Saturday, June 30, 2012

Getting the Blogger Team Runaround on an Imposter

A couple of days ago, I discovered by chance, during a Google search for one of my blog posts, that the fellow depicted above had copied all of Gypsy Scholar from 2005 through 2011 and renamed the blog "Hendown." I reported the copyright infringement to Blogger, and the following emails were exchanged:

Thanks for reaching out to us.

We have received and reviewed your notice. In order for us to investigate the appropriate content and take further action, please provide us with the specific URLs of the posts where the infringing content is located. You can obtain the post URL by clicking on the title of the post or the time-stamp found at the bottom of the allegedly infringing post(s). Also, if you are the copyright holder for this content, please provide us with a link to the original source of the copyrighted work that you claim has been republished without your authorization. This will help us further investigate the issue and take the appropriate actions.

Thank you for your cooperation in this regard.


The Google Team
I replied:
I already provided that information. Just follow the links that I gave. You'll see that the person has simply copied my blog from 2005 - 2011 and claimed it.

Jeffery Hodges
The Blogger Team responded

Thanks for your reply.

As previously stated, in order for us to investigate the appropriate content and take further action, please provide us with the specific URLs of the posts, not just the blog, where the infringing content is located. You can obtain the post URL by clicking on the title of the post or the time-stamp found at the bottom of the allegedly infringing post(s).

Thank you for your cooperation in this regard.


The Google Team
I attempted reasoning with them:
I see. You want me to provide seven years of blog-post URLs. That would be, roughly, 365 x 7 = 2,555 URLs. I think you can now see the problem.

Jeffery Hodges
The Blogger Team responded:

Thanks for your reply.

The only way for us to investigate the appropriate content and take further action, is if we are provided with the specific URLs of the posts where the infringing content is located. You can obtain the post URL by clicking on the title of the post or the time-stamp found at the bottom of the allegedly infringing post(s).

Thank you for your cooperation in this regard.


The Google Team
This was becoming irritating, so I wrote:
I don't need instructions on how to obtain a URL. I am telling you that there are roughly 2,500 URLs for the seven-year period. The individual has reproduced my entire blog from 2005 to 2011 and claims to have written the posts.

Jeffery Hodges
The ever-helpful Blogger Team replied:

Thanks for reaching out to us.

You can now submit your DMCA infringement notice to us at

Blogger Site

Submitting a notice online ensures the quickest handling and processing of your request. Please use this online form to send us all future DMCA notices. Thank you for your courtesy and cooperation in this regard.


The Google Team
I looked at the site and replied:
What you suggest below is precisely how I initiated this complaint of copyright infringement.

Let me put this as plainly as I can. My blog is Gypsy Scholar, and here is the address:

Gypsy Scholar

Someone who calls himself "dhul" has copied my blog from 2005 to 2011 and renamed the blog Hendown:


That would be about 7 years worth of blog posts, or nearly 2,500 posts, each with its own URL.

Here is the "User Profile" of "dhul":

User Profile

Blogs claimed by "dhul":

* Kecekel Ndown Blogs
* Christmas Graffiti Creator
* Krishna Radha Wallpaper DK
* Racing Car Wallpaper-hd

Note that he lists ten blogs as his. The link for Hendown leads to a copy of my blog, which he calls Hendown, as I have already noted:


Compare his entry for December 16, 2011 with mine for December 15th, 2011:

Korean Unification Gang

Korean Unification Gang

This is just one example. There would be nearly 2,500 in all, as I have said above.

Since "dhul" has clearly copied my blog (and probably nine other blogs), what is Blogger doing to stop this imposter?

Best Regards,

Jeffery Hodges
The Blogger Team replied as I had come to expect:

Thank you for your reply.

We will not be taking any action on your request unless you are able to provide us with the precise post URLs of each alleged instance of copyright infringement along with a corresponding original source URL for each allegedly infringing post. If you are unable to provide us with this information, we will consider this matter closed.


The Google Team
I responded one final time:
I am not unable to supply URLs, but that would be inefficient for both me and The Blogger Team since I would have to send 2500 URLs and your Team would have to check each one individually. I have supplied enough information for your Team to recognize that Hendown is a copy of my blog Gypsy Scholar from 2005 to 2011. The Blogger Team need only look to see, but a click on the links provided seems not to fit the Team's protocol.

You may consider this matter closed, but I consider it open for blogging about.

Best Regards.

Jeffery Hodges
And that's where things stand. Blogger will do nothing to stop an imposter from copying your entire blog unless you report the specific URL for each individual post. No exceptions. They won't even take a look. My experience with The Blogger Team was like dealing with a machine: no imagination, just protocols . . .

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Friday, June 29, 2012

A Caffeinated Life

According to Jane E. Brody, "Having Your Coffee and Enjoying It Too" (New York Times, June 25, 2012), my cup of addiction is good for me. For 32 years now, I've caffeinated myself daily, and a good thing, too, or I might not have lived this long:
Coffee drinkers who were relatively healthy when the study began were less likely than nondrinkers to die of heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, infections, injuries and accidents.
Imagine that! Coffee not only purifies, it sanctifies! Else how but by a higher power could a mere drink avert accidents! Many times, I might have died beneath the wheels of a large automobile, or been crushed to death by a falling, oxymoronically named "safe," or even struck dead by a thundering bolt of lightning directed my way by the devil know what malicious hand, had there been no caffeine coursing through my veins to fortify my good luck and thereby ward off misfortune. I can thus thank coffee for its bountiful gift of life, which has enabled me to reach the ripe old age of 55! This deserves a chorus of "Java Jive," that nineteen-four-aught hit by the Ink Spots, which is available on You Tube, naturally:
I love coffee, I love tea
I love the Java Jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup (Boy!)

I love java, sweet and hot
Whoops Mr. Moto, I'm a coffee pot
Shoot me the pot and I'll pour me a shot
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup

Oh, slip me a slug from the wonderful mug
I'll cut a rug just stuck in a jug
A slice of onion and a raw one
Draw one -
Waiter, waiter, percolator

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the Java Jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup

Oh, Boston beans (soy beans (Yeah!))
Green bean (cabbage and greens (home cookin'))
I'm not keen about a bean
Unless it is a chili chili bean (Boy!)

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the Java Jive and it loves me
Coffee and the tea and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup (Yeah!)

I love java sweet and hot
Whoops Mr. Moto I'm a coffee pot
Shoot me the pot and I'll pour me a shot
A cup, a cup, a cup (Yeah!)

Oh, throw me that slug from the wonderful mug
An' I'll cut a rug till I'm snug in a jug
Drop a nickel in the pot Joe
Take 'em up slow -
Waiter, waiter, percolator

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the Java Jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me (Yeah!)
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, boy!
I don't know what tea is doing in this paean to coffee, other than filling out the meter and providing a rhyme, of course, but I'd rather it were just as there as Russell's infamous celestial teapot ain't there, or to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, that there were no there there. Anyway, the real point is that coffee truly deserves praise for preserving life:
The risk of death gradually dropped as the number of cups the participants drank increased to four or five.
Moreover, it actually rehydrates the body:
Contrary to previous belief, at usual levels of consumption, coffee is not any more of a diuretic than the equivalent amount of water. Up to six cups a day can be counted toward one's recommended liquid intake.
Water of life, boy! Therefore, drink up!

