Saturday, April 21, 2018

Psalm 24:1

"The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it" . . . so get off His lawn!


Friday, April 20, 2018

Islam, Islamism, and Radical Islam: Differences?

I had a brief conversation with my old friend Bill Vallicella over the meaning of "radical" in the expression "radical" Islam:

Dear Bill,

I see we're both still struggling (our inner jihad) with what to call 'radical' Islam.

"I am coming to the view that the qualifier 'radical' in 'radical Islam' is redundant: True Islam is radical by its very nature." (Vallicella)

"Islamism is not Islamic extremism; rather, it is radicalism at the root of Islam." (Hodges)

I'm playing with the root meaning of radical, as you know.




Hi Jeff,

You appear to be distinguishing Islam from Islamism. How would you characterize the difference?




Dear Bill,

I contend that Islamism is not a form of extremism because Islamism is not peripheral to Islam. Islamism is at the root because it is the root of Islam. Islamism is usually suppressed because it is so horrible even to Muslims, but when Islam radicalizes, it is true to its root.




Hi Jeff,

So you are saying that Islamism is the essence of Islam, the ineradicable root without which Islam cannot exist?

So there cannot be a moderate, an 'enlightened,' Islam?




Dear Bill,

I wouldn't say that there could be no enlightened Islam - humans are pretty clever at reinterpretation - but Islam doesn't make it easy.

What I'm trying to do with my formulation - "Islamism is not Islamic extremism; rather, it is radicalism at the root of Islam" - is get people to think about the supposed distinction between Islam and Islamism.


And thus do things stand . . .

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Likes and Dislikes of the English Spelling System

"A proverb only looks pro verb."


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sounds Right About Right

Sow Proud of Herself

Proverbial Wisdom:
"As you sow, sow shall you reap."
And sow it shall be . . .


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Observe a Cat Observe a Bird!


Our cat Angi, cat-intent upon his new hobby of cat-birding at the bird-feeding spot we've set up these past two weeks, tries not to startle the two doves that have discovered the unexpected special birdseed gift, while Goya and Scat lurk in the background and thus do not appear in this photograph.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Troy Frantz: Illustrator at Work!

Friends of Troy

Troy Frantz (artist) is illustrating a couple of my stories for children. He explains the photo above as:
a reference photo that I took of my housemates playing the Mom and Dad, who discover a strange, flat, somewhat human-looking thing in their boy's bed.
This story of mine goes strange places, as you'll see relatively soon . . .


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Variant on a Franklinish S(h)ort of Wisdom

Has-Been Franklin

Ben Franklin was his own BF (and his own worst enemy)
Surly to bed
and surly to rise
made for a
Ed Cetera . . .


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Firing from the lip!

I wrote a blogpost back in 2010 suggesting that Eve was being depicted as serpent-like, and that post received this odd comment yesterday from a woman calling herself "Aquarian Ideals" (AI) who took issue with what she thought I'd said:
Yes clearly Eve is the "Hero" though not in Milton's Poem. I am not sure what you actually read to come up with that rather bold assertation. Milton went so far as to roofie Eve when the Arch Angel was bestowing all the wisdom of past and present on Adam because obviously that bitch couldn't be trusted. In fact, from the moment that they "fell" all culpability fell onto Eves shoulders despite being a mutual fault.
I didn't know what the commentator was referring to (serpent = "Hero"?) until I realized she was confusing me with an anonymous commentator who'd said that "everyone knows Eve is a hero." Anyway, AI appears to have a chip on her shoulder about history, for she tells me:
You are supposedly a history/politics buff, bully for you. Me too. I have taken the same plank of classes you have only I went one step further and got my English Degree as well because politics as of late seems to be a fools errand.
I very much doubt that this commentator has "taken the same plank of classes" that I've taken. But just to set the record straight on my specific degrees, I have a BA in British and American literature, an MA in history of science, and a PhD in history proper, but that's not good enough for a person who despite finishing her English degree cannot write a proper subjunctive sentence:
If you were such a History buff, perhaps you knew (sic "would know") that Milton had woman issues, not marrying until his mid to late 30's and when he did he married a teenager. He carried an over idealized idea of marriage so it lasted a whopping six months. Eventually they reconciled after years and years but my points the same, he was an interesting mess of weirdo who thought marriage was the perfect institution until reality slapped him in the face. This reality is rather spelled out into Paridise Lost. He vilifies Eve much like he vilified his wife for years. History is an interesting thing, it's all there for you to find, you don’t need to try to read into long winded over glorified text to get into the inferiority complexes of it all.
I have to say . . . I don't much cotton to haughty advice from someone maybe twenty years my junior, especially if that youngster can't distinguish between what I've written and what a commentator has written. If AI's 'advice' had been less arrogantly proffered, I might have responded here with more courtesy, but I won't let anyone talk down to me.

