Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Kindness of Creatures . . .

In an article titled "What Does a Parrot Know About PTSD?" (New York Times Magazine, January 28, 2016), Charles Siebert writes of some very special parrots who help soldiers deal with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). After some time of getting acquainted, Siebert says good-bye to Cashew (not depicted above), "a six-inch-tall female caique parrot from the Amazon Basin":
Nearing Serenity Park's exit, I decided to turn back and step inside Cashew's quarters for a moment. I had only to nestle close to her perch and she immediately hopped on my back. Crisscrossing my shoulders as I had watched her do with Lilly Love, she stopped at one point for what I assumed would be the parrot equivalent of a kiss. Instead, she began to clean my teeth: her beak lightly tapping against my enamel, the faint vibrations strangely soothing. Immediately afterward, she took a brief nap in my shirt's left breast pocket - it felt as if I'd grown another heart - then re-emerged and crawled to the top of my head. She strolled about there for a time before plucking out one of her own deep blue-green feathers and then descending to gently place it on my left shoulder. I have it still.
And to think that we used to call them birdbrains . . .


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Another Devil and Blacksmith Tale

"The Lad and the Deil"
Google Images

Here's another Devil story with a blacksmith, but "Devil" is spelled "Deil" because the story is Norwegian, says the book it's in, though I recall reading it at school in the fourth or fifth grade - and I ain't from Norway. This is probably a well-traveled story because the spelling was "Devil" in my book, a book that treated this story as traditional:
The Lad and the Deil
Once on a time there was a lad who was walking along a road cracking nuts, so he found one that was worm-eaten, and just at that very moment he met the Deil.

'Is it true, now,' said the lad, 'what they say, that the Deil can make himself as small as he chooses, and thrust himself in through a pinhole?'

'Yes, it is,' said the Deil.

'Oh! it is, is it? then let me see you do it, and just creep into this nut,' said the lad.

So the Deil did it.

Now, when he had crept well into it through the worm's hole, the lad stopped it up with a pin.

'Now, I've got you safe,' he said, and put the nut into his pocket.

So when he had walked on a bit, he came to a smithy, and he turned in and asked the smith if he'd be good enough to crack that nut for him.

'Ay, that'll be an easy job,' said the smith, and took his smallest hammer, laid the nut on the anvil, and gave it a blow, but it wouldn't break.

So he took another hammer a little bigger, but that wasn't heavy enough either.

Then he took one bigger still, but it was still the same story; and so the smith got wroth, and grasped his great sledge-hammer.

'Now, I'll crack you to bits,' he said, and let drive at the nut with all his might and main. And so the nut flew to pieces with a bang that blew off half the roof of the smithy, and the whole house creaked and groaned as though it were ready to fall.

'Why! if I don't think the Deil must have been in that nut,' said the smith.

'So he was; you're quite right,' said the lad and went away laughing.
This story can be found on pages 143-144 of A Second Book of Broadsheets.Here's an online description by Taylor and Francis Group of what this book was about:
This book, together with A Book of Broadsheets makes up an anthology of the 1915 broadsheets distributed by The Times to members of H.M. Forces serving in the trenches of World War I. The volume contains a wide variety of rich literature from before the war and was designed to give soldiers entertainment. It includes extracts from the works of Francis Bacon, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Walter Raleigh, William Wordsworth and Charles Dickens.
And that's that.


Friday, January 29, 2016

A Related Blacksmith Tale?

I was ruminating on the fictional fact that blacksmiths are associated with the Devil, and I have a few obvious ideas, of course, such as their mutual association with fire and smoke and their ability to shape things out of metal - Milton, you may recall, has the various demons of Paradise Lost build their city, Pandaemonium, partly through their supernatural skill with metalwork.

This blacksmith and Devil story is the sort of tale that would migrate to various though similar contexts. In the image above, you see that as Saint Eloi was engaged in a bit of smithery - making a holy chalice - the Devil approached to tempt him:
While [Saint Eloi] . . . was busy making a precious reliquary, the devil visited Eloi in the guise of [a] beautiful woman to try to distract him from his holy work. St Eloi however saw through the devil's disguise and seized his nose with his red-hot blacksmith's tongs. In this depiction the devil is shown changing back to his real form.
Of interest here is that the Devil's true form is a lot like a werewolf! Dario Rivarossa would be elated to hear of this!


Thursday, January 28, 2016

"The Blacksmith and the Devil"

I had to search a bit, but I finally found the 'six-thousand-year-old' story I was looking for - "The Blacksmith and the Devil" - which can be found in The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition, as follows:
Once upon a time there was a blacksmith who enjoyed life: he squandered his money and carried on many lawsuits. After a few years, he didn't have a single cent left in his pouch.

