Monday, August 31, 2015

Big Ho Telegraphs an Atrocity!

Kevin Kim, writing in his blog last Friday, August 28, cited the Telegraph to give an example of some "execrable writing." Literally, that means something like "expelled from the sacred," so I suppose we're dealing with depraved, postlapsarian language.

Anyway, he introduced the bad example with the lament that "[j]ournalists really need . . . to write better," adding that he cringed at this sentence "from an article about a Chinese cameraman's collision with fleet-footed Usain Bolt," who was celebrating his narrow victory:
But his momentary triumphalism, a Jamaican flag draped across his shoulders, was shattered when he failed to outrun a Chinese cameraman riding a Segway, the ubiquitous two wheeled self-propelled scooter, which then crashed into him.
After posting that piece of scat quoted from the newspaper, Kevin challenged his readers:
Go ahead: write an improved version of the sentence in the comments.
I considered taking him up on that challenge, but soon realized that the challenge was too easy, so I explained:
That sentence is so bad that even making it worse would be an improvement.
I thought that was rather clever of me, but some wit now needs to follow up with the old saw, "That'd be funny if it weren't so true." To which I'd retort, "Nah . . . but it'd be true if it weren't so funny!"

Not that I know what that means. Can humor undermine truth?

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Egyptian Writer Calls for Enlightenment in the World of Islam

Yasmin Al-Khatib
Memri Special Dispatch No. 6144

Memri, in Special Dispatch No. 6144 (August 28, 2015), quotes the Egyptian writer and artist Yasmin Al-Khatib, who states that "Muslim History Is Rife With ISIS-Style Executions," and she argues that "Adopting Enlightenment Is The Only Weapon Against Such Brutality":
I do not understand why, after every perverted [act of] execution carried out by ISIS, most Muslims insist that these actions have nothing to do with Islam. After all, Muslim history is rife with terrifying forms of execution, similar or even identical to those used by ISIS . . . . I am talking of execution [methods] used in the early Islamic period, [a period] which most of our clerics regard as the essential [source] for Islamic legislation . . . . Some may think that the purpose of this article is to blacken the image of Islam. So, in order to elaborate and clarify, let me note that, in the past, Christianity also practiced [horrific] execution[s] . . . . But eventually the enlightenment triumphed and the Church became moderate and tolerant, as it is today. Enlightenment is our only weapon to defeat ISIS, because our real war is not against [this organization] but against extremist thinking, and if we do not confront it and beat it, a thousand [other] ISIS [organizations] will emerge.
Al-Khatib is correct that Christianity has also used violence, but I think that Islam will have more difficulty with its own Enlightenment since Islam lacks any scriptural teaching for a separation between religion and state. Islamic law is the law for society, and that law is to be enforced by the state, according to Islamic teaching.

Nevertheless, we can hope that more people in the Muslim world will come to think like Al-Khatib . . .

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Still more on Uncle Harlin - and his Life among the Birds

National Audubon Society

In the Sacramento Audubon Society's newsletter, The Observer (Volume 67, No. 6, July/August 2015), there's a lovely obituary on Uncle Harlin titled "In Memorium: Harlin Jackson Perryman," (pdf) and I learned some details about him that I didn't know, along with a refresher on several that I did know:
Harlin was born in Zion, Arkansas August 13, 1927. He got his father's signature to enter the Navy the day after he graduated from Salem High School. The GI Bill meant he would be able to [study later and even] get his PhD. However, he got homesick [in graduate school at Penn State] and returned to the University of Arkansas to attend law school. He was elected to the State Assembly during the troubled mid-1950s.
Uncle Harlin's father was the very man who - along with Harlin's mother - raised me and my four brothers. His name was Henry Jefferson Perryman, and he was our grandpa. Identifying Uncle Harlin as "homesick" is a polite term for "mistreated" (by his Penn State adviser, who thought all Southerners were ignorant rednecks, and Harlin had an Ozark accent, which he retained his entire life). The "troubled mid-1950s" refers to Arkansas's reaction to the Civil Rights Movement. Harlin was against the segregationist Governor Faubus and on the side of integration.
He graduated law school and traveled the United States to find a place to live. He finally settled on California. Alaska was a very close second.
He told his mother - my grandma, who told me - that he couldn't get used to the "midnight sun" in Alaska, which was one reason he moved south to California.
In California he met and married Betty Baldwin. She had children and the whole lot became a family. He bumped along through life and did the normal things of retiring, becoming a "Grandpa," and moving to Sacramento.
That little bit covers a lot of territory. He worked as a lawyer, became a wine expert, played a lot of chess, and rose to the position of Treasurer in California's Democratic Party, among other things. He was considered for nomination to the Supreme Court of California way back in the late 1970s, early 1980s, but Governor Jerry Brown didn't like him and refused to support him.
[In] February 1997[,] . . . his step-daughter Melody Baldwin took him on a Sacramento Audubon trip. He fell in love with the birds and the whole process of watching and identifying birds. He met Tim Fitzer and an 11 year old boy named Dan Williams. They encouraged him to come on other trips. Over the next 28 years he would brag that he had gone on more trips than anyone else in one particular year . . .
What follows in the obituary are the events of Harlin's life among the birds, which is about the time I lost contact with him, but the length of that lost contact was 18 years, not the typo 28 (check the math: 1997-2015). For the details of his Audubon life, click on over to the newsletter (pdf) and read more.

I hope more folks who knew Harlin will leave comments there . . .

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Another comment about Uncle Harlin . . .

