Brainstorming about history, politics, literature, religion, and other topics from a 'gypsy' scholar on a wagon hitched to a star.
Friday, March 31, 2017
Thursday, March 30, 2017
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
A Jihadi's Conversion to Christianity
Writing for the NYT, Patrick Kingsley (assisted by Eiad Abdullatif) tells of "The Jihadi Who Turned to Jesus" (March 24, 2017), which sometimes happens, though not in numbers sufficient to make up for those Christians slaughtered by Islamists.
Still, one wants to know why this man - identified only as Mr. Mohammad - converted from radical Islam to what appears to be some sort of evangelical Christianity.
Kingsley says, "Exactly why he sought solace in Christianity, rather than a more mainstream version of Islam, no one can quite explain."
No one? But Mr. Mohammad explains his reasons, as we see in Kingsley's paraphrase: "Reading the Bible, Mr. Mohammad claimed, made him calmer than reading the Quran. The churches he attended, Mr. Mohammad said, made him feel more welcome than the neighborhood mosques. In his personal view, Christian prayers were more generous than Muslim ones."
Kingsley dismisses these reasons as "subjective claims," which is rather an odd way of treating a first-person report on conversion, for could anything be more subjective than a conversion?
The couple also have dreams that lead to their conversion: "For Mr. Mohammad and [his wife,] Ms. Rashid, perhaps it was their dreams that sealed their conversion. As the couple began to consider leaving Islam, Ms. Rashid said she dreamed of a biblical figure who used heavenly powers to divide the waters of the sea, which Mr. Mohammad interpreted as a sign of encouragement from Jesus. Then, Mr. Mohammad himself dreamed Jesus had given him some chickpeas. The pair felt loved."
Kingsley does not mention - though he may be aware - that dreams of prophets are to be taken seriously in Islam. The prophet Moses, probably the figure in Ms. Rashid's dream who divides the waters of the sea, and the figure of the Muslim prophet Jesus, in Mr. Mohammad's dream, legitimize the conversion to Christianity in the couple's mind. This happens more often than one might expect, for there are many cases in the Muslim world of men and women dreaming of Jesus (usually), who tells them to convert to Christianity.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Monday, March 27, 2017
Boualem Sansal and the Islamists
Of interest, if also frightening, is Boualem Sansal's most recent novel 2084: The End of the World, translated from the French original by Alison Anderson. In the story, a "totalitarian surveillance state, a fundamentalist religious autocracy, is portrayed as being totally intolerant of free-thinkers in [a story that serves as] a powerful satire on an Islamist dictatorship," says Brian Martin in a review article, "By 2084, will Islam rule the world?" (The Spectator, March 25, 2017).
Martin notes that "Sansal's prophetic novel very clearly derives its lineage from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four," but I would like to suggest that also lurking in the background is a novel by the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood: The Handmaiden's Tale, which was published in 1985 and has never been out of print (and has been translated into French: La Servante écarlate, 2005). In Atwood's novel, an Islamist-style Christian revolution has established a state in which women must wear burqa-like coverings and be entirely subordinate to men.
Anyway, Martin informs us that in Sansal's Islamist totalitarian state, "Anyone who is detected dissenting from established views, by official investigation or by the evidence of informers, is arrested and taken for public execution by stoning or beheading to one of many stadiums."
"Sansal's target is obvious," says Martin. It is "the desired universal caliphate of Islamist extremists, the so-called Islamic State.
Martin closes his review by reminding us of another Islamist-style takeover, namely the one in "Michel Houellebecq's subtle, threatening, frightening novel Submission[, in which Houellebecq] imagines the democratic takeover of France by Islamist politicians, [and we see that] 2084 follows on [in this], and has terrifying implications for the entire world."
We appear to be in this fight for the long haul.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
A Perfectly Imperfect Waffle!
If you look closely and think imaginatively, then you might 'see' that this waffle was desperately trying to escape the intensely hot waffle iron by vainly stretching its tentacles to the left.
