Thursday, December 31, 2009
Izgad 2009: The Highlights
We are finishing off the third complete year of Izgad. This year saw two hundred posts (counting this one). There were over eighteen thousand unique visits. (This was due, in large part, to one particular post.) I know that is not a lot compared to some other sites, but it marks a major step forward for me. To my loyal readers, your comments are appreciated particularly when you disagree with me. In case you missed it, here are some of the highlights.
I taught two quarters of History 112, Modern European History, for Ohio State. This gave cause for numerous discourses about the nature of history and the historical method. There was my presentation on Wikipedia and why it is not a legitimate source. This would later lead to a letter published in the Columbus Dispatch. In my classes I did not hold back from issues like slavery, absolutism and the denial of equal rights to women even at the risk of going against politically correct orthodoxy. I am now teaching at the Hebrew Academy where I have had the opportunity to defend Martin Luther.
I posted my notes of a presentation given by noted atheist biologist P. Z. Myers. This turned out to be my must successful post to date in terms of hits and comments when Myers kindly put up a link. This led to several fruitful exchanges with readers of Myers' Pharyngula, who proved to be quite respectful.
My fantasy series, Asael, is beginning to take shape. For those of you who have not been following the story there are two narratives about two different Asaels. Asael bar Serariah lives in a monastery library and is studying for the priesthood while trying to come to terms with a series of dreams involving a creature named Vorn and the legacy of his grandfather General Serariah Dolstoy. Decades earlier, Asael's uncle, Asael Dolstoy, has found himself taking a front seat to a game of scacordus and history as his father, Professor Serariah Dolstoy, takes his first steps to becoming the future legend. Both Asaels, in their own ways, must face their world's equivalent of the Enlightenment. So polish your musket, sharpen your bayonet and your Talmudic skills for things are about to get really interesting (and violent). Already there is one well toasted corpse left by an alter of a religious sanctuary, courtesy of an enforcer angel with a flaming sword.
The battle is never finished when you fighting neurotypical bigots. Unfortunately I also had to confront zealots from my own side. My problem is that when I talk about rights and liberty I actually mean very specific things. These are not catch phrases that you can slap on to whatever cause you wish to support at the moment. Despite my best intentions, I do seem to manage to get myself into trouble.
There were book reviews and discussions on both works of fiction and non-fiction. Christine Garwood took on flat earthers and creationists to boot. Frank Schaeffer was patient with God. (I would later lose patience with Schaeffer.) Jesus became a good Aryan Nazi. Europe lost its military culture. Harry Potter became a historical source. Did Charles Dickens have a mind controlling beetle up his skull?
In the world of film, the Book of Esther managed to be butchered despite having some of the best talent Lord of the Rings had to offer. Transformer robots wiped Israel off the map. My favorite neighborhood vampires are starting to prove sparkly and dull, but I still love them and will defend them from the vampires of my past. Avatar might not be as liberal as many of its supporters and detractors believe.
Traveling to the very bowels of the Haredi world yielded numerous interesting conversations and tell us much about what is really going on in that world. I will not back down from exposing the followers of the late Rabbi Avigdor Miller and their apologists. You can blame me if Hershey Park gets banned. On this blog we engaged in some friendly clashes with Bray of the Fundie over articles of faith and moral principles. At least Bray is not Authentic Judaism.
The summer trip to England yielded numerous adventures and mishaps. From my headquarters next door to Animal Farm, I hung out at Oxford and pursued acts of pilgrimage to shrines of C. S. Lewis, including a pint at his favorite pub. Burning heretics at the stake can be a worthwhile activity as long as it is done in a tolerant and ecumenical fashion. The Chabad couple in Oxford was really nice. I am not sure though if they would want me back anytime soon.
I presented papers at three different conferences. That brings my total of conference presentations up to three. At Purdue I presented on David Reubeni and his use of violence. At Leeds I presented on Jewish attacks on philosophy in fifteenth century Spain. Finally at West Georgia I presented on Orson Scott Card and the historical method.
My politics are a blend of my rationalist theism and my Libertarianism, which gives me the opportunity to make all sorts of fun arguments. Children should be given political and religious labels. People should be allowed to practice medicine without a license. We should seriously consider giving children the right to vote (and drafting them into the military).
See you all in 2010.