Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mike Weiss Gallery Presents Another Sh*t Show by Will Kurtz

"Linda the Eccentric Park Slope Dog-Walker"
Another Sh*t Show
Will Kurtz

I've previously blogged on the art of Will Kurtz, a gifted artist who uses "newspaper, glue, wire and wood" to construct his sculptures, this time -- as you can plainly see -- of dogs, plus an eccentric dog-walker.

As last time, Kurtz's artworks are to be seen at Mike Weiss Gallery till April 27, 2013:
Mike Weiss Gallery
520 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011
Tel: 212-691-6899
Hours: Tues-Sat 10am to 6pm
Here's the description of the exhibition provided in the email circular sent to me by the gallery:
Mike Weiss Gallery is pleased to present Another Sh*t Show, the second solo exhibition by Brooklyn-based artist Will Kurtz. Using the empty gallery as a site on which to stage operatic, all-encompassing mise-en-scene, Kurtz makes an ambitious, multi-part figure installation that throws the facade off human nature -- albeit in canine terms. Constructed of unlikely materials such as newspaper, glue, wire and wood, more than 20 dogs of every breed, size and color, strain and cavort off the leash of a single human handler, each rendered more expressively than the next.
I've always liked that manner of expressing a superlative by means of a paradoxical comparative! When I was living in Germany, the man I bought newspapers from once described the beauty of five sisters by saying that each one was more beautiful than the others.

Anyway, if -- like me -- you can't visit this uncanny valley of canines in person, then go there virtually, for you'll see not only more dogs but also more people, each looking more real than the real thing . . . if you have a bit of imaginative sympathy.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Halal Easter Bunnies?

Halal refers to food that is considered "pure" by Islamic standards, so when I first heard about halal Easter bunnies, I figured somebody was pulling my leg . . . off. I checked the internet and found this image at a site with the humorous name "Sheik Yer'Mami," but the image is obviously digitally altered, so I was about to conclude that this all a joke -- except that I noticed other sites with similar assertions, minus the image, however. I therefore went to the source, Cadbury, and discovered that these "Dairy Milk" Easter Bunnies are halal:
Seasonal (Easter and Christmas)
Cadbury Dairy Milk Seasonal and Novelty products
Okay, this is kind of funny, but what's the big deal, I wondered. Well, Sydney Morning Herald columnist Paul Sheehan is suspicious:
Cadbury will sell a mountain of chocolates this Easter, as it does every Easter. It has been careful to make sure that its products are certified as halal, even though it is not necessary. Hundreds of companies in Australia do the same. Halal certification has become a big business.
A big business is one that involves a lot of money, so the Muslim authorities who certify halal products must be doing well. My guess is that Cadbury simply wants all of its chocolate products certified to ensure that its products will sell in the Muslim world, which is an enormous market even if no pious Muslim is interested in purchasing Easter bunnies, so I can't fault Cadbury for considering its business interests.

But Sheehan reports that some people think more is at stake, so take a look at his report . . .

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Robert Frost: Scores, Scours, or Scorns?

Robert Frost

On the Milton List, one of the scholar's posted a poem by Robert Frost that seems to be in dialogue with Milton's epic poem:
Robert Frost


Mountain Interval (1920)

The Cow in Apple Time

Something inspires the only cow of late
To make no more of a wall than an open gate,
And think no more of wall-builders than fools.
Her face is flecked with pomace and she drools
A cider syrup. Having tasted fruit,
She scores a pasture withering to the root.
She runs from tree to tree where lie and sweeten
The windfalls spiked with stubble and worm-eaten.
She leaves them bitten when she has to fly.
She bellows on a knoll against the sky.
Her udder shrivels and the milk goes dry.
It's the first temptation in the Garden all over again . . . sort of, though the cow is self-tempted, self-deceived. But what interested me was the word "scores" in line six. How am I to read that? As the cow cutting trails through the pasture? Or is is a variant on "scours," with the cow perhaps rather vigorously freeing the field of its windfallen apples? Or is "scorns" meant, which seems more likely, the liberated cow turning its nose up at the old, dry grass in favor of fermented apples?

A Google search for "She scores a pasture withering to the root" turns up 660 items. For "She scours a pasture withering to the root," none (so that's out). For "She scorns a pasture withering to the root," 14,700 (looks like a winner). By the numbers and logic, "scorns" is favored, but . . .

Any Frost experts out there who can certify this?

UPDATE: Sometimes, answers arrive quickly. Michael Gillum tells me that his "1969 edition has 'scorns,'" and he cites Poetry of Robert Frost (ed. Lathem), adding: "The cow scorns the pasture because it is withered (apple time is October). She likes the rotting apples because they are sweet, calorie-rich, and literally intoxicating."

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Amusing Passage Across a Sea of Words . . .

Dr. H. Albertus Boli, LL.D.
Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine

I'm still reading and enjoying the pseudonymous Dr. Boli's novel experiment in penning a novel -- it's Boli's first, therefore new -- and as I was reading The Crimes of Galahad on the subway yesterday afternoon, I had to laugh aloud upon encountering the following passage, on page 304, in which the wicked hero of Boli's tale, Galahad, attempts to compose a speech asking a father for the hand of the father's very rich daughter:
My first attempt cost me half an hour of staring at a blank sheet, until at last I was able to bring myself to write something:

"Sir: It behooves every young man to consider carefully how-------------

That was as far as I got before I tossed the sheet aside. What a perfectly ridiculous way to begin. I made it sound as though I were applying for a position in his firm. And what sort of word was "behooves" anyway? Could it possibly even be English? The more I turned it over in my mind, the more absurd it sounded. Behooves, behooves, behooves, behooves, behooves. Horses and cattle are among the behooved animals. Obviously I was very tired, but I would not rest until the thing was done . . .
My fit of laughter was long and loud enough to attract and sustain the interest of several Koreans but not so long and loud as to warrant having me locked up for the safety of society, so I was allowed to travel home unhindered.

Which is good, else I shouldn't be writing these words now . . .

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Virginia Woolf and the Eve of Mankind . . .

Virginia Woolf

I've borrowed from the Milton Reading Room the following lines from Book 4 in which Eve awakens to discover two skies:
That day I oft remember, when from sleep
I first awak't, and found my self repos'd [ 450 ]
Under a shade of flours, much wondring where
And what I was, whence thither brought, and how.
Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound
Of waters issu'd from a Cave and spread
Into a liquid Plain, then stood unmov'd [ 455 ]
Pure as th' expanse of Heav'n; I thither went
With unexperienc't thought, and laid me downe
On the green bank, to look into the cleer
Smooth Lake, that to me seemd another Skie.
As I bent down to look, just opposite, [ 460 ]
A Shape within the watry gleam appeard
Bending to look on me, I started back,
It started back, but pleas'd I soon returnd,
Pleas'd it returnd as soon with answering looks
Of sympathie and love; there I had fixt [ 465 ]
Mine eyes till now, and pin'd with vain desire,
Had not a voice thus warnd me, What thou seest,
What there thou seest fair Creature is thy self,
With thee it came and goes: but follow me,
And I will bring thee where no shadow staies [ 470 ]
Thy coming, and thy soft imbraces, hee
Whose image thou art, him thou shalt enjoy
Inseparablie thine, to him shalt beare
Multitudes like thy self, and thence be call'd
Mother of human Race: what could I doe, [ 475 ]
But follow strait, invisibly thus led?
Till I espi'd thee, fair indeed and tall,
Under a Platan, yet methought less faire,
Less winning soft, less amiablie milde,
Then that smooth watry image; back I turnd, [ 480 ]
Thou following cryd'st aloud, Return faire Eve,
Whom fli'st thou? whom thou fli'st, of him thou art,
His flesh, his bone; to give thee being I lent
Out of my side to thee, neerest my heart
Substantial Life, to have thee by my side [ 485 ]
Henceforth an individual solace dear;
Part of my Soul I seek thee, and thee claim
My other half: with that thy gentle hand
Seisd mine, I yielded, and from that time see
How beauty is excelld by manly grace [ 490 ]
And wisdom, which alone is truly fair.
The Milton List was discussing this passage, in which Milton offers Adam as an object of adoration for Eve, and one scholar pointed out that Virginia Woolf alludes to this passage in her essay "A Room of One's Own":
My aunt, Mary Beton, I must tell you, died by a fall from her horse when she was riding out to take the air in Bombay. The news of my legacy reached me one night . . . . A solicitor's letter fell into the post-box and when I opened it I found that she had left me five hundred pounds a year for ever. (page 45)