Sacramento Audubon Society
Uncle Harlin Third from Right

Dan Kopp, a real estate agent in Sacramento, California, left a comment on my blog of Uncle Harlin's obituary:
Harlin was a fixture on Sacramento Audubon field trips; in fact, if you look at the Sacramento Audubon Facebook page you will see Harlin in the top banner photo.
Thanks for that tip - I've 'borrowed' the photo. If you look, you'll find Harlin third from the right, a partially hidden, stooped but still tall old man.
Several of us had, and will retain, many Harlin-isms. He was a tad cantankerous, but so am I, had a habit of elbowing folks away from spotting scopes so he could get a look (he often became miffed if someone took more than three seconds to look) and let you know exactly what he thought about anything!
Not a politically correct fellow in some of those opinions, I'd bet:
He forever changed my vocabulary regarding what we all used to call telephone polls: "they're utility poles!" he would half-way shout in frustration.
I think I also underwent that learning experience with him once. Let's see what else he did:
Every field trip to Bodega Bay he would insist on getting clam chowder . . . [around] noon, even though the trip write-up said to bring lunch and liquids, so as to keep the down time to a minimum . . . he still made whoever brought him break away from the group to take him to The Tides restaurant for his clam chowder.
Well, he probably earned that chowder, living as long as he did and prowling around for birds despite his age.
I believe I last saw Harlin in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco earlier this year, while there for a rare bird, a Rustic Bunting. The man did get around despite his age and decreasing mobility; as you know, he birded right to the last day.
Yes, that's what my brother Shan told me. Anything else?
I could probably go on but there others in Sacramento Audubon who spent a lot more time with him; hopefully they will add some more stories.
Add more, everybody! This could turn out to be a very informed obituary after all, so if you have any stories to add, then add them there.

And thanks to Dan Kopp for more about Harlin!

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

All Good Things Must End . . .

I had dinner Monday evening with the former director of the department in which I work, and since she was glad to be free of that department's duties, I presented her with this enveloped bottle:

On the image, if you click on it, I think you'll be able to see the word "Freedom" printed in my own inimitable penmanship - not that anyone would want to imitate it - along with a few other words, i.e., "For all your help," for she did help me adjust to the department after several stints in English departments. But so as not to bore you with biography, I'll turn now to the visible bottle in all its free glory:

Yes, you are looking at the Faustino I from the Rioja wine region of Spain, and the vintage is 2001, apparently a very good year. We therefore decided to drink it over our meal as, ironically, we talked about the department and where it is headed.

I gather that freeing oneself from the department doesn't come easy . . .

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Satan Seen Somewhere Suspicious, Says Someone

Old Scratch
Chesley Plumbing Supply

Concerning the Satan image above, someone at Glasstire on Instagram announces: "Seen at Chesley Plumbing Supply in Houston." A commentator named Brittanie Shey says she's "Pretty sure Poison Girl has this velvet too." Eh, what's that? A velvet artwork that doesn't feature Elvis Presley? Blasphemy! Although . . . Elvis himself was last sighted in a bathroom, wasn't he. And given Presley's years of hard living, this image might possibly be a Dorian Grey sort of mirror into Presley's oppressed soul.

Anyway, if it is Old Scratch, he apparently isn't bottomless, unlike that 'beer' he offered to the naif in my novella . . .

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lose Your Self in the Loss of a Moral Universe . . .


Nina Strohminger and Shaun Nichols, reporting on "Your Brain, Your Disease, Your Self" (NYT, August 21, 2015), ask an increasingly relevant question for ageing populations:
When does the deterioration of your brain rob you of your identity?
Their answer? Not memory:
[But - one might protest - m]emory . . . is central to identity. And indeed, many philosophers and psychologists have supposed as much. This idea is intuitive enough, for what captures our personal trajectory through life better than the vault of our recollections?
Still, not memory, for as Strohminger and Nichols reveal:
We found [in our study] that disruptions to the moral faculty created a powerful sense that . . . [a] patient's identity had been compromised. Virtually no other mental impairment led people to stop seeming like themselves . . . . [N]either degree nor type of memory impairment impacted perceived identity. All that mattered was whether their moral capacities remained intact . . . . What makes us recognizable to others resides almost entirely within a relatively narrow band of cognitive functioning . . . . [and] only when our grip on the moral universe loosens . . . [does] our identity slip . . . away with it.
I wonder . . . would a 'newfound' moral skeptic's radical rejection of any 'true' morality have a similar effect on identity?

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Fortieth Class Reunion: Salem High School Class of 1975

My wife took lots of photos from my class reunion, but has had difficulty with her smartphone last I checked, so my friend Jay Nemec has come to my rescue. Here he is introducing me for my rendition of my perfect country song, which I've titled "Day Breakin'":

My wife got it on video, but I don't even know how to upload that, so none of you need suffer through my performance. Even my favorite teacher, Mr. Scott, admitted that I'd given him yet another reason to hate country music:

That's him on the left with his wife. He consoled me with the fact that he'd liked my poem "So . . ." My wife has that on her smartphone, too, but . . . well, you know the song and dance by now. Anyway, here are my beautiful wife and I posing for the camera:

I'm now part of the crowd:

Finally, an unposed scene, one of former students and former teachers milling about:

I could explain who each of these people is, but that wouldn't be particularly edifying anyway, so I'll close for now.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Craft Beers at Namsan Chemistry Pop-Up

Google Images

I brought several of my friends and acquaintances together Friday evening at Namsan Chemistry for a few hours of drinking - thirty-two craft beers to choose from (none bottomless, but a lot of beer nonetheless) - and I learned what a "pop-up" is, as our conversation broached the topic when I remarked that the place seemed still to be unfinished. It looks like this:

I've borrowed this image from A Fat Girl's Food Guide, and if you click on this image, then again, you'll get an image large enough for you to see what I meant by its unfinished look. Anyway, that's when I got explained to me what a "pop-up" business is. I got the jist of it, but later checked with Dan Thompson's Pop-Up Business For Dummies, which says that "to truly qualify as a pop up, a project should":
Use an empty or under-used space.
Be time-limited, with clear start and end dates.
Not aim for permanence.
Be designed for demountability and ease of removal.
Have the potential to transfer to a different site.
Be in some way exclusive, distinct or special.
This describes exactly what Namsan Chemistry is like, and also accounts for its appeal - some of us had to sit on stacked-up crates for chairs! Drinking there is a gritty experience - not in the sense of dirty, but in the sense of down to earth.

