Wednesday, August 31, 2016

High-Tech Jobs for the Autistic

The Daily Mail Online has published an interesting AFP article, "Autism a Silicon Valley asset with social quirks" (August 28, 2016), which tells of a company, MindSpark, that employs analysts with autism to test software:
MindSpark, located in the coastal city of Santa Monica near Los Angeles, employs analysts with autism to test software for companies. The firm has been refining its model for the past three years . . . . This week, MindSpark opened to companies around the world . . . . [It] seeks out people on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum with behaviors that, while at odds with social norms, are advantages in working with computer technology . . . . MindSpark has 27 analysts, five of them full-time employees and the rest paid based on the number of hours they work . . . . [S]oftware testing . . . [is] a learnable skill, especially if people have traits prevalent in the higher functioning end of the autism population: attention to detail, pattern recognition, and a penchant for staying focused on a task.
This is such a great idea, I marvel to think nobody thought of it before. I guess the idea requires thinking outside the box, e.g., seeing the autistic as gifted rather than disabled.

You've probably already wondered how Silicon Valley works its way into this article since Santa Monica is pretty far away - think distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco - but if you read the whole article, you'll find the answer in the part about EvoLibri Consulting founder Jan Johnston-Tyler, who locates Silicon Valley jobs that fit the autistic (or if you prefer her term, the "neurodiverse").


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

So . . . Elephants aren't Quite as Smart as We are?

Brains: Human and Elephant
Google Images

Writing for Nautilius (APRIL 7, 2016), Suzana Herculano-Houzel notes "The Paradox of the Elephant Brain," namely, "With three times as many neurons, why doesn't the elephant brain outperform ours?" Where did Herculano-Houzel get these numbers? She and her lab assistants calculated them based on the dissection of an African elephant's brain, and . . .
. . . Lo and behold, the African elephant brain had more neurons than the human brain. And not just a few more: a full three times the number of neurons, 257 billion to our 86 billion neurons. But - and this was a huge, immense "but" - a whopping 98 percent of those neurons were located in the cerebellum, at the back of the brain. In every other mammal we had examined so far, the cerebellum concentrated most of the brain neurons, but never much more than 80 percent of them. The exceptional distribution of neurons within the elephant brain left a relatively meager 5.6 billion neurons in the whole cerebral cortex itself. Despite the size of the African elephant cerebral cortex, the 5.6 billion neurons in it paled in comparison to the average 16 billion neurons concentrated in the much smaller human cerebral cortex.

So here was our answer. No, the human brain does not have more neurons than the much larger elephant brain - but the human cerebral cortex has nearly three times as many neurons as the over twice as large cerebral cortex of the elephant.
That answers my identical question, so I now know.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

A Time for Reflection

A Mighty Pig Thinker

My family and I took a small trip out of The City this weekend to The Place of The Very Wise Pig, where I received advice direct from the horse's mouth, so to speak, as you can see in the above photo, in which The Very Wise Pig strikes an incontrovertibly Rodinesque pose for the camera, or thinks he does, this pig, the thinker . . .


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Peachy Keen Analysis and Brew!

Forbidden Peach

Some readers may recall that Salwa Khoddam and I co-wrote an article titled "The Peach in Milton's 'Paradise Lost,' Marvell's 'Garden,' and Eliot's 'Prufrock'" in which we argue the following:
The article investigates the peach as symbol of the forbidden fruit in Milton's "Paradise Lost," Marvell's "Garden," and Eliot's "Prufrock." Milton focuses on the fruit's appearance as "downy," Marvell refers to the peach as "curious," and Eliot worries that to "dare" to eat a peach could disturb the universe. Milton's choice of "downy" fits the peach better than what we would now call an apple. Marvell's choice of "curious" fits the Christian world's long-held belief that curiosity was the vice that led Eve to try the forbidden fruit. Eliot's choice of "dare" fits Eve's having "dar'd" to eat the forbidden fruit in "Paradise Lost," for daring to eat the fruit can disturb the universe, as, for example, Eve's eating did. These three points are supported by context, analysis, explication, connections, etymology, and more. Noted in passing are a few brief references in art and literature to the peach as the forbidden fruit, and these are treated merely to show that such identification is not unheard of. More important are the connections drawn between the fruit in the three poems, for such connections are the focus of this paper.
I'd like to think that this article written by Salwa and me influenced Red Rock's decision to brew a peach-flavored ale, but the article probably had nothing to do with that.

