Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Too Colorful Satan?

Bones' Sculpture

Bienvenido Bones Banez, Jr., a surrealist artist from the Philippines, apparently suffered a tragic experience with his art when he sculpted a Colorful Satan and conferred upon his creation the role of a creature who adds "color to the world" within a felix culpa economy of salvation, for at the time that he sculpted the 'diabolical' statue you see depicted above, a group of young people calling themselves the "666 Gang" wreaked acts of vandalism upon Davao City in the Philippines in the name of their "Satanic Fraternity" -- their own words -- and thereby set in motion a reaction to Bien's statue that resulted in its transfer to a different province, where it languished far from viewers' curious eyes but under the watchful, glaring eye of the sun, under whose withering gaze, the colors gradually faded.

A sad tale, especially since Bien had no inkling -- as he vows, "so help me God," to have known nothing of the "666 Gang" -- that his sculpture would be considered so dangerously diabolical, but he is philosophical:
Well, that's life's manifestation of becoming and actualization in God's plan for surrealist artists.
Or is that not so much philosophical as theological? If you click on the image above, you should be able to read Bones' own words on what transpired and judge for yourself.

Meanwhile, you can visit the artist's website, where he presents his own "666 World" of art, by which I believe he means to say that we're already living in the tribulation, a sort of "realized eschatology" (if I might borrow an expression from Rudolf Bultmann).

On felix culpa soteriology, see here, but more here.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Truth in Orthodoxy . . . Or in Bucking Orthodoxy?


In light of my post two days ago -- about Lindall's talk on "Satan's Peculiar Grace" and Bien's "Satanic Free Rhapsody" -- the artist Orin Buck sent those of us in the WAH Circle a 'peculiar' email:
Terry, are you guys going to start a new schism in the Western Church, advocating an appreciation for Satan's role in God's Plan? That would also fit with the appreciation of Judas as Christ's collaborator in the Salvation of Man -- you should include that, also. I think that view has an older precedent, which is always good.
Orin's link led to this surprising 'revelation': "Judas the Misunderstood: Vatican moves to clear reviled disciple's name" (Times Online, January 2006):
Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus with a kiss, is to be given a makeover by Vatican scholars . . . . on the ground that he was not deliberately evil, but was just "fulfilling his part in God's plan" . . . . [A] campaign led by Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, head of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Science, is aimed at persuading believers to look kindly at a man reviled for 2,000 years . . . . Brandmuller told fellow scholars it was time for a "re-reading" of the Judas story. He is supported by Vittorio Messori, a prominent Catholic writer close to both Pope Benedict XVI and the late John Paul II . . . . Messori said that the rehabilitation of Judas would "resolve the problem of an apparent lack of mercy by Jesus toward one of his closest collaborators" . . . . [and he added] that there was a Christian tradition that held that Judas was forgiven by Jesus and ordered to purify himself with "spiritual exercises" in the desert . . . . Father Allen Morris, Christian Life and Worship secretary for the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, said: "If Christ died for all -- is it possible that Judas too was redeemed through the Master he betrayed?" . . . . The move to clear Judas's name coincides with plans to publish the alleged Gospel of Judas for the first time in English, German and French. Though not written by Judas, it is said to reflect the belief among early Christians -- now gaining ground in the Vatican -- that in betraying Christ Judas was fulfilling a divine mission, which led to the arrest and Crucifixion of Jesus and hence to man's salvation . . . . The "Gospel of Judas," a 62-page worn and tattered papyrus, was found in Egypt half a century ago and later sold by antiquities dealers to the Maecenas Foundation in Basle, Switzerland.
That was back in 2006, and I've not heard that anything has come of it, but a similar idea was entertained by none other than Jorge Luis Borges in the short story "Three versions of Judas" way back during the twilight of the Nazi gods in 1944. The protagonist of this story was a Swedish theologian named Nils Runeberg whose scriptural investigations combined with a bent toward metaphysical speculations and led not merely to a complete rehabilitation of Judas, but indeed to that disciple's apotheosis in Runeberg's magnum opus:
Toward the end of 1907, Runeberg finished and revised the manuscript text; almost two years passed without his handing it to the printer. In October of 1909, the book appeared with a prologue (tepid to the point of being enigmatic) by the Danish Hebraist Erik Erfjord and bearing this perfidious epigraph: In the world he was, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not (John 1:10). The general argument is not complex, even if the conclusion is monstrous. God, argues Nils Runeberg, lowered himself to be a man for the redemption of the human race; it is reasonable to assume that the sacrifice offered by him was perfect, not invalidated or attenuated by any omission. To limit all that happened to the agony of one afternoon on the cross is blasphemous. To affirm that he was a man and that he was incapable of sin contains a contradiction; the attributes of impeccabilitas and of humanitas are not compatible. Kemnitz admits that the Redeemer could feel fatigue, cold, confusion, hunger and thirst; it is reasonable to admit that he could also sin and be damned. The famous text "He will sprout like a root in a dry soil; there is not good mien to him, nor beauty; despised of men and the least of them; a man of sorrow, and experienced in heartbreaks" (Isaiah 53:2-3) is for many people a forecast of the Crucified in the hour of his death; for some (as for instance, Hans Lassen Martensen), it is a refutation of the beauty which the vulgar consensus attributes to Christ; for Runeberg, it is a precise prophecy, not of one moment, but of all the atrocious future, in time and eternity, of the Word made flesh. God became a man completely, a man to the point of infamy, a man to the point of being reprehensible -- all the way to the abyss. In order to save us, He could have chosen any of the destinies which together weave the uncertain web of history; He could have been Alexander, or Pythagoras, or Rurik, or Jesus; He chose an infamous destiny: He was Judas.
The fictional Runeberg went far beyond the rehabilitation of Judas proposed by the Catholic scholar Monsignor Brandmuller, but should one not expect a Protestant to forge far beyond Catholics in heresy, there being fewer institutional boundaries and more theological splitting?

Only a writer like Borges could come up with such a fictional economy of salvation, more fabulous even than the utopian economy of salvation concocted by Karl Marx! As an Italian girlfriend of thirty years ago once told me, "Marxists read Marx, bourgeoisie read Borges." Like her, I prefer the latter's fiction over that of the former . . .

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Re-Reading? Again?

Joan Wickersham
Writer, Reader, and Re-Reader

A few years ago, I decided that I would only re-read books because the old books were better and the new ones boring.

I soon came to my senses, and not only because I discovered David Mitchell, though that did help win me back over to new books.

But I do love re-reading, though when I was long ago 18 and started reading serious literature seriously -- and deeply enjoying it -- I couldn't imagine reading a book more than once. There were so many great novels to read, why waste time reading the same one again?

Joan Wickersham must have felt rather like me as a college freshman:
When I was 18, I became friends with a writer who was in his early 30s, and I asked him one day what he was reading. "Actually," he said, "I've gotten to the stage where I've started re-reading." Oh, dear, I thought, I guess he's run out of books. I felt a little sorry for him, and also alarmed by the notion that maybe there were only enough good books in the world to occupy me for another dozen years or so. Was my friend hinting that there comes a point when we're all stuck with reruns?
But she eventually changed her mind, and tells us why the rest of us do, too:
Now, more than three decades later, I know what he meant. You never run out of good books, but as much fun as it is to discover something new, one of life's great joys is re-reading: going back to a book for the second or third or fifth time, and seeing how it has deepened and expanded since your last visit.
How do books deepen and expand? We all know why:
The books change because we change. The great books get greater as we understand them better: reading them over and over, and knowing that we will never be finished.
This is true of the great books, which demonstrates why Ms. Wickersham that day titled her opinion piece "The joy of re-reading" (Boston Globe, January 25, 2013).