The place was also conducive to conversation. We talked about a number of issues, but especially about North Korea's recent threats and actions, and at least three of the fellows present were qualified to speak as experts - one a recently appointed ambassador to Korea, another a long-time resident of Seoul, and a third from a major think-tank here in Seoul. The three had never met, so they had a lot to talk about. I listened and learned . . . and drank.

Anyway, if this brief report has piqued your interest, here are Fat Girl's excellent directions:
Namsan Chemistry is located at 225-5 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul. To get there take a train to Noksapyeong Station (line 6) and come out of exit 2. Walk straight until you reach the underpass, go through and exit using the left hand stairs. Follow the road around and walk straight through Gyeongridan until you start walking up the hill. Namsan Chemistry is about half way up on the left hand side opposite Meatballism. For more information you can call them on 02-797-2279.
Never before have I received such clear directions from a woman! Her way is clear! Nobody has any excuse for not going! But hurry, the chemical experience lasts only till October 31st!

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Famous, Elusive Ida Perkins . . .

Jonathan Galassi

In her review of Muse, Emily Rhodes admits: "Jonathan Galassi's fictional poet made me doubt my knowledge of American literature" (The Spectator, August 15, 2015). Here's why:
Jonathan Galassi is an American publisher, poet and translator. In his debut novel Muse, his passion for the 'good old days' of the publishing industry is palpable: a time when books were books, with glued or even sewn bindings, cloth or paper covers, with beautiful or not-so-beautiful jackets and a musty, dusty, wonderful smell . . . their contents, the magic words, their poetry and prose, were liquor, perfume, sex, and glory to their devotees . . . . Galassi energetically resuscitates this world, where manuscripts were packaged in 'neat gray or powder-blue boxes . . . or in battered manila envelopes if they were coming from writers without representation' . . . . Matching the author's passion for the heyday of publishing is his protagonist's obsession with a poet. Paul Dukach begins his bookish career with a Saturday job in a bookshop, where he is introduced to the poetry of Ida Perkins . . . and becomes expert on her work. After college he lands a job as an editor at a New York publishing house and cultivates a friendship with the head of a rival press, Ida's publisher, who invites Paul to study the notebooks of Ida's former lover . . . . Paul's investigations take him to Venice, where he meets Ida . . . . And what of Ida Perkins? Her final collection of poetry, published post-humously, becomes a bestseller in both print and ebook editions . . . . 'Ida was alive, as alive as anything . . . her message, her genius, had been handed on, not via biology, but through the DNA locked inside her syllables.' While many fall victim to this turbulent time in publishing, Galassi seems to suggest that talent, in the form of Ida, can weather the storm . . . . Throughout the novel . . . [Dukach] goes to great lengths to persuade his readers of her reality, and . . . I had to google Ida Perkins to double check there wasn't a colossal gap in my knowledge of 20th-century American literature. Galassi embeds his poet in American cultural history with a series of cameos, including meetings with Jackie Kennedy, Wallace Stevens and John Berryman, and appearances at Woodstock and on the cover of Rolling Stone . . . . He also quotes her poems, sometimes in their entirety, and ends the book with a faux bibliography of her work and related criticism. In going to such lengths to persuade us that Ida is 'alive' beyond his pages, Galassi perversely draws attention to the fact that she isn't. If Ida is the silver lining of the storm of the digital revolution, that lining is less convincing for being so emphatically fictional. Perhaps we are to infer that Galassi couldn't possibly use a real author in Ida's place, because no real poet would fare so well at the hands of Amazon.
Ida is alive - both electronically and in hard copy - while my little book survives on Amazon's life support, which, by the way, is a good thing, and some independent authors' works are doing quite well through Amazon publishing.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Stephen Asma on "The Horrors of Category Jamming"

Stephen Asma
Professor of Philosophy
Columbia College Chicago

Stephen Asma, in an article "Monsters on the Brain: An Evolutionary Epistemology of Horror" (Social Research: An International Quarterly, Volume 81, Number 4, Winter 2014, pp. 941-968), attempts to get to the essence of horror, and here's a sample of his analysis, in which he speaks of fear arising from "category mismatch," "category jamming," or "category transgression," though he also finds weaknesses in an overly cognitive approach to horror:
Research in the development of cognition and emotions demonstrates that the effects of stimuli on the organisms are delicate matters of degree. Moderate perceptual variations (for example, meeting subtly different creatures) from previously known schema only produce arousal and attention in the perceiver, not fear. When Ichabod Crane, or anybody in this genre, encounters a menacing headless person, their fear might be broken down and analyzed in terms of cognitive mismatch. Perhaps the sight of a combined normal (human) and abnormal (headless) creature bearing down on one is a mental confusion between what should be the case (having a head) and what is the case (no head). And perhaps this confusion produces fear as an automatic secretion from the cognitive tangle.