Anyway, for those interested in the work of the spirit, here's a brief description of the "Forbidden Peach" brewing process, along with a few ratings . . .


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Daniel Pipes: "Ban the Burqa, Allow the Burkini"

Writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer (August 23, 2016), Daniel Pipes advises, "Ban the Burqa, Allow the Burkini," and he starts with a remark that I myself might have written:
France has been seized by a silly hysteria over the burkini, prompting me to wonder when Europeans will get serious about their Islamist challenge.
Pipes is right - this burkini phobia is serious silliness. Here's why he's right:
This development[,namely, banning the burkini,] astonishes me, someone who has argued that the burqa (and the niqab, a similar article of clothing that leaves a slit for the eyes) needs to be banned from public places on security grounds. Those formless garments not only hide the face, permitting criminals and jihadis to hide themselves but they permit the wearer to hide, say, an assault rifle without anyone knowing. Men as well as women use burqas as accessories to criminal and jihadi purposes. Indeed, I have collected some 150 anecdotes of bank robberies, abductions, murders, and jihadi attacks since 2002; Philadelphia has become the Western capital of burqas and niqabs as criminal accessories, with at least 34 incidents in 9 years.

In contrast, the burkini poses no danger to public security. Unlike the burqa or niqab, it leaves the face uncovered; relatively tight-fitting, it leaves no place to hide weapons. Men cannot wear it as a disguise. Further, while there are legitimate arguments about the hygiene of large garments in pools (prompting some hotels in Morocco to ban the garment), this is obviously not an issue on the coastal beaches of France.

Accordingly, beach burkinis should be allowed without restriction . . . . So, my advice: focus on these real problems and let Muslims wear what they wish to the beach.
Pipes is clearly right. This focus on the burkini is a distraction. The burkini is not a secuity risk. Banning it will only bring ridicule upon France and weaken attempts to ban the burqa and niqab, both of which are security risks. Focus on the real threats!

UPDATE: Burkini ban overturned by France's highest court!


Friday, August 26, 2016

Isis will fall in Mosul . . .

Seth J. Frantzman with Peshmerga
Frantzman Website

Seth J. Frantzman, writing for The Spectator (August 27, 2016), informs us that "Isis will fall in Mosul," and asks, "But what happens then?" before offering a hint, namely, that "Inside the coalition against Islamic State, a quieter battle is being waged for the fate of northern Iraq." But let's see why Frantzman thinks ISIS is on its last legs in Mosul:
At night, the temperature around the Islamic State-held city of Mosul drops to around 80°F. At the Bashiqa front line, 15 miles northeast of the city, it would feel pleasant and almost calm, were it not for the steady sound of exploding shells. Most of life is tea and cigarettes . . . 'It's so peaceful you can't imagine what's happening - it's surreal,' says Allan Duncan, a former soldier with the Royal Irish Regiment who volunteered to join the Kurdish peshmerga here two years ago in order to fight Isis. 'You almost forget that things are so close to the end. 'Soon, the waiting - amid an abiding fear of attacks with suicide trucks, armoured like something out of Mad Max - will be over. The final assault on Mosul[,] . . . taken by Islamic State two years ago, is expected to end Isis's control of significant [Iraqi territory]. Isis certainly seems to sense that the endgame has begun, and is responding with its customary brutality. It has been killing deserters, and relying on ever-younger recruits. Last month a massive car bomb killed 323 in a Shia district of Baghdad during Ramadan . . . . [But] Bahram Yassin, the peshmerga commanding officer, oversees 7,000 men along 30 miles of front line, and seems eager to move. It's thought that Islamic State leaders are already fleeing the city for Syria. 'People are deserting Isis now - their morale is very low and we are ready to attack them,' he says. 'We now know that they have no advanced weapons' . . . . For two years now Isis has run [Mosul,] this once rich and powerful city and the diverse areas around it, destroying its museums and expelling minorities. From the sandbagged positions overlooking Bashiqa, you can see the city lights glowing in the distance. Life seems to go on. Iraqi flags are said to be flying in some neighbourhoods; it's rumoured that locals are set to rise up against Isis.
I can imagine that most of those under the rule of ISIS find little reason to regret its passing. The Sunnis may have been privileged, compared to other groups, but that advantage was merely the privilege of the most privileged in a prison.

