Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shocker: North Korea Lied!

Numeral Markings Compared
(Images from JoongAng Daily)

This comes as an utter surprise to me, but as things turn out the North Korean government lied during the Cheonan controversy in claiming that it never marked its munitions components with handwritten numbers! As the above left photo of one of the recent shells that rained down on Yeonpyeong Island demonstrates, the North's military does mark munitions with handwritten numbers! The torpedo that sank the Cheonan Corvette, marked with the expression "1 beon" (i.e., "1 번," as shown in the above right photo), is thus fully compatible with a North Korean origin, despite the North's angry denial.

According to Lee Young-jong and Jeong Yong-soo, reporting for the JoongAng Daily, "Markings connect artillery shells, Cheonan torpedo" (November 29, 2010):
A North Korean marking reading "No. 1" was found on an artillery shell that was used in the attack on Yeonpyeong Island on Tuesday . . . . [A] similar hand-written mark appeared on a torpedo propeller shaft that Seoul believes the [North Korean] regime used to sink the South Korean navy vessel Cheonan in March, in which 46 sailors lost their lives . . . . A source at the Defense Ministry said the marking was presumably written with a black marker. Other artillery shells collected by the ministry showed that they, too, had handwritten numbers, such as 5, 8, 35 and 88 . . . . South Korean experts have argued that the North Korean military puts numbers on its weapons to classify components when they assemble the complete weapon . . . . [The] North . . . claims it has never used handwritten numbers when creating munition components . . . . [but loses] loses credibility because hand-written numbers were found on artillery shells that the North admitted it fired on Yeonpyeong Island . . . . [These] newly-discovered remnants of artillery shells now put an end to the controversy that the markings on the torpedo that sank the Cheonan were fabricated [by the South Korean military, so the] . . . North just dug its own grave with the Yeonpyeong provocation.
I've also read elsewhere -- specifically, in the Chosun Ilbo -- that the fact that these numerical markings on the artillery shells survived the explosive heat proves that the marking on the torpedo could also have survived that explosion, despite the earlier doubts of some skeptics.

Whatever one might now think about that torpedo, the North Korean regime lied to the world about not marking its munitions with handwritten numbers, much to my astonishment!

I just can't get over it.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 29, 2010

John Milton: Tweaking the Text of Paradise Lost

I'm not yet certain what to call Milton's technique of manipulating his epic poem by reliance on obscure clues to signal something going on in the story. Here's a well-known example from Paradise Lost 5.558-670:
Satan, so call him now, his former name
Is heard no more in Heav'n; he of the first,
If not the first Arch-Angel, great in Power,
In favour and præeminence, yet fraught
With envie against the Son of God, that day
Honourd by his great Father, and proclaimd
Messiah King anointed, could not beare
Through pride that sight, & thought himself impaird.
Deep malice thence conceiving and disdain,
Soon as midnight brought on the duskie houre
Friendliest to sleep and silence, he resolv'd
With all his Legions to dislodge, and leave
Unworshipt, unobey'd the Throne supream
The clause "Deep malice thence conceiving and disdain," which expresses Satan's adverse reaction to the revelation of the Son of God and the Son's coronation as Messiah, i.e., as "Christ," comes in line 666 and thereby hints at Satan's identity as "The Beast" of Revelation 13:18, often interpreted in Christian tradition as "The Antichrist" referred to in 1 John 18 and 22, which identifies "The Antichrist" as one who denies that Jesus is the Christ and denies the Father and the Son. There's no "Jesus" in Paradise Lost, but Satan does deny the Son as the Christ and, moreover, rejects the Son Himself. Milton thus uses something external to the story itself, a number recognizable only by one counting lines, to reinforce the story's meaning.

There's also the infamous acrostic in Paradise Lost 9.510-514:
Scipio the highth of Rome. With tract oblique
At first, as one who sought access, but feard
To interrupt, side-long he works his way.
As when a Ship by skilful Stearsman wrought
Nigh Rivers mouth or Foreland, where the Wind
This acrostic "SATAN" -- taking the first letter of each line -- comes in a passage as the serpent approaches Eve to tempt her into eating of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. As with the previous example, this is an external hint to the reader, a reminder in this case that Satan is the one who possesses the serpent, though one hardly needs reminding since lines 494-495 have already noted this. Perhaps the point is therefore to remind the reader that the one approaching Eve is the "Adversary," which is what the word "Satan" literally means.

Anyway, I wonder what this technique employed by Milton is called and if it was a Renaissance habit or if Milton was unusual.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Korean Evacuation Plan? For Me?

Friends of mine outside of Korea are concerned about the recent North Korean shelling and are looking out for me in these days of military tension on the Peninsula. In fact, a friend who works at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has urged me to apply for an opening there:
It's a good time to think about it while you can move. Look at the OPCWwebsite opcw.org. There is a job opening for a political analyst. Think about it. They are somewhat flexible on qualifications.
I'm flattered, but from looking at the necessary qualifications, I think that the OPCW would have to be very, very 'flexible' even to consider me. Here's precisely what I wouldn't be good at:
Organises seminars, workshops, training programmes and briefings for representatives of States for the purpose of promoting the adoption of the Convention by all States and explaining Convention requirements, including: developing agendas/programmes and terms of OPCW financial assistance and obtaining agreement with host country/organisation; answering requests for clarification on financial and organisational questions regarding travel and accommodation etc; preparing and/or giving presentations and providing interpretation; arranging for and making payments to participants; and analysing and/or drafting documents produced, including press releases and reports of workshop outcomes, and development of national implementing legislation . . .
Above all, I spell the term "organize"! I therefore doubt my ability to 'organise' anything. I think that I could handle many of the other tasks, though I'd experience a few traffic bumps in dealing with people. My people skills are sorely in need of improvement, and I doubt that the OPCW would care for me learning on the job. Besides, I'm the sort of person who likes to mull things over, and from what I make of this job description, an individual who's quick-thinking is needed. Why, I'm still mulling over what the North Koreans meant by the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, whereas a quicker-witted sort of person would already have packed up his things and left. So . . . maybe I'm not the man for this job.

Personally, I'd just prefer that Bill Gates give me a lot of money to follow up my own inclinations . . .


Saturday, November 27, 2010

North Korea Planned Attack Carefully

Image from JoongAng Daily

Christine Kim, writing for the JoongAng Daily (November 26, 2010), has an excellent, concise article, "N. Korea fired thermobaric bombs," clarifying that the North planned its attack well in advance and thereby contradicting the North's claim that it was reacting to the South's 'provocation' in carrying out live-fire exercises. Let me quote at length, excising the extraneous:
South Korea's military concludes the attack was meticulously planned, although much more damage would have been caused if the North's equipment wasn't so old and faulty . . . . The South Korean military is examining around twenty North Korean shells that failed to explode . . . . Military officials believe North Korea achieved such extensive damage on the island despite the duds and the misses because it meticulously planned the attack . . . [using] "time-on-target" (TOT) coordination, a military tactic in which all the munitions arrive . . . at a designated target [simultaneously] for maximum destruction . . . . [Moreover,] North Korea used artillery guns located at the front and the rear of their bases, . . . locations that could not easily be detected visibly . . . . North Korean troops in Gaemori have also been observed since last year moving their artillery to the north, reinforcing them with concrete to defend against South Korean retaliation . . . . North Korea [carried out a firing drill using the TOT method] in January near the Northern Limit Line, with around 100 rounds fired, . . . [as] a dress rehearsal . . . . North Korea attacked [on Tuesday] when artillery on Yeonpyeong Island were facing southwest for firing exercises, away from North Korea, to buy more time and increase damage . . . . [The South's troops thus required] time . . . to rotate the guns toward North Korea . . . . [The North] didn't fire randomly but specifically targeted the military base on the island, including oil storage units, and 20,000 liters of oil were released, some catching on fire. They also targeted the post office, a supermarket and municipal buildings . . . . formerly military buildings, so the South Korean military suspects North Korea was planning from an old map.
All of this taken together is very powerful circumstantial evidence that the attack was well-planned long in advance. One can, of course, question some particulars. The January test-firing might not have been a "dress rehearsal" specifically for the way that North Korea has recently acted up. The North might not have planned this ten months ago. But the cumulative details strongly imply that the North's attack was no fit of pique acted out in response to a purported 'provocation' from the South.