Indeed my aunt's legacy unveiled the sky to me, and substituted for the large and imposing figure of a gentleman, which Milton recommended for my perpetual adoration, a view of the open sky. (page 48)
In other words, instead of a husband to support her, she could rely on her aunt's money and substitute this guy -- I mean the sky! -- for a gentleman she'd have had to marry if she'd had no money.

I wonder if Woolf noticed the pun . . . even perhaps intended it?

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Granieri on the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the Power of Individuals, and the Unpredictability of History

Ronald J. Granieri

Professor Ronald J. Granieri, a historian of modern Germany, has written a timely article for those of us living in South Korea during these unstable, unsettling times, "The Fall of the Berlin Wall, the Power of Individuals, and the Unpredictability of History" (E-Notes, FPRI, March 2013). Here's how he opens his paper:
German unification was one of the most dramatic developments in contemporary history, as well as one of the most unexpected. After decades during which the press and public measured political wisdom according to how well leaders managed the apparently permanent realities of German and European division, leaders in 1989 had to improvise responses to the literal collapse of the most concrete of those realities in Berlin. As much as German politicians had claimed for years to be hoping for this day, none had actual plans ready. Into this potentially dangerous vacuum stepped a most unlikely improviser. Helmut Kohl was a reasonably successful party leader of enormous bulk and moderate political gifts, generally underestimated even by his political allies and known neither for creativity nor dynamism. To the surprise of all, he proved remarkably adept at managing the international and domestic complications of 1989. Within thirteen months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, he rode successful reunification negotiations to a landslide victory in the first all-German democratic elections since 1932. Even if many of his decisions during those months can be (and have been) questioned, his place in history is assured.
And here's Granieri's main point:
Kohl's story provides but one of many crucial insights into how the story of German reunification displays both the limits of realism and the unpredictability of history. That unpredictability reminds us of the role that individuals can still play in the modern world, even in the face of enormous complexity. For it was the combined actions of individuals, neither beginning nor ending with Kohl, who changed the world in 1989, and all students of international affairs can profit from reexamining that dramatic story.
The combined actions, yes, but Granieri makes clear in the paragraphs that follow these opening ones that a leader other than Kohl might have made a misstep. I remember those days, for I was living in Germany at the time. Kohl read the timepiece of history correctly, unlike many German politicians, and took bold steps that were possible for two reasons: 1) people trusted him because 2) they thought he wasn't smart enough to be crafty. But like Reagan, Kohl was smarter than people gave him credit for, though he was fairly honest for a politician, so people were half right, but for the wrong reason.

Why is this article timely? Because it chastens us from making bold predictions about what might happen up North, or about who might step into the breach of history here in the South during a time of crisis . . .

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Congratulations to Yuko Nii

Artist and Philanthropist Yuko Nii (Left Center)
Pratt Institute President Tom Schutte (Right Center)
Artist and Curator Terrance Lindall (Left)

Ms. Yuko Nii, who has a Master's in Fine Arts (1968) from the Pratt Institute, was recently awarded a 2013 Pratt Institute Alumni Achievement Award for Community Commitment due to her work at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center (WAH Center), as the Pratt website explains:
In late 1996 Nii purchased the Kings County Savings Bank building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (a New York City landmark) as the home for a not-for-profit Williamsburg Art and Historical Center (WAH Center). The WAH Center serves as a multicultural art center that aims to bridge local, national, and international artists, emerging as well as established artists of all disciplines to create a more peaceful and integrated world.

The WAH Center has produced over 200 fine art exhibitions with more than 3,000 artist participants, and over 150 performance programs with more than 1000 performers.
I learned of Ms. Nii's honor from Terrance Lindall a couple of days ago and obtained clearance to blog about the award and show Terrance's photographs. Here, for instance, is a photo from the University Club in Manhattan, where the award was presented:

Terrance writes of the location and the event:
Today at a luncheon at the prestigious University Club in Manhattan, Yuko was presented with the Pratt Alumni Achievement Award along with five other outstanding individuals. Pratt is perhaps the country's foremost school of architecture and design. The club has hosted US presidents, and dignitaries from around the world. Honorees are those who, after graduation, have transformed or benefited the world in some significant way.
Terrance refers to the library above as "one of the great libraries of the world." Here's a photo of some of those assembled:

Of this photograph, Terrance notes:
Yes, looking at you on the left is our friend and master surrealist Bienvenido Bones Banez.
Good to see Bien there, looking handsome in his suit and tie. Terrance stands in the background, also well dressed. But if you look back up at Yuko, you'll see that her style outshines the two of them. Speaking of Terrance and Yuko, here they are -- or were -- outside:

We here take leave of the two, a nice-looking pair, each with excellent taste in clothes, as one might expect of artists, and an aesthetic sphere I've come to take more seriously over the past few years.

And lastly, full disclosure (as journalists say), Yuko Nii founded the WAH Center, which sponsors the Williamsburg Circle of International Arts and Letters, which published my novella, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer (preview here, purchase here).

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Vautour-Hodges Theorem: Nobel Prize-Worthy Formula Nearly Formulated!

Over at the Marmot's Hole is a thread discussing the relative friendliness of nations. I wasn't planning to participate in that discussion, but the cogs of my mental processes were jolted into motion through a query by Douglas Vautour:
DV: I would like to know what the scientific unit of measurement for 'friendliness' is.

HJH: The objective scientific unit for measuring "Apparent Friendliness" is "one smile," but the number of smiles in a particular year must be divided by the total quantity of a country's "Nationalism" for an adjusted measure of "Real Friendliness."

DV: Put that into an oversimplified mathematical-looking formula, and we'll get our PhDs for sure. We can call it the Vautour-Hodges Theorem. We'll make tens!

HJH: Sounds good to me! If you'll merely quantify "Nationalism," we'll be in the running for a Nobel prize!

DV: N(personal)=(# of times you can sing the national anthem in a metric hour)*(# of immigrants you've had deported in the previous 12 months+1), reported in units of renditions x people/hour, commonly known as an 'arizona'. True Fun Fact!: You have to have at least 560 ari to become a Minute Man. The more you know, huh?

HJH: Now, we're making progress. I concede your mathematical capacity exceeds my own. I see what you mean in your comment, but I have a question or two. Why the "12 months+1" rather than just "12 months"? That's my substantive query. What operation does the asterisk stand for? Multiplication? That's my procedural query. Yours in Nobelity!

