Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Photo by Jae-Uk

Just a belated birthday poem for my wife, whose birth date was October 8th, nineteen hundred-and-some-thump-paddy-other:


Sunshine of my life,
under the heavens,
need I thee alone,
alone thy leaven's
enlivening, wife?

How might I, my life,
withhold from heaven's
angels thee, alone,
nor leave thy leaven's
grace, enlivened wife?

You will have noticed that the first letter of each line, settled in a sequence, spells out my wife's name "Sunae Hwang."


Monday, October 22, 2018

Garden of Eden Invitation

I was sent the above invitation to the Garden of Eden and the following information below, along with a 'poem' by Peter Moore offering dubious advice.

I wonder why I was sent this material - I'm rather far from NYC! Maybe these people read my Bottomless Bottle of Beer story? If they haven't, they should! And so should you!

Go here!


Sunday, October 21, 2018

There Is No Race

Racing Against the Clock

Race Against Time

Earlier bread
earlier rice
keeps a man
healthy, and nice will suffice.


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Bed Wedder

Honeycomb Moon


Already bedded,
already wed,
sugarplum visions
still dance in his head.


Friday, October 19, 2018

Overheard in the English Lounge

Gingerbread Man

Interlocutor 1: Next time, let's do gender roles, okay?

Interlocutor 2: Sounds great! Shall I bring the ginger rolls?

Interlocutor 1: Please do! Bring lots of examples!

Interlocutor 2: Lots of samples, right!

Interlocutor 1: Looking forward to it!

Interlocutor 2: Me, too! See you!


Thursday, October 18, 2018

A German Joke: Will Cause Laughter

The German Joke

Interlocutor 1: Why is 10 afraid?

Interlocutor 2: I don't know. Why?

Interlocutor 1: Because 7 8 9!

Interlocutor 2: Oh.

Interlocutor 1: Why is 4 filled with fear??

Interlocutor 2: Because 1 2 3?

Interlocutor 1: No, idiot! Because 4 is a German!

Interlocutor 2: I don't get it.

Interlocutor 1: The number "4" is a German! Hence "Vier," which sounds like "fear."

Interlocutor 2: Okay, but why is 4 a German?

Interlocutor 1: Because it's the punch line dammit!

Interlocutor 2: Oh. Very funny. Hah-hah. No wonder they say German jokes are nothing to laugh at.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Shallow is Here

Probably Good

I went to see A Star is Born this weekend and I like the theme song. Its lyrics are the words you see below, and you can click on the title to hop over to the song itself:


Tell me somethin' girl
Are you happy in this modern world?
Or do you need more
Is there somethin' else you're searchin' for?

I'm fallin'
In all the good times
I find myself longing for change
And in the bad times I fear myself

Tell me something boy
Aren't you tired tryin' to fill that void?
Or do you need more
Ain't it hard keepin' it so hardcore?

I'm falling
In all the good times
I find myself longing for change
And in the bad times I fear myself

I'm off the deep end
Watch as I dive in
I'll never meet the ground
Crash through the surface
Where they can't hurt us
We're far from the shallow now

In the sha-ha-sha-ha-ha-low
In the sha-sha-la-la-low
In the sha-ha-sha-ha-ha-low
We're far from the shallow now

Ooooo aahaaa ooou
Ooo ouo oooo haaaa

I'm off the deep end
Watch as I dive in
I'll never meet the ground
Crash through the surface
Where they can't hurt us
We're far from the shallow now

In the sha-ha-sha-ha-ha-low
In the sha-sha-la-la-low
In the sha-ha-sha-ha-ha-low
We're far from the shallow now

One thing that strikes me in reading this song is how important music is in giving poetic force to weakly poetic words. Imagine listening to somebody recite Shallow. Wouldn't work.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Burden of Our Dreams

The Monster

I had a dream last night about Frankenstein's monster. For some reason, I was the object of that creature's wrath, as if I were Doctor Frankenstein himself. This monster differed from the original one in that it had to replace body parts every so often. These were ripped from innocent bystanders. Curiously, though, the monster could then use its electrical power to regenerate those now missing parts of the people missing them, such that it restored them to wholeness. I realize that this story makes no sense, but I'm not the one re-writing it!

But who is then . . .


Monday, October 15, 2018

Nonsuch Franklinism

Nonsuch Nuttiness

Nonsense Doggerel

Early to bide
early to ride
makes a man help
himself well
to abide.


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Visible Gorilla?

An article I was reading in a newspaper over the weekend spoke of the "famous 'Invisible Gorilla' experiment" as a great example of how we ignore things outside our basic interest.