Supporting evidence for the view that this attack was planned in advance can be found in the fact that the North moved artillery in advance, as we learn from the Chosun Ilbo, which tells of the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) batteries being moved into position hours before the firing started:
[S]everal hours before the shelling began the North Korean military deployed one battery of six 122-mm MLRS shells and later two batteries of 12 112-mm MLRS shells. It also carried out preparatory shooting practice just before the attack. ("Military Knew of N.Korean Artillery Move Before Attack," Chosun Ilbo, November 27, 2010)
We also learn, from another Chosen Ilbo article, that "North Korean coastal artillery positions are not equipped with MLRS" ("The Devastating Power of N.Korea's MLRS Artillery," November 27, 2010), which reinforces the evidence that these MLRS batteries were moved in advance of the South's live-fire exercises and therefore not a reaction to any so-called 'provocation' by the South. Given these facts -- and the fearsome fact from the same article that 200 MLRS vehicles are deployed along the DMZ and can hit Seoul with 6,400 shells and turn 6 square kilometers into rubble -- one question that ought to be foremost in our minds is what the North wants to extort from the South or the US this time.

So, let's think about that . . .

Incidentally, if you're wondering about "thermobaric bombs," Christine Kim informs us that these explode twice and "have longer blast waves than regular explosives, and when used in the open air, they can result in increased casualties and more structural damage."

What nice folks there are in the North's governing elite, who must have known that the island was home to civilians in addition to hosting a military base and that shelling it would result in civilian casualties.

Not that the nomenklatura up North care about that since they care so little about their own civilian population . . .

Labels: ,

Friday, November 26, 2010

En-Uk Sequoya Hwang: "North Korea Attack"

Map of the Yeonpyeong Shelling
November 23, 2010
(Image from Wikipedia)

As some readers might recall, I homeschool my eleven-year-old son in English -- though his day school is Korean -- and once a week, he writes a short 'essay' on some topic or other, usually of his own choosing. On the 24th of November, he chose to write a very brief piece on the Yeonpyeong Shelling:
North Korea Attack
"North Korea Attack" is about North Korea attacking an island in South Korea. I think that we now believe that North Korea is very bad. I don't like North Korea so much. So, I want to just make North Korea ours. I wish that a lot. I wish we could be the same country. I want North Korea to be smarter.
I was somewhat surprised to read that he wants unification, apparently as a solution to the problem of North Korean behavior, since I've often read that young Koreans are opposed to reunifying the peninsula, but perhaps En-Uk is different and reflects more on such issues, for we've previously seen that he doesn't like Kim Jong-il.

But En-Uk's wish for a "smarter" North Korea is somewhat off the mark. Actually, the North is already smart, clever enough in negotiations to play a weak hand rather well, and their hand is getting stronger over time despite a failed economy, for their nuclear program seems to be coming along well, given what we've recently learned of their sophisticated centrifuges for enriching uranium. I've watched the their negotiating tactics since first coming to South Korea back in 1995, but not much time is needed to figure out how the North operates. The game is always the same and not so much a card game, really, despite my reference to the North's 'weak hand.' Some analysts call the game blackmail, which gets closer to how they operate, but the North has no knowledge of South Korean 'secrets' that it might threaten to reveal, so the term isn't quite right. Rather, the North plays a game of extortion:
Help us, or we'll kill you!
That's the message from the northern mafia, a demand for protection money, though it's not quite so blatant, and there is a procedure to go through:
1. North Korea wants something (e.g., food aid)

2. North Korea claims a pretext (e.g., US-ROK war games).

3. North Korea precipitates a crisis (e.g., announce a nuclear test).

4. North Korea offers to relax tensions (e.g., negotiations).

5. North Korea reaches a settlement (e.g., food aid for cessation of nuclear program).

6. North Korea wants something (e.g., lifting of sanctions).
And so it goes, until the North's US-ROK opponents catch on, and threaten to stop playing, as has recently been attempted through applying the concept of "strategic patience," i.e., simply not responding to the North's provocation while keeping the pressure applied. How then does the North respond? By raising the stakes, in this current case through revealing their surprising nuclear sophistication and shelling an inhabited island in the South, reminding everyone that they cannot be 'ignored.' But as the North grows more dangerous -- nuclear-weapons and nuclear proliferation -- the stakes grow ever higher, and the risks of miscalculation increase.

En-Uk's intuition that unification is the long-term solution might be correct, for the North requires tensions for its survival, but if only his wish for North and South to "be the same country" were as easily achieved as conceived.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 25, 2010

David Brooks: Ideal Leaders "full of passionate intensity"

William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats is one of my favorite poets, and in my Berkeley years, way back in the 1980s, I read him religiously, which is perhaps how he wrote to be read, so I'm always gratified to catch some allusion to his poetry, especially one encountered in the writing of a columnist and public intellectual like David Brooks.

In his recent NYT column on Congressional gridlock, "Sin and Taxes" (November 22, 2010), Brooks notes that current-day American politicians are different from those of even as recent as the 1990s, and he reasons why:
For centuries, American politicians did not run up huge peacetime debts. It wasn't because they were unpartisan or smarter or more virtuous. It was because they were constrained by a mentality inherited from the founders. According to this mentality, a big successful nation exists in a state of equilibrium between its many factions. This equilibrium is fragile because we are flawed and fallen creatures and can't quite trust ourselves. So all of us, but especially members of the leadership class, should practice self-restraint. Moral anxiety restrained hubris (don't think your side possesses the whole truth) and self-indulgence (debt corrupts character).

This ethos has dissolved, on left and right. The new mentality sees the country not as an equilibrium, but as a battlefield in which the people, who are pure and virtuous, do battle against the interests or the elites, who stand in the way of the people's happiness.

The ideal leader in this mental system is free from moral anxiety but full of passionate intensity. This leader pushes his troops in lock step before the voracious foe. Each party has its own version of whom the evil elites are, but both feel they've more to fear from their enemies than from their own sinfulness.

Compromise is thus impossible. Money matters should be negotiable, but how can one compromise with opponents who are the source of all corruption?
A bit of Calvinist-inspired Protestant self-doubt, it seems, is good for the state of the soul, but with politicians too sure of their own election, the consequence is an all-out, no-holds-barred culture war in which the self-righteousness scorn their opponents as totally depraved.

But enough moralizing. You surely caught the allusion to the poem "The Second Coming" in this line by Brooks: "The ideal leader in this mental system is free from moral anxiety but full of passionate intensity." Here's the entire poem by Yeats:
The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
I won't attempt any lengthy explication, or try to apply this 1919 post-Great War poem to our time. That would be tempting, but this isn't the place for it, though the line "the centre cannot hold" is surely apt, and perhaps also subtly intended by Brooks in referring to our current 'ideal' leaders, so "full of passionate intensity," the type whom Yeats identifies as "the worst," a characterization with which Brooks apparently agrees.