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Copts' Views of Morsi's Victory

Mohamed Morsi

Just as I predicted over a year ago, Islamists have won in Egypt, for the Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamist organization and will strive to institute sharia. Here was my first prediction:
If the protests bring down the Egyptian government, the Islamists will almost certainly take control. See FPRI's Barry Rubin on EGYPT: What the U.S. Should Do.
Here were my second and third predictions, and all three were over a year ago. I seem to have gotten the future right, more or less, and it doesn't bode well for the Copts, several of whom were recently quoted in an article by Jayson Casper, "What Egyptian Christians Think About Their New Islamist President" (Christianity Today, June 25, 2012):
[D]uring his victory speech Morsy sought to assuage the fears of the Copts. "We as Egyptians, Muslims and Christians . . . will face together the strife and conspiracies that target our national unity," he said. "We are all equal in rights, and we all have duties towards this homeland." Morsy even proceeded to resign from the Brotherhood following his victory speech.

Some Copts are not convinced, instead believing the country has been slowly but surely manipulated into Islamist rule.

"We will be quiet now and wait and see," said Nader Wanis, who directs a cultural center in Alexandria. "Some Copts will immediately start to advocate for our rights, but in vain. Muslims are very deceiving; they speak as if they are for human rights but they will give us nothing."

Many expect the worst. "Morsy's win produces many fears for Copts, because he will establish a religious state and is against citizenship," said Nader Shukry of the Maspero Youth Union, a human and Coptic rights organization formed following the post-revolution attacks on churches. "Copts fear we will be isolated from high positions in government and society even worse than we were under Mubarak."

Most nervous are Copts along the Nile River in southern Egypt -- known as Upper Egypt -- whose small communities are often caught between the vagaries of rumor-filled media manipulations. One report circulating from the area, unable to be independently verified, depicts local Islamists as gathering in front of a church and firing celebratory gunfire into the air.
If this trend toward Islamist triumphalism continues, we can expect Christianity to disappear from Egypt much as it has been disappearing from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wither or no . . .

Frittered Away . . .

I taught writing for three hours yesterday morning, then interviewed potential exchange students for four hours in the afternoon, and the entire day, I felt listless, enervated from something like and unlike the flu, for my energy had flown whither I know not, so I went to bed soon after arriving home in the evening around 6:30 and wouldn't have known whether or not to get up again this morning except for the stubborn fact that my writing class is calling me again to work, so no frittering the time away in bed, though I'd rather linger, not malinger, and here am I, blogging away at 4 in the morning shortly before the breakfast that I've a duty to make, and since I've already written one sentence, now withering toward its end, that's enough!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Constance Hale on Sound and Sense

Constance Hale

I came across an interesting analysis by Constance Hale of sense through sound at work in Virginia Woolf's writing:
[The devices of sound and sense] are often obvious in poetry, but we have to look harder to see them in prose, especially because they often work on a subliminal level. What do you notice about the relationship between music and meaning in this passage, from Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse"?
. . . the monotonous fall of the waves on the beach, which for the most part beat a measured and soothing tattoo to her thoughts and seemed consolingly to repeat over and over again as she sat with the children the words of some old cradle song, murmured by nature, 'I am guarding you -- I am your support', but at other times, suddenly and unexpectedly, especially when her mind raised itself slightly from the task actually in hand, had no such kindly meaning, but like a ghostly roll of drums remorselessly beat the measure of life, made one think of the destruction of the island and its engulfment in the sea, and warned her whose day had slipped past in one quick doing after another that it was all ephemeral as a rainbow -- this sound which had been obscured and concealed under the other sounds suddenly thundered hollow in her ears and made her look up with an impulse of terror.
Woolf uses "monotonous," "soothing tattoo" and "murmured" when she's referring to the "kindly meaning" of waves on the beach (and the calming of thoughts) and then "ghostly roll," "remorselessly beat" and "thundered hollow" when she's referring to more ominous forces of nature and consciousness. The first set of words murmurs with soft syllables. The second gives us sounds that register like the beats of a tympanum. (Constance Hale, "The Sound of a Sentence," New York Times, June 11, 2012)

I have to get ready for my intensive writing class soon, so I have little time for comment, except to say that I'm glad to have stumbled across Hale's insightful reading with its attention to sound's contribution to sense in well-written prose.

Even when writing articles for publication, I listen for the sound of my words . . .

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Contagious Holiness in the Old Testament?

Rudolf Otto's book on The Idea of the Holy is worth a close reading, but you'll need to go to Amazon to click on it. I don't recall if Otto analyzes the contagiousness of holiness in the Old Testament, but he does investigate other aspects, such as the danger posed by the holy's powerful dynamism, a related aspect.

I start my intensive writing course today, so I don't have as much time as I'd like to have, and thus didn't find a specific Old Testament passage that I was looking for on the holy's contagiousness, but I found a few useful verses on the transmissibility of holiness.

There is, for instance, Exodus 29:37 (referring to the altar):
Seven days thou dost make atonement for the altar, and hast sanctified it, and the altar hath been most holy; all that is coming against the altar is holy. (Young's Literal Translation)
A bit further is found Exodus 30:29 (referring to effect of holy anointing oil on the tent of meeting, the ark of the testimony, the table and all its vessels, the candlestick and its vessels, the altar of perfume, the altar of burnt-offering and all its vessels, and the laver and its base):
And thou hast sanctified them, and they have been most holy; all that is coming against them is holy; (Young's Literal Translation)
In the biblical book that follows is found Leviticus 6:18 (referring to the food of fire offerings):
Every male among the sons of Aaron doth eat it -- a statute age-during to your generations, out of the fire-offerings of Jehovah: all that cometh against them is holy. (Young's Literal Translation)
In all three of these, the expression "to come against" means "to come into contact with." Much further along -- and perhaps less clear -- is found Ezekiel 44:19 (referring to sacred garments):
And in their going forth unto the outer court -- unto the outer court unto the people -- they strip off their garments, in which they are ministering, and have placed them in the holy chambers, and have put on other garments; and they do not sanctify the people in their own garments. (Young's Literal Translation)
The implication seems to be that if the sacred garments were worn by the priests while they are ministering to the people, the people who come into contact with the priests will become holy, or so other translations say, but I recognize that the translation here is not so clear. By the way, note verse 23, merely four lines further along:
And My people they direct between holy and common, and between unclean and clean they cause them to discern.
This verse is nearly identical to Leviticus 10:10, which we looked at yesterday. Anyway, these verses, or at least three of them, show that the idea of contagious holiness is not foreign to the Old Testament.