DV: If you've never deported anyone, you'll get a score of 0, no matter how many times you can sing the national anthem in an hour, if you don't have the plus 1. and * is multiplication. Finally, my degree comes in handy.

HJH: Excellent! Now, since you're the far better mathematician, you may have the honor of putting the entire expression into a mathematical formula expressing "Real Friendliness"!

DV: I think I'm going to need government funding to pursue this further. 100,000 should do nicely.

HJH: Good idea, but since this is joint research, we'll need more like 1,000,000 . . . each. Travel expenses and photocopying, that sort of thing . . .
The Vautour-Hodges Theorem expressing "Real Friendliness" as a number is merely two million US currency-units distant from the moment that grant is granted! Nobel Prize, here we come!

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sample Research Paper Proposal


I'm teaching a course on Academic English, and we're currently working on research paper proposals, which need to include a number of things: working title, overview of the topic, statement of purpose, hypothesis, methodology, anticipated problems, and a preliminary bibliography. I needed a simple one for my students, but couldn't find one, so I made a 'fake' proposal and used a new, genuine product in the cosmetics market: Fakeup!
Fakeup: The Marketing of Artificiality
Any new cosmetics product enters a very competitive market in which it must not only prove itself better than other products but also promote itself better. This paper will show how a new cosmetic product called attention to itself through a risky strategy of branding. The specific product is Benefit's Fakeup, a name chosen at the risk of emphasizing the product's artificiality that in fact branded the product so noticeably in the cosmetics market that the product succeeded precisely because of this unusual name. This paper will draw upon accessible records of Benefit Cosmetics concerning its marketing strategy, email interviews with Benefit's public relations representatives, examples from Benefit's advertising campaign, the reviews of cosmetics columnists, the response of consumers, and any academics studies already done. As with any research about consumer products, the difficulty will lie in limiting the sources, but a sharpened thesis will help in selecting both original and secondary sources.

[The Bibliography is below, first in APA format, then in MLA format.]
Benefit Cosmetics. (2012). Fakeup hydrating crease-control concealer. Benefit San Francisco. Retrieved from
Benefit cosmetics fake up. (March 9, 2013). Daily Vanity.
Fake it 'til you make it. (February 26, 2013). The Zoe Report. Retrieved from
Merskin, D. (May 2007). Truly toffee and raisin hell: A textual analysis of lipstick names. Sex Roles, 56(9-10), 591-600. Retrieved from
Schallon, L. (January 29, 2013). Behind the scenes at Benefit Cosmetics' Fake Up launch party. Style Bistro. Retrieved from
Works Cited
Benefit Cosmetics. "Fakeup Hydrating Crease-Control Concealer." Benefit San Francisco. Web. 2012.
"Benefit Cosmetics Fake Up." Daily Vanity. Web. 9 March 2013.
"Fake It 'Til You Make It." The Zoe Report. Web. 26 February 2013.
Merskin, Debra. "Truly Toffee and Raisin Hell: A Textual Analysis of Lipstick Names." Sex Roles 56.9-10 (May 2007): 591-600. Web.
Schallon, Lindsay. "Behind the Scenes at Benefit Cosmetics' Fake Up Launch party." Style Bistro. Web. 29 January 2013.
Unfortunately, I can't format it properly on Blogger, but this gives you an idea of what I made up for class yesterday . . .


Friday, March 22, 2013

China's 'Policy' Toward North Korea


Hanyang University law professor Lee Jae-min asks a good question in his Korea Herald column this week: "Why do we keep losing this game?" (March 20, 2013). By that, he means why does North Korea continue to have the advantage over South Korea in getting what it wants in its nuclear aims. Part of the answer is China, which is the North's ally, of course, and supports it for that reason, but more important than the alliance is China's fear that enforcing sanctions on the North could precipitate its collapse and destabilize Northeast Asia. Professor Lee knows all this, of course. But things have changed since the North's third nuclear test recently, he notes, and he offers a suggestion:
Perhaps one thing to consider in this regard is how to make Beijing fully aware that an unbridled, nuclear-armed North Korea would undermine its national interest. In light of this, it is interesting to watch the reportedly growing complaints in China against North Korea after its nuclear test.
This ought to be simple enough since a nuclear-armed North Korea is very destabilizing for Northeast Asia, but China should have recognized this twenty years ago, when we already knew that the North was pursuing a nuclear program. Individual Chinese did see the problem, and commented on it as against China's interests, but the Chinese government was less clear. Why has the Chinese leadership failed? Seton Hall University professor of international relations Zheng Wang asks a pertinent question in the New York Times: "Does China Have a Foreign Policy?" (March 18, 2013). Here's what he says:
While many Western analysts focus on the balance of reformers and conservatives in China's new leadership, most overlook the absence of career diplomats and foreign affairs experts at the highest level of power in Beijing . . . . [T]he position that foreign policy occupies in the Chinese political system is very low . . . . China watchers have a tendency to overstate the sophistication of Beijing's foreign policy and ambitions, but the truth is that China's foreign policy is highly deficient . . . . The absence of clear policy . . . partly explains why China lacks decisive influence even over strategic allies who depend most on its support, like North Korea . . . . North Korea's recent nuclear test and decision to nullify the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War is but the latest example. If a country [such as China] does not have a clear foreign policy, it will not know when, where and how to use its power. It cannot provide a road map for its allies to follow.
If Professor Wang is right, then helping Beijing see its national interests in the North Korean conundrum might prove difficult.

We can only try . . .

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sentimental Elaboration . . .

Mary Ruefle

In alluding to her own sentimentality -- and in the course of doing so, admitting to an abhorrence of cats but a fondness for kittens -- Ms. Ruefle writes:
I have noticed that when a cat has kittens, my friends give away the kittens and keep the cat. Which has always baffled me: in the same situation, I would give the cat away and keep the kittens. (Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey, 35)
I laughed out loud at this admission. "Which is more sentimental?" she asks (35). A relationship with a cat? Or an attachment to a kitten? She implies the latter even though she has just a few lines earlier -- back on page 34 -- stated that she "can't think of anything more sentimental than to own a cat"!

But as John Gardner once said -- and Ruefle quotes him on page 35 -- sentimentality is "causeless emotion" . . .

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

An Auspicious Beginning . . .

Yea, auspicious indeed:
I am born, and grow to manhood, in such circumstances as would hardly seem conducive to evil.
As aforesaid, an auspicious beginning . . . but unfortunately followed by a suspicious subsequence:
Evil has been very good to me. I have wealth and social position, and moreover the nearly universal esteem of all men, who seem to regard me as a prodigy of virtue. All this has come to me through relentless devotion to the principles of evil. Indeed, I believe that the benefits of a course of evil, conscientiously pursued with unflagging vigor, have not been adequately impressed upon the minds of our young people.
Alas, we've turned from auspicious to suspicious -- a difference of one letter but an entire world -- as Eve turned from innocent Adam to guilty serpent in John Milton's Paradise Lost.

Something's askew, anyhow, so it sounds like a good read . . .

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Otto Jakob: Artisan Craftsman of Baroque Aesthetics?