But rather than further pursue that line of thought on these leaders so full of sound and fury, I'll just enjoy the lines of the poem . . . pausing to appreciate the literary allusion.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

And Death Comes Knocking from the North . . .

North Korean Shelling

If I stay in South Korea long enough, I may yet see war on this peninsula. We witnessed an unprovoked attack yesterday . . . and death. I learned of the North's attack on Yeonpyeong Island by a text message sent to my cell phone yesterday around 5:30 while I was teaching a class. I ordinarily use my handphone only for checking the time, and I don't receive many messages. Most of the ones that I do receive are spam in Korean and safely ignored, but yesterday's was in English and said:
DPRK has attacked an island near Incheon.
That was all. I didn't know who had sent the message, nor if the news were serious enough to cancel class. Without comment to my students, I went on teaching. After class, I learned from a brief query that my students knew more than I, but I had no time to inquire further and didn't learn any more information until reaching home after 7:00 p.m. I then learned of three military deaths on the South's side and multiple injuries, both military and civilian. But I was too exhausted from teaching and a long day, so I went to bed at 8:30 without learning more, and I've only had time to read a couple of articles this early morning, but I can't not blog on this event even though I've yet nothing of substance to report. I do sense the irony, as I noted in a comment this morning in response to an allusion to the North's attack:
I was also struck by the proper irony of so many posts on death, only to have death come knocking from the North yesterday . . .
I hope not to end up like Archimedes, telling the Roman soldiers, "Don't disturb my circles," just before they put him to the sword. I don't think that things will come to that, as I explained to a Milton-scholar colleague a few minutes ago in an email:
We're safe . . . I think. I doubt that the North wants real war and is calculating that the shooting will remain local. The danger is always one of miscalculation, and I'm not convinced that the North is calculating well these days.
My friend Steve Sin, a doctoral student at the University at Albany, SUNY, in the Department of Political Science at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy and who maintains the blog Northeast Asia Matters, has quoted from and linked to a site called Nightwatch that more or less says what I think, only more professionally and with greater expertise:
The shelling is ex officio an act of war and starts another round of crisis. YP-Do [the island Yeonpyeong that was shelled yesterday by the North] is one of the five South Korean island in the Yellow Sea, northwest of Seoul. It is within easy artillery range from the North Korean coast.

The few facts suggest this is another provocation, like the sinking of the corvette Chonan in March, to show the temerity of the heir apparent. He supposedly was the brilliant mastermind of the sinking, to demonstrate his leadership worthiness. His handlers apparently intend to use these kinds of provocation to be the signature of Kim Jung-un's leadership so that the Allies do not try to take advantage of his youth and inexperience, presumably.

Ironically, earlier during the Watch, news services reported North Korea offered to negotiate the termination of one of its nuclear arms programs, most likely the now terminated plutonium program.

The sequence of three significant developments in 72 hours suggests a plan to switch international attention back to North Korea. The North's behavior during the long nuclear crisis that began in 1993 is punctuated with provocative spikes of this nature. They occurred whenever the leadership judged North Korea was not receiving the attention they thought it deserved and when their initiatives were not generating the cash and aid commitments they expected and which they need for regime survival.

The periods of tension have been of varying duration, but they invariably ended with talks and promises of aid and cooperation. That is the usual patttern

Occurring just two days after South Korea declared the Sunshine Policy a failure, the shelling also probably is part of the North's response to South Korea's official end of its conciliatory engagement policy and programs. The message is that the North will reciprocate hard-line actions for hard-line actions, which is the customary symmetrical formulation in the North's threats. But in this competition, the North can be annoying, but is too weak in every respect to be a match for South Korea and will not have Chinese backing for any offensive provocations.

Thus at a time when the US has committed to expand the war in Afghanistan and China is busy building is sphere of influence in Southeast Asia, the North has sent reminders about a very different and vastly more lethal war that is still possible in northeast Asia, despite being increasingly pointless.

The risk of large scale fighting remains low because North Korea lacks the energy -- human and otherwise -- to sustain it. The North can start a conflict and kill lots of people, but has no ability to sustain a war; cannot defend itself or its population from an overwhelming Allied counterattack and will lose everything built by Kim Il sung since 1953 in a war. Most importantly, the highest leaders know it.

However, the risk of more shelling remains high for now. After the shelling stops, meetings with the UN Command at Panmunjom should clarify what the North wants now.
What the man at Nightwatch writes is consistent with my more inchoate views, but if you want a slightly different take on China's position in all this, go to Joshua Stanton's One Free Korea site, from where I've borrowed the Yonhap photo above. He's also embedded a video report on the shelling in which one can hear the civilians crying out in fear at the attack, terrified at the destruction and the mortal threat to their lives.

This may remain localized, limited to that South Korean island in the Yellow Sea, but the unprovoked attack is certainly war for those who endured the shelling and a brutal reminder of what the North has to offer: destruction, death, and "immortal hate" (PL 1.107)

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Greek Nominative Participle After Verbs of Knowledge or Perception


I received the image of this Grimshaw painting above from Michael Gilleland, who was concerned that he might also be poaching:
I hope I'm not poaching on your private preserve.
If you click on the link, you'll find Sir Gilleland too fine and noble to stoop to poaching, for he has hunted in the wilds of Antiquity and returned with nine trophies, quotes from Greek writers demonstrating the nominative participle in Greek after verbs of knowledge or perception, a grammatical construction that I first blogged about last August 4th in my entry "Milton's 'Awkward' Grecism: "know" with nominative participle?" I was, of course, discussing the by now quite familiar passage on Eve's fall in Paradise Lost 9.791-794:
Greedily she ingorg'd without restraint,
And knew not eating Death: Satiate at length,
And hight'nd as with Wine, jocond and boon,
Thus to her self she pleasingly began.
The awkward clause "knew not eating Death" has been thought by some Milton scholars to be modeled on the Greek nominative participle after verbs of knowledge or perception, an issue that I've been belaboring of late . . . and shall continue to do so for some time to come.

Including today.

And I -- lowly and common 'Hodges' that I am -- am not above poaching on Sir Gilleland's preserve, for I have bagged one of his trophies. More precisely, I took it when he wasn't looking. But enough of carefully considered confession and vain hopes for absolution. Here is what I've stolen from Sir Gilleland:
Euripides, Hecuba 397 (tr. David Kovacs):

οὐ γὰρ οἶδα δεσπότας κεκτημένος.

I am not aware that I have a master.
As explained by Michael, in the English translation, "you'll find a clause starting with the word 'that' and containing a finite verb -- in the corresponding Greek there is a participle in the nominative case." If Milton were translating, he might awkwardly render it as follows:
I know not having master.
Unlike Odysseus in this drama by Euripides, however, I am a nobody who knows his Greek master, and that master is Michael Gilleland.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, November 22, 2010

John Everard: Translator of Sebastian Franck's Von dem Baum des Wissens Gutes und Boeses

Rufus M. Jones
(Image from Amazon)

From an online copy of Spiritual Reformers in the 16th and 17th Centuries (London: Macmillan, 1914), written by the Quaker scholar Rufus M. Jones, I have learned of an unpublished translation of Sebastian Franck's book Von dem Baum des Wissens Gutes und Boeses. Supposedly, this is the same book (Vom dem Baum des Wissen Gutes und Böses) that was later separately translated and published in English as The Forbidden Fruit: or, A Treatise of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evill, of Which Adam at the First, and as Yet All Mankinde Do Eate Death. I'm not entirely sure, for I seem to recall that Franck wrote two books on the tree of knowledge (though I may be recalling his Paradoxa, which speaks of the Tree of Knowledge as death).

