Monday, March 31, 2014

"Koreanische Literatur auf Englisch, Folge 3"

The website Visit Korea has a review in German -- Koreanische Literatur auf Englisch, Folge 3 (i.e., Korean Literature in English, Number 3) -- of the English translation that Sun-Ae and I did of Jang Jung-il's novella When Adam Opens His Eyes, so if you read German, get thee thence and read! Here's what the review briefly says about us:
"When Adam Opens His Eyes" wurde ins Englische von Hwang Sun-ae und Horace Jeffery Hodges, Professor an der Ewha Womans University, übersetzt. Sie sind auch die Übersetzer des achten Romans in der Serie der Library of Korean Literature, „The Soil“, geschrieben von Yi Kwang-su.
In English, that reads:
When Adam Opens His Eyes was translated into English by Hwang Sun-Ae and Horace Jeffery Hodges, Professor at Ewha Womans University. They are also the translators of the eighth novel in the series of the Library of Korean Literature, The Soil, written by Yi Kwang-su.
At the end of the review, we learn that the review was written by Sohn JiAe, an editor with, and was translated by Gesine Stoyke. Nothing is said about the quality of our translation, but I assume no complaints.

I was just about to bring this entry to a close, but on a hunch that there must be an English version of this review, I Googled and found it, so we can now check how close my English translation above is to Sohn's English original:
“When Adam Opens His Eyes” was translated into English by Hwang Sun-Ae and Ewha Womans University Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges. They also translated the eighth novel in the Library of Korean Literature series, “The Soil” written by Yi Kwang-su.
I guess I was close enough . . . though I'll redo it now for better English than my original attempt:
When Adam Opens His Eyes was translated into English by Hwang Sun-Ae and Ewha Womans University Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges. They have also translated the eighth novel in the Library of Korean Literature series, The Soil, written by Yi Kwang-su.
This now differs by only a verb tense and a comma from Sohn's English version (if we set aside the question of quotation marks vs. italics for book titles). The tense is a stylistic choice, for either present or present perfect works, but the comma is grammatically necessary. Otherwise, not bad, though I think this bio ought to have mentioned Sun-Ae's doctorate in German literature (and perhaps my novella).

Anyway, Jang Jung-il is definitely worth reading, especially for readers interested in a young Korean man coming of age during a time when Korea itself was coming of age and opening up, but be forewarned: sex and violence fill his writings, rather explicit, in fact.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

'Green' Vikings and the Green Knight?

The early-10th-century Muslim envoy Ibn Fadlán, writing in a travel account often referred to as In the Land of Darkness -- which I suppose refers to the north's long winter nights but perhaps refers to the darkness of ignorance -- describes Vikings (whom he calls "the Rūs") as follows:
I saw the Rūs, who had come for trade and had camped by the river Itil. I have never seen bodies more perfect than theirs. They were like palm trees. They are fair and ruddy. They wear neither coats nor caftans, but a garment which covers one side of the body and leaves one hand free. Each of them carries an axe, a sword and a knife and is never parted from any of the arms we have mentioned. Their swords are broad bladed and grooved like the Frankish ones. From the tips of his toes to his neck, each man is tattooed in dark green with designs, and so forth.
What interests me is that the Vikings are tattooed in dark green designs from toes to the neck, and I wonder if there is a memory of these 'green' men by the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, though there are differences, the Green Knight being solid green from toes to top of head.

Probably not . . .

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Noaks Ark?

I happened yesterday to be reading Peter Chattaway's article "The Genesis of 'Noah'" (Christianity Today, March 27, 2014), which delves into film interpretations of the Noah story prior to the Aronofsky version currently showing, when I noticed this poster from publicity for the 1928 Hollywood version directed by the Hungarian director Michael Curtiz:

Something didn't look quite right, I thought, and after a puzzled minute or two, I realized the poster reads "Noaks Ark." I laughed at the mistake, but then wondered if it was a mistake. Googling "Noaks Ark," I found the following 'Nordic' poster written in Swedish:

Someone at Christianity Today found the same poster and clipped away the wording along the bottom but failed to notice that the poster reads "Noaks Ark," so I was still right about there being a mistake.

Actually, this Swedish version of the name in the film title is closer to the Hebrew (נֹחַ, Noach), whereas the English version follows the Greek Septuagint (Νωε, Noe), or perhaps the Latin Vulgate (Noe), so one could argue that "Noah" is the actual mistake.

I'd like to see this Aronofsky film . . . maybe also that 1928 version as well . . . and I now realize I ought to have worked in a Noah allusion in my novella, maybe in the "Cursed Canoe" passage . . .

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Genetics and Gender?