I've never heard of this famous experiment, and the article never mentions it again. I could look it up, but I suspect it's a kind of trick to show I'm a fool for taking this seriously and wasting my time on it since there's no way to locate an invisible gorilla, so it's entirely outside my basic interest.


Saturday, October 13, 2018



Scurry to bed,
scurry to rise,
will teach you but little,


Friday, October 12, 2018

Stuff Happens in the World of Fiction

Mother Goose Musings
How much wood could a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood
in quantities sufficient to fuel the feared blaze
that would motivate the trapped fly and flea
to vacate that proverbial place of the flawed flue,
much as the dog in a famed factor-analysis problem
learned wit enough to solve the multi-causal
problem posed by asking for one effect from
a multitude of causes, knowing that cause
becomes effect as burning stick moves a dog.

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

If You Believe in my Make-Believe Moon

Paper Moon

This is the moon that the moo 'over-jumped' . . . and the cat has lost its fiddle!

And just for fun, here are the lyrics to "It's Only a Paper Moon":

It is only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believe in me

It is only a canvas sky
Hanging over a muslin tree
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believe in me

Without your love
It's a honky-tonk parade
Without your love
It's a melody played
In a penny arcade

It's a Barnum and Bailey world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believe in me

Without your love
It's a honky-tonk parade
Without your love
It's a melody played
In a penny arcade

Here's a link to the song sung!


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

"The Annie Cho" Reviews the Bottomless Bottle of Beer

My friend Annie Cho has reviewed my first novella, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer, and has ranked it at three exclamation marks:
Really good! Well written! Great illustrations!
Three exclamation marks amounts to five stars, I gather. Thanks Annie, for the concise praise!

Moreover, rightly appraising a scary story such as mine requires a Ghost Person, which seems to be the actual name given to the sort of non-photograph displayed above.


Tuesday, October 09, 2018

The Brave Moo: The Real Story

Hey diddle-diddle,
the cat and the fiddle,
the moo jumped
over the moon.
The little dog laughed
to see such sport,
and the dish ran away
with the spoon.

As for the moo, its moonly leap took it along a milky way as it went on to explore the far reaches of the galaxy and the even farther reaches of deep space, while the cow that you expected from this old rhyme remained behind, too cowed to attempt the spatial leap but taking a coward's credit for it anyway, that cowardly old cow!


Monday, October 08, 2018

Paper Money? Paper Moon?

Franklin as Money

zz to bed
zz to rise
leaves out a few zzs
or so I surmise.


Sunday, October 07, 2018

Gerard Manogue's Review of Jang Jung-il's Short Novel When Adam Opens His Eyes

Regular visitors will perhaps recall that Sun-Ae and I translated Jang Jung-il's Short Novel When Adam Opens His Eyes in 2013. While surfing through the Internet, I found that the book is still being read, or it was at least being read in 2016 by Gerard Manogue. His review is relatively long, so the quoted passages below are only a small part of what he actually says:
In a small Singapore bookstore (Books Actually, lovely place) I was intrigued to come across this novel, as I spent some time teaching in South Korea in 2013 and have always wanted to acquaint myself with the literary tradition. This book is also part of a more expansive Library of Korean Literature series, so I hope to read more of these titles in the future as I generate income.
* * *
This wistful, lonely novel gives us the story of a young Korean man — we never know his name but we get the biblical nickname 'Adam' — and a portrait of his life as a nineteen-year old transitioning from boy to man in Daegu, a major city in the southern part of the country. Adam enters a cram school with the goal of entering a top university, acquiescing to the desires of his mother, who works in an underground subway mall to pay for Adam's tuition. Disillusioned with his prospects and feeling lonesome and stuck, Adam helplessly and apathetically searches for an exit from convention, using sex, music, reading, and different forms of loitering as ineffective devices.
* * *
Overall I really enjoyed this book, and I recommend this book to anyone who wants a deeper perspective into the South Korean psyche, or just a bittersweet, heartache of a read.
Mr. Manogue apparently liked the translation, though he didn't specifically say so. At any rate, thanks to him for taking the time to read the novel translated by my wife and me! For blog readers who want to read the full review, click here.


Saturday, October 06, 2018

I Circuit-Short the Body Electric

A Short-Circuit
is a
Stun Gun
"I'll tell you a story about Jackanory,
And now my story's begun.
I'll tell you another about his brother,
who died from the shot of a gun."


Friday, October 05, 2018

I Cerebrate the Body Eclectic

No Poeming Aloud

Mixed Up Memories

Healthy a man makes, wealthy and wise,
bed too early, and too early rise.

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Thursday, October 04, 2018

What is the question? That is the Question.

What are we putting into our lungs?

What makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise?

Early to bed? Or early to rise?