But not-so-great books also change because we change, only they contract, grow shallower, diminish -- like something from childhood that now seems small and childish, a sandbox after seeing the Sahara. No real joy there, just nostalgia . . .

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Terrance Lindall: Report on "Satan's Peculiar Grace"


The artist Terrance Lindall, who illustrated my novella, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer (available here), gave a lecture Saturday at the opening reception of the WAH Center's 14th Annual Salon Art Club Show and thereby offered his rather unorthodox hermeneutic thoughts on the figure of Satan in John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost, after some initial, introductory words:
I followed [the introductory remarks] with an extempore lecture on why Satan has graces, id est, he is God's hoe, weeding out the unfit, and because of him there was the "fortunate fall." He actually loved God and wanted God's love so much he became angered at being replaced by the Son. He is loyal to his followers and so much admired in Heaven that he took 1/3 of the angels with him against God Himself. I spoke of Satan's discovery of a greater depth in his own self after he was vanquished to find on the flaming pool of fire that he still possessed a remarkable "unconquerable will" and was through that able to rise up and rally his troops. I spoke of Bien's concept of Satan giving color to the world, inspiring artists and writers of all generations. And more. I threw in a lot of quotes from Paradise Lost describing the war in heaven, the rout, and Satan's meeting with his progeny at the gates of Hell. And I spoke of Milton's defense of free speech.
I'd like to have heard that lecture, and perhaps I still can, for Terrance seems to imply the possibility:
We will have more photos and a video soon.
And in the tradition of provocateur sponsoring provocateur, Terrance introduced the artist Bien, who apparently also possesses musical talent:
A fabulous evening! Bien started off with an intriguing and hair-raising Satanic Piano Free Rhapsody . . . . Afterward Bien played an even more exotic and inspiring Satanic Free Rhapsody while speaking out phrases and words like "666 . . . we are born into the world, we live, we die . . . Satan, etc."
Here's a photo of Bien from one of those two performances.


Concerning Bien's views on "Satan giving color to the world, inspiring artists and writers of all generations" . . . there's an ironic aspect of the Romantic Movement in the arts that sees itself as sharing something in common with the Devil, namely, his status as rebel, an irony in that human creativity in the arts is often considered a reflection of God's creativity. The resolution of these two diametrically opposed views lies in recognizing that Satan himself is an artist who mimics divine creativity even in his rebellion. Every little rebel borrows from whatever is being rebelled against, but those little eddies of resistance swirling against the tide refract and reflect the light in ways that do add color to the world, as Bien maintains . . .

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ozark Photographer Tim Ernst on the Loss of a Very Special Dog . . .

Aspen Flying
Tim Ernst

As every dog-lover knows, dogs are special, so emotionally attentive to people and intelligent enough to understand what people want of them -- so much like human beings . . . except their lives are far too short. Famed Ozark photographer Tim Ernst reports from his Cloudland Cabin on the recent loss of his dog Aspen after thirteen years together in the Boston Mountains of the Ozarks:
January 21, 2013: [In Memory of a Dog called "Aspen"]

There is an eerie calm, a stark quietness . . . at the cabin this morning . . . . [My wife and I] have taken a deep breath at the emptiness, and cannot let go. This amazing dog has been a constant fixture at Cloudland for more than 13 years, and it may take that long to not look in the room each time we enter to see if he is there. Of course, his spirit will always be here . . . . We were told . . . a couple of years ago that Aspen would soon be eat[en] up with cancer, but like everything else in his life he simply continued right on . . . living and hardly slowed down at all . . . .

Then the nerves to his hips started to erode . . . . He eventually lost the ability to use his hips to get up off the ground . . . . On Christmas night a winter storm rolled through, leaving 3-5 inches of snow on the ground. When I got up around 4 a.m., I discovered that Aspen was not in his bed and a chill ran down my spine . . . . I knew something was wrong, and I ran out the front door. I found him hiking around in the snow with a smile on his face, and I breathed a huge sign of relief. Until I saw the ground around him and realized what had happened. He had gone outside in the middle of the night to pee, and with the steps snow-covered, he was unable to climb up them -- in fact it appeared that he tried many times and slipped and fell down each time. It was FRIGID out, with the wind blowing and the temps way below freezing. To keep warm he simply started to walk around, and walk, and walk, and walk. I found three places where the snow had melted all the way to the bare earth -- he had fallen and it took him so much time to get himself back up that the snow melted underneath. He literally made HUNDREDS of trips back and forth, as every square inch of the front yard was covered with his tracks -- I bet he walked several miles in the snow, pacing back and forth. It was a scene that brought horror to my heart.

From that night forward, Aspen was never been able to get back into the cabin on his own again . . . . The funny thing, up until literally the very last day -- was that once up on his feet, Aspen could hike for miles, and often did. He . . . would hike out to the mailbox and back (three miles) several times a week . . . . [a]nd often . . . hike the "loop" around our end of the mountain, about a mile through the forest and meadows. But recently, he was unable to hike completely around the loop . . . and would turn around and head back to the cabin -- that was not a good sign . . . .

I know . . . the difficult decision of when to pull the plug . . . and . . . our decision was compounded by the fact that Aspen seemed to be totally thrilled to be out in the woods hiking . . . and even though he had reached the point where he could no longer take care of himself, we just couldn't do it . . . . [F]or the past several months I've considered every single hike we went on as his last . . . just . . . that you never know when the end is going to come. And nearly each time at some point I was down on my knees in the leaves with him and the tears would flow. And yet there was tremendous happiness on both sides . . .

We all took our last hike on Friday [the 18th of January], and Aspen was happy and eager to make the complete loop around the mountain, through the forest, and across the meadows he had called home for more than 13 years. Towards the end of this hike we all sat down on a sunny slope in the woods -- and everyone knew it would be the last hike -- it's just one of those things.

On the way to town Saturday morning we stopped and Aspen got to dip . . . [his] toes into the Buffalo River, another one of his playgrounds all these years. I never knew a dog that could spend so much time in the water swimming, and swimming, and swimming. And then once in town I took him out into the woods near where I grew up -- in fact the very same woods where I took my first steps. And we hiked a little bit along the first trail that I ever hiked on. And I gave him a cheeseburger -- he LOVED cheeseburgers!

At the doctor's office I stroked his ears (that always gave him intense pleasure), and he laid his head down . . . . The doctor looked up and said "He is chasing bears in heaven now." I have no doubt about it . . .
A beautiful memory of the sort of loving friendship possible to have with a dog . . . and even more beautiful in its entirety, so go there to Tim's Cloudland Cabin and read the complete story . . .

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Hard Copy of My Own Fiction Book Has Arrived . . .

Cover Image
Terrance Lindall

About two weeks ago, I ordered a copy of my story, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer, from Peecho Publishers, and the book arrived yesterday, Friday the 25th of January. The pagination runs to 84 pages, but the software that paginated the book is a bit off, for the last page number ends on the back cover, and page number "39" is absent, though no page itself is missing. That will need to be corrected sometime. So also will the placement of the first Cyrillic quote from Dostoevsky, which belongs under section heading number one on page 6, not under the Latin quote from The Brothers Karamazov, a position to which it somehow migrated. Finally, on page 83, which presents my bio, a couple of words somehow got jammed together in two or three places.