Eric Vilain
Human Genetics at UCLA

In looking for information to enrich discussion on issues of gender and feminism in one of the courses I teach, I stumbled onto a fascinating website titled Rediscovering Biology that featured a lengthly interview with an expert, a Parisian working at UCLA, Eric Vilain, on the "Biology of Sex and Gender," and the site is so interesting and informative about sexual characteristics, gender identity, and genetics that I've excerpted below, albeit heavily edited by me:
Sex determination is appealing to everyone because . . . . [o]ne of the first characteristics of a human being at birth is . . . boy or girl . . . . The field of sex determination[, however,] is very poorly understood . . . . We know a handful of genes that makes boys become boys and girls to become girls[,] but we know that we're missing a very, very large piece of this puzzle . . . . [such as] why . . . a number of babies would be born intersex . . . . What we know even less is how our brain becomes either more of the masculinized brain or more of the feminized brain . . . . [As for the body,] you can look at [it] with a different perspective[,] which is the makeup of the gonads, whether they're testes or ovaries . . . . We know[, however, that] there are individuals who have ovaries yet they can be XY and conversely . . . have testes and be XX . . . . [A]nother way of looking at [sexual determination] . . . is gender identity. It's one's own perception of one's sex[,] . . . how people feel . . . they are, either male or female . . . . You can have individuals who are fully masculinized, have a penis, have two testicles, they're XY, they have levels of testosterone of the majority of males, yet they feel . . . they belong to the [female] body and in their mind . . . are female . . . . When the sex chromosomes were discovered, it was immediately obvious that males and females were different at the chromosomal level. Females were XX; males were XY. Then the immediate question was: Well, what makes a male a male and a female a female? . . . . One [view] is it's the number of X chromosomes that makes you either male or female and females have two X chromosomes; males have only one. This mechanism is probably the most frequent in the animal kingdom . . . . [But there is the] Androgen Insensitivities Syndrome[,] . . . the inability for androgens -- that is essentially testosterone -- to bind to their receptor. In the Androgen Insensitivities Syndromes, the individuals are typically XY. They have a Y chromosome. They typically have two normally functioning testicles which do produce male hormones, in particular high levels of testosterone, but the testosterone cannot bind to its receptor[, which] . . . makes the external appearance of these individuals to be fully female. They do not have penis. They do have what appears to be a normal vagina and they look [like a] normal female at birth . . . . We [also] know that, there are a number of babies born who are male -- they have two testes and penis -- and yet they do not have a Y chromosome. We started to decipher the molecular mechanisms that lead to this situation and we now know that there [are] a few other genes that can sometimes mimic the action of the genes in the Y chromosome. So the Y chromosome is not this single force that pushes the whole male sex determination pathway . . . . The idea is in instead of having a simplistic mechanism by which you have pro-male genes going all the way to make a male, in fact there is a solid balance between pro-male genes and anti-male genes and if there is a little too much of anti-male genes, there may be a female born and if there is a little too much of pro-male genes then there will be a male born . . . . The pathway [to male or female] is made of a complex network of genes that interact with each other at the molecular level and these interactions depend highly on the dose of each of these genes. So the end result is a subtle balance between a number of genes, most of them still unknown unfortunately that lead to either the making of a male or the making of a female . . . . We know a number of things in sex determination. We know a handful of genes. We know a little bit how they work. We unfortunately don't know how to explain the majority of our patients, who are either intersex or with a complete sex reversal. We can understand what's happening in the molecular level in only about 30% of the cases and that's not very much . . . . Knowing that you're a boy or you're a girl is something that's unique to humans. This is what we call "gender identity" and we don't know how this happens. We don't know why suddenly at a certain age, and rather early actually, about 3, 4, 5 years of age, we just know that we're either boys or girls . . . . How do we know . . . ? I have no idea. I don't think anyone has any idea. I would love to know. We're trying to work on some biological determinance of gender, to try to understand what happens in our brain . . . . But that probably will not even tell us how we know at the time we knew it . . . . Studying gender is complicated: first because there is no animal model for it. You have to study humans. One way to study gender is by looking at individuals who don't feel right in their own gender. They have what we call "Gender Dysphoria." They're unhappy about their gender. Some of them may become transsexuals. They actually perform surgery because they're so intensely unhappy about the gender that was attributed to them that they feel the need to change using surgical tools . . . . Hormones have always been thought as the unique or major factor influencing the development of a male or female brain. We now know that hormones cannot explain everything in the making of a brain, whether it's masculine or a feminine brain. But we don't know really what the other factors are . . . . [S]ome of these factors may be genetic. Maybe pieces of the Y chromosome are important at some level in the brain['s] sexual differentiation. Maybe some environmental factors are also important: there are compounds in the environment that are hormone-like, they're estrogen-like for instance, that might play a role in this. These are purely speculative arguments, but those are the kind of things that we are trying to decipher . . . . Sexual orientation is an independent parameter from gender identity . . . . What we know about the mechanisms of gender identity is extremely poor. What we know about the mechanisms of sexual orientation is a little better but it's not clearly understood. It probably is a mixture of a number of factors -- social, environmental, genetic . . . . [We also have to understand intersex.] . . . . Intersex is an intermediate sexual phenotype. This means that this is a state of being in-between what's commonly accepted as male or female at all levels, that is an anatomical level, gonadal level, and brain level, and behavioral level . . . . Complete sex reversal corresponds to the extreme end of the intersex spectrum, where apparently there is no ambiguity of the genitalia at birth, but yet there is a intermediate state, at some level which is either the genetic level or the hormonal level or the brain level. But at birth sex reversal doesn't show. At birth phenotypically they look either male or female. It's only later on during their lives because they usually cannot go through normal puberty, that we find out that they had some intermediate state in terms of either their genetic makeup or their hormonal makeup . . . . The big dream for me and the big challenge in fact, is to understand the mechanisms of gender identity. This is really the big enigma and to me it's also the most important aspect of sex determination to understand because . . . out of all the definitions of sex, gender is the most important. In fact it's how people feel that is important, regardless of what they look like, of what their levels of hormones are, or what their face or genitalia look like. It's what they feel within themselves. That's what's important. And to understand what make[s] gender identity happen at some point in a human life is absolutely fascinating and extremely complicated to study but that's certainly the next challenge in the research in sex determination.
This might seem like a rather long excerpt, but the original piece is so much longer, and also in interview format, that I simply had to radically cut it and leave out most of the original text, but those readers interested in more can go to the link and read the entire fascinating interview.

Dr. Vilain's English is sometimes a bit awkward, but his explanations are usually very clear and tend to support Camille Paglia's advice, namely, that Feminists need to learn more biology . . .

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Jihadis Killing One Another: More of this, please . . .

Ahmed Godane

Probably, most readers recall that Osama Bin Laden was killed in May 2011, though Al Qaeda still seems to be active, albeit more decentralized, and in an article titled "ISIS's Rise After al Qaeda's House of Cards," Part 4 of "Smarter Counterterrorism" (Geopoliticus: The FPRI Blog, March 22, 2014), Clint Watts explains the decline of Al Qaeda as an organization that is, in part, devouring itself:
To understand how al Qaeda has faltered since Bin Laden's death and to anticipate where jihad will go in the future, we must examine the leadership transition to Ayman al-Zawahiri. Through the summer of 2011, senior al Qaeda leaders and conduits to affiliates were being eliminated every month, Anwar Awlaki in Yemen, Ilyas Kashmiri in Pakistan and strangely the elusive Harun Fazul in Somalia. Fazul, once Bin Laden's personal secretary, died at a Somali government checkpoint similar to ones he likely passed through easily dozens of times before. In the following months, rumors swirled that al Shabaab's leader, Ahmed Godane, had arranged for Fazul's timely death to settle a score with the 'Old Guard' al Qaeda leader floating in his turf. The mysterious pattern of al Qaeda foreign fighters being killed in Somalia continued through 2011 and 2012 and rumblings of internal rifts in Shabaab's ranks grew while a plan for formal membership to al Qaeda was in the works. With Bin Laden gone, al Qaeda princes across many affiliates were making their own plays in a 'Game of Thrones' where politics and power became the priority over ideology and al Qaeda's grand strategy . . . . Stories of al Qaeda foreign fighters being killed in Somalia by Shabaab's leader, Ahmed Godane, continued to surface via the social media pleas of American foreign fighter Omar Hammami. While not the most important foreign fighter or American in Shabaab's ranks, Hammami's rants proved fortuitous of larger splits in al Qaeda's ranks. Shortly after Hammami's public complaints came a call from an original Afghan mujihadeen member in Somalia, Ibrahim Afghani, begging Zawahiri to unseat Godane. Al Qaeda stood silent as Godane's loyalists killed off both Hammami and Afghani. Shabaab has since crumbled under Godane's leadership and Zawahiri has publicly ignored these upheavals in Somalia.
These flaws in Al-Qaeda -- the jihadis killing each other over power despite identical, or nearly identical ideologies -- should be widely publicized, especially among Muslims, so as to show the potentially radicalizable ones just how corrupt so many jihadi leaders are.