I'll continue looking for the passage that I was thinking of but couldn't find today.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Leviticus 10:10 - Parallelism or Chiasm?

The Common?

The Bible-study class that I've been attending has just finished analyzing the book of Hebrews, and we'll be taking a two-month break before starting up again on some new topic. I've suggested that we study the impurity system of the Old Testament because it stands in the background of the New Testament and needs to be thoroughly understood.

I believe I've previously called attention to verse 10 of Leviticus 10, but let's start here anyway, for it 'explains' why the Mosaic Covenant sets forth all sorts of rules, namely:
so as to make a separation
between the holy (qodesh) and the common (chol), and
between the unclean (tame') and the pure (tahowr);
I've borrowed this verse from Young's Literal Translation (YLT), available at the Blue Letter Bible site.

One question that arises is how to understand the structure of this verse: does the structure exhibit parallelism or chiasm?

Normally, the arrangement of a verse this way in the Hebrew Bible manifests parallelism, and this sort of structure is so common, it's called "Hebrew Parallelism." That would therefore be a good first guess.

Against parallelism, however, would be the fact that "the holy" (qodesh) and "the unclean" (tame') are opposites. That might seem the case with "the common" (chol) and "the pure" (tahowr) as well. And since the holy and the pure seem linked conceptually, and the unclean and the common also, then we might want to read this structure as a chiasm.

But not so fast!

If we know a bit more about these categories, then we realize that the holy and the unclean are both dynamic forces in the Hebrew Bible and that the common in its fundamental state is pure, so there seems to be some parallelism after all.

I therefore suggest that this verse is intended to be read as exhibiting both parallelism and chiasm, but we'll need to look into this issue some more another time, so let's just keep it in mind for now.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fool for a Cigarette . . .

Illustration by Holly Wales

Once in a while, I read something that strikes me to the core, and yesterday's something was a column by Duane Tollison about his father, titled "Our Smoking Habit":
A few months into my fourth-grade year, in 1987, my father and I hitched a ride with a trucker in Texas, who drove us all the way north to Rochester, Minn., a small city famous for the Mayo Clinic. We were drifters. We hitchhiked even when I was very young, small enough to sleep on top of a suitcase laid on its side. I never knew exactly why we traveled so much, but Dad seemed to have his reasons, and I trusted him.
Although his father had a temper, he doesn't seem to have been abusive to his kid, either physically or emotionally, for the little boy trusted him at nine years, but this wasn't a normal childhood. His father couldn't hold down a steady job, and their drifting went on long enough for the boy to figure things out by two years later, at age eleven, when his dad quit a normal job after only a brief time working:
Without warning, Dad quit. He said it was because the ceiling leaked into his coffee when it rained. That seemed far-fetched, even to an 11-year-old. I figured he was fired (my dad had a temper) or quit because he couldn't smoke inside. I was disappointed but not surprised. It reinforced my "hope for the best, expect the worst" mentality.
His dad was hooked, as if on drugs, to cigarettes, three packs a day, and too weak-willed, I suppose, to quit. Lacking work, always short on money, and perhaps too proud to lower himself, the father sent the son out into the city streets wearing a big-pocketed jacket for collecting cigarette butts, which satisfied the father's expansive taste for tobacco, but devastated the life of the son:
I wore that same dirty jacket to school. The residue that lined the pockets smudged my hands and got under my fingernails. Most of my classmates believed that, at 11, I smoked. I was taunted: "Ewww, Duane. You smell!" "Smoker!" I had few friends -- some who didn't want me to say hi to them in public.
Those lines come near the end, after which we learn:
Duane Tollison is a writer for CBS Radio News network in New York.
And I wonder, how did he do it? How did he beat the odds? And what became of his father, that fool for a cigarette?

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Friday, June 22, 2012

My Naive Theological Question . . .


Yesterday, I reported that the Southern Baptists are engaged in theological debates over the issue of free will, and I quoted a passage from "A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation":

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person's sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

We deny that Adam's sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person's free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit's drawing through the Gospel.

That raised some questions for me:

Every person purportedly inherits a sinful nature and invariably commits sinful acts, yet the free will of each person is not in any way incapacitated by this sinful nature. How do these two positions fit together, exactly? If a fallen person's free will is not incapacitated, then why couldn't the person be saved through correct moral choices? In other words, why would one need a savior?

An anonymous commentator responded:

Come on, that's not a deep theological puzzle. The world just needs to be stuctured in such a way that at certain inevitable junctions you get no morally sound option, only several sinful acts to freely choose among.

I replied:

It is [a deep theological puzzle] for me, but I'm not so "theologically sophisticated" as you are.

Readers will recall that I admitted as much in my post:

I'm not theologically sophisticated enough to know the finer points of these dogmas . . .

So, don't expect much from me in the way of answers. I have mostly questions. My questions, unfortunately, are not always clear. My anonymous commentator focused on my query as to "why . . . the person [with incapacitated free will couldn't] be saved through correct moral choices" and answered that our world confronts us with tragic choices in which we are forced to choose among various alternatives, each of which requires us to sin in some way or another. That describes the world that we live in, so even a person with a nature not inclined toward sin would be forced into tragic choices and therefore forced to sin.

Except for Jesus, of course, who did not face any tragic choices because his path through the world brought him to confront only morally sound options, such that he was not in all points tested as we are, and was therefore without sin, allowing him to fulfill his soteriological purpose in the world.

But that's a different issue, so let's drop it for now. My real question was this:

Every person purportedly inherits a sinful nature and invariably commits sinful acts, yet the free will of each person is not in any way incapacitated by this sinful nature. How do these two positions fit together, exactly?

I confused the issue with other questions. Let me put it another way. Suppose the world were structured in such a way that we didn't confront tragic choices. The Baptist statement affirms that we would sin anyway because of our sinful nature despite our perfectly free will. Hence my real question, when not conflated with other questions, is this:

How do these two positions fit together, exactly?

I don't know the answer, so I am interested in what others think.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Impaired Free Will

Southern Baptist Convention

The Southern Baptist Convention should be focused on celebrating the first African-American president of its denomination -- one originally formed in support of slavery -- but it's being distracted by a debate over a so-called "semi-Pelagian" heresy in its midst. The Calvinists and Arminians are not at each other's throats on this one, but are together throttling the common Baptist-in-the-Pew understanding of free will and sinful nature. According to "A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation," which presents the average church-going Baptist's view:

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person's sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

We deny that Adam's sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person's free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit's drawing through the Gospel.

This is the common understanding of lay Baptists, but how these two statements fit together is not entirely clear. Hence the joined forces of Calvinists and Arminians, though the latter are surely closer to this typical understanding of Baptists in the pews.