These things happen in every publication, so this isn't surprising, but normal instead. To err is human, to forgive, divine . . . which is sort of what my story is about. Grace over Law. But that's a theme, however central, that I don't explicitly stress. And I'm giving away no key here -- hermeneuts will have plenty to argue over as to the meaning of my little fable.

Anyway, there's a great sense of satisfaction to holding one's own book in one's very hands.

I intend to use it with my son, En-Uk, in our English lessons in hopes of making a reader out of him. He at least likes the illustrations by Terrance Lindall, so those might assist in sustaining his interest in the story and thereby keep him to the task of reading the text itself, dense though it may be.

Thus far, everyone who's read the story has liked it. Some of you might recall readers' remarks in an earlier blog post. More recently, a colleague read it and emailed me to say, "I read your story and loved it!" The tale is thus getting favorable responses, but time will have to pass for word-of-mouth to began pushing sales . . . if that should happen at all.

But you can help, so spread the word . . .

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Christian-Muslim Syncretism . . . or Inchoate Orthodoxy?

Insider Movements

The magazine Christianity Today offers several interesting articles on Christian movements among Muslims, the most recent being "Discipleship Is Messy" (January 17, 2013), which among other things expresses the following, somewhat paradoxical pair of evangelical positions:
[M]any new converts and missiologists say that new converts from Islam or Hinduism, for example, should repudiate their religion, and even their culture, especially if that religion has permeated culture to prevent people from hearing the gospel. There is something right and true about this approach for many believers.

Other converts and missiologists encourage new believers to remain in their culture as long as possible, as long as Scripture doesn't explicitly forbid the practices in question. This approach has been very effective at introducing Muslims to Christ, exponentially even, as the article by missiologist Phil Parshall shows. There is also something right and true about this approach.
I find interesting the various perspectives even within Evangelicalism as it confronts the challenges of a diverse but interconnected global world of religions, as these two diametrically opposite views demonstrate, for oddly enough, Christianity Today affirms both of them. The choice of one or the other approach perhaps depends on the context, too, not only upon the distinction made above but, for example, on whether the Islamic community is governed by sharia or not, for apostasy from Islam is a capital offense according to Islamic law, so openly repudiating Islam would automatically invite a death sentence in such a context, leaving no space for the growth of a Christian community. For the other articles, in contra-sequential order, see:
"How Much Muslim Context Is Too Much for the Gospel?" Phil Parshall (January 16, 2013)

"Why Evangelicals Should Be Thankful for Muslim Insiders," John J. Travis (January 15, 2013)

"The Hidden History of Insider Movements," Timothy C. Tennant (January 14, 2013)

"Worshiping Jesus in the Mosque," Gene Daniels (January 14, 2013)
These are the five articles about the growth of Christianity among Muslims, a growth no larger than a mustard seed that's scarcely sprouted.

We'll see if it gets nipped in the bud . . .

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Coffee with my EWIS Students . . .

EWIS Graduate Student Composition Class

Tuesday the 22nd was the final day of the course I've been teaching for the past five weeks in a writing program called the Ewha Writing-Intensive School (EWIS), so I treated my students to coffee at the Starbucks on level B4 of the Ewha Campus Complex (ECC), a convenient location since the course took place on level B1, and we therefore needed only to ride the elevator down and then walk across the enormous hallway to the other side of the ECC, thereby avoiding the wet, dismal, cold outdoors.

Perhaps you'd appreciate an introduction? Counterclockwise, starting at the near left, are Sulgi, Jeonghyun, Hyun-Kyung, EunBin, Mr. Grim Teacher, So Young, Shokhan, and Farah. Except for the last two, all the students were Korean. Shokhan and Farah were Iraqi: Kurd and Arab, respectively. Two other regular students were unable to attend class that day, nor could a fairly regular medical student. Too bad . . . though the upside is that my pocketbook suffered less damage.

If you're curious about what these students study, I'll tell you. Sulgi studies philosophy, focusing upon Nietzsche. Jeonghyun is interested in the social responsibility of corporations. Hyun-Kyung is struggling with the multiple voices in Morrison's novel Beloved. EunBin is looking at descent versus consent in The Merchant of Venice. So Young is working on the perfect aspect of English verbs. Shokhan is investigating the consolidation of democracy in Iraq. And Farah is defending universal human rights against cultural relativists, so as to ensure women's rights in Iraq.

If you click on the photo to enlarge, you'll see a large can of candy that we smuggled into the Starbucks. This was a special Iraqi candy made with nuts (pistachio and almond, if I recall) bound together by a sticky, chewy gum derived from the sap of the tamarisk tree (Tamarix gallica) and called "min al-sama" or "mann al-sama" -- and it tasted like manna from heaven . . . because it is. Literally. In the etymological sense, anyway. Maybe. Anyway, Farah contributed this delicacy, to our delight.

If you look closely and carefully, you might also see a few scattered doughnuts, courtesy of the EWIS organizer, Soo Kyung, but smuggled into the Starbucks by a volunteer student who shall remain unnamed to protect the guilty. We're fortunate not to have been caught, arrested, beaten, and incarcerated! But we weren't even reported for our contraband sweets, despite boldly devouring it all in plain view of the entire Starbucks staff. Maybe the staff was lenient because I bought so many drinks. Anyway, we stayed there by the window, drinking our coffee or tea and eating our snacks for a couple of hours, from about 10 to around 12, when I had to leave for an EWIS luncheon and business meeting organized by Soo Kyung.

Sorry, no photos of that second get-together, but it was just as much if not more fun, and very informative as we began to plan our still-distant-but-nevertheless-upcoming summer break EWIS courses . . .

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ozark Report: Cousin Bill's "Weekly Ramblings" . . . and Uncle Cran weakly rambling . . .

Cheryl's Bathroom?
Mighty Narrow Tub
But Deep . . .

In a recent issue of his "Weekly Ramblings," Cousin Bill reports from the Arkansas Ozarks on his wife's hard work in removing wallpaper from their bathroom:
Cheryl's continuing her bathroom wallpaper removal efforts (made difficult as sizing wasn't applied), so she's also becoming an expert with spackling. I'm continuing my expertise as the tool cleaner. As a non-participant in the re-do, I'm also keeping my mouth shut unless I'm asked a question. Here's a picture [above] of Cheryl's work efforts to date . . . ready for paint. Purty, huh?
Great job with the spackling, Cheryl, nary a crack is visible! Better get that last piece of wallpaper off, though -- wouldn't want some citified individual taking its advice seriously. I have to say . . . the rest of Cousin Bill's place looked more modern.

As might be expected -- among those familiar with my extended family -- Uncle Cran had to horn in and prove his hillbilly cred:
Thanks for the great picture of Cheryl's outhouse. I know you will take pride in her work.

It brings back memories of our outhouse, back behind our chicken house and brooder house. We kept Sears and Roebuck catalogs there, since we were slightly higher class than the corn cob crowd. Later, after we became more affluent, we nailed up a coffee can and put a roll of toilet paper in it. We did have a supply of corn cobs around the corn crib, when we went out "behind the barn." And at night us boys would just go out "on the porch" before bedtime, to do a "number one."

For amusement, we would wait until one of our sisters would go in the outhouse, then throw rocks on the tin roof, and listen to them yell, "STOP IT!"

As we became older, we would strip "rabbit tobacco" leaves off a weed, and roll them up in the paper. It's a good thing the outhouse was behind the chicken house and brooder house, so Mom couldn't see the smoke billowing out the cracks in the wall. We didn't need to flush, as there wasn't any water, but we did keep a sack of lime to cover our "doins." Plus there was a hole in the back at ground level, and our fox hounds took care of any deposits.

