Friday, February 29, 2008

An Academic Aside: Samson Agonistes

Etching of Samson
1882 German Bible
(Image from Wikipedia)

I'm on one of my Miltonic jaunts today, this time an excursion through Samson Agonistes.

On the Milton Listserve, one of the scholars, Joe Mayer, asked why Milton describes Samson as if in prayer with "eyes fast fixt," for Samson's eyes had been physically gouged out according to the biblical text.

Carol Barton suggests that Milton was "nodding" in describing Samson as having his "eyes fast fixt" as if in prayer, for Milton knew -- but momentarily forgot -- that Samson's eyes had been physically removed.

Milton's 'fatigue' is possible, but a careful poet such as Milton must have gone over the line many times, checking and rechecking, so I wonder if "nodding" is the answer to Joe Mayer's query about Samson's "eyes fast fixt."

Just as a query of my own, mostly out of ignorance, but did Milton believe that Samson's eyes had physically been gouged out?

In Samson Agonistes, a quick scan gives these references:
line 33: "eyes put out"

line 41: "eyeless in gaza"

line 67: "O loss of sight"

line 152: "lost Sight"

lines 195-6: "that which was the worst now least afflicts me, / Blindness, for had I sight"

lines 644-5: "irreparable loss / Of sight"

line 914: "though sight be lost"

line 1103: "eyes put out"

line 1160: "put out both thine eyes"

line 1294: "sight bereav'd"

line 1489; "eye-sight lost"

line 1490: "it shall be my delight to tend his eyes"

line 1502: "his strength with eye-sight was not lost"

lines 1527-8: "What if his eye-sight (for to Israels God / Nothing is hard) by miracle restor'd"

line 1624: "without help of eye"

line 1637: "eyes fast fixt"

line 1687: "blind of sight"

line 1741: "loss of eyes"
I may have missed some, but of these lines, only line 41 ("eyeless in gaza") and line 1741 ("loss of eyes") would most strongly suggest that Samson's eyes are physically missing, but are these to be taken literally?

I am merely asking, uncertain.

Expressions such as "eyes put out" seem far more ambiguous to me, for "put out" might be read as "extinguished" -- as in the light of the eyes being extinguished.

Milton would, of course, know the Hebrew of Judges 16:21, which reads (apologies for the poor transliteration): "wayenaqqru et ainaiv."

This is often translated "and they gouged out his eyes."

My lexicon (Brown-Driver-Briggs, 669a), however, defines "naqar" as "bore, pick, dig." The Arabic cognate has the meanings of "perforate, bore out, hollow out." The Hebrew term "naqar" (and its Arabic cognate) thus seems to allow for some hermeneutic room to choose between the sense of gouging out and the sense of perforating.

Incidently, the King James Bible translates Judges 16:21 as "the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes," which -- as noted in Milton's use above -- seems to allow for some ambiguity.

But why would Milton want ambiguity on this point? What would be gained? Could it possibly have something to do with concepts of purity and holiness in Milton's reading of what he considered the old covenant? Purity and holiness are related to soundness of body and mind -- for instance, a priest must be sound of body according to divine law.

Yet blindness itself, even with the eyes physically present, would perhaps not constitute soundness of body, would it?

If any biblical scholars with expertise in Hebrew would care to comment, I'd be grateful.

Other individuals -- even Milton scholars -- are also invited to offer opinions.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gypsy Scholar's "Pearls of Wisdom"

Yeouido Island, Seoul
Korea Beckons...
(Image from Wikipedia)

Early this morning, I received an email from an American-based (North American-based, anyway) physicist who had happened across my blog and decided to contact me for advice because he has been offered a position in a South Korean university. Like me, he is married to a Korean woman and has two children who speak both Korean and English.

Although he asked me for "pearls of wisdom" based on my experience, all that I can offer is the following, which might nevertheless prove interesting to others reading this blog:
From my blog, you may have noted that I don't really speak Korean. If you happen to, or if you quickly pick up languages, you will fit in better.

Having a wife who is Korean helps enormously, of course, and I am utterly dependent upon mine. If your wife is from Korea, then she will understand lots of things that appear odd to Americans, such as "key money." When renting a house in Korea, one does not usually pay a monthly rent. Rather, one gives "key money" in lieu of rent. This is a one-time deposit that one gets back when one's rental contract is over. One doesn't actually pay any rent, though one 'pays' an opportunity cost -- as the economists like to express it -- for that money, which can be as much as 20 thousand to 100 thousand dollars, or more, could have been used for investment or for obtaining interest in a savings account. In fact, the person receiving the "key money" is using that money in either of those two ways. Of course, if your housing is provided, the issue of "key money" is moot.

If your wife is a Korean citizen, you might consider applying for a spousal visa, for that gives you more flexibility in accepting a new job if that should turn out to be necessary or advantageous. A work visa leaves you with less flexibility, for if you accept a new job, then you have to leave the country and reapply to enter. Usually, that requires merely a one-day trip to Japan, but such a trip is still time, money, and inconvenience.

You need to realize that a contract is not really binding in Korea. Korean employers can alter contracts pretty much at will, and many foreigners working in Korea find this terribly frustrating. Don't be surprised if the contract also does not entirely jibe with reality.

Related to this is the 'disorganization' that confronts foreigners. Planning ahead is difficult, for conditions can suddenly change -- and at the last minute. For instance, you will need to inquire ahead in order to find out the holidays and special school days because Koreans will assume that you already know, but those special school days might not even be decided upon until a week in advance, and you might find out with only two days notice that classes will not be held . . . or that the midterm exams have been shifted one week back or ahead.

I'm in the humanities, so my needs differ from yours. The library system is insufficient for my purposes, so I rely upon the internet for doing my research. Fortunately, universities usually provide online access to a lot of journals, and I'm guessing that this would also be true for physics.

In your case, as a physicist, you would need to know what sort of laboratory equipment a department has and whether or not that equipment is available to you. Also, you would need to know if any of your colleagues would be willing to work with you on research and if you would have student assistants to help you to run experiments.

Koreans tend to be polite to Westerners but don't readily grow close, for both cultural and language reasons. Korea lacks a culture of discussion, given the hierarchical nature of its very Confucian society, and this affects personal relations as well as professional and teacher-student relations. If your wife grew up in Korea, you might have noticed that she doesn't discuss matters like an American (or other Westerner) does. My wife and I often used to misunderstand each other in discussions. For instance, if I tried to discuss a problem with her, she tended to interpret my words as complaints rather than as attempts to analyze and solve. You can perhaps imagine how not having a culture of discussion might inhibit academic life -- and this inhibition is compounded by the language barrier, of course.

Another thing to note is that Koreans are educated -- or perhaps 'trained' is the word -- to think "in the box," and getting them to think more flexibly is not an easy task. I have noticed a major difference between Korean students who grew up abroad as the children of businessmen or diplomats, for example, and those who grew up in Korea, the former being much more flexible in their thinking.

Some Koreans are anti-American and tend to assume that any Westerner encountered in Korea is an American. In 2002, for instance, when an American tank driver accidentally drove over two high school girls, many Koreans treated the accident as a deliberate homicide, and anti-American sentiment reached an all-time high. Canadians and Europeans reported being attacked as Americans by Koreans who refused to believe their protests that they were not American. Now, I don't want to exaggerate this, for even in 2002, I myself encountered no such problems. But I did give a talk about 9/11 that same year, and a lot of Koreans who came to listen didn't like the fact that I did not interpret the 9/11 attacks simply as a reaction to American foreign policy. In fact, I did acknowledge America's foreign policy as one of the motives behind the terrorist attacks, but I didn't think it the primary motive. Many of the Koreans present didn't like hearing that, but my topic of my talk probably attracted a lot of Koreans who were politically on the left.

You will probably also notice that Koreans are strongly nationalistic, even those on the left. The political left in the West tends to be international in its rhetoric, but the Korean left is a nationalistic left. This is less surprising when one comes to see that their nationalism is simply a shared feature of being Korean rather than some peculiar feature of being on the left.

I guess that I've focused on the various difficulties in being a foreigner in Korea, but the positives nevertheless outweigh the negatives for me. Korea has provided me with a job as a professor in a good university. I can manage my research without too much difficulty. My students are mostly nice even if they don't work hard enough. Korean food is good, at least to my tastes, and Korea itself is a modern nation that imports fine wines and offers international cuisine. I enjoy living in the great city of Seoul, which provides me with the highest standard of living that I have yet experienced.

Your mileage may vary.
Perhaps this blog 'paste' has not been especially interesting for my regular readers, but I did spend a couple of hours this morning composing it...