Anyway, here's what Mr. Jones has written in Spiritual Reformers in the 16th and 17th Centuries on John Everard's translation, The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, And the Tree of Life in the Midst of the Paradise of God: Taken out of a Book called The Letter and the Life, or The Flesh and the Spirit:
Before turning to Everard's message, as it finds expression in the rare volume of his sermons -- The Gospel Treasures Opened -- we must consider the Translations {242} which he left unpublished. They are preserved in clearly written manuscripts in Cambridge University Library, under the title "Three Bookes Translated out of their Originall."[9] The first "Book" bears the following title-page: "The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, And the Tree of Life in the Midst of the Paradise of God: Taken out of a Book called The Letter and the Life, or The Flesh and the Spirit. Translated by Dr. Everard." An interesting article on Dr. Everard in Notes and Queries[10] concludes that this first "Book" of Everard's is a free translation of the Second Part of Tentzel's Medicina diastica. This guess, however, proves to be incorrect, though there is a slight likeness between Tentzel's book and the English MS. Everard's book is, in reality, a translation of Sebastian Franck's Von dem Baum des Wissens Gutes und Boeses ("Of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil"). The translation is made from a Latin edition of Franck's little book, which was published in 1561. The entire message of this treatise, written by the wandering chronicler and spiritual prophet of Germany, and here reproduced in English, is the inwardness of everything that concerns the religious life. The Tree of Life was in Adam's heart, and in that same inner region of the soul was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The story of Paradise is a graphic parable of the soul's experience. "That Tree which tested Adam was and is nothing else in truth but the Nature, Will, Knowledge, and Life of Adam, and every man is as much forbidden to eat of this Tree as Adam was." Franck's significant book contained passages from Hans Denck's Widerruf ("Confession"), and Everard translated them as an appendix to his first manuscript book.[11] They hold the very heart of Denck's message and deal, with Denck's usual sincerity and boldness, with the fundamental nature of spiritual religion. He here declares the primacy of the Word of God in the soul over everything else that ministers to man's life: "I prefer the Holy Scriptures before all Humane {243} Treasure; yet I do not so much esteem them as I do the Word of God which is living, potent, and eternal, and which is free from all elements of this world: For that is God Himself, Spirit and no letter, written without pen or ink, so that it can never be obliterated. True Salvation is in the Word of God; it is not tied up to the Scriptures. They alone cannot make a bad heart good, though they may supply it with information. But a heart illumined with the Light of God is made better by everything." Franck declares, in comment on Denck's words: "I myself know at least twenty Christian Religions all of which claim to rest on the Holy Scriptures which they apply to themselves by far-fetched expositions and allegories, or from the dead letter of the text. . . . They can be understood rightly, however, only by the divine new-man, who is God-born, and who brings to them the Light of the Holy Spirit." There can be no doubt, I think, that Dr. Everard found in the writings of these two sixteenth-century prophets the body and filling of his own new conceptions of Christianity, and it was through his vigorous interpretations that this stream of thought first flowed into England.

[9] John Everard, "Three Bookes Translated out of their Originall," Cambridge University Library, Sig. Dd. xii. p. 68.

[10] Notes and Queries, Fourth series, i. p. 597.

[11] Denck's name is used in its Latin form John Denqui, and he is called magnus theologus.
Of interest is the quote from Franck concerning the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil: "That Tree which tested Adam was and is nothing else in truth but the Nature, Will, Knowledge, and Life of Adam, and every man is as much forbidden to eat of this Tree as Adam was." This appears to offer an allegorical reading of the Genesis story, but the wording partly recalls the title of the published translation of Franck's text, The Forbidden Fruit: or, A Treatise of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evill, of Which Adam at the First, and as Yet All Mankinde Do Eate Death. The part stating that "every man is as much forbidden to eat of this Tree" distantly echoes "Yet All Mankinde Do Eate Death" because both entail that everyone continues to eat the fruit of knowledge. I'd still need more evidence, however, that these are the same book, for if Franck wrote two book on the tree of knowledge, he'd likely offer similar views in both.

But nothing is said in the above passage to the effect that "All Mankinde Do Eate Death," so this might not be especially relevant to my quest on "eating Death" in John Milton's Paradise Lost.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"All Mankinde Do Eate Death"

Sebastian Franck
(Image from Wikipedia)

We've recently seen that the image of an 'all-devouring death' was a commonplace metaphor in the early seventeenth century, the time of John Milton's youth, so let's now focus on an expression with the 'opposite' meaning, "eat death," which is perhaps mimicked in its word arrangement by "eating death" in Paradise Lost 9.792.

Assiduous readers will recall that I've already noted Sebastian Franck's book on eating death, published in English translation in 1640: The Forbidden Fruit: or, A Treatise of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evill, of Which Adam at the First, and as Yet All Mankinde Do Eate Death. Let's consider it again, borrowing from my earlier post's citation of Regina Schwartz, who writes:
Michael Lieb comments that Adam and Eve become unclean upon violating God's command, noting that seventeenth-century commentators also made the connection between the forbidden fruit and the unclean food of Leviticus. In The Forbidden Fruit: Or a Treatise of the Tree of Knowledge (1640), Sebastian Frank (sic) writes that the fall was an "offense" to God, causing man to become "unclean": we shall become clean again only when we "doe vomitt up the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evill" (14-16). Lieb's interest is in the prohibition a "extralegal and dispensational" -- not in any of its commemorative impulses (Lieb, Poetics of the Holy, 114-18). (Schwartz, Remembering and Repeating, pp. 113-114, n. 18)
I still haven't read Lieb's book, but I have managed to find a fuller form of the brief passage that Schwartz cites from Lieb concerning Franck:
As Sebastian Franck says in The forbidden fruit: or a treatise of the tree of knowledge (1640), the Fall was an "offense" to God, causing man to become "unclean": we shall become clean again only when we "doe vomitt up the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evill" (Lieb, Poetics of the Holy, pp. 14-16).
Lieb is citing the following passage from Franck:
The Testimony of the Scripture, how we ought to evacuate the Seed of the Serpent his counsel & word, and so vomit up the Fruit of the forbidden Tree, and purge the same away as deadly poison by the Fruit of the Tree of Life. (Franck, The Forbidden Fruit, p?)
We might as well look at the full title of Franck's book (in a 1642 printing?):
The forbidden fruit, or, A treatise of the tree of knowledge of good and evill, of which Adam at the first, and as yet all mankinde do eate death: moreover, how at this day it is forbidden to every one as well as to Adam, and how this tree, that is, the wisdome of the serpent planted in Adam, is that great image, and that many headed beast mentioned in Daniel and the apocalyps, whom the whole world doth worship: lastly, here is shewed what is the tree of life, contrary to the wisdome, righteousnesse, and knowledge of all mankinde : with a description of the majestie and nature of Gods word (London: Printed by T.P. and M.S. for Benjamin Allen ..., 1642.)
Franck published under a pseudonym August Eleuthenius and originally in German, apparently, as Vom dem Baum des Wissen Gutes und Böses, though the source of the preceding block quote has it as translated from Latin.

Wikipedia, by the way, has a useful entry on Sebastian Franck, who was a German and Reformer in Luther's time, but though it lists the book as The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it doesn't say anything about Franck's views on the subject.