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Islamism is . . .

Islamism is not Islamic extremism;
rather, it is radicalism at the root of Islam.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Franklinish Sort of Wisdom

Bad Advice-Poem
Bad-Advice Poem

Surly to bed
and surly to rise
make for a

etc . . .


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Body Snatchers Fall on Hard Times: Eggplant Planet!

Body Snatcher Grows One

Body Snatchers have declined so much in trying to produce goose-egg eggplants that they can no  longer grow a pair, not even when they have two models happy to demonstrate how.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Wisedumb Saying Nr. 3.14159 . . .


Don't poke your business onto other people's noses . . . just shake hands on it.


Monday, April 09, 2018

Be even more concise!

Excise "even more"!

Be Concise!


Sunday, April 08, 2018

Be Concise

Be Concise.

And don't repeat yourself! That's not being concise!


Saturday, April 07, 2018

Good Writing Advice: Be Not Verbose

Verbosity: Too Many Verbs?

Never write things down on paper - or on other stuff, like cardboard boxes, for instance, or on rocks or in the sand, or even on computer screens - in a very verbose sort of way that wastes the time of readers, who probably have a lot of better things to do in order to occupy their time, but you, instead, you, rather, you yourself should be extremely concise in all of the written words that you scatter across a page, or that, rather, you scatter across the surfaces of any of the other stuff mentioned above, because a lot of people don't like to take advice, not even from reputable sources, since even the reputable sources, like me (but trust me), can be corrupted or lose focus and forget the issue under consideration, which was (I think) something about the necessity of being ridiculously articulate.


Friday, April 06, 2018

How did the Virgin Islanders . . .

. . . ever have kids? (And I wonder if there's somewhere in the world a Whore Island.)


Thursday, April 05, 2018

A cold day in Hell

Idiomatic Hell: Because Smart Words Hurt

The saying in the heading above is given as an example of an "idiom" - i.e., an expression that is peculiar to itself grammatically or that cannot be understood from the individual meanings of the words, strong evidence that the expression was first uttered by an idiot, hence the term "idiom."


Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Life's Little Dilemmas

"Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?"

This double-barreled query has been attributed to Albert Camus, but no certain citation cites the man.

Anyway, if you are ever confronted with this choice - it's only a dilemma if you're feeling suicidal against your will but really, really hate coffee - go ahead, kill yourself if you just have to . . . but why not have a coffee first?

To go!

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Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Torn Ethnicities

Kaya Genç
Google Images

Kaya Genç , writing "Who Is a Turk? It’s Complicated" (NYT, April 1, 2018), notes that new means of genetic analysis are wreaking havoc with ethnic nationalisms and ideologies of ethnic purity. The results in Turkey are quite interesting, for there has been a:
. . . debunking [of] the imaginary ethnic purity of Turkish nationalism. Indeed, a 2012 study in the journal Annals of Human Genetics found that Turkey’s paternal ancestry was 38 percent European, 35 percent Middle Eastern, 18 percent South Asian and 9 percent Central Asian.
So much for the romantic myth of the Turk storming down on thundering hooves from Central Asia!

Turkey has also recently opened its population register, whose archives go back to Ottoman times, and people are finding many surprising things:
One Turkish nationalist learned that his great-grandmother was of Kurdish origin . . .

A writer friend was surprised to discover her great-grandfather’s name was Isaac . . .

One of my neighbors found out she had European roots and decided to apply for dual citizenship . . .

Many Turks discovered they had Armenian family ties just recently . . .
That part about Armenian ancestry will be very interesting to pick up on. I would, in turn, like to see what a genetic analysis of various European countries would uncover, particularly in such ethnically 'pure' states as Hungary and Poland.