Of course, in this kind of rational reconstruction, one feels a little like a dullard trying to give a scientific explanation of a successful joke. In the order of felt experience, the fear is primary and doesn't seem to need an intellectual/cognitive glitch to kick-start it. In some important sense, Ichabod is not afraid because he's undergoing a categorial mismatch - he's afraid because a headless monster is bearing down on him. Isn't that good enough to cause fear in the protagonist and fear in the audience - do we really need a cognitive theory to explain it? But then we are forced back, given the experimental research of Hebb and Schleidt, to asking why fears are associated with certain experiences and not others. There seems to be some undeniable cognitive component to monster fear. Is the headless man particularly scary (when compared with the moustache-less man or the hatless man) because we've never experienced such an anomaly, or because we have some deep conceptual understanding that heads are essential for human life? And therefore, is the headless monster a multiple piece of "category jamming" - both morphologically incoherent and also transgressing the categories of animate and inanimate?

The philosopher of horror Noel Carroll invented this term "category jamming" and makes an argument that fits quite nicely with Hebb's and Schleidt's mismatch theory. Carroll (1990) arrives at his own mismatch theory by noticing that most horror monsters are disgusting as well as threatening. Carroll follows the argument of British anthropologist Dame Mary Douglas (1921–2007), who posited that human beings appear especially disgusted by "impurity." Things that we find impure, and consider as abominations, are usually interstitial entities - in between normal categories of being. For example, blood, feces, spit, snot, and vomit all blur the usual categories of me and not me, or human and not human. Pushing this idea of transgressing categories further, Carroll extends the unsettling aspect of interstitial awareness to the experience of all monsters in horror genres. The argument is made more compelling by the fact that so many monsters are depicted as truly disgusting. One thinks of the mucus-like slime oozing off most aliens, or the gelatinous blob monsters, or the undulating goopy transformations of shape-shifters, or the viscous twisting of monster reproduction.

Carroll thinks that it is this cognitive slippage, invoked by monsters, that explains why we are both repelled and drawn to horror films and novels. The fascination or arousal produced by categorial mismatch is the solution to the paradox of why we seek out an experience that is at least partly unpleasant. This argument has compelling features, but also seems slightly too cognitive and intellectual (that is, pertaining to the conscious mind) and not sensitive enough to the unconscious noncognitive aspects of monster fascination. (948-949)
The article is long, at 27 pages, but useful for readers interested in horror. Asma even considers H. P. Lovecraft's theory of horror on pages 955-966, for readers interested in Lovecraft's writings. I'm also interested in the ideas of Mary Douglas - I even wrote a review article on a new edition of her major publication - way back in the 1990s! And Asma's analysis might offer clues on improving my own 'horror' stories!

Moreover, Asma's thoughts on horror come to me at an opportune time, for I'm currently editing an interesting paper that offers a feminist analysis of the monsters and cyborgs in the work of the Korean artist Lee Bul, and the feminist literary critic that I'm reading offers views consistent with Asma's points, which thereby gives me more to think about as I prepare my advice.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Islam and Sex Slavery in the Islamic State: A Memri Report

Memri Logo
Google Images

Writing for Memri, Y. Yehoshua, R. Green, and A. Agron report on "Sex Slavery in the Islamic State – Practices, Social Media Discourse, and Justifications" (Memri, Inquiry and Analysis Series, Report No. 1181, August 17, 2015). These three well-informed analysts illustrate how seriously the Islamic State's scholars take this issue of sex slavery by the rigor those scholars observed in determining whether the Yazidi women could be legitimately used as sex slaves according to Islamic law:
An article titled "The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour [of Judgment Day]," in . . . [the fourth] issue of [the Islamic State's magazine] Dabiq, explains that ISIS has extensively explored the religious justification regarding the policy towards Yazidis.
[According to the article, n]umerous scholars and sources were consulted . . . [before applying shariah, i.e., Islamic law]:
"Prior to the taking of [the] Sinjar [region, where Yazidis live], Shariah students in the Islamic State were tasked to research the Yazidis to determine if they should be treated as an originally mushrik [polytheists] group or one that originated as Muslims and then apostatized, due to many of the related Islamic rulings that would apply to the group, its individuals, and their families. Because of the Arabic terminologies used by this group to describe themselves or their beliefs, some contemporary Muslim scholars have classified them as possibly an apostate sect, not an originally mushrik religion, but upon further research it was determined that this group is one that [has] existed since the pre-Islamic Jahilyyah [ignorance], but became 'islamisized' by the surrounding Muslim population, language, and culture, although they never accepted Islam nor claimed to have adopted it. The apparent origin of the religion is found in the Magianism of Ancient Persia, but reinterpreted with elements of Sabianism, Judaism, and Christianity, and ultimately expressed in the heretical vocabulary of extreme Sufism. Accordingly, the Islamic state dealt with this group as the majority of fuqaha [scholars] have indicated how mushrikin should be dealt with. Unlike the Jews and Christians, there was no room for jizyah payment. Also, their women could be enslaved[,] unlike female apostates[,] who the majority of the fuqaha say cannot be enslaved and can only be given an ultimatum to repent, or face the sword."
In short, the Islamic State made certain that its enslavement of Yazidi women for sexual purposes was legitimate under Islamic law. Interestingly, the Muslim critics of the Islamic State don't deny the legality of forcing infidel women into sexual slavery, but merely argue that the conditions are not right:
Prominent Al-Qaeda ideologue and leader Attyat Allah Al-Libi (d. 2011) acknowledged that enslavement is permissible, but disapproved of the practice, based upon the fact that, "it would be impossible to regulate in the current situation [of the mujahideen] who are fighting a guerilla hit-and-run war [and it] would lead to actual abuses if it is allowed in the aforementioned situation."
Abu Basir - a member of Al-Qaeda's Syrian branch, Jabhat Al-Nusra (JN) - agrees:
"Dawla [the Islamic State] will say that taking slaves is a sunnah [a tradition]. No doubt it is a sunnah, but it's not as simple as that . . . . Dawlah takes slaves. But once they withdraw from areas, the kuffar (may Allah destroy them ameen) come back and take our precious . . . women as sex slaves in revenge. So therefore I am concerned, as it directly impacts our Muslim women. You see how Dawlah pursued sexual intercourse (desires) and in return because of them, our women are now being humiliated (tortured and raped)."
Abu Basir accuses the 'infidels' (kuffar) of enslaving Sunni women in areas retaken from the Islamic State. While I don't think that such rape is happening systematically, this objection is the only argument made by Abu Basir against the sexual enslavement of infidel women, for he otherwise accepts that it is an authentic Muslim tradition (sunnah) practiced by the Muslim prophet Muhammad (the meaning of sunnah) and thus in principle legal according to Islamic law.

