say is of Constantius II's entry into Rome in AD 357. Constantius II did visit Rome in 357. But when was this picture made? I'm guessing 19th or 20th century. I'm also guessing that I could find out more quickly when and by whom the picture was made by researching it myself than by asking the members of the group, and that my asking would probably mostly have the effect of annoying them.

Hey, look at this: Vinča symbols. Never heard of them? Me neither, before yesterday. And yet these people (not the same people as in the previous paragraph) are saying they're a writing system going back to -- 5300 BC? And that there's a bias among academics who study early writing against paying any attention to them? Oh dear. Actual academics simply don't behave that way. They don't cover up plausible discoveries which would "rock the boat." They're boat rockers. The key word there was "plausible."

How many people are there who think that they are geniuses and that their genius is neglected, for every neglected genius? I don't have an actual number for you, but it's a lot.

And Albert Einstein was not a neglected genius: he started publishing papers in the Annalen der Physik, the pre-eminent academic publication on physics at the time, around his 22nd birthday, in 1901, four years before his most famous group of papers were published in the same journal. In 1905, not only were those papers published, but Einstein also received a PhD from the University of Zurich. Although he was working in a patent office at the time, not taking courses at the university or anything like that. He got the Nobel Prize when he was 42 or 43. (He was chosen to receive it in 1921 but it wasn't awarded to him until the next year.) That is not neglect by the academic establishment. That is not by any stretch of the imagination neglect. That is almost as far from being rejected by the academic mainstream as anyone could ever be. Yes, there were people who rejected Einstein's findings, many laypeople outside the field of physics and just a handful within, but they would not have rejected his findings if he hadn't been a rock star within his field. Because they probably never would have heard of him, for one thing, and they would have had no reason to get so upset about his being, in their mistaken opinions, completely, absurdly wrong about space and time and matter and energy. People who are completely, absurdly wrong are a dime a dozen in every walk of life. Someone you think is completely, absurdly wrong, but most of the rest of the world thinks they're a genius -- that's different. That can be very annoying.

I imagine it would be all the more annoying if the annoyed person felt him- or herself to be a neglected genius.

The ones who thought that they were unrecognized geniuses were the ones who vehemently rejected Einstein's ideas. And they weren't geniuses. The geniuses understood Einstein and were blown away. Leading directly to the previously-mentioned condition of him not being neglected in the slightest, but wildly celebrated and one of the two or three most famous people in the world.

Monday, September 18, 2017


Ein starker Geist diskutiert Ideen.
Ein durchschnittlicher Geist diskutiert Ereignisse.
Ein schwacher Geist diskutiert Leute.

Steven Bollinger Sokrates redet dummes Zeug und Platoniker duerfen mich gern fuer schwachgeistig halten. Wenn jemand maechtig ist, wie ein Regierungschef oder ein Philosoph der das Denken eines grossen Teils der Welt seit ueber 2000 Jahren stark beeinfluesst, dann SOLLEN die Leute ueber ihn reden. Nicht zu tun waere verantwortungslos.
· Reply · 11 mins · Edited

Steven Bollinger Noch etwas faellt mir ein:

"Ein starker Geist diskutiert Ideen.
Ein durchschnittlicher Geist diskutiert Ereignisse.
Ein schwacher Geist diskutiert Leute."

Sokrates redet da ueber Leute. Sah er selbst nicht ein, dass er das tat?
· Reply · 12 mins

Steven Bollinger Und, was mir als erstes einfaellen muesste: ist das wirklich ein Zitat von Sokrates? Facebook wimmelt von falsch zugeordneten Zitaten.
· Reply · 9 mins

Steven Bollinger Nicht Sokrates, sondern Henry Thomas Buckle. Ich bitte Sokrates um Entschuldigung. Quote Investigator.

· Reply · Remove Preview · Just now

Schafft ab! (Eliminate it!)

Yay! At 8:27 AM today I had already blocked my first Facebook user of the day! (Not counting a German sexbox offering friendship which I had already marked as spam.) He was replying to my comment about Felix Philipp Ingold's call in the Neuer Zuercher Zeitung to eliminate the juries which award literary prizes -- "Schafft die Juries ab!" I had said that it was not clear to me me whether Ingold wanted to replace the juries with, or if he was calling for literary prizes themselves to be eliminated, or if he was just there to complain.

This Facebook user wrote that he who wants to misunderstand or twist something will do so, ignored my very specific description of what was unclear to me, and asked me just exactly what was unclear to me.

He who wants to be nothing but unhelpful, antagonistic and annoying will be so. And will often secretly consider himself to be a genius.