Wednesday, October 03, 2018

You Know Who! So Don't Say It!

Note that today's blog avoids mention of the name touted in various entries lately!

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Dr. Ben Franklinstein

Dr. Frankenstein was only doing what Ben Franklin did - draw the power of electricity from the skies down to the earth . . .

Perhaps we should be speaking of Dr. Ben Franklinstein!


Monday, October 01, 2018

Bin-Jameen al-Farankleen: Mosaiced or Pixelated or Both

Nonsense Doggerel

Bleary to bed
bleary to rise
makes a Jihadi
of Frankenstein size!


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Professor Vardaman's Influence on a Couple of Students

in England with Friends

Professor Vardaman's most special student, whom he most influenced,was Betsy, as she says in her own words:
As I told him more than once, in all the important ways he made me who I am and without question, he gave me the world . . . . Dr. Vardaman (James, Jim) obviously inspired students far and near to realize learning was the only thing for them, too. He opened minds and motivated students to weigh carefully the trajectories for their lives. He insisted that they become critical thinkers and ponder evidence.
Professor Vardaman also believed in me, and said he was proud of me, in a letter of five or six years ago, written in response to a 2012 article of mine ("Points Toward a Culture of Discussion," Resolution of Conflict in Korea, East Asia and Beyond: Humanistic Approach) that I had sent to him:
I sit here on a Thursday evening approaching 8 p.m. and hearken back over the years, remembering such warm and fine things about you. I take pride in you though perhaps I have no right to do so. I'm sure that all of the things that impel you to greatness took place in Salem, Arkansas, long before you appeared on Baylor's campus and in my life.
He's right to see that I was already set on my scholarly path before I met him (but "greatness"?) He nevertheless had some influence on me in his teaching, which I praised him for in warm words that he in turn thanked me for:
I'll always recall your intelligence, your wry humor, your hard work, and your sensitivity. . . . It is hard to believe that you have indeed become a successful Gypsy [Scholar] with your keen mind still intact. I thank you for your warm words [about my teaching and my character]. I hope I deserve some of them.
I'm sure he deserved the praise. Next, concerning the article of mine that I sent him, he wrote:
I read your article and found it deeply interesting, indeed, in places quite fascinating. It seems to me you have asked the good questions, and you certainly have picked a judicious topic! And it goes without saying that I agree with your basic thesis. What educated person could disagree with your opinion! I trust you will be convincing when you deliver your paper at your conference. It's good that you related Sam Huntington's clash of civilizations - rarely do people talk about his view of culture in a positive way as you do. I appreciate your allowing me to read your work. It is quite stimulating.
That was, in truth, a good article. A few other articles of mine attain its level, I hope. Some general observations were also forthcoming from Professor Vardaman:
You've done it well. You've paid the price. I know it has not been easy. There's the loneliness, sometimes the rejection, sometimes the longing for rich understanding from others that just won't appear when we need it most. It pleases Betsy and me that you have been selected to discourse at this global forum. Hopefully it is more than a stewpot. With you there, I think it will be.
And Betsy wrote an addendum to his letter:
Jim is very proud of you, and your sending him a copy of your paper meant a lot to him. When he put it down, the first thing he said was, "Impressive."
I could ask no higher evaluation from such an elevated source, and I hope I deserved the praise. I know I'll never hear its like again, leastways not in his voice. Now, he belongs to the ages . . .


Saturday, September 29, 2018

A Few More Words from Betsy

Elizabeth Vardaman
and Students

Betsy speaks of Professor Vardaman's good health and abrupt death:
Jim lived to be 89 year of age. He did indeed "rage against the dying of the light" and knew himself fortunate to enjoy a long and mostly healthy life. Certainly he had every synapse firing in his brain until the week when all the clocks stopped. Just over four months ago. In this complex, fragmented world, he was a person we turned to for historical context, for wisdom and perspective, for affirmation that we were okay, even if we did not know everything, and for peeling the layers of issues back to their origins.
This might sound like Betsy's last word on the subject, but she still has four more pages, so I might cite some more.