Make this publicizing part of the "Smarter Counterterrorism" promised above.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Review by Sohn JiAe of Yi Kwang-su's Novel The Soil

Library of Korean Literature
Photo from Literature Translation Institute of Korea

Sohn JiAe recently reviewed Yi Kwang-su's novel The Soil (translated by Sun-Ae and me) in an article titled "Korean literature in English #8" (, February 15, 2014), which I suppose is a functional enough title, being descriptively correct. Here's an excerpt:
The eighth part of the ten-volume Library of Korean Literature series is "The Soil" penned by Yi Kwang-su (1892-1950) . . . . [It is] a novel about the Enlightenment of farmers [and] . . . . was featured as one of the 75 Notable Translations for 2013 in the December issue of World Literature Today last year, an American monthly magazine covering international literature and culture . . . . To this day, the main reason that this work has been much read lies not just in its intriguing storyline, involving a love affair and a back-to-the-earth movement, but in the transition of a small town into a true rural community through Heo Sung's lofty spirit and strong ambition.
I'm not sure why the term "Enlightenment" is capitalized. That would usually imply 18th-century France. Anyway, Sohn included some biographical details about Yi Kwang-su:
Born in 1892 in Pyeonganbuk-do (North Pyeongan Province), now part of North Korea, Yi Kwang-su worked as a poet, literary critic, translator and independence fighter, as well as a novelist. Yi majored in philosophy at Waseda University, in Tokyo, and was active in the independence movement when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule.

He was actively involved in journalism as well, working as the chief editor at the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper and was the vice president at the Chosun Ilbo newspaper. He also brought English-language works to the domestic audience by translating them into Korean himself . . . . He wrote more than 60 novels, including "Pioneer", "His Autobiography", "The Young Sacrifice" and "Heartless", as well as numerous poems and essays.
For more details, including plot spoilers, see the review. And once again, for those interested in my own literary style, there's this novella . . .

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review by Deborah Smith of Yi Kwang-su's Novel The Soil

Deborah Smith

Yesterday, I provided an excerpt from a review by Tony Malone of Yi Kwang-su's novel The Soil, which Sun-Ae and I translated, and I today wish to excerpt Deborah Smith's review of the same book in "The Uses of Uncertainty: Dalkey Archive's 'Library of Korea' Series" (The Quarterly Conversation, Issue 34, Winter, December 2, 2013):
Ask any Korean or Korean literature student who wrote the first Korean novel, and the answer will almost certainly be Yi Kwang-su, whose career spanned the turn of the 20th century and witnessed the introduction of European literature into Korea, often via translations into Japanese, the language of Korea's colonizers at the time. The literary soil into which these new influences were being planted consisted of a rich Confucian heritage of lengthy poems and prose romances written in classical Chinese. Yi Kwang-su, among others, found in the novels of Zola and the stories of Maupassant an exciting new palette of potential techniques for creating an entirely new kind of literature, one more suited to the specific social, cultural, and political circumstances which Korea found itself in (the wrench of industrializing modernity was felt as even more of a brutal upheaval given that it was being implemented by a colonial power who also sought to suppress Korean cultural identity). However, in early novels like The Soil (serialized in the Donga Ilbo from 1932-33) we can also find intriguing traces of the earlier tradition. There's a confusingly large array of bit-part characters, and major characters who are (initially, at least) not so much fully rounded personalities as names appended to a list of characteristics, often corresponding to established types familiar to anyone versed in the Chinese classics.
This is an interesting bit of information about the novel. I'm pleased to hear that these Chinese influences survived the translation process in recognizable form, particularly since Sun-Ae and I were entirely ignorant of them. Here, Smith gives an example:
Yi Kwang-su was certainly influenced by the big, realist novels of 19th-century Europe, but rather than writing one himself he essentially reinvented the form for a specific time and place. Take dialogue, for example: an important component of the realist novel but much less central to the Chinese romance, where it is also far less naturalistic. We see it often in The Soil, particularly over meals, where it's lively and colloquial, yet Yi also makes use of it now and then to have characters offload unreasonably lengthy, uninterrupted chunks of suspiciously well-formed views, lecturing at, rather than talking to, each other.
I didn't realize that this Chinese influence was the reason that the protagonist so often spoke in speeches, as did other characters as well. That's all I want to excerpt, but there's lots more, and it's quite detailed and informative, for those interested in learning what the novel actually means . . . though there will be a few plot spoilers.

And again, for those interested in my own literary style, there's this novella . . .

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Review by Tony Malone of Yi Kwang-su's Novel The Soil

Yi Kwang-su

The above-displayed image is a photo of Tony Malone's review copy of The Soil, the translation by Sun-Ae and me, which Malone reviews. I'll avoid plot spoilers -- you can read those on your own -- and just quote from what doesn't matter in Malone's review if you don't want to know any spoilers:
New literary projects are always fun, and I think I may have just found another one. I recently received several books from Dalkey Archive which form part of their ambitious Library of Korean Literature project. Ten of the books are already out, and the overall plan is to release twenty five(!) in the space of a year.

Dalkey are doing this in partnership with the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, an organisation which appears to be impressively aggressive in promoting K-Lit (see, for example, the recently promoted free translations of twentieth-century short stories).

K-Lit is a fairly new area for me, so you might expect the journey to start off slowly -- perhaps with a short-story collection, or maybe a modern novella . . .

Really? You should know me better than that by now ;)

Yi Kwang-su is one of the big names in early twentieth-century Korean literature, and The Soil (translated by Hwang Sun-ae and Horace Jeffery Hodges) is a big book. The novel, a story of life in the country and city in pre-WW2 Korea, runs to just over 500 pages and was serialised in a Korean newspaper in 1932/3. This edition keeps to the structure of the serialisation, with each of the 272 sections, divided into four parts . . . . The Soil is an excellent story with lots to recommend it, but it is a product of a different time and place, so a modern reader might struggle at times. It can be rather didactic and overplain, and it is frequently extremely melodramatic -- the bad are cartoonishly bad, the good are far too good. Sung, a man who is apparently able to withstand anything, eventually wins over everyone in his presence, including characters we thought too far gone to bring back. At times, it seems a bit a little too much of a stretch . . .

While the writing is not always as perfect as you might wish, this is a book I enjoyed immensely. It's a novel which will be perfect for readers with an interest in Asia, post-colonial history or the fraught relationship between Korea and Japan -- and it was the ideal start to my Korean literary journey.
There's plenty more -- along with plot spoilers, as noted -- and here's a sample passage to give a sense of the Yi Kwang-su's literary style, in a far as that can be judged in translated form:
Of this grain planted and harvested by the people, half would go to the storehouses of the landlord. The other half would pass through storehouses of several debtors for transport by car and ship providing dealers their profits before ending up as food or alcohol in the mouths of people who had never worked in fields or seen their reflection in the water. But those who had worked so hard in the fields, using their bodies as fertilizer, would remain forever poor, forever servants in debt, and forever hungry. (pp.92/3)
Not a bad style. I therefore don't think that Malone meant the translators' literary style by his remark that "the writing is not always as perfect as you might wish"; rather, he was referring to Yi Kwang-su's tendency to be "didactic and overplain, and . . . frequently extremely melodramatic," literary flaws that he noted above.

And for those interested in my own literary style, there's this novella . . .

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

"Headless Soldiers Need Your Toes!" -- Brought to You by the Islamist Band Rayat Al-Tawheed

Bold and Brave with Mixed Metaphorical Threats
Memri Special Dispatch No. 5688 (March 21, 2014)

The mountains are coming to us, the mountains:

Moving Mountain
(Okay, it's a rock, but pretend!)

