Sunday, July 31, 2011

Who is Anders Behring Breivik?

Anders Behring Breivik
(Image from BBC)

A question currently posed by many of us who analyze terrorist motives but have been more accustomed to focusing on Islamism is: "Who is Anders Behring Breivik?"

One of my long-time readers, who goes by the online pseudonym "Erdal," is a secular European Muslim of an 'unorthodox' Islamic background (Alawite?) with ancestral roots in Turkey (though not necessarily Turkish) who has long taught in the German university system, and he has offered his thoughts on this query by attempting to place Breivik not within an ideological camp but within a new generation that is coming of age in Europe:
I think the media is full of misreadings about all this, because they operate in a world with questions of ideology, discourse and (in-)consistency thereof, conviction and political maneuvre that is outdated.

Breivik is young -- he formed his world view in his twenties, in the 21st century. This (and a bit younger for students starting out) was the generation I was last in close contact with before retirement, and I found them to be unlike any generation before.

Their demeanour is usually decried as they indeed do function in a quite unfamiliar way: They put forward conclusions (if pressed), while their process of reasoning appears opaque and unorderly. People usually mistake this for a lack of method, knowledge and discipline (I remember a post of yours that argued roughly in the same direction).

I've come to think this view is entirely backwards and that this generation is way better informed, much stronger in its convictions, and has independently thought a great deal more and deeply that any of their predecessors. They appear passive because their convictions are not the result of open discourse -- a discipline they are indeed not good at -- but that is just beacuse most older educators (and indeed most media personnel) are just bad at spotting their interaction, which is way more subtle than it was in their day.

The period of shared and prepackaged static ideology that you aquired along a canon of public, organized and bookish learning, to defend with discursive methods as you progress, is past. The young activist people you find that still adhere to this traditional method are usually just eager to please the elders.

But most, the rest, have instead a very rigorous intuition, formed by much data, strategic playfulness, experience and inner struggle, and they can very eloquently communicate the results of their thought processes with cultural markers that are simply overlooked or considered inadequate by the old paradigm.

Brevik's text is instructive because is very much like that, because it is -- its size excepted -- so very typical. It signals its convictions as markers that draw from shared cultural core material of his generation: Tolkien's LOTR [Lord of the Rings], WOW [World of Warcraft], "levels" [as in computer games], autodidactic progression from an unstructured, fluid, episodical mass of information and solipsistic reasoning, a sense of mission and rootedness in themselves and an idealized heritage that they aquire with great gusto like forbidden fruit.

When Breivik speaks [in his manifesto] of his Knights Templar and traces his steps through levels mastered, of insights with tokens aquired, of his tactics and strategies, he fully inhabits this metaphorical world of his generation -- and does not suffer some weird reactionary infatuation with medieval militias. His phantasy uniform designs are neither a sign of madness or self-aggranzizement, nor an article of clothing ever to be worn in real life gatherings, but just a metaphorical currency of his own otherwise intangible progression. He is not political in a way that has sytematic public organization at its core but in a way schooled by his generation's experience that you can contribute on very sizable and ambitious projects without any formal organization to lead you, just by establishing a code that you renegotiate permanently by signaling with markers shared or rejected, but always at least unconciously understood by the participants that you need to never know. You know they exist, because you know the signals don't arise spontaneously. You don't argue because you expect it to be futile: The infrastructure isn't built for it, there's too much noise along with the signals. You don't go looking for agreement, because you can expect it to be there, based on the general nature of signals you receive.

He grasps quite correctly -- and apparently without prior knowledge of the common name of the effect -- that ultraviolent extremism will indeed inevitably shift those that share his outlook, but not necessarily his method, further into the ageing mainsteam and give their position more weight. (It's called the anchor effect, btw.) I think the defensive whining in the established antijihadist quarters, that their cause has been harmed, just shows the complainants' naivety and old-school upbringing.

This guy acted alone, but in the certain, and probably correct, conviction that there are many others like him. He has no need to know them, he knows they are there and that they are very many among his age cohort, because he can read their signals. They were many even in the humanities, a bastion of tradition[ally] organized politics; in technical fields, his type is the male default. They may decide to emulate him or not, on their own terms, along the lines of their own assessment of the situation, in permanent contact with the general vibe. This is not illness, not misunderstanding of ideology, not being a victim of demagoguerie, just rational extremism, a logical extension of widespread self-perception and world view.

I think the ageing media and policymakers have no idea of the potential trouble they're in, because they're deaf to this generation, ignorant of a huge discourse they assume doesn't exist because the channels it manifests itself in are not their channels. They think their march through the institutions was the greatest achievement ever, and that they are safely on the steering wheel. They are very wrong. Their categories no longer apply.

Types of Brevik's generation and general worldview are a pan-European phenomenon, well educated, well travelled, with shared experiences, without nationalistic prejudices, without fixed ideology, without sacred beliefs, without class attitude, without the need for visible organization, without illusions. And now they are grown up, nurtured by jihad, Tolkien and WOW, patient to progress stubbornly along the levels, certain of the significance of myth and quick on the trigger, and they will start rocking the boat. I can't see them not winning.
Well, they do have youth on their side, and they probably dislike the baby boomer generation that they're expected to support through their taxes (which might partly explain their generally anti-Leftist views). Anyway, that's Erdal's generational analysis of Breivik. In short, this younger generation, growing up on World of Warcraft and related computer games, familiar with the Lord of the Rings and similar stories (Harry Potter?), forging identities symbolized by avatars and enhanced by ascending through "levels" marked by acquired "tokens," shares not so much a fullfledged ideology as a situational worldview.

What remains unexplained is Breivik's turn to terrorism, and particularly his choice of young people, including teenagers, as his target. Erdal gestures in the direction of jihad on this point, perhaps implying that Breivik has learned from observing the jihadists that terrorism often has the effect desired by the terrorists. Erdal's reference to the "anchor effect" probably finds its application here.

Perhaps Erdal will respond and clarify this point.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Naked" in John Milton's Paradise Lost

Adam and Eve
Mural of Abreha and Atsbeha Church, Ethiopia
(Image from Wikipedia)

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "nude" in the sense of "unclothed" enters fairly late into English:
B. n[oun].
1. a. Chiefly Art. A painting, sculpture, photograph, etc., of a naked human figure; a figure in such a painting, etc. Also: a naked person.
[1699 M. LISTER Journey to Paris 28 Such [statues] as were made Nudae are miserably disguised.] 1708 E. HATTON New View London II. 824/2 A Nude or Nudity, is a naked Figure painted or sculpted, without Drapery (or Cloathing).
Unsurprising, then, is the fact that Milton nowhere uses "nude" to describe the unclothed state of Adam and Eve, nor does he use "nude" in any other sense -- the word does not occur even once in his long poem.

He does use "naked" in Paradise Lost, and this term had entered English rather earlier:
A. adj. I. 1. Unclothed, having no clothing upon the body, stripped to the skin, nude . . . .
c 850 O. E. Martyrol. (Herzfeld) 26, pa het he hi nacode laedan to sumum scandhuse. . . . c 1369 Chaucer, Dethe Blaunche 125, Hyr women . . . broghten hir in bed al naked.
We see that the term in the sense of "unclothed" appeared as early as 850 (nacode) and was clearly used in its sexual sense by Chaucer's time, around 1369 (naked).

Milton thus had no choice but to use "naked" to describe Adam and Eve, but he makes a distinction between prelapsarian and postlapsarian nakedness, as we can see by looking at all instances of the word "naked" in Paradise Lost.