"Why should I torture myself any longer in this world?" he thought. So he went into the forest with the intention of hanging himself from a tree. Just as he was about to stick his head into the noose, a man with a long white beard came out from behind a tree carrying a large book in his hand.

"Listen, blacksmith," he said. "Write your name down in this large book, and for ten long years you'll have a good life. But after that you'll be mine, and I'll come and fetch you."

"Who are you?" asked the blacksmith.
At this point, we readers surely already know who it is and also what's coming, but if you want the whole Faustian story, go here and read. But I must say . . . if this story really is so old as claimed, it's clearly picked up some elements from other times, that bit about lawsuits, for instance, what does that mean? A Bronze Age rule of law? Surely not! Actually, I don't understand, in any era, what point lawsuits might play in the story.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I heard an old, old story . . .

The Smith and the Devil

Yesterday's blog entry mentioned that fairy tales may be much older than previously thought, and today's entry points to:
. . . [a] folk tale called The Smith and the Devil [that] was estimated to date back 6,000 years to the bronze age. The story, which involves a blacksmith selling his soul in a pact with the devil in order to gain supernatural ability, then tricking the evil power, is not so well known today, but its theme of a Faustian pact is familiar to many . . . . The author and academic Marina Warner . . . . said. "In the case of The Smith and the Devil, it's a cunning tale - the trickster tricked, showing a very ancient version of that defiance of difficulty. That capricious chance will play tricks on you, but you, with cunning, will be able to resist that. It's a kind of joke the audience shares to feel a little better." (Alison Flood, "Fairytales much older than previously thought, say researchers," The Guardian, January 20, 2016)
I suspect that readers familiar with my Bottomless Bottle of Beer tale will recognize why this tale of a blacksmith tricking the Devil catches my fancy. But how did the researchers determine the dating? Here's how:
The study employed phylogenetic analysis, which was developed to investigate evolutionary relationships between species, and used a tree of Indo-European languages to trace the descent of shared tales on it, to see how far they could be demonstrated to go back in time. (Flood, "Fairy Tales")
Alles klar? Well, not entirely . . .


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Good Egg, a Bad Seed?

Ben from The Fifth Child

I've been reading stories in Emanations 2 + 2 = 5. Just now, I finished a story that echoed something else I've read:
When they'd first called her "Goblin" she'd looked the word up in the school encyclopedia. Yes, she can see what they mean. Here lies the source of all sorcery. Perhaps there always had been others like her, sliding here from wibbly-wobbly worlds? Cro-mags. Neanderthals. Perhaps there always had been others, blown here from ghost continents, unable to return, exiles, trapped here for years, or decades, before moving on. (Andrew Darlington, "My Little Black Egg," Emanations: 2 + 2 = 5, p. 181)
Nice wordplay - "source of all sorcery" - and I'm reminded of Doris Lessing's novel The Fifth Child, the story of Ben, a 'goblin' born into a human family, the mother of which comes to see Ben as some sort of genetic throwback amidst her normal children, so she visits a renowned pediatric doctor for an expert's opinion and asks the doctor's impression of Ben:
He's not human, is he? . . . How do we know what kinds of people - races, I mean - creatures different from us, have lived on this planet? In the past, you know? We don't really know, do we? How do we know that dwarves or goblins or hobgoblins, that kind of thing, didn't really live here? (Doris Lessing, The Fifth Child, pp. 105-106)
The premise is interesting. Goblins, trolls, hobgoblins, and even more were various hominid species other than humans, so they're more than myths. Darlington's construction of the relationship differs a bit from Lessing's on this point. I'm informed, incidentally, that fairy tales are much older than previously thought . . .


Monday, January 25, 2016

Nothing to post today . . .

by blankspaceplz
Deviant Art

Well, isn't that something!

Is the world fair,
that we have "nothingness"
but not "somethingness"?

If nothingness
is the absence of all being,
then how can we
even speak
of nothingness?

"Is Nothing Sacred?"

I know nothing of the answer.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Muslim and a Christian were talking . . . but seriously, folks . . .

Navid Kermani and Martin Mosebach
Photo by Julian Baumann
Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin

The Catholic journal First Things has published an interview by Tobias Haberl with a Muslim and a Catholic - Navid Kermani and Martin Mosebach, respectively - that the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin first printed in German.

The English translation is by Kevin Gallagher, who rendered the title "'Of Course Religion is First and Foremost a Duty': Navid Kermani and Martin Mosebach on Christianity, Islam, and Art" (January 20, 2016).