Friday, September 28, 2018

More from Betsy on Professor Vardaman

At Ten O'Clock

Betsy Vardaman was privileged to be with Professor Vardaman every day, and two of her daily wishes were unchanging:
I wished for a tape recorder every day, and more shelving. Books were stuffed under tables, tipping over from stacks in the corners, and sideways on the tops of volumes lined up neatly in their categories and rows around the room. I've always imagined that one could get smarter, just by breathing deeply the air in there. (And, okay, most of the chats between my husband and me were one-sided. The scholar mused on topics from his childhood and/or across time. I listened and nodded as if fully comprehending all the news "the king" rained down on me.) For example, one morning about a year ago, I brought up Tennyson  because I was going to lead a few sessions at our church on Victorian poetry. Suddenly Jim began to quote "Locksley Hall." (This is a very long poem -- and hauntingly crafted, with lines such as these woven throughout: "Many a night I saw the Pleiades, rising thro' the mellow shade,/ Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.") He recited pages of it . . . not quite all, but almost. I pulled my college English from the shelf and followed along -- truly aghast that he could just access 200+ lines of Tennyson without a year to prepare. He responded, when I asked him when and why he had memorized it, "Well, [my sister] Ann encouraged me to learn poems when I was young. And I liked Tennyson, so I started there."
Life with Professor Vardaman must have been full of surprises. There was always another level to his knowledge.


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Franklin: Short of Time

Franklinizing Again

Eager to tread
one hopes to devise
a way to get healthy,
wealthy, and wise.

Short of time, now . . .


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Betsy Vardaman: Still More on the Professor

Here is Betsy listing only a few of Professor Vardaman's early morning informal, if impassioned lecture topics
[Jim] and I of course held rich exchanges upon wildly diverse topics, but all with intensity and detail -- and often before I had had my first cup of tea. I list here just a few of his sunrise lecture topics: the Magna Carta, Dunkirk; the HMS Calliope; the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution; Martin Luther; William Tyndale; Martin Luther King; the Huguenots; Vaclav Havel; the Netherlands' history of religious toleration; Palestinian and Jewish relations; Bosnia; William Faulkner; Kemal Ataturk; Czeslaw Milosz; Stalin; Hitler; the difference in Pilgrims and Puritans; Scotland's role in shaping US democracy; Quanah Parker; his admiration for Winston Churchill, William Gladstone and Oliver Cromwell; and every other aspect of the British Empire throughout history as well as the roots and derivations of just about every word in the OED.
This might look to you like a mere list of disorganized topics, but for those who knew him, an entire lecture on each of these and thousands more was instantly available to him if called for, and not because he had prepared in advance by memorizing lectures he had given before but because he knew history in such detail that he didn't need to prepare at all.

Everything was there in his mind, ready at a moment's notice to be crafted spontaneously into a lecture inscribed upon the air . . .


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

More from Betsy Vardaman on the Professor

Betsy Vardaman

More from Betsy on her late husband, Professor Vardaman, in his very active retirement years:
Our home and library, in truth, became hallowed ground for us as a couple. The library became the soul of our home. It was filled with silence often, and I was privileged to study Jim's face then as he communed outside of time with the authors, ideas, and ages he held in his mind and in his hands. He was the perfect reader . . .
What more can one say about a man like that? Well, there is more . . . tomorrow.


Monday, September 24, 2018

Betsy Vardaman relates more about the last years of her very intellectually engaged husband

Baylor University, alma mater to the student James Vardaman, called him to a professorship in its history department in 1967 for the next 33 years, and his wife, Betsy, tells us of his busy retirement years after that:
Then retirement began and he filled his days with even more volumes and topics, ranging more freely from Africa, to South America, to the American West, to the cosmos, to the history of salt, to the novels of Cormac McCarthy.

He had great friends and immediately began to organize lunch groups . . . . On occasion, they came to our home and, sitting in the library, enjoyed homemade apple or pecan pie . . . . Jim was, of course, a dynamic presence in those and many other conversations that took place in "the room." He was a master at orchestrating discussions, choosing when to remain quiet and listen; when to posit a complex, follow-up question; when to challenge or complicate a historical point or provide context; when to contribute an anecdote or correct a date about a leader, scoundrel, war, world issue; or if encouraged slightly, when to explain the riveting history of the potato.
More tomorrow from Betsy, the person who knew him best. The quotes are from her Remembrances of Dr. James W. Vardaman and his Library.


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Another Note on Professor Vardaman

Betsy Vardaman

Readers of this blog will recall that one of my great teachers, Dr. James Vardaman, died this year. I've just received from his wife, Betsy, a copy of her "Remembrances of Dr. James W. Vardaman and His Library." Here is an initial quote from the small booklet:
[We spent many a happy day in what had been the garage, now Jim's office, holding his thousands of books, by which,] the power and weight of the air in his office at Baylor was replicated, floor to ceiling, here. Year in and year out, each book has stood tall in its assigned place, meeting the terms of its multifaceted, ongoing relationship to its overseer. The room . . . was and is now a palpable testimony to the passions of one mind to encounter, comprehend, wrestle with, and harness vast fields of knowledge.
I'll quote more of these remembrances over the next few days. This one is to establish that the man was not only a seeker after knowledge, but also a thinker.