By "vainly," I do not intend any hint of vanity in the sense of an overvalued self-regard; rather, I mean "vainly" in vanity's nugatory sense of hopelessness.
If I were punning, however, I would waffle on both meanings:
Now, that's a stout little trite bit of self-consciously badly versified doggerel! I'm real proud.WaffleA pun, my word:
There is no third
sense in this vain
search for a plain
sense of the term
to turn the worm,
for vain doth boast
both least and most.
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Friday, March 24, 2017
What Anonymous Left Out
Home is where the heart is, you heartless bastard, so go home!
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Rather Dye It Than Diet?
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Monday, March 20, 2017
Self-Evident Wisdom of Those Who Do Wrong
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Death Comes for the Archeopteryx
Saturday, March 18, 2017
Friday, March 17, 2017
Persuasion by Platitudes
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Truth or Consequences
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Unnecessary Proverbs Number 42
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Sonic Booming: A Sound Notion?
Bad news travels faster than sound news.Fake News?
Speaking of proverbial transonic events, I remember the sonic booms that would seem to split the sky and shake the earth back in 1963 as those transonic jets would fly too low over the under-populated Ozarks and rattle the big, thick first-grader-size pencils off our desks and send us little kids into duck-and-cover mode.
Enough complaints from us hillbillies got that unsound practice stopped.
Monday, March 13, 2017
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Tacky . . .
Saturday, March 11, 2017
Rule of Law at stake in South Korea
One of my favorite Korea Herald writers, Lee Jae-min, worries in "Divided and adrift" (March 7, 2017) as to where the current political chaos in South Korea is taking us during this impeachment process of President Park:
In theory, the decision of the Constitutional Court should close the chapter on this saga. We call it rule of law. But both pro- and anti-impeachment groups are now ratcheting up pressure on the Constitutional Court by threatening non-obedience if the decision is adverse. This is simply unacceptable: with the rule of law replaced with street anger, we simply stop being a democratic society.Events could turn nasty rather quickly if street anger erupts in this gusts-of-popular-feeling country. Park was impeached yesterday (March 10), so we'll soon see if the rule of law holds.
Friday, March 10, 2017
A Very Tasty Burger
You're looking at the final photo of just about the best hamburger I've ever eaten, and it was created by my wife, who cannot make another like it because she didn't keep track of the ingredients and their proportions.
The salad, however, she recalls precisely, and I hope she remembers forever, because I don't want to eat a salad like that again, nor does my wife, for it lacked flavor, any flavor, though it was probably good for our health.
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Peter Kracht in support of Duquesne University Press
Today's blogpost is for readers with an interest in practical university problems, but everyone is welcome to read it, of course.
Peter Kracht, director of the University of Pittsburgh Press, speaks out in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for the Duquesne University Press. That press is facing closure for budgetary reasons, but Kracht calls out to "Let Duquesne University Press live" (March 7, 2017).
Why? Because this press "has built a truly outstanding reputation in . . . . medieval studies, philosophy and scholarship on John Milton."
Many of my Milton-scholar friends are speaking up in support of this university press, so I've concluded that I ought to add my voice, and I'm doing so by way of Kracht's article. At its most concise and pragmatic, here is the argument by Kracht:
Duquesne University recently announced that it is contemplating the closure of its university press for budgetary reasons . . . . University presses have always required substantial financial support from their parent institutions to fulfill their mission. Instead of looking at university support for its press as a "loss," I think it's useful to flip the equation around - actually the university press is one of the few departments at any university that actually contributes in a routine, ongoing way to the cost of fulfilling its mission.The argument is intriguing, and I've not heard it before, so maybe it will make the Duquesne University administration reconsider, especially since this press has such high standing in the academic world.
Wednesday, March 08, 2017
Monkey and Pigeon?
