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Myths of the Great Library

In History, the details are always hard to catch, yet always worth knowing. This long post at History for Atheists, worth absorbing in full, makes a number of discordant points about the Myth that the Great Library of Alexandria was destroyed by a Christian mob in 390 AD, thus setting science and technology back a thousand years. I will state them below in brief, and you may read the post in full.

  1. The Great Library of Alexandria was not the only Great Library of the Ancient World. It did not “contain all the wisdom of the ancient world”.
  2. The Great Library of Alexandria was a research institution, a Mouseion, devoted to the Nine Muses, which is to say, they were a product of Pagan religious inspiration, the worship of the gods.
  3. Consequently, most of the scholarship done at the Mouseion was focused on textual criticism and poetry, and not very much on what we moderns would call science.
  4. The Ancient Greeks and Romans didn’t really do science as we understand it today. Which is to say, their natural philosophy was largely inductive, not empirical, and they did not apply this philosophy to improving the technology of their culture.
  5. The Mouseion had almost certainly ceased to exist by 390 AD. A series of sackings of the city by Romans, beginning with Julius Caesar, greatly diminished the value of the place.
  6. What was destroyed in 390 AD was a daughter library, the Serapaeum. As with the Mouseion, the Serapaeum was first and foremost a pagan temple, devoted to the worship of the hybrid Greek-Egyptian God Serapis. It’s destruction in 390 was the result of a long series of hostilites between the pagan and Christian populations of the city. Which is to say, it was the result of a war between rival religious traditions, and not a war between religion and science. And according to primary sources, there may not even have been a library in the Serapaeum at the time.

Again, Read the Whole Thing (Hat Tip: Vox Populi)

So Barbara Streisand is a Monster…

I almost wrote a whole blog post about Leaving Neverland, the new documentary about Michael Jackson accusing him of pedophilia.

I didn’t. Because ultimately I decided I didn’t want to wade into that morass.

I don’t know if Jackson did anything. I wasn’t there. Rumor is less than truth and accusation less than proof. He’s already been acquitted of it. So let the matter stay.

But, for the love of God.

Streisand, 76, made the strange comments to British newspaper The Times in a piece out Friday, in which she also said that Jackson’s “sexual needs were his sexual needs.”

She says she “absolutely” believes the allegations of abuse by Robson and Safechuck, but puts more blame on their parents than The Gloved One.

Now, here’s a couple of consistent positions:

  1. Michael Jackson molested little boys. He was a perv and we should shout it from the rooftops.
  2. Michael Jackson is innocent. These men are grifters and liars and we should condemn their falsehood.

Either of those stem from a disagreement about the truth of the accusations. Who should be blamed follows as a consequence of who is guilty.

But neither of these is Barbara Streisand’s position. Barbara Streisand’s position is:

  • Michael Jackson had sex with boys, and that’s fine as long as they don’t turn out like Corey Feldman.

Yeah, she’s apologized, unsaid it for the camera, but whatever. The mask slipped. That’s what Streisand really thinks. She really thinks a little pederasty is fine so long as you provide a nice resort for the family.

Really.

And it strikes me that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Rich & Famous stand by each other like this.

Remember how Roman Polanski sodomizing a 13-year-old in a hot tub wasn’t “Rape-Rape” according to Whoopi Goldberg?

Remember how everyone on the set of Guardians 3 went to bat for James Gunn (Who, waddya know, is back on the job)?

Remember how no one said shit about Harvey Weinstein for 25 years?

I’m starting to wonder if maybe, just maybe, there’s yet more poison in the mud to be hatched out.

I’m staring to wonder if anyone in that industry is capable of seeing another human as more than a commodity.

And I’m starting to wonder if there’s some way to purge it. Like with fire.

Nada Surf and the Importance of Band Names

I like Nada Surf. They’re a band. And I like them. I own precisely one of their records, an EP. So why do I say that I like them?

Honestly, it’s because I like the name. NadaSurf. What does it mean? The absence of surfing? A specific kind of anti-surfing? The surfing of the Great Nothing? What would that even mean?