By the way, no one else has answered my comment at all. I can only assume that they're all too busy doing important work, or that, although it's as clear as can be that Ingold doesn't want these juries as they are, no-one knows any better than I do what he actually does want.

While checking the NZZ website to make sure I spelled Ingold's name correctly, I saw a link to a piece by Peter Sloterdijk on the upcoming German election. This article was followed on the web page by the claim: "Peter Sloterdijk zaehlt zu den bedeutenden Philosophen der Gegenwart." ("Peter Sloterdijk is among the important philosophers of the present day.")

I hadn't completely stopped reading things by and about Peter Sloterdijk after reading his winterliche Reise

more than 20 years ago, but I had slowed way, way down. And so it came as a great surprise to me to learn that he is now a philosopher. Let alone one of the important ones of our day. One certainly wouldn't have learned that Sloterdijk is a philosopher from this piece he dashed off for the NZZ, in which he claims that Angela Merkel has such a chloroform-effect, putting all who see or hear her soundly asleep, that the Germans need mnemonic devices to remind them of when the upcoming election is. It's this coming Sunday, 24 September 2017. Contrary to Sloterdijk's claim, I didn't have to look the date up, nor have I remembered it with the aid of mnemonic devices.

There seems to be a widespread "eliminate it!"-mood among German intellectuals. Ingold wants to eliminate the juries which award literary prizes. Other want to remove curators from art galleries and museums. Sloterdijk wants to eliminate Merkel's ability to put everyone into a deep sleep. (Clearly he can't eliminate it: poor thing, he can't even describe it convincingly.)

Yes, there is a great (from certain perspectives) mood of "Schafft ab!" ("Eliminate it!") Right on. But what will we replace the juries, or the curators, or Merkel, with? These complaints might be more convincing to me if I had the slightest idea what is being suggested as a replacement in each case. But I'm not even sure that such suggestions are being made.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Update on My Seiko 5

This is my Seiko 5, photographed today:

There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Actually, it's a little bit less like most than it used to be. I showed photographs of it on this blog with its original khaki-green canvas strap; then in between straps; then with the black leather strap I put on it because the original strap was just slightly to short to fit my wrist.

But I decided I'd rather carry it in my pocket than wear it on my wrist, and that photo above shows how it is now: no strap, and also no push-pins. Removing the push-pins, which I did a week or two ago, lets me feel the bevels -- not bezels: bevels -- underneath where the push-pins were. I didn't even see the bevels before I removed the push-pins. They feel nice. Removing the push-pins has definitely enhanced the aesthetic experience of the watch for me.

And there's also no plastic film on the back anymore. Just like new cell phones, some new watches these days come with plastic film covering the glassy parts. I took the film off of the front, but it took me 9 months, until today, to realize that I'd left the film on the back window. I had thought that there was a little imperfection in the window, a little bubble in the glass, barely visible, near the edge where it sez "7S26." But no, what I thought was a bubble in the glass was a bubble in the plastic film. The film I didn't even realize was still there until today.

I have mixed feelings: yes, I had thought that there a small imperfection, a bubble, in the glass of the back window. But I had gradually come to sort of like that bubble. It made my Seiko 5 different than others.

But there never was any bubble in the glass at all. Now, with the plastic film removed, I can't find any imperfections anywhere on the watch.

(I got this thing for $54.19, including delivery & state sales tax, from Amazon. Which is simply ridiculous. I almost feel guilty having this much watch for that little money. Seiko cares about quality.)

(Yeah, and it's still keeping pretty good time.)

(Prices for Seiko 5's on Amazon have gone up slightly in the last 9 months. Well, actually, the prices go up and down and up and down, and at any given moment, 4 Seiko 5's with canvas straps which are identical except for color will usually have 4 different prices. Why? I don't know.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Amanda, I Wanna Be Yr Panda


I wanna be yr paaaaaan -- da.

Oh. Uh.


A big silly bear of a man ta

Make you laugh with my clumsiness and snugglin


It could be grand -- uh

If I were yr panda


This guy rilly wants to be yr panda

A great big silly harmless guy to rub yr feet n be real sweet n cook you uh treat n dance with his feet

N give you his heeeearrrrt


He rilly rilly rilly rilly rilly rilly wants to be yr panda)


Won't you put yr hand -- uh

In mine

Yr so fine n I just

Gotta be yr panda!


I'm making my staaaaand -- uh

Out. on. the. sand. of. the. beach.