Lions on mountains, coming to us:


Cats in shining armour, coming to us:

Armoured Cat!

They are coming to us, arriving in their battalions:

Cat Battalion

And when they arrive, they'll explode for joy:

Joyous Explosion

But after that joyful occasion, they'll be missing a few parts, so be a donor:
Headless soldiers need your toes, need your toes.
Headless soldiers need your toes, need your toes.
Eyes and ears and mouth and nose --
Headless soldiers need your toes, need your toes.
You know the tune . . . but if you don't know the tune, go here.

Sounds like lots of fun! I'm bustin' to party on that joyful day . . . but we'll have to wait a while . . .


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cashew Apple?

Cashew Apple with Cashew

An old Ozark friend sent me this photo, and what interested me particularly was the use of the term "apple" for a fruit that isn't a true 'apple' by modern standards, thereby suggesting that the name might be a holdover from a broader use of the word "apple" that otherwise lasted only as late as the 17th or 18th century.

Or perhaps this above-depicted fruit is called "apple" because it looks like one and has a sweet flavor, though also a bit astringent.

Anyway, I first became aware of the broad meaning of "apple" when I was investigating the apple in John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost.

Perhaps this cashew apple was the 'actual' fruit that Eve plucked from the Tree of Knowledge. After all, her harvest was a 'nutty' idea, the sweet fruit had an astringent aftertaste, and when Eve sneezed (cashew!), the whole world caught cold.

For more on the error-grow-nonsense, see here . . . not here!


Friday, March 21, 2014

An American in America!


I have the most interesting 'discussions' over at the Marmot's Hole, as regular readers have recently seen -- and now this objection from a certain 'M1M0' to calling the US "America":
"America" is not an accepted term for the United States, it refers to both continents of the Americas. this is my main objection.
I've often heard such 'objections' -- and I ordinarily ignore them, but I felt like responding this time:
But "America" is an accepted term for the United States. It's short for the "United States of America" and accounts for the fact that this country's citizens are called "Americans." Everybody knows what country is being referred to when the term "America" is used, just as everybody knows who is being referred to when the term "American" is used.
His response:
fair enough, if you want to argue it that way.
To which I responded:
Thanks! What 'way' would you argue it?
No response yet, but he's far more reasonable than ENNSE was . . .


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Roger Scruton on the Ideological University

Roger Scruton

I've been reading and re-reading Roger Scruton's recent novel, Notes from Underground, and I'll blog upon it at greater length later on, for there are several points of contact between his philosophical ideas and this fictional work, but I want to focus today on an interview called to my attention by my friend Bill Vallicella through his link to an interview of Scruton by Spencer Case (philosophy graduate student, University of Colorado, Boulder, and U.S. Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan). The interview is titled, "Roger Scruton on the Decline of the Modern University" (College Fix, March 14, 2014), and here's a good excerpt:
One [problematic trend in the contemporary university] is the way in which the difficult . . . subjects . . . in the humanities . . . are being displaced by purely ideological subjects . . . . [Formerly,] at the heart of the humanities there were difficult things like the classical languages, modern languages, literature -- read properly and critically discussed -- and so on, the "Great Books" and all the rest, in music the study of harmony and counter-point, in philosophy the analytical discipline that we know about so well. All those were real intellectual disciplines. But I see more and more they're being replaced by gender studies and other forms of essentially ideological confrontation with the modern world . . . . [Of course, t]here is plenty of room for people to include as part of the philosophical discussions of justice the whole question about the relation between man and woman, all the questions that feminists consider. There's absolutely no reason why that shouldn't be included. But, if the assumption is that one has to be a feminist, one has to arrive at a particular conclusion as a result of studying this, then what is involved is not philosophical discussion but ideology. The whole defining nature of philosophy is that you start from free inquiry and you don't actually know what you're going to come up with as a result of your arguments. To think that you have to have the conclusion prior to the investigation is effectually to say that this is a form of indoctrination.
Agreed. Complete agreement. I've been around universities since 1975, and I've seen the shift take place. Things became so bad at one university I was at that the social work department lodged a formal complaint -- or at least threatened to lodge one -- against the philosophy department for daring to question fundamental assumptions held in the field of social work. I don't recall the precise issue, but I think that it had something to do with Leftist assumptions that shouldn't -- according to some -- be called into doubt. And as Scruton notes, when something can't be questioned, we're being confronted with ideology, not philosophy.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Gaiman's Sandman

The Sandman No. 1

I very recently read the first issue of Neil Gaiman's comic book The Sandman. I'd been looking for books in English for my son En-Uk to read, as I believe I may have mentioned. I usually like Gaiman's stories, and Sandman comes highly recommended, e.g., by Norman Mailer, who said:
Sandman is a comic strip for intellectuals, and I say it's about time.
I found that quote in Nick Clark's article from two years ago, "Comic strip for intellectuals: Gaiman announces surprise Sandman prequel" (The Independent, July 13, 2012), but Mailer must have uttered it some time before he actually died, back in 2007.

My response to this first one is mixed. The beginning was a sprawling, very confusing mess (hence a need for the prequel mentioned by Clark, I suppose), and the middle threatened to get mixed up with the superheros of the Justice League -- would Superman fit with a character such as Morpheus, a.k.a. the Sandman? But the story eluded that error (save for a brief encounter with "The Martian") and moved in more mythic realms, sort of.

Anyway, I warned En-Uk about the confusing beginning, and he later agreed with me on that but is still reading this comic for intellectuals, so maybe it will lead him toward greater literature . . .

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Joys of Blogging: Polish Grammar

Polish Grammar, Too!

Regular readers will easily recall yesterday's blog entry -- "Father and Son: Adventures in English" -- but just in case not, here it is again:
Saturday, my son En-Uk and I went into an Ediya Coffee shop. He ordered a mushy-looking chocolate drink that smelled of cinnamon.

"That have cinnamon in it?" I asked.

He nodded, but said nothing.

I looked at some of the 'Konglish' [Korean-influenced English] on the walls and called his attention to a few of the amusing examples. They reminded him of something he said happened.

"A Korean who didn't know much English went into a coffee shop and ordered a coffee with a 시나몬롤 [cinnamon roll]. He bit into the roll and exclaimed, 'Hey! They put 계피 [cinnamon] on it!' So, the next time he went to that coffee shop, he said, 'Give me a 시나몬롤 [cinnamon roll], but without the 계피 [cinnamon].' Funny, huh?"

I agreed, but wondered if the story were true or something he'd read in 마음의소리, an online Korean comic strip that he reads every day.
Well, a European non-native speaker of English -- whom I'll refer to by the abbreviation "ENNSE" -- objected to my use of "That have cinnamon in it?" He took upon himself the responsibility of polishing my English usage, and in the comments section of a different blog, where I had also posted my "Father and Son" dialogue, the following exchange (which I've abridged) took place:
ENNSE: "That HAS cinnamon in it"? would be better.

Me: No, it wouldn't. This is dialogue. The "Does" of "Does that have . . ." often gets dropped in dialogue.