The interesting crux is this: Every person purportedly inherits a sinful nature and invariably commits sinful acts, yet the free will of each person is not in any way incapacitated by this sinful nature. How do these two positions fit together, exactly? If a fallen person's free will is not incapacitated, then why couldn't the person be saved through correct moral choices? In other words, why would one need a savior? This would be the so-called Pelagian heresy. Among the Southern Baptists, however, both Calvinists and Arminians point identify a slightly different heretical view:

[B]oth Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler and George W. Truett Theological Seminary professor Roger Olson, . . . [Calvinist and Arminian, respectively,] said that parts of the document sound like semi-Pelagianism, a traditionally heretical understanding of Christian salvation.

Semi-Pelagianism differs from Pelagianism in that while both affirm that the individual freely makes the first step toward God, semi-Pelagianism makes this a step toward acceptance of saving grace, whereas Pelagianism makes this the first of a series of steps by which one attains moral perfection and thereby saves oneself.

The Calvinists deny free will, which raises the question as to why an unfree person should be held morally culpable.

The Arminians affirm free will, but hold that it is impaired and requires assistance through prevenient grace, given to all, which enables the person to choose to accept saving grace, or so I've been led to understand by my shallow delving into this issue. This avoids the semi-Pelagian threat by affirming that God, not the human being, makes the first move in the initial step toward salvation by extending prevenient grace.

I'm not theologically sophisticated enough to know the finer points of these dogmas, but since my background is Southern Baptist, the issues intrigue me, so perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I could explicate these differences in finer-grained detail.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Proverbial Saying on Wine?

Li Bai Chanting a Poem
Liang K'ai (13th Century)

I came across a 'proverbial' saying yesterday, or it seemed, though I had my doubts as to the proverbial provenance of these words:
Such is the rapture of wine, that the sober shall never inherit.

I read it, did a double-take, then read it again, and again. And again. Something was wrong, and I don't mean the enthusiasm for drunken imbibing of the Dionysiac spirit. Something was wrong with the grammar. After a few moments' reflection, I managed to see the problem. The first clause sets up an expectation that the rapture of wine will do something in the second clause, that something will result from that rapture. Instead, we find the sober as subject, and the sober were not doing something! As if the rapture of wine somehow caused the sober not to inherit. An odd result, that!

I checked around on the internet and found this, the final two lines being what I sought, more or less:
A Vindication

If heaven loved not the wine,
A Wine Star would not be in heaven;
If earth loved not the wine,
The Wine Spring would not be on the earth.
Since heaven and earth love the wine,
Need a tippling mortal be ashamed?
The transparent wine, I hear,
Has the soothing virtue of a sage,
While the turgid is rich, they say,
As the fertile mind of the wise.
Both the sage and the wise were drinkers,
Why seek for peers among gods and goblins?,
Three cups open the grand door to bliss;
Take a jugful, the universe is yours.
Such is the rapture of the wine,
That the sober shall never inherit.

A bit more checking located the author, the great 8th century Chinese poet Li Bai (701-762), who often wrote verse in praise of wine. But who had provided what seemed to me an awkward translation? More searching uncovered the answer: Shigeyoshi Obata (1888-1971). Here's the book this Japanese man published in English of Li Bai's Chinese poetry, though the name is transliterated as "Li-Po":
The Works of Li-Po, The Chinese Poet: Done into English Verse by Shigeyoshi Obata, With an Introduction and Biographical and Critical Matter, Translated from the Chinese (London and Toronto: J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd., 1923)

The use of the definite article before the first reference to wine seems odd, and would be awkward in prose, but it's not impossible, especially in a poem. I should also note that I don't know what "Wine Star" and "Wine Spring" refer to, though this is no fault of the translator, simply pure ignorance on my part (although some footnotes would be helpful). But what's this about "the sage" and "the wise"? Are they different? The two words "sage" and "wise" are synonyms. And "gods" and "goblins"? To seek peers among the gods would be an overweening ambition, but would anybody desire to seek peers among goblins? And should "turgid" be "turbid"? The word "turgid" is placed in contrast with the term "transparent" two lines above, but that better fits a contrast with "turbid." There must be some degree of inadequacy to this translation of what appears to be an intriguing poem. As for my initial puzzlement, I see the solution: Replace "That" with "Which," for the second clause is not an adverbial result clause but a nonrestrictive relative clause. The first clause now points not ahead but behind, to words that promise wine's ability to rapture the drinker to the heights of the universe, where one is lord of all one surveys! The word "Which" in the second clause would probably refer not to "the rapture of wine," but to possession of the universe (i.e., "the universe is yours"), a possession uninherited by the sober, who never "Take a jugful."

The title is nicely done, however, being a subtle pun on wine: "A Vindication."

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Greek Election Bears a Gift for Europe?

Euro Sign of the Times
NYT Image

Everyone's asking about the meaning of the recent Greek vote. Markets swung up high and down low in confused reaction. Let me clarify this for the markets. The Greek vote tells us that misery loves company. Why fail alone when you can fail with about half a billion other folks?

But will the EU really fail?

Success requires more centralization in monetary, fiscal, and political terms, but that would demand each state to give up individual sovereignty, which they might all be loath to do. The future of the EU may have just come down to a democratic vote in Greece, but the voices urging more centralization might insist that the technocrats take charge for now, with a promise of greater democracy for the EU further down the road toward stability.

That would be a risky promise to bank upon.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Vegetable or Fruit: Tomato at Cross-Purposes with Itself?

Cross in a Pickle?
In Hoc Signo Manducare!
ἐν τούτῳ Φάτε!

Worse than Annoying Orange, we now have Cross Tomato -- unfit for Salafi Salad! Or maybe the Salafis themselves are the cross ones, probably even annoyed by crosswalks (too much like a walk to Golgotha!) or being forced to cross their tees when using the Western alphabet (too much like making the sign of the cross). Anyway, don't cross the Salafis by indulging in tomatoes (gasp! -- just noticed two crosses in the very word itself!), and here's why:
A Salafist group called the Popular Egyptian Islamic Association has [sent] . . . out a warning on Facebook urging its followers not to eat tomatoes because the vegetable (or fruit) is a Christian food . . . . [and proved it by posting] a photo on its page of a tomato -- which appears to reveal the shape of a cross after being cut in half -- along with the message: "Eating tomatoes is forbidden because they are Christian. [The tomato] praises the cross instead of Allah and says that Allah is three . . . . I implore you to spread this photo because there is a sister from Palestine who saw the prophet of Allah [Mohammad] in a vision and he was crying, warning his nation against eating them [tomatoes]. If you don't spread this [message], know that it is the devil who stopped you." (Angie Nassar, "Salafist group warns tomatoes are 'Christian,'" Now Lebanon, June 12, 2012)

Well, I'd recently been warning folks that the devil is in the details, and we now see just how true that was. But I didn't expect Old Scratch to be Christian! I'll just have to pay more attention when slicing tomatos so as to circumvent an inadvertent eucharistic meal, lest I cross over to Catholicism! Or is that sign Eastern Orthodox?