The Milton scholar Alastair Fowler notes Franck's book in his annotated Paradise Lost:
[S]ee Svendsen (1956) 128 citing Sebastian Franck, The Forbidden Fruit (1640): all men 'do eat death, and yet . . . think themselves to eat life, and hope to be Gods'. Eve's eating resembles Death's own -- 'the release of inordinate appetite into the world brings on the insatiable devourer of all men'. (Alastair Fowler, John Milton: Paradise Lost, London and New York: Longman, 1998, p. 516)
I assume that both quotes are from Svendsen, of whom Fowler's bibliography offers this:
Svendsen, Kester (1956). Milton and Science. Cambridge, MA.
Fowler also touches upon the Greek and Latin backgrounds, but more on that another time. The quote from Svendsen is intriguing for what it says about Eve resembling Death in her "inordinate appetite" -- though I don't know if this is a point made by Svendsen using Franck or by Franck himself.

I wish that I had a copy of Franck's book, for it might have details useful for analyzing Milton's own views on "eating Death." Elsewhere in Paradise Lost, Milton writes of the baleful effects of overeating and compares them to the effects of trying to digest too much knowledge, a point that I might need to follow up.

For now, the important point is that Milton could well have known about the 1640 (1642?) translation of Franck's book into English and the clause in its title that "All Mankinde Do Eate Death."

Labels: , ,

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"DEATH devours all things"

Fredric March
"Beware the Ides of March"
(Image from Wikipedia)

I found an index with an entry "DEATH devours all things" in Shakespeare's Proverbial Language: An Index (University of California Press, 1981), collated by Robert William Dent, and I've copied the entry below, adding pertinent links, where possible, to original or otherwise relevant texts and persons:
DEATH devours all things (Varied)
1557 Tottel P3V: Set hym free From dark oblivion of devouring Death.
1596 C. Middleton Historie of Heaven C2: Hungrie death that all thinges doth devoure.
1604 T. Middleton Father Hubburds Tale V11 1,65: The old devourer . . . death, had made our landlord dance after his pipe.
c 1605 (1630) Dekker 2 Honest Whore 1.2.102—4: Deaths a good trencherman, he can eat course homely meat, as well as the daintiest.
Shakespeare: Jn. 2.1.352--4, Rom. 2.6.7
Cf. D 139: Death devours lambs as well as sheep [from 1620]; T326: Time devours all things.
The title Shakespeare's Proverbial Language is a bit misleading until one realizes that it refers to proverbs that Shakespeare could have been familiar with because they were common coin.

By now, no one should have any doubt that John Milton's image in Paradise Lost of an all-devouring Death was itself dependent upon a proverbial commonplace, common to the point of cliché, though Milton's treatment of this image proved anything but common.

But why the photo of Fredric March? Oh, just to take a holiday from all those images of death, though the man looks a bit deadly himself . . .

Labels: , , ,

Friday, November 19, 2010

John Milton: Half in Love with "eating Death"?

Satan Tempts Milton?
Illustration by Edward Sorel
Watch out for Satan's Teutonic Faust!
(Image from The New Yorker)

In looking for information about John Milton's famous line on Eve's fall from innocence, "And knew not eating Death" (Paradise Lost 9.792) I came upon a reference to a presentation in 2007 at a Princeton University Conference on Renaissance Hellenism. The paper was titled "'And knew not eating death': Milton's Greek" and was presented by the Milton scholar Gordon Campbell, of the University of Leicester, in England.

I contacted Professor Campbell, who graciously sent me a copy of his unpublished paper, which has the following pertinent and quite helpful paragraph on the expression:
In Book 9 of Paradise Lost Eve eats the apple, and the narrator says 'Greedily she engorged without restraint,/ And knew not eating death'. If you try it in English, it might mean 'she was unaware while she ate death' or even 'she knew, not eating [imminent] death', neither of which is entirely convincing. If, however, you listen for Latin echoes, then mors edax emerges. That makes sense, but the Latinate sense of 'she knew not death that devours' is complemented by a Greek sense, because the phrase imitates a Greek construction in which the verb 'to know' is followed by a participle (in the nominative) without repetition of subject; in this syntax, it means 'and knew not that she was eating death'. This, I think is the primary meaning, and it is enriched by the secondary sense, which is Latin. Greek syntax flowed through Milton's veins.
The Latin "mors edax," of course, means "death devours," emphasizing Death's' action in devouring Eve ("eating" = "Death was eating"), a sense of death that we've recently learned quite well on this blog. The Greek influence turns the meaning to Eve's action in devouring Death ("eating" = "she was eating"), which Professor Campbell takes to express "the primary meaning," albeit "enriched by the secondary sense, which is Latin." He doesn't explicitly state why he takes the Greek to be primary here, but I think that he finds it so because it makes sense of the syntax, i.e., "the verb 'to know' is followed by a participle (in the nominative) without repetition of subject" ("eating" = "she was eating"). I'll need to reflect on this point some more, as well as upon possible English meanings that one could read into Milton's line without recourse to Latin or Greek, for I'm not sure that Professor Campbell two readings -- "she was unaware while she ate death" and "she knew, not eating [imminent] death" -- are the only ones. But such questions just make the line "And knew not eating Death" all the more fascinating for those readers intent on being among Milton's "fit audience . . . though few" (PL 8.31), a non-Calvinist, secular state of election achieved through hard work.

By the way, I've used Milton's capitalized "Death" because I take it to be the original and think that the majuscule better captures the personified character of Death in Paradise Lost than the minuscule, but I suppose that I need to check this point by seeing if Milton originally capitalized this fatal, fateful term.

Anyway, the expression remains awkward in English, despite the Greek explication, so Milton's' use of it remains to be explained.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"death swallowes all"

Dario Rivarossa

Thanks to Dario, I have this fearsome feature above for today's depiction of Death to accompany a bit of second-rate dramatics penned by Henry Chettle (c. 1564 – c. 1607) in his play of 1602, The Tragedy of Hoffman or A Reuenge for a Father:
I pray you thinke me not in passion dull;
I must withdraw, and weepe, my heart is full.
Oh reuerent man, thou bearst the richest fruite;
That euer fell in the vnripired spring,
Goe lay her soft, she had ill fate to fall;
But rich or faire or strong, death swallowes all,
Hola! Lorrique, leaue our horse; draw neere.
Enter Lorrique.
Helpe me to sing a hymne vnto the fates
Compos'd of laughing interiections.
The speaker is Hoffman, who calls to his servant Lorrique in referring to the 'death' of Lucibella, but she lives on, so Death hasn't swallowed her yet. Nonetheless, "death swallowes all," and that's all that I need to know in my search for possible sources for the image of an all-devouring death found in John Donne and John Milton, particularly since Chettle was quite popular in his day, even if second-rate, but all the better for my purpose, for the lesser playwrights oftener dealt in clichés.

I suspect that the figure of Death devouring all things was therefore rather common.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"mors omnia devorat"

Still Life With A Skull
Philippe de Champaigne
Vanitas (c. 1671)
Musée de Tessé, Le Mans
(Image from Wikipedia)

To assist me in my quest for all-devouring death -- or rather, since death will find me soon enough, my search for the source behind this deathly personification in John Donne and John Milton -- an online acquaintance of mine, Michael Gilleland, has emailed me a pertinent Latin quote:
A possible source is Seneca, De remediis fortuitorum 2: "alia nos torquent: mors omnia devorat."
Michael didn't specify Seneca the Elder or Seneca the Younger, but perhaps he meant Seneca the Pseudo-Seneca, for I find some authorities who claim that De remediis fortuitorum is a pseudonymous work,for example this scholar.