ENNSE: In no context does "That have cinnamon in it?" make grammatical sense. You must speak some sort of pigeon English; too bad you are teaching your son to speak poorly.

Me: I think you mean pidgin English. As for your suggestion - "That has cinnamon in it?" - it carries a connotation of surprise, even disbelief, which was not my meaning.

ENNSE: Nope, I meant pigeon, . . . . as in "dumb as a pigeon" . . . . Its called a play on words.

Me: I think you mean "It's." But perhaps "Its" was another fine pun.

Anyway, . . . you're either invincibly ignorant or stubbornly wrong. Whichever the case, no real progress is made in conversations of this sort.

I'll no longer try to convince you of my position. Others can draw their own conclusions as to who's wrong or right.

ENNSE: So you're content to speak poorly. Well, *good for you! (*SARCASM)
I guess he worried I might miss his light, clever irony and thus added "sarcasm" to make sure I wouldn't misread.

Awfully gracious of the fellow . . .


Monday, March 17, 2014

Father and Son: Adventures in English

Ediya Coffee
Click Image to Read
Image from One Weird Globe

Saturday, my son En-Uk and I went into an Ediya Coffee shop. He ordered a mushy-looking chocolate drink that smelled of cinnamon.

"That have cinnamon in it?" I asked.

He nodded, but said nothing.

I looked at some of the 'Konglish' [Korean-influenced English] on the walls and called his attention to a few of the amusing examples. They reminded him of something he said happened.

"A Korean who didn't know much English went into a coffee shop and ordered a coffee with a 시나몬롤 [cinnamon roll]. He bit into the roll and exclaimed, 'Hey! They put 계피 [cinnamon] on it!' So, the next time he went to that coffee shop, he said, 'Give me a 시나몬롤 [cinnamon roll], but without the 계피 [cinnamon].' Funny, huh?"

I agreed, but wondered if the story were true or something he'd read in 마음의소리, an online Korean comic strip that he reads every day.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dangerously Close to Identifying The Great World Religion of Peace™?

The feminist site Catapult provided this mock Child Bride cover, possibly modeled on Brides, but more obviously aimed at The Great World Religion of Peace™, whose specific identity remains unexpressed.

An associate editor of Ms. Magazine, Anita Little, picks up on the satire and presents this cover on the Ms. Magazine Blog, hence affirming Catapult's depiction of The Great World Religion of Peace™, whose identity remains still unexpressed.

Both sites are to be noted as outing The Great World Religion of Peace™, whose identity need not be expressed, though not for fear of insulting The Great World Religion of Peace™ -- since it's of course entirely peaceful -- but rather from reluctance to insult the intelligence of readers by treating them as if they can't figure it out on their own.

More importantly, Western feminists are perhaps gradually overcoming their reticence on issues such as this one concerning The Great World Religion of Peace™ . . .


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Not Whom You Wrongly Think It Looks Like

In "Casting the Devil Out of the Jesus Story," Craig S. Keener, writing for Christianity Today (February 25, 2014), informs us that a TV miniseries titled The Bible, which was "created and produced by husband and wife duo Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, was a 2013 sensation, raking in more than 100 million views" and being "nominated for three Emmy awards." Remarkably, I'd never heard of it, even though it raised some controversy:
But amid the hype came controversy. The same episode that debuted Jesus also included scenes with the devil . . . [and] some [people] were claiming that the actor who played Satan looked like President Obama.
Really? Let's take a look at the image provided by the History Channel:

Ummm . . . hmmm . . . well . . . uh . . . I don't think this image looks at all like President Obama. The actor plays a Satan who looks at least a decade older than Obama and has a chin wart. Those are two huge differences. Why, I bet in ten years, Obama still won't have a chin wart.

So, no, this looks nothing like Obama, not at all even close, because a whole decade is a long time.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Theo Jansen - 'Bewildbeasts'?

Theo Jansen

I'd heard of this guy Theo Jansen before, but Ferris Jabr, in "Why Nothing Is Truly Alive" (NYT, March 12, 2014), has reminded me of Jansen's mobile sculptures, which Jansen says are "alive":
On a windy day in Ypenburg, the Netherlands, you can sometimes see sculptures the size of buses scuttling across a sandy hill. Made mostly from intricately conjoined plastic tubes, wood and sails, the many-legged skeletons move so fluidly and autonomously that it's tempting to think of them as alive. Their maker, the Dutch artist Theo Jansen, certainly does. "Since 1990, I have been occupied creating new forms of life," he says on his website. He calls them Strandbeest. "Eventually I want to put these animals out in herds on the beaches, so they will live their own lives."
Okay, we see what Jansen thinks, and this is his TED Talk (show and tell?) about these mobile sculptures. Here's Jabr's response:
Poetic, most would say, but Strandbeest are not alive. They are just machines -- elaborate, beautiful ones, but inanimate contraptions nonetheless. A few months ago I would have agreed with this reasoning. But that was before I had a remarkable insight about the nature of life. Now, I would argue that Strandbeest are no more or less alive than animals, fungi and plants. In fact, nothing is truly alive.
I can't see that Jabr has changed his mind about Jansen's Strandbeests; rather, he has changed his mind about "life" due to what he considers his "remarkable" insight:
[I]t's helpful to distinguish between mental models and pure concepts. Sometimes the brain creates a representation of a thing: light bounces off a pine tree and into our eyes; molecules waft from its needles and ping neurons in our nose; the brain instantly weaves together these sensations with our memories to create a mental model of that tree. Other times the brain develops a pure concept based on observations -- a useful way of thinking about the world. Our idealized notion of "a tree" is a pure concept. There is no such thing as "a tree" in the world outside the mind. Rather, there are billions of individual plants we have collectively named trees. You might think botanists have a precise unfailing definition of a tree -- they don't. Sometimes it's really difficult to say whether a plant is a tree or shrub because "tree" and "shrub" are not properties intrinsic to plants -- they are ideas we impinged on them.

Likewise, "life" is an idea. We find it useful to think of some things as alive and others as inanimate, but this division exists only in our heads.
I'm not clear on Jabr's distinction. Does mean to say a mental model is of an individual object and a pure concept is derived from a collection of objects? He needs to clarify his distinction. Anyway, whatever one might think of Jabr's perspective on life, there's remains a different mystery to contemplate, a mystery that Jabr's 'brain language' doesn't leave much room for: consciousness. We can perhaps imagine Jansen's 'beests' as alive, but can we imagine them experiencing an inner life? Do they have qualia? I find that difficult to imagine . . .


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Deconstructing Paul de Man?

Paul de Man

I had never heard of Paul de Man until 1987, when a French woman who frequented Stephens Lounge at UC Berkeley -- where I worked part-time as a barista before baristas were even called baristas (but what's in a name?), though the extent of my coffee-brewing was French Roast or more French Roast -- anyway, as I was saying, I only heard of de Man when a French woman introduced me to his deconstructionist teaching and fascist scandal simultaneously.

The thought therefore already had occurred to me that there might be a link between de Man's emphasis on the elusive meaning of words and the need to slip away from the meaning of his youthful fascist-linked writings.