Otto Jakob

While reading the International Herald Tribune yesterday, I came across the above image, along with five others, each striking in its own way, all of them crafted by the master artisan Otto Jakob, depicted for an article, by Nazanin Lankarani, titled "Drawing inspiration from natural beauty and artistic mastery" (March 18, 2013), but since the article isn't yet online, I cannot link to it, so I've gone directly to the website of Otto Jakob for the image, which is described there as follows:
Enameled and gold painted hand pendant in yellow gold, wearing two tiny diamond rings and holding an enameled chameleon
Herr Jakob is a man of few words in this description, but he does add that this pendant is "one of a kind." I suspected as much. Ms. Lankarani offers a bit more on the uniqueness of Jakob's works:
On average, each one-of-a-kind piece takes nearly 100 hours to make.
Lankarani refers to these pieces as "baroque creations," but after looking at many more images on Jakob's website, I think this label fits only some of his works. Jakob, incidentally, has an interesting backstory. He set out to become a painter and studied under Georg Baselitz in Munich, only to realize after three years that he would never develop into an important artist in that field, so he stopped at 27 and within a few weeks had found his calling by drawing upon a childhood fascination with making things, which generated "a burst of creativity that guided his hands for the next three decades," as Lankarani puts it.

His old mentor, Baselitz, purchased some of the early pieces and introduced him to the art dealer Hans Neuendorf, and Jakob had his path paved with gold . . . and silver, and gems, and everything fine that you can gaze upon at his website . . .


Monday, March 18, 2013

Broadway Joe: Fashion Hero?

Joe Namath and daughters Jessica and Olivia

I mentioned a few days ago my admiration for Guy Trebay's style. His literary style. He's a fashion writer -- so everybody knows his fashion style -- and in "The Rise of the Well-Dressed Man" (The New York Times Style Magazine, February 27, 2013), Trebay not only writes well and with humor, ending his article with a well-wrought punch line, he has some striking words to say about Joe Namath's early flair for fashion:
I found myself thinking about Broadway Joe. You remember him, of course, the quarterback legend and media gadfly, a self-styled cartoon whose athletic prowess was pretty nearly overshadowed by his randy off-the-field antics. Goofy-handsome and with gull-wing bangs swooping back from his forehead, Joe had woolly pecs, a dense Happy Trail and a wardrobe that called to mind a coal-town Oscar Wilde.

He wore shearling and raccoon and posed in pantyhose for a Hanes Beautymist commercial. He was an unabashed narcissist with a fondness for natty green blazers. He liked rump-hugging trousers with taut notch-pockets. He wore Brut cologne, silk foulards and white cleats on the field. Unembarrassed in his embrace of fashion, Namath was way out in front of the culture, a sartorial forerunner of all the athletes who have lately morphed from slobs wearing saggers into designer sandwich boards crowding the front rows at Versace shows.

He was -- if you'll forgive the use of a lint-covered term from the cultural sock drawer -- a metrosexual avant la lettre. Unlike the hippies and gender benders and rocker peacocks who were his near contemporaries, Joe Namath wasn't toying with masculinity. His liking for nice clothes was no particular "tell" for sexual preference. That he wore coats made from the sheared pelts of expensively farmed rodents did not mean Joe Namath secretly liked men: it meant he liked mink.
In contrast, most sports stars of those day cared not a whit about style, says Trebay, and Michael Hainey, the deputy editor of GQ, agrees:
"With the exception of Joe Namath, most sports stars in the past took a 'Who cares?' attitude about dressing."
Indeed, few men cared about fashion, until the last fifteen years, when style in clothing began to go mainstream. Did Broadway Joe play a role? Trebay thinks so:
I realized that Namath may have been slighted by historians of fashion. Maybe he is the liminal figure theory-heads are always rooting around for. Maybe, unacknowledged and in those long-gone days, it was Broadway Joe who began the inexorable march of butch dandies into the mainstream.
An intriguing perspective. I've often thought of Namath over the years, remembering his standing joke:
"I can't wait till tomorrow . . . 'cause I get better looking ev'ry day!"
That isn't happening to me these days of my decline, but maybe I can still go in style . . .

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lyric Lunacy . . .

I found this lunar image online after reading the statement below by Mary Ruefle:
The great lunacy of most lyric poems is that they attempt to use words to convey what cannot be put into words. (Mary Ruefle, "Poetry and the Moon," in Madness, Rack, and Honey, Seattle and New York: Wave Books, 2012, page 15)
Only most? Some lyrics escape that moon-bound madness? They suffer some lunacy of another sort? What of this following poem by Yeats, does it madly try putting into words what cannot be put into words? Or does it uncannily succeed?
The Cat and the Moon

W.B. Yeats (1865-1939)

The cat went here and there
And the moon spun round like a top,
And the nearest kin of the moon,
The creeping cat, looked up.
Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon,
For, wander and wail as he would,
The pure cold light in the sky
Troubled his animal blood.
Minnaloushe runs in the grass
Lifting his delicate feet.
Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?
When two close kindred meet,
What better than call a dance?
Maybe the moon may learn,
Tired of that courtly fashion,
A new dance turn.
Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
From moonlit place to place,
The sacred moon overhead
Has taken a new phase.
Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils
Will pass from change to change,
And that from round to crescent,
From crescent to round they range?
Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
Alone, important and wise,
And lifts to the changing moon
His changing eyes.
I, too, am somewhat moon-maddened . . . or have been:
Winter Moon

H.J. Hodges

When the moon rose full from the hills,
It raised trees of the night:
Black trees,
Shadow trees,
Trees of burnt bone.
I thought of holocausts
And hands raised in supplication
Before the altar of an unknown god.
I thought of dead ones risen from the dust,
Multitudes waiting for sinews, and skin.
I saw each hold his lonely place.
I saw it was the world's untimely end.
That was a lunar year, that year, that 1985 . . .

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Heartfelt thanks to Me and some other guy . . .

Dante Was a Vampire?

My cyberpal Dario Rivarossa has recently published a study of Dante as a 'fantasy' writer, illustrating the book with images like the one seen above, which I've lifted from Dario's website, where he offers some thanks for assistance:
With heartfelt thanks to Prof. Carter Kaplan for believing in this project, and to Prof. Horace Jeffery Hodges for the editing.
I must profess to taking pleasure in being recognized . . . as a professor! My office door also calls me that. Perhaps Carter Kaplan's door does the same for him? Like me, he has blogged on this book, albeit with more to say! Anyway, you can order this book at Amazon.

Or you can simply fantasize about what it says and reveals . . .

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Reading Ruefle Reflections on Madness, Rack, and Honey

The poet and scholar Mary Ruefle has published a book of her lectures on poetry and writing and writing poetry, opening with an introduction on her lack of qualifications:
I do not think I really have anything to say about poetry other than remarking that it is a wandering little drift of unidentified sound, and trying to say more reminds me of following the sound of a thrush into the woods on a summer's eve -- if you persist in following the thrush it will only recede deeper and deeper into the woods; you will never actually see the thrush (the hermit thrush is especially shy), but I suppose listening is a kind of knowledge, or as close as one can come. "Fret not after knowledge, I have none," is what the thrush says. Perhaps we can use our knowledge to preserve a bit of space where his lack of knowledge can survive. (Mary Ruefle, "Introduction," Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures, Seattle and New York: Wave Books, 2012, page viii)
Would that I lacked her lack as a poet, having what she has and has not, following the song of myself ever deeper into the woods . . . but I shall have to content myself with following the rueful song of this other thrush, hoping, as I begin this book, to lose my self there . . .

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

An old NoZe friend introduces me to Dr. Boli . . .

Dr. Boli

I recently contacted an old fellow NoZe Brother to congratulate him on his career, see how he's doing otherwise, and update him on my latest activities:
Keko Muckety-Muck . . . or however that goes . . .