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Battle of the Books?

Books, Books, Books . . .

According to Mark Mason, "A conversation across the centuries" (The Spectator, June 14, 2012), "E-books are going to win" our current-day Battle of the Books:
Anyone who's seen a bus or a train carriage or a café lately knows that: Kindles everywhere, as though they're breeding. And that's as it should be. Stand in the way of convenient technology which people want, and you're in the same position as every refusenik from the Luddites to the newspaper unions of the 1980s. But before the printed book takes its final bow, and retreats to its status as endearing novelty, let's take a look at the sort of experience we're going to miss.

Well, Kindle hasn't yet won me over to e-reading of books, but some version of an e-book will overcome my modest resistance, for I'm no refusenik. More of a recusenik, actually, since I tend towards prejudice for the new. My modest resistance is therefore nothing but reluctance to take a side against the so-called 'hard copy' that has long stood me in good stead despite my acknowledged pre-judgment for the shock-troops of the new. I therefore recuse myself from serving as referee to this battle. But let's at least hear Mason out:
A friend recently came across a single volume from an 18th century Spectator series, and knowing of my scribblings for said organ and its website, gave me the book as a present. A little detective work among the dealers in London's Cecil Court put the leather-bound beauty somewhere in the 1780s. (A full set of eight was going for £160 -- my lonely soldier, of course, is worthless.) The collection is of the original Spectator essays produced daily between 1711 and 1714 by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, from which the current magazine (d.o.b. 1828) takes its name. Mine is Volume the Second, containing the essays from June 2nd to September 13th 1711. It measures seven inches by four, the spine is cracked, and if Chanel ever want to create a perfume called 'Stale Dust' they need look no further than these pages for inspiration. At some point in the last couple of centuries -- nearer 1780 than 2012, by the way the ink has faded -- the book has been owned by a person who split up almost every paragraph with forward-slashes between certain sentences. Occasionally the marks occur mid-sentence. My best guess is that they're breathing points. Did the owner recite the essays in the privacy of his room, pretending that he (something tells me it was a he) had penned them himself? Was this the 19th century equivalent of air guitar?

That "lonely soldier" seems to have little fight left in him. We see why the e-book will win. But I'm not supposed to be judging. And I have to confess . . . books and I don't have the sort of relationship described by Mason. I'm not that kind of bibliophile. I'm far more interested in what a writing says, and how it says it, than I am in what the writing is written upon. Perhaps if I were a settled, wealthy man of property with a large house, I could develop a love for the physicality of the book, but I'm a man of little means, a gypsy scholar who can't afford to lug along a library.

No offense intended to that sort of bibliophile collector of books, and none but bibliomaniacs might secrete the stink of bilious public offense (yet be privately, secretly thrilled with excessive good humor at one fewer bookish suitor), so I do not doubt that I can get along with those whom I don't truly oppose, whether belonging to the literary clan of O'Phile or O'Maniac.

I'll depend partly on them to part with their money for any books I might write . . .

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

At the Taphouse Craftworks with Students

Since education takes place not only in classrooms, I invited my Academic English class to drinks at the Taphouse Craftworks yesterday evening, and one of the students -- Jee Heeyoun (지희연), who also goes by "Michelle" -- sent me some photographs afterwards, starting with ugly old me:

Here I am again, looking slightly improved by the 'environment' -- I guess I ought to support environmentalism more fervently now that I see its effectiveness. The student to my left, incidentally, is from Ukraine and speaks four languages: Ukranian, Russian, Korean, and English. I suppose her environment proved its effectiveness as well.

Here are photos of what we were drinking. I went for beer, of course.

The students also went for beer, but a couple of them switched to cocktails. The dregs in this glass are caramel. Hmmm . . .

This second cocktail looks more . . . appetizing, I suppose.

We didn't just drink, of course, since this is all about education. I explained a little about the beer and also regaled the students with tales of my past, such as the time that I served a drink to Queen Elizabeth.

I guess you had to be there . . .

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Friday, June 15, 2012

The Argumentative Edge: Sheridan Baker on Finding a Thesis

How does one arrive at an idea for a thesis? Let's follow a feline to find a fine one since there's nothing like a good catty catfight!

Suppose, suggests Mr. Sheridan Baker, you want to write about cats. Well, what about cats? That's the argumentative edge, or rather a gesture in its direction. Here's what Mr. Baker says about argumentation in The Complete Stylist and Handbook (New York: Harper and Row, 1980):
The about-ness put an argumentative edge on the subject. When you have something to say about cats, you have found your underlying idea. You have something to defend, something to fight about: not just "Cats," but "The cat is really a person's best friend." Now the hackles on all dog people are rising, and you have an argument on your hands. You have something to prove. You have a thesis. (Baker, Complete Stylist, 6-7)

There's more, as in an impudent challenge:
"What's the big idea, Mac?" Let the impudence in that time-honored demand remind you that the most dynamic thesis is a kind of affront to somebody. No one will be very much interested in listening to you deplete the thesis "The dog is a person's best friend." Everyone knows that already. Even the dog lovers will be uninterested, convinced they know better than you. But the cat . . . . (Baker, Complete Stylist, 7)

Why is this? Again, Baker explains:
So it is with any unpopular idea. The more unpopular the viewpoint and the stronger the push against convention, the stronger the thesis and the more energetic the essay. (Baker, Complete Stylist, 7)

How does this apply to academic writing? How? Why entirely. A decent academic paper argues against some other academic's strongly held opinion and tries to demonstrate the writer's own opinion as decidedly better.

It is an argument . . .

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer 2012 Writing Course: Syllabus

I've spent my blogging time this morning polishing the syllabus for my summer writing course, so I'm going to inflict the result upon my sharp-eyed readers, who will catch my errors and politely point them out:

Ewha Writing Intensive School
Horace Jeffery Hodges

We will meet four days (M-Th) per week from 9 to 12 each day for four weeks, with two short breaks every day dividing each class time into three sessions, 1) Discussion, 2) Lesson on Writing Skills, and 3) In-Class Writing Practice, as shown below:

Time: 9 am-12 pm. (4 days a week: Total 4 weeks)
Daily Schedule
Analysis of Writing Samples: Excerpts from Magazines, Journals, Books and so on.
Lesson on Writing Skills
Lessons on the Mechanics of Writing: Grammar/Syntax/Structure/Organization/Style/Coherence/Analysis of Student Writings.
In-Class Writing Practice
Application of Lessons:
 Outline and Draft Creation/Format Styles/Peer Editing/Instructor Feedback/Review of Student Writings.
(Short breaks between class sessions)

We will not rigidly adhere to this schedule, but remain flexible enough to meet students' needs.

Week 1: Sentences and Paragraphs

Week 2: Entire Essay

Week 3: Entire Essay with Citations and Bibliography

Week 4: Entire Essay with Citations and Bibliography

The aim of the course will be to work on a research paper with either MLA style or APA style. Googling "OWL Purdue" will introduce you to these styles.