With the loss of territory, eventually all of its territory, ISIS will devolve into yet another of Islamism's many terrorist groups - let's call them "terrorists without territory" (TWTs, pronounced "twits") - so we will not have heard the last of them.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Jihadists motivated by religion!

ISIS Jihadists
Google Images

John Geddes, writing for the Canadian magazine Macleans (August 15, 2016), asks "What motivates a Canadian jihadist?" and finds that "A study stresses real religious zeal, not loners seeking a way out":
A new study based on interviews conducted over social media with foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria raises doubts about the commonly held notion that young men in North America and Europe who are drawn to violent Islamic extremism must be marginalized loners . . . . Three university researchers who contacted dozens of jihadists from abroad in Iraq and Syria, including some Canadians, say they seemed to be drawn mainly by the religious ideas . . . behind jihadism. Rather than being isolated individuals who self-radicalized in front of their computer screens, the report says they usually found mentors . . . . In the working paper entitled Talking to Foreign Fighters: Socio-Economic Push versus Existential Pull Factors, the researchers caution against assuming that radical Islam appeals only young men on the edges of society . . . . They suggest previous academic studies have put too much weight on those "push" factors - the problems and frustrations in the lives of young men who turn to extremist Islam . . . . "Based on what we are hearing in interviews with foreign fighters . . . we think more attention and significance should be given to the repeated affirmations of the positive benefits of being jihadists" . . . . In the working paper, they write that the foreign fighters they contacted "run the gamut from troubled youth with personal problems to accomplished young men and women from stable backgrounds" . . . . [T]he paper points to the importance of influential radical voices who carry some form of religious authority . . . . The report repeatedly stresses the finding that, based on what fighters themselves say, they are "pulled" to Iraq and Syria by religious ideas, rather than being "pushed" by the realities of their lives in the West . . . . [T]he researchers conclude, "we think their religiosity is pivotal to understanding their motivations."
More research that takes religious motivation seriously needs to be done. The converts among the foreign fighters for ISIS might know little about Islam, but they are radicalized by religious leaders who do know their religion very well.

For those readers interested in more than the excerpts above, see the article.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Nigerian Romance Literature Revisited

Mugun Zama!
Anty Bilkisu Funtua
Photo from BBC

My recent post on "Subversive Literature in Nigeria - Romance Novels vs. Islamism" keeps getting page views. I'm no power blogger, so the numbers aren't overwhelming, but they are of interest to me because that post is one of my most popular.

I therefore post this revisit today to see if it will be equally popular.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Partial Preface to Poems

I mentioned - if memory fail me not - that I'm putting my poems together for publication. Well, my old friend Natalie Macris agreed to supply a preface, and here are some excerpts from what she wrote:
Years ago, my friend Jeff told me he had started to write some poetry. He remembers showing me a few lines and me teasing him about writing "dirty poems," but I recall being more encouraging. We were in our twenties, students at Berkeley - why not dabble in poetry? . . . Not long after that first mention of his poems, Jeff read some of them to me. I don't know much about poetry, I thought, but these seem very good . . . . In what seemed like just a matter of months, Jeff won the university's Roselyn Schneider Eisner Prize in Poetry, and I was watching my friend standing on a stage under a spotlight, reading his work to an auditorium full of people.
Yeah, that's more or less how it happened. When I get the collection arranged and formatted, I'll post the full preface.

Meanwhile, I do have a novella you can read . . .


Monday, August 22, 2016

Justin Schmidt: I hurt myself today . . .

Justin Schmidt with Tarantula Hawk
Google Images

I recently read an article by Avi Steinberg on "The Connoisseur of Pain" (NYT, August 20-21, 2016), a title given to entomologist Justin Schmidt, for having gotten stung so many times in his work on Hymenoptera, for constructing a Pain Scale for Stinging Insects, and for talking about the pain so much, I expect:
Within minutes of our first meeting, and more or less in response to my saying good morning, Justin Schmidt began lamenting our culture's lack of insect-based rites of passage. He told me about the Sateré-Mawé people in northwestern Brazil, who hold a ceremony in which young men slip their hands into large mitts filled with bullet ants, whose stings are so agonizing they can cause temporary paralysis; when initiates pass the test, they're one step closer to becoming full members of society.