To understand the depth of depravity plumbed by the Islamic State's practice of sexual slavery, read the entire lengthy article.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Maajid Nawaz on the British and European Left's Preference for Authentic Muslims as Angry Victims

Support a Caliphate?
Photo by Rebecca Reid/AFP/Getty

Ex-Islamist Maajid Nawaz, writing for The Daily Beast, levels an accusation - in his article, "Discount: The British Left's Hypocritical Embrace of Islamism" (August 8, 2015) - namely, that the so-called 'progressive' Left is a hypocritical "regressive left":
The desire to impose religion over society is otherwise known as theocracy . . . . [and] in Europe it is . . . the left . . . who flirt with religious theocrats[, . . . f]or in the UK, our theocrats are . . . overwhelmingly Muslim . . . . Islamism is an ideology that seeks to impose . . . Islam over society. When expressed through violence, I call it jihadism . . . . [A]ny desire to impose any version of Islam over anyone anywhere, ever, is a fundamental violation of . . . basic civil liberties . . . . But for . . . Europe's regressive-left[,] . . . Islamist tyranny . . . [is] an authentic expression of Muslim rage at Western colonial hegemony . . . . For don't you know Muslims are angry? So angry, in fact, that they wish to enslave indigenous Yazidi women for sex, throw Syrian gays off tall buildings and burn people alive? . . . For Europe's regressive-left . . . Muslims are not expected to be civilized. And Muslim upstarts who dare to challenge this theocratic fascism are nothing but an inconvenience to . . . [a] populism that screams simplistically: It is all the West's fault . . . . British Muslims are being spoon-fed regressive-left sedatives, encouraging a perpetual state of victimhood in order to score their petty ideological points against "the West." In the name of cultural diversity, . . . self-segregation and ghettoization have thrived . . . . [T]he problem begins when journalists and others seek out "community representatives," or "credible Muslim voices" to fit into convenient boxes[, they look to the angriest, which] . . . . lead[s] logically to nothing but ISIS-style bloodshed and theocracy.
Such is the consequence of the Left's search for 'authentic' victims as representatives and spokesmen for Muslims. But why "hypocritical"? Because the Left claims to protect the weak, but sides with Islamists, who are strong and gaining in strength within the world of Islam. Nawaz implies that the Left is aware of what it is doing, else he wouldn't call the Left "hypocritical."

Is Nawaz right? Does the Left know what it's doing?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Emanations: 2 + 2 = 5 soon to appear . . .

Carter Kaplan - blogger, professor, thinker, novelist, and editor of the Emanations anthology series - has recently sent me three photos of the proof copy for the upcoming Emanations anthology, and I asked him:
When can I blog on these images?
His genial reply:
Whenever you wish. I think the book will be out early September (fingers crossed). I hope you will blog on it again when the book is out or when you receive your copy.
I'll likely blog both times. Anyway, here is the first image:

Carter tells us that the cover art is by the surrealist artist "Ruud Antonius, taken from his painting The Fourth Plinth." Next, the second image:

Note the math: 2 + 2 = 5. Obviously an outlier - if not an out-and-out liar - since 2 + 2 tends toward 4 over repeated operations. Here's the third and final image:

The foreground in all three images is dominated by the book - the fruit of many people's labors - but if you let your eyes focus on the background, you will perceive more evidence of that labor, a computer on which rest a pair of glasses.

For other perspectives, visit Kaplan's blog . . .

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Spiked Editor Brendan O'Neill on Free Speech