The interview is sort of interesting, though I must confess to having skimmed much of the text. I should read the interview more closely, I realize, and try to learn more about the two since they're both successful writers. I did pay closer attention when the topic was visits to mosques and churches, and the interviewer asked the Catholic Mosebach this question:
Do you pray in mosques, Mr. Mosebach?
Mosebach answered:
To which he added, by way of clarification:
Do you know the Jesuit joke? "May one smoke while praying? No. May one pray while smoking? Of course."
This joke alone made my time spent with the article well worth the effort, for me, anyway. Maybe I should read the whole article more closely . . .

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Planet 9 from Outer Space!

Planet 9

According to aerospace writer Marcia Dunn, "New Evidence Points to Giant 9th Planet on Solar System Edge" (ABCNews, January 20, 2016). Astronomers have gathered evidence for the existence of a ninth planet and are calling the Neptune-sized monster "Planet 9," rather than "Planet X" - the letter "X, not the Roman numeral "X" - because the latter reeks of "aliens and the imminent destruction of the Earth." As one can see from the artist's rendering above, Planet 9 is head and shoulders above Pluto in size and truly is from outer space, for its revolution around the sun requires between 10,000 and 20,000 years. Remarkably, to my eyes anyway, the distant planet looks as though it could support life . . . or maybe not, not life as we know it, more like death, though not death as we know it either. Some scientists want to attempt contact with the planet, but other scientists are more leery of 'aliens' that might lurk in such dark regions of the universe, and these wary scientists do not like the looks of this Planet 9 from outer space.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Trumpet for President!

Made that Way, Stayed that Way!

Trumpet for President!

Ain't no Strumpet, Vote for Trumpet!

As for Crumpet . . . Vote for Trumpet!

(Add Your Own in the Comments.)


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lindall's Illustrious Illustrations: Sunday February 21, 4 PM

Creepy: Visions of Hell
Lindall's Preteritic Memories?


Creepy: End of Man
Lindall's Version of the Singularity?

These illustrations above were the sort that Lindall excelled at way back in the Seventies, during my enjoyably wayward youth, when I looked at such things, but I altogether forgot about Lindall and his cheerfully, fearfully hellish artwork till the images appeared again in my mind during the Noughties as I was engaged in scholarly work on John Milton and looking through Lindall's early Paradise Lost illustrations, which dated from around the same time as the Creepy and Eerie images or a bit later, the Seventies or early Eighties, and I suddenly recalled who Lindall was, recalled that he'd also done those counter-cultural images, and realized that the intellectual painter and the rebel illustrator were one and the same artist! Here's what Lindall says about those creative Seventies:
l illustrated for some of the most outstanding science fiction, fantasy and comic magazine writers of the 20th century. The writers were winners of Hugo Awards, Bram Stoker Awards, Nebula Awards, and more. These writers wrote for Star Trek, Star Wars and other iconic popular cultural creations. Ted White, who wrote a story especially for me, was the editor for Heavy Metal Magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Amazing Stories . . . . At the time it all seemed normal. Looking back, I realize that I was in an illustrators heaven, even though I had many more byways to search in philosophy, collecting, institution building etc.
Lindall will be giving a presentation on those years of brilliant creativity:
Special Lecture and Presentation: Sunday February 21, 4 PM - Terrance Lindall Talks About His Illustration Career in The Golden Age of Horror Comics
This memorable event will take place at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center and will be well worth your time.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Andrew C. McCarthy: "The Problem with Islam . . ."

Andrew C. McCarthy tells us that "The Problem with Islam Is Aggressive Scripture, Not Aggressive 'Traditionalism'" (National Review, January 16, 2016):
Islam . . . is not a religion of peace. It is a religion of conquest that was spread by the sword. Moreover, it is not only untrue that jihad refers "mainly" to the individual's internal struggle to live morally; it is also untrue that the Islamic ideal of the moral life is indistinguishable from the Western conception . . . . [Any struggle over the soul of Islam] would be over doctrine, [for] the backwardness and anti-Western hostility . . . [are] function[s] of cultural inhibitions [that] . . . . are direct consequences of Islamic scripture and sharia, the law derived from scripture . . . . [We may want] Islam to be moderate, but its scriptures won't cooperate . . . . Scripture . . . does not [evolve] - not in Islam as taught by over a millennium's worth of scholars and accepted by untold millions of Muslims. Mainstream Islam holds that scripture is immutable. The Koran, the center of Islamic life, is deemed the "uncreated word of Allah," eternal. (See, e.g., Sura 6:115: "The Word of thy Lord doth find its fulfillment in truth and justice: None can change His Words: For He is the one Who heareth and knoweth all.") . . . . Islamic doctrine . . . simply is not moderate. Looked at doctrinally, the challenge for "moderate Islam" is . . . Islam.
McCarthy makes a rather impassioned case. Read it in full on your own to see why McCarthy felt driven to write this article. And ask yourself if he's right that the problem is based on scripture, and that the problem is: Doctrine! Doctrine! Doctrine!

