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The Google Goolag

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Our Friday night Symposium takes on James Damore’s now infamous memo about the “ideological echo chamber” at Google. For the legal speak, see the first hour or so. For those who prefer thinking in pictures, Fencing Bear gives the full exegesis on “Lobstercide” starting at 56:45 or thereabouts. Listen and watch here.


Lobstercide

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Apropos that Google memo...






The players, in order of appearance  Fuzzy Bear, a gamer Rules Bear, a stickler Dragon, a creature  Medal Bear, a gentleman  Fencing Bear, an athlete History Bear, an academic Mammoth, a socialite  Bear of Hearts, friend of Mammoth Clown Bear, another friend  Script by Master Bearson  Production note: As I originally envisioned this morality tale, it was going to be entitled “Sexism 101,” but my son insisted that I be more subtle. And since the point of the piece is about the way in which women take over men’s games, and I had asked for his help giving the toys a game to talk about...it was only fair that I listen to him! Fencing Bear wanted to be much, much bitchier.
Click on images to enlarge.

“Piss Christ” and the Son of Allah

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Pop quiz: Spot the blasphemy.  Having trouble? Here are some hints:
Have this in mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:5-11 RSV They do blaspheme, that say: “God is the Christ, the Son of Mary.” Christ himself said: “Children of Israel, worship God, my Lord and your Lord.” He that worships other deities besides God, God will deny him Paradise, and his abode shall be the Fire. The wrongdoers shall have none to …

Getting Medieval on Postmodernism

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If, like me, you enjoy listening to Professor Peterson take on the fallacies of postmodernism, you will have heard him acknowledge – “to give the Devil his due” – that there is one thing that the founders of postmodernism got right:
They actually put their finger on quite an important problem: the fact that any set of phenomena has a near infinite number of potential interpretations. Which, Professor Peterson argues, is true, as researchers in artificial intelligence learned when they tried to make machines that could perceive the world. What the AI folks found, like the postmodernists, was that there is “a very large number of ways to perceive the world,” just as there is a near-infinite number of ways (or so the postmodernists would insist) to perceive a text.

Except (much as I hate to disagree with the good professor) this is not quite what the founders of postmodernism said. Here’s one of the most famous founders – albeit not one that Professor Peterson alludes to – talking about …

Queen of Space

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Yesterday, Milo ascended into the heavens. (You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?) Okay, not in body, but in image and words. And, okay, he fell back to earth again, a modern-day Icarus on wings of helium. But he – or his authorial effigy – was up there above the clouds for over an hour, live-streaming his (book’s) adventure on Facebook.

Thousands of his fans joined in to watch; over 165,000 have now seen the video. In the livestream chat, some of them (trollishly?) insisted that the footage proved the earth was flat; others insisted that what we were watching was not actual footage captured in space, but only the book projected onto a green screen. Some of us (myself included) even believed for a moment that what we were seeing was live.

And why not? Do you realize how unspeakably cool it is that Milo – and a few other guys to help him – could do this? Launch a copy of his book up above the clouds, film the whole thing, and get it back? Ever so casually, just by following th…

Hate Speech Hocus Pocus

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What was it we used to say when we were kids? “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Not!, according to Lisa Feldman Barrett, professor of psychology at Northeastern University. (She has a nice web page, maybe I should get someone to help me redesign mine....) Words can hurt. Not directly like physical blows, but through their effects on our nervous system. In Barrett’s words, published last Sunday in the newspaper of national record (did that hurt?), words can “make you sick, alter your brain – even kill neurons – and shorten your life.”

We know this because science.
Your body’s immune system includes little proteins called proinflammatory cytokines [NB fancy words!] that cause inflammation when you’re physically injured [for example, with sticks and stones]. Under certain conditions, however, these cytokines [that fancy word again] themselves can cause physical illness [because they’re, like, proteins, that is, physical. Try to keep up, 007]. What are …

Talking Symbolism with Jonathan Pageau

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Jonathan Pageau is an Orthodox icon carver and friend of Jordan Peterson. Like me, Jonathan is a medievalist interested in reviving the complexity of Christian symbolism. Last week, he invited me to a conversation about my friendship with Milo, what I have learned from Jordan, and what I say in my forthcoming book about Mary. Enjoy! Watch here.

Fencing Bear’s Day Out With Milo and the Boys

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I got my wish! Remember how envious I was of Laurie Penny, getting to ride around with Milo in his “swank black trollmobile” last summer? Well. Let me tell you about the day I had yesterday with Milo and his boys!

It was just as Laurie Penny says. There was the “swank black trollmobile.” There was the posse of twenty-something young men. There were the incessant jokes about how much expensive champagne the band of pranksters drank the night before. There were the endlessly replayed videos of the bottle-smashing (Milo is half-Greek, after all). There were the tales about going to strip joints and how beautiful the strippers were. There was...absolutely nothing that made me nervous about any of this.

I don’t know Penny, but I have been writing about Milo for almost a year now, and I have never seen anything in him or his friends that she describes. Sure, they are boisterous. Sure, they are twenty-something young men. Sure, they spend time joshing each other – and Milo – and telling joke…

St. Milo the Dangerous and the Dragon of Chaos

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This time last year, I thought I had myself pretty well sorted out. I had gotten over my writer's block and was looking forward to getting my book manuscript finished. I had qualified for the USA Veteran Fencing Team for 2016 and was going to Germany in October to compete in the World Championships. I was even making what felt like real progress in learning the fiddle. Sure, I was heavier than I liked, but all things considered I was doing well. I was going to be on leave for the Autumn and Winter terms, which meant going to Germany would not cut into my teaching schedule, and I was reasonably confident that I would be able to finish the revisions on my book in time to submit my manuscript to my publisher before going back to the classroom in the Spring. It was going to be a relaxing nine months, or so I thought. Little did I know how dangerous--and exhilarating--my year would be!

I have lost track of how many times I have told the story. About how our deans sent out the letter ex…