Paradise Lost 4.285-294 gives us our first glimpse of Adam and Eve through the eyes of none other than Satan himself:
. . . the Fiend [ 285 ]
Saw undelighted all delight, all kind
Of living Creatures new to sight and strange:
Two of far nobler shape erect and tall,
Godlike erect, with native Honour clad
In naked Majestie seemd Lords of all, [ 290 ]
And worthie seemd, for in thir looks Divine
The image of thir glorious Maker shon,
Truth, wisdome, Sanctitude severe and pure,
Severe but in true filial freedom plac't;
Despite seeing with Satan's eyes, we perceive their "naked Majestie" and see that they were unashamed before God or Angel a bit further on, in lines 319-324:
So passd they naked on, nor shund the sight
Of God or Angel, for they thought no ill: [ 320 ]
So hand in hand they passd, the lovliest pair
That ever since in loves imbraces met,
Adam the goodliest man of men since borne
His Sons, the fairest of her Daughters Eve.
The scene even becomes somewhat erotic in lines 492-504, but are we seeing with the devil's eyes?
So spake our general Mother, and with eyes
Of conjugal attraction unreprov'd,
And meek surrender, half imbracing leand
On our first Father, half her swelling Breast [ 495 ]
Naked met his under the flowing Gold
Of her loose tresses hid: he in delight
Both of her Beauty and submissive Charms
Smil'd with superior Love, as Jupiter
On Juno smiles, when he impregns the Clouds [ 500 ]
That shed May Flowers; and press'd her Matron lip
With kisses pure: aside the Devil turnd
For envie, yet with jealous leer maligne
Ey'd them askance, and to himself thus plaind.
Eventually, in lines 705-715, they seek privacy and are hidden from Satan's eyes, but not from ours:
. . . In shadie Bower [ 705 ]
More sacred and sequesterd, though but feignd,
Pan or Silvanus never slept, nor Nymph,
Nor Faunus haunted. Here in close recess
With Flowers, Garlands, and sweet-smelling Herbs
Espoused Eve deckt first her Nuptial Bed, [ 710 ]
And heav'nlyly Quires the Hymenæan sung,
What day the genial Angel to our Sire
Brought her in naked beauty more adorn'd
More lovely then Pandora, whom the Gods
Endowd with all thir gifts,
After implied but undescribed lovemaking, they sleep in lines 771-775:
These lulld by Nightingales imbraceing slept,
And on thir naked limbs the flourie roof
Showrd Roses, which the Morn repair'd. Sleep on
Blest pair; and O yet happiest if ye seek
No happier state, and know to know no more. [ 775 ]
Paradise Lost 5.376-385 shows the naked pair in the presence of Raphael:
. . . So to the Silvan Lodge
They came, that like Pomona's Arbour smil'd
With flourets deck't and fragrant smells; but Eve
Undeckt, save with her self more lovely fair [ 380 ]
Then Wood-Nymph, or the fairest Goddess feign'd
Of three that in Mount Ida naked strove,
Stood to entertain her guest from Heav'n; no vaile
Shee needed, Vertue-proof, no thought infirme
Alterd her cheek.
Lines 443-450 continue the scene:
. . . Mean while at Table Eve
Ministerd naked, and thir flowing cups
With pleasant liquors crown'd: O innocence [ 445 ]
Deserving Paradise! if ever, then,
Then had the Sons of God excuse to have bin
Enamour'd at that sight; but in those hearts
Love unlibidinous reign'd, nor jealousie
Was understood, the injur'd Lovers Hell.
How different, then, their postlapsarin nakedness, first noted in Paradise Lost 9.1052-1064:
As from unrest, and each the other viewing,
Soon found thir Eyes how op'nd, and thir minds
How dark'nd; innocence, that as a veile
Had shadow'd them from knowing ill, was gon, [ 1055 ]
Just confidence, and native righteousness
And honour from about them, naked left
To guiltie shame hee cover'd, but his Robe
Uncover'd more, so rose the Danite strong
Herculean Samson from the Harlot-lap [ 1060 ]
Of Philistean Dalilah, and wak'd
Shorn of his strength, They destitute and bare
Of all thir vertue: silent, and in face
Confounded long they sate, as struck'n mute,
Adam laments their shameful nakedness in lines 1070-1076:
. . . since our Eyes [ 1070 ]
Op'nd we find indeed, and find we know
Both Good and Evil, Good lost, and Evil got,
Bad Fruit of Knowledge, if this be to know,
Which leaves us naked thus, of Honour void,
Of Innocence, of Faith, of Puritie, [ 1075 ]
Our wonted Ornaments now soild and staind,
They try to cover themselves in lines 1110-1120:
. . . Those Leaves [ 1110 ]
They gatherd, broad as Amazonian Targe,
And with what skill they had, together sowd,
To gird thir waste, vain Covering if to hide
Thir guilt and dreaded shame; O how unlike
To that first naked Glorie. Such of late [ 1115 ]
Columbus found th' American so girt
With featherd Cincture, naked else and wilde
Among the Trees on Iles and woodie Shores.
Thus fenc't, and as they thought, thir shame in part
Coverd, but not at rest or ease of Mind, [ 1120 ]
Adam blames Eve for their shameful condition in lines 1134-1139:
Would thou hadst heark'nd to my words, and stai'd
With me, as I besought thee, when that strange [ 1135 ]
Desire of wandring this unhappie Morn,
I know not whence possessd thee; we had then
Remaind still happie, not as now, despoild
Of all our good, sham'd, naked, miserable.
Paradise Lost 10.116-123 describes the encounter of Adam and Eve with God after their fall into sin:
I heard thee in the Garden, and of thy voice
Affraid, being naked, hid my self. To whom
The gracious Judge without revile repli'd.

My voice thou oft hast heard, and hast not fear'd,
But still rejoyc't, how is it now become [ 120 ]
So dreadful to thee? that thou art naked, who
Hath told thee? hast thou eaten of the Tree
Whereof I gave thee charge thou shouldst not eat?
In lines 209-223, God clothes the naked couple:
So judg'd he Man, both Judge and Saviour sent,
And th' instant stroke of Death denounc't that day [ 210 ]
Remov'd farr off; then pittying how they stood
Before him naked to the aire, that now
Must suffer change, disdain'd not to begin
Thenceforth the form of servant to assume,
As when he wash'd his servants feet so now [ 215 ]
As Father of his Familie he clad
Thir nakedness with Skins of Beasts, or slain,
Or as the Snake with youthful Coate repaid;
And thought not much to cloath his Enemies:
Nor hee thir outward onely with the Skins [ 220 ]
Of Beasts, but inward nakedness, much more
Opprobrious, with his Robe of righteousness,
Araying cover'd from his Fathers sight.
And those are all the instances of "naked" in Paradise Lost. Make of them what you will. I have too little time this morning to analyze them in any depth.

All quoted material from Milton's poem comes courtesy of Thomas H. Luxon, ed. The Milton Reading Room, July, 2011.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Professor James Vardaman: "Charge to Phi Beta Kappa Student Initiates" (Baylor University)

Professor James Vardaman
Baylor University
Photo not from Phi Beta Kappa Talk

I received a communication yesterday from an old friend at Baylor University, Betsy Vardaman, about whom I've previously blogged, and she provided an update on her husband, James Vardaman, my old, very learnéd, impressively erudite history professor of some thirty years ago and likewise a long-time friend:
Your professor continues to read voraciously and rail against all things that do not suit him. He has not lost his intensity or his memory . . . .
I might here note that Jim has almost total recall and knows more history than anyone I've ever met.
[B]ut both of us would forego chances to run races these days. We went to Chicago this summer (I had a conference there) and we enjoyed many good memories of other Chicago trips when Jim was attending his history conferences. It is a spectacular city in every way. Even the temperatures were kind to us, never spiking above about 75 . . . .
That would be considered near freezing on a Texas summer day.
I will enclose a speech Jim gave to Phi Beta Kappa when the Baylor chapter elected him to its membership this spring. They asked him to be the keynote speaker, as well as receive his Phi Beta Kappa pin. It was a very high moment indeed, only 60 years after he graduated from Baylor!
I read the speech and found it moving and significant, so I asked permission to post it here on Gypsy Scholar. I should note that the talk goes through a sequence of quotes shortly after its introduction, but there is a point to them -- or several points -- so bear with the professor, and reflect on the quotes as you read:
Charge to Phi Beta Kappa Student Initiates
It has been my privilege to hear a large assortment of "charges" delivered to students during my forty-six years of teaching. Frankly, many of them have been rather bombastic and all embracing. It all too often seemed that speakers were inclined to declare "Never mind your questions, here's the answer!" Please relax! I am not going to hurl another verbal boulder at you tonight. Instead, you are going to get a few pebbles tossed lightly in your direction.

I hope you won't need to listen as an act of penance with glazed eyes or badly suppressed yawns, interspersed with stealthy glances at your watches [or iphones]. I've been both witness and participant all too often in my career to wish to inflict any more pain on your innocent heads.