I. will. stroll. with. youunderthemoon


My love isn't canned -uh

It's fresh and genuine


I'd love to be yr panda


I think you understand -- uh


Ooh I gotsa be yr panda


But I'll never demand -- uh

A thing cause I want ya to be happy and free


Pleez pleez pleez pleez lemme be yr panda


Monday, September 11, 2017

Have Watches Become Art?

In roughly chronological order:

Oscar Wilde published The Picture of Dorian Gray, with a Preface which ends with the flat statement: "All art is quite useless."

I was born.

The 4th edition of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, volume 2, was published. It contains the Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray on pp 1681-82. It does not contain any more of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

I was required several times in school and college to read works by Oscar Wilde, including, more than once, The Picture of Dorian Gray, including its Preface, with whose conclusion I disagreed. For most of my life I quite disliked Wilde.

I got a copy of the 5th edition, of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, for a college class. It's much shorter than the combined 2 volumes of the unabridged version. I have no idea whether it contains the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray. I still own but I can't find it at the moment.

Quartz watches -- watches powered by batteries or some other electrical source, such as light converted to electricity -- reached the point where they kept much better time than mechanical watches -- watches powered by springs -- at a much lower cost.

I saw the movie An Ideal Husband, based on Wilde's play of the same name. It has been filmed at least 4 times: I saw the 1999 version, directed by Oliver Parker, starring Jeremy Northam, Rupert Everett, Julianne Moore, Minnie Driver and Cate Blanchett. I saw it several years after 1999, on TV, primarily because of Ms Blanchett, about whom I am daffy. Ms Blanchett is particularly adorable in this film. But I liked more than Ms Blanchett, I liked the entire film very much, definitely including those words written by Mr Wilde. I instantly went from being a loather of Wilde to being a huge fan. I re-read the Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray and began to seriously wonder whether art is indeed useless. I have not stopped thinking about it. At the present I would agree, if we stipulate that Wilde was being somewhat ironic when he wrote that. Art is not useful in the same way as other things. I agree with Nietzsche that art makes life bearable, which means that it is extremely useful indeed; but still, it is not useful in the same way as other things.

I got the 4th edition of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, volume 2, either free because some place like a university was giving it away, or for a dollar or so a thrift shop, I don't remember. I've only got volume 2.

The Coen brothers' film version of Carmac McCarthy's novel No Country For Old Men was released in 2007. The film is set in 1980. The character portrayed by Josh Brolin carries a wrist watch in his pocket. If the film is historically accurate in this detail, it is a mechanical watch. The title of the movie and novel comes from a line in the poem "Sailing to Byzantium" by William Butler Yeats. Like Wilde, Yeats was born in Ireland. Wilde moved to England, where he ingratiated himself with the upper classes. Yeats stayed in Ireland and supported the fight for independence from England.

I began to become fascinated by watches. Mostly by pocket watches at first;

but the more I learn about watches, the more my interest is captured by wrist watches rather than pocket watches, because watches -- mechanical watches. I couldn't tell you much about quartz watches -- keep becoming more sophisticated and precise and interesting, even as they become farther and farther away from being necessary or practical. There ares till some mechanical pocket watches being produced today, but as far as I can see, most of them are presented as objects of nostalgia, designed to remind people of bygone eras when most watches were pocket watches, rather than to closely resemble the most modern products of the watchmaker's -- art.

Ha! Right there I said "art." I was never drawn to pocket watches because I'm nostalgic. I like them because I'd rather carry a watch in my pocket than wear it on my wrist, and pocket watches are designed to be carried that way. But almost all of the really interesting stuff in watchmaking is going on in mechanical wrist watches. Which, as good as they are getting, are still much more expensive than quartz watches which keep better time.

But let's face it, very few if any people actually need quartz watches either, what with all of the online devices which keep even better time, which almost all of us use to one extent or another.

And then, earlier today, my interest in watches, which I freely admit serve no practical use, and are only good for fascinating people and making them feel good, clanged together with Wilde's statement that all art is quite useless. And I said to myself, "Hey -- does that mean that watches have become art, or are becoming art?!"

And then I rushed over here to tell you all about it -- first checking the 4th edition of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, volume 2, to make sure that I got the quote by Wilde right.

PS, 11 Sep 2017: I found it, the version of The Norton Anthology of English Literature which I got for use an an undergrad. And once again we see how faulty is my memory: it is not called the shorter edition, but the Major Authors Edition. And it is not the 5th edition, but the 3rd. And Wilde is not in it AT ALL. It judges 31 English authors, from the author of Beowulf to Auden, to be Major. But not Wilde. Well, as we know, these things are not only quite useless, but also completely subjective.