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Expat Living: "In search of an Ozark dialect"

Buffalo River River Trail Overlook
"Splendid Isolation"
Near Steel Creek, Boston Mountains
(Image from Wikipedia)

My most recent column for the Korea Herald's Expat Living section has posted online, but finding it there would be a chore since the site doesn't allow for direct links to specific articles, so I'm reposting it here for your edification, entertainment, and convenience:
In search of an Ozark dialect
American folklorist Vance Randolph, famous for "Pissing in the Snow" and getting off Scot-free, not only collected and published those off-color Ozark stories for which he is known, but also did groundbreaking scholarly work in 1929 on the Ozark dialect.

On field trips throughout the Ozarks in the southern United States, Randolph encountered many unusual words and expressions, much as did I growing up in those same rough hills, but I no longer remain convinced of a specifically Ozark dialect, though I currently have time to reconsider as I show my family around these mountains for two weeks.

In my youth, I yearned to believe that we Ozarkers spoke our own dialect, and I imagined myself to have uncovered empirical evidence during the summer of '76, when I turned nineteen and was working as a chainman for a surveying crew in the wild Ozark woodlands.

Mostly, my job entailed lugging chain, a surveyor's level, hatchet, plumb-bob, hammer, laths, stakes, and other equipment through thickets where I had to cut lines, or up and down steep hollows which threatened havoc to our measurements.

One tough place stretched along the isolated hollow of a spring-fed river where our crew sought a corner marker to set up the theodolite, and where I learned an unfamiliar word. Scrambling for our bearings, we asked an old hillbilly if he knew where the marker, a metal spike driven into the ground, was located.

"Yeah," he replied, his face wrinkling with concentration, "but ye got to go antigogglin' over that thar hill to get thar."

Anti-what!? I thought. But it was pretty clear what the old man intended -- the way was not straight, as we had figured all along.

But, for assurance, when I arrived home that evening, I checked with my septuagenarian grandmother, who confirmed that the word meant "crooked."

I imagined that I had found support for Randolph's thesis, but I eventually stumbled across antigogglin' in other Southern states, and gradually inferred that the word characterizes Southern speech patterns, rather than any specifically Ozark one.

This conclusion has ruined my life, and I have taken to staying out nights drinking to drown my hillbilly sorrows in moonshine and to write guilt-ridden songs like "Day Breakin'":
Oh, all night, I been out drankin',
now mah head's as thick as clay,
So I 'spec' mah woman's waitin'
with some high-tone words tuh say,
But I'd need uhn extra drank
tuh help me face that judgment day!
-- an' another shot uh whiskey
jus' might warsh mah sins away.

Oh, the mornin' light is growin',
but mah head fades more like dusk,
An' mah wife could blast mah lies
away like wind'll blast a husk,
Yeh, the judgment that's a-waitin'
can be swift an' sure an' brusque
-- so, jus' one more shot uh whiskey,
save mah soul from gettin' cussed.

Oh, the crack uh dawn is creakin'
an' mah min' could crack in two
At the thought uh whut that scornful
woman's scorchin' speech can do
-- She got words as sharp as arrows,
an' she aims each one so true!
-- yet uhn extra shot uh whiskey
save me on this rendevous.

Oh, the sun is fully risen,
an' it burns mah eyes like mace,
Hence mah wife is surely wearin'
now her godforsaken face,
So I'll need a further drank
afore I step into that place!
-- an' uhn added shot uh whiskey
jus' may bring mah soul tuh grace.

Yeh, all night, I been out drankin,
thus mah head's as thick as clay,
So I 'spec' mah woman's waitin',
got them high-tone words tuh say,
Sure I need that extra drank
tuh help me on this judgment day!
-- now, that partin' shot uh whiskey,
may it warsh mah sins away.
Maybe if I just keep on writing such antigogglin' songs, I can create my own durgenal Ozark dialect, but I shall have to face my tetchous wife to do so.

Jeffery is a professor at Kyung Hee University and can be reached through his blog, Gypsy Scholar, at -- Ed.
As for those who prefer not to reach me at my blog . . . well, too late now for regrets, but you can leave a comment expressing your dissatisfaction and informing me just how wrong I am -- a point that my Expat Living column will deal with next week, by the way.

Stay tuned...

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

John Wells: The Beer Man's Report

"Little Rock Loves Beer"
(Image from EBeerSnob.Com)

This blog is turning into some sort of online anthology, what with Uncle Cranford's story from yesterday and a report from Mr. John Wells today, but they can say things so much better than I.

Regular readers will perhaps recall Mr. Wells as the cultivated fellow who hosts the website EBeerSnob.Com and sends out every week a publication that he has deftly graced with the literary title of "The Official Size & Weight EBeer ENews Email."

The acronym reads as "TOSAWEBENE," which might or might not have literary significance. TO SAW EBENE? That looks almost meaningful . . . . Could it be an abbreviated Dickensian reference? Perhaps Tiny Tim taking revenge on Ebenezer Scrooge by sawing him in two?

Perchance I'm reading too much literature into things. I am a bit touched in the head by tangents, in literary, geometrical ways.

Whatever I may fancy about it, the e-beer email in fact provides a report on the weekly encounters of Mr. Wells with good, great, and even profoundly wretched beers.

Sometimes, as with "The Official Size & Weight EBeer ENews Email 42," it reports on the encounters of Mr. Wells with profoundly wretched individuals such as I. What follows is his account of the harrowing experience, interspersed with my explanatory, oxymoranically exculpatory mea culpas:
A Tale of Travel

It was a treat last weekend to spend some quality time with a particular EBeerNews reader. It was early in our effort that I received a request for a subscription from South Korea. Imagine my surprise. Dr. Jeff, native of Northern Arkansas, childhood friend of Bruce the wine guru, is a man of many letters, with a pedigree that is beyond reproach. A quick check of the right column of his blog site shows how extensive his studies are. Speaking of the blog site, it will be a great place to hear his side of the story regarding his trip home here to Arkansas.
True, I do report on my Ozark journey, but without photos and not in sufficiently descriptive detail . . . as anyone perusing those entries has surely already concluded. I blame the insufficiency on that damned 'hillbilly' computer. Or perhaps on the tornado. Or the ice storm. Or the snowstorm. Or something other than my own lack of talent...
M and I met the good doctor and his wife at Bruce's house Friday night. The doctor's wife is a charming, lovely soul who is a native of South Korea. We enjoyed their attention as we told them of how we met, and then enjoyed their story as well. It turns out that they met on a train, in Germany, and got acquainted by speaking to each other IN German, which of course was neither one's native tongue. They now speak fluently in each other's language, or at least I can vouch for hers. Her English is quite good.
Everything stated here by Mr. Wells is absolutely true. Even the fact that Sun-Ae and I have learned each other's native languages. She can now speak fluent English, and I can indeed speak with fluid grace the language of love, for I can speak her name, "Sun-Ae," which means "Good Love." Yes, it really does. Scout's honor.
We made final plans to meet again in the North Arkansas community that Bruce and Jeff hail from, to get down to some serious beer tasting. The Friday evening was devoted to wine, with our resident expert hosting a wonderful evening of food and drink. The beer tasting would be Saturday Night.
Mr. Wells is exactly right about Bruce's excellent wines and wonderful meal, but I should add that Sun-Ae and I arrived about 1:00 p.m. and enjoyed an afternoon of fine wines and good cheeses long before Mr. Wells and his lovely wife were scheduled to arrive. I am, I admit, forever indebted to Bruce for the entire epicurean experience. No exculpation possible there unless he makes a trip to Seoul.
Saturday afternoon, we met up with Jeff and met both his Arkansas family, as well as the rest of his Korean one. His children were there, speaking fluent English and interacting with the family as if they came there every weekend. His Arkansas family members were warm and welcoming. Bruce warned me that I would like them immediately, and he was quite right.
Yes, we have our way of worming ourselves into the souls of the unwary --- and even of the wary, the forewarned. Mr. Wells, you now belong to us. Sorry about that.
Saturday evening at a small country house in the remote reaches of the Ozarks, the beer tasting was held. I had no idea what Jeff's taste in beer was, so I came prepared for a wide variety of possibilities. I wanted to be able to adjust what came next based on what he said about the beer he was drinking. I'd been saving up from the beers I bought in Memphis , and put that together with the beers I could get here, so I was prepared.
And I once again am in another man's debt. Yet, as one with profound insight into our fallen condition once put it, "a grateful mind / By owing owes not, but still pays, at once / Indebted and discharged; what burden then?" (PL 4.55-57)
We started off with a very safe bet. I had a growler of (a Jackson favorite) Bosco's Flaming Stone (50) brewed right here in Arkansas . We went a little hoppier each time, and he never flinched. The grand finale was Stone's Arrogant Bastard Ale (98), to which he drank with zeal. I would never have predicted that his palate would be so diverse, particularly with the correspondence we exchanged. He describes being trapped in Korea, with minimal selections available in this part of the world. He told me via email that he lives vicariously through our writings, drinking bad beer and imagining he was drinking what we describe. He could only dream of one day drinking beer in the Land of Oz.
Lest my Korean readers protest, let me interject that one can in fact obtain good beer in Korea if one goes to a bit of trouble and pays a rather high price. However, Korea offers nothing like the selection reported upon weekly in the beer newsletter sent out by Mr. Wells. My palate just happens to tend toward the bitter end of the taste spectrum, possibly a unique benefit of my life's bitter experiences . . . for which somebody, somewhere, owes me an apology. Actually, I'm reminded of a line popularly attributed the great W.C. Fields: "It was a woman drove me to drink, and I didn't even have the decency to thank her."
Sunday morning we discussed the tasting over coffee. He had detailed and intellectual questions for both Bruce and I. He read every label of every beer we tried the night before, and interviewed me about what each phrase meant. He really did ask different and deeper questions that I have ever heard. "I wonder what the word origin of 'malt' is?" I've never heard this question at a bar or at a tasting, how about you? I had a great time talking to this eager beer enthusiast in residence. I have a sneaking suspicion I'll soon be asking him the deep questions about beer. He strikes me as a quick study.
Well, I wish that I were a "quick study," but in all honesty, I'm not. In fact, my dullness of mind adequately explains the rigorous questioning with which I badger all those I meet. I'm trying to make as many neural connections as possible in my brain so that I don't forget as much as I otherwise would. By the way, I did look up the origin of "malt," and my guess that it could be related to "melt" happened to be correct. Both are also related to "mollify," in the sense of "to soften." For more details on this interesting link, see the Etymological Dictionary's entry on "malt." Perhaps I've now exculpated myself for that excessive badgering.
Rather than detail the tasting any further, I prefer to wait until his blog catches up, to get a kind of point/counter point version of the event. I note that his blog already speaks of his return to Korea , and trust that he will tell us more of his adventure as time permits. Stay tuned.
Indeed, I shall. Sometime. I have less than a week to gear up for the new semester and am suddenly threatened with far more students than formerly promised, so my blog on beer will be either delayed or abbreviated . . . perhaps the latter, as part of a more general blog entry on my Ozark trip before the details fade from my porous memory.