I had, of course, already heard of deconstructionism, along with other literary theories borrowed from watered-down continental philosophy, and I wasn't the only one to wonder about de Man's theory in light of his past:
De Man's photograph appeared in Newsweek, juxtaposed with images of Nazis on the march. And critics of deconstruction, inside and outside the academy, pounced, arguing that a school of thought long dismissed as cultish "critical terrorism" was something even more sinister.
De Man as "critical theorist" does sound like "critical terrorist," doesn't it? Especially with the continental pronunciation of "th"! Anyway, Jennifer Schuessler reminds us:
Those battles may seem like a distant memory. But now, the first full-length biography of de Man threatens to reopen the debate over his legacy, weaving together old and new charges to paint him not just as a collaborator, but also as a swindler, forger, bigamist and deceiver whose philosophical ideas grew out of "lifelong habits of secrecy." (Jennifer Schuessler, "Revisiting a Scholar Unmasked by Scandal," NYT, March 9, 2014)
In The Double Life of Paul de Man, which Schuessler is reviewing, Evelyn Barish makes similar such accusations:
[H]er verdict on his philosophy -- "this idea that meaning cannot be pinned down," and that "clear-cut moral judgments are impossible," as she put it -- is unstinting. "To me," she said, "it's just a waste of time."
Clearly, she thinks that moral judgements can be made, and her book is an indictment of de Man, though the man has his defenders, as Schuessler goes on to show, but you can read the article on that.

Deconstructionism, incidentally, plays a role in my own story . . .

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Lovely Prose of Patrick Leigh Fermor . . .

Patrick Leigh Fermor

Patrick Leigh Fermor, once described as "a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene," and who died in 2011 at the age of 96, left the world several fine books.

I recall reading about Fermor's part in the kidnapping of General Heinrich Kreipe, commander of the German army in occupied Greece during WWII. Here's a report from The Telegraph on how Fermor and Kreipe came to respect one another. During the abduction, Fermor and the others took Kreipe by way of Mount Ida, where Kreipe gazed at the peak and recited to himself the first line of Horace's Ad Thaliarchum: "Vides ut alta stet nive candidum Soracte" (See how Soracte stands white with snow on high). Fermor proceded to recite the rest of the poem, revealing that they had both "drunk at the same fountains" of culture, "and things between them were very different from then on."

Here's a beautifully detailed description from one of Fermor's memoirs, The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos (September 2013):
An indistinct blur darkened the air above a notch in the skyline: a wide blur that seemed almost solid in the centre. It thinned out round the edges in a fringe of numberless moving specks as though the wind were blowing across a vast heap of dust or soot or feathers just out of sight. The shoulder of mountain passed, this moving mass, continually renewed from beyond the skyline, dipped out of silhouette on our side of the range and began to expand and to declare itself as more comparable to feathers than to dust or to soot; it became predominantly whiter. The vanguard spread wider still as it sank lower and grew larger, rocking and fluctuating and heading for exactly the stretch of mountainside where we were standing so raptly at gaze. It was a slow airborne horde, enormous and awe-inspiring, composed of myriads of birds, their leaders becoming distinguishable now as they sailed towards us on almost motionless wings, and at last, as they outlined themselves once more against the sky, identifiable. Storks! Soon a ragged party of skirmishers was floating immediately above, straight as the keels of canoes from the tips of their bills to the ends of their legs that streamed behind each one of them like a wake, balanced between the almost motionless span of their great wings, the sunlight falling golden between the comparative transparency of the feathers and the dark bobbin-shaped outline of their craned throats. Only their outstretched feathers flickered. The broad black edge of their wings stretched from the tips to where they joined the body in a dark senatorial stripe. The leaders were soon beyond us. A few solitary birds followed, and then all at once we were under a high shifting roof of wings, a flotilla that was thickening into an armada, until our ears were full of the sound of rustling and rushing with a flutter now and then when a bird changed position in a slow wingbeat or two, and of the strange massed creaking, as of many delicate hinges, of a myriad slender joints. They benighted the air. A ragged shadow dappled the mountainside all round us. A number of birds flew below the main stream of their companions, cruising along in their shade, others alone or in small parties were flung out on either side like system-less outriders. One of the low fliers subsided to the mountainside through the fluctuating penumbra under an inward slanting V of wings, and suddenly earthbound, took one or two awkward steps on its bent scarlet stilts, its wings still outstretched like a tightrope-walker's pole. After shaking its beaked head once or twice, it levered itself into the air and rose again with slow and effortless beats to the sliding pavilion of feathers overhead. Looking back, the specks were still showering over the skyline as plentifully as ever, then sinking a little way down the mountainside like a steady waterfall and out again almost at once and over the valley in a sinuous and unbroken curve. The leaders, and soon the first units of the main horde, had now sunk just below the level of our line of sight: we could see the sunlight on the backs and wings of their followers as their line lengthened. Their irregular drawn-out mass, rocking and tilting and disturbed by living eddies and with a whirlpool flutter and ruffle round the outskirts, moved beyond the great empty gulf of air between the 6,000-foot watershed of the Shipka Balkan, which they had just crossed, and the lesser heights of the Karadja Dagh. Soon their leaders were dwindling to specks, then all of them began to cohere in a dark blur, high above their long irregular shadow, which followed them a mile below their flight like the shadows of a navy on the sea bed. Gradually the supply began to dwindle; the rope of birds grew thinner, the loose-knit parties smaller, until at last there was nothing but a straggling rearguard gliding eastwards. Several minutes later, when the last of them had winged away over the wide valley of the Tunja, an ultimate stork passed overhead beating a slow and solitary path . . .
I can add nothing to that . . . other than the hope that I might someday write something as fine. I would, however, try to avoid the dangling modifier: "Looking back, the specks were still showering over the skyline as plentifully as ever."

But perhaps Fermor was influenced by the Greek genitive absolute . . .


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Jizya: Protection Money?


Through reading a Memri article, "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Forces Poll Tax (Jizya) on Christians Of Al-Raqqa/Syria" (Special Dispatch, No. 5664, February 28, 2014), we learn that the ISIS, "which controls the city of Al-Raqqa, announced that it had signed a 'Security' pact with the Christian residents of Al-Raqqa in return for their embracing the laws of dhimma."

Part of this dhimma agreement is that the Christians are "to pay a poll tax of '4 golden dinars' i.e. 17 grams of gold for the wealthy, 8.5 for middle income owners, and half of that for the poor." A tax, eh? That doesn't sound so bad. What's the penalty for not paying? Reading further, we learn that the ISIS "posed three alternatives to Christians who had fled Al-Raqqa, but now sought to return":
1. Convert to Islam
2. Accept the conditions of dhimma [e.g., pay the jizya]
3. Reject these offers and face war [i.e., to the death!]
I see how this works now: It's death or taxes! The word "dhimma" is Arabic for "protection," and the Christians pay jizya to the ISIS to be protected from from the ISIS! Quite an ingenious little money-making scheme! The ISIS is demanding 'protection' money! Exactly like the Mafia!

