Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Big Hominid: 'Frost's A$$ is Grass, and I'm Lawnmower Man!'

My friend Kevin Kim must have felt challenged by my recent, appreciative post on the poet Robert Frost, for he even more recently wrote that "Robert Frost makes no damn sense" in that poet's most famous poem, The Road Not Taken.

Kevin's central beef is that "Frost provides almost no evidence, in his poem, that the supposedly less-traveled path actually is less traveled," and Kevin adds that "Technically, one road diverged and became two." Let's quote the entire poem:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
That's the poem, and based on what Frost wrote, I took issue with Kevin two points: the meaning of "diverged" and the difference between the two paths, first dealing with "diverged":
I assume this review is mostly tongue in cheek, but you raise an interesting point about "diverged," forcing me to give it some thought.

Imagine yourself standing at the point where the road forks. From that point of perspective, you see two roads diverging, each from the other. I don't see the inevitable absurdity to Frost's description that you see.
Kevin replied:
I suppose that much depends on how to interpret the word "diverge." If it's taken to mean something like "branch off," then the implication is that two paths (phenomena, etc.) start off as one -- in which case it doesn't matter where one is standing, because the objective, perspective-independent fact is that one road is becoming two.

If, however, "diverge" is taken to mean something more like "veer apart" or simply "differ" (e.g., divergent opinions), then yes, two roads can appear to diverge, based on one's perspective, and there's no contradiction in Frost's poem.

But there's still much that is nonsensical about that work.
Since Kevin had conceded the possibility of my reading of "diverged," I turned to another point of putative nonsense, the 'indistinguishability' of the two roads:
Well, "about the same" is not the same as "the same," so I see no contradiction there, and the slight difference, "Because it was grassy and wanted wear," gives the reason why he "took the other" . . . , and the fact that on both roads were "leaves no step had trodden black" is a point about that particular day on that particular morning, not a longstanding characteristic of both paths over some longer period of time.
Kevin replied:
I'm not sure how that's relevant. Obviously, he can only make his decision based on what he sees at that moment, but what he sees, if we take him literally (and I don't see why we can't take him literally), is two paths equally untrammeled. Now if that's the case, then he's contradicting what he'd said earlier (rather ambiguously) about unequal trammeling. So I still contend the poem makes no logical sense.
I responded:
The less worn path is judged less worn based on the the fact of being slightly more grassy, a relatively long-term condition; the untrodden leaves are a fact of that specific morning: "both that morning equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black."

I think I'm reading rather literally at this point.
Kevin replied:
So we're agreed, then, that Frost isn't being a nonconformist at all, but is displaying watered-down conformism by taking a path that is merely less traveled as opposed to being untraveled. This isn't a Thoreauvian forsaking of people for the sake of embracing nature; this is a tourist's account of his travels to a slightly less-frequented site. There's nothing "off the beaten path" about this timid adventure. If those wooded paths ("roads"?) are "worn about the same," then "grassy" really means "slightly more grassy" and "wanted wear" means "wanted wear only to a slightly higher degree."
I said:
Yes, I agree with that interpretation.

At the meta-level, Frost is saying that some choices in life have to be made on little evidence of difference but that in the long run[, such choices] have nevertheless made all the difference.
I think that we reached agreement, more or less, and I suspect that Kevin's problem with the poem had more to do with illogical readings of the poem than with a close reading of the poem itself. But no debate about a poem is ever fully resolved, and I see that Wikipedia offers an interpretation closer to Kevin's, except that Frost was writing tongue in cheek. Incidentally, Wikipedia also notes that the poem motivated one English friend of Frost to make a tragic choice! I might also note that Thoreau, whom Kevin brought into the argument, was living beside a well-trod path during his time at Walden Pond. Just sayin' . . .

Any thoughts, anyone else?

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Saturday, May 04, 2013

A Visit from Kevin Kim . . .

Kevin 'Sigh' Kim
The Big Hominid

We had the Big Hominid for dinner yesterday evening, but you see from the postprandial photo that most of him still remains intact. My wife took the photograph, and when I first glanced at it still only on camera, I thought that he'd struck a Psy-like pose, but the larger version belies that . . . sigh . . .