You seem to be doing well in your career . . . . Is working for [your current employer] . . . as interesting as working for Nunn, Pfizer, NYC, the White House, or Chrysler Corporation?

I appear to be putting down roots here in South Korea. Still teaching English -- mostly composition (essay and research writing). Still publishing articles on various academic topics. Still editing a lot. Still translating.

In fact, my wife and I have translated a novel by the early 20th-century Korean writer Yi Kwang-su (The Soil) and a collection of stories by the contemporary Korean writer Jang Jeong-il (When Adam's Eyes Opened), both of these [slated] to be published this coming autumn. I should frankly acknowledge that my wife translated. I edited for style . . .

But I've finally done something for myself, written and published a novella illustrated by Terrance Lindall, which you can preview here . . . .

The hard copy is available here, should anyone be interested . . . .

Did you, by the way, ever get around to publishing your own alcohol story about transubstantiation? Have you written anything else -- other than your wounded memoir and all those great speeches?
I soon received a reply:

I can see this is extraordinary, even after a mere five-minutes scan of the first pages. I look forward to a full-throated read. Are you familiar with Dr. Boli? Seems a kindred spirit of yours. He too just wrote his first novel, The Crimes of Galahad. And his blog (Celebrated Magazine) is worthy.

Yours in one of the several affordable True Faiths . . .
I somehow hadn't heard of Dr. Boli, so I Googled and located the good doctor's website, Celebrated Magazine. I also ordered his novel, The Crimes of Galahad, which looks worthy as well (else I wouldn't have ordered it). Speaking of Dr. Boli, I liked this recent announcement on his blog:
The Action Committee on the Unjustly Incarcerated has asked us to inform the public that the Committee is no longer calling for all citizens to attend the rally in the Convention Center tomorrow evening. It seems that the Committee was misinformed: there never was any such person as Will Baptist, the words "Free Will Baptist" having an entirely different meaning from the one the Committee had understandably derived from them.
That one somehow brings back old Southern Baptist Baylor NoZe memories . . .

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dario Rivarossa: Satan-s-coffin

Dario Rivarossa

I believe this is the last of Dario's repostings from his idiosyncratic illustrations of scenes in my story, "The Bottomless Bottle of Beer." This scene 'depicts' Dan Webster defending the Naif by surreptitiously undermining Mr. Em's word(s) and thereby casting doubt upon the contract signed between Mr. Em and the Naif:
" . . . More relevant were the consequences for language following upon that dire revolt. According to one record, Mr. Em, who has gone by various names over his career, taunted the angelic loyalists by 'scoffing in ambiguous words' that misled them to think he intended an offer of peace, thereby gaining a tactical advantage. I do not imply any judgment by this reminder . . . But . . ."

- Horace Jeffery Hodges, "The Bottomless Bottle of Beer," in Emanations: Second Sight, page 154
This is taken from the short story version of my tale, but the somewhat expanded, novella version can be previewed here -- and ordered here, if anyone is interested . . .

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Guy Trebay's Quiddities of London

Here's a writer for me to remember: Guy Trebay. (Yes, I've read him before.) This past weekend, I happened to read an article of his about the "whatness" of London, "London's Odd and Empty Corners" (New York Times, March 8, 2013), and am so enthralled that I'm compelled to note it here in my blog! Trebay begins in medias res:
"You know, guv, that really gets on my goat," Billy Allardyce said from the front of the taxi, his amplified voice a warble of Abbey Road reverb.

We were barreling toward Portobello Road in a cold winter downpour, headed for an arcade I'd been tipped about by my friend, the antiquarian Alexander di Carcaci. Mr. Allardyce was griping about change. The peculiarities and quirks of his 1960s childhood, he said, had given way to the blight of center city sameness.

"When I was a boy you could still see all them little shops, streets of specialty shops," Mr. Allardyce told me. Back then, Columbia Market -- today a place of open-air flower stalls and hipster brunch spots -- was where East End families shopped for pet guinea pigs.

"Kittens, dogs, snakes, rabbits," Mr. Allardyce said. "They even had goats."

The image delights me -- a goat cropping grass in central London. It summons up both England's agrarian soul and also a capital city in which little-known spaces, odd corners and crooked byways have always had their place. It speaks to me of quiddity, that ineffable quality of what-ness. People have it -- places, too . . . .

[F]orgo the long lines and the touristic must-sees and practice instead some urban idling, the flânerie Balzac termed the "gastronomy of the eye." Walter Benjamin more famously characterized the flâneur as an essential urban figure, an amateur detective and investigator of urbanity. Predicting that rampant consumer capitalism would eventually spell doom for a flâneur's pleasures, Benjamin also neatly anticipated Billy Allardyce's gripe, and my own.
Not many writers could bring the quotidian goats of London's quiddity together with the erudite aesthete's flâneur eye and successfully bundle them all into a taxi for conversation with a driver who likely has all "The Knowledge" required of The City's best cabbies for rapidly getting passengers precisely where they want to be, say, Leighton House:
A visitor coming off the street and through a drab reception area (formerly the breakfast room) into Leighton House is thus plunged into an Orientalist delirium: Satsuma vases, scholar's rocks, a stuffed peacock perched on a railing, and the Arab Hall itself, a chamber whose blue tile panels, Genoa marble columns, gilded friezes and domed skylight were brought together, it would seem, to stun the viewer into aesthetic submission, a Victorian version of shock and awe.
That "aesthetic submission" is a clever play on the literal meaning of the word "Islam" -- less clever the Iraq War allusion, though nicely ironic, at least, since the Arab world is the astonishing, awe-inspiring one this time.

Read the entire article . . .

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Dario Rivarossa's Reposting of "A Neat Net" for The Bottomless Bottle of Beer

A Neat Net
Dario Rivarossa

Dario is still reposting his idiosyncratic renditions of scenes in my story about the Naif and his cursed beer, along with a bit of dialogue between the lawyer -- a Mr. Dan Webster -- and the Naif:
" . . . and thereby spin a web of dissimulation to catch a falling star like a fallen, dim firefly . . . We must give the devil his due by playing Mr. Faland Em's name game, but in all innocence."
"That'll work?"
"It will, or it won't."

- Horace Jeffery Hodges, "The Bottomless Bottle of Beer," in Emanations: Second Sight, page 143
This is taken from the short story version, but the novella version with Terrance Lindall's illustrations can be previewed here, and ordered here.

I presume the image shows "a fallen, dim firefly," i.e., "Mr. Faland Em." Well, go and catch a falling star . . .

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Follow-Up to Uncle Cran's Basement Dungeon Cell . . .

After Uncle Cran's Handiwork . . . or Before?

I missed a final photo and comment from Uncle Cran on his basement dungeon cell 'man cave,' so here they are, the photograph above and the commentary below:
I forgot to mention in the photos of Linda Gay, but she is kind of anxious to get me out of her space, so that she is actually supervising the job, cleaning up after me, putting sealer on the grout, etc. I know this is a hard, dirty, thankless job, but someone has to do it.
The job need not be thankless, Uncle Cran. Just say "Thank you" to Aunt Gay. But let's see what the fellow does have to say. Why, there appears to be a poem:
I finally got the tile on the wall. One fellow told me that his old daddy said to him,

Son, once the work is well done,
never leave it 'til it's done.
Though the task be great or small,
do it well, or not at all.