Whenever we were away from the house, working in the fields and pastures, we had the whole world for an outhouse, and all kinds of trees with handy leaves.

I also thought of another practice that us boys would do when there was a snow on the ground. It was summed up in a song I have on a Chet Atkins CD, called "I Still Write Your Name In The Snow."
As you can imagine, this quickly became a pissin' contest, for Cousin Bill went one better:
I recall those outhouses myself . . . once brother-in-law Gary starting shaking the one at Grandma's with me inside, and it nearly tipped over. [I s]uppose [Granpa] Archie did some remodeling and failed to nail it down. To one up you, I not only wrote names in the snow, but did 'em in old English!
Uncle Cran couldn't let that literary allusion pass without spouting off to demonstrate his own literary education, so he quoted Mr. Atkins from memory:
One verse in Chet's song goes:

"I WRITE YOUR NAME SO BEAUTIFULLY,
BUT IT'S HARD TO CROSS THE EYES AND DOT THE TEES.
OH DO YOU THINK OF ME WHEN YOU'RE FEELING LOW,
AND WISH YOU COULD WRITE MY NAME IN THE SNOW?"
I wish Uncle Cran didn't sing so loud. But maybe he's getting a bit deaf as he approaches seventy. Anyway, I had to join in and try to piss poor Uncle Cran off:
Must be a piss-poor song if that old bull-Chet-er is so cross-eyed that he can't even handle spelling!

But maybe his pen is hard to manipulate out in the cold?
Uncle Cran replied by way of explaining what we already knew:
That was supposed to be a play upon words by my hero Chet.

He (or the writer of the song) thought it would be funny to say it that way, instead of just saying, ". . . it's hard to dot the I's and cross the T's." Crossing the T's would be easier than dotting the I's, don't you think? I spent some time thinking of female names using T's and I's.

I haven't tried since I was a kid, but I think my snow writing days are over. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Except maybe with a long stick.
And oddly, feeling a need to explain again, Uncle Cran wrote:
I think that my hero Chet (or the song writer) thought it would be funny to make a play upon words. Crossing the "T's" wouldn't be too difficult, but dotting the "I's" would take a certain amount of skill. I abandoned this practice as my childhood days ended.

And of course, snow writing in this manner would be physically impossible for the opposite sex.

My snow writing days are over. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Except possibly with a long stick.

Maybe Jeffery and Bill could elaborate upon this problem . . . or how about just dropping the subject!?
Old folks tend to repeat themselves, I reckon. But let's let the old feller have the last word:
My final word:

I suspect that the snow writing days are over for you two guys also.
Uncle Cran suspects correctly in my case. I ain't about to step out of my apartment building and attempt to write anybody's name in the snow here in the midst of the ten million people who make up the population of one of Asia's major metropolitan areas, namely, Seoul City, South Korea!

I'll just stick to using the outhouse . . .

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Adam Garfinkle on Mali . . . and what we fail to learn

Adam Garfinkle

In "Mali: Understanding the Chessboard" (E-Notes, January 2013), Adam Garfinkle has some kind words about a prior American counterterrorism policy in Mali formulated by policymakers oblivious to its ethnic complexity and the implications of inadvertently favoring one ethnic group above the others:
Speaking of full-frontal ignorance, . . . the U.S. counterterrorism training mission in Mali made the stupefying mistake of choosing three of four northern unit commanders to train who were ethnic Tuareg . . . [W]hen the Tuareg rebellion in Mali gained steam after the denouement of the Libya caper, greatly stimulated by the return of heavily armed Tuareg brethren from that fight, these three Tuareg commanders defected to the rebels, bringing soldiers, vehicles, ammunition and more to the anti-government side. Anyone who was surprised by this is at the very least a terminal ignoramus. And anyone in the U.S. military who failed to understand the ethnic composition of the country's politico-military cleavages, such that he let U.S. Special Forces training be lavished on Tuareg commanders, was clearly insufficiently trained to do his job. And believe me, that's about as nice a way to put that as I can summon.
See? I told you he was being kind. He put his criticism as nicely as he could manage. He also has some kind words about the American assumption of Enlightenment universalism:
How do things like this (still) happen, after what we should have learned from years of dealing with Iraqis and Afghans and others on their home turf? I happen to know someone who teaches in the U.S. military education system, and this person happens to be a field-experienced Harvard Ph.D. in anthropology. This person tries very hard to clear away the thick fog created by the innocent Enlightenment universalism that pervades the American mind -- the toxic fog that tries to convince us that all people, everywhere, are basically the same, have the same value hierarchies, the same habits of moral and tactical judgment, and mean the same things by roughly comparable translated words.
I think I know the anthropologist he's referring to. Garfinkle's right that our military is still naive, but as he also points out, this merely reflects a larger American ignorance of something that Samuel Huntington tried to drum into our heads, namely, that the world is not as Francis Fukuyama expected at the 'end' of history, a triumph of bourgeois democratic values. Instead, there will be blood -- over clashes of values. But there's hope that we Americans might still learn, for the unnamed anthropologist keeps trying:
Sometimes this person senses success, because the Special Forces officers in class who are still climbing the promotion tree tend to "get it." They "get it" because they have collected personal experience -- whether in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Somalia, or Pakistan, or the Philippines, or even in Mali -- so that what they are learning in class corresponds to the realities they know. I have been to this person's classes on several occasions to guest-teach, and I agree: A lot of the guys (and the few women in the spec ops field) who have been on the ground do "get it." But it seems that a lot of their senior officers don't yet get much of anything at all. It is almost inconceivable that we could screw-up so badly, since understanding basic Malian circumstances isn't rocket science, as they say. So why did this get so thoroughly botched? I'm trying to find out; patience, please.
One thinks that 9/11 should have taught us that some groups don't even come close to sharing out values, but too many people still don't "get it." I'm all for Enlightenment universalism, bourgeois democratic values, and basic human rights, but I'm not naive. I know that a lot of cultural, religious, civilizational groups out there in the world are not for these things.

Some of these groups, such as those represented by the likes of Al-Qaeda, are even violently opposed to anyone anywhere holding to Enlightenment universalism, bourgeois democratic values, and basic human rights.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Terrance Lindall: "Satan’s Peculiar Grace" in The Bottomless Bottle of Beer?

Terrance Lindall
'Peculier Grace'?

My friend Terrance Lindall, artist and intellectual, has prepared a lecture, "Satan's Peculiar Grace," for the 14th Annual WAH Salon Art Club Show, which has its opening reception on January 26, 2013, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center (WAH Center). In that reception, Lindall will offer a literary analysis of the character of Satan in John Milton's Paradise Lost and related literature, as we see here in his preliminary lecture notes:
Literature and art are fecund with the character of Satan. In Faust he inspires a scholar, who, in pursuit of knowledge, seems to be ensnared. In Balzac's The Fatal Skin, Benét's Devil and Daniel Webster, and Stoker's Dracula, we see that Evil incarnate has a peculiar, even attractive grace. Why are stories of these Satanic characters MORE interesting than stories about goodly characters? Milton had that problem. Paradise Lost was far more interesting than Paradise Regained and Dante's Inferno far more compelling than Dante's Paradiso. You can see at the WAH Center on January 26th where we discuss this issue one of the latest works of art revolving around an oily and persuasive Satan. They are my own illustrations for Horace Jeffery Hodges' BOTTOMLESS BOTTLE OF BEER that was just published two weeks ago. Indeed you will see that the devil therein has a peculiar grace as he attempts to ensnare a guileless naif.
Lindall's lecture is farther-reaching than just my story, but he'll have on display some of his illustrations for my story, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer, which can be seen in part here and can be ordered here.