What I do intend is to pass along a thin bundle of thoughts I have collected during my years of teaching college students. This distillation of twenty-three statements is an average of one for every two years of instruction. Indeed there were many others but most were cast aside and only those which seemed best to me survived. I don't recall the source of some of them. Most of the ones retained are not earth shaking but quite simple and brief, with one exception. I do not presume or necessarily expect that you will agree with all or any. I humbly request that you think about some of them. Then dismiss them if there is no appeal. They possess value for me. I would be keenly sorry if there is none for you.

So here they are:
The wayfarer, perceiving the pathway to truth, / Was struck with astonishment. / It was thickly grown with weeds. / "Ha," he said, "I see that none has passed here in a long time." / Later he saw that each weed / Was a singular knife. / "Well," he mumbled at last, / "Doubtless there are other roads." - The Wayfarer, Stephen Crane

There is a tide in the affairs of men, / Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; / Omitted, all the voyage of their life / Is bound in shallows and in miseries. Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 3 - Shakespeare

Experience: He marched out of Berlin with the king and participated in forty battles over seven years, and with all his "experience" did not understand any more at the end of it when he returned to the capital than he had at the beginning when he had departed. Frederick the Great's Mule

Arrogance is the father of stupidity.

You are looking at the problem!! (on my mirror)

Time is the best teacher. Unfortunately it kills all its pupils. - Hector Berlioz

Every great idea has its origin in heresy. - George Bernard Shaw

After you have encountered a wasp, don't you love a fly. - John Mortimer

Beware of analogy: because a cat has kittens in an oven doesn't make 'em biscuits.

Where books are burned, they will in the end burn people, too. - Heinrich Heine

Be kind because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. - Philo of Alexandria

The characteristics of an educated Christian should be a cold eye and a warm heart.

It may be that our only hope will lie in the frail web of understanding of one person for the pain of another. - John Dos Passos

It is a deadly mistake to assume that the words "critic" and "enemy" are interchangeable terms.

Today a rooster; tomorrow a feather duster. - Australian Proverb

Men never do evil so fully and so happily as when they do it for conscience sake. - Pascal

The wise are heard through their silence. - Lao Tsu

I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends. - Abraham Lincoln

Remember that in every Eden there is probably a snake.

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth -- and soon the world is blind and toothless. - Gandhi

Be more than you seem. - Helmuth von Moltke "The Elder"

A Paris newspaper's six successive headlines reporting Napoleon's escape from his exile on Elba in 1815:
"The Corsican Monster Has Landed in the Gulf of Juan."

"The Cannibal is Marching Toward Grasse."

"The Usurper Has Entered Grenoble."

"Bonaparte Has Entered Lyons."

"Napoleon Is Marching Towards Fontainebleau."

"His Imperial Majesty Is Expected Tomorrow in Paris."
You probably did not count them, but I only listed twenty-two. I deliberately omitted the one statement because it has come to have very special meaning of late and I would like, with your permission, to tell you why.

About three months ago and within the same week, I received two books as gifts -- one from a friend in Kentucky and the other from a friend in San Antonio. They do not know one another. Strangely, both volumes were biographies about the same man. That man was a remarkable German Christian named Dietrich Bonhöffer. One of the authors was Eric Metaxas, an American. The other was a German, Ferdinand Schlingensiepen. I really knew little about Bonhöffer, except his declaration which I previously omitted: I now quote it: "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." -- a hard, unvarnished and uncompromising challenge if there ever was one!

I took the opportunity to read the two magisterial biographies and to discover for myself what Bonhöffer exactly meant by his demanding, compelling, and all-inclusive statement. Soon I discovered that he was possessed of staggering talent. While at the justly renowned University of Berlin, he studied under a galaxy of preeminent professors -- among them, Adolf Von Harnack, Karl Holl, and Reinhold Seeberg. While holding them in awe and great respect, Bonhöffer had no hesitation in contradicting and debating with them on any and all issues. He consistently astonished them with his learning and perception.

Bonhöffer had read broadly and passionately since childhood. In addition to classical and German literature (he will go to his death with a copy of Goethe in his possession), he was engrossed in history, art, music (he was an accomplished pianist), science, languages, and theology. In short his intellectual endowments were breathtaking! Beyond things of the mind, he was positively marinated in all the basic virtues that a mortal could wish for.

Despite his great gifts, he was humble, kind, loving, devout and obedient. False pride was an abomination and he was always willing to aid any person, be he high or low if Bonhöffer had the resources to do so. Admiration for him seemed limitless from those who came to know him.

However, despite his devotion and rich commitment to life -- after deep reflection and searching prayer -- Bonhöffer took the most radical step of his life; he joined the conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He concluded the Nazi leader was evil to the point of depravity and thus must be destroyed to prevent his continuous assault on life, religion and the basic values of humanitarian civilization.

Bonhöffer reached the crucial decision that it was not sufficient to stand aside and hope that others would hazard the fateful deed. The only way to prevent this pathological monster from continuing his insidious brutality was for decent people to dedicate every fiber to the eradication of such a reprehensible tyrant. Thus, Bonhöffer became implicated beyond recall. All too soon his activity was exposed. He was arrested and after long months of incarceration was hanged at Flossenbürg prison in the early hours of April 9, 1945.

Little is known about the last agonizing days of his life. However two pieces of evidence have emerged long after Bonhöffer's death from two witnesses who hardly knew him. One was written by a British officer who was a Prisoner of War, Captain S. Payne Best. I quote:
"Bonhöffer was quite calm and normal, seemingly perfectly at ease -- his soul really shone in the dark desperation of our prison. I don't suppose I spoke to him more than three times. He told me how happy prison made him [because] he had always been afraid that he would not be strong enough to stand such a test but now he knew there was nothing in life of which one should ever be afraid [including death]. He was cheerful and apparently free of care. Without exception he was the finest and most loveable man I ever met!"

For him there was only one reality and Christ was Lord over all of it or none [and that was that].
The other scrap of evidence came from the camp doctor at Flossenbürg, H. Fischer-Hüllstrung. He had no idea whom he was watching at the time, but years later he gave his account of Bonhöffer's last moments alive: I quote:
"On the morning of April 9, 1945, between five and six o'clock the [condemned] prisoners were taken from their cells -- Through the half-opened door in one room I saw this man [later identified as Dietrich Bonhöffer] kneeling on the floor, praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this loveable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution he again said a short prayer then climbed the steps to the [hangman’s] gallows, brave and composed. His death came [shortly thereafter]. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God."
Winston Churchill once speculated on which of man's virtues was the greatest. He concluded that it must be courage because without that quality all the others became useless.

I submit that Dietrich Bonhöffer claimed that dominant virtue in company with all the others, so as to shine through eternity. Thus the 23rd quotation: "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." And so Bonhöffer did!!!!

Thank you and may the sun shine eternally for you and may the wind always be at your backs. Good luck and God bless you all, now and forevermore.
Such were my old professor's words, and surely one of the finest inspirational talks I've read. I wish only that I'd been present to experience it directly from Professor Vardaman himself.

If only Anders Behring Breivik had been a Christian like Bonhöffer, sacrificing self rather than others.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Anders Behring Breivik: Rightwing Christian Terrorist?

Anders Behring Breivik
(Image from Wikipedia)

The Marmot's Hole blog had a discussion going on as to whether or not Anders Behring Breivik, the Norway shooter, was an insane spree killer or a rightwing terrorist. My initial assumption was that he was a crazed killer, but I soon began to re-evaluate that, and noted why in a comment:
He might be insane, but the sole reason that I would have for thinking so would be that he did something most of us would think is crazy.

But so did the Unabomber, the Oklahoma Bomber, and the 9/11 terrorists. They all did things that I would at first judge as crazy. But I don't think any of them were insane.

What currently makes me lean toward judging this recent killer sane is that he spent nearly ten years planning this atrocity and that he has written a manifesto to explain his actions. The ideas come from the right, the violence from the extreme right. I'm pretty sure of this because I've been reading since 9/11 on Islamism, the Left, and the Right in an attempt to get a handle on what's happening and where we're headed, and I recognize many of his expressions.

I suppose that he could be a political terrorist and insane, but "evil" [rather than "insane"] might be a better designation.

We'll see for sure as we learn more from his writings.
After posting that comment, I learned a bit more, so I posted another comment:
Time Magazine has a short article on the motives of Anders Behring Breivik. Two terrorism experts are cited concerning Breivik's manifesto: 2083: A European Declaration of Independence.

Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at the Swedish National Defense College calls the manifesto "a complete mirroring of al-Qaeda, a cut-and-paste image of a jihadist manifesto."

Thomas Hegghammer, a terrorism expert at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, agrees: "The document mirrors al-Qaeda ideology in a few important ways. The principal aim is to expel Muslims from Europe, just as al-Qaeda wants to expel Westerners from the holy lands."

I've read articles by Ranstorp and Hegghammer, and I've always found them levelheaded on terrorism.

None of this would mean that Breivik suffers no psychological problems. He might indeed have problems, but these wouldn't necessarily preclude his being a terrorist. Mohamed Atta had weird views about sexual purity, but that doesn't exclude him from the ranks of terrorist.

Breivik is quoted elsewhere as saying that killing too many is better than killing too few. He chose his target with the aim of generating as much horror as possible, much as the 9/11 terrorist chose their target and method.

From what I've seen of Breivik's writings by now, I don't see how I can do other than conclude that he draws upon the right, including the extreme right, for his political ideology. But he's wrong to believe that his action will galvanize the right in the way that 9/11 galvanized Islamists.

Most of those on the right whom he cited in his manifesto have expressed revulsion at what he did. He'll find little support for political violence except among the extreme right, i.e., people like him.
I'm still waiting for easy access to Breivik's manifesto. I won't have time to read all 1500 pages, but if I can search for key words, I know what to look for. Breivik has been called a "Christian Fundamentalist." I don't think he's quite that, but the question of his connection to Christianity does arise. Here's a quote, courtesy of Time Magazine, from his interview with himself:
Around 2000, I realized that the democratic struggle against the Islamization of Europe, and European multiculturalism, was lost. It is simply not possible to compete with democratic regimes that import millions of voters. Forty years of dialogue with the cultural Marxists/multiculturalists had ended up as a disaster. It would now only take 50 to 70 years before we, Europeans, were the minority. So I decided to explore alternative forms of opposition. But the biggest problem then was that there were no options for me at all. There was no known armed culturally conservative, or Christian, anti-jihad movement.
Note that Breivik's wording uses "Christian" and "culturally conservative" interchangeably. This doesn't sound like personal Christian piety, but rather an identification with Europe's Christian identity, focused on a time when European Christians were fighting holy wars against Islam, the time of the Crusades. In the Time Magazine article "Killer's Manifesto: The Politics Behind the Norway Slaughter" (July 24, 2011), William Boston tells us more about Breivik's fascination with the Crusades:
The secret society Breivik describes aims to re-create the Knights Templar. Known by their trademark white mantles bearing a red cross, the Knights Templar were skilled fighters during the Crusades who wielded enormous political and economic influence during the Middle Ages. Breivik wrote that there was a secret meeting in London in April 2002 to rebuild the order and that nine people representing eight European countries attended.
Breivik's Christianity looks to be militant and political, not especially pious, but there is this, one of the recent entries in his journal, courtesy of The Telegraph, from the article "Norway shooting: Anders Breivik's diary of terror":
Saturday June 11 I prayed for the first time in a very long time today. I explained to God that unless he wanted the Marxist-Islamic alliance and the certain Islamic takeover of Europe to completely annihilate European Christendom within the next hundred years he must ensure that the warriors fighting for the preservation of European Christendom prevail.
This isn't the manner in which pious Christians usually pray to God -- pious Christians don't presume to explain things to an omniscient God -- and Breivik admits that he hasn't prayed "in a very long time," but he sounds sincere. Six weeks later, he bombed Norway's Labor Party government in Oslo and shot dozens of the Labor Party's youth on Utøya Island. Some might wonder why Breivik didn't target Muslims if his aim was to expel Islam from Europe. I think that I can answer that question. Many on the right have noted the far Left's alliance of convenience with Islamism, but some have gone further and denounced the entire Left as composed of traitors to European civilization. The step from calling Leftists traitors to the conclusion that they deserve execution is not a very large one since the traditional penalty for treason has been death. I've not seen bloggers themselves calling for death to Leftists (though I don't doubt that such bloggers exist), but I have occasionally encountered comments that come close to demanding such extreme measures.

Counterterrorism will need to take such folk more seriously from now on . . .

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Nude" vs. "Naked" . . . Revisited

Reflection 1 (1985)
Lucien Freud
(Image from Art Observed)

Yesterday, I wondered aloud what William Grimes had meant in his NYT obituary of Lucien Freud by the following remark about Freud's nude portraits:
His female subjects in particular seemed not just nude but obtrusively naked.
I decided to ask Mr. Grimes himself, and I received this reply by email:
I did not really give a lot of thought to the distinction, which seems to me just a matter of art-historical convention in most cases. We usually refer to nudes, and painting from the nude, especially with older artists, but in discussing the particulars of a painting, it seems to me that one can say that a figure is nude, naked or unclothed and it all means the same thing, although I agree that "naked" has a certain force in English, and this word applies particularly to Freud's nudes. If you say that his subjects are not just nude but naked, that's a nuance that's meaningful, and most people would understand what you were driving at. I don't honestly know whether this comes up a lot for art critics or art historians.
I posted this reply on the Milton List, then responded by email to Grimes himself:
Thank you for the response. I understand what you mean about the force of "naked" vs. "nude," but I have difficulty putting the nuance into words. I've conveyed your views to the Milton List, which has been having a vigorous discussion of the difference between the two terms (as well as the difference between pornographic and erotic, etc.), a discussion occasioned by the announcement of an upcoming film version of Paradise Lost. Your earlier words on Lucien Freud's portraits fit the discussion well.
By way of reply, Mr. Grimes added an illustration:
Naked implies, on the part of he artist, an unblinking, even harsh, depiction of the body. On the sitter's side (as in Manet's Olympia or Goya's Maja, a brazenness, a lack of shame that seems to say, I see you looking at me and I don't care, I'm looking right back at you.
I'll need to reflect more on his point about the "sitter," for the Genesis story of the Fall implies that awareness of one's nakedness entails shame, but I've meanwhile also received some thoughtful comments to yesterday's blog entry, particularly one by "Scott A.":
Nude seems to be more of an artistic term -- nudity in an art-related context. Naked seems to be more of the default term for being nude.

That is the answer I would have given before reading the post, and it seems to fit the context in which the people in the post were discussing it.

As in, Grimes might be saying (consciously or not) that the more grotesque (to the audience) the portrait became, the less it came across as artistic and thus the more she became "naked" rather than "nude".

Since the artist's name is Freud, I'll throw out -- perhaps there is some tiny connection to non-physical uses for the work -- as in giving out your personal information making you feel "naked." We don't use nude or nudity to refer to our feelings . . .

We don't have terms like "nude aggression."

Nude, used for the arts for so long, seems not to have the deeply personal, raw aspects that naked can carry in certain contexts . . .
I like the point about "nude aggression." As Scott notes, we don't use that expression. Rather, we say "naked aggression." This fits with the nuance that Grimes suggests, namely, "that 'naked' has a certain force in English." I think that Scott and Grimes are indicating a similar connotation in the word "naked," one that doesn't occur with "nude."

I probably should quote from the Milton List, too, but that conversation has become too complex to do justice to.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Nude" vs. "Naked"

Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995)
"Nude" or "Naked"?
(Image from New York Times)

Scholars on the Milton List recently broached a discussion on the lack of clothing that will have to characterize the prelapsarian Adam and Eve in the upcoming film version of Paradise Lost, a point that I remarked upon:
But the malingering question . . . is: Will this film's nudity strike audiences as 'pornographic'?
I repeated this question on the Milton List, adding a further reason for my inquiry:
My wife and I translate Korean literature into English -- she handles the Korean to English, I handle her English -- and a couple of years ago, we translated Jang Jung-il's book When Adam's Eyes Opened.

One of the stories in that book was very disturbing to translate, and if I had known in advance, I would have declined.

In describing my reaction to that story -- in which an unnamed man and an unnamed woman meet and engage in sexual intercourse for a week at an obscure beach -- I told an acquaintance, "The sex in the story wasn't erotic, but it wasn't pornographic, either. It was, however, explicit."

Jang's intention was for the story to serve as some sort of social criticism, as were all of the stories in the book, and for the most part, the book succeeds as a work of art that critiques Korean mores of the 1980s and 1990s.