Note that McCarthy's reference to "scripture" in Islam is a reference to the Qur'an, and that's correct, as is his reference to "sharia" as "the law derived from scripture," but he does not refer in his article to hadith (traditions about the Muslim prophet) or sira (biographies of the Muslim prophet), from both of which sharia is also derived.

Make what you will of that.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Hallyu's 'rupture' onto the world stage!

Psy and the CICI President

Joel Lee, reporting for the Korea Herald on how "Ambassadors discuss globalizing Korean culture" (January 18, 2016), quotes the president of the Corea Image Communications Institute (CICI), who gave the CICI's opening speech at its annual award ceremony, where she reportedly attributed the success of the Korean Wave to:
thousands of years of condensed artistry that has ruptured onto the modern world stage.
As you can see from the bouquet of flowers in the photo above, the most 'ruptured' artistry was due almost entirely to the "great and powerful" Psy, whose "Gangnam Style" took the world by stormy surprise at how readily it 'ruptured' nearly 6000 years of Korean history through over two billion pinprick hits on YouTube!

Korean fans await the next e-'rupture' . . .

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Monday, January 18, 2016

ISIS turning on itself?

Hollie McKay reports that "ISIS burns fighters alive for letting Ramadi fall" (FoxNews, January 12, 2016):
ISIS fighters who fled to the terror group's Iraqi stronghold of Mosul after being defeated in Ramadi were burned alive in the town square . . . in an unmistakable message to fighters who may soon be defending the northern city [of Mosul] from government forces . . . . [The ISIS fighters who fled Ramadi] "were grouped together and made to stand in a circle . . . . [a]nd set on fire to die" . . . . With government, Kurdish and coalition forces now mustering to recapture Mosul, which fell to ISIS approximately 18 months ago, an increasingly paranoid ISIS has stepped up its murders of women and children . . . . "They come to the house and take the children and accuse them of being spies . . . . If the mom cries and gets upset at them, they accuse of her being a spy too and take her to the jail and later kill her" . . . . [One terrorism expert explained,] "ISIS is fracturing, paranoid from within, . . . [and] the harsher the tactic the more desperate the leadership is" . . . . [Another expert agreed: As ISIS continues] "to lose territory, we've seen a growing number of defections and a rise in the number of alleged internal spies - many of whom they have killed mercilessly without demonstrating significant evidence of internal espionage."
To hear that ISIS is fracturing, growing paranoid, and turning on its own jihadis comes as great news - though I mourn the deaths of the innocent whom ISIS in its paranoia also slays. When ISIS finally falls completely, and the Islamic State is gone, I hope to see its leaders go on trial as war criminals.

In their crimes, they are legion . . .

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sun-Ae has an altitude problem . . .

No, not an attitude problem! An altitude problem! Her report:
I have just arrived in Atacama, Chile after visiting Uyuni and other parts of Bolivia. In Uyuni we started a 3 days' tour, and I [was] . . . sick most of the time. I . . . had a headache . . . [and] could not eat. I missed a lot of nice scenery because I had to lie down or stay in the car. The altitude was 4800 meters at the highest point. I thought I had suffered enough before but I seemed not to [be] able to get used to the altitude.

Now we have arrived in the hostel near the border, I feel immediately better.
She's also having technical difficulties in sending photos, but a few have reached me, and they tell this story:

"Looks pretty dry . . ." Sun-Ae muses, yet a closer look reveals life, though not life as we know it:

"To be frank, such prickly life is life as I'd prefer not knowing too intimately!" she thinks. "And I'd need water! Oh, here's some now - cool, clear water."

"I can hardly wait to guzzle some down!" she thinks, her thirst growing.

"Looks a bit icy. Must be really cold water at this altitude!" Her thirst grows in anticipation. "Ah, all that fresh, cold water just waiting for me . . ."

The 'water' turns out to be the stagnant dregs of a salt lake. Ever thirstier, Sun-Ae and her team pile into their SUVs and continue their search for water. "Keep driving, Dan - we'll soon find water . . ."

Sun-Ae waking up: "Oh, thank God! It was only a dream!"

Disembodied Voice: "No, dear. This is a dream. You're really still in the desert, looking for water . . ."


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mr. Scott's health report . . .