The expression "peculiar grace" derives not from Jeffrey Lent's novel of that name, A Peculiar Grace, but from John Milton's Paradise Lost 3.183-4, where God declares:
Some I have chosen of peculiar grace
Elect above the rest; so is my will . . .
Those chosen of peculiar grace have a divinely selected role to play in God's purposes, a theme taken up by Stephen M. Fallon in Milton's Peculiar Grace: Self-Representation and Authority, in which Fallon argues that Milton applied the category to himself, considering himself "blameless" and "perfect" (page x). Those of us who are not John Milton might consider this a peculiar pride on Milton's part, a pride shared with Satan, so perhaps Milton really was "of the devil's party," as William Blake suggested.

Lindall draws specifically upon Fallon's book, at least for the lecture title, but takes up the other side of Blake's equation and applies "peculiar grace" to Satan himself, as though Satan has a divinely chosen role to play, a suggestion that leads into such debatable soteriological territory as that of felix culpa (i.e., happy fall).

Lindall seems to play with another meaning of "peculiar grace" with respect to my story. That 'peculiar' grace Lindall refers to wouldn't happen to be an allusion to something that I borrowed from Neil Gaiman, a Shoggoth's Old Peculiar, would it?

The complete lecture notes to Lindall's talk can be read here.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

David Mitchell: A Poem By . . .

David Mitchell

Here below, from David Mitchell's novel The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel, is a poem proving that a semicolon need not be "the least-used mark of punctuation in all of poetry," despite Mary Ruefle (Madness, Rack and Honey, page 4), for Mitchell's poem uses 64 of them:
From the Veranda of the Room of the Last Chrysanthemum, at the Magistracy

Gulls wheel
through spokes
of sun-
light
over gracious
roofs
and dowdy
thatch,
snatch-
ing entrails
at the market-
place and
escaping
over cloistered
gardens,
spike-
topped
walls and
treble-
bolted doors.

Gulls alight
on white-
washed
gables,
creaking
pagodas
and dung-
ripe
stables;
circle over
towers
and caver-
nous bells
and over
hidden
squares
where
urns
of urine
sit
by covered
wells,
watched
by mule-
drivers,
mules
and wolf-
snouted dogs,
ignored by hunch-
backed makers
of clogs;
gather
speed up
the stoned-
in Naka-
shima
River
and fly
beneath
the arches
of its bridges,
glimpsed
from kitchen doors,
watched
by farmers
walking high,
stony ridges.

Gulls fly
through clouds
of steam
from laundries' vats;
over kites un-
threading
corpses of cats;
over scholars
glimpsing
truth
in fragile
patterns;
over bath-
house
adult-
erers,
heart-
broken
slatterns;
fish-
wives
dismembering
lobsters
and crabs;
their husbands
gutting
mackerel
on slabs;
wood-
cutters'
sons
sharpening
axes;
candle-
makers
rolling
waxes;
flint-
eyed officials
milking
taxes;
etiolated
lacquer-
ers;
mottle-
skinned
dyers;
imprecise
sooth-
sayers;
unblinking
liars;
weavers
of mats;
cutters
of rushes;
ink-lipped
calli-
graphers
dipping
brushes;
booksellers
ruined
by unsold
books;
ladies-
in-waiting;
tasters;
dressers;
filching
page-boys;
runny-nosed
cooks;
sunless attic
nooks
where seam-
stresses prick
calloused fingers;
limping
malingerers;
swineherds;
swindlers;
lip-chewed debtors
rich
in excuses;
heard-it-all creditors
tighten-
ing nooses;
prisoners
haunted
by happier
lives
and age-
ing rakes
by other
men's wives;
skeletal tutors
goaded to fits;
firemen-
turned-looters
when occasion
permits;
tongue-tied
witnesses;
purchased
judges;
mothers-in-law
nurturing
briars
and grudges;
apothecaries
grinding
powders
with mortars;
palanquins
carrying
not-yet-
wed daughters;
silent nuns;
nine-year-old
whores;
the once-were-
beautiful
gnawed by sores;
statues of Jiz-
o
anointed
with posies;
syphilitics sneez-
ing
through rotted
-off noses;
potters;
barbers;
hawkers
of oil;
tanners;
cutlers;
carters
of night-
soil;
gate-keepers;
bee-keepers;
blacksmiths
and drapers;
torturers;
wet-nurses;
perjurers;
cut-purses;
the newborn;
the growing;
the strong-
willed
and pliant;
the ailing;
the dying;
the weak
and defiant;
over the roof
of a painter
with-
drawn
first
from the world,
then
his family,
and down
into a master-
piece that has,
in the end,
with-
drawn
from its creator;
and around
again,
where their flight
began,
over the balcony
of the Room
of the Last
Chrysan-
themum,
where
a puddle
from
last night's
rain is evapor-
ating;
a puddle
in which
Magis-
trate
Shiro-
yama
observes
the blurred
reflections
of gulls
wheeling
through spokes
of sunlight.

This world,
he thinks,
contains
just one master-
piece,
and that is
itself.
I suppose that's a prose poem by Mitchell because it originally had no line breaks, so you might break it up differently, for it's comprised of a single paragraph with four sentences stretching from page 451 to 452.

Mary Ruefle writes in Madness, Rack and Honey that:
[W]e each only really speak one sentence in our lifetime. That sentence begins with your first words, toddling around the kitchen, and ends with your last words . . . in a nursing home, the night-duty attendant vaguely on hand. Or, if you are blessed, they are heard by someone who knows you and loves you and will be sorry to hear the sentence end. (page 4)
Magistrate Shiroyama is about to speak the final phrase of his lifelong sentence . . .

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mary Ruefle: Poet and Essayist . . .


David Kirby, poet and professor, has written a New York Times review, "Priests of the Invisible" (January 11, 2013) of the poet Mary Ruefle's recent book of essays, Madness, Rack, and Honey, praising it as "one of the wisest books" that he's read in years, noting:
Typically, she begins a thought with a quotation from a sage ("Gaston Bachelard says the single most succinct and astonishing thing: We begin in admiration and we end by organizing our disappointment"), then develops the thought to give it her own spin (concluding, in the case of Bachelard, that we can at least dignify our dashed hopes "by admiring not the thing itself but how we can organize it, think about it"). Now this sounds like poetry to me . . .
But he also notes, if only implicitly here, that she does not take herself too seriously:
Her title essay begins, "I don't know where to begin because I have nothing to say, yet I know that before long I will sound as if I'm on a crusade."
Nicely ironic! And so is this:
Alternately smart and silly, Ruefle is best when combining those two properties -- dismissing the idea of theme in literature, for instance, by asking what it would be like to organize her books in terms of their themes. (She'd have to buy three copies of some so they'd fit into the different sections of her library, and saw others in half.) Yet at times she lays out ideas with a Zen minimalism, as when she notes the most important fact about our greatest playwright: "In the beginning William Shakespeare was a baby, and knew absolutely nothing. He couldn't even speak."
That Shakespearean fact gives hope to the writer in me. But what was the occasion for these essays? Kirby tells us:
For 15 years Ruefle, a much published poet, gave a lecture every six months to a group of graduate students, and those lectures are collected here.
They sound interesting. I believe I'll need to buy a copy.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

The Bottomless Bottle of Beer: Koroviev's Back!