Apologies to all everywhere...

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Dreams of My Absent Father: An Anecdote not on Race but Inheritance

Kavalier and Clay?
Well, every boy loves an adventure...
(Image from Wikipedia)

My Uncle Cranford was three years younger than my father, so they shared their boyhood years together and were close, providing Cranford with a perspective on my father that I never had due to his absence from my life.

Yesterday, I received from Uncle Cranford an interesting email relating an anecdote about a memorable Christmas around 1945 that he shared with Bradley on the isolated family farm on the edge of the wild:
Christmas didn't start out very well. The week previously our mother had to go to Little Rock for an "operation," -- I'm not sure which one, but believe it to be a cancer surgery. She took my younger sister [i.e., Virginia] with her to my aunt Cora's (paternal aunt) to keep her during the surgery and recuperation.

The rest of us kids still at home were scattered among various relatives, except for Buel who stayed to tend the farm. Bradley and I were farmed out to my aunt Bertha (maternal), her husband Earl Harbor, and their four children, all older than we two. During that pre-Christmas time they treated us well, fed us apples from their storage basement, and we were having a good time.

Bradley (age 9) and I (age 6) would look at the big Christmas tree, glistening with ornaments, and piled high with presents, and imagining what was there. We just knew at least one each of them would be for us. After all, Santa wouldn't forget good little boys. I will now let Bradley tell what happened, as he related it to my wife Linda Gay, a few years before he passed away.
"The days before Christmas we would look at that big, beautiful tree and all the pile of presents, and Cranford's eyes would shine as he dreamed of what his would be.

Christmas morning after breakfast, aunt Bertha said, 'Come in children, and see what Santa brought us.'

I held Cran on my lap and everyone except us was opening gifts -- lots of gifts, and the pile kept getting smaller and smaller and smaller. Pretty soon there were just two left, and I thought 'There's nothing for us.'

Sure enough, the last were opened and we didn't get a thing. I looked at Cran and big old tears were filling his eyes. I thought of our tree at home, and just got madder and madder. I said to Cran, 'Get your coat, we're going home.'"
Here, Uncle Cranford picks up the tale again:
We got our coats and started for the door. Aunt Bertha asked, "Where are you boys going?"

Bradley, my big brave brother said, "WE'RE GOING HOME!!!! WE'VE GOT SOME PRESENTS THERE!!!!"

She tried to talk us out of it, but away we went. As we were leaving, I heard her say, "We should have gotten those boys something."

Away we went, walking the six miles home, happy about going home and finding our two gifts.

When we walked in the door, brother Buel was sprawled out on the couch with his feet propped up, with a big box of mom's candy in his lap. He said, "What are you boys doing home."

Bradley said, "We came for our presents."

Buel asked how we were going to eat. Bradley told him he could cook. Buel said, "Well, you guys can do the chores too, I'm going to my cousin Ordean's," saddled up his horse and left.

For two glorious weeks we did the chores, played with our toys (airplane & cap pistol each), ate lots of scrambled eggs, sausage, gravy and homemade biscuits (and anything else we could find), made popcorn balls, played checkers and Old Maid, went hunting when we wanted, ate all the Christmas candy mom had stashed away, got up when we wanted, went to bed when we wanted, and no one to tell us what we could or couldn't do.
Uncle Cranford then comments:
My wife cried when Bradley told that tale, with a lot of flair and emphasis, not expressed in my recital here. I learned a few truths from this incident. First, I could trust Bradley to do anything he set his mind to do, then as long as he was with me, everything was right in the world no matter what, and last of all, Santa brings better gifts to folks with a little money than he does to poor folks. I guess he likes them better.
This is a touching story of two brothers devoted to each other, and it raises a central question in my mind: What happened to that 9-year-old Bradley? Where did he go? If he had been the father to me that he was the brother to Cranford, I'd have similarly good memories of closeness. I have a few good memories, but none of fatherly closeness or real trust.

I'm not saying that he did nothing for me. As I've noted once before on this blog, he did realize, when I was about a year old, that if he and my mother tried to keep me on the baby formula any longer, which I could not keep down, then I'd starve to death.

As he once explained to me, he'd said:
"'I believe that boy's starving to death,' so I threw out the formula and fixed you a big plate of scrambled eggs. You ate them all and cried for more, so I fixed more . . . and more."
From mere skin and bones, I grew fat -- not obese, but fat like a baby should be.

Without Bradley's decisive action, I might not have survived my infancy, so I perhaps owe him my life . . . but I don't remember that incident and only know it from the retelling.

Sometimes, the moments most crucial to our lives lie outside our memories. In Michael Chabon's novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, one of the two main characters, Sammy Clay, is sitting in a shvitz -- which seems to be Yiddish for "sauna" and perhaps is related to the English word "sweat," but don't quote me -- with his immigrant, largely absent father during one of the man's brief, very infrequent visits home, and after a long silence, his father suddenly speaks:
Then his father said, "I know you had polio." Sammy was surprised; his father sounded extremely angry, as though ashamed that he had been sitting there all this time when he was supposed to be relaxing, working himself into a rage. "I was there. I finded you on the steps of the building. You were pass out."

"You were there? When I got polio?"

"I was there."

"I don't remember that."

"You were a baby."

"I was four."

"So, you were four. You don't remember."

"I would remember that."

"I was there. I carried you into the room we had."

"In Brownsville, this was." Sammy could not keep the skepticism out of his tone.

"I was there, god damn it."
Sammy's father insists on the truth of his story, but for Sammy, it's an abstraction, even if true, because he remembers none of it.

Sammy Clay is a fictional character, of course, and thus has only paper memories in a paper existence, but he feels more real to me than my father Bradley does. Perhaps Barack Obama also feels similarly toward the dreamlike stories about his own father, abstract anecdotes despite Obama's search for the roots of identity in his father's Kenyan family.

Roots are important, but the present demands our attention, and the future beckons.

As I once told my mother following a long talk about Bradley, herself, my brothers, and me, I summed it all up in a banal but largely apt remark: "Life goes on."

"Yes," she agreed, "it really does."

And that is good...

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Milton's Satan quoting Macbeth in Paradise Regained?