Or one could convert to Islam, become a member of the ISIS 'mafia,' and receive protection money. But suppose some Christian who did this was later conscience-stricken and decided to leave Islam. Sorry, but the penalty for leaving Islam is death . . .

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Backed the Wrong Horse?

Yi Kwang-su

One of my favorite columnists, Professor Kim Seong-Kon (SNU, KLTI), recently lamented:
Koreans would be unlikely to select Yi Kwang-su for a list of great Korean writers . . . . To Korean eyes, . . . Yi betrayed the . . . country and thus can never be condoned, regardless of . . . importance and eminence as [a] writer . . . . I am saddened and ashamed that for these reasons, Koreans are often labeled . . . parochial and nationalistic (Kim Seong-Kon, "Embracing those who are different," Korea Herald, March 5, 2014).
Regrettable, then, the fact that Sun-Ae and I chose to translate Yi Kwang-su's novel The Soil, as we will perhaps be forever linked to a 'traitor' . . .

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Sunday, March 09, 2014

Age and Youth Debate . . .

Old Man and Young Man

Recently over at the Marmot's Hole blog, a genial fellow who calls himself "Hoju-Saram" (Australian person) posted a comment about his callow youth:
Back when I was stupid, I wandered out of the South Central bus terminal, determined to make the most of my 8-hour layover by walking to downtown LA. I got about 100 yards towards Compton when I started getting circled by gang-bangers.
In case you were wondering, he survived, which allowed me to respond:
I used to be young and stupid like that, too, but I'm no longer young.
Which garnered a puzzling response from a fellow going by the moniker "Super H Mart JW":
Wrong! It's all downhill after you're 40, didn't u get the memo?
"Eh?" I wondered:
Wrong about no longer being young? But I'm over 40!
Which got this reply:
About being young and stupid!
To which, I provided the only possible, truest answer:
The older I get, the stupider I was when young.
Which brought the exchange to an end in which both youth and age each thought to have bested the other . . .


Saturday, March 08, 2014

Terrance Lindall and Bienvenido Bones Banez: Signed Art

Beast Sh*tting
Bienvenido Bones Banez Jr.

My friend Terrance Lindall informed me yesterday that today (New York time), Friday, March 7th, 2014, at 5:30-6:30 PM, in the WAH center (directions), there will be a "Book Release" of The Satanic Verses of Bones Banez as Revealed to Terrance Lindall, in Ten Books (think ten 'chapters'), and that both Bienvenido Bones Banez and he will be present to sign copies. Lindall notes that these copies are "Magnificently Illustrated By Bienvenido Bones Banez Jr." and cost $50.

I should remind readers that I edited the text (though the final edit choices were left to Lindall's hand) and penned an introduction, from which I excerpt this passage:
Bones is working within a theological tradition of the fortunate fall, or felix culpa, a view that God not only foreknew man's fall but in some mysterious sense foreordained it! Satan thus becomes not just the adversary of God but also God's instrument, and in that narrow sense even deserves admiration. The devil is therefore God's paintbrush for the world! And Bones dares to take that brush in hand and color the world in revealing the fallen glory, like stained glass windows in hell, of what he, in a bold poetic conceit, calls our "666-World," the Tribulation Era spoken of in the Bible's final book, The Revelation of Saint John the Divine.
Lindall adds that there will also be a first viewing of his new Paradise Lost print series, 13 signed and numbered giclée prints in an edition of 100, each further embellished by hand ($3000 for the set). A sample is depicted below:

Creation of the World
Terrance Lindall

And since we're on the subject of such religious themes as God and the Devil, let's not forget that Terrance Lindall has also illustrated another such literary work . . . The Bottomless Bottle of Beer!

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Friday, March 07, 2014

David Brooks on Vladimir Putin

David Brooks
New York Times

David Brooks, in "Putin Can't Stop" (New York Times, March 3, 2014), proposes some incalculable factors in Russian nationalism, as shaped by Russian messianism:
To enter into the world of Putin's favorite philosophers [i.e., Nikolai Berdyaev's The Philosophy of Inequality, Vladimir Solovyov's Justification of the Good, and Ivan Ilyin's Our Tasks] is to enter a world full of melodrama, mysticism and grandiose eschatological visions. [For example:] "We trust and are confident that the hour will come when Russia will rise from disintegration and humiliation and begin an epoch of new development and greatness," Ilyin wrote.

Three great ideas run through this work. The first is Russian exceptionalism: the idea that Russia has its own unique spiritual status and purpose. The second is devotion to the Orthodox faith. The third is belief in autocracy. Mashed together, these philosophers point to a Russia that is a quasi-theocratic nationalist autocracy destined to play a culminating role on the world stage.

These philosophers often argued that the rationalistic, materialistic West was corrupting the organic spiritual purity of Russia. "The West exported this anti-Christian virus to Russia," Ilyin wrote, "Having lost our bond with God and the Christian tradition, mankind has been morally blinded, gripped by materialism, irrationalism and nihilism."
Brooks declines to think that Putin takes these views so seriously, but worries that Putin might be unable to contain the nationalist forces he's using against the West for its support of Ukraine's rebellion. Keep in mind that quasi-religious urgings of this sort are "incalculable."

But . . . although Brooks is reminding us of some actual ideas with a long history among Russians, I wonder if he's being fair to the complexity of Berdyaev and Solovyov (Ilyin is perhaps a different matter). Or does Brooks mean that Putin has deformed the thought of these thinkers to support Russian nationalism's messianic bent?

Any experts out there among my readers who can better inform us?

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Thursday, March 06, 2014

Uncle Cran's Follow-Up Report

Uncle Cran with Frozen Jackhammer

Today's report from Uncle Cran opens with details of his performance as an ice-bound ice-breaker:
I scraped the 4 inches of snow off the concrete slab on the south side of the house, then used a shovel to break up the ice this morning. It measured different thicknesses, from 2-1/8 to 2-1/4 inches thick.
There's another of those uses of the pronoun "it" that Uncle Cran loves to employ, and since a pronoun usually refers back to the nearest noun, I infer that "It" refers back to "morning." Thus: "This morning measured different thicknesses, from 2-1/8 to 2-1/4 inches thick." I thought mornings were measured in hours, minutes, and seconds, but anyway, if I remember my math, 2 minus 1/8 equals 1 and 7/8, and 2 minus 1/4 equals 1 and 3/4, so Uncle Cran's morning was a bit uneven, though the difference is hardly worth mentioning. I don't know why Uncle Cran makes his farm reports so freaking complicated!
The only place I can break up the ice is where the sun is shining on the concrete.
I think Uncle Cran means he doesn't know his ice from a hole in the ground unless the light isn't where the sun don't shine. He is therefore only going to work in the sunlight. Primarily, that appears to mean that he's going to let Mother Nature solve the ice problem, as his following words show, a reasonable decision, I might add, since she's responsible for this problem, anyway.
There has been very little melting as the temperature gets to 7-9 degrees at night, and up to 34-36 degrees about noon.

The temperature is predicted to get higher the rest of the week, and the snow and ice should start melting more quickly.