Some of the Gang
Terrance Lindall

Or should I say, "Behemoth's Back!"? We see Koroviev's front, obviously. Either way, he was missing from yesterday's "Cast of Characters," so I wanted to include him today.

In this rough sketch by Lindall -- a study for his later, colored one -- Behemoth appears seated and enjoying a drink as Koroviev, Webster, and the Naif and the Wife enter The Witch's Brew, a demons' drinking place run by Old Nancy, the Witch of Salem, who used to host Alonzo Deen Cole's old radio program, The Witch's Tale, a popular horror series that aired from 1931 to 1938. Old Nancy had a cat named "Satan" who perhaps morphed into Behemoth, though Mr. Em -- in my story, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer -- is more properly to be identified with Satan.

The four entering The Witch's Brew were on their way to Our Back's Ratskeller when Koroviev expressed a need to quench his thirst and asked if they could stop for a drink, to which Webster reluctantly acceded. They find Behemoth within, and he joins their party as they continue along the road paved with good intentions.

And you know where that leads . . . unless you don't, but you can order the tale to find out.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Bottomless Bottle of Beer: Author's Remarks

Terrance Lindall, Artist
"Let he who is without sin
cast the first stone."

Somebody must have cast a stone at one character, for missing from the 'cast' above is Koroviev, but he's of much too tall of frame to fit into such a small frame, anyway. Too bad, too. I mean he's not only too tall, he's too bad, too! But that's neither here nor there, for today I want to post some remarks that Terrance Lindall asked me to write up as a sort of afterword to our book, something expressing my intentions in composing my tale:
Some years ago on the Milton List, I asked if any other scholars had read Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita and knew whether or not Bulgakov had ever read Paradise Lost. No one knew for sure, so I looked into the issue but found nothing substantive for a scholarly article. The thought stayed on my mind, however, and I suppose I felt that Milton's epic poem and Bulgakov's magnum opus really ought to be joined somehow, else this story would never have been written.

But I had more in mind than these two writers. I was also thinking of Goethe's Faust, and not only because Bulgakov drew upon it for his novel, for I had read Faust in German when I was about 21. Naturally, I had also Dostoevsky in mind, as is made obvious by the Latin quote under the title and the Russian quotes heading the sections. Those allusions to Dostoevsky are rather playful, but I suspect deeper subterranean connections can be found as well.

Other fiction writers alluded to are Neil Gaiman, H. P. Lovecraft, Dante Alighieri, Bram Stoker, Honoré de Balzac,Walter Mosley, Stephanie Meyer, Stephen Vincent Benét, Alexander Griboyedov, Leonard Cohen, C. S. Lewis, Charles Baudelaire, George Abbott and Douglass Wallop (with Richard Adler and Jerry Ross), John Davidson, John Donne, Alonzo Deen Cole, Lewis Carroll, Herman Melville, T. S. Eliot, Mick Jagger, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and probably others that slip my mind at the moment.

While there are irony, satire, spoof, and other literary games, my style is what might be called "playful seriousness," or serio ludere, as the Renaissance writers called it, signifying the struggle for knowledge in a paradoxical and contradictory world. As such, the story is concerned with epistemology, how we know what we know, and with the distinction between two kinds of knowledge, theoretical and experiential. What my story does that is different will likely seem unimpressive, primarily because the achievement was rather simple (and already noted): it brought together John Milton's Paradise Lost and Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. This basically took two weeks in February 2012, though I fine-tuned and retouched for another six months. Those two weeks of writing proved rather uncanny for me because the story came so easily, despite taking a vacation trip on Jeju Island (South Korea) for one of those weeks, when I spent the daytime driving, with only a little time each evening for writing. I really came to understand why ancient writers believed in and called upon the muse.

A number of nonfiction writers are also alluded to, among them, C. S. Lewis (already noted for his fiction), Hans Blumenberg, Roger Scruton, Franz Leopold Neumann, Stanley Fish, Blaise Pascal, Abraham Lincoln, and -- obliquely -- myself. There are also numerous allusions to the Bible, as one might expect, as well as to various intellectual streams, for example, fideism, scientism, and postmodernism, and an understated avowal of the value of Western Civilization.

I do not know if this story is important, but it draws upon important stories to tell its tale -- a Faustian story that borrows characters from Bulgakov and language from Milton, among other things from other tales -- so it is at least important for drawing readers' attention to these other stories. I hope that the basic story is accessible, and I think that it will be, so if readers enjoy it, they might follow up some of the allusions and immerse themselves more deeply in Western literature.

Most of all, I hope that the story offers enjoyment . . . fun.
If you purchase the book, you'll find these remarks at the end. Also, a preview of the first third of the book is available here. Have fun . . .

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Just One More Bite . . .

Hella
Terrance Lindall

The Big Hominid, aka Kevin Kim, inspired by my novella, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer (order here), is about to go on a diet and has come up with a hella good idea to mark the end of his gluttony:
[L]ike Dr. Hodges's main character in his The Bottomless Bottle of Beer, who wants one last drink before going on the wagon, I want one last, carb-filled hurrah before I shun carbs for the long term.
You see just how excellent this counter-gluttonous gluttony is as an idea! Why, one could develop a story around the concept! Which reminds me, concerning Mr. Faland Em:
Be wary of contracts with Mr. Em . . .
I left that message on Kevin's blog entry, and he replied with a stunner:
One anagram for "Faland Em" is "A damn elf."
Astounded, I managed to respond:
Oh my god! You've cracked the code!
How did he manage to figure it out? An elf that is 'fallen' -- i.e., damned -- becomes a goblin, as we know from The Lord of the Rings, and the figure "Death" is called a "goblin" in Milton's Paradise Lost 2.688, and since Mr. Em is implicitly associated with "Death" in my story, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer, then he is (so to speak), "a damn elf"!

But can Kevin Kim consistently crack codes? Time shall anagrammatically tell . . .

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Bottomless Bottle of Beer: Reader Response

Panoramic Court Scene
Terrance Lindall

Regulars here have already seen this image, but I thought it appropriate for a blog entry dedicated to the judgment of several readers upon reading my story, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer, now nearly 90 pages long with Terrance Lindall's wonderful, imaginative illustrations:
What a fantastic story! Right on a par with Alice in Wonderland! A fine blend of the ominous and the hilarious, resonant of the great classics and contemporary theoretical fads. The illustrations seem just right -- humorous, with the proper amount of spookiness. - Ji-moon Suh, professor of English literature, Korea University, Seoul, Korea

This is really quite marvelous. I liked it a LOT. The illustrations are super cool! I like everything about it. Very funny style, most excellent. - Pete Hale, physicist, Lafayette, Colorado, USA

I enjoyed the Faustian story very much. The illustrations are beautiful, very vivid and apt, reminiscent almost of Chagall. - Eli Park Sorensen, professor of humanities, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea

A brilliant idea, that, to expose scientism and postmodernism through a college graduate too ignorant to recognize the devil et al. when he meets them. Bravo. - John L. Heilbron, professor of history of science, UC Berkeley (emeritus), Berkeley, California, USA

I love the wordplay, a great story that gave me chills. Part of me dies with each brick laid. - John Wells, editor, The Official Size and Weight EBeer ENews, Little Rock, Arkansas

Intriguing piece. Its humor was pretty wonderful, too. I enjoyed reading it. - Wallace Daniel, professor of Russian history, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia, USA

