Showing posts from August, 2017

Bear’s Story

Now that I’m famous like Milo, clearly I need an Instagram account! Come visit me @fencingbear! All are welcome!

Back to School

Education ideally lasts a lifetime. It is a process, not an end in itself. Learning to read is only the first step. It takes decades to master a particular subject, even longer to reach the cutting edge, that point at which you have read the best of what has been written in your particular field and can see just that little bit further ahead.

I have been in school since before I can remember, and every autumn I am eager to return. This autumn I am teaching a new course on towns in the Middle Ages, for which I have just started reading intensively. I have been thinking about the history of Europe in the Middle Ages for over thirty years, and there are still things I do not know. I could write a syllabus about towns in the Middle Ages tomorrow, but I know that there are things still to learn, Alps upon Alps yet to scale.

I wish that I could find some way to share with you this experience of learning as an ongoing adventure. It saddens me to read the things that people are saying on col…

Make the Middle Ages Dark Again

I miss the good old days. You remember. Back when the only thing people knew about the Middle Ages is that they were Dark and filled with evil barons wresting a living off the back of their serfs, not to mention lecherous clergy imprisoning young maidens so as to rape them and then accuse them of witchcraft.

You remember, right? What it was like when the Middle Ages were Dark? The Roman Catholic Church made slaves of everyone, stripped them of their sense of dignity and independence and made social status a matter not of achievement, but birth. The Church hated science and industry and did everything in its power to keep people in chains. It guarded its authority with the sword and the stake, stifled all innovation, and fed the common people lies.

And why were these Ages so Dark? There were no universities, no towns, only castles with dungeons. Monks huddled in their cells thinking dark thoughts about sin, while Vikings stormed across the countryside, raping and pillaging and capturin…

The Witches of Salemville

One day, back in the Dark Ages – I think it was around 1975 – we kids were shown a movie in Social Studies about the witch trials of colonial New England. There was a scene in which the girls making the accusations against their neighbors started acting as if they were choking. As if on cue, sitting in a darkened room of 200 fourth graders, I threw up.

I saw the movie in full some years later, although I am still not sure what it was. It may have been a production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (1953), perhaps one of the ones made for television, but I have an inkling that it was something different. It doesn’t really matter. What stuck with me was the feeling that I had watching all those young women – they were actresses, after all – pretending to be attacked by some invisible enemy. And having everyone in the room – both on- and off-screen – believe them.
Fast forward to the summer of 2017. You all know what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12. A motley group inclu…

Charlottesville as Tragedy and Trap

This week our Symposium welcomed our first special guest, Young, Black, and Conservative Patty Politics, to help us talk about what happened in Charlottesville, where identitarian politics comes from, how “white nationalism” is unAmerican, and what the Confederate statues mean.

Watch and listen here.

Medieval Studies Too White

The saga continues...

Read here.

The Google Goolag

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.


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 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

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

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 …