Brendan O'Neill Speaks Out in Spiked for Free Speech Everywhere

Brendan O'Neill, editor of Spiked, explains why "We must be free to hurt Muslims' feelings" and "Why we must stand with Bangladesh's vilified secularist bloggers" (Spiked, August 12, 2015):
Following the hacking to death of yet another Bangladeshi secularist blogger, a Bangladeshi police chief has come up with an idea for how these gruesome murders might be halted: secularists should stop criticising religion. Yes, . . . the problem is not the machetes . . . wielded by the intolerant Islamists who can handle no questioning of their beliefs; no, it's the blasphemous words being published on the blogs of secularists, atheists and free thinkers . . . . [D]oesn't it also sound familiar? If you want to stay safe, don't cross the line . . . where have we heard this before? We heard it after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. And again following the shooting at a free-speech event in Copenhgan in February . . . , Europe's chattering classes, even the literary set, all . . . expressed the idea that murdered critics of Islam are responsible for their deaths . . . . After the Copenhagen shooting, a Guardian writer said: 'Free speech as legal and moral pre-requisites in a free society must be defended. But . . .' Ah, the inevitable 'but' that follows every unconvincing declaration of support for free speech these days. 'But', he said, 'we must guard against the understandable temptation to be provocative in the publication of [anti-Islamic] cartoons if the sole objective is to establish that we can do so. With rights to free speech come responsibilities.' In short, 'don't cross the line' . . . . After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, a writer for the New Statesman said we cannot have 'the right to offend' with 'no corresponding responsibility'. '[T]here are always going to be lines that . . . cannot be crossed', he said . . . . Who'd have thought it: a writer for the house magazine of the British left and a head of police in a less-than-liberal state sharing the same view . . . . And of course, in April numerous authors . . . . publicly balked at American PEN's decision to give a freedom of expression award to Charlie Hebdo. Their reasoning . . . was striking. [Criticism of Islam] hurt people's feelings, and that is bad . . . . [P]eople's feelings are more important than freedom of speech . . . . There is a disturbing unholy marriage between these influential people who are cagey about free speech and the Islamist hotheads who carry out attacks on speakers who offend them . . . . The sanctification of hurt feelings gives extremists a licence to seek vengeance for their own hurt feelings . . . . Across the West, people's feelings are being elevated over freedom . . . . Enough . . . . You feel hurt? Tough shit. Grow up. Deal with it. We will carry on saying what we want to say.
For O'Neill's complete column, see the Spiked site. As regular readers are aware, I stand pretty strongly for free speech and have argued that we have the right to insult religious feelings - and indeed any feelings - because the more we defer to people's feelings, the less we will be allowed to say, and speech will become largely unfree.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

More on those abortion videos . . .

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Google Images

Writing for the Daily Beast (August 10, 2015), Ruben Navarrette Jr. admits, "I Don't Know if I'm Pro-Choice After Planned Parenthood Videos," and he is particularly disturbed by the fifth video:
Most recently, in Video #5, Melissa Farrell, director of research at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Texas, talks cavalierly about the cost of extracting "intact fetal cadavers." It is, Farrell says coldly, "all just a matter of line items."

This raises the possibility that no one wants to discuss - that some of the aborted fetuses exited the womb alive and they were either killed or left to die, their "cadavers" intact.
No one wants to discuss this, but here we are, discussing it. I've often encountered the argument that abortion should be a woman's right even up to the moment before birth. After a successful birth, however, a living fetus is not only declared a baby, but, presumably, is also granted the right to life. Wouldn't that presumption likewise apply to aborted, "intact fetuses" taken from the womb alive?

Note that I'm focusing upon a narrow point: Does an aborted but intact, living fetus have the right to life?


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Islamic Sex Slavery: Islamism or Islam?

ISIS Sex Slavery
Photo by Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

In a significant report for the NYT, Rukmini Callimachi announces that "ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape: Claiming the Quran's support, the Islamic State codifies sex slavery in conquered regions of Iraq and Syria and uses the practice as a recruiting tool" (August 13, 2015). Whether Islam or Islamism, here's an example of this theology in practice:
In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old [Yazidi] girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her - it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.

He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.

When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.
Some apologists for Islam argue that this is not condoned by Islam. Several, such as Kecia Ali, of Boston University, claim "that slavery figures in Islamic scripture in much the same way that it figures in the Bible - as a reflection of the period . . . in which the religion was born . . . . [during which] there was a widespread practice of men having sexual relationships with unfree women . . . . It wasn't a particular religious institution. It was just how people did things." But at least one expert insists that such rape is condoned:
Cole Bunzel, a scholar of Islamic theology at Princeton University, disagrees, pointing to the numerous references to the phrase "Those your right hand possesses" in the Quran, which for centuries has been interpreted to mean female slaves. He also points to the corpus of Islamic jurisprudence, which continues into the modern era and which he says includes detailed rules for the treatment of slaves.

"There is a great deal of scripture that sanctions slavery," said Mr. Bunzel, the author of a research paper published by the Brookings Institution on the ideology of the Islamic State. "You can argue that it is no longer relevant and has fallen into abeyance. ISIS would argue that these institutions need to be revived, because that is what the Prophet and his companions did."
We see that we are now getting to the heart of the matter, namely, that not just Islamism but Islam itself apparently does condone slavery - extending to sex slavery - as witnessed to, for example, by Quran, Hadith, and Sunna and as found even in modern Islamic jurisprudence.

Those who argue that there is no sex slavery in Islam thus have their work cut out for them . . .

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Footnote to Uncle Harlin's Obituary

Harlin Perryman
Gypsy Scholar

In speaking with my mother over dinner the other night, I learned that my uncle Harlin had beaten Boris Alexander at chess when Alexander visited Salem in 1943 or 1944.

"Who's Boris Alexander?" I asked.

"He was a professor of political science and economics at LeMoyne College, in Memphis, Tennessee," my mother explained. She added the details that he was originally a refugee from the Bolshevik Revolution and that he was in Salem looking for a peaceful place for his mother to live.

I decided to look into what I could find on this man, and here are some details on his position as a debate coach in the 1930s:
"Team To Debate Negro Squad: Lemoyne College Students Will Oppose Adams, Hartmann on Question of Constitutionality"

Boris Alexander, debate coach of LeMoyne College for Negroes, Memphis, Tenn., brings a team of outstanding speakers to meet Stanford next Wednesday for what promises to be one of the most interesting debates ever held on the Stanford campus.

Bob Adams and Bob Hartmann, sophomores who get their first big call when they meet the Negroes, will represent the Farm [i.e., Stanford].

Four on Team

The colored team is composed of four brilliant students: Charles W. Gilton, Robert Green, James S. Byas, and John H. Jones. Alexander has not yet revealed which two he will use against Adams and Hartman.

The question confronting the two teams will be, "Resolved, that Congress should be allowed by a two-thirds majority vote to over-ride a decision of the Supreme Court declaring an act of Congress unconstitutional." Stanford will uphold the affirmative.