Johann Heinrich Füssli
Macbeth and Banquo with the Witches
(Image from Wikipedia)

In an interesting Times Online review of Anna Beer's recent book, Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer and Patriot, literary expert John Carey writes:
Some poems -- Arcades and At a Solemn Music, for example – go quite unnoticed by Beer. So does his first published poem, the sonnet on Shakespeare. Written when he was 22 and prefaced to the second folio of Shakespeare's works, it is one of the earliest tributes to his genius, and might have been expected to prompt Milton's biographer to trace the influence of Shakespeare on his art from the brilliant pastiche of Comus to Satan's despairing quotation of Macbeth at a key moment in Paradise Regained.
As readily perceived from this short selection, Carey is less than impressed by Beer's biography, but I'm not quoting it for that reason. I have a different motive.

I have not yet found "Satan's despairing quotation of Macbeth at a key moment in Paradise Regained" but wonder if a reader more literate than I might help me out here.

Does anyone know the Macbeth quote alluded to by Carey?

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ozarks to Seoul: Back to Technicolor

"...we're not in Ar-kansas anymore..."
(Image from Wikipedia)

Apologies to all my fellow Arkansawyers, but I never could resist a pun.

We have indeed returned to Seoul, South Korea, where we sojourn far from 'our' Ozark home. I've placed that possessive pronoun in scare quotes, but I want to note here that in Ozark culture, those who marry into a clan are accepted as belonging to the place, which becomes their 'home' as well. This holds especially for women who marry in, but probably also for men -- though having no female siblings, I draw from no familial experience.

As one can see from the above image, I'm no longer restricted by a 'hillbilly' computer. I suppose that I could go back through those Ozark entries and post photos now, but that would alter the experience of being more technologically limited, so I'll leave those images to my memory and your imaginations but in a future post provide photographs.

For the immediate future, however, I have a lot of catching up to do, so I don't know when I'll post a photo-illustrated recapitulation of our Ozark trip.

Regularly scheduled blogging, however, will resume...

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ozarks: Gearing Up to Leave

We're leaving the Ozarks for Memphis this morning, scheduled to fly out tomorrow morning, so I might not be blogging again until we reach Seoul, in a couple of days.

We're taking off earlier today than previously planned because an ice-and-snow storm may be on the way, and we certainly don't want to get caught on the road.

As I've already remarked, the weather has been weird here since the time that we arrived, and even weirder if the two days prior to our arrival are included. Work crews are still cleaning up debris from those tornadoes' destruction.

And yesterday morning, we awoke to snow! I only noticed it after I'd finished blogging because the sun was not yet up, so I didn't report the snowfall at the time. Most of the two or three inches had burned off by midday, which was good, for we drove to Mountain Home last night to treat my brother John and his wife Sandy to dinner at a restaurant there.

We crossed the beautiful Lake Norfork on the 'new' bridge, which had replaced the ferry that I was accustomed to using back in the old days. In the summer of 75, I was working at Baxter Labs, a factory that assembled intravenous devices and other medical equipment, and with the hot-weather tourists visiting the lake, I sometimes had to wait in the ferry line of cars for two hours or more, each way, to get to and from work. I used that time in line for sleeping because I was on the graveyard shift, earning some money before heading off to my freshman year at Baylor.

That's how I got my start.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ozarks: Uncle Cranford's Place

Yesterday, we drove to the homestead of Uncle Cranford Hodges and his wife, Gay, where the children once again fed cattle, played with cats and dogs, and watched deer bound across fields, three activities that they've not yet tired of.

Uncle Cranford lives about 10 miles north of Gepp, Arkansas, not far from the Missouri line, on a farm that blew away in a tornado back in 1982, leaving them with nothing but the determination to rebuild. The storm came from the southwest heading directly for their place, and Cranford watched the quarter-mile-wide funnel coming across a field toward him from about 200 yards away before he and his family retreated to the safety of their storm cellar. Seconds later, the cloud hit, and within 20 more seconds, everything was gone.

Cranford described the sound as like that of a jet engine. The winds were blowing so powerfully that even the underground walls of the cellar shook visibly each time that a nearby tree was uprooted. A heavy branch fell across the cellar door to block their exit after the storm had passed, and only with difficulty could Cranford use a board to leverage the branch far enough away that his youngest son, James, could manage to slip out and pull the branch off, freeing the rest of the family. Their house was completely gone, leaving only the kitchen table, still laden with the evening supper as though nothing had happened.

They rebuilt and continued farming. The location is beautiful, and they are only a mile from a paved road that used to be dirt, for I recall the area from when Uncle Woodrow used to work as the foreman on Mr. Heldenbrand's Little Creek Ranch. That's the same ranch where I stood and watched a tornado pass directly over my head one summer when my brothers and I were staying with Woodrow and Pauline. That storm passed us by but touched down in Bakersfield, Missouri and blew the roof off the school.

Fortunately, yesterday's wind and clouds brought neither rain nor tornado, and the evening passed pleasantly. The kids played on Gay's piano, Cranford strummed his guitar, and I tried to sing. We stayed for dinner, then did some virtual bowling on their television. I won twice but couldn't get as excited as En-Uk, who leaped for joy each time that he made a strike.

The evening passed too quickly, and we had to leave by 8:45 because the drive home at night would take an hour along the dark and winding roads back home.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Ozarks: Five-Year Plan

My wife has a five-year plan on moving us to the Ozarks.

"I have a five-year plan for getting us to live here," Sun-Ae confided.

"What's the plan?" I replied, somewhat skeptical.

"We move here in five years," she explained.

"That's it?" I observed. "That's your plan?"

"Yes," she confirmed.

"Wouldn't I need a job?" I inquired, thinking momentarily about a little thing called reality.

"You could teach in Ozarka College," she suggested. "There's a campus in Melbourne and another in Ash Flat."

"Why would Ozarka College want me?" I asked.

"You have a PhD from Berkeley," she reminded.

I'm not sure that works to my advantage here. However, my brother Shan also told me that I could probably get a job teaching at a local college, but he suggested other routes than the purely academic one.

"You've got our cousin Velna's husband Curren Everett, who's a powerful politician here in Arkansas and is active on education issues," Shan reminded me. "Why not ask him for help?"

That's a good point. I voted for Curren four years ago, and he has yet to do anything for my interests in Korea -- as I pointed out to him last Wednesday when my daughter, Sa-Rah, was riding his granddaughter Shiney's horse. Curren had laughed when I told him that, and playing along with the joke, he did ask what I needed done in Korea. Maybe I should tell him about my wife's five-year plan...

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Ozarks: Brief Byron Report

Sun-Ae decided to stay at my brother John's place last night for an evening with the family, but I went on to the prearranged meeting with my wine friend Bruce Cochran and his beer friend John Wells out at Bruce's family farm near Byron, Arkansas.

I'll have to report at some point on the various beers that I tasted yesterday evening at the old Cochran homestead, along with a longer report on Friday's wine evening, but for now, I've only time to comment that I enjoyed some unusual beers without getting drunk (which I avoid) or even tipsy (which I don't typically avoid).

I can also confess that for the first time in my life, I finally tasted moonshine -- only two sips, but nevertheless, moonshine -- so I am now truly an authentic Ozark hillbilly.

We had some stormy weather during the evening, with lightning getting closer and rain pouring down, but no tornado struck in this weird February weather even though one tore through only a hundred yards away from Bruce's place about ten years ago and went on to destroy the place next to his and even kill a small child, so we were well aware of the danger.

Driving back this morning along the seven or eight miles into town, I enjoyed the broad panoramas as I gradually descended the gentle hills into Salem, once again wondering why I'd ever left...

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ozarks: Brief Little Rock Report

I've just returned from Little Rock and a wonderful time with my old friend Bruce Cochran and his wife Liz, who hails from San Antonio, Texas. Bruce is the wine expert whom I've sometimes written of in these blog entries. We were joined for dinner by the beer man, John Wells, and his wife. John will join us again with Bruce this evening at Bruce's farm not far from Salem.

All the way down to and returning from Little Rock, 150 miles each way, Sun-Ae and I listened to the unmarketed gospel recording that David Lynn Jones made in 1999. We were trying to learn the words but are yet working on that. I played it for Bruce, who knew Jones, of course, from his own music-playing days in the 1970s at Sturkie, Arkansas with Ricky Pitchford and others.

Bruce says that the best musical performance that he's ever observed was in Salem back in the late 70s, when Jones played with Pitchford and a guitarist from Wilie Nelson's band in an impromptu performance at a place behind the old high school gym at the base of the Salem Knob. I wish that I'd been there.

Anyway, we enjoyed a great meal cooked by Bruce himself and accompanied by several very fine wines. Tonight, John Wells will provided the exotic beers to accompany whatever excellent meal lies in store.

For now, however, I have to visit with family members, for my five brothers and I might not get together again for a long, long time.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Ozarks: Dextrous Laboratory and the Housing from Hell

Yesterday, we drove to Horseshoe Bend, a 1960s-era development community where my maternal aunt Ava Jo has settled with her husband, Clarence Bowling, who retired back to the Ozarks after 40 years away working as an entomologist in Texas.