I would describe the evening, but Kevin has beaten me to it in a long, detailed rendition surpassing any summary that I might offer, so go there to read this (and more):
Today, Friday, at 5 p.m., I found myself exiting a cab and lumbering over to the apartment building of my friend Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges, who runs the Gypsy Scholar blog and teaches at Ehwa University, the top women's university in Korea. You might think that teaching at Ehwa -- where a man is surrounded by beautiful young ladies all day long -- would be a horndog's dream come true, but Jeff is a happily married man with a lovely wife and two great kids. He told me that some grad students occasionally ask him for relationship advice, and that he doesn't know whether to be flattered or insulted by such female attention.

When I reached the first floor of the apartment building, Jeff was already coming down the stairs. His timing was telepathically uncanny, cementing my impression that he is truly a master of the dark side of the Force . . .
I'll need to be more careful about inadvertently revealing my powers. But Kevin was not frightened away, showing himself made of stuff stern enough to deal with dark powers and even darker conversation:
Dinner conversation en famille ranged from the morbid to the literary, then back to the morbid again. A great deal of time was spent discussing cannibalism, but we also briefly touched on thought-systems and traditions like Taoism, Transcendentalism, Buddhism, and Christianity. Talk was mostly in English, but was peppered with bits of Korean. I did an Indian accent, much to the amusement of the kids, but never got the chance to demonstrate my faux-Glaswegian Scottish accent.
I should admit that even though my doctorate was explicitly on a religious theme, Kevin is far more knowledgeable than I on religion -- though most folks would have to get up pretty early in the morning to beat me:
Jeff, because he is clinically insane, normally wakes up around 3 a.m., so I knew it was time to excuse myself when nine o'clock rolled around . . .
Clinically insane? I protest! I've never allowed myself to be clinically tested, so there's no proof of the charge! True, I did wake up at three this morning . . . But I merely glanced at my clock and remained in bed! Too bone-weary from staying up to the ungodly hour of nine last night, I guess. Kevin's fault! But proof I'm not entirely insane . . .

Go to Kevin's blog for an entire reprise of the evening's events.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Just One More Bite . . .

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, November 22, 2011

Pinokio: More Art from En-Uk


My artistically inclined son has recently posted an intriguing image and 'explanation' on his art blog. The image is the one above, titled "Pinokio" and thereby distinguished, sort of, from the literary figure Pinocchio, yet sharing with the latter some generic characteristics, as we see from En-Uk's description:
This drawing is called "Pinokio." I made this drawing because I read Pinokio a lot when I was young, and because it is kind of funny that if you lie then the nose gets bigger. The pinokio that I drew is blind. If you look at the eyes, then you can see that his eyes are closed. I think this pinokio is ugly. This pinokio is from En-Ukistan, and there are a lot of pinokios there. Ugly pinokios, and handsome pinokios . . . I think En-Ukistan is the best place to live. I wish some people would come to En-Ukistan. This pinokio is a boy, but pinokios are really hard to distinguish as man or woman. It's a hard life for pinokios. If a pinokio wants to become a person, it has to eat grass for 2000 years, but they usually die before the 2000th year. Well, I don't have anything to say anymore, so I guess bye!
Apparently, En-Uk read about Pinokio a lot when he was younger, but he must have been reading stories in Korean because I didn't know anything about this, which would also explain En-Uk's transliteration of the name, rather than the correct spelling "Pinocchio." Interestingly, En-Uk has worked in some Korean mythology, an allusion to the foundational myth of the Korean people, according to which, a bear and a tiger asked the god of the heavens for permission to become human, but only the bear succeeded in the assigned task of eating solely garlic and mugwort for 100 days and becoming a woman, who then married a son of the heavenly god and gave birth to Dangun, the first Korean.

This art post received a couple of amusing comments, the first by our artistically gifted friend Dario Rivarossa:
Very nice story, and . . .
I read Pinokio a lot when I was young

. . . hope you will still be reading it now that you are an old man. It is a book full of wisdom.

My wife and I were also both amused that twelve-year-old En-Uk would wax nostalgic about his youth. As for the second comment, it comes from the warped mind of another artistically gifted friend, Kevin Kim:
I can imagine two Pinocchios telling lies for hours and hours, growing their noses longer and longer, and eventually engaging in amazing nose/sword fights.
Depend on Kevin for some image inventive and bizarre! For readers wishing to try their hidden hand at equally amusing remarks, click over to En-Uk's Art Blog and type away!

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Kevin Kim might appreciate a visit . . .

Kevin's Mom
June 12, 2007
In stonger days . . .
. . . during Kevin's book signings.
(Image from Big Hominid)

Some of my readers will already know of Kevin Kim from his days teaching English in Korea and blogging in his inimitably salty way as The Big Hominid. He took a break from that routine last fall (2008) to return to America and begin a long, hard walk from the West Coast across the States and write about the walk in a blog billed as Kevin's Walk, his intention being to report on the religious lives of the various people whom he met along his way toward the East Coast.