Materials for Course:

There will be no textbook, but handouts will be provided. You will need to bring a laptop computer to class each day (keep the batteries charged) since we will work every day on writing. From each student, I will need a Gmail address (or other non-Korean address) because Korean email companies reject my emails as spam.

My Qualifications:

If I'm allowed to exaggerate, I've been teaching writing for 38 years! At seventeen, I was once asked by my high school English teacher to grade and correct the essays for his tenth grade class. My career perhaps started then, but I didn't work as grader and corrector of essays again until my senior year at Baylor University, when I was twenty-one and worked for two semesters doing that. I left Baylor with a BA in English literature, but studied history at UC Berkeley for my MA and PhD. As a graduate student, I taught undergraduates from the time I was 23 until I finished my doctorate, and I've been teaching writing courses regularly ever since.

I've tried to find time to write a bit myself, and I've published over thirty articles in the humanities (using MLA, APA, and CMS styles), around twenty-five poems, and about five short stories. In my pursuit of graduate and postdoctoral studies on various scholarships, e.g., Fulbright, Friedrich Naumann, and Golda Meir fellowships, I have also done a lot of writing, primarily academic pieces. I have worked editing my wife's translations of Korean literature on grants offered by the Korea Literature Translation Institute, along with other editing work for various scholarly journals, all of which entails a lot of rewriting other people's work. Finally, I have worked for the Daesan Foundation as a judge of Korean literature in English translation, which requires me to offer some editorial remarks about translations that need some touching up.

Those are my qualifications, I reckon . . .
There it is, my summer syllabus in all its chartered glory, laid out for your critiques, dear readers!

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sheridan Baker's "Keyhole" Structure for the Entire Essay, Plus Innovations

On page 70 of Sheridan Baker, The Complete Stylist and Handbook (New York: Harper and Row, 1980), appears a diagram representing the structure of a standard essay. Baker called this diagam "The Keyhole" and offered it as a checklist for ensuring that beginning students didn't forget what their essays needed to include. I failed to find a copy of the handbook's original diagram, so I can only describe it as follows:

"The Keyhole"

Title of Essay

Introductory Paragraph's
Opening Invitation

Last Sentence

Standard Body Paragraphs, Each With Topic Sentence

Present Weakest Argument First

Lead Up to Strongest Argument, the Last in the Body of the Essay

Illustrate Each Topic Sentence
With Facts and Examples,
Explained with Reasons,
In Vivid and Lively Language

Concluding Paragraph's
Beginning Sentence (=Reworded Thesis)

Broadening Out to
The Final Sentence and Last Word (=Clincher)

That's supposed to look somewhat like an old-fashioned keyhole, though I doubt that students today have ever seen the sort of keyhole depicted in Baker's text, especially since many 'keyholes' these days lack even a hole for a key, the key being magnetically coded for its particular door.

I couldn't draw one of my own, not being expert in that part of the Blogger Tech, but I found three online exemplars, the first by Glen Dawursk, Jr. Let's call it Keyhole 1:

This Keyhole 1 is very similar to what I've described above, albeit simpler, and it is explained in more detail at Dawursk's site.

Next up is Keyhole 2, by Janice Campbell:

More detailed, but its details are not so precisely placed, e.g., the words "Supporting Paragraphs" have displaced the position of "Thesis"! An oversight, no doubt. More information is available at Campbell's site.

Finally comes Keyhole 3, by Bill Drew, whom I'm quoting here on my personal blog and to whom all copyright credit is due:

Even more elaborate, this advanced keyhole requires a visit to Drew's site for explanation, and one might wish to investigate his site further, for he appears to have put a great deal of thought into essay writing, enough to have made a business of it.

Anyway, I've gone to the trouble of finding these exemplars because I'll need to show my students what I mean by "The Keyhole" as depicted by Sheridan Baker.

Perhaps they're also of interest to some of my readers . . .

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Complete Short Sample Essay: Adapted from Sheridan Baker

The following is a very short sample adapted from an essay on pages 128 through 129 of Sheridan Baker, The Complete Stylist and Handbook (New York: Harper and Row, 1980):
For most Americans, the stock-market crash was not the worst thing about the Depression. True, it carried away billions of dollars of investors' money, but relatively few felt directly affected. Few owned stock, and for most, the market collapse was something that happened to other people. Of course, the stock-market collapse was only the trigger, and more and more Americans soon found their lives directly affected. By 1932, twenty-five percent of the workers had no jobs. Yet, for many Americans, the worst thing about the Depression was not the bank closures, or being out of work, or even shortages of food and clothing. For many, the worst thing about the Depression was it lasted so long they almost gave up hoping times would ever get better.

George Harris of Wellsburg, West Virginia, is a good example of how the Depression hit most Americans. In 1931, Mr. Harris had a job with the Green Coal Company working on a boat that pushed coal barges up and down the Ohio River. His income was generally pretty good, and Mr. Harris had managed to buy a small farm just outside of town. But cutbacks in industrial production, particularly in the production of steel, soon forced cutbacks in coal mining as well. And in August of 1931, Mr. Harris was laid off. The next year, in 1932, the McLain County Bank closed, and with it went the only savings the Harrises had, $400, although he did later manage to collect ten percent of his lost savings. And so for the next seven years, Mr. Harris bounced from job to job, whatever he could get: a few days here, a few days there. He was thus able to hold onto his small farm, and he raised most of the food on it for the Harris family for the next seven years. Mrs. Harris, too, helped to economize by making most of the family's clothes and by repairing things when they wore out. In this way, taking one day at a time and living as simply and frugally as possible, the Harrises managed to survive until, in 1938, Mr. Harris once again got a secure and well-paying job, this time with the County Road Commission. The Harris family is therefore a good example of how the Depression hit a lot of people.

As with the Harrises, for many Americans, the worst thing about the Depression was not the deprivation; it was simply that the Depression went on year after year. As Mr. Harris observed, "Seven years is a long time to keep hoping. It just went on so long." Like the Harrises, many lost some savings, lost their jobs, and had to tighten their belts, but also managed to survive. The stock-market collapse had initially seemed far away, but its shock waves reverberated through the entire economy for so long that a great number of Americans came to fear that the Depression would never end. Toward the end of the 1930s, however, it did begin to ease, though full recovery occurred only in the wartime economy of the early 1940s, when Americans' worst fears turned to worries other than the economy.

Note the three types of paragraphs: an introductory paragraph beginning broadly and narrowing down to its final sentence as thesis statement; a body paragraph with initial topic sentence, several supporting sentences, and final concluding sentence; and a concluding paragraph opening narrowly focused on its initial sentence as restated thesis statement before broadening out.