There is a chance of rain on Friday, so that should really cause the stuff to melt.
By "stuff," Uncle Cran means "snow" and "ice." Let's call it "snice." As in: "It's snice out there."

Some readers might find my paronomasia funny. If so, stick around . . .

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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Uncle Cran Reports!

A big winter storm seems to have hit the Midwest and parts of the South a couple of days ago, so let's go to Uncle Cran's Ozark Farm Report for a full and accurate briefing:
Yesterday about 9:30 AM it started sleeting/freezing rain that continued until we went to bed at 10:00 PM. There was 2 inches of sleet mixed with ice at that time. This morning at 5:00 AM there was another 4 inches of snow on top of the sleet and ice. While I was shoveling snow at the barn, Gay called me. She had slipped on the ice and I had to help her get up. Thankfully she wasn't hurt.

I started at 8:00 this morning feeding cows, chopping ice, shoveling snow and using the tractor to clear snow from the front of the hay barn. I was able to get two round bales out into the field. Then I drove the tractor up and down the driveway.
Eh? Why "up and down the driveway"? Just for the hell of it? Or the challenge, to see if you could?
It took four tries before I got all the way to the road.
That can happen when you drive "up and down the driveway" a few times.
We can get the truck out if needed, but we don't plan to go anywhere before Wednesday as the road is ice covered. It sounded like every school in north Arkansas and southern Missouri is dismissed, and who knows how many others in the two states. Schools in our area have already missed 23 or more days because of snow.

But it does have some benefits.
Always look on the bright side of life!
We weren't able to burn our trash for almost three weeks, as there was a burn ban most of this time. The sleet and snow will bring needed moisture as well as adding nitrogen to the fields. This will stimulate the grass in the fields when the weather warms. So Gay and I will take things easy the next few days.
There appears to be an unfinished thought in that passage. Anyway, Uncle Cran hadn't originally included any pictures, so I asked:
Any photos? Is this like the ice storm of a few years back?
Uncle Cran replied:
The snow was so beautiful when I went outside this morning. Now that I've shoveled, waded through, driven the tractor through, and the dogs have made tracks everywhere, it isn't so pretty. The wood pile I took a picture of back in February is down to just a few sticks. But you can see by the fence another two ricks I cut recently that hopefully will last until sometime in April.
From ricks to sticks! But he did send two photos, the one above . . . and this one:

Hmmm . . .

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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Helluva Good Story!

My son En-Uk isn't yet interested in reading books, whether English or Korean, but he does read a lot of Korean comics on his smartphone, and I finally glommed onto the rather obvious fact that he might be more easily persuaded to read graphic novels, so I've been purchasing them on Kindle and lending him my iPad.

Just two days ago, I bought the graphic story Heck, by Zander Cannon, expecting from the blurbs for it to be some sort of adventure story about a descent into Hell, and it is that, but it's also so much more!

The story is -- one might say -- a postmodern retelling of Dante's Inferno, and it's actually an ethically profound story, something that I hadn't anticipated!

The story affirms the virtues of loyalty to friends and courage to protect them, as well as the importance of rejecting various vices that Dante once warned about, but it also shows the difficulty of refraining from succumbing to temptation, due to the power of desire and the weakness of the will.

At the same time, Heck is a helluva good story!

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Monday, March 03, 2014

Sunrise? Sunset?

Must be Nero fiddling on the roof, though, if that place is as fiery as it looks! Supposedly photographed from outside our apartment by my wife, but these blood-red structures look like the Gates of Hell, and I don't believe I've seen those gates anywhere around here . . . but one can never be too careful, so I'll keep an eye out for them.

Speaking of Hell, work starts up again today . . .

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Sunday, March 02, 2014

Off the Top of My Head

I was so busy today that I had no time to reflect upon serious topics, so here's a photo from about a week ago of me and the kitty named "Scat" distracted by something to our left from reading the news . . . well, one of us, anyway. I can't be sure Scat actually knows how to read, though he invariably joins me there, often even leaning upon my shoulder for an hour as I read, so he might also be reading.

As my own long-time readers will note, this is one of my few bareheaded photos -- I usually wear a cap to maintain my dignity and (more importantly) my mystique. No, I do not mean my mistake! Don't even think that I lost my hair by mistake (as if I would be careless about something like that)! Nor by intention! As if! I lost it neither by accident nor by design, but by masculine necessity: excessive testosterone! You can look it up.

Anyway, when students wonder why I wear a cap and ask me if it's for religious reasons, I say, "It's even more important than religion. I wear a cap for three crucial reasons -- to protect my head from cold, from heat, and from ridicule!"

Speaking of which, I'd better brace myself for smirky snark . . .


Saturday, March 01, 2014

Reza Varjavand Asks: "Is Fear of Islam unfounded?"

Professor Reza Varjavand
Saint Xavier University

The Muslim commentator Reza Varjavand, associate professor of economics and finance in the Graham School of Management at Saint Xavier University (Chicago), asks a provocative question presumably related to the "Islamophobia" epithet used in silencing criticism of Islam: "Is Fear of Islam unfounded?" ( Since his remarks are quite brief, I'm posting them in their entirety here:
Once again, a violent attack by Muslim extremists astounded the world, they murdered a number of innocent students in Nigeria just because they were attending school and learning what their attackers called Western education! Is this the religion whose prophet allegedly said "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave"? I think the world have seen enough images of atrocities committed under the name of Islam: Blown-up buildings, burning cars, beheading, flogging, arresting innocent people for no reason, butchering of a British soldier in a street of London, Boston bombing, Train bombing in Madrid, fatal shooting of 13 people by army major Nidal Hassan, public executions in street, death threat against, or assassination of, writers or those who express their opinions just to name a few.

Sometimes I ask myself is this what Islam is all about?

In light of all of these, we, Muslims, keep telling others how peaceful our religion is which reminds me of that famed Wendy's "where is the beef" commercial. Aren't Muslim influential leaders guilty of implicit complacency by remaining silent and not publically condemning such atrocious acts or taking a firm position against them?

We may not be able to change this madness; at least we can say something about it.
Professor Varjavand's query about fear of Islam goes a step beyond what one might expect, for his remarks imply that such fear is rational, different from the supposedly irrational fear of Islam implied by the term "Islamophobia," a sort of pop-psychology term intended to simultaneously label critics of Islam mentally deranged and morally evil.

Professor Varjavand reminds me of Dr. Khaled Hroub, whom I posted upon two days ago. Perhaps these two Muslims speaking out are indications of a growing chorus of Muslim voices raised in criticism of Islam? Or should I say, of Islamism? Varjavand and Hroub don't. They say "Islam."

Professor Varjavand himself even sounds like a skeptic in stressing that Islam's prophet allegedly said, "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave." Varjavand must have considerable doubts about the hadith, the record of sayings and actions attributed to Muhammad.

Such skepticism opens a door to reform of Islam because the hadith allegedly record Islam's prophet advocating expansionist jihad, brutal criminal law, murder of political opponents, death to infidels, death to apostates, death to critics of Islam . . .

That last one, however, tends to suppress dissent about Islam, thereby clarifying why we still find so few Muslim critics like Varjavand.

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