I heard on the grapevine that my favorite high school teacher, Mr. Scott, is down in his back, so I sent an email to his daughter Jeanie for details, and here they are:
[D]ad has stenosis of the spine near the bottom where the nerve bundles gather to form the spinal cord . . . . The neurosurgeon is going to scrape bone away to clear up the pressure on the spine causing the pain . . . . No doubt the these problems, over the years, were exacerbated by his active lifestyle . . . . He hurt himself . . . on riding on a trail ride at my sister's ranch at Thanksgiving . . . . He's . . . worse [from] . . . going up and down the stairs and lifting wood into the furnace. He . . . will be on his stomach for several days in the hospital. He also . . . is convinced that he will walk out of the hospital and like magic do everything he wants. I will keep you posted. Surgery is at 7:00 am this morning (Friday).
Well, it doesn't sound life-threatening, so the news is not entirely bad. Let's keep him in our thoughts, that his recovery be quick!


Friday, January 15, 2016

Hi Robot!

He may look harmless,
but he wants your job!
(Photo: Getty)

Mary Wakefield, writing for The Spectator, has published a warning, "I, robot. You, unemployed" (January 16, 2016), for she speaks of the Singularity:
One evening last autumn, four experts in the field of artificial intelligence arrived in Westminster with an urgent message for our government. There's a robot revolution on the way, they said, and unless we prepare for it we’re in trouble . . . . The four experts spoke in turn, each about a different point in the future, like biblical prophets warning of the End Times. The most farseeing prophet was theoretically the most alarming. He talked about "the singularity," the point at which a computer will be capable of recursive self-improvement; of designing and building machines cleverer than itself and far, far cleverer than us. He said this point might be only 45 years away.
I could only chortle. "Ha! Joke's on them. I'll be dead long before this so-called 'singularity'!" At this point, the print continuing the article faded away, leaving its ironic Cheshire smile behind. Uh-oh. Time for their last laugh. A message followed:
Subscribe now to read on . . .
To which was added a subliminal message that I clean up my act:

Well, I now really wanted to read this article since they'd gone to such lengths to hide it from me, so I clicked on the writer's name, then on the article's title, and read the entire article . . . or would have if I hadn't tried to visit twice so that I could share this article's online address with my readers! That generosity lost me my second chance, and I got the same clean-up-your-act message as before.

Eye Robot is watching you. Aye, Robot.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Poetry Break: "The Pin-Head Prance"

I think - actually, I now know, having checked - that I posted this poem once before, but given that it appears in my published tale "The Uncanny Story," available in Emanations: 2 + 2 = 5, where two characters, Vladimir and Kropot, dance to its rhythm, I have an excuse to post it again:
The Pin-Head Prance
To stand upright will ask thee skill?
That was a bit of overkill!
We smitten with amazement fall?
Oh, that won't happen, not at all!
Come join us in a happy throng --
And see if you can dance along!
We prance as on a steel pin head --
You do it too, or you'll be dead!
Those of you with the anthology, Emanations: 2 + 2 = 5, will find this poem on page 422. For interested readers, you might note that this poem's inspiration comes from the third temptation set up by Satan in Paradise Regained, but I'll leave it at that . . .

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016


I asked my sixteen-year-old son if he'd heard that David Bowie had died - and to my astonishment, he had!

"Do you know his music?" I then asked.

"No," he said. "Do you?"

"A bit," I said. "I liked Fame."

"Oh, he wrote that?" En-Uk sounded surprised.

At first, I was taken aback, but I quickly realized what song he meant. "Not that Fame. An earlier one. The one I mean came out as a single in 1975, and I first heard it as a freshman at Baylor."

I should add, for my readers' edification, that it was recorded by Bowie, but written with Carlos Alomar and John Lennon.


Single Cover


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Iranians Shouting "Go Al-Saud"?

"Go Al-Saud"

Sam Wilkin reports that "Iran complains to U.N. about Saudi 'provocations'" (Reuters, January 9, 2016), but despite official Iranian opposition to the Al-Saud regime in Saudi Arabia, based on centuries-long animosity between Shi'a and Sunni, we see that protests in Iran show surprising support for the Al-Saud regime among the protesters themselves!

In the photo above, for instance, protesters support the Al-Saud family with sports' fan enthusiasm, waving banners that urge the ruling family on toward victory, saying, "Go Al-Saud" - and presumably shouting that support as well with chants of encouragement:
"Go Al-Saud, Go! Show 'em What You Know!"
Either that . . . or the Iranians aren't getting their money's worth for the private English lessons they're secretly taking . . .