Schmidt believes we could learn something from this. By trade, he is an entomologist, an expert on the Hymenoptera order - wasps, bees and ants - but his interest in this insect ritual was not merely academic. He has two teenage boys, and, on this particular morning at least, I found him wondering whether they might benefit from a pain ritual to help introduce them to adulthood.

"I mean, it wouldn't kill them," Schmidt said. "And I think that may be the key to the whole thing: It can't kill you and yet something very real is happening."
Something very real? That sounds much like the song "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails:
I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything
If you care to hear the song, click here, or the cover by Johnny Cash, which is better. Anyway, I would advise against that stinging sort of initiation - it'd get you charged with child abuse! But the main point is true. More than anything else, pain teaches us what is real, and even - if we believe Dylan - what is beautiful: "Behind every beautiful thing, there's been some kind of pain." By the way, the rest of Steinberg's article on Schmidt and his work is well worth reading.

Entomology, incidentally, was my 4-H project way back when I was a teenager, and I did get stung in that pursuit . . .

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Muslim Cleric Issam Amira Insists that Islam is Rightfully Mighty Intolerant

Mighty Intolerant

In a Memri Report for June 18, 2016 (Clip No. 5626, [Transcript]), we learn that the Palestinian Cleric Issam Amira, speaking at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, insists that "Islamic Strategy Dictates Hostility towards Infidels, [and that] Tolerance Is Un-Islamic":
"[F]riendship [with] and tolerance toward infidels are unacceptable"[, and] "the strategy in Islam is hostility toward non-Muslims . . . . The notion [of tolerance] is very dangerous . . . . What kind of tolerance is possible with these [unbelieving] people? There is only one kind of punishment for those [unbelieving] people: to stop them, to wreak vengeance upon them, and to teach them a lesson. This is not achieved through tolerance, negotiations, or kindness. It is achieved only though might . . . . [This word] means forcefulness, ruthlessness, and hostility . . . . [As for the] young men [who] want to wage Jihad. Do you think you're doing them a favor by preventing them from reaching Paradise, and by keeping them here, where they live as half-men? There should be hostility toward infidels . . . . [Y]ou should be hostile toward them. The strategy in Islam is hostility toward non-Muslims."
This is certainly Islamist rhetoric, full of hostility toward all non-Muslims - not just Western infidels, rather ALL non-Muslims - but it's also, unfortunately, not far from mainstream discourse in too much of the Arab Muslim world these days.

Memri, by the way, is an excellent resource for those of us who don't know the languages, so if you're one of us ignoramuses, then go here and get yourself subscribed.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

When Domestic Political Rhetoric Harms Foreign Policy Objectives

Obama and Hillary Founded ISIS!
MEMRI TV Clip No. 5623

Anyone who keeps up with what goes for political analysis in the Middle East knows that the discourse is full of conspiracy theories shaped to explain how the US is at fault for everything wrong with the Muslim Arab world.

One particularly egregious, widespread conspiracy theory in the Middle East is that the US founded the Islamic State.

This is false, of course, but when a candidate in this year's election makes the same claim,and even doubles down on the claim (before watering the claim down a week later), the conspiracy theorists in the Middle East feel themselves powerfully confirmed in their belief that the primary intention of the US in the Middle East is to sow discord and reap the destruction of Arab societies.

For more on this MEMRI report, see this video and its transcript.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Subversive Literature in Nigeria - Romance Novels vs. Islamism

Hadiza Nuhu Gudaji
Romance Writer
(AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Photo Taken April 5, 2016

