What would have been an otherwise unremarkable and unremarked interview on American television has, thanks to the plague physics of the interwebs, come to my attention. I confess I have not actually sat through said interview but I don’t really need to (yes, that’s unfair of me but I have a tiny reserve of ‘care’ and it has prior commitments). The gist is this: An academic wrote a book about the historical Jesus of Nazareth and dutifully made the rounds deemed necessary by his colossal publisher (the new Penguin-House, or Random Penguin which now owns about 25% of the entire publishing world). One of his interviewers was hung up on an apparent contradiction in that a Muslim was writing about a Christian figure. The author, who displayed the patience of a saint (and I am aware of the humour in that), was accused of defending his ‘right’ to write on this topic by arguing from authority. This is a common counter when someone exhibits their credentials as a specialist or because they have some formal qualification in the field. Of course this is one of those times when an argument sounds like a fallacy but isn’t.


It’s also a nice example of how the news is rarely about ‘news’ and tells us more about the economic or political basis of any media source. It is also a case-study in controversy selling things, even when some of the buyers are those most offended by the product. The author’s book came out in mid-July and while it has only 2 reviews on the Canadian Amazon site it has over 200 on the American one and it is already at the #1 spot on several non-fiction bestseller lists. That is never a mark of quality but it is proof of an investment well made by the publisher (and publicist).

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All work and no play makes Midgardarts a DPhil… eventually

Rather than write the usual summary of my work over the last few months, which is rather tedious and unhelpful, I thought it would be better to remind myself what I am currently working on or what I should be working on, when I am not writing little entries for this deliberately obscure blog. Continue reading

Neurotransmitters of the brain unite! All you have to loose is your synapses!

The easiest way to explain the unfortunate lack of content at PBS over the last three months is by way of my usual analogy wherein my brain is represented by a complex and not entierly efficient collection of offices and workshops. Starting around late May, the workers in the cognitive resources branch decided they could no-longer maintain the usual level of productivity—working conditions had deteriorated thanks to a steady increase in exterior noise and stress—and so they took action. There was no wildcat strike but there was a very clear decision to work-to-rule, meaning that they would do what was strictly required of them, as per their various job profiles, but no more. The blog was one of those ‘additional duties, as determined by the office foreman’ and it was left to sit out the period of stress. Otherwise, work progressed as planned with two more conferences since K-zoo, packing of the room for storage over the break, and other tasks no less vital despite their lack of glamour.

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Leeds Stack

As is my habit, born of many birthdays and other gift-related occasions, here is the stack of new books, arranged neatly, from Leeds. All but two of these will have to stay in Oxford when I go back to Canada for what is left of the summer break.

Not as heavy as it looks

Not as heavy as it looks

Of particular interest, because of their improbable availability is the one at the bottom, and the green one in the middle. Paul Watson, the publisher of the Harlaxton proceedings took over as the publisher for the Richard III society and they gave him some of the back-stock from Sutton Publishing (now absorbed into History Press). The Sutton stuff is uncommon and when it does appear it is way out of my price range. This stuff was well within that range.

Also, being a rare example of print-on-demand being a good thing, is the trade edition of Klaassen’s Transformation of Magic which is not otherwise available outside hardback. That one is coming home to live with the other esoteric stuff and, if conditions allow, to get ‘inscribed’ by the author himself. Although I will probably have to help build his cabin to compensate for cheaping out with the trade ed.

And honestly, I will actually write something for the blog in the relatively near future, once I get out from the oppressive… oppressions that I currently labour beneath.