In the sex-on-the-beach story, the man and woman [turn increasingly brutal and violent in their sexual relations and] kill each other in the end, and I have to say, as I told my wife when I'd finished that particular story, "I'm glad they killed each other!"

She laughed, but I meant it.

I think that sex in writing can play any number of roles -- erotic, pornographic, social-critical, and so on. Roles can even be mixed. Pornography is often used as lampoon (I almost want to pun and say 'lampoontang', but my puns often get me in trouble, so I'll refrain), so even that isn't entirely without socially redeeming value.

Anyway, my query was motivated by a desire for clarification in the definitions of the terms "erotic," "pornographic," and so on. Specifically, I asked whether these terms were different in meaning, or merely different terms for the same thing.
The discussion of "nude" versus "naked" -- along with other distinctions (e.g., erotic versus pornographic) -- continued on the list, and the debate grew rather emotionally heated as scholars took opposite sides. In this context, I was therefore fascinated to read the following remark in the New York Times obituary of Lucian Freud by William Grimes, "Lucian Freud, Figurative Painter Who Redefined Portraiture, Is Dead at 88" (July 21, 2011):
His female subjects in particular seemed not just nude but obtrusively naked. Mr. Freud pushed this effect so far, [John] Russell once noted, "that we sometimes wonder if we have any right to be there."
This use of "nude" and "naked" by Grimes implies a significant difference . . . but of what sort? Another passage seems relevant:
From the late 1950s, when he began using a stiffer brush and moving paint in great swaths around the canvas, Mr. Freud's nudes took on a new fleshiness and mass. His subjects, pushed to the limit in exhausting extended sessions, day after day, dropped their defenses and opened up. The faces showed fatigue, distress, torpor.

The flesh was mottled, lumpy and, in the case of his 1990s portraits of the performance artist Leigh Bowery and the phenomenally obese civil servant Sue Tilley, shockingly abundant
Grimes would appear to suggest that as the "nudes took on a new fleshiness and mass," they turned "naked."

I infer that critics sense a need for a distinction between such terms as "nude" and "naked," but I'm unclear on precisely what this distinction is. Some scholars at the Milton List argued that there is no distinction, but people like Grimes seem to be getting at some sort of difference.

Perhaps I should ask Grimes himself . . .

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Genesis Creation Story: Poetry or History or What?

History, Not Poetry?

Some time back, my Uncle Cran sent me a link to the above website, suggesting, "I thought this article might interest you."

The article is titled "Genesis Is History, Not Poetry: Exposing Hidden Assumptions about What Hebrew Poetry Is and Is Not," and it's written by James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D., for the Institute for Creation Research. I didn't find time to read it for a couple of weeks. Its basic point, as I discovered a couple of days ago, is that Hebrew poetry employs a poetic device that I've always known as Hebrew Parallelism, but which Johnson classifies as Informational Parallelism:
Unlike the rhyme and rhythm of English poetry, Hebrew poetry is defined by informational parallelism -- parallelism of meaning. The paralleled thoughts may emphasize good and bad, wise and unwise, reverent and blasphemous. They may or may not recount historical events, although time and place, if mentioned at all, are less emphasized than in narrative prose. This informational parallelism -- using comparative lines and phrases -- portrays similarities and/or contrasts, or comparisons of whole and part, or some other kind of logical associations of meaning.
He offers this example:
Psalm 104:29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled:
thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.

Psalm 104:30 Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created:
and thou renewest the face of the earth.
He then explains:
Note how both lines in verse 29 show parallel similarity of meaning, as do both lines in verse 30. Yet verse 29 informationally contrasts with verse 30 -- verse 29 tells how God controls the death of certain creatures (like leviathan, mentioned in verse 26), but verse 30 tells how God controls the life of His creatures. In order to get the full meaning of either verse 29 or verse 30, the total parallelism must be appreciated. This is the hallmark of Hebrew poetry.
That's informative, and I'm obliged to Johnson for the point that the parallelism is "informational" . . . though I wonder if that's always the case (and also if this is a conventional expression for this poetic technique). Anyway, I recently wrote back in reply to Uncle Cran:
I finally found a moment to read the article.

Clearly, the man is right that Genesis doesn't employ "informational parallelism" characteristic of Hebrew poetry. I doubt that this settles the issue, however, for what is contained in the very category "poetry" could be disputed. He has a rather narrow view of English poetry, for example, that doesn't seem to include free verse -- which doesn't make use of rhyme or fixed rhythm. I would bet that one could argue about what ought to be included as "poetry" in Hebrew. Arguably, the first chapter of Genesis is poetry of a different sort than that which uses Hebrew parallelism. There is parallelism of a different sort, however, as one can readily see.

Moreover, just because some text is not "poetry" doesn't make it "history."

But thanks for the link. I learned the concept of "informational parallelism" (which I'd always known as "Hebrew parallelism"), so I'm obliged.
Since writing that to Uncle Cran, I've realized that I ought to give an example of what I mean, and because I brought up the issue of the first chapter of Genesis as poetry, let's take a look, using the traditional King James Version:
1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

1:4 And God saw the light, that [it was] good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

1:6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

1:7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which [were] under the firmament from the waters which [were] above the firmament: and it was so.

1:8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

1:9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry [land] appear: and it was so.

1:10 And God called the dry [land] Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that [it was] good.

1:11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, [and] the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed [is] in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

1:12 And the earth brought forth grass, [and] herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed [was] in itself, after his kind: and God saw that [it was] good.

1:13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.

1:14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

1:15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: [he made] the stars also.

1:17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

1:18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that [it was] good.

1:19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

1:20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl [that] may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

1:21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that [it was] good.

1:22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

1:23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

1:24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

1:25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that [it was] good.

1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

1:27 So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

1:29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which [is] upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which [is] the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

1:30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein [there is] life, [I have given] every green herb for meat: and it was so.

1:31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, [it was] very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
This doesn't sound like history to me, and even if there's none of the Informational Parallelism of the sort that Johnson talks about, there is another kind of parallelism in the repetition of phrases -- e.g., such as "Let there be" -- and the entire chapter seems poetic rather than strictly historical. Historically speaking, if that's the right expression here, the sequence seems odd to me, with God creating light and dividing darkness from light to create night and day before creating the sun, moon, and stars. Where's the light coming from before these luminaries are created? And the more closely I look, the more questions I have. Everything seems to begin with water and darkness, and the orderly world that God sets about creating requires a separation of waters by forming a "firmament" that keeps the waters divided into waters above the heavens and waters below the heavens. I could continue, and a close reading raises all sorts of interesting questions, but I don't see that I'm reading a document about history. And the chapters that immediately follow this first one seem to present a somewhat different story of creation, including a garden with a tree of knowledge and a tree of life, along with a talking serpent. Are these really intended as history, or are they 'mythic' elements? But these are vexed questions, so I'll stop here.

I admit that I'm no expert on Hebrew poetry, so any experts out there are welcome to offer opinions on the characteristics of Hebrew poetry and the various sorts of Hebrew prose.

Also, what sorts of literature are these opening chapters of Genesis?

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Awais Aftab: "What is Liberal Islam?"

Liberal Muslims
(Image from Friday Times)

My philosophical friend Bill Vallicella drew my attention to Awais Aftab's article "What is Liberal Islam?" in the Pakistani paper The Friday Times. It provides a useful summary of varieties of Muslim liberalism, along with the difficulties that liberal views encounter. Aftab's remark about "Silent Sharia" liberalism says a lot:
[W]e come across Silent Sharia, the idea that Quran and Sunnah are silent on a number of matters, and this silence allows room for progress within Islam. This is a . . . well-known position, but limited in its extent because as it turns out, Sharia with its claim to being a complete code of life is not silent on a whole lot of matters!
That is indeed the problem. Sharia seems to have a judgment to render on every matter of mundane life, not merely on heavenly topics. Aftab notes that one can strive to circumvent the wide-ranging, explicit character of sharia through Contextual Islam and Interpreted Sharia, both of which place limits on Muhammad's own legal rulings, but this need to limit the Muslim prophet's relevance for Modern society already indicates that these two approaches will surely encounter difficulties finding acceptance among Muslims.