Michelle Faul, writing for The Big Story, reports on how "Romance novellas by women in Nigeria challenge traditions" (August 17, 2016), but these novellas are also challenging the Islamism of Boko Haram:
Nestled among vegetables, plastic kettles and hand-dyed fabric in market stalls are the signs of a feminist revolution: Piles of poorly printed books by women . . . . [that] are part of a flourishing literary movement centered in the ancient city of Kano, in northern Nigeria, where dozens of young women are rebelling through romance novels. Hand-written in the Hausa language, the romances now run into thousands of titles. Many rail against a strict interpretation of Islam propagated in Nigeria by the extremist group Boko Haram . . . . [One author, Hadiza Nuhu Gudaji, explains:] "We write to educate people, to be popular, to touch others' lives, to touch on things that are happening in our society" . . . . [Her] views have gained a recognition unusual for women in her society . . . . [because her] novellas are so popular that she is invited to give advice on radio talk shows . . . . The novellas are derogatorily called "littattafan soyayya, meaning "love literature," Kano market literature or, more kindly, modern Hausa literature. Daily readings on about 20 radio stations make them accessible to the illiterate . . . . They have become so popular that young girls call in to say they're learning to read because they want to follow more stories. That is no minor feat in a region that has more children out of school than almost anywhere on earth, . . . . [where] only one in five girls has had any formal education. Parents routinely pull 13- and 14-year-olds out of school to get married . . . . Critics say the novellas give girls unrealistic expectations, inspire rebellion and are un-Islamic . . . . The books may sound dramatic, but they often mirror life . . . . Last year, one young writer was badly beaten. Young men gang-raped another in her home after she published a book about women's rights in politics.
Talk about suffering artists! The longer article describes more of the oppression and difficulties these romance writers face, but given the widespread popularity of these romance books, Islamists might have difficulty in successfully suppressing them.

I used to laugh at this genre of literature, but not anymore. There's something in it that addresses the desires of women and opposes the totalitarianism of Islamists, and that's no mean feat!

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Numbers and Letters: Different Histories - A Note to Andrew Sheng

Latin Alphabet: Modern and Ancient

In an interesting and informed article for The Straits Times, "Why do Chinese think differently from the West?" (August 5, 2016), Andrew Sheng explains the difficulty of being precise in Chinese, and I think he means written Chinese because he compares the use of ideogrammatic writing systems to alphabetic writing systems. Readers will want to click on over and at least peruse the article. On one point, however, Sheng errs:
Science developed in the West partly because of the alphabetic language, derived from the Arabs, which means that you can define words and meaning much more precisely, since the English language comprises today over a million words. As the philosopher Wittgenstein argued, all concepts are defined by language.
The Western alphabet was not "derived from the Arabs." The best theory is that the Phoenicians developed an alphabet around 1000 BC (or even 500 years earlier) and had by 800 BC passed the alphabet on to the Greeks, who in turn passed it on to the Latin peoples around 700 BC.

Sheng is probably confusing the history of the alphabet with the history of the decimal place-value numeral system (with zero), the latter of which did come to the West via the Arabs, but Arabs borrowed this numeral system (along with a symbol for zero) from the Hindus.

Perhaps someone who knows Sheng could direct him to this blogpost?


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Bait and Switch on Photo of British Cartoonist Michael Heath!

You just can't trust anyone these days! The right-leaning British magazine The Spectator seemed to  promise a lefthanded look at cartoonist Michael Heath, who grew up in a communist home and whose cartoon below appeared to have some vaguely Cyrillic heading:

Left Bait

But no, uh-uh, not at all. The article we reached by clicking shows a righthanded Heath with a decidedly Western alphabet in the cartoon below!

Right Switch

Who's responsible for editing these things these days? Nobody? Well, Nobody ought to be editing like nobody's business! Okay, so we don't know if Heath is left or right, but birds of a feather do flock together:
In his drinking days in Soho with his friends at the Colony Club, Jeffrey Bernard, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, he was terrified of Bacon, 'the most frightening man he ever met'. But what he loved was the talk. They drank continuously, whisky and/or vodka, but always 'had something I wanted to hear. No one was allowed to boast.' But when were you drawing? 'When I was drinking,' Michael says, creating a rather shocked silence. 'I could drink and draw . . . It gives you a sort of whizz.' ('Funny is now dangerous', The Spectator, Kate Chisholm August 13, 2016)
Yeah, yeah, one does have to take an occasional whizz during a long drinking bout. But who is Chisholm quoting here:
'the most frightening man he ever met'.
Herself? Or does Heath talk about himself in the third person? He does have some interesting things to say:
What's it like working as a cartoonist after the attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo? asked Kirsty Young. 'It adds a certain frisson to your drawing,' Michael replies. 'But I never wanted to be a political cartoonist . . . I wanted to be funny . . . People take offence [anyway],' he says. 'Funny is now dangerous. But I'm not scared. Because they don’t get it.'
Right, they don't get the joke, but they do know they're being laughed at. That modicum of insight into insult makes them dangerous


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Meow Wolf: A New Art World?