Decision To Be Given

The debate is to begin promptly at 8 o'clock in the Assembly Hall.

A decision will be given. Coach Alexander was the first person ever to arrange an interracial debate south of the Mason-Dixon line. He was born in Russia and studied in England. He received his Ph.D. degree from LeMoyne and an M.A. degree in international law from the University of Illinois.

(The Stanford Daily, Volume 89, Issue 9, 20 February 1936)
Interesting to learn that he got his doctorate from LeMoyne. Perhaps he was already teaching there on the basis of his M.A. and worked on his doctorate while teaching. Here's more on the man:
"Soph Debaters Face Negro Team: Adams and Hartman Get First 'Big Chance' with Lemoyne College Tomorrow Night"

Bob Adams and Bob Hartmann, the two outstanding sophomore debaters, pair together for Stanford Wednesday evening at 8 o'clock in the Assembly Hall for their first "big chance." They face a team of Negroes from LeMoyne College, Tennessee, who come up to argue the negative side of the Pi Kappa Delta question.

Hartmann is the freshman debate manager. He won the California Coast League Championship held at the Golden Gate Junior College last year. He and Max Gruenberg took third in the West Division Debating Association Tournament in which more than 200 Rocky Mountain and Pacific Coast colleges participated.

Adams debated against San Mateo Junior College this year, and was an alternative for the University of Melbourne debate.

The LeMoyne debaters are meeting fifteen Coast colleges while on tour. Their coach is Boris Alexander, one of the originators of interracial debating.

The question to be discussed is, "Resolved: that Congress should be allowed by a two-thirds majority vote to override a Supreme Court decision declaring an act of Congress unconstitutional."

(The Stanford Daily, Volume 89, Issue 12, 25 February 1936)
And there's another report from Stanford:
"Debate Team Discusses Court: Bob Hartmann, Bob Adams Meet LeMoyne College Students In Non-decision Controversy"

John Jones and Robert Green of LeMoyne College upheld the finality of Supreme Court decision last night in a non-decision debate against Bob Adams and Bob Hartmann of Stanford in the Assembly Hall. Boris Alexander, coach of the Negro team, was chairman of the discussion.

Question Stated

Expressive of the "quotationed" type of argument used by the visiting team was Bob Hartmann's comment in the final rebuttal speech, "We knew when we came on to the stage this evening that we were going to match wits with two brilliant speakers, but we had no "idea we would have to debate against Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, Professor Frankfort, and a host of others!"

Formal statement of the question is: "Resolved, that Congress should be allowed by a two-thirds majority vote to over-ride a decision of the Supreme Court, declaring an act of Congress unconstitutional."

Affirmative Argument

Main argument of the affirmative was that the constitution was not drawn up as a rigid set of laws to curtail progress of a posterity whose civilization set-up was far in advance to that of the time the document was written.

Alexander said in response to the welcome made to the LeMoyne team by Wayne Richardson. Stanford debate manager, "We have heard about the beauty of the Stanford campus, but this is one of those few times when words fail to describe that beauty."

(The Stanford Daily, Volume 89, Issue 14, 27 February 1936)
There appears to have been some non-decision "controversy," insofar as I can deduce from the point that a decision was expected but none given. Some reader might want to look into that point. Meanwhile, here's one more report, this one on two of the LeMoyne debaters visiting Australia:
"American Debaters: Visit to Canberra"

Three interesting visitors to Canberra will arrive to-day. They are Professor Boris Alexander and Messrs. Gilton and Byas, from LeMoyne College, Tennessee.

Professor Alexander, who is well known in the U.S.A. as a radio commentator on international affairs, is the coach of the two student debaters who have had unusual success in New Zealand and in Australia, where they are now on tour. In Auckland a crowd of 800 attended one of their meetings.

Canberra people will have an opportunity to hear them debate against a Canberra team consisting of Messrs. Speed and Harry at 8 p.m. in the Albert Hall, on Monday next.

The Americans will argue "That the Policy of the U.S.A. of Isolation is Justifiable," and the Canberra team will deny it. Sir Robert Garran will preside.

Messrs. Gilton and Byas are both graduates in Science at LeMoyne College, and have had a distinguished career in debating in America, being members of the first Negro debating team to take part in a national debate in America. All are noted for their ready sense of humour, and they have never failed to keep their audience in hilarious mood by their witty sallies, sometimes at the expense of their opponents, sometimes directed against themselves. Professor Alexander, who is a White Russian by birth, will also have something of interest to say to the meeting.

A charge of one shilling will be made to cover expenses incurred by the Canberra University College Students' Association. The University Association of Canberra is also cooperating.

(The Canberra Times, Saturday, September 17, 1938)
The reference to Alexander as a "White Russian" is not a remark on his pigmentation, but to his politics as an 'anti-red' - "red" being the color symbolic of communism and "white" being the color of the uniforms worn by the anti-Bolsheviks.

Of particular interest to me was the fact that "Professor Alexander . . . is well known in the U.S.A. as a radio commentator on international affairs." He would appear to be a significant somebody or other. Keep in mind that this was before television, during the hey-day of radio. I wonder if Alexander referred on radio to his Salem visit, for my mother added that Alexander had said of his visit that he had been "beaten in chess by a seventeen-year-old Ozark boy." Mom added that Alexander "considered himself good at chess and seemed amused at his loss."

Harlin himself was good at chess, but I bet that in a second match Harlin would have faced a more difficult, more determined opponent.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Penultimate Beer in Memphis

A late evening's drink in the Holiday Inn near Memphis International Airport:

I'm sending this from Seoul, having just returned home from the Incheon Airport.

Cheers, everybody!