The novelist Victor Lodato writes an interesting article for the NYT of how he became best friends with Austin, a woman in her eighties, when he was in his early forties. Titled "When Your Greatest Romance Is a Friendship" (February 24, 2017), the article implies that their "Modern Love" remains a Platonic one, or "like one of those unlikely animal friendships: a monkey and a pigeon, perhaps" - not sexual, at any rate. Or does it imply this? Let's see:
Austin had [recently] attended a wedding. She showed me a copy of the vows, which had been distributed at the ceremony - a detailed list. I read it carefully, at Austin's bidding . . . .That's what Lodato writes, but what does the expression mean, "the monkey kissed the pigeon"? Is it merely something like "the groom kissed the bride"? Or more toward what that kiss is intended to lead to? And is there some weird idiomatic meaning here that I happen not to know?
"I never had anything like that with the men in my life," she said, pointing to the vows. "We loved each other, but we didn't have that." She was crying now, something she rarely did.
I took her hand and said, "Well, you have it with me. Everything but the sex."
At which point, the monkey kissed the pigeon.
That night, I had an odd realization: Some of the greatest romances of my life have been friendships. And these friendships have been, in many ways, more mysterious than erotic love: more subtle, less selfish, more attuned to kindness.
Tuesday, March 07, 2017
A "Don't Do" to Keep in Mind
Monday, March 06, 2017
Dogwise, it makes sense
Sunday, March 05, 2017
Some stand in just for verbs, but some do more.Mere grammar notes . . .
Saturday, March 04, 2017
Dylan's Other Art: Literally Overwhelming
Bob Dylan, Artist
This watercolor and two others can be seen on the Spectator, and all three are shown impressively on the Halcyon Gallery site. Unfortunately, the whole exhibition has long passed, for the show ran from November 5 to December 11 2016. But the images were overwhelming because they whelmed over us. Or would have.
There's just too much to keep up with . . .
Labels: Bob Dylan
Friday, March 03, 2017
Ignorant Experts on False Islamism
Martin Kramer directs us to an observation by a man genuinely knowledgeable on Islamism and strongly critical of false experts who speak without knowledge:
Graeme Wood (The Atlantic), in his new book [The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State] on ISIS: "In my conversations with [Western] scholars of Islam, few of the people who dismissed the Islamic State as a product of false Islamism - Jacobinism with an Islamic veneer - were able to name a single cleric or [Muslim] scholar associated with the Islamic State, or a fatwa or other statement by that [Muslim] scholar. The level of ignorance is as appalling as if a scholar of Marxism declared the Soviet Union 'not Marxist' and turned out to be unfamiliar with the name of Trotsky or Lenin." [The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State, page 76]That means I know more than most so-called experts. Yet, I know that I know next to nothing about anything. By the end of the semester, however, I should know quite a bit more than next to nothing, since my Islamism course appears to have enough students to take place this time.
Thursday, March 02, 2017
Jae-Uk Performing . . .
My elder child is no longer a child, but a third-year student at Korea University and a gifted musician. Second from the right in the photo above, Jae-Uk is singing in a performance that lasted two hours and revealed not only a talent for singing but a mastery of the keyboard as well.
If you let them, your children will surprise you.
Wednesday, March 01, 2017
The Bottomless Bottle of Beer is an E-TEXT!
I recently had contact with an old friend in Spain, and we did some catching up on literary topics . . . ahem, I mean my books:
Did you ever have a chance to read my story? You can have a free preview:My friend, referring to my first book - The Bottomless Bottle of Beer - informs me:
I actually ordered your story from Amazon. But it never made it to me. Do you have a digital copy?I replied:
Looking forward to your poems... and [your second] story. Will it be a bestseller?
As for ordering my story - you do realize it's only an e-text, don't you? Amazon offers a free app for downloading the book. There's no waiting. You don't need a Kindle reader, either, for you can download onto any device, from smartphone to desktop.Anyway, this email conversation revealed a misunderstanding that could be shared by others who have tried without success to order a hard copy. Let me therefore make clear: The Bottomless Bottle of Beer is only an e-text.
I do have a digital version since that's the only one that exists, but I can't share it since the software prevents that.
Bestseller? I can only dream . . .
Why? The many colorful illustrations would raise the cost of a hard copy tenfold or more.
Labels: The Bottomless Bottle of Beer