I'm not much good at Latin, but even I can see that "mors omnia devorat" means "Death devours all things." Okay, I had a little help.

I won't attempt the rest of the quote since I'd have to labor hard and long to get it exactly right, and I have only enough time this morning to embarrass myself if I tried, but Michael is a linguist and Latin scholar and can perhaps assist if he has time to spare from his own impressive blog, Laudator Temporis Acti.

As for the image above, the original title is Vanitas -- meaning, I think, not a preoccupation with one's fantasized beauty but a reflection on the emptiness of worldly affairs -- but I prefer the English title, Still Life With A Skull, for its perhaps inadvertent irony.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ravenous Satan?

All-Devouring Satan?
Cave of Hell
Demetrios Vakra

The image above, of an all-devouring Satan, was provided yesterday in a link by Dario Rivarossa, and I in turn suggested that the "all-devouring Satan stems from a Biblical source" that I would provide in my next blog entry.

First, however, I should downgrade Satan's hunger. Unlike death, he's not truly 'all-devouring' -- he merely wishes to devour all souls. Here, in I Peter 5:8, is the Biblical source:
Νήψατε γρηγορήσατε ὅτι ὁ ἀντίδικος ὑμῶν διάβολος ὡς λέων ὠρυόμενος περιπατεῖ ζητῶν τινα καταπίῃ

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
The word καταπίῃ (katapiē) is second aorist active subjunctive of the same verb that we looked at yesterday, καταπίνω (katapinō), which means "1) to drink down, swallow down 2) to devour 3) to swallow up, destroy."

Tomorrow, I'll return to the main theme of "all-devouring death" . . .

Labels: , ,

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Death is swallowed up in victory"

Skeletal Death
(Image from Wikipedia)

In yesterday's blog entry, I noted that both John Milton and John Donne depict "an all-devouring Death that ultimately submits to God and dies" and that both "are drawing upon scripture for inspiration." I promised to explore this point today, but I don't have much time, so I'll just note two scriptural passages. Both are surely thinking of St. Paul's doctrine, expressed in 1 Corinthians 15:54, which describes the resurrection in which believers will receive immortal bodies:
ὅταν δὲ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀθανασίαν τότε γενήσεται ὁ λόγος ὁ γεγραμμένος Κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
The Greek expression for "is swallowed up" is κατεπόθη (katapothē), which is the aorist passive indicative of καταπίνω (katapinō), which means "1) to drink down, swallow down 2) to devour 3) to swallow up, destroy." Paul is drawing upon an Old Testament verse, Isaiah 25:8, for his point:
בִּלַּע הַמָּוֶת לָנֶצַח וּמָחָה אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה דִּמְעָה מֵעַל כָּל־פָּנִים וְחֶרְפַּת עַמֹּו יָסִיר מֵעַל כָּל־הָאָרֶץ כִּי יְהוָה דִּבֵּֽר׃

He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken [it].
The Hebrew term for "he will swallow up" is בִּלַּע (billa`), the piel perfect for בָּלַע (bala`), which means "1) to swallow down, swallow up, engulf, eat up a) (Qal) 1) to swallow down 2) to swallow up, engulf b) (Niphal) to be swallowed up c) (Piel) 1) to swallow 2) to swallow up, engulf 3) squandering (fig.) d) (Pual) to be swallowed up e) (Hithpael) to be ended."

Paul, of course is using some Greek version (unless he's translating the Hebrew), but he's not using the Septuagint Greek version that's come down to us since that has "κατέπιεν ὁ θάνατος ἰσχύσας" ("He will swallow up death in victory"), whereas Paul has "Κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος" ("Death is swallowed up in victory").

This doesn't enlighten us a great deal on where Milton or Donne ultimately got their image of an all-devouring death, but there's a certain appropriate irony in the fact that death also gets devoured and dies . . .

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Johne Donne: "Plants, cattell, men, dishes for Death to eate"

John Donne (ca. 1616)
Painted by Isaac Oliver?
(Image from Wikipedia)

John Milton's taste in "eating Death" seems to have been rather common fare in the seventeenth century. The metaphysical poet John Donne (1572-1631) wrote an poem, "Elegie on Mris Boulstred," depicting Death as an all-devouring monster. I borrow this 1609 elegy by John Donne from the University of Virginia Library:
Elegie on Mris Boulstred
Death I recant, and say, unsaid by mee
What ere hath slip'd, that might diminish thee.
Spirituall treason, atheisme 'tis, to say,
That any can thy Summons disobey.
Th'earths face is but thy Table; there are set
Plants, cattell, men, dishes for Death to eate.
In a rude hunger now hee millions drawes
Into his bloody, or plaguy, or sterv'd jawes.
Now hee will seeme to spare, and doth more wast,
Eating the best first, well preserv'd to last.
Now wantonly he spoiles, and eates us not,
But breakes off friends, and lets us peecemeale rot.
Nor will this earth serve him; he sinkes the deepe
Where harmelesse fish monastique silence keepe.
Who (were Death dead) by Roes of living sand,
Might spunge that element, and make it land.
He rounds the aire, and breakes the hymnique notes
In birds, Heavens choristers, organique throats,
Which (if they did not dye) might seeme to bee
A tenth ranke in the heavenly hierarchie.
O strong and long-liv'd death, how cam'st thou in?
And how without Creation didst begin?
Thou hast, and shalt see dead, before thou dyest,
All the foure Monarchies, and Antichrist.
How could I thinke thee nothing, that see now
In all this All, nothing else is, but thou.
Our births and life, vices, and vertues, bee
Wastfull consumptions, and degrees of thee.
For, wee to live, our bellowes weare, and breath,
Nor are wee mortall, dying, dead, but death.
And though thou beest, O mighty bird of prey,
So much reclaim'd by God, that thou must lay
All that thou kill'st at his feet, yet doth hee
Reserve but few, and leaves the most to thee.
And of those few, now thou hast overthrowne
One whom thy blow, makes, not ours, nor thine own.
She was more stories high: hopelesse to come
To her Soule, thou'hast offer'd at her lower roome.
Her Soule and body was a King and Court:
But thou hast both of Captaine mist and fort.
As houses fall not, though the King remove,
Bodies of Saints rest for their soules above.
Death gets 'twixt soules and bodies such a place
As sinne insinuates 'twixt just men and grace,
Both worke a separation, no divorce.
Her Soule is gone to usher up her corse,
Which shall be'almost another soule, for there
Bodies are purer, then best Soules are here.
Because in her, her virtues did outgoe
Her yeares, would'st thou, O emulous death, do so?
And kill her young to thy losse? must the cost
Of beauty, 'and wit, apt to doe harme, be lost?
What though thou found'st her proofe 'gainst sins of youth?
Oh, every age a diverse sinne pursueth.
Thou should'st have stay'd, and taken better hold,
Shortly ambitious, covetous, when old,
She might have prov'd: and such devotion
Might once have stray'd to superstition.
If all her vertues must have growne, yet might
Abundant virtue'have bred a proud delight.
Had she persever'd just, there would have bin
Some that would sinne, mis-thinking she did sinne.
Such as would call her friendship, love, and faine
To sociablenesse, a name profane.
Or sinne, by tempting, or, not daring that,
By wishing, though they never told her what.
Thus might'st thou' have slain more soules, had'st thou not crost
Thy selfe, and to triumph, thine army lost.
Yet though these wayes be lost, thou hast left one,
Which is, immoderate griefe that she is gone.
But we may scape that sinne, yet weepe as much,
Our teares are due, because we are not such.
Some teares, that knot of friends, her death must cost,
Because the chaine is broke, but no linke lost.
Some think that Donne went too far in emphasizing the power of death. Margaret Downs-Gamble, in "New Pleasures Prove: Evidence of Dialectical Disputatio in Early Modern Manuscript Culture" (Early Modern Literary Studies 2.2 (1996): 2.1-33), cites Donne's patron, Lucy Russell, the Countess of Bedford, as objecting to Donne's depiction of Death, as does also Ms. Downs-Gamble herself:
Donne's "Death I recant . . ." quite simply dwelled too long--for the first 36 lines--on the ultimate power of a personified Death. No one can Death's "Summons disobey." All are but a "dish . . . for Death to eate," and "In a rude hunger now he millions drawes / Into his bloody, or plaguy, or starv'd jawes." Bedford's corrective response . . . disputes Donne's construction of a ravenous, all-powerful Death gobbling up his victims.
The objection here seems as much an aesthetic as a theological one -- that the poem is not theologically, but rhetorically unbalanced -- for Donne is careful and theologically orthodox in limiting Death's power, telling Death that all those whom he kills will be "reclaim'd by God": "thou must lay / All that thou kill'st at his feet." And he reminds Death: "thou dyest." Milton does much the same with Death personified in Paradise Lost, so Donne's prior use of the image of an all-devouring Death that ultimately submits to God and dies prepares the way for Milton's use of this already familiar image.