That walk has recently taken him onto a different, untoward path, one harder to tread.

Kevin's mother has fallen ill with GBM (glioblastoma multiforme), an aggressive type of neural cancer . . . and the prognosis is not good at all, as you can determine from the Wikipedia link. Only a couple of months ago, she was apparently as healthy as in the photo above, but very recently, Kevin, his brother Sean, and their father had to work in concert to help her onto her couch, which Kevin describes:
We got Mom onto her couch, settling her into her favorite corner. She slumped there, shoulders sagged, staring at the floor and panting from the experience of being awkwardly carried, obviously thinking hard about something. Finally, after a few quiet moments, it came out:

"It's pretty bad, isn't it?"

I could have broken down then, I admit, but I was buoyed by this evidence that Mom was starting to grasp her own situation. I feigned ignorance:

"What's pretty bad, Mom?"

Mom didn't look up from her contemplation of the floor.

"All of it."

I sat down next to Mom and took her hand.

"Yeah, it's pretty bad." I squeezed her fingers. "But that's what we're here for."
Whether you know Kevin or not, you might think about going to Kevin's Walk and leaving a word or two of encouragement on one or another of his recently posted entries.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Kevin Kim's Water from a Skull

Kevin Kim, Water from a Skull

The Big Hominid's book has finally arrived on my desk, along with a handwritten note from the Big Ho himself:

Enjoy! I hope this little tome passes mustard.

Nice humor in the oxymoronic "little tome" remark. And he hopes that it passes mustard.


What the hell? Wait a second . . . (rubbing eyes, adjusting glasses) . . . oh, it's "muster," not "mustard." Does it pass muster?

Sorry about the confusion, but I've just gotten up . . . at 3:00 a.m.

Anyway, does it pass muster? Well, let's take a look by checking the index for "Hodges, Horace Jeffery" . . . hmmm . . . no entry for "Hodges," so that's a strike against the book.

Hold on, there's no index either, so strike that strike, but add another strike for lack of an index.

(flipping through book...)

Wait, here's something in the dedications:
To the folks who, through the written and spoken word, have inspired me to think more deeply about the things that matter: blah, blah, Horace Jeffery Hodges, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and other blahs.
How nice! The Big Ho has dedicated his book to me! Thanks. Looks like it's gonna pass muster.

But let's look further...

(flipping further through book...)

Ah, this looks good:
Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges of Korea University wrote me an excellent explanation of middle knowledge once. In part, his explanation says:

Note three logical "moments" in God's knowledge: natural, middle, and free.

In God's natural knowledge, he knows all necessary truths, and all possibilities -- what could be true if God were to create worlds, including what free creatures could do. This knowledge is essential, or "natural" to God as God.

In God's free knowledge, he knows the true propositions about an actual world, including his omniscience of what will happen, e.g., what free creatures will do. It is "free" knowledge because it depends upon God's free act of creation. This knowledge is not essential to God's nature.

Between these two logical moments of God's knowing lies his middle knowledge, the knowledge that God has about particular worlds that he has not yet created but may freely create. This knowledge includes knowledge of what every free creature would do (not just could do). Like God's natural knowledge, this knowledge is logically prior to his free act to create, but like God's free knowledge, the content of this knowledge is dependent upon the actions of free creatures. Thus, "middle" -- between the other two types -- of knowledge.
I remember that explanation. It was one that I sent the Big Ho in an email way back in August 2004. He posted my email on his blog entry for August 10, 2004, then commented on it his blog entry for October 30, 2005.

Talk about a prompt response...

Anyway, I see that his entry for October 30, 2005 has been reworked for inclusion in the book that is now lying before me on my desk.

I ought to note that my above remarks on middle knowledge are indebted to William Lane Craig, The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2000), 128-131. The Big Ho had noted this in his blog entry for August 10, 2004, but I want to again emphasize my intellectual debt to Dr. Craig, for the Big Ho's blog entry of October 30, 2005 neglects to mention this debt, and the book -- which reworks this entry -- neglects it as well.

So . . . one strike against muster for dropping a footnote, but a plus for making me look good. I guess that these two even out.

I'll have to read the book to see if I'm mentioned elsewhere, but any other mention of me would definitely add a big plus to the Big Ho's book. I'll get back to you on this after more 'research'...

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