It still doesn't have the grout in the joints, but you can see the progess.
That poem certainly does look to still have a few 'ungrouted' cracks. I see a great gaping gap between the first and second lines -- in terms of what one might expect and what one actually reads. The two lines seem to be advising me that when I'm finished and have done a good job, I'd better stay at the work till it's finished. Eh? Really? Really and truly? Hmmm . . . I don't believe I know this poem, but I suggest it might better read as follows:
Once the work is well begun,
never leave it 'til it's done.
Though the task be great or small,
do it well, or not at all.
That sounds better and makes more sense . . . but why not write "'til" as "till"? Speaking of writing, Uncle Cran promises not to write at all for a while:
I won't sent any more updates until the room is completed. For which everyone can be thankful.
We earnestly await further poems of wordy wit, wisdom, and wonder from Uncle Cran, but if an individual intends to live well by aphorisms, the words had better be well remembered!

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Saturday, March 09, 2013

Uncle Cran's Basement Dungeon Cell . . .

Recently, Uncle Cran confessed to marital disharmony gone martial, apparently, given his imminent imprisonment in a basement dungeon cell of his own construction:
I have decided to join the ranks of guys who feel the necessity of having their own space, calling it their "man cave." This is in the dungeon corner of our basement, and when Gay and I have one of our infrequent spats, I can retire here and have my private "pity party." There is one small window where I can look out over the fields.
A dungeon basement cell room with a view?! Well, perhaps it increases Uncle Cran's suffering and thereby draws him into regret and toward repentance of his guilt for the "spats." Any man who gets spitting mad deserves to be locked up in a "man cave." Indeed, in a little corner of the cave:
This is the area for the corner cabinets that Kevin had left over from their house addition. Part of this area will be drywall (sheetrock), and part will be tiles.
What's the antecedent for the pronoun "their"? I see only one plural noun earlier in this sentence: "cabinets." Those cabinets had a "house addition"? Must've been really big cabinets! Or a really small house . . . But what's Uncle Cran got against "drywall"? Swayed by overwhelming waves of emotion, he calls the stuff "sh**trock"! Why use it if he hates it so much?
I don't know how to put a series of pics on an email, so I'll send them one at a time. It's likely that no one except Gay and I would be really interested, but you'll get them anyway. You can always hit the "delete" button.
No one "except Gay and I"? Typical Uncle Cran -- ever subjective, never objective! Well, let's take a look at those photographs:

Uncle Cran Putting Up Tile?

That image is pretty straightforward. Uncle Cran is putting up tile. I guess. Or taking it down. Hard to tell in this straightforward image.

Aunt Gay Putting Up With Uncle Cran

Again, a straightforward image. Aunt Gay putting up with Uncle Cran . . . and thereby putting him down and in his place, i.e., the dungeon!

Aunt Gay Fixing What Uncle Cran Missed?

And we see Aunt Gay here either fixing what Uncle Cran missed . . . or fixing him below in his real cell of imprisonment, the dungeon room without a view! At least one individual -- Cousin Bill, as long-time readers might guess -- expressed delight at the result:
You'll need to shout, Bill. Sound doesn't carry well through that floor.
The man cave looks awesome. I can understand Aunt Gay wanting you out of her space, what I don't understand is why it took her so long to "get 'er done."
It ain't easy getting a man to construct his own cage, Bill.
Do anticipate your "space" will contain an area for an "ice box" to chill some refreshments for at least two of the recipients of your email. Those referenced refreshments might call for a quick trip across the state line. You allowing enough space for a 60" HDTV?
Typical coddling of prisoners these days. I say we bring back chain gangs. Make criminals pay their way through prison -- and if they fall behind in rent, lock them up longer!
Judging from the pictures, I could've used your help in my garage project. It looks great!
Uncle Cran won't be available to do such things for a long while, Bill, but if and when he is, keep an eye on the fellow, for once a con, ever a con . . .

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Friday, March 08, 2013

Scrapdaddy: Macho Metal Monsters!

Scrapdaddy Riding High

The Beeville Art Museum (BAM) of Beeville, Texas is displaying monumental works by Mark David Bradford, the "Scrapdaddy," shown above, having opened on January 26, 2013 and scheduled to run until May 3, 2013. According to the BAM website:
Bradford, a sculptor who works primarily in metal, is best known for his giant, robotic, hydraulic creations which have been highlighted at Houston's Art Car Parade for the past twenty-four years. Regularly driving off with the "Judges' Choice" award, Bradford's first art car was an 18-foot bicycle-looking contraption with four-foot steer horns, dubbed the "Texas Mosquito." When asked how he got involved with this form of artistic expression, Bradford credits his great-grandfather, an inventor, stating "I always wanted to be like my great-grandfather and invent cool contraptions."
A family transcending from the mechanical arts to mechanical art! But not a subtle sublimation, as we see above! And these 'contraptions' move, man! You might even be able to see a video of the exhibition at the BAM site, though I can't do so here in Korea, but I went to YouTube and located a video of the BAM exhibit there.

More videos of Scrapdaddy's art available, too, as well as images.


Thursday, March 07, 2013

Kuesta's Art: Sharing the Works . . .

On Tuesday this week, I discovered within my departmental mailbox an envelope addressed in calligraphic script to a "Mr. Dr. Horace Jefrey Hodges - Professor" -- my middle name a bit garbled, as often happens, though not usually from leaving out an "f" -- and as I puzzled over that, I turned the envelope over and discovered a wax seal stamped with an emblem that I couldn't quite make out:

Sealed Envelope

I'd never before received an envelope sealed in such a formal fashion, like a missive from the past -- or from diplomatic circles to which I have merely tangential relations. I also noticed the many ink stampings of geometric pattern, some with the capital letter "K" and others with the word "Kuesta." One of these contained a website address. I broke the seal and found a photograph depicting a scene from Ibiza, an island in the Mediterranean near the Spanish mainland. I first heard of Ibiza by overhearing the song "We're Going to Ibiza," which I misheard as "We're Going to Eat Pizza" -- and I wasn't the only one! That was back in the final summer before the year 2000, when everybody was getting ready to party like it's 1999, reasonably enough. But I digress. Here's that photograph of the Spanish isle Ibiza:

Photo of Ibiza

Turning the card over, I found more stamps, along with a very brief message: "Mr. Dr. Horace Jefrey Hodges - Share my works. Thanks. Kuesta." The sole remaining handwriting was the date: "2013." You see this below:

Mysterious Message

That was a rather mysterious message, for I didn't know the "works" of this individual, or even what they were. From the effort put into the aesthetics and even the seal, I surmised that these were artworks, and by going to the website provided, I saw that I was correct:

Ancient Egypt Series
José A. Kuesta

The artist was José A. Kuesta, as I discovered after a bit of searching. One website, though only one, identified him as a professor in the Ministry of Education, and I seem to recall seeing somewhere the fields of history and literature, but I didn't manage to locate those two details again when I decided to write this post. Ordinarily, I wouldn't honor a request out of the blue from someone I don't know who provides so little information, but this man went to the trouble of finding my university address and decorating his letter and envelope -- and especially of sealing the envelope with a wax seal! -- that I was charmed enough to take the time. Moreover, I liked his art.

So . . . here's his website -- share the works!