Aftab himself acknowledges this problem:
We have here a number of theological traditions in which Islam can be made compatible with modernity and liberalism. The only way these solutions can work is if Muslims are willing to do so, which sadly they still are not.
But he then adds, perhaps too hopefully:
As Daniel Pipes astutely remarks: "Islam can be whatever Muslims wish to make of it." The possibility of a modernist reform is there; templates and prototypes exist. The only question for Muslims is: Are you up for it?
So far as I can see, the most typical answer to this question has been: "Hell, no!"

But read the entire piece, and form your own opinion.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Craftworks Jirisan Moon Bear IPA . . .

As far as I'm concerned, the Jirisan Moon Bear India Pale Ale, dry and hoppy like an IPA should be, is the best brew that Craftworks has on tap, and therefore one of the finest Korean-made brews!

I'm looking so happy -- yeah, that's a smile -- because I arrived at 4, expecting the usual, already low prices for drinks, only to be pleasantly surprised by half prices for Happy Hour! In fact, two hours of Happy Hour!! Extra nice surprise, so I was doubly happy. I drank alone and read the International Herald Tribune for over an hour, having arrived in time for that.

After a pint each of the other two Happy Hour brews, I stuck with the IPA and talked for a long while with my friend 'Sperwer', who arrived a bit after 5 and snapped this shot above by way of expressing agreement with me about the IPA, adding, because he knew that I'd be blogging this:
"You just might want to note my opinion that the Moon Bear is their best."
After that concurrence, we talked about all the Marmot's Hole folks who didn't show up. That took about five whole minutes . . . since we had a lot to say! I'd report on that, but I seem to have forgotten the very important details.

More memorable was Sperwer's anecdote about meeting an orangutan that was accompanying a park ranger along a path in Indonesia (I think). Sperwer was walking with his wife and daughter when the encounter occurred. The orangutan glanced at them, then at the ranger, then shrugged, and stepped over to shake Sperwer's hand, afterwards touching his daughter's cheek, as though to say, "Lovely child," before sauntering on. Sperwer was flabbergasted and said that this was far and away the most intelligent animal he'd ever met.

I felt insulted.

But I hid my hurt feelings and told him of an anecdote from a talk that I'd heard about orangutans while I was doing postdoctoral work in Australia:
"Give a gorilla a screwdriver, and he'll use it to scratch himself," the primatologist said. "Give it to a chimpanzee, and he'll throw it at you. But give it to an orangutan, and he'll use it to get out of his cage."
Sperwer nodded at that. We drank a bit more, then left around 8, our thirst quenched by the brews and our hunger sated by the food.

Life goes on, dear Marmot Hole folks, with or without you . . .

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Bradley Cooper: The Mother of All Hangovers!

Bradley Cooper
(Image from Wikipedia)

In the New York Times "Arts Beat" for July 20th (2011), Dave Itzkoff informs us (posting under the title "Bradley Cooper Going Down Under -- Way Down Under -- for 'Paradise Lost' Film") that Bradley Cooper will be taking on the role of a character with the greatest hangover of them all, that extreme Byronic Hero, the fallen angel Satan, who awakens after his first indulgence with the most potent Spirit of them all, and feels like Hell:
. . . lasting pain
Torments him; round he throws his baleful eyes
That witness'd huge affliction and dismay
Mixt with obdurate pride and stedfast hate:
At once as far as Angels kenn he views
The dismal Situation waste and wilde,
A Dungeon horrible, on all sides round
As one great Furnace flam'd, yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible
Serv'd onely to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all; but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery Deluge, fed
With ever-burning Sulphur unconsum'd . . . [PL 1.55-69]

Thomas H. Luxon, ed. The Milton Reading Room, July 2011
God . . . I know the feeling well -- or rather, unwell -- though I've not overindulged like that in 16 years, and then merely by accident at a party thrown by my wife for her students in Germany, a gaggle of foreigners from Eastern Europe, mainly, and we all drank too much wine, so much in my case that I awakened late the next morning, unable to rise from my bed, capable only of casting round my "baleful eyes," witnessing "huge affliction and dismay."

But enough about me, let's read instead of the proposed Itzkoff film:
Having returned from a humid if lucrative trip to Bangkok (to shoot the smash summer comedy "The Hangover Part II") with all of his digits intact, Bradley Cooper is headed to another sweltering location for his next movie -- and we don't mean Australia.

Mr. Cooper will portray Lucifer, the fallen angel turned ruler of Hell, in a film version of Milton's "Paradise Lost," The Associated Press reported. The original epic, you surely recall, told the story "of man's first disobedience, and the fruit of that forbidden tree" that was used by Satan to tempt Adam and Eve away from God, and famously sought to "justify the ways of God to men." While the blind Milton had to dictate his poem to secretaries, the ways of the film industry are a little different: Australian government officials announced on Wednesday that the special-effects-heavy "Paradise Lost" movie would be directed by Alex Proyas, the director of big-budget action features including "I, Robot" and "Knowing," and would be filmed largely at the Fox Studios in Sydney, with some financial incentives from the government of New South Wales.

"Had we not done this it would have been opportunity lost, not 'Paradise Lost,'" said Andrew Stoner, the acting premier of New South Wales, in a not particularly Miltonian turn of phrase. Casting for Adam and Eve wasn't immediately announced, but one assumes that costumes won't be a problem.
Fig leaves and animal skins are all that'll be needed for the first couple, and these accoutrements only in postlapsarian times.

But the malingering question -- hungover as it may be -- is: Will this film's nudity strike audiences as 'pornographic'?

That might actually be good for great literature, stimulating an upsurge in sales of Paradise Lost.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

2011 Global Forum Civilization and Peace

Last Year's Global Forum Logo 2010

Just yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to be invited by the Academy of Korean Studies to give a presentation this coming October (10th or 11th) at the "2011 Global Forum [on] Civilization and Peace," which will take place in the Grand Ball Room of the Seoul Plaza Hotel. The main theme this year is "Resolution of Conflict in Korea, East Asia and Beyond: Humanistic Approach," and my session is on "Difference and Discrimination." This is a rather broad subject, but I'll have to narrow down a plausible topic within the next few days and provide an abstract as soon as possible. Based on what I read in the invitation, I'll definitely have to rise to the occasion:
We started our forum . . . [in the] year 2005, inviting world leading scholars to exchange ideas in a view to build peace & civilizations. So far former Korean president Kim Daejung, Prof. Amartya Sen, Dr. Shirin Ebadi and so forth [have] joined our forum as . . . speakers. For more details, please visit our website [Korean or English].
Being associated with such illustrious speakers is a humbling experience, though I'm sure that their role was as plenary speakers rather than as speakers in sessions, but even so I'll certainly have to do my very best -- or better than my best if I want to measure up.

I might try to rework some ideas of mine on the need for a "culture of discussion" since I have some expertise in this area and believe that it is, in fact, sorely needed in East Asia and beyond.

I just need to relate it substantively to the subject of "Difference and Discrimination" . . .


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Brief Return to "Seasons" in Paradise Lost

The Seasons
(Image from Wikipedia)

I don't recall if I mentioned that an article of mine will be appearing in a coming edition of the Milton Quarterly, maybe this October, and that's good news since this journal is the toughest one to publish in.

My article on the seasons in Paradise Lost, however, was rejected from a journal. In the words of one referee:
Despite the fairly extensive research . . . and clear prose, this is a dry piece . . . . Reading and pondering the astronomical matters that it raises fail to shake a nagging question, one that the essay never addresses: so what?
I suppose I could be annoyed by that remark, but I had to laugh . . . and agree. I agreed with several other points as well, but I won't go into them here. The editor, incidentally, was "not personally in accord with this view" and would have voted to publish, but "conceded to the other three readers," who felt that "the subject did not strike . . . as sufficiently significant" for publication. I can't argue with a trinity of referees, who are probably right. I'll have to improve the article.

Just as a reminder, the reference to prelapsarian "seasons" in Paradise Lost occurs explicitly, literally in 4.640, 5.323, 7.342, 427, and 8.69. Reference to postlapsarian "seasons" in Paradise Lost occurs explicitly, literally in 10.678 and 1063.

I lack time this morning to develop this theme, and I first need to re-read my own article, but the basic problem that interested me was what Milton meant by prelapsarian seasons since he believed that the seasonal changes from spring to summer to fall to winter (and round and round) resulted from a postlapsarian tilting of the cosmic axis by 23.5 degrees as punishment for mankind's sin.