Monday, April 02, 2018

Radiant Snow on Kindle

Radiant Snow on Kindle

My book of poems is now available on Kindle at a lower price than the hard copy, and it has various errors corrected, so this is the one to buy as the least expensive and the most up-to-date!

I'm told that the hard copy has the same corrections, so I've ordered it and will let you know when I receive the text.


Sunday, April 01, 2018

Saved in Her Bedroom?

Sewol Report

Sewol. Sunk. Four years ago. Over 300 lives lost through stupidity and ignorance. This preventable sea-faring tragedy in which so many students died always angers me, especially when I think of the utterly and entirely wrong instructions given, namely, the order that told passengers to remain in their cabins, where they drowned.

As for the attempt to hold the then-President Park Geun-hye responsible for the lives lost, I think that this is entirely wrong-headed and largely the reason that Korea has such tragic accidents again and again, for what is assumed is a Korean top-down approach to decision-making, such that potential rescuers wait to be told what to do by higher-ups who don't even know what is happening.

This was again brought to mind in an assumption made by the reporter Ser Moja in the opening line of her report in a recent edition of the Korea Joongang Daily (March 29, 2018). Ser's generally a good reporter, but the implication that Park Geun-hye could have saved any lives is absurd. This report had another failing in this same line, a sentence construction that makes the report sound even more absurd (and that should have been caught by an editor, even if just a copy-editor):
On the day of the sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014, then-President Park Geun-hye spent crucial early hours when people could have been saved in her bedroom.
I'm curious as to how any Sewol victims could have been saved in Park's bedroom. Nevertheless, miracles do happen, and perhaps the headline was right in saying "Seven-hour mystery about Park, Sewol solved," for mysteries do often imply some metaphysique!

But not here, not this time . . .


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Cliché: The Height of Rhetoric

"All Americans are very open"-eyed . . . except for those who aren't American eyes-ed.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Wise Words?

Some months back, I coined the word "Proverbose" and defined it as "Wordiness: many more with much more less."

And this has led my mind to thoughts of "Concisenice," defined as "Wordlessness: much more fewer with fewer many more."

Works for me, but what about you?


Thursday, March 29, 2018

A French Aphorism in English

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand

As Charles Maurice de Talleyrand famously said once:
A diplomat who says "yes" means "maybe," a diplomat who says "maybe" means "no," and a diplomat who says "no" is not a diplomat.
Fair enough, but I would have rendered the English version as slightly different:
A diplomat who says "yes" means "maybe," a diplomat who says "maybe" means "no," and a diplomat who says "no" is no diplomat.
This small shortening wouldn't trouble anyone, now, would it? Brevity, after all is the sole art of wit.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Yang Sung-tae on Korea's Constitution

Yang Seung-tae and I

My old friend Yang Seung-tae, writing "The Constitution deserves better" (JungAng Daily, March 26, 2018), nods in agreement that "Constitutional revision is definitely necessary," and he explains why:
As the situation changes, the Constitution, which defines the state's system and governing methods, needs to be updated to reflect those changes.
But he is skeptical that this revision is being undertaken with the proper seriousness:
Korean politics are stuck in a strange place. Worse than the ridiculous situation is the fact that not many people understand how absurd it is. The proposal for the constitutional amendment, for example, has no arguments backing it up.
He affirms that arguments could be made but aren't being made, so he expresses his view as follows:
I suspect that this constitutional amendment is another attempt to serve the liberal camp's vested interests.
I lack the knowledge to comment on this, so I leave to interested readers a link to take them to the article, where they can apply their own critical skills.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Mustafa Akyol: Islamism Alienating Muslims