Writing for Glasstire (August 14, 2016), Rainey Knudson reports on the arts production company Meow Wolf in her article "Meow Wolf: Dawn Of A New Art World":
Meow Wolf has been getting a lot of press since House of Eternal Return opened in March. The installation has been variously described as "a high-tech storytelling gameworld;" "part haunted house and part jungle gym;" and, in the tepidly enthusiastic phrase of the writer Ben Davis, simply "Big Fun Art." It's wonderful, in the sense that it is literally full of wonder . . . . [I]t is . . . a delightful, vast, immersive fun house created by real artists. It involves, without too many spoilers, a Victorian house that has experienced what appears to be a rift in the time-space continuum and opened portals into multiple fantastical dimensions. There’s an elaborate narrative about the family that lived there, and a mystery to solve. Clues are everywhere. When you buy your ticket, you're told to plan on spending at least two hours inside. "Touch everything," they say. This art installation isn't meant to be passively experienced. It's meant to be played. [The] House of Eternal Return is at once both massive and incredibly detailed. Two leisurely visits of a couple of hours each, and I was still discovering new spaces, each crafted by an artist or a team of artists and technicians . . . . [F]reedom from the art world is the name of the game . . . . [T]he mystery at the core of its Aleister Crowley-ish narrative . . . [is] the first really ambitious project I've seen by a large group of Millennial artists that didn't feel like a bad trip to the desert.
I wonder if this 'permanent' installation owes anything to David Mitchell's novel Slade House. Probably not. The installation is in Santa Fe, New Mexico in an abandoned bowling alley, not that this fact makes any difference - though a 'bowling alley of evil' did make an appearance in his novel Number 9 Dream . . .

Here's the link again to Meow Wolf.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Difference between Islam and Christianity?

Shutterstock / Sean Pavone
Christianity Today

Since I am now a "brilliant theologian," I suppose I ought to look at some current theological issue, so let's focus on what Duane Litfin, a Pauline scholar and former president of Wheaton College, has written on "The Real Theological Issue Between Christians and Muslims" (Christianity Today, August 9, 2016), summarizing his point as, "It's not about a different God, it's about a different Jesus," though the different God question lurks throughout his article, as we can see below:
Last winter, the Internet was abuzz over the question "Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?" . . . . That question is not only unhelpful but perhaps worse than unhelpful . . . . The primary problem is that the dispute is focused on the wrong question . . . . If our goal is to compare these two religions we need to shift our focus to a much more illuminating question: How do Christianity and Islam differ? . . . Trinitarianism was often offered up as the core difference between Islam and Christianity . . . . But this observation, while accurate, does not automatically locate the decisive issue. Neither the Old Testament faithful nor even the earliest Christians could have articulated orthodox Trinitarianism as we understand it, which as a doctrine wasn't fully worked out by the church until the fourth century . . . . The decisive issue between Islam and Christianity is [the belief that] Jesus was the Son of God . . . . [through whom the] triune God has been working his Son-centered, Spirit-empowered plan of redemption . . . . It is this gospel that informs the gaping divide between Christianity and Islam . . . . God has not left the claim "We want you God, but we do not want your Son" available to us . . . . To repudiate God's gift of his Son is to repudiate God himself . . . . This is the decisive difference between these two faiths . . . . (1) Christianity's confession of God's eternal, Son-centered, Spirit-empowered plan of redemption as revealed in the Bible; (2) Islam's explicit rejection of that plan; and (3) Christ's verdict about the implications of such a rejection . . . . Thus it appears inescapable that in its repudiation of God's Son-centered gospel, Islam as a religion places itself under Christ's verdict.
Note how the "triune God" is crucial for the divine Son, or put otherwise, if Jesus is God's Son, then the Christian conception of God is very different from the Muslim conception. Did anybody doubt that Islam and Christianity differ on the status of Jesus? That status difference concerning Jesus has determined the difference between Muslim and Christian beliefs about God.

Still, I suppose picking up the stick from this end has its advantages if one wishes to begin immediately with a disagreement.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Cat in the Hat Comes Back?

This artwork by Katharina Grosse was surely inspired by the Dr. Seuss book The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (cf. here and here):

Or maybe inspired by Big Pink, as in Music from Big Pink? I wonder. As I thus grow ever older, memory grows to such sights colder, by and by, so tell me all past years are here, with the snows and Snowdens of yesteryear . . .