I'll offer this to my summer students for the purpose of analyzing essay structure.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Robert Koehler on Homebrewing in Korea

Robert Koehler -- long-time American expat in Korea, gifted linguist, and Korea cultural specialist -- has a fascinating article, "Something's Brewing," in Seoul Selection (June 2012), but one that doesn't seem to appear online, an unfortunate lapse, for it concerns a special interest of mine: good beer in Korea. The most astonishing piece of information details the homebrewing mania in this country:
Korea's homebrewing scene is a lot larger than you might think. For beer alone, Kim [Wook-youn, of Goodbeer shop in Bulgwang-dong,] estimates there are about 17,000 homebrewers.

Obviously, most of these brewers are Koreans who've experienced good beer and are no longer willing to drink the fizzy yellow drinks that the big Korean companies sell as 'beer.' Moreover, if enough Koreans can petition the National Assembly to alter the beer distribution laws that -- insofar as I've been told (not having read these particular laws) -- forbid microbreweries from bottling their brews for sale, and thus limit microbreweries' sales to unbottled, private affairs or to beer on tap in bars operated by the microbreweries, then beer-drinking culture will achieve the same heights as coffee-drinking culture already has, with Korean-made beers equalling or supassing the excellent foreign imports.

I'd quote more from the article, except that I'd have to type it out . . .

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sheridan Baker: Standard Concluding Paragraph

Landing of the Pilgrims (circa 1805)
Michele Felice Cornè

I've recently posted a sample of an introductory paragraph and a body paragraph, both from Sheridan Baker, and I'm now offering a concluding paragraph, but an introductory paragraph is first necessary for the concluding paragraph to make sense, and this one is also from Baker, The Complete Stylist and Handbook (New York: Harper and Row, 1980), borrowed from a student of his:
Americans are materialistic. Newspapers and magazines are full of articles about the way greedy American materialism is burning up the world's supply of fuel, eating great quantities of food while others starve, and polluting the rivers and the atmosphere. The "Protestant Work Ethic," inherited from our Pilgrim forefathers, is supposed to be driving us to materialistic ruin. Nevertheless, the Pilgrims had a point. Work is not only essential to modern society but beneficial to the individual in nonmaterialistic ways. (Baker, Complete Stylist, 71)

That was the introductory paragraph, and here's the concluding paragraph from the same essay:
The wish to work, and the satisfaction, are actually psychological, not material. I once said to my dad, when he congratulated me on my paycheck, "But I'm really not doing this for the money -- I really don't know why I'm doing it." He said, "You're doing it to prove to yourself that you can do a job in the world, and do it well, that you can make it on your own if you have to." That really is the psychological satisfaction in work. You demonstrate to yourself that you are useful and able in the adult world. The paychecks and raises, although they are materialistic in themselves, are symbols of your ability to please others in a useful way, to be respected for your ability, and to stand on your own feet. (Baker, Complete Stylist, 75)

This concluding paragraph -- in a sense -- is the introductory paragraph turned upside down. The thesis from that paragraph's final sentence is restated in this paragraph's first sentence, after which the paragraph broadens out to finish in a clincher, a final statement that offers a broader point based on the essay but going beyond it, often offering ideas worthy of further investigation.

I'll provide this concluding paragraph to my students this summer -- both paragraphs, in fact, so that the concluding paragraph will make sense, as I said above, but I'll present them unlabeled and in reverse order, for the students to figure out which is which.

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Saturday, June 09, 2012

Sheridan Baker: Standard Middle Paragraph

Great Soccer
En-Uk Sequoya Hwang

Here's a good middle paragraph offered by Sheridan Baker in The Complete Stylist and Handbook (New York: Harper and Row, 1980), the sort of paragraph that belongs in the body of an essay:
Sports demand an effort of will and muscle that is healthful for the soul as well as the body. Swimming is physically healthful, of course, although it may seem undemanding and highly conducive to lying for hours inert on a deck chair in the sun. But the first dive into the pool is always cold: taking the plunge always requires some effort of will. And the swimmer soon summons his will to compete, against himself or others, for greater distances and greater speed, doing twenty laps where he used to do one. Similarly, tennis takes quantities of energy, physical and moral, especially when the competition stiffens under a hot sun. Team sports, like basketball, baseball, and volleyball, perhaps demand even more of the amateur. The awkward player is miserable when he strikes out, or misses an easy fly, or an easy basket, no matter how patient his teammates are. He must drive himself to keep on trying, no matter how heavy his heart. Whatever the sport, a little determination can eventually conquer one's awkwardness and timidity, and the reward will be more than physical. Character and health frequently go hand in hand. (Baker, Complete Stylist, 59)

Baker doesn't mention soccer, but it also belongs among the team sports that "demand even more of the amateur," so I used one of my son's artworks depicting soccer, his belovéd sport.

Anyway, this paragraph is useful for its initial, topic sentence (introducing the paragraph's main point), its illustrative supporting sentences (providing evidence and reasons to support the main point), and its ultimate, concluding sentence (summarizing the main point).

Note the use of concrete, specific details in the supporting sentences.

I'll be using this paragraph as a model in my summer writing course.

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Friday, June 08, 2012

Sheridan Baker: Sample Introductory Paragraph

From Sheridan Baker's Complete Stylist and Handbook (New York: Harper and Row, 1980), I borrow the following introductory paragraph:
Jefferson believed in democracy because he firmly believed in reason. He knew that reason was far from perfect, but he also knew that it was the best faculty we have. He knew that it was better than all the frightened and angry intolerances with which we fence off our own back yards at the cost of injustice. Thought must be free. Discussion must be free. Reason must be free to range among the widest possibilities. Even the opinion we hate, and have reasons for believing wrong, we must leave free so that reason can operate on it, so that we can advertise our belief in reason and demonstrate a faith unafraid of the consequences -- because we know that the consequences will be right. Freedom is really not the aim and end of Jeffersonian democracy: freedom is the means by which democracy can rationally choose justice for all. (Baker, Complete Stylist, 52)

This is a good introductory paragraph for 'introducing' the standard form of an essay's introductory paragraph. It offers something of a 'hook' to catch the reader's attention -- a pairing of "democracy" with "reason," which two things often seem wildly unconnected to one another.

From that broad opening, the paragraph narrows down to its point, the thesis statement linking "freedom," "democracy," "reason" (i.e., "rationally"), and "justice" in an argument ready to be defended in the body of the essay to follow.

I'll be using this paragraph as a model in my summer writing course.