Both, of course, are drawing upon scripture for inspiration, as I'll explore tomorrow . . .

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Tenth International Milton Symposium: August 22-26, 2011

Image from IMS10

I don't recall that I've mentioned this before, but I submitted a proposal back in early September to present a paper at the Tenth International Milton Symposium (IMS10), to be held in Tokyo from August 22-26, 2011. As things should happen to turn out, my proposal has been accepted. A recent email confirms:
Thank you for your proposal for a paper to be read at the tenth International Milton Symposium, which has now been considered by members of the Programme Committee. I am pleased to inform you that it has been accepted for inclusion in the programme. Apologies for the slightly tardy response to your submission. See you in Tokyo!
I didn't notice any tardiness on their part (I was the one who applied late), but time flies by quickly for me, so fast that another email appeared only a few days later, offering two links:
Please review your names and paper titles now posted on the IMS10 web site here . . . . Also please view the list of plenary speakers for the conference here. We will have the titles for the plenary talks posted soon.
If you've clicked on the "names and paper titles," you'll have seen mine:
Milton's 'Awkward' Grecism: "know" with Nominative Participle - Horace Jeffery Hodges, Ewha Womans University, Seoul
Some Gypsy Scholar readers might recall that I was looking into this very issue within the past few months (also here). Now that the proposal has been accepted, I reckon I'll have to look into the issue a little bit more.

The last time I posted on this, I was led astray by the erring, errant, arrant, slytherin, pre-Adamitic serpent . . .

Labels: , , ,

Friday, November 12, 2010

David Brooks: "Americans are not hierarchical"

David Brooks
(Image from Wikipedia)

As an expat American living in "Dynamic Korea," and it is dynamic, I think a great deal about what makes a society successful because Korea is so different from America, and in ways that Americans think shouldn't work -- and we mean that not only descriptively, but even prescriptively! -- yet it does work. Counterintuitively, it does.

I still think the American system preferable, however, and for the reasons given by NYT columnist Davd Brooks in "The Crossroads Nation" (November 8, 2010) on why the place to be now and in the future is America:
You'll want to be there because American institutions are relatively free from corruption. Intellectual property is protected. Huge venture capital funds already exist.

Moreover, the United States is a universal nation. There are already people there with connections all over the world. A nation of immigrants is more permeable than say, Chinese society.

You also observe that America hosts the right kind of networks -- ones that are flexible and intense. Study after study suggests that America is one of those societies with high social trust. Americans build large, efficient organizations that are not bound by the circles of kinship and clan. Study after study finds that Americans are not hierarchical. American children are raised to challenge their parents. American underlings are relatively free to challenge their bosses. In this country you're less likely to have to submit to authority.
Each of these points makes for more flexible, creative thinking within the context of a culture of discussion that can catch errors before they wreak havoc. In Korea, the opposite is true for every one of these points. So how does Korea succeed, and succeed so well?

That's what I want to know.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, November 11, 2010

American-Born Anwar Al-Awlaki Calls for Killing of Americans

Anwar Al-Awlaki
(Image from Wikipedia)

American-born Sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki appears to have implicitly legitimated attempts on his own life in a recent video, for as we learn from Memri:
On November 8, 2010, U.S.-born Yemeni radical cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki appeared in a video speaking about the corrupt governments in the Muslim world, and the mujahideen as the best option to fight the West. He added that there was no need for a fatwa or for consultation to fight and kill Americans -- since "killing Satan does not require any fatwa." (Memri, No. 3359 - November 8, 2010)
The Sheikh seems to have forgotten that he is a dual citizen of Yemen and the United States! He is therefore an American and thereby also included in the category of individuals implicated by his broadly inclusive non-fatwa.

He thus might want to issue a clarification before events overtake his words by taking him at his word . . .

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Art: "The Underbelly Project"

Substandard Dining Table
Installation by Jeff Stark
(Image from The New York Times)

Well, this is something you don't see every day, an underground artshow closed to art critics, art dealers, auction-house representatives, and the public, according to author and art critic Jasper Rees in "Street Art Way Below the Street" (New York Times, October 31, 2010). Even the artists are unknown, or known only by pseudonyms:
That’s because the exhibition has been mounted, illegally, in a long-abandoned subway station . . . . The show's curators, street artists themselves, unveiled the project for a single night, leading this reporter on a two-and-a-half hour tour. Determined to protect their secrecy, they offered the tour on condition that no details that might help identify the site be published, not even a description of the equipment they used to get in and out. And since they were (and remain) seriously concerned about the threat of prosecution, they agreed only to the use of street-artist pseudonyms.
Prosecution for what?
[T]he legal risks were obvious. Charles F. Seaton, a spokesman for New York City Transit, described such incursions as "trespassing, punishable by law," and said "anyone caught defacing M.T.A. [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] property is subject to arrest and fine." Beyond that, [the two artists] Workhorse and PAC [who organized the project] worried that given anxiety about terrorism in the subway, a large-scale, long-term project like theirs might even lead to more serious charges.
Okay, I see why the artists want to protect their identities, but what about the writer, Mr. Jasper Rees, and his two-hour tour! Isn't that also trespassing? Why is he not worried about punishment? Grey Lady immunity? Or is he out of the country, back in merry old England? Don't we have an extradition treaty with the Brits?

While we consider that conundrum, let's ease our mind's eye by clicking over to "The Underbelly Project" itself, or for a slide show courtesy of the New York Times, or for a webpage of images courtesy of the LTV Squad.