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Bottomless Glass, Too?

Bottomless Glass
Google Images

Another reader of my novella, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer, took a liking to it and says the following:
5.0 out of 5 stars - A gem you don't want to miss, August 11, 2016

This book was an excellent presentation of temptation written by a brilliant theologian. On one hand it was quick and entertaining as well as very humorous. On the other hand, its core matter was weighed and balanced in a way that makes meditating on the carefully written words almost necessary. I was afraid I was missing something if I didn't reread and rethink every nuance. I will read and reread the book again and recommend it to others. It's a gem.
I'm not a theologian, and certainly not brilliant, but I understand why people think I'm a theologian. They take a glance at my thesis on John's Gospel and Gnostic texts and they think: "theologian." That's okay, I guess. Being thought "brilliant," however, is already off target, and what's worse, people would no longer underestimate me (which has always been to my advantage) and start overestimating me (to my disadvantage).


Friday, August 12, 2016

Autumn of Civilisation?

Christopher Biggins
Google Images

Some Brit named "James Delingpole" has written an article for the Spectator (August 13, 2016) about another Brit named "Christopher Biggins[,] and [it talks about] the fall of civilisation," summarizing the issue as follows:
The barbarians are through the gates. If you ignore this controversy as too vulgar to care about, you're giving them aid!"
I haven't bothered to read the whole article since I have the uncanny knack for correctly foreseeing what a person is bound to say next, based entirely on what that same person has just uttered, and I foresee that the issue at hand is the correct spelling of "civili ation" - the Brit has written it with an "s," but a Yank will write it with a "z."

In short, "civilisation" will fall, but "civilization" will fill in the missing letter with a "z" and fulfill the old British role! If you do read on ahead out of a severe lack of trust in me and my word and thereby get a different message, then you will know that you are being punished by God. Don't take that risk!


Thursday, August 11, 2016

No one can truly say that . . .

A Clean Place Despite  Being Located
at the
Bottom of the World

. . . no ant can be found in Antarctica. You doubt? Look carefully:
Ant + Arctica = Antarctica
You believe me now? I thought so.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Woman Stands . . .

A woman stands next to a door . . .
Photo by Chance Cha, Reuters

Newsweek, reporting the facts, all the facts, and nothing but the facts in this article of April 23rd, 2014:
A woman stands next to a door inside the headquarters of Alibaba in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, April 23, 2014.
A woman standing next to a door is apparently big news in China.


Monday, August 08, 2016

My Poems . . . or Most of Them

I've decided to submit my poems to International Authors for publication, and I've asked an old Berkeley friend to write the introduction - I asked her because she was the first person to read my poems, as I reminded her:
I recall that moment in Stephens Lounge when you saw that I was scribbling something and asked me, "What are you doing?"

I responded by handing you the sheet on which was written my poem "Succubus."

You read it and said, "You're writing dirty poems!"

But it wasn't really dirty - it just read that way.
I'm curious what she'll now have to say about my poetry. She's not yet read the vast majority of my poems, but I suppose she soon will.

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Trafika Europe 8 - Romanian Holiday

Trafika Europe 8

Andrew Singer announces the 8th anthology in the Trafika Europe series:
Our latest issue is out now, free online! And visit our new Trafika Europe Corner for an extra bonus: short historical fiction from Romanian author Bogdan Suceavă. We've also got a poetry video from Russian poet Inna Kabysh. And there's lavish high-resolution artwork by Jörg Wand all through this issue - use our advanced zoom tools to check out the details on this special treat.
Highly recommended!


Sunday, August 07, 2016

Jerusha: True Love at Last!

True Love
Korean Film Version
Google Images

Daddy-Long-Legs finally catches Jerusha in his trap. He first proposed to her as Master Jervie, but she turned him down - even though she had fallen in love with him. She then turns to her benefactor for advice, telling him what she'd done, so he asked her to come visit him, and one thing led to another, as we learn in the following letter:
My Very Dearest Master-Jervie-Daddy-Long-Legs Pendleton-Smith,

Did you sleep last night? I didn't. Not a single wink. I was too amazed and excited and bewildered and happy. I don't believe I ever shall sleep again - or eat either. But I hope you slept; you must, you know, because then you will get well faster and can come to me.