They have a lovely, two-story home overlooking Crown Lake on the Strawberry River, a spot more beautiful than I had remembered from my teenage years, when I used to visit Horseshoe to see my friend Pete Hale -- whose full name, by the way, was "Charley Peters Hale," but that name got as much off-color comment as my first name "Horace," so we'll not get into that since Gypsy Scholar holds to such high ethical standards...

As I was saying, Uncle Clarence has returned to the Ozarks for his retirement. He has not, however, truly retired, for he's still working on a special technique for growing rice without draining the field during the germinating process. I say "still" because he was working on this back in the 1970s when I stayed with his family in Beaumont, Texas over Christmas and Easter breaks while I was studying at Baylor. He seems to be making progress in developing a technique that will use calcium peroxide to gradually release oxygen for the inundated rice seeds, allowing paddies to remain flooded at a stage when draining usually occurs. Retaining the cover of water prevents weeds, insects, birds, and other undesireables from harming the rice sprouts and reduces labor costs associated with the normal draining of rice fields. If Clarence can perfect the thin sponge coating that he's developing to cover each grain of rice, he'll be able to encapsulate the calcium peroxide -- along with fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, if desirable -- and obtain a patent as a legacy to his children.

I was surprised that he could work on this technique in the isolated Ozarks, but I suppose that they're not isolated anymore. I noticed a tome on chemistry that lay on his coffee table -- for light reading, no doubt -- and he mentioned his laboratory in the garage, where he has rice germinating under cover of water. I hope that I'm just as intellectually dexterous at 81 as Clarence is.

We returned from our Horseshoe excursion to enjoy an evening meal among family and listen to amusing stories of the ridiculous situations that various of us have gotten ourselves into through daring to take trips outside the Ozarks. My brother John had an especially funny story of taking his wife, his daughter, and our mom to Oregon to see our brother Shan officially obtain his PhD in a doctoral ceremony. I don't want to embarrass the family by recounting the entire, sordid tale, but I'm not above calling attention to a detail or two.

Perhaps the worst -- and hence best -- experience was the housing from hell that Shan provided, in which John ended up sleepless on a procrustian sofa facing a curtainless window ten feet long and eight feet high that looked out on a busy sidewalk where people passed by all night long looking in on my brother as if he were some museum exhibit dedicated to illuminating the sleeping habits of poor white hillbilly trash.

My mother sat in her chair listening to this story and shaking her head as if to say, "Where did I go so wrong?"

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ozarks: Sylamore Hills and Blanchard Springs Caverns

After yesterday's outing, I really regret not being able to post photos from this computer. We drove through hills whose forests had been transformed into silver and diamond jewels by the previous days' ice storms and were glittering in the early morning sun. The sixty miles from Salem to Blanchard Springs was absolutely stunning in its etherial beauty, especially through the Sylamore Hills.

We pulled over at the first lookout in the Sylamores just to gaze at the sparkling panorama. I led En-Uk above the road a hundred feet so that we could see even better, but he was more intent on breaking off the icicles clinging to rocks where water seeps out from underground to freeze in cold weather.

As we drove on and left the Sylamore Hills to descend into the White River valley, Sun-Ae scrambled for her camera to get a quick photo of the bluffs towering over the valley's other side, but the forest soon hid them again, so that image will never make it to this blog, I suppose.

Soon, we were climbing the hills opposite and heading for the caverns only 10 miles further on. One of our maternal relatives, Hugh Shell, along with Hail Bryant explored the Blanchard Springs cavern system back in the late 50s and early 60s and enabled the cave to be opened up by the US Forest Service, so I have that tenuous link to fame through Hugh's spelunking adventures.

We went on the Dripstone Trail and saw beauty below rivaling that of the ice storm above. Sa-Rah especially loved the natural wonders formed by the calcite deposited from the dripping, evaporating water, but En-Uk got most excited by a red-spotted cave salamander that he saw near the beginning of the trail and couldn't stop talking about that for the rest of the walk.

The high point of Sa-Rah's day came late in the afternoon when we were returning from our excursion and stopped for dinner at the home of my paternal uncle Woodrow Hodges and his wife Pauline. Sa-Rah found out that one of her cousins, 'Shiney', has a horse gentle enough to ride, so we drove a mile back to where Shiney lived. The cousin turned out to be Sa-Rah's age, eleven, so they got along well and took turns riding the horse, with Shiney showing how.

Even En-Uk overcame his trepidation enough to sit on the horse's back, but he tended to make the horse nervous because he kept making sudden movements that spooked it, so we made him get back out of the corral and play on some nearby haybales.

We soon returned to Woodrow's home, where Aunt Pauline had made one of her delicious dinners and where I finally met the little boy named "Rifle," whom longtime readers might remember from my posting of a "Letter from Home" about a year ago.

Actually, I didn't so much meet him as glimpse him on his hyperactive run. When Pauline asked if I'd seen him, I said, "Yeah, I saw Rifle when he shot past." Some folks caught the pun.

Enough for now, another day begins...

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ozarks: Old Friends

In the past two days, I've introduced my family to a couple of old friends, my high school math teacher (and surveyor extraordinaire) Mr. Jim Scott and my boyhood scoutmaster (and Chosun Few survivor) Mr. Albert Holland.

Longtime, attentive readers of Gypsy Scholar may recall my mention of Mr. Scott in a post on how I learned the word "antigogglin" -- and my Ozark dialect column about that, which I mentioned yesterday, will appear in the Korea Herald in a couple of weeks (though it won't mention Mr. Scott by name).

Well, I took my family to see him and his wife yesterday at their farm on Republican Road -- so named, I'm told, because one of the few Republican Party members used to live on that road back in the days when Fulton County was almost entirely the Democratic Party's portion. The road is still unpaved despite the Bush Administration, which stands as another broken promise, I reckon. I'm sure that George said that he was going to pave that Republican road...

Anyway, the kids enjoyed the drive on that dirt road and marveled at the low-water bridge as our car splashed through the water flowing over its surface. We'd actually seen one the day before with Mr. Holland when we crossed the Southfork River on a farm near his home, and En-Uk, never having seen such a bridge before, had looked at that one and asked what it was. Upon being told that it was a low-water bridge, namely, a bridge built to allow the fording of a stream by allowing the water to flow over smoothly at an even depth, he asked, "So, why is it a bridge?" Stumped for an explanation, I had to admit that he'd asked a good question. Why is it a "bridge"?

Mr. Holland, incidentally, will turn 90 this year, but he still looks good, at least 20 years younger than his age, and still has his memory, alertness, and humor. Only his hearing is significantly impaired, but his hearing aids make up for that. He still drives and showed us a lot of land in the river bottom, the hill further up, and other such places. We must have seen 20 deer and 50 turkeys on that farmland tour! He also showed us the cattle on his place, his dog, and his rooster, all of which delighted Sa-Rah and En-Uk. I'm glad that the kids are seeing so many animals, for it redeems my promises that they would see plenty, both wild and domestic.

One more thing about Mr. Holland. I mentioned that he is an old survivor of the Chosun Few, those men in the Korean War who found themselves surrounded in North Korean territory near the Chosun Reservoir and had to fight their way out, losing a lot of buddies in the process. He endured an entire winter outdoors sleeping in the snow and still remembers names, places, and battles. Somebody ought to interview him for an oral history project and get his memories into the public record for future historians while he's still so clearheaded and informative.

Mr. Scott is also getting old, having reached 74, but he's still extremely sharp. I had once been told that he had an IQ of 186 and must have mentioned this to my kids, for En-Uk asked him, "Is your IQ 187?"

I interjected, "No, it's only 186," at which Mr. Scott laughed. He denied that level of IQ, however, and -- noting that it varied across testings -- surmised that it was about 150.

That settled, we took a couple of trips across his farmland, where we saw cattle, horses, deer, and even a coyote . . . dead. The local farmers don't much care for the coyotes, and the kids seemed bothered by the carcass. We explained that the coyotes will kill newborn calves, chickens, and other small farm animals. Sa-Rah and En-Uk seemed to dislike the coyote's death anyway, but they enjoyed feeding the horses from their open palms. Sa-Rah even had the honor of petting a bull, whereas En-Uk only got to throw hay to the cattle.

In such endeavors, we have spent our past two days, unable to travel much due to the sleet and ice that have followed in the wake of last week's tornadoes. If we get clear skies today, however, we'll drive down to Blanchard Springs Caverns with my brother Shan and his wife Shoshanna, who arrived yesterday afternoon.