Monday, January 11, 2016

Poetry Break: "A Jingle for Florida Orange Juice"

Oh Christmassy, this Orange Tree!
Google Images

Yes, on a lark, I wrote a jingle for Florida orange juice, and I titled it:
A Jingle for Florida Orange Juice

Warm and mild, the sun above,
Southeast girls, of suntan love,
Enjoy a taste of life lived loose –
Florida fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Brought to you by some miserable muse on a wild hare. Or a wild hair. Whatever.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sun-Ae in Machu Picchu

Sun-Ae is now - or was recently - in Machu Picchu, and she sent a couple of photos. Here's the first:

Click on the photo for enlargement - and also with the next image:

Everybody's seen such photos of Machu Picchu before, of course - and probably far more stunning than these two - but photos look different, better somehow, when you know the photographer. Here's what Sun-Ae wrote:
We're just leaving the place with Machu Picchu. Yesterday evening, we arrived here and went to see the mountains today. The weather was great as you can see in the photos. We even went up to Wayna Picchu, about one and a half hours further up hiking. From there we could see the Machu Piccchu. An amazing place, I wish you were here! And the kids, too. We have had a good time so far. The heavens blessed us with great weather every day . . . . Thank you for pushing me to go. This will be the best trip in my life.
Undoubtedly, she'll have a lot more to say on her return. Meanwhile, I'm busy editing her translation of a book of short stories, as well as articles by other people for various journals . . .

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Saturday, January 09, 2016

Ronald Sokol: Three Fallacies about Law

Ronald Sokol

I learned three things about law today from Ronald Sokol's article "Richard Dawkins' law delusion" (JoongAng Daily, January 8, 2016), namely, that most of us, and not just Dawkins, hold three major fallacies about law:
The first might be called the Crime Fallacy. As is true of many people, what first springs to Dawkins' mind when he thinks of law is criminal law. Criminal trials fill a large space in the public imagination, but - to borrow a metaphor from biology - they are but one cell of law's complex corpus. Most lawyers and judges never enter a criminal court.

The second is the Guilt Fallacy. Dawkins is "deeply shocked" to discover that a person who committed an illegal act may be found not guilty[, but this] confuses "guilt," which is a legal concept, with the commission of a forbidden act. Whether one has committed an act is a question of fact. Whether one is "guilty" is a question of law. A person may have carried out an act, but quite rightly be found "not guilty" - just as he may be found "guilty," even though he did nothing . . . . [In this case, the term "guilt"] means that the state has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the act. If the state cannot prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, the accused is "not guilty" - regardless of whether he or she really did commit the act . . . . The underlying premise . . . is straightforward: It is better to let 10 criminals go free than one innocent person be convicted. Centuries of legal history show that this system, though far from perfect, is the fairest that humans have been able to devise.

Dawkins' third and most fundamental fallacy is the delusion that law is about truth - "what really happened," as he puts it. Let us call this the Truth Fallacy. It is here that Dawkins goes furthest astray [because the] goal of law, unlike that of science, is not to determine truth; its primary aim is to minimize conflict. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis summed up this understanding as follows: "In most matters, it is more important that the applicable rule of law be settled than that it be settled right." Even a wrong or "unjust" decision can end a conflict . . . .

The cornerstone of law is social harmony, and its ultimate purpose can be defined as promoting social happiness, a higher standard than mere harmony. Dawkins found happiness in science; we are all the richer for his contribution. But, judging by his memoirs, we are equally fortunate that he did not pursue a career in law.
On the other hand, if Dawkins had undertaken a career in law, he might be writing this very article to disabuse the scientist Ronald Sokol of these three fallacies about law.

By the way, I'd always thought of the aim of law to be justice, so I'm struck by the aim of law being harmony, which calls up Korean ways of thinking about the importance of a harmonious society. Are we Westerners and Easterners not so different in thinking, after all?


Friday, January 08, 2016

ISIS in CRISIS? Paul Wood says "Yes"

The Spectator summarizes Paul Wood's article, "The truth about Islamic State: it's in crisis" (January 9, 2016):
Isis in crisis. Disillusioned Islamic State recruits are deserting the bloodthirsty terror group as it loses territory, says Paul Wood. Morale is plummeting, especially among foreign fighters. Many are packing it in, and many others want to defect. But it is too soon to say that the caliphate is done for. The death throes of the Caliphate will take time; and if, or when, the caliphate is smashed to pieces, some of its members will be coming back to the UK.
I had a sense that this was happening. I read a lot each day on the Muslim world, much more than I report upon - for I have many interests - so I'm not surprised by this good news. May the good news continue! Don't celebrate yet, though, for this isn't over.