He couldn't avoid prelapsarian seasons, of course, for Genesis 1.14 of the creation account specifies:
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years . . . [KJV]
Milton explicitly echos this verse in PL 7.339-342:
Again th' Almightie spake: Let there be Lights
High in th' expanse of Heaven to divide
The Day from Night; and let them be for Signes,
For Seasons, and for Dayes, and circling Years . . .

Thomas H. Luxon, The Milton Reading Room, July 2011
My question remains the same. In Milton's prelapsarian paradise, what did "seasons" imply?

I'll try to find time to return to this question . . .

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Poetry Break: "Sigmund Freud's Impersonation of Gerry Bevers in Korea"

(Image from CoreanBigSis)

I had some fun over at the Marmot's Hole on Sunday. Gerry Bevers, the resident Dokdo scholar, reminisced about meeting the Korean pop diva Insooni many years back, at a time when she was still suffering prejudice from being half African-American and hadn't yet made such a big name for herself in Korea:
Insooni was once my partner on an SBS variety show called "Show, Seoul, Seoul," back before she married. She was really friendly and talkative. In fact, we were reprimanded a couple of times for talking while other performers were singing.

She seemed to want to get married at the time and told me that all her friends were telling her to marry an American because of the prejudice in South Korea.
And in response to skepticism on the part of a fellow who goes by the mysterious moniker "Q" (perhaps for "Quizzical"?), Gerry added:
She told me she was open to marrying an American. In fact, I got the feeling she was hitting on me.
"Q" retorted:
This is an ultimate psychoanalytic revelation of Gerry's mind. 떡 줄 사람은 생각도 안 하는데 김칫국부터 마신다.
The Korean expression posted by "Q" translates as:
Even though the other person isn't thinking of offering ddeok, he's already drinking kimchee guk.
The term ddeok refers to a sticky rice cake, and the expression kimchee guk refers to the 'water' from non-spicy "water kimchee". When one eats the dry, sticky rice cake, a gulp of water kimchee will help wash it down. The meaning is that Gerry Bevers is jumping to an unwarranted conclusion, e.g., Insooni hadn't even gone out with him on a date, and already he's thinking that she wants to marry him. That was the impression that "Q" had, at any rate.

Meanwhile, Gerry had composed a poem:
A few days ago, I was thinking about the beautiful sycamore trees that lined the street in front of my apartment in Incheon. I sometimes got caught in the rain and took shelter under one of the trees near the traffic light on my street. Thinking about that, I wrote the following poem last night.
If I were a leaf, I'd want to be
One of a sprawling sycamore tree.
Then under my soulful, silent shade,
Young and old could drink pink lemonade.

Summer showers go splitter splatter,
But under me it would not matter.
My friends and I would be broad and green,
Stopping the raindrops while staying clean.
I think people write poems to express pent-up feelings that cannot be easily expressed in other ways. It does not really matter if anyone understands my feelings, as long as I feel the release of expressing them.
At this point, I couldn't restrain myself from joining the fray and thus wrote my own poem as though I were channeling Randy Newman speaking for "Q" pretending to be Sigmund Freud impersonating "Gerry Bevers" writing a parody of Joyce Kilmer's famous poem, which I titled:
Sigmund Freud's Impersonation of Gerry Bevers in Korea

I know I ne'er again shall see
That lovely lady Insooni.

Ah, how I wish my mouth had pressed
Against her sweetly flowing breast;

That goddess breast I'd watch all day,
And lift my longing arms to pray;

A breast that might in summerwear
Get tangled up within my hair;

Upon such metaphors I've lain;
But my whole life is filled with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God made Insooni.
All in good fun, Gerry, and anyone else who might conceivably take offense. I'm taking the piss out of everyone, but especially myself. After all, "Poems are made by fools like me . . ."

As for Insooni, you can listen to her . . . instantly, loudly, with pop-up, here!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Caution: 'Islamophobic' Post . . .

Slave Market in Zadib, Yemen (13th Century)
Artist: al-Wâsitî
In al-Harîrî, Maqâmât
Manuscrit arabe 5847, fol. 105, Maqâma 34:
al-Hârith au marché aux esclaves, Bibliothèque nationale de France
(Image from Wikipedia)

Two years ago, in a comment to one of my posts on Islamism, I happened to post a remark on the decline of Judaism and Christianity under Islam:
Islam has traditionally 'tolerated' Christians and Jews, but the pressure of being restricted in the practice of Christianity and Judaism and of being restricted in their rights as non-Muslims -- along with the 'infidel tax', various humiliations, and the occasional massacre -- led to the demise of Christian and Jewish communities over time.
A certain 'Maria of Spain' recently took umbrage:
Mr Hodges says <>, which is, simply, not true. There are millions of Christians in the Middle East, some of the oldest Christian communities. Occasional persecutions and massacres have occurred, of course, but there have been no "demise" (except for the Jews, who after the creation of the state of Israel went to live there). As for the restrictions in religious practice, non-Muslims were forbidden to practice proselytism, and had to pay a special tax (at least here, in Spain, during the Middle Ages). These has been thus for centuries, until our own times when intolerance and violence are getting extreme, in part thanks to "scholars" like Mr. Hodges, who spread misinformation and hatred under the appearance of "scholar knowledge."
I had no idea that I was so influential, but I'm not sure what my terrible words specifically were since 'Maria' left those angular brackets blank, perhaps having neglected to preview before publishing (and also not even checking what she'd published). I responded anyway:
Maria states:
"Mr Hodges says <>, which is, simply, not true."
Something was left out, so I don't know what you're objecting to.

Anyway, there has been a radical decline in the numbers of Christians in Muslim lands, and the consequent likelihood of its demise. I'm surprised that you would insist on the contrary.

The restrictions were not limited to what you state. Christians were also forbidden to rebuild churches that had fallen into disrepair.

And we haven't even mentioned the original Muslim conquest.

In your view, however, everything was fine "until our own times when intolerance and violence are getting extreme, in part thanks to 'scholars' like Mr. Hodges, who spread misinformation and hatred under the appearance of 'scholar[ly] knowledge.'"

I have no idea what misinformation and hatred you are referring to in my post that would have driven Islamists to their radicalism. Please be specific when you make such claims, and give examples.
Since 'Maria' was so unforthcoming in examples of my habit of spreading "misinformation and hatred," I suppose that I'll just have to supply my own. I have, of course, recently posted several blog entries criticizing Islamists for defending the enslavement of prisoners of war -- for example, Salwa al-Mutairi and Abu-Ishaq al-Huwaini -- particularly of non-Muslim women taken prisoner and forced to serve as sex slaves. My attempt to call attention to such Islamist views is, of course, a dreadful thing to do since I'm thereby spreading "misinformation and hatred." Why just look at the sort of anonymous Islamist comment such a blog post elicits:
Though I am not an Islamic scholar and have no authority to say anthing, but there is no doubt in the statement of Salwa that POW women can shared bed (consumation) without any Nikah [i.e., without a marriage contract]. This is not against Islam. The Quranic Ayats are clear and I myself read it from a very great Islamic scholar who taught me the Holy Quran with Tafseer. I woyuld like any Scholar (Islamic) to explain whether these ayat were superseded with others in the life of Our Holy prophet or the ayats are still valid. If valid, then there is no right of non-Muslims to give negative comments or deal the holy book like their common school, college or university books. The Divine law is superior always and we believe in it. May be the social sciences scholars will think in their own way. They should realized the importance of religion.
See how terrible my posts on Islamism are? They draw anonymous Islamists out of the woodwork to make comments like this one insisting that sex slaves are "not against Islam." Naturally, in my desire to spread more "misinformation and hatred," I responded with a comment:
Anonymous wrote:
"[T]here is no right of non-Muslims to give negative comments" (about Islam).
Anonymous speaks courteously enough, but he is saying that Muslims have the right to rape women that they have taken as prisoners of war and that non-Muslims have no right to criticize this.

Might I ask what the punishment is for the non-Muslim who nevertheless does criticize?
But perhaps I should turn at this point to even greater Islamophobes than I, Raymond Ibrahim and Zakaria Botros:
[Raymond Ibrahim tells us that the Coptic priest Father Zakaria Botros] discussed Sheikh Huwaini's recent assertions that Islam advocates plundering, enslaving, buying, and selling infidels. Many have written about this anecdote either to show that Islam is intrinsically violent, or that "radical Islamism" is spreading, or that Islamic teachings are incompatible with the West.