Part of that drive winds through the Sylamore Hills near the White River, so we may have more to report.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Expat Living: "Profane expressions: fuggedaboudit"

Today's Korea Herald has my latest Expat Living column on language . . . which strikes me as odd, for it was supposed to have published my next-to-latest column. That other one would have been more appropriate, for it dealt with Ozark dialect, and I'm currently visiting family and friends in the Ozarks.

However, I must face profane reality, as does my column itself, so unless the use of explicit profanity offends you, go look for my column under Expat Living on the Korea Herald's buggy website with distracting popups -- or read it all here on Gypsy Scholar:

"Profane expressions: fuggedaboudit"
Although my old buddy Al Termini, who drove the Gutenberg Express between the Stanford and Berkeley libraries back in the 1980s, would litter his language with profane expressions like fuggedaboudit, I never expected to see a t-shirt with that word unabashedly emblazoned across its front, but the cursed thing is available at, which at least admits that this is an "Adult T-Shirt." Despite its adult status, however, anyone can access the site and order that shirt!

I hate to speak ill of the dead, but I blame Norman Mailer for initially popularizing the basest form of this word in his World War II novel, "The Naked and the Dead." Here is a typical instance of a character wantonly mouthing this term:

"Minetta was becoming irritated. It was impossible ever to win an argument with Pollack. "Aaah, fug you," he said (60).

Could this word possibly be more crudely spelled out? Mailer's trashy novel should have been banned 60 years ago, but that ship has long sailed and returned with cargo.

Some of that cargo has recently gotten unloaded in John Green's teenybopper novel, "An Abundance of Katherines," which not only incessantly uses the word but even depicts its 19-year-old main character openly hailing Mailer's book:

"(I)t's 872 pages, and it uses the word fug or fugging or fugger or whatever about 37,000 times. Every other word is a fug, pretty much" (120).

In homage to Mailer, this character and his best friend adopt the vulgar term for their own use. Shocking, yes, but not nearly so astounding as the fact that Green's book placed as a finalist for the Michael L. Printz Award in literary excellence!

Literary? A word like that, literary? Why, the word itself is a gross misspelling, as the renowned stage actress Tallulah Bankhead acidly observed upon first meeting Mailer: "So you're the young man who doesn't know how to spell."

Mailer's crude misspelling has spread even beyond the literary world and into popular culture, where it has undoubtedly wreaked even more harm by piercing the virgin ears of any who have ever heard of that rock band whose name was coined in 1965 by the band's cofounder Tuli Kupferberg as homage to Mailer's illiteracy: The Fugs.

Now, many may think me alarmist, but consider the long-term effect of Mailer's illiterate vulgarism. Language already suffers from a deleterious tendency toward semantic drift, and I see no good reason to encourage this vagabond neglect of proper English, so I've written a poem, "Semantic Drift," to warn against Mailer's misuse of our fine English language and to graphically protest his unorthographic influence:

"Wood" now no longer sounds crazy,
While "stout" only scarcely seems strong;
"Foul" connotes nothing of lazy,
And "sin" suggests nothing much wrong.

Words molt old meanings like feathers,
Make speaking a spiel of dumb luck,
Bring us all to the ends of our tethers
Leave us all without giving a f**.

This is my protest. I utterly refuse to use Mailer's three-letter word. Fuggedaboudit.

Jeffery is a professor at Kyung Hee University and can be reached through his blog Gypsy Scholar at -- Ed.
Thus runs my column this week. Tomorrow, back to my Ozark reports...

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Ozarks: City Bluffs and Natural Bridge

Yesterday, which was Sunday for me here in Arkansas, we went to a couple of places that I'd never visited before.

Daddio of Exploring Izard County guided us to both spots. Incidentally, I discovered that Daddio, despite being a local hillbilly like me, grew up with a rich variety of experiences of the sort that I only began to encounter as an adult. The son of a military man, he lived in Japan for two or three years as a kid and also for a couple of years on the island of Crete, which he explored almost daily as a young teenager. I think that I've got that right. At any rate, his boyhood experiences exceeded mine by a degree that would have to be expressed in light years. My own were rather heavy years in comparison...

Daddio also lived in England for two or three years, but as an adult serving in the air force, where -- of all places -- he learned to enjoy kim chee. That is less unexpected when one learns that he was working with a couple of military men who had served in Korea, where one of them had married a local woman and where both of them had learned to love kim chee. They loved it so much that they made their own!

Daddio had previously mentioned that he likes kim chee, so we brought some for him and gave it to him yesterday despite the alarming way in which the airtight, foil packaging had ballooned into something resembling a pillow. We felt that we were delivering a food bomb. Daddio will have to report back on whether he succeeded in detonating it without harm.

The tour, at any rate, went without harm to life or limb. We drove first to a spot not far from Calico Rock called City Bluffs. To reach it, we crossed the river as we were leaving Calico Rock and drove up toward Sugarloaf Knob but turned right before reaching the road that goes up to the Sugarloaf firetower. A couple of miles out a gravel road, we pulled over and walked about a hundred feet to find ourselves gazing down a 300-foot bluff onto the White River. I kept my children far back from the edge, and we ate a brief lunch there as we enjoyed the broad expanse before us that spread out along that stretch of the river.

During our brief lunch (and later over dinner), we talked about the tornados that hit the Ozarks, and I discovered that some people in this area did die. The storm swept through the miniscule town of Zion and blew it away, killing a couple of people there, one of whom was impaled on an iron fencepost, surely a dreadful way to die (and he didn't perish immediately, it seems, as I later learned from a sister-in-law who works in the hospital). The news that Zion had blown away in the F4 tornado especially affected me, for my maternal grandmother was born and grew up there. I'll perhaps report again on the tornado's wrath as I learn more...

For now, though, let's continue with our excursion. After a brief time atop City Bluffs, we followed Daddio back to a place above Calico Rock that had me worrying about my borrowed car, which scraped bottom a couple of times as we bumped across a scrubby field full of sinkholes on our way to the Natural Bridge on Calico Creek. The car survived the close scrapes and missed the sinkholes, and we found the bridge, which spans a deep, steep hollow. According to Daddio, the oldtimers used to pack dirt onto the top of the bridge to smooth the surface and allow their wagons to cross over on the only way across the creek for miles and miles. The underside arch of the bridge must stand at about 20 feet up, and it rather impressed me. I surmised that it was what remained of an ancient cave system that had largely collapsed long ago. The bluffs along this narrow hollow showed pockets where water trickled out, and the creek itself disappeared into the ground with a hollow, gurgling sound downstream from the natural bridge.

One of Daddio's fellow explorers, Rick, showed us a tree that a black bear had scratched. I asked him how he knows it was a bear rather than a cougar, and I learned something. A cougar likes to climb up into a large tree and settle onto a big limb where it can scratch its claws while stretched out. Rick also reported that he had seen a black panther in the Ozarks, and he maintained that these cats do live in our hills despite the skepticism of experts. I figure that people see what they see, so if Rick says that he saw one, I'll take his word for it. I wonder if it's a variant on the cougar, however, rather than being some other cat. I know that the black panthers of Asia are simply black leopards, whose spots can be dimly perceived if one looks carefully. Perhaps the black panthers of the Ozarks are similar in being very dark cougars. But I'll leave this to the experts...

I ought to mention that my kids were really enjoying their time in the wild, though En-Uk was a bit leery of entering the mouth of one cave that we located on Calico Creek. I managed to encourage him sufficiently that he finally entered, following the other kids. He borrowed a flashlight and peered further back, but the hollow space appeared to taper down to a dead end.

After our 'spelunking' adventure through the collapsed cavern, we drove back out from the field of sinkholes and made our way to an eatery called Roscoe's, where I enjoyed a catfish dinner and some quality time with 'Justin Kapok', who joined our adventure party there. En-Uk 'borrowed' some of my catfish but quickly rejected it as being too much like chicken. It tasted nothing like chicken, of course, but it had been battered and deepfried, so I could understand his disappointment. Kapok offered him some of his salmon. En-Uk, by now skeptical, asked, "What's salmon?" Assured that it wasn't another fancy name for mere chicken, he tried some and liked it.

Our meal was too short, unfortunately, for we had promised to drop by the farm of Woodrow and Pauline -- my paternal uncle and aunt -- but they didn't answer the phone call that we made before leaving, and we couldn't find the dirt road to their place under the dark cover of night, so we gave up and drove on to Salem. I was sorry to miss them, for I wanted to talk more with my cousin Bill. I'll have to call and find out what happened.

Breakfast is now calling on this Monday morning, so I'll now sign off...

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ozarks: Family Circle

I was going to say that despite the date given on today's blog entry, I'm writing on a Sunday morning getting ready for attending the church where my brother, Brother John, preaches, but I now see that the date is correct . . . though not for the previous blog entry, which I actually wrote on Saturday morning but which posted as Sunday.