According to an interview, it refers to

“something much more existential, it’s just surfing on nothing. Being lost in your head or in your imagination but you know, whenever I listen to music I always find myself off somewhere. Somewhere in space. You know, in mental space and it’s a reference to that.”

In other words, daydreaming. I always thought they sounded a big shoegaze.

But is that why I like it? Did I, on some semiotic, unconscious level, get that about them?

Or did I just like the way the words sounded together?

Maybe I’ll try and figure that out. And maybe get one of their albums.

Butterfly Figure Skater: Duke Bike Rider on Soundcloud

Sometime I create music as well. I consider them sonic doodles. Learning to play an instrument or absorb music theory feels like work. Because it’s work, and with you as your own taskmaster, inevitably you will be ridiculously lenient on yourself. So creating little sonic doodles and throwing them out on to the wild free internet gives you a sense of accomplishment and a reason to keep going.

This track, Butterfly Figure Skater, started as a deconstructed walking bass line, that I added a Guitar counterpoint to. The drums are a sample. It has aspirations to Jazz but is really just Rock.

The artwork is done with Adobe Spark.

Initially, I wanted to record enough tracks to put a 5-song EP on Bandcamp. I haven’t felt ready or had time to do that. And really, for that to be worthwhile, they’re going to need to be… good. And I’m not quite there yet. So this is a way for me to make stuff, get that feedback, and have fun with it.

Because this is fun.

If Rolling Stone aspired (after somewhat “underground” beginnings) to be the Rolls Royce of rock magazines, CREEM was by contrast the Volkwagen band-van: pungent with reefer, speed sweat, and last night’s groupie action. The hubris that had it self-dubbed “America’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll Magazine” was strictly of a working-class, sex-drugs-and-you-know-what variety that ridiculed all…

via SXSW Film Review: ‘Boy Howdy! The Story of CREEM Magazine’ — Variety

If you’re going to be Rock n’ Roll, be obnoxious about it or go home.

My Pynchon Problem

A recent viewing of the film Inherent Vice led me to try to finish The Crying of Lot 49, which I abandoned out of frustration some time ago. I’ve made a small amount of headway, but am bored again.

Action is not being built. The plot is not going anywhere. The woman with the ridiculous name is having conversations with other people with ridiculous names about random nonsense that’s supposed to be relevatory but is entirely unconnected with what she’s ostensibly doing. I struggle to care.

It’s baffling to me that I can be so close to the end of a book this short and feel no desire to continue. This seems to be a problem I have with literature from this era. The Beats, Burroughs, Joyce, Waiting for Godot, it all seems so enamored of itself for frustrating readers as to form a kind of anti-literature. It’s less like reading a book than joining a Hermetic cult.

Call it the need for status, for differentiation from the semi-literate masses, but the need to set up a hyper-literacy, from the New Criticism on down, strikes me as largely self-defeating. No wonder all our cultural battles are fought over popcorn movies.

Sri Lankan Author Finds Himself on Nebula Ballot, Completely Baffled By American Political Discourse

Book Awards are becoming increasingly ridiculous, an extension of Twitter rhetorical battlefields with some side-talk about literature.

You should read it in full, as it nicely encapsulates the descent into madness that has resulted from the beachhead politics has made into fandom and entertainment. But this in particular amused me:

I’ve tried understanding American politics before, and it’s a bizarre mutation. Their conservatives are, like ours, highly religious, but they also champion freedom of speech, like our liberals, and they want a minarchist state, preferring to let market economies work. Their liberals are, like ours, pro-equality, but unlike ours they seem to disfavor freedom of speech and prefer heavier government structures. This is interesting, because this markets bit at least comes from the economist Hayek, who championed free markets at all cost. Hayek’s views were considered liberal in his day and would be considered a liberal pretty much anywhere else; it was Keynes who was the conservative.

This is like driving on the left side. They take something normal and do it the other way around.

Well played, sir.