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Manners and Morals of Barbarians . . .

Barbarians at Dinnertime
Clockwise from left: Finnegan,  John, Mom, and me

My brother John told us an amusing story yesterday evening.

He was about 20 years old and in the military when he and some other soldiers were invited to a dinner by still another soldier living in the same military housing. This other soldier came from a very proper, very well-to-do family, and that family's visit was the occasion for the dinner and invitations.

John had rarely been invited to dinners at other folks' homes, so he attended casual: tee-shirt and overalls. That might have contributed to what transpired, for the others were dressed up. John, however, was unconcerned.

As the dinner began, John was using the edge of his fork to cut his food - a normal practice where he and I come from - when the proper and well-to-do mother of the soldier who'd invited John looked at him and said, "How barbaric."

John looked up and said, "Excuse me?"

The mother replied, "Cutting with a fork. How barbaric. Didn't your mother ever teach you manners?"

John looked at the woman a moment, then said, "Barbaric? You haven't seen barbaric. I'll show you barbaric." He then scooped up a handful of beans, smushed them into his mouth, and wiped his hand on his teeshirt.

The woman screamed in terror at the sight of actual barbarism.

John stood up and walked out the door, not even offering a backward glance.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

We interrupt this vacation . . .

Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria
Google Images

. . . for a special news report! According to the Malay Mail Online, August 4, 2015), the Perak mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria - whom most of us have never heard of - has reminded Muslims to "Avoid intellect, logic when it comes to Islam," an Islamist statement I thought my readers should also be aware of:
"Islam is based on faith . . . . Don't make any remarks based on the intellect or logic because . . . [Islamic laws] are laws of Allah . . . . The intellect is governed by desires and it is influenced by Shaitan (Satan). Don't be ruled by desires and rudderless comments."
In other words, don't think. Just do as commanded by the Islamist religious elite. But what if the religious elite disagree? To what can one turn when religious leaders disagree? Without recourse to rationality, what is left but force? Without intellect, without logic, without reason, might makes right. We see this daily in the Islamic State . . .

We now return you to the vacation, which is still in progress . . .


Sunday, August 09, 2015

Two More from Crystal Bridges

Cousin Bill sent two photos of Sun-Ae and me at Crystal Bridges Museum. This first one was taken when he called to us from across the room:

Do any readers recognize the painting we'd been looking at? If so, let everyone know in a comment. Next is a more posed and poised picture:

Hmmm . . . I do believe I'm losing weight on this vacation. I guess I need to eat more . . .

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Saturday, August 08, 2015

Eureka Springs: A Little Bit of San Francisco in Arkansas

San Francisco, circa 1980, when the party was over, but the guests hadn't yet left on that stairway to heaven:

And you sometimes get that feeling that you've been there before, which makes you wonder what's going on:

But don't focus on the past. Go drown all your morrows in beer:

After all, tomorrow is another day . . .

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Friday, August 07, 2015

They got me for walking on the grass . . .

Crystal Bridges Art Museum

. . . but I was framed!


Visiting Kinfolk


I visited several kinfolk on my trip to Northwest Arkansas. This one lives in Yellville and is nicknamed "Big Foot," and I, with my size-13 shoes, fit right in, though in solidarity with Big Foot, I soon removed my shoes - and nearly lost them when Bigfoot wanted to claim them for himself!

Like Cinderella's crystal slippers that did not fit her evil stepsisters, however, my shoes were slightly too small, courtesy of my dainty, delicate, graceful feet. Not! But my feet were more small, if I might coin an oxymoron.

I'd write extensively on this topic, but this trip has me tuckered out . . .


Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Awesome HD

Awesome Salad

We met today with the awesome HD at the Awesome Coffee restaurant downtown, and this salad above was an awesome salad packed with awesome nutritional value for my awesome wife to enjoy.

There's little to say about the awesome HD since everyone already knows of his awesomeness - and besides, I don't want to blow his awesome cover.

The awesome HD recounted various stories of his awesome youthful escapades - but I can't talk about them because we need to go shopping in the awesome local Walmart!

But trust me. These tough, stirring words hide some awesome meaning. . .

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Monday, August 03, 2015

The End of Christianity in the Middle East?

End of Christianity

Eliza Griswold, reporting for the NYT (July 22, 2015), asks, "Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East?" - adding that "ISIS and other extremist movements across the region are enslaving, killing and uprooting Christians, with no aid in sight." As an instance of this barbaric treatment, Griswold reports that one Christian mother saw her daughter openly kidnapped by an 'emir':
[Aida], her husband and another witness recounted . . . [that] she was pleading for her daughter when the emir himself appeared, flanked by two fighters. He was holding Christina against his chest. Aida fought her way off the bus.

"Please give me my daughter," she said.

The emir cocked his head at his bodyguards.

"Get on the bus before we kill you," one said.

Christina reached for her mother.

"Get on the bus before we slaughter your family," he repeated.
Confronted by such a threat, Aida finally got on the bus. There's more to the story, but I'll leave the reading to you . . .


Sunday, August 02, 2015

A Lifetime Achievement?

Of all the unexpected things to happen, this one has surprised me most: The City of Salem has awarded me a "Recognition of Achievement Award" for my "Lifetime Achievement"!

I'm not sure I actually deserve this award, but I'm happy to play the role. The ceremony was informal, taking place in the home, and my older brother, Pat, stood in for the mayor, as you can see below:

I then confessed that I felt sort of like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, brainless but now endowed with some official semblance of "smarts" due to my "Recognition of Achievement Award" - as you see in the photo below:

I added that I hoped this 'lifetime' recognition of my 'eminence' didn't imply some imminent end! But life - as they say - goes on.

I hope so . . .

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