Anyway, after the service, we'll be heading off on a hike with Daddio, who's coming from Melbourne, Arkansas to meet us at the church service.

Yesterday, we had our family get-together -- also at the church -- and I saw some family members whom I had not seen for 30 or 40 years. I think that I was no more than 10 years old when I say Bill Hodges, who's some decade older than I but who looks a decade younger. He's better looking, too, but that's not a difficult achievement. I'd provide photos, but I don't quite know how with this local, hillbilly computer.

Anyway, Bill joined me and my brother Tim and his wife for an evening of mild drinking, only a couple of beers, and long discussion. We also listened to a CD that Tim gave me to keep, made from a demo tape by David Lynn Jones, an acoustic recording of David Lynn and some local musicians playing gospel music.

If you've never heard of Jones, try to find yourself something that he's done and listen to it. Only a handful of people have heard this gospel recording because it's never been marketed and is a little bit rough -- at one point, you can hear David Lynn's rocking chair creak as he leans forward. I don't know if many people ever will hear this recording, or if they'll ever even hear of Jones, and that's a shame, because the man was a great talent as a songwriter, musician, and performer. I say 'was' because he's gone to a place from where he's not returning even though he hasn't died . . . yet. But I guess that he will be truly gone one of these sad days. He's almost family because my step-granfather -- 'Granpa Archie' -- was David Lynn's great-uncle.

But some other time, I'll have to write more about this CD and the circumstances by which Tim came into possession of it. Right now, I have to head off for another Ozark day...

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Ozarks: Update

This computer is still buggy, so I'm again keeping my entry short to avoid being cut off.

We drove down through Ash Flat and Cherokee Village on our way to Hardy, and along the road for over a mile, maybe two or more miles, lay the debris from the F4 tornado that passed through. My brother Tim said that the tornado had stayed on the ground for a hundred miles or more, starting at Atkins, Arkansas.

I grew up in this area and lived with the knowledge and reality of tornados, but I'd never seen the destruction before. An entire shopping mall was blown away, and enormous steel sheets littered the upper branches of trees, where the 200-mile-per-hour winds had twisted and wrapped the metal about like tin foil.

Cars and trucks had been tossed around, their windshields shattered, their bodies battered, their chassis crushed. Anyone caught in that chaos must have been terrified. Apparently, no one around here died, which nearly constitutes a miracle.

No photos, unfortunately, but I'll try to find another computer soon and look at Daddio's blog, Exploring Izard County, to find some photos if he should happen to have any.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Ozarks: Arrived

After a long but thankfully uneventful flight (aside from the occasional turbulence that alarmed my wife but allowed me to play courageous husband), we've arrived in the states and have even reached my hometown of Salem, Arkansas.

People around here have experienced a more eventful week than I and my family, for some towns in this area have suffered extensive tornado damage.

The internet connection is rather buggy on this computer, so I guess that I won't be blogging much from Salem unless I can find another place to blog from.

I won't be responding much to comments, I suspect, so please don't take offense.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ozark Outlook...

Bluff on White River
Calico Rock, Arkansas
Hope I've not overlooked anything but this bluff...

The image above comes to us courtesy of Daddio's EIC site. God willing and the creeks don't rise, we'll be seeing such scenes in person by Sunday, when we'll actually be meeting Daddio, his family, and others for our woodlands hike. We may even be eating dinner in Calico Rock, not far from the very bluff that you see before you.

My wife will be taking along her camera, so I might post images sometime, but no promises because:
1. I might not have time.

2. I don't know how.
Eventually, I hope to have my own photographs and learn how to post them so that I don't need to steal from Daddio's site, but until then...

Daddio, incidentally, has emailed to tell me that the forecast looks good for Sunday -- with daytime temperature in the 50s fahrenheit. That converts to between 10 and 16 degrees centigrade, which sounds rather good for this time of year.

A bit of wind is also expected, but not nearly so much as was generated by those supercells on Super Tuesday. No, I don't mean the blowhard politicians. I'm talking about the tornados that hit Arkansas hard. As I found out just this morning, one tornado struck near Ash Flat, Arkansas, a mere 30 miles from my hometown of Salem.

I located a video of that Ash Flat storm, but not much is visible, so if anyone has more information, let us know.

Okay, I'm signing off now at four in the morning as I orient myself toward waking my family in another hour to head for Seoul's international airport by six to make our plane by late morning.

Let's hope for traveling mercies, for my entire family will be on that plane...

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Arkansas Ozark Trip Imminent!

No Mere Bluff

Only one more day until we take off for the Arkansas Ozarks, where we'll be seeing images like the one above . . . though not quite so green this time of year.

I've borrowed this image from among the wonderful photographs offered by 'Daddio' over at the website dedicated to Exploring Izard County. This one shows a bluff from the first lookout point in the Sylamore Hills along the road from Melbourne to the White River on the way toward Mountain View.

As I've previously mentioned, I repeatedly cranked my bicycle along that road in the Sylamore Hills during the summer of my 19th year, when I was training myself for a several-hundred-mile bike trip from Tahlequah, Oklahoma to Waco, Texas.

I was certifiably crazy back then, and a little bit wild.

Since those days, I've settled down a lot, so I don't take physical risks, just intellectual ones, but I still love hiking, and I hope that the weather is fine this coming Sunday when we join Daddio, his family, and some friends for a hike though Ozark woodlands with many scenic spots even better than the one above.

I'll post again tomorrow morning before leaving, but after that, blogging will be light...

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Matthew 5:48: "Perfect?"

Michelangelo, God Creates Adam, Sistene Chapel
The Most Perfect Being Creating a Perfect Being?
(Image from Wikipedia)

On the Milton List yesterday, the ambiguous meaning of the word "perfect" was being discussed in the context of 17th-century English, and one scholar referred to Matthew 5:48 in the King James Version as possibly meaning "completeness" rather than to some extreme moral perfection:
Be ye perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.
I grew curious about this verse and posted a comment:
Incidentally, the Greek word in Mt. 5:48 is teleioi, which can be translated as either "complete" or "perfect" in contemporary English and thus has the same ambiguity that the word "perfect" still had for the KJV translators.

A possible word in Hebrew would be shalom, which can mean "completeness, soundness, welfare, peace."

Jesus, of course, would likely have been speaking Aramaic, so the question as to what word he actually used would be close to Hebrew. I cannot, however, recall a Tanakh passage calling upon Israelites to be "shalom" as God is. I do recall that Israelites are called to be holy, even as God is holy, and I wonder if the idea of holiness stands behind Mt. 5:48.

The word for "holy" is kadosh, which has the sense of being set apart. That might fit the context of Matthew, for Jesus is there calling upon those who follow him to strive to meet ethical standards higher than the ethics practiced by Gentiles -- in effect, to set themselves apart.
I was corrected by Professor Harold Skulsky, whose postings have always impressed me and who seems to combine the offices of philosopher, literary critic, and linguist:
Matt. 5:48 is an allusion to Gen. 17:1 (God's injunction to Abraham): "I am the Lord thy God; walk before me, and be thou perfect." The Hebrew answering to "perfect" is *tamim* (Aramaic *t'mim*). The Heb. adjective *shalem* (Aramaic *sh'lim* ) is a rough equivalent. (*Shalom* is not an adjective and rarely if ever means moral perfection in BH, though it sometimes means health, or bodily soundness.)
I stood corrected but not quite ready to relinquish my hunch about holiness:
Thanks to Professor Skulsky for the correction (shalom --> shalem) and additional information (Gen. 17:1 - tamim). My Hebrew is not very good, unfortunately.

Is either tamim or shalem ever used to describe God?

The structure of Mt. 5:48 reminds me of Lev. 11:44 and 45: "be holy for I am holy." Is it possible that both Gen. 17:1 and Lev. 11:44-45 are being alluded to?
I've not yet received a reply to this query, but I've done some more page-flipping through my Greek and Hebrew Bibles and have decided that the reference is not so directly to Genesis 17:1, for if the reference were directly to that verse, then we'd likely find the word "amemptos" (Greek for "blameless") in Matthew 5:48, for the Septuagint uses "amemptos" in Genesis 17:1.

A more likely reference in Matthew 5:48 would be Deuteronomy 18:13, for the Hebrew "tamim" is translated to the Greek "teleios"," which we also find in Matthew 5:48 and which can mean "perfect," as already noted, such that we could read Deuteronomy 18:13 as follows:
Be perfect before the Lord your God.
Moreover, the context to this verse clarifies that the intent here is to distinguish Israelites from the practices of the neighboring gentile nations, so there exists a structural and thematic parallel between Matthew 5:48 and Deuteronomy 18:13.