Mr. Hodges writes well, really well. I liked the trial scene best. Good story! - LeRoy "Tuck" Tucker, writer, Jonesboro, Arkansas, USA

I enjoyed it very much! - James Vardaman, professor of European history, Baylor University (emeritus), Waco, Texas, USA

Really impressive, like Blake doing Dickens. - Philip Murray-Lawson, writer, Paris, France

I liked the illustrations and the content. It was an intriguing book in every sense. - Seong-Kon Kim, professor of English literature, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea

Exciting, and the illustrated version is a wonderful spinoff! - Donald M. Hassler, poet, writer, and professor of English literature, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, USA

What fun it is! An academic's delight! - SunHee Kim Gertz, professor of English literature, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

The Bottomless Bottle of Beer! Published! With the illustrations by Mr. Lindall. Wonderful! A really amazing job. - Minyoung Hahn, illustrator and translator, Seoul, Korea

The story is very well written, clever and a treasure trove of literary allusions. Give it a read! - Sperwer, pseudonymous blogger, Seoul, Korea
Those are some of the judgments rendered on the tale and its illustrations, and no one's posted a 'judgmental' word yet. Emphasis on "yet" . . .

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Pubs and Liters . . .


Terrance Lindall sent me a link yesterday to this site for a company that publishes art and stories, as well as stories with art, the sort of publisher that interests me these days, for obvious reasons, though I'm not expecting to be published there, rather that I'm trying to familiarize myself with this side of the literary world since I'm usually an impractical sort of fellow, but want to change my waywardly wanton, wandering witless ways into something more wary.

The publisher calls itself "Drawn and Quarterly," which is a clever expression that puns on "drawn and quartered," a medieval manner of painful execution through the torture of being stretched by one's arms and legs and divided by knife into four separate pieces. I wonder why a publisher would want to allude to such a method of execution. Is publishing such a cut-throat business? The wordplay, of course, is upon the drawings that are published and the fact that many literary journals are published quarterly.

I can imagine the diabolical character Mr. Em from my story, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer, as a publisher running a small press known as "Drawn and Quarterly," but I suspect I'd better not write a story using that trademarked name -- though some story about Mr. Em as a pub-lisher of liter-ature would fit such a character as he, given his predilection for dealing with alcohol . . .

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Bottomless Bottle of Beer: Williamsburg Circle Bookstore

Cover Image
(Click Image to Enlarge)

My novella can now be ordered at Peecho Publishers through the Williamsburg Circle Bookstore, an outlet maintained by the Williamsburg Circle of International Arts and Letters, an institution with a certain sort of intellectual mission:
The Williamsburg Circle of International Arts and letters is a program of the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center (WAH Center). The Circle serves as a hub for discussion of new ideas about diverse subject matters. It is especially keen to point up intersections in areas of study that on first glance appear to be contradictory, especially in the areas of art and literature.
Some may recall that I'm a member of this circle organized by Terrance Lindall. New York being rather distant from Seoul, however, I've not yet made any of its meetings, but I hope that my novella contributes to discussion of those contradictory intersections in art and literature since it brings together my attempt at literature and Lindall's art of illustration.

The bookstore offers a link to the previously noted preview, which allows one to view Lindall's illustrations and read my text for 32 of the 85 pages. There's also a link to a video ad done in hardboiled detective style to publicize the novella.

For readers who may have missed earlier posts with excerpts, here's the opening scene:
The world sometimes just declines to cooperate with my good intentions. I had been drinking a bit more than my wife thought reasonable for my health and our pocketbook, and after a close encounter with a breathalyzer that I managed to confound by sheer dint of will, I bowed to her legalistic position on laws against drunk driving and even agreed to stop drinking altogether. I didn’t intend to pursue the twelve-step route to complete spiritual indoctrination, so I resolved to quit entirely on my own. But I reasoned that such a significant occasion called for a drink, and I wanted that drink to be extraordinary, even unforgettable. My wife grudgingly acceded to my desire for just one more bottle to celebrate my decision, and I began to wander the town looking for that perfect beer . . .
That's just a foretaste, but as noted above, you can read the first 32 pages at the Issuu site.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Foreign Professors in Korean Dragnet: "Just the facts . . ."


Although I taught three years at Korea University, I have no firsthand knowledge on the dispute reported in David McNeill's article "In South Korea, Foreign Professors Can Have a Hard Time Fitting In," The Chronicle of Higher Education (January 7, 2013) between Professor Michael Foster and the Korea University English Department. Because I taught in the English Department there, I have heard from both sides in mass emails (my address must be on a KU list), but having no firsthand information, I plead ignorance . . . except for one thing, the need for a factual correction about the academic career of another professor, Gary Kennedy:
The speed of internationalization has produced problems. Institutions often put much more effort into recruiting foreign professors in a short-term bid to raise rankings than into retaining them, says Gary Kennedy, an American who has taught in the English departments of three universities in South Korea over the past eight years. They fail to prepare for foreign hires, he says, adding that employment contracts, policies, and support structures are often lacking.

When they arrive, new foreign professors struggle to integrate into Korean faculty, where older professors dominate departments in a system Mr. Kennedy describes as "feudal." "Anyone who lacks a champion is likely to be in a weak position," he says, so when foreign professors run into problems, "there is nobody to turn to for help and advice."

In his experience, the employment arrangements seem to favor Korean academics, with many foreign professors working on contract. Dispute resolution often involves little more than simply agreeing with the most senior Korean faculty member, Mr. Kennedy says.
I know Dr. Gary Kennedy personally, he is a physicist from England, not an English scholar from America, and he has taught mainly in physics departments, not English departments -- assuming that there are not two Gary Kennedys, and I'm applying Occam's razor here.

As for the substance of Gary's complaints, it generally fits much of my experience: Foreigners are netted abroad and dragged into an academic system utterly unlike their own, and they must sink or swim in deep waters with no lifeguard to call on for rescue if they begin to drown . . .

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Grammar Lesson: Courtesy of Gypsy Scholar


My friend Kevin Kim recently asked the internet community at large to identify the error in the following sentence:
With razor-toothed suckers and eyes the size of dinner plates, tales of this creature have been around since ancient times.
All of Kevin's readers immediately identified the mistake, i.e., a dangling modifier: "With razor-toothed suckers and eyes the size of dinner plates . . ." However, I went them all one better and explained this error for readers unfamiliar with the concept of a "dangling" modifier:
As noted above, it's a dangling modifier, so it needs to be attached to a subject that dangles. Tales don't dangle, or shouldn't, though they can leave the reader dangling.

The problem, obviously, is the spelling of the subject: "tales." It ought to be "tails." Now, the subject also dangles, and therefore fits the dangling modifier.

The sentence describes a prehistoric monster with a nondecomposable, regenerating tail armed with razor-toothed suckers and littered with eyes the size of dinner plates! Not the sort of critter to sneak up on . . .
And I did not explain this for naught. One reader responded:
aye. Yeah the 'tales' :) easy mistake.
Easy, yes, and consequently so often slips us by . . .

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Bottomless Bottle of Beer: Glitch Fixed

The Bottomless Bottle of Beer

I had reported a glitch yesterday that blocked purchase of the book, but that now appears to be fixed, so feel free to try the system if you're interested in a hard copy. Terrance Lindall's many wonderful illustrations result in higher printing costs, so the price will be 46 dollars. We realize that some may find that price rather steep, so we're also considering online publishing at a lower price. I'll let you know more on that possibility when I also know more.