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Glenn Downing Meets Paik Nam June and Talks about Texas

Glenn Downing

I was drawn to this interview by John Aäsp, "Glenn Downing, Nam June Paik, and Jackelope (an Interview)" (Glasstire, June 4th, 2012), with the artist Glenn Downing because he is a 'hillbilly' artist from Texas who spent time working with a Korean video artist -- the famous Nam June Paik -- and teaches film criticism in Waco, so our lives overlap considerably since I'm a hillbilly who spent time in Waco, Texas and ended up in Korea with an interest in art, among other things. Here's how Downing recalls working for Paik:
Nam June came in one day and we met. At some point he just said "By the way, if you have some time, I need somebody to go buy some TVs . . ." or something to that effect. That's how it started. I ended up going with him to Korea and Japan and Europe, all over . . . . He was a nice guy. A great guy. That's the best compliment you can give to anybody really, that they were a good person. He wasn't somebody who was arrogant or had some kind of ego. That wasn't the way he was. He was an innovator. I really think he changed art. Funny thing was that Nam June wasn't that technical. He had ideas. I think that's why we got along. He would get the right people to help him with the technology. He really had kind of a junky way of putting stuff together, and we related in that respect because that was my way of putting things together. He wasn't a micro manager. The crew would know exactly what to do, no matter where we were. He trusted us . . . . And you know, we wouldn't sit around and philosophize about art. I've eaten more lunches with Nam June . . . than most anyone else in my life, except maybe my parents. That's what we liked to do -- sit and have a big lunch and drink coffee and beer and have dessert -- I mean we went the whole nine yards. That’s where all the planning took place. A lot of people don't know who they are I'm ashamed to say. I think Bill Viola put it best when he spoke at Nam June's funeral. He said when you went to the top of a snowy mountain and saw footprints ahead of you, those were Nam June's footprints. The rest of us just followed. Nam June blazed the path.

Fascinating memories. He also recalls the Texas of an era that I knew, and that era also fit the Ozarks, a wild place in more than the sense intended by Mama Nature, so I know just what he means by this:
Back in the 70s I looked at a movie called Jackelope that really changed my perspective. It profiles James Surls, Bob Wade and George Green. Each one of them is very different, but very Texas. James Surls is one of those artists I've always looked to as a great sculptor, drawer, you know. There's a scene where Bob Wade comes to Waco and goes out with some guys and they blow stuff up, shoot guns at old cars and Wade takes pictures. I saw that as a young artist and was impressed. It showed me that a young kid from China Spring could make art and be serious about it, but you could have a beard, use a chainsaw and drink beer. They were bad-asses. I like that Texas flavor and I don't see as much of that now.

Yeah, that's gone. The only folks blowing things up these days are Islamist blowhards acting like ersatz-redneck militias in the boondocks, but I don't think they're into the arts. I've not seen the film Jackelope, but it was made in 1975 -- the year I moved to Texas -- so it likely captures and encapsulates that era since it's a documentary, though I didn't know much about art back then. A "jackelope" -- usually spelled "jackalope" -- is said to be a horned jackrabbit that resulted from an unatural crossbreeding in the wild between pygmy-deer and jackrabbits, a biological impossibility, but that didn't stop tourist-traps from selling postcards depicting the critters or even selling 'stuffed' jackalopes replete with antlers. I don't know what, precisely, this mythical animal has to do with the film, nor the reason for the variant spelling in the film's title.

Glasstire, by the way, is another one of those unsoliticited magazines that I'm given internet access to. I don't know why . . . though maybe because of the free advertising in blog posts like this one . . .

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Edgar Meyer's Novelties: Interface of Art and Science

Texas A and M
Edgar Meyer

A couple of days ago, when I blogged on the Swiss city of Basel, I received an email from a Mr. Edgar Meyer -- whom I later discovered was a Professor Edgar Meyer -- inquiring if he could have copies of 'my' photos of the Basel scenes. I quickly explained that the photos weren't mine, that they were from a couple of online sites, and that he could borrow them in the same way that I had.

In responding to his email, I noticed that he had a website titled Molecular Sculptures, which sounded interesting, so I clicked onto that and discovered this:
Welcome to a novel art form = molecular models, sculptures, and abstractions.

Nature, reflected in the life sciences, offers a living demonstration of the vitality of form and function. We see function all around us, but the forms escape our eyes at the molecular (nano) scale, because they are so very small. The physical methods of crystallography, NMR, and cryo-electron microscopy open our eyes to minute molecules.

Here, you will see how physical descriptors of atoms and molecules can be cast into noble hardwoods and metals. To the non-scientist, these may appear as esoteric forms of abstract art. And even to the scientist not accustomed to working with molecular structures, the forms will appear foreign, exotic. In any event, seek and see beauty as revealed by Nature herself. Some viewers may see a resemblance to the work of contemporary architect-sculptors like Maya Lin, or the use of natural wood surfaces by Isamu Noguchi or George Nakashima but for others it may look just like college biochemistry -- see for yourself.

That sounded intriguing, and I liked his quote from C. P. Snow's famous work, "The Two Cultures":
"It is bizarre how very little of twentieth-century science has been assimilated into twentieth-century art."

I've always been interested in both . . . though I'm not talented in either science or art. Professor Meyer, however, has talent in both, for he is a chemist familiar with molecular structures and an artist who derives inspiration from nature's molecules.

I won't attempt to describe Professor Meyer's art, except to say that much of it does look like molecules -- and for the good reason that much of it is meant to model molecules and depict nature's own abstract, concrete beauty. Go, and see for yourself.

Before posting this entry about Professor Meyer's website, I checked with him to make sure that he wouldn't mind if I blogged on his work. He gave permission and followed up with a further informative email:
Thank you for your kind comments on my web pages. I like the diversity of your web site -- it was your blog on Basel that caught my eye. With a B.A. from Baylor, are you originally from Texas? I taught and ran a research lab for 36 years at A and M before retiring in Taos. So, let me give you a bit of background.

This year marks the centennial of the discovery of X-ray diffraction, the physical method for determining the precise structure of atoms, ions, and molecules. The year 2014 will be named the "International Year of Crystallography" by UNESCO to commemorate the contributions of the field to knowledge and mankind. These contributions are monumental, because they illuminate our vision of matter on the atomic scale. Think of vitamins, penicillin and other antibiotics, insulin, haemoglobin, DNA, or RNA -- these would remain mere symbols were it not for the contributions of the crystallographic method to define the positions of atoms in space.

After ca. 40 years as an academic crystallographer, I have undertaken to depict molecules as tangible sculptures, first in noble hardwoods and now as man-sized bronze sculptures.

To this end, I have been using modelling tools to create photographic images of virtual molecules exhibited in public spaces. To many, they may appear as 'modern art' but some might ask "what is it?", opening the door to an understanding of the complex architecture of the nano-world of science.

Here, you will find such juxtapositions.

Here are provisional images of drug and biological molecules not yet on my web site.

I'll be happy to provide details if you have questions.

Regular followers of my blog will recall that although I hail from the Arkansas Ozarks, I spent nearly five years in Texas, and that great state left its mark on me before I headed on for Berkeley for graduate studies, where I actually learned a little about x-ray crystallography in the history of biology in studying how Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA. You see, education is never wasted, and even though I switched from history of science to a different field, I still have a point of contact that enables me to connect in ways that I'd otherwise be unable to.

Moreover, I like the interface between science and art, and I do have questions, as might some readers, questions that Professor Meyer seems willing to respond to, so I encourage readers to check out his website and find answers . . .

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