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Dario Rivarossa: "BBB: Drinking Culture"

Dario Rivarossa

My Italian friend Dario Rivarossa, artist and all-around Renaissance man, is still posting his idiosyncratic images inspired by my story about a bottomless bottle of beer -- images that regular readers have seen posted here before, but not with the accompanying words from my story, at least, I think not. The passage below has the Naif reading a review of a play that he doesn't realize is partly about his own life, in its consequences, anyway:
I turned to the entertainment pages . . . and noticed a review of some new play. That one caught my eye because of the weird title: The Call of Cthulhu. . . . Baffled, I read on, learning much about Cthulhu but nothing about a beer called Shoggoth's Old Peculiar.

- Horace Jeffery Hodges, "The Bottomless Bottle of Beer," in Emanations: Second Sight, page 136
In Dario's accompanying illustration, note Cthulhu's bottle head with its emanating tentacles, one of which has captured a person, most likely the Naif in my tale. I'm unsure where to look for Cthulhu's eyes, nor do I know where to sniff out the location of Cthulhu's nose.

Dario's reference is to the short story version, but the somewhat expanded version with Terrance Lindall's many illustrations can be seen in part here . . . and ordered here.

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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

David Brooks on Learning Styles: Western vs. East Asian

David Brooks

David Brooks has an interesting NYT article published, "The Learning Virtues" (February 28, 2013), on the different attitudes toward learning between Western students and East Asian students, based on the research of Professor Jin Li:
Jin Li grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution . . . . [but] wound up marrying an American, moved to the States and became a teacher . . . . She has spent her career, first at Harvard and now at Brown, trying to understand how Asians and Westerners think about learning.

The simplest way to summarize her findings is that Westerners tend to define learning cognitively while Asians tend to define it morally. Westerners tend to see learning as something people do in order to understand and master the external world. Asians tend to see learning as an arduous process they undertake in order to cultivate virtues inside the self.
Consequently, Westerners and Asians talk in different terms about learning, as in this comparison of Americans and Chinese:
When Li asked Americans to randomly talk about learning they used words like: thinking, school, brain, discovery, understand and information. Chinese, on the other hand, tended to use phrases common in their culture: learn assiduously, study as if thirsting or hungering, be diligent in one's learning.
Conceptions of the student also differ:
In the Western understanding, students come to school with levels of innate intelligence and curiosity. Teachers try to further arouse that curiosity in specific subjects. There's a lot of active learning -- going on field trips, building things. There's great emphasis on questioning authority, critical inquiry and sharing ideas in classroom discussion.

In the Chinese understanding, there's less emphasis on innate curiosity or even on specific subject matter. Instead, the learning process itself is the crucial thing. The idea is to perfect the learning virtues in order to become, ultimately, a sage, which is equally a moral and intellectual state. These virtues include: sincerity (an authentic commitment to the task) as well as diligence, perseverance, concentration and respect for teachers.
These differences are said to have practical consequences:
Li argues that Westerners emphasize the Aha moment of sudden insight, while Chinese are more likely to emphasize the arduous accumulation of understanding. American high school students tease nerds, while there is no such concept in the Chinese vocabulary. Western schools want students to be proud of their achievements, while the Chinese emphasize that humility enables self-examination. Western students often work harder after you praise them, while Asian students sometimes work harder after you criticize them.
These are intriguing observations, but I wonder how well these really correspond to reality. Plagiarism is so widespread in Korean universities that I have to question the effectiveness of a moral conception of learning. Moral failings are easy to fall into, for one can be successful anyway, sometimes more so, but with conceptual failings comes failure in one's career. Cognitive failure corrects itself; moral failure requires an external critic.

Incidentally, I had my daughter read the article, and her response was to agree that there is a difference in the way that Koreans and Americans talk about learning, that the former do speak about the process in moral terms, but that Korean students don't actually take the moral talk seriously, so it has no practical significance on how they study, and that the one big aim is to score high on the nationwide university entrance exam.

I would add that while the cognitive approach might not be talked about in moral terms, an ethic is implicit, but this is an issue that itself deserves a blog post . . .

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Monday, March 04, 2013

Thawed-Out Neanderthal

Unfrozen Caveman

A day or so ago, a physicist friend of mine from the Ozarks who works for Beyond Photonics sent an email to me and a lady-friend diplomat, whom I'll refer to as "Dee," also from the Ozarks, saying this:
Hi Bruce and Dee,

I'm sorry, but when I happened across this headline in the local Boulder paper this morning, I was constitutionally unable to keep from making the following connection:

Pope Benedict XVI resigns Thursday, now 'simple pilgrim' . . .

One of my personal all-time favorite Phil Hartman bits [was his 'simple' Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer] (along with his genius take on Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office with the Girl Scouts, etc. . . .)

See you -- Charley P.
I didn't know my name was "Bruce" . . . or am I "Dee"? Whatever. I replied:
Dammit, Pete, are you inferring that I look like a Neanderthal?!

What's that? Don't I mean "implying"? Huh? Just what are you trying to infer? That I can't spell? Well, I may be a simple hillbilly, but I did learn how to spell, and I know that "inferring" is not spelled "i-m-p-l-y-i-n-g."

So, take that and stick it somewhere beyond photonics!
Oddly enough, my physicist friend took inexplicable offense:

Now Jeff, I did not come within 161 km of implying that you look like the Pope, and you know it!!

Boy oh boy, touchy frickin' expat, I tell you what. Jeez! And also, that Pope dude is really quite a handsome old fellow just for good measure, I think. So there.

But seriously, I take any opportunity I can get to invoke the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. (Well, not that it comes up very often, but come on, that was too good to pass up . . .) That Phil Hartman, he was da bomb. I hope he's keeping everybody in stitches, whereever he is.

I like your take on BP's name. I have to call people up frequently to buy things, get quotes, etc., and half the people when I tell them our name, think the company is "Beyond Phonics" -- ha. But I'm getting used to it. Have a great weekend, or whatever weird foreign thing you guys have over there -- Pete
At least, he called me "Jeff" . . . even if he does think the pope is handsome and that I look nothing like the pope (ex-pope). Wonder what that 161 km is about . . . . Anyway, Dee then offered her input:
Lawyers, Popes, and cavemen. Same playbook. Find someone slower and take whatever they've got.
Not very diplomatic of her, so I replied, more bluntly than usual:
I can't speak for lawyers or popes, but my fellow cavemen were the ones truly left behind. I'm the only Neanderthal who's survived, and your modern world frightens and terrifies me. For instance, should I invest my money in Apple . . . or in Samsung? Both companies have been criticized for their business practices, so investing in one or the other is a scaaaary thing. Now, I'm just a simple Neanderthal, but an honest Neanderthal, like me, wants to make the ethical choice. For that, however, I need inside information. Nothing complex, just advance knowledge of a new, breakthrough technology that will send the company's stock sky-high. If I only knew that, I'd know where to put my money, namely, in that particular company, for its business practices are bringing on a better future by bringing in the money. And that fits perfectly with my personal ethics. Buy low, sell high is my moral motto. And with the fortune I'd make, I could secure the future of my family. No one can deny the ethics of that. Plus, I'd be a model for any future unfrozen Neanderthals, an inspiration that they, too, can make it in this frightening, terrifying modern world. Again, ethical. But that's me, I just ooze ethics all over.
There. Honest folks can now see where I stand! Less than honest folks will suffer doubts . . .