Liberal reformist Muslim leader Mustafa Akyol, commenting in an NYT column  ("Islamism is driving Muslims to convert," March 26, 2018), has noticed that Islamists are inadvertently driving Muslims out of Islam, and he offers for our consideration the case of Iran:
The antigovernment protests that erupted in Iran in the last days of 2017 showed that millions of Iranians are now disillusioned with the Islamic Republic. Moreover, there are signs that quite a few Iranians are now also disenchanted with Islam itself. Often silently and secretly, they are abandoning their faith. Some opt for other faiths, often Christianity.
This is happening not only in Iran, as Akyol points out:
This trend is certainly not limited to Iran. Authoritarianism, violence, bigotry and patriarchy in the name of Islam are alienating people in almost every Muslim-majority nation.
And it is happening nor only at the state level, but also at the communal, even family level:
Authoritarianism at the communal level is also similarly self-defeating, as observed by Simon Cottee, a British scholar who interviewed dozens of ex-Muslims for his book, "The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam." The process of abandoning Islam accelerated in most cases . . . when young Muslims who had begun questioning religion faced rigid reactions from their families. "The narrow-mindedness they encountered, especially on privately airing doubts to those they trusted . . . just served to intensify their doubts."
Why is contemporary Islam so problematic? Look to Islam's past:
The core problem is that traditional Islamic jurisprudence, and the religious culture it produced, were formed when society was patriarchal, hierarchical and communitarian. Liberal values like free speech, open debate and individual freedom were much more limited. Hence Muslim jurists saw no problem in "protecting the religion" by executing apostates and blasphemers, and by enforcing religious observance. Some of them, like Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, whose ninth-century teachings were a precursor of modern-day Wahhabism - also championed blind faith, a notion of believing "without asking how."
This sort of Islam cannot long endure in the age of modernity:
Modern society, however, is a very different place. People are more individualistic and questioning, and have much more access to diverse views [of which Islamists keep themselves intentionally ignorant] . . . . Questions cannot be answered by platitudes, and ideas cannot be shut down by crude dictates. And those [Islamists] who insist in doing so will only push more people away from the faith . . . [that Islamists] claim to serve.
Akyol warns that continued Islamist domination of Islam will lead to mass secularization. If he's correct, then Islamism faces a dilemma: give up on political power and lose out to liberal Islam or press harder for political control and lose out to a non-Islamic future.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Estranged Sayings Nr. 22

"A nap-plea day keeps the doc tora way."
The word tora (虎) means "tiger" in Japanese, but in this case [of Pearl Harbor, it] is an abbreviated radio codeword, an acronym for totsugeki raigeki (突撃雷撃), literally meaning "lightning attack," indicating . . . that the objective of complete surprise had been achieved. (See Keith Higa, Quora)
But what does "keeps the doc tiger way" mean? Perhaps it means to keep the doc on the way toward lightning attacks . . . like Mr. Flintstone in his hammock.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

An Interesting NYT Article On Race

According to Harvard genetics professor David Reich, despite the current orthodoxy that race is only a social construct, "it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among 'races."' Oddly enough, Reich accepts the view that race is a social construct. He explains as follows:
A classic example often cited is the inconsistent definition of "black." In the United States, historically, a person is "black" if he has any sub-Saharan African ancestry; in Brazil, a person is not "black" if he is known to have any European ancestry. If "black" refers to different people in different contexts, how can there be any genetic basis to it?
That's Reich on race as a social construct, but he otherwise believes that race is real, namely that the various races are human populations that are different enough from each other to constitute races. I'm sure that some of my readers understand all this better than I do. Such readers are invited to read the article - "How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of 'Race'" (NYT, March 23) - and try to understand the logic (that race is a construct and a real thing), then come back and explain it to me.


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Query: What does "Easter" mean?

Being a well-known expert in religions and grammar, I often get this sort of question. On this particular issue, we must recognize that "Easter" is a comparative form. Here are the three forms:

Positive Form: East

Comparative Form: Easter (more East)

Superlative Form: Eastest (most East)

In other words, a place could be East of Eden, another place could be Easter (more East) of Eden, and yet another place could be Eastest (most East) of Eden.


Friday, March 23, 2018

"You are what you cheat."

If you cheat on your grapefruit diet, your eyes will turn into grapefruit halves, and you will gradually become a preying mantis and gorge yourself on insect parts no matter how much you may pray not to.

But how in the world does that illustrate becoming what you eat, you say?

Hey, I don't make these proverbs up. I just quote 'em. Your job is to fix the meaning!


Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Otherized Donald

Otherizing The Donald As An Other

Free speech, free expression? These words are free . . . so far. But hate speech, that's gonna cost yuh. What is "hate speech" yew ask? Nasty talk 'bout other folks. Otherizing folks who're already otherized. Hyperotherizing! Like The Donald. Look how 'others' look at The Donald. He's the othermost otherized illegal alien member of the Green Party.