Meanwhile, you can see the first 32 pages to see if the story and artwork interest you by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Dario's "Bottomless Bottle" Series . . .

Readers will recall the two recent posts showing Dario Rivarossa's initial two aesthetic responses to the short story version of "The Bottomless Bottle of Beer," which appeared in Emanations: Second Sight, but here they are again, the first one, titled BeheMoth:


I've already commented on this apparition -- and been corrected by Dario. Here's the second one, titled SighNature:


I again commented -- and again got corrected! Maybe I'll just post the next six without confidently posting my own bold comments. Nah . . . that'd be no fun! Here's Satyricon:


To me, this looked like a mosquito larva, but Dario described it as "a free interpretation -- in this case, of the paragraph in which they notice the beer label," by which he means the scene in my story where the Naif and his wife discover the dancing satyr images on the bottomless bottle's label. Next, we see Narwazazel:


Dario describes this creature as "a tribute to your colleague Herman Melville," and it's inspired by the single-fanged Azazello, who apparently reminds Dario of a narwhale! Now comes Hell-ooo:


Clearly meant as Hella, whom Dario also describes as a "Femme fat-Ale".-- obesity being dangerous to one's health as the message, perhaps. We now find The Call:


As Dario reminds us, "everybody got a special call." Evidently, that call was a past event (hence "got"), so I must have missed it, and Cthulhu has now come calling like a voice in a bottle echoing, "You'll be sorry . . ." Which brings us to Falling Firefly:


This one's title alludes to a pun on Mr. Em's name in the story as Mr. Webster describes how to trap him -- or in Dario's words, "about the 'solution' of the existential and theological dilemma." Finally comes Satan-s-coffin:


This puns on Satan scoffing in ambiguous words, an allusion in my story to John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost, or in Dario's words: "the spell of spelling: Satan scoffin', or Satan's coffin."

Thanks, Dario . . .

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Bottomless Bottle of Beer: Ready to Order


The Bottomless Bottle of Beer is now ready to be imbibed! Click on the caption above and drink in Terrance Lindall's illustrations to my Milton-flavored Faustian (t)ale of one man's insatiable thirst for the perfect beer, a Bulgakovian brew (ha-ha) from a garden of earthly delights where Malt and Milton coupled can both justify God's ways to man!

Lindall is a well-known artist who has created illustrations for Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella, Heavy Metal, the Epic Comics imprint of Marvel Comics, Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine, and John Milton's Paradise Lost, among other texts.

As for me, I'm a little-known writer who has happened to write a creepy tale worthy of Lindall's work:
[J]ust one sip of this, and your eyes that seem so clear, but are yet dim, shall perfectly be then opened and fully cleared, and you shall know all . . . things. Believe me, for I have tasted and now know. Or . . . take some, and freely taste for yourself.
Try only a little drink . . .

UPDATE: There's a glitch with the ordering, so this might be postponed for a few days while I work things out.

UPDATE 2: The glitch seems to be fixed.

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Monday, January 07, 2013

Short Story Version of "Bottomless Bottle" Mentioned in Review

Mike Chivers

The writer Mike Chivers has posted a short, mostly positive review of Emanations: Second Sight, and he briefly mentions the short story version of "The Bottomless Bottle of Beer":
Fictional highlights include . . . "The Bottomless Bottle of Beer," a Bulgakovian satire carried out with aplomb by Horace Jeffery Hodges.
With "aplomb." Sounds positive, but let's check the online Free Dictionary:
Self-confident assurance; poise. (American Heritage)

equanimity, self-confidence, or self-possession (Collins English Dictionary)
Positive terms . . . I suppose, though etymologically, the word could imply that I carried out the satire as if with a lead weight:
French, from Old French a plomb, perpendicularly : a, according to (from Latin ad-; see ad-) + plomb, lead weight (from Latin plumbum, lead). (American Heritage)
The word "plumber" has the same root . . . and I've learned to form a new expression: "Bulgakovian."

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Sunday, January 06, 2013

Already Movie Talk?

Trailer

I daren't dream at this initial stage, but that's not stopping Terrance Lindall and Carter Kaplan, who are already talking "movie" -- as this post by Carter testifies:
There has been back channel discussion about making a film (possibly an animation) of Horace Jeffery Hodges' short novella, "The Bottomless Bottle of Beer", which was published in Emanations: Second Sight. At this point we need investors, then we'll hire a studio, animators, voice actors, and away we go . . .
I envy these two for their energy and practical skills. I'm just a writer, but they are both artistic and practical! If anybody can accomplish it, these two can!

But first, the novella . . .

UPDATE: In case Carter's link to the video isn't working, here's another, direct link to the video.

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Saturday, January 05, 2013

Dario's Signature Sighting of the Sigh of Nature

SighNature
Dario Rivarossa

This very abstract artwork by my friend Dario reveals a very attenuated, displaced relation to a line in my story, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer: "feeling as though all of nature were as trembling with intoxication." Dario's connecting it to Milton's lines in Paradise Lost 9.782-784:
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her Works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost.
Or as Dario describes the image in his email: "the universal meaning of the SighNature." The image draws together several scenes in my story -- Azazello drawing blood, the Naif signing the contract in blood, and the Naif plucking the bottle from the table -- that collectively contribute to nature's own intoxication.

I'd never realized that the single-fanged Azazello connotes a mosquito, but that's a signature work by Dario, whose artworks are filled with bug-eyed monsters (or 'mansters'), and what better as a sign of fallen nature than the bloodsucking mosquito?

As for the various puns at work, they're in Dario's DNA.

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Friday, January 04, 2013

Dario's Behemoth!

Behemoth?
Dario Rivarossa

My artist friend Dario Rivarossa has his own personal image of the monstrous cat in my story, Behemoth (borrowed from Bulgakov), as you can see above -- and rather different from Terrance Lindall's more comic image, though the bug eyes and elephant seal trunk render a ridiculous aspect, whereas the wings lend an angelic element, but the claws a demonic character, all in all, a complex figure of this fallen angel originally from Bulgakov's tale The Master and Margarita, arriving here on my blog by way of my novella, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer, and Dario's talent.

Obviously also, to all appearances, a zombie. A tomcat zombie. In short, a tombie. Whatever that means . . .

Every artist would likely have a different image of the characters in my little fable, and that probable fact intrigues me. If I give a book reading next semester, as I hope to do, I'd like to present various interpretations in a number of images rendered by different artists.

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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Another Genius Kid by Pete and Leigh . . .

Si Senor! Paint! Pizazz! Pizza!
John Hale Art

Okay, okay, as if they weren't satisfied with all the envy generated by having produced two genius kids -- novelist Ben Hale and musician James Hale -- my old Ozark friend Pete Hale (physicist) and his wife Leigh (soon to be PhD, English literature) simply had to produce another genius, their third son, John Hale, who's into art:
Last-and-final kid John is an art maniac, as I believe you have some considerable experience with, too! He lives it and breathes it, so I cannot complain about him not having a "passion," that's for sure. (More like complaining about the incessant need for more canvases and pricey oil paint . . . heh.) I can't remember if I've sent you this link before or not, but you can see a lot of his stuff at this Facebook site.
By my "considerable experience with" art, I presume Pete is referring to the art blog of my son, En-Uk, but I wouldn't want to invite comparisons, for there's a universe of difference. Pete hadn't told me much about John's art interest, nor was I previously aware of the Facebook site mentioned above, but I've looked and seen that the art looks great. That image above -- a self-portrait? -- is representative, making John a very mature fifteen-year-old.

Take a look yourself . . .

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