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Sunday, March 03, 2013

Deng Yuwen and China's Relations toward North Korea

Deng Yuwen
"'Give up on Pyongyang,' says China insider"

According to Deng Yuwen, deputy editor of Study Times, journal of the Central Party School of China's Communist Party, in an article, "China should abandon North Korea," written for the Financial Times (February 27, 2013), China should cut North Korea loose, especially since the North's recent nuclear test. Why? Five reasons:
First, a relationship between states based on ideology is dangerous.
Ostensibly, China's foreign relations should be based on China's national interests.
Second, basing China's strategic security on North Korea's value as a geopolitical ally is outdated.
North Korea offers not security, but insecurity! Its provocative actions draw animosity toward China.
Third, North Korea will not reform and open up to the world.
If the North reforms, it will collapse. Why should China support a regime that will eventually fail?
Fourth, North Korea is pulling away from Beijing.
Why hold to close relations with a regime that shows no gratitude to China, a regime that has even excised from its history China's support during the Korean War?
Last, once North Korea has nuclear weapons, it cannot be ruled out that the capricious Kim regime will engage in nuclear blackmail against China.
The North shows actual animosity toward China, implicitly using its nuclear card against the Chinese. Deng's conclusion:
Considering these arguments, China should consider abandoning North Korea. The best way of giving up on Pyongyang is to take the initiative to facilitate North Korea's unification with South Korea. Bringing about the peninsula's unification would help undermine the strategic alliance between Washington, Tokyo and Seoul; ease the geopolitical pressure on China from northeast Asia; and be helpful to the resolution of the Taiwan question.
This would probably work for China only if US troops were withdrawn from the Korean Peninsula, as Deng makes clear in an interview with the JoongAng Daily. That might be worth the result . . .

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Saturday, March 02, 2013

Dario's Hella: Idiosyncratic or Ideosynthetic?

Dario Rivarossa

Readers have seen this before, but since Dario's only now posting these images of characters from my story on his blog, I figure I might as well post them again here, along with quotes from the short story version, which below has the vampiric witch Hella speaking to the demonic clown Koroviev, two characters some readers will recognize as borrowed from Mikhail Bulgakov's greatest novel, The Master and Margarita:
She looked up from her readjustments to give me a seraphic smile and say, "Koroviev, who's your friend?" . . .

"Hmmm," he mused. "I've no earthly idea."

- Horace Jeffery Hodges, "The Bottomless Bottle of Beer," in Emanations: Second Sight, pages 130-131
Koroviev is not to be trusted, but neither is Hella, though Koroviev is perhaps forthright in his response since his acquaintance with the 'friend' (the Naif) is unearthly. The expanded, novella version of the story -- which doesn't differ in these lines, however -- can be previewed here, though not specifically these two interlocutors, for whose dialogue the novella must be ordered.

Dario's Hella, incidentally, is an idiosyncratic synthesis of Bulgakovian and Hodgesian ideas . . .

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Friday, March 01, 2013

Woland and Lindall: More on "Satan's Peculiar 'Grace'"

. . . with a witch bowing in reverence . . .

In Mikhail Bulgakov's Master and Margarita, Woland -- a stand-in for Mephistopheles, himself a stand-in for Satan, and thus Woland is Satan -- responds to a request for mercy from Margarita:
"One thing remains, perhaps: to procure some rags and stuff them in all the cracks of my bedroom."

"What are you talking about, Messire?" Margarita was amazed, hearing these indeed incomprehensible words.

"I agree with you completely, Messire," the cat mixed into the conversation, "precisely with rags!" And the cat vexedly struck the table with his paw.

"I am talking about mercy," Woland explained his words, not taking his fiery eye off Margarita. "It sometimes creeps, quite unexpectedly and perfidiously, through the narrowest cracks. And so I am talking about rags . . ." (Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, 1997, translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, page 131)
This is certainly peculiar of Woland, but according to Wikipedia, "Woland's name itself is a variant of the name of a demon who appears in Goethe's Faust: the knight Voland or Faland." And Mr. Faland Em, as my novella shows, can -- even with contracts signed in blood -- draw upon an "extralegal reservoir of mercy to wash away the binding signatures and thereby release the contractee," a peculiar sort of grace available here. Of course, he can only do so by God's grace . . .

Speaking of which . . . Terrance Lindall has added some remarks about Satan's peculiar grace by way of a promise:
Actually I am soon to write up my Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione. It expands on "Satan's Peculiar Grace."

In it I expound on the nature of our place in the world, what the world is, the necessity of evil and the million other things I have been talking about for years. The new idea is that in fact "I" am and will always be the original Adam (how? read my tractatus). I have experienced the paradise of the ignorant bliss of childhood and then was brought "knowledge of good and evil" by my experience of the world around me (the world is the apple and my engaging with it is my bite and taste of it) . Although I fell from grace of loving all people around me because of what I perceived as evil, I eventually became reconciled through knowledge itself and was through knowledge elevated to "understanding." I came to realize that this is "the best of all possible worlds." I have been redeemed to Paradise!

"Love the sinner, hate the sin." So too, Satan should be loved!

"Love the sinner, hate the sin" is from St. Augustine. His Letter 211 (c. 424) contains the phrase Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, which translates roughly to "With love for mankind and hatred of sins." The phrase has become more famous as "love the sinner but hate the sin" or "hate the sin and not the sinner" (the latter form appearing in Mohandas Gandhi’s 1929 autobiography).

Now you can ague that Satan is a special case and should be hated. But I argue further that Satan plays an important role in God's plan.
Robert J. Wickenheiser disagreed with Lindall, raising the stakes by challenging his citation of St. Augustine:
St. Augustine (whose name I bore in the monastery) did indeed say "Love the sinner, hate the sin," but he NEVER intended it to be applied to Satan, and I defy you to find a passage in Augustine in which he makes such application or even hints at it. And "With love for mankind and hatred of sins" does not in any way refer to the evil fallen angel below, called Satan.
Lindall responded:
Bob has rightly chastised me! But the dialogue/dialectic is engaged. In the fires of the the dialectic the gold of Truth will be revealed. As Milton said "Let her (Truth) and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?" Satan get thee gone!

But the fact is that most evil in the world, although INSPIRED by Satan is actually performed by man. Satan offers his "color" and we are inspired to action!

We do not have to fear Satan. We just have to be vigilant about not succumbing to our own base inclinations . . . greed, ambition, hatred, jealousy, etc. We must stand just like Christ on the mount who was offered the world.

It is our duty to be knowledgeable about the repercussions of our actions . . . if bad, the result will not be good even for the one whose actions result in some perceived gain from doing injury to others. And for the leaders and thinkers, it is their duty to pass on this knowledge. Unfortunately we do not live in that kind of world with philosopher kings. So the world is very "colorful" and artists like Bien or writers like Jeffery or Carter have a lot of material with which to work. Thus Satan is the patron saint of many artists and writers.

"No man knowingly does evil." - Plato's Socrates in The Meno

"Ultimately knowledge will redeem man!" - Terrance Lindall
In defense of Lindall's views, I might note that since the Middle Ages, the Russian Orthodox Church has had prayers offered for the salvation of Satan -- if he happens to repent. I am therefore open to Lindall's 'Orthodox' view on Satan -- that Christians ought to pray for Satan's repentance. However, I have some qualms about the view that "knowledge" will save us. Wisdom might be a better candidate for that role, particularly the wisdom of knowing that we often have no inkling as to the repercussions of our actions, a point that Lindall appears to acknowledge. Wisdom thus counsels caution where knowledge forges boldly ahead, secure in its self-assurance that it knows the causes and effects, the reasons and results, the actions and reactions . . . often only to stumble badly.

I therefore eagerly await Lindall's Tractatus, and not only for his views on knowledge, but its appearance is probably going to take some time . . .

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