But Fr. Zakaria takes it a step further -- takes it right to the heart of the matter. After asserting that "God created mankind in his image," he sincerely addressed his Muslim viewers: "Would God truly want you to kill your neighbor, to enslave him? Would the Almighty truly want believers to buy and sell other human beings like animals? Think people! Use your minds, listen to your hearts -- for your souls are at stake!"
My interlocutors 'Maria' and the anonymous Islamist who rejects the "right of non-Muslims to give negative comments" about Islam would doubtless be appalled at such an Islamophobic attempt by Father Zakaria to spur Muslims to think for themselves and not let the Islamists tell them what they have to believe. I am sorry to say that I share such Islamophobic brazenness. I, too, am critcal of Islamists and suggest that Muslims think for themselves and not allow Islamists to bully them into submission.

Incidentally, on the Muslim view that human beings were made in God's image, see this post, which notes the doctrine and some of its Islamic complications.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hi, I'm a Boy, by Eideticboth

Hi, I'm a Boy!
By Eideticboth
(Image from Amazon)

A student of mine from two summers ago contacted me last winter break about proofreading a translation from Korean to English that she was doing of a story by her older sister. This sort of request usually proves to be a disappointment -- the writing generally being low in quality -- but when she showed me what she'd translated so far, I realized that her sister's story had real literary quality, and that my ex-student's translation had captured that quality. They just needed some help, so I agreed to an arrangement by which I'd edit the text for idiomatic English.

We finished shortly before the close of the spring semester a little over a month ago, and I asked what they planned to do with the translation. My former student explained that she and her sister intended to publish an electronic version available for download on Kindle and other devices. Two days ago, she contacted me to inform me that the story is now ready for downloading from Amazon under the title Hi, I'm a Boy!, by Eideticboth (their combined pseudonym):
'Hi, I'm a boy!' has published at last!

You can try a sample of it both in site or any Kindle device you might have such as an iPhone or Android phone.

Its sample provides up to 'Grandma; life on the third floor.'
I take this to mean that every thing up to and including the episode "Grandma: Life of the Third Floor" is available for sampling, so I'll provide an excerpt of these first three episodes. The story is told from the perspective of a 'Korean' boy about fifteen named "Daniel" who has a significantly older 'stepbrother' called "Highboy," probably because he's so tall, and the two of them live with Daniel's mother and grandmother in a motel that the mother manages and owns:
Our Neighborhood
Our neighborhood had some buildings near the train station with red lights like the kind used in butcher shops, except these lights shone on women who wore pretty dresses instead of on displayed meat.

The neighborhood was behind a train station. In the middle of the intersection was a nightclub called "Major League" that had a seventies air about it. To the left were whorehouses, and to the right were indistinguishable buildings lining a street where only the neon signs differentiated the various bars and strip clubs located inside.

And finally, at the end of the street, there was the motel "East Sea," my home, sweet home.

There was a main street at the rear of my house. Every morning, I would look down at the street from a window on the third floor and watch people from the apartment complex on the other side of the street swarm around the bus stop to board buses.

Most of them probably had no idea that such a neighborhood existed only half a mile down from the bus stop. The apartments were just part of a neighborhood facing ours across a single big street, but those people acted as if they were living in another country. Even though the people living in the apartment complex and the rest of the residential area used the same language as us, they pretended not to understand our speech and even acted as if we were invisible.

They finally decided that they could no longer put up with the danger and the loss in property values from living alongside us. The residents of the apartment complex and the rest of the residential area hired an attorney to represent them and filed a damages suit against the national government for doing nothing to rid the area of its red light district.

They staged protests for their rights in the square at the train station. I happened to be passing by when they were appealing to citizens to back their campaign. They also asked me to sign. I was just a nine-year-old boy, but they did not care. I readily signed. They even went around to obtain signatures, accompanied by representatives.

After a tug of war with the government, their campaign, supported by the hundreds of signatures collected, succeeded after months of indecision when the government finally granted their request. Construction began on an overpass across the street. The overpass continued with an opaque roof and extended to the train station, cutting across the sky over our neighborhood like a viaduct. Their dream came true. That was a so-called overpass over the intersection.

They no longer had to pass through our neighborhood to reach the train station. They were satisfied with the overpass, which allowed them to safely cross our neighborhood, and they gradually forgot us. As a matter of fact, the kids there did not even seem aware of our very existence.

All the people who came to enjoy our neighborhood were outsiders. It was located near a military base. As evening approached, soldiers would begin flocking to the intersection. Most of them were foreigners with colorful eyes and white or black skin. Some foreigners even looked as if they had just crossed the sea to come to our neighborhood. But nobody who lived in apartments of the main street came or visited our part of town.

My Family
Everybody called me "Danny" except my family. They called me "Daniel." I liked that better.

There were four in my family. Grandma, Mother, Highboy, and me. My grandpa died in 1984, the year I was born. Mother said he was so happy to hear the news of my birth. And he just flew to heaven.

Grandma always told me, "Your mother used to be the best pianist in the country's best university. She could also speak English very well and could have gotten a music scholarship to study abroad. And every man who loved her had a prominent job."

I wondered what kind of jobs those might be. Highboy told me it referred to someone working as cook, undertaker, or ticket-taker. Grandma repeated her story to us over and over for several years. It was only later I realized that it meant a doctor, lawyer, or prosecutor, not a cook, undertaker or ticket-taker.

At the end of the story, Grandma would heave a deep sigh. And she'd then fall silent and roll over to face the wall.

She never answered me when I asked what my father was like. Instead of answering, she'd just say that my father and I had ruined my mother's life. She only said that when Mother was out, or Mother would get very angry every time.

Grandma: Life on the Third Floor
Highboy and Grandma shared a room on the third floor with its own bathroom. That room had been my mother's when my grandfather was alive. It was too big for one person.

On one side of the room, there was a double bed where Grandma always lay, an air conditioner at the head of the bed. On the opposite wall from the bed were a television and a very big wooden wardrobe inlaid with mother-of-pearl. In the far left corner from the door stood a black upright piano. That was my mother's.

Grandma spoke the Kyungsang-do dialect characteristic of southeastern Korea, and she was afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis. Without a cane, she could not walk.

There was a sort of repertoire to Grandma's reiterative whining. One tune that she played was in blaming our motel and the town for everything. She believed all our misfortunes began with moving in.

First, her only daughter, who had an extremely promising future, was taken by a stranger. Next, she lost her husband. After that was an unexpected grandchild. Finally, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and lived nearly crippled among all these unforeseen circumstances.

In the middle of meals, she often put her chopsticks down and lamented. "I am the one who ruined my daughter's life. What if I hadn't come to this town? Oh, no, what if I hadn't started running this motel, oh, no, no, no, what if my husband was still alive!" And then added, "Why don't we sell this motel right now? You could open a piano studio."

Mother never answered and just continued eating.

Grandma started each day by praying toward the wooden cross on the wall, then wiped her face with the clean washcloth that Mother had prepared by the side of her bed the night before. It was dunked in warm water and wrung out. She then turned on the TV. Lunch at noon. Dinner at seven.

Throughout the day, she was always lying or sitting on the bed, listening to the radio or reading the Bible. When night came, she fell asleep. She repeated her monotonous and uneventful routine day after day.

A half-cut PET bottle was at all times on a small table beside her bed. If she needed to use the toilet, she turned toward the wall and peed in the PET bottle. It was my job to clean those. Sometimes Highboy peed there, too, so I used to make extra bottles.

I could remember when I was little that Grandma would walk around town with her back hunched. For some time, though, Grandma had not been able to come down from the third floor anymore.
Thus ends the first three, unnumbered 'chapters', with several more to come, reaching about fifty pages in all. The style continues in this fashion, low-key, personal, somewhat nostalgic, and it depicts hardscrabble Korean life for a mixed-race 'family' from the early to mid-1990s, when most Koreans had still never seen a foreigner in person because the tsunami of globalization had not yet overwhelmed the country.

I remember that time, for I first arrived in Korea in 1995 and was the object of much attention for the mere fact of being a foreigner. I like the story, which is episodic but adds up to a coherent novella . . . or a long short story.

The cover might give the impression that this is a children's book, but rest assured, the writing is adult level, not really suitable for children.

Recommended reading for those interested in a charming story of a Korea that might already seem a long time ago, though it's also much like yesterday . . .

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