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Saturday, January 30, 2010

All things bright and beautiful?

Whilst reading this recent piece in the Guardian by John Milbank and Philip Blond, and brought to our attention by Roland Boer, I was, for some reason, reminded of that famous hymn, All Things Bright and Beautiful. Perhaps that verse usually passed over will make a comeback?
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

Refrain

[Most hymnals [would once] omit the following verse-]

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
He made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Real men don’t email frequently: Stephan Huller and a new twist on blogging and gender from a (relatively) creative sexual imagination

There has been a weird blog dispute over Stephan Huller not taking down a private email sent by Maurice Casey. Stephan has gone on the rampage since being asked by Maurice’s PhD student Stephanie Fisher to remove the comments. The back story is covered very well by Joel Watts and by Dilettante Hobby Horse. Stephan’s comments I refer to below are from the following links (though some do go missing so these links could be out-of-date at anytime):

http://stephanhuller.blogspot.com/2010/01/just-why-am-i-in-this-business-again.html

http://stephanhuller.blogspot.com/2010/01/and-now-for-something-completely.html

http://stephanhuller.blogspot.com/2010/01/professor-casey-was-that-really-you.html

There is more going on on Joel Watts' blog (comments section) and some very weird comments on Mike Bird's blog (NOT by Mike I hasten to add - I suspect he hasn't noticed yet because it is on an old blogpost which Stephan has been commenting on).

A lot of what is said focuses on telling the truth and I think Stephan might just be reading a little too much into things and a very interesting kind of reading between the lines at that. That’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s ease our way in gently. Here’s one of Stephan’s milder comments:
I also noticed that she goes on people's blogs anonymously

Am I missing something here? How does Stephan know if she is acting, erm, anonymously? As far as I know Steph's comments have all been under her own name. Here is part of Stephan’s defence:
I have been working as part of a team developing a documentary on the controversy surrounding the Mar Saba document. Members of our team sent out emails to prominent scholars asking them to tell us what they thought of Roger Viklund's article on Stephen Carlson's shoddy methodology. They were explicitly told that their comments were 'on the record' - i.e. that they would be published in some form as part of our efforts to see what the opinion of scholarship is both of Viklund's analysis and the Mar Saba document itself. On the team there is myself, Charley Richardson and one other person.

I have been posting these comments at my blog. I figure the email said they would be on the record. We are working as a team. Why not give people a sample of some of the comments we thought were part of the public record.

I got the email from Charley Richardson too and it is a little vaguer than what Stephan says but he’s more or less right on the issue of public record. But...Maurice Casey very clearly said he didn’t want to be part of the team so it seems a reasonable request to ask for Stephan to remove the comments (it seems Charley Richardson had no problem doing so). To be honest it is difficult to see why Stephan has got all angry about this: it is hardly a big ask. ‘I wonder if any of these comments were actually from Casey, even the original email,’ asks Stephan. Yes they were. He told me, hence I'm writing all this, in addition to Maurice not being a reader of blogs.

Stephan complains,
In today's email we see 'Professor Casey' say a rambling non-sequitur (which I can't possibly understand):
some busy professors do not find it [the Mar Saba document] significant enough to discuss. I do, but that’s a little bit in the next book, not as big a bit as Price, but knowledge could in my view advance a lot more quickly if people like that did not hold it up. Why have you no interest in telling the truth?
...Today after I wasn't interested in hearing from his live-in girlfriend, Casey suddenly decides he really is interested in Mar Saba document and compares himself to Robert Price.

I'm going to suggest that Casey *isn’t* comparing himself to Price and that he is saying that the section on Price in Casey’s next book is bigger than the section on Mar Saba...? We will come to the girlfriend issue soon.

Stephan dropped one of his bombshells which is the basis of his further polemic:
I have an expose on what it takes to ahead in scholarship. It would make me feel better about my plight as an ignored scholar. It would temporarily allow me to get revenge for all the inequities and injustices I see is at work in the field...
Why am I doing this? Is it because I am starting to lose my ideals? Yeah, maybe that it. There might have been a time once upon a time when I thought that I could change the world. Now I am inclined to believe that the whole world is a cesspool and maybe it was meant to be a cesspool from the very beginning, from the highest authority in the universe...
...Thank you Professor X for convincing me that it is all one big cesspool - but a cesspool in which people like you can pontificate about what reprobates people like me are for not being willing to play the game - playing the game, in which you sit on top of the hill as some deified God I might add.

This Professor X (shouldn’t that be Professor XXX? See below) sounds interesting. I’d quite like to see the evidence to back up the claim ‘...which people like you can pontificate about what reprobates people like me are for not being willing to play the game - playing the game, in which you sit on top of the hill as some deified God I might add...’

But that’s the easy bit...Stephan got a little giddy when thinking about all things sexual. It is based on this claim made by Stephan:
Stephanie Fisher is Maurice Casey's live-in girlfriend who regularly sits on his computer to correspond with people...

She isn’t his live-in girlfriend (or live-out). I know Steph helped Maurice when he was very ill and it is no surprise they are very good friends. I know both of them and have met with them in Nottingham on several occasions. I can also exclusively reveal that she uses her own computer. Stephan also writes the following:
... Well after that incident with that unnamed professor, his girlfriend and their tendency to expose the details of their personal life on my blog...