Of course, we'll be crossing a line . . . and may be arrested by the images.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Barak Mendelsohn on Jihadis

Barak Mendelsohn
Assistant Professor of Political Science
(Image from Haverford College)

I've not posted much on Islamism lately, having gotten busy with other blog issues, but I continue to pay attention and to read articles, for Islamist radicalism isn't disappearing anytime soon. I've therefore read with interest a recent article at FPRI by Barak Mendelsohn entitled "Teaching about Jihadism and the War on Terror" (The Newsletter of FPRI's Wachman Center, Vol 15, No 7, October 2010), especially given that I've offered courses that touch on this topic. In his article, Mendelsohn makes an interesting because non-pc remark concerning his method of teaching about jihadis:
As a first step, I clarify that I do not presuppose that jihadis represent a distortion of Islam. My approach is guided by my understanding of religion as being interpreted and mutually constituted with the people and groups who claim to adhere to it. With an extensive debate raging within Islamic circles on what "true Islam" really is, it would be pretentious for me to announce who truly represents the religion and who does not. I prefer to avoid questions of right and wrong [interpretation] and instead locate the jihadi movement in the broader battle for the shape of Islam and the leadership of the Islamic umma, while making sure that students are aware that comparatively few Muslims support jihadis.
There's a downside to this position, I think, in that it cannot recognize when a religion has reinterpreted itself so thoroughly that it has effectively become a different religion. Suppose -- as a thought experiment -- that Islam were to draw upon certain Qur'anic verses identifying Jesus as the Word of God (Suras 3:40 and 4:169) and develop a high christology that placed Jesus far above Muhammad and equivalent to the Qur'an, effectively divinizing him. Would this still be Islam even if it became the dominant view among Muslims? And what if it remained a minority view? What of those Muslims who have been evangelized by Christians and have come to believe in Jesus as divine but have elected to remain within the Muslim community and still attend mosque? Such individuals do exist. Are they still Muslim?

The upside to Mendelsohn's position is that it allows the scholar studying jihadis to take seriously the Islamic sources that the jihadis themselves draw upon, and when one does so, one sees that these sources are not marginal texts. For that reason, I maintain that Islamism is radicalism at the core rather than at the margins of Islam.

Whether or not Islamism distorts those sources is the pressing question, but would Mendelsohn's view encompass this question?

Labels: , , ,

Monday, November 08, 2010

Harold Attridge on the Tabernacle of the "Epistle to the Hebrews"

Tabernacle and the Sacred Vessels
(Exodus 40:17-19)
Figures de la Bible
Illustrated by Gerard Hoet (1648–1733)
(Image from Wikipedia)

In preparing for Sunday's Bible study on the "Epistle to the Hebrews" and considering the possible date of composition, I was thinking about the fact that the verb tense used to describe the practice of the Jewish priests offering sacrifices is often the present tense, a fact that has often been used to support an early date for the letter's composition, for why use the present tense to describe sacrifices being carried out unless the Jewish temple itself is still standing, which would date the epistle sometime between around 30 AD and 70 AD, the death of Jesus and the destruction of temple, respectively?

This seemed somewhat plausible to me until I perceived something that had previously escaped my notice. In the entire epistle, the term "tabernacle" occurs twice, in Hebrews 8:2 and 9:11, whereas the term "temple" does not occur at all. All the sacrificial descriptions presuppose the mobile desert tabernacle used when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, not the immobile Jerusalem temple built by King Herod, which rather undermines the argument relying on the Greek present tense to describe sacrifices as dating the epistle prior to 70 AD, when the temple was destroyed.

I realized that I couldn't have been the first to notice this fact, and I in fact wasn't, for upon checking with Harold W. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews, I found this remark:
Hebrews is not explicitly interested in the Herodian temple and contemporary high priests, but in the Torah and the cultic system of the desert tabernacle that it portrays. (Attridge, Hebrews, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989, page 8)
This explicit interest in the tabernacle might even imply the temple's destruction, and thus date the writing of Hebrews to post-70 AD, for the tabernacle as a movable site of the sacred could better fit the time after the temple's destruction, when holiness was dispersed and peripatetic, moving to wherever Christians moved in setting up churches.

But I would need to think about this some more, for the point of Hebrews is that the true tabernacle exists in heaven . . .

Labels: , ,

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Bunk Lumm of Agnos, Arkansas

Agnos, Arkansas
(Image from FamilyOldPhotos.com)

As some readers know, I've been assisting Mr. LeRoy Tucker as he reworks several of his stories about the quasi-fictional Ozark town of Climax, Arkansas, political center of the even more imaginary La Clair County, located on the border of Fulton and Sharp counties, both of which it overlaps, if that might help the cartographically oriented fix the place more securely. Anyway, over at his blog, which he had neglected of late due to time spent reworking old stories, Mr. Tucker has publicly thanked me for my efforts:
I have been seriously remiss. It is not my fault. Blame Dr. Jeffery Hodges who edits some of my work. He has kept me busy on older stuff trying to get it neat and respectable.
Since I'm being so helpful to an appreciative Mr. Tucker, I might as well send interested readers over to his blog, Folk Liar of the Ozarks, to enjoy one of his stories still in process, but which I've already spent considerable time editing, a task that primarily entails my suggesting punctuation, for Mr. Tucker needs no assistance in composing his stories. The story is "Hoops," a fictional tale about the time in 1937 that the Climax Wampus Cats won the State Tournament for high school basketball in Arkansas. Here's a teaser, a radio interview in which Little Rock sportswriter Missioner Cox poses some questions to Wampus Cat supporter and authentic backwoodsman Bunk Lumm, who's not the sharpest tool in the shed but who has a certain charm:
During his pre-game show, Missioner Tox, a sportswriter and radio personality, while asking around for someone from Climax, happened upon Bunk Lumm, who proudly proclaimed that he lived in the Climax area. When asked to comment on the area he complied. "Hit's dusty up home. Cars throws up dust, dust high'ern the trees. Trees up there is red with dust."

"That's interesting. Mr. Lumm. Is that spelled with only one 'm'?" Bunk stood staring blankly into the distance, unconcerned, until at last Tox saw the problem and moved on. "Mr. Lumm -- Climax, the town of Climax -- people out in radio land are eager to know about the town that produced the Wampus Cats. Could you describe Climax for the folks out there in radio land?"

"Hit's ugly, real ugly. Every store built outa rocks, ugly brown rocks," said Bunk.

"A nice town though?" asked Missioner Tox.

"No, I wouldn't hardly go that fer," was the reply.

Then Tox, warming to the task asked, "Bunk, all right if I call you 'Bunk'?"

"Who me?" asked Bunk.

"Yes Bunk, you. May I ask exactly where you live."

"Shore, shore, I'm from Agnos."

Tox was loving it. "Would that be Agnos, Arkansas?"

"Hit shore ain't nowheres else," said Bunk.

"Alright then. Bunk, tell the folks exactly now -- where is Agnos?"

"Why, Agnos is out west of Climax, yon side of Possum Trot 'fore you git to Glencoe. I thought ever body knowed that."

"Bunk, thank you so much for sharing your valuable time with me and a special thank you from the folks in radio land. I thank you, I and all my friends out there appreciate you for just being yourself. Good luck to you and good luck to the Wampus Cats of Climax . . ."

"I'll never find another one," thought Missioner Tox. "Damn, he's a classic, better than Lum and Abner."

Back in Climax, the boys in Ab's barber shop were delighted with Bunk's performance. They told and retold it to all who would listen. Regrettably it lost a lot in the telling but everyone was proud of Bunk.
The very real Ozark town of Agnos, Arkansas exists only a few miles southeast of my hometown, Salem, and one can also find the towns Glencoe and Possum Trot. As for Climax, it might or might not have existed sometime in the past, but it very much exists in the growing tales of Mr. LeRoy Tucker.

Anyway, if the teaser has interested you, then go read all of "Hoops," which gives a starring role to a great big old Huber steam tractor . . .

Labels: , , ,