And when it is over - assuming ISIS fails - true believers will be returning to the West, still certain of the 'failed' prophecies, for we all know what happens when prophecies fail - true believers double down and believe even more strongly.

Anyway, read Wood's entire article.


Thursday, January 07, 2016

North Korea's Next Test: The F-Bomb!

Kim Jong-un
Still angry after all these years!
Google Images

Me and my Kimfolk tested an A-Bomb back yonder and shook the whole world in a single day. That was way back when. Now that I'm all growed up, I've tested an H-Bomb and kept the sun up all night. Talk about global warming? You ain't seen nothin yet! Next time, I'm gonna drop an F-Bomb and explode in rage. I've been gorging myself to increase my mass, cause ever-body knows Einstein's famous formular, e=mc2, so when I blow my top and my bottom, I'll shake the whole dog-damn universe at the speed of light bitchin squared!

Just you wait and see. When I shout, "F*ck you, universe!", ain't nobody gonna laugh about no 'interviews' with me and my Kimfolk no more!

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Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Sights from Lima, Peru . . .

My wife is sending me photos without captions from South America - her most recent message read:
"From Lima - A quick  sending  before  leaving  soon  for  Ica."
She means Ica, Peru, of course. Anyway, I will post the photos, and readers can perhaps fill in the details. Here are some photos she took in Lima, Peru:

Lima 1

Lima 2

Lima 3

Lima 4

Lima 5

Lima 6

Lima 7

Okay, faithful readers, what are these sights, and where in Lima are they to be found?


Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Stephen Vincent Benét Again . . .

Stephen Vincent Benét

Several weeks back, I posted selections from a couple of referees' remarks on a short paper about Stephen Vincent Benét that I submitted for publication in a literary journal, but most of what I posted was from a single referee, so this posting concerns the other referee, whose remarks are worthy of more serious attention. This second referee begins as follows:
This extremely short paper requires considerable attention, to the extent that this reader cannot (at this point) recommend the work for publication . . . . The issues are manifest, and the brevity of the paper belies a suite of problems: simply put, too often complexities are ignored or glossed, and opportunities for analysis (historical, generic, socio-cultural, ideological, political) are consistently missed. There is no clear evidence of either a methodology or theorized approach; structurally, paragraphs are often misrepresented as sections. For this reviewer, the question becomes why recuperate the work of a "nationalist" who is elsewhere remembered as "old-fashioned, quaint, and chauvinistic"? The paper never quite convincingly resolves this crucial question.
The crux of this critique lies in the question posed by the referee: "why recuperate the work of a 'nationalist' who is elsewhere remembered as 'old-fashioned, quaint, and chauvinistic'?" Why? Because the charges are untrue, as I believe I show in my brief paper. Part of the answer lies in a point noted by the referee in a second paragraph of critical remarks:
About halfway through, the writer proffers a strategy (or is it a defense?) to recuperating Benét, and suggests we differentiate between "ethnic nationalism versus civic nationalism" . . . the latter blithely characterized as extending "membership to any individual – regardless of ethnicity – who is willing to embrace the shared values of the imagined community". This seems willful, or at least willing to ignore the civic community as a "munus" (I use that term after Esposito) demanding our duty bound acquiescence to putative social codes; one wonders what Foucault might have to say in terms of those privileging and legitimizing power/knowledge discourses which systemically erase the other as part of a process of social codification (the process imparting erasure as equally as anything parlayed by a so-called "ethnic nationalism"). The author seems unwilling to tackle these complexities, and instead simply appropriates/promulgates the ethnic/civic paradigm (gleaned from an encyclopedia) without analysis. At a minimum, further thought is required here.
In this part of the critique, the referee grows disdainful. Take the distinction I note between "ethnic nationalism" and "civic nationalism." There is nothing controversial about this basic distinction, which I elaborate upon. Note the referee's dismissive term "blithely," which implies that I am ignorant or, in the sentence that follows, that I willfully ignore such approaches as those by Roberto Esposito or Michel Foucault. Why do I not draw upon these and other theorists? Because what I am up to is not especially difficult and needs no complex theoretical apparatus. Perhaps I am "willful," but I am not without reason for my willfulness. The issue at the level on which I am interested is a simple one. As for "gleaned from an encyclopedia," that's simply another disdainful remark. I've long known the "ethnic/civic paradigm" and had no need to 'glean' it. Rather, I borrowed - for the edification of my readers, if they should happen to need any edifying - the distinction from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy in an article written by an expert on nationalism. From this point, the referee goes on to make clear what was most of concern:
Finally, nationalism and fascism are flattened into a-cultural, a-historical, universal ideological or political manifestations (which, of course, they are not): where did Germany's NSDAP party start if not in particularly enculturated versions of a staunchly felt "nationalism"? As a culturally situated historical mode, Benét's nationalism must be more deeply critiqued and, I suggest, contrasted with anything roaming the old world (Europe) in a similar moment in history. But perhaps most damningly, I am afraid the notion of a national literature suffering some kind of "ethnic and multicultural fragmentation" puts us back somewhere within the realm of the New Critics; since [John] Crowe Ransom et al., much theoretical work has necessarily happened in order to create an incredulity toward these sorts of grand narratives.
Leaving aside the referee's effacement of the difference between ethnic and civic nationalisms, let me just note that grand narratives are far from dead, despite Postmodernism - and what is Postmodernism itself but yet another grand narrative, even a meta-grand narrative! And look at the accusations, the charges leveled at me, all because I used the expression "ethnic and multicultural fragmentation" of American literature. In fact, I used this politically incorrect expression as a test to see what sort of response it would garner. Apparently, I am criticized for wanting to turn back the progress made in literary criticism. What nonsense! I merely suggested that we take another look at the oeuvre of Stephen Vincent Benét, whose writings have been - in my opinion - unjustifiably ignored.