Hmmm, but didn’t Stephan also invent details of personal life? Well yes...and here is another interesting take on the whole episode (with reference made to ‘Professor X’):
But you know what, the words in his email that keep ringing in my ears are his accusation against my integrity as a scholar - 'Why have you no interest in telling the truth?'
Yeah, that's right. I have no interest in the truth. You are the truth teller, is that it? Why then do you have such issues with me telling the truth and keeping up those posts and those comments?
If I were really interested in the truth I wouldn't ask you for your opinion on all of this. I would instead practice learning how to give fellatio to some other old fuck who made a name for himself by writing some important paper twenty years ago... Yeah, that's right. If I wanted to take part in your bullshit world I would find me an old professor whose dreams and fantasies I could fulfill - like the way Carlson 'proved' his master's suspicions about the falseness of the Mar Saba document. I'd just learn to seek out another old professor and 'work together for a while,' until I became 'a wonderful personal friend' to him or her and provided services that he or she could get on a vacation to the Third World for the price of a new pair of shoes.

Now, those are some interesting suggestions to make in the context of telling the truth. I know I’m going to regret this, but, ahh, how does Stephan find out his details? I’m really going to regret mentioning this one, but does Stephan’s reasoning apply to all PhD students of the person he calls ‘Professor X’ who may have become personal friends and stayed at his house...?

This is good too:
At one point I naively asked him what his relationship with Stephanie was. Was she his daughter? ...What is so odd about this whole situation is that I offered to call Professor Casey at his home and actually went so far as to email 'him' my phone number so 'he' could contact me... If the real Professor Casey really wants me to take these down please call me. I sent an email with my phone number. If you can't afford the long distance send me your phone number and I will call you.

Who wouldn’t be straight on the phone to a stranger who has asked if they have daughter, invent them a girlfriend, talks about someone called Professor X and a bit of oral sex, not to mention conspiracy theories about ancient religion?

Perhaps the best bit was Stephan’s handling of gender issues, discussed in more detail on Dilettante Hobby Horse. Make of this what you will:
Do men really take exception to 'rudeness'? That's something women concern themselves with. It's unmanly to complain about another man being 'rude' to you.
The deluge of emails seemed un-manly. I told him I would take down the comments. There was nothing embarrassing about these comments. Why was I getting messages almost every five minutes at one point - very reminiscent of a hysterical woman...
Your girlfriend is bad news.

To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman Psalm 6:24

Erm...er...um... eh?!! Then I think of Stephan’s invention of personal lives... Stephan asks, ‘I would be happy to hear any theories from anyone out there.’ Ok. Here’s one. I don’t like the frequent emailing inevitable in my job but I email all the time. So I’m wondering – assuming the Hullerite take on gender for one moment – if my dislike stems from being de-manly-ised? But then maybe without realising I’m...turning...into...a...hysterical...woman...

Right, enough rambling. Let’s boil it down to these questions:

Did Stephan invent the issue of the girlfriend relationship (and the implication of a sexual relationship) or does Stephan have access to information no one else does?

Did Professor X really ‘pontificate about what reprobates people like me are for not being willing to play the game’ (and recalling what Huller meant by ‘playing the game’)?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Jim West's Blog - An Obituary

The whole episode of the demise of Jim West's blog took me a little by surprise. When the link didn't work I wondered what was going on and I found out he was was bored with blogging, as he has repeated in different contexts. After that I found out about the pretty furious debate between Jim and John Loftus. I was a little surprised by that one because I always assumed Jim's posts on issues of atheism and atheist bloggers were, at least in part, jokey. I still think that is the case, though I admit some of us (e.g. me) have an unfortunate tendency to read irony into everything.

The internet has made the recent history of biblical scholarship a little weird, if not more entertaining. Who would have thought all the controversies, from Golb to Loftus, from the many Jeffrey Gibsons to NT Wrong, were possible fifteen years ago? But the internet and blogging, despite my own reservations, are having some impact on scholarship and Jim West has arguably been the most important figure in this context. And, as his blog was so distinctive, it meant that his postings were (not 'are' because they don't seem to be available) particularly helpful for ideological analysis of blogging, particularly as, intentionally or not, his blog brought out the perspectives of his opponents clearly when they reacted against him.

As any regular reader of his blog and his involvement on e-lists (he runs Biblical Studies and has managed to keep it going while others have faded) will know, Jim (like others) has given the very latest updates on the latest controversies involving biblical studies in the media. However, I think he has had a more important influence. His blog was, famously (in biblical studies terms), the most popular of all the biblioblogs and because of this he was able to promote some of the more interesting and creative scholarship (including, I am reliably informed, book sales of one book rocketing up [in biblical studies terms] after Jim reviewed it), some of which probably would not have gained a wider hearing otherwise. Few other bloggers had that influence. And when some of the issues facing academic departments became particularly problematic, Jim West's blog was the one which was able to muster massive amounts of support and attracted outside interest in the discipline.

That may sound like praise and obviously it is. But even some, if not all, of his enemies would have to admit that he has been an influential figure in biblical studies and in the ways I have suggested, would they not?

But wipe those tears from your eyes because not only does biblical studies have an interest in resurrection (though Jim is standing by his decision), here is the best quotation in all of the controversy: 'Jim West literally pissed me off' (John Loftus)