Nevertheless, I am still struck by Leviticus 11:44 and 45 ("Be holy for I am holy"), which reminds me in structure of Matthew 5:48 ("Be ye perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect"), so I now wonder if it is possible that both Leviticus 11:44-45 and Deuteronomy 18:13 are being alluded to.

Biblical scholars, please weigh in on this.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Speaking of Paradise...

Paradise Regained

In three days, we'll be leaving Seoul for Ozark Mountain scenes in Arkansas like this one near Melbourne of Pilot Knob, a tall knob rising steeply above several other knobs in the area.

As a kid living in Salem, Arkansas, I used to hike to the top of the Salem Knob, and from the forestry tower there, I could borrow the ranger's binoculars and clearly see what he informed me was Pilot Knob, some 30 miles away, but I'm not completely sure that the knob in the above photo is the same knob as the one that I saw from Salem, even though it looks similar (and "Pilot Knob" is a rather common name for landmark knobs, with even Salem Knob earlier being called Pilot Knob).

Only when I was a young man, in about 1981 or 1982 on a trip home, did I have the opportunity to hike up what I had been told was Pilot Knob. Near its top was a ten-foot bluff that ran most of the way around, if I recall correctly, and I had to find a place where a break in the rock allowed access to the top, but eventually, I made my way to the top and was rewarded with an impressive panoramic view. Especially scenic was the view toward the West and North, where the land dropped off steeply down toward Piney Creek and the White River, if my memory serves me well.

In the image above, I don't see the small bluff that I recall ringing the knob that I hiked, so I'll need to clarify this point when I get back to the Ozarks.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Wall Street Journal: 'Lost' in Paradise Lost

"Exiting paradise:
An engraving (after Gustave Doré)
of the archangel Michael
expelling Lucifer from Heaven"

Friday's issue of the Wall Street Journal has an article by John Gross, "Cosmic and Sublime," that reviews and largely praises the recent publication of The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton, edited by the scholars William Kerrigan, John Rumrich, and Stephen M. Fallon:
The edition is a model of its kind, well designed and attractively produced. There are scholarly but unintimidating footnotes and helpful introductions to the major works. Spelling and punctuation have been modernized -- a difficult decision but the right one. The long pages of continuous verse, which could have looked daunting, are easy on the eye (not least thanks to ample leading between the lines). A great deal has been packed in, but Milton has still been left room to breathe.
Gross, therefore, is happy with the edition but wonders if readers will open the book and read:
The whole enterprise is meant to be reader-friendly, and it succeeds. Yet one can't help wondering how many readers are going to avail themselves of the invitation it extends.
Why not? Because Milton so totally overwhelms:
No one disputes that Milton is a great poet. But for many readers today, that might be part of the problem -- not his stature as such but the fact that he is so strenuously, so oppressively great. There are other great poets in English, but most of them, beginning with Shakespeare, wear their greatness fairly lightly. By contrast, Milton will settle for nothing less than the cosmic and the sublime. As the Germans would say, he is kolossal.
I happen to like the kolossal character of Paradise Lost, but I can understand that many readers might feel a bit . . . what's the word for it . . . 'lost'?

Well, everybody gets lost in Milton, and that was part of Milton's intention -- if we are to believe Stanley Fish:
I would like to suggest something about Paradise Lost that is not new except for the literalness with which the point will be made: (1) the poem's centre of reference is its reader who is also its subject; (2) Milton's purpose is to educate the reader to an awareness of his position and responsibilities as a fallen man, and to a sense of the distance which separates him from the innocence once his; (3) Milton's method is to re-create in the mind of the reader (which is, finally, the poem's scene) the drama of the Fall, to make him fall again exactly as Adam did and with Adam's troubled clarity, that is to say, 'not deceived.' (Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967, 1997), page 1)
Even the Wall Street Journal's editors get lost. Beneath the image reproduced above, which the paper borrowed from the Granger Collection (but which I have borrowed from Art Passions for its more precise detail when enlarged), I have quoted the words precisely as they appear in the paper:
Exiting paradise: An engraving (after Gustave Doré) of the archangel Michael expelling Lucifer from Heaven
The Wall Street Journal, as one might suspect, gets its information from the Granger Collection (as one discovers by plugging 0005727 into the search function):
MILTON: PARADISE LOST. The archangel Michael, expelling Lucifer from Heaven (Book I of John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.') Wood engraving after Gustave Doré.
Despite these 'helpful' words intended as informative, this scene is not that of Lucifer's expulsion from heaven -- which Milton attributes not to the power of any archangel such as Michael but to the Son of God. Rather, this scene depicts the archangel Gabriel 'expelling' Satan (not called Lucifer, by the way) from the Garden of Eden. Here's the scene, from Paradise Lost, Book 4, with Gabriel addressing Satan:
Satan, I know thy strength, and thou know'st mine,
Neither our own but giv'n; what follie then
To boast what Arms can doe, since thine no more
Then Heav'n permits, nor mine, though doubld now
To trample thee as mire: for proof look up,
And read thy Lot in yon celestial Sign
Where thou art weigh'd, and shown how light, how weak,
If thou resist. The Fiend lookt up and knew
His mounted scale aloft: nor more; but fled
Murmuring, and with him fled the shades of night. (
PL 4.1006-1015)
Gabriel tells Satan to look up at a sign in the heavens and read its prediction of the outcome if Satan should resist. Satan reads and sees that his power is too weak (signified by his "scale" in the celestial balance being aloft because too light). Satan then flees.

Thus is Satan expelled...

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Sidewalk Ends

One End Missing Leastways
Is this a Shel game?
(Image from Cosmic Realms)

Some days, I just have to be . . . lazy. So, I'm borrowing this image from Randy McRoberts over at The Upward Way Press, where I posted my baffled response:
Odd. I see only one end.
I'm still trying to see at least two ends on this sidewalk, but I confess that I'm really seeing only one. Perhaps a lack of perspective on my part? Can anybody show me what other end this sign signifies?


Friday, February 01, 2008

Barack Obama: The Postracial Candidate?

Barack Obama
For a postracial America?

In yesterday's blog entry, I mentioned that I had thought of Barack Obama as signifying a "postracial America," but I did acknowledge:
Race is doubtless an issue, just as ethnic identity is an issue everywhere in the world, but Obama the candidate -- like Obama the person -- is more complex than that, as are his supporters.
There's a personal aspect in this for me, and not just because my kids are half Korean. I suppose that I pass for white, but my maternal grandmother was recognizably American Indian, so much so that when she and my grandfather were traveling through the Smokey Mountains way back in the 1930s, some Cherokee men standing around a potbellied woodstove in a local hotel (where my grandparents were looking to lodge for the night) came up to her while my grandfather was off inspecting the hotel room and asked:
"How does an Indian like you get along with an Englishman like him?"

"Oh," she replied, "we get along fine."
But she was curious about how the man had known that she was Indian since she wasn't very dark. He told her that she simply looked Indian, that this was obvious and that any Indian would instantly recognize the fact.

I grew up knowing the story and that I was part Cherokee, but I didn't really see the Indian in my grandmother until I moved to San Francisco and saw her face in the faces of old Chinese women, just as I now sometimes see her here in the old women of Korea.

Maybe that's partly why I feel comfortable in this distant place even though the Koreans probably think of me as just another waygukin -- an "outside-country person," as Robert Ouwehand translated it in his "Letter to the Editor" for yesterday's Expat Life section of the Korea Herald.

But to get back to Barack...

This morning, I read a short article, "Honolulu Diarist" by Allegra Goodman in The New Republic that reaches back to Honolulu of the 1970s to help explain Obama's fluid identity, the 'postracialness' that I mentioned. Goodman describes the complex identity dynamics that she saw taking place in her fifth-grade class, taught by an old "veteran teacher, old-fashioned, Christian, strict, Mabel Hefty," and she implies that Obama would have experienced much the same thing:
Six years before she taught my class, Mabel Hefty had taught a boy named Barack Obama who grew up to name her as his favorite teacher for her ability to make "every single child feel special." To Mrs. Hefty, special did not simply mean loved -- special meant singular. This was a particularly strong message to her diverse students. Mrs. Hefty's students were Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, Korean, Tongan, white, and, more often than that, hapa, a combination of many races and traditions. On the surface, our classroom looked like a melting pot. A girl with honey blond hair, cafe-au-lait skin, and green eyes might say proudly, "I'm part Hawaiian, part Portuguese, part Chinese, and part Irish." And, yet, despite this melding of cultures -- indeed, because of it -- we were all struggling to define ourselves and find a place in the world.
I think that this gets at part of Obama's appeal, especially to the young. Whether postracial or not, racially, ethnically, Obama is hard to pin down, much as America and Americans are becoming harder to pin down as we all struggle to find our place in the world.

Which is why Obama's not "The Black Candidate" that the Clintons would like for him to be...

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