This referee's critique misses the actual target because it aims at a target that I did not set up. I don't deny that the referee's suggestions would make for an interesting article, but that article is not the one I set out to write. A literary journal expects literary theory, however, and I didn't provide that, so I accept the journal's decision not to publish my article.

Time to submit elsewhere . . .

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Monday, January 04, 2016

So . . . who is this Chivers fellow, anyway?

There is little known about Michael G. Chivers, though we surmise that he belongs to the Western family known as Chives:


According to Wikipedia, Chives have insect-repelling properties, which might extend toward repelling other pests. Shoggaths, for example. Or fanatical members of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP)!

But this is sheer speculation, so let us leave these airy regions and turn to the fellow's own vacuum-packed self-identification, which can be found on page 566 of Emanations: 2+ 2 = 5. Ah, here it is:
Michael G. Chivers is lives on the South Coast of England and collects fridge magnets.
Eh . . . "is lives"? What the feck does that mean? Something must be missing. Perhaps Chivers had actually written:
Michael G. Chivers is a member in good standing of the RCP who lives on the South Coast of England and collects fridge magnets.
Now that would make more sense. Except for the RCP detail. That is disappointing. I had thought that beneath him. How could you, Chivers?

But I still didn't know much about the man until I conducted some rather arduous research - I reached over to my book shelf, pulled out Emanations: Second Sight, and checked page 370 - and from these hard-won research results, I uncovered an entire sheet of information about the man. Except that I suspect all of the information there to be fraudulent. False. Fake. Untrue. Incorrect. Etc.

Let's see if that "unpatriotic rotten doctor commie rat" will have the audacity to show his traffic-cone-topped face on this blog of mine anymore.

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Sunday, January 03, 2016

Quito Finito? No, Quito Fino!

My wife sent me a few photos from Quito, Ecuador that seemed randomly arranged, so I've posted them below in an order of my own, beginning with this street scene:

Not a typical street scene, but enchanting in its own way. Next, a mysterious, rounded pyramid - if that's geometrically permissible, labeled so:

Followed by a statue standing guard:

And another statue, a bit corny, but more inviting:

And a lovely, if imminently foggy, valley - the penultimate photo . . . so far:

Now fireworks, the ultimate photo - until the next batch arrives!

Wish I were there . . .


Saturday, January 02, 2016

Michael G. Chivers: Impersonating a Traffic Cone?

There's probably no law specifically outlawing this, but think of the chaos that would ensue if everybody were to walk around with traffic cones on their heads! Order would break down instantly, and the entire planet Earth would have to be quarantined - possibly even exterminated - to protect the rest of the universe.

This is a possible, distant reading of the plot behind The Squalling Terror, which was written by Michael G. Chivers and which I have described as "a really good story, a sort of Lovecraftian satire of the Marxist Revolutionary Party as a religious cult that gets more than it bargained for," and I added, "I did enjoy the story. It was so good that I almost set it aside for fear of nightmares, but I steeled myself and read on."

You'll get no plot-spoilers here on this blog post, but if you're familiar with Lovecraft's tales, you'll already know what to expect of a religious cult for which the Marxist Revolutionary Party is a 'secular' front.

But does the tale at least have a happy ending, some potential readers will want to know. The answer to that question is . . . "Yes" . . . and . . . "No" . . . depending on whom you identify with in the story. But such is true of every story.

At around 90 pages, this story is more novella than 'short' story, but it is well worth time taken to read it.