Dear Man, I can't bear to think how ill you've been - and all the time I never knew it. When the doctor came down yesterday to put me in the cab, he told me that for three days they gave you up. Oh, dearest, if that had happened, the light would have gone out of the world for me. I suppose that some day in the far future - one of us must leave the other; but at least we shall have had our happiness and there will be memories to live with.

I meant to cheer you up - and instead I have to cheer myself. For in spite of being happier than I ever dreamed I could be, I'm also soberer. The fear that something may happen rests like a shadow on my heart. Always before I could be frivolous and care-free and unconcerned, because I had nothing precious to lose. But now - I shall have a Great Big Worry all the rest of my life. Whenever you are away from me I shall be thinking of all the automobiles that can run over you, or the sign-boards that can fall on your head, or the dreadful, squirmy germs that you may be swallowing. My peace of mind is gone for ever - but anyway, I never cared much for just plain peace.

Please get well - fast—fast—fast. I want to have you close by where I can touch you and make sure you are tangible. Such a little half hour we had together! I'm afraid maybe I dreamed it. If I were only a member of your family (a very distant fourth cousin) then I could come and visit you every day, and read aloud and plump up your pillow and smooth out those two little wrinkles in your forehead and make the corners of your mouth turn up in a nice cheerful smile. But you are cheerful again, aren't you? You were yesterday before I left. The doctor said I must be a good nurse, that you looked ten years younger. I hope that being in love doesn't make every one ten years younger. Will you still care for me, darling, if I turn out to be only eleven?

Yesterday was the most wonderful day that could ever happen. If I live to be ninety-nine I shall never forget the tiniest detail. The girl that left Lock Willow at dawn was a very different person from the one who came back at night. Mrs. Semple called me at half-past four. I started wide awake in the darkness and the first thought that popped into my head was, 'I am going to see Daddy-Long-Legs!' I ate breakfast in the kitchen by candle-light, and then drove the five miles to the station through the most glorious October colouring. The sun came up on the way, and the swamp maples and dogwood glowed crimson and orange and the stone walls and cornfields sparkled with hoar frost; the air was keen and clear and full of promise. I knew something was going to happen. All the way in the train the rails kept singing, 'You're going to see Daddy-Long-Legs.' It made me feel secure. I had such faith in Daddy's ability to set things right. And I knew that somewhere another man - dearer than Daddy - was wanting to see me, and somehow I had a feeling that before the journey ended I should meet him, too. And you see!

When I came to the house on Madison Avenue it looked so big and brown and forbidding that I didn't dare go in, so I walked around the block to get up my courage. But I needn't have been a bit afraid; your butler is such a nice, fatherly old man that he made me feel at home at once. 'Is this Miss Abbott?' he said to me, and I said, 'Yes,' so I didn't have to ask for Mr. Smith after all. He told me to wait in the drawing-room. It was a very sombre, magnificent, man's sort of room. I sat down on the edge of a big upholstered chair and kept saying to myself:

'I'm going to see Daddy-Long-Legs! I'm going to see Daddy-Long-Legs!'

Then presently the man came back and asked me please to step up to the library. I was so excited that really and truly my feet would hardly take me up. Outside the door he turned and whispered, 'He's been very ill, Miss. This is the first day he's been allowed to sit up. You'll not stay long enough to excite him?' I knew from the way he said it that he loved you - and I think he's an old dear!

Then he knocked and said, 'Miss Abbott,' and I went in and the door closed behind me.

It was so dim coming in from the brightly lighted hall that for a moment I could scarcely make out anything; then I saw a big easy chair before the fire and a shining tea table with a smaller chair beside it. And I realized that a man was sitting in the big chair propped up by pillows with a rug over his knees. Before I could stop him he rose - rather shakily - and steadied himself by the back of the chair and just looked at me without a word. And then - and then - I saw it was you! But even with that I didn't understand. I thought Daddy had had you come there to meet me or a surprise.

Then you laughed and held out your hand and said, 'Dear little Judy, couldn't you guess that I was Daddy-Long-Legs?'

In an instant it flashed over me. Oh, but I have been stupid! A hundred little things might have told me, if I had had any wits. I wouldn't make a very good detective, would I, Daddy? Jervie? What must I call you? Just plain Jervie sounds disrespectful, and I can't be disrespectful to you!

It was a very sweet half hour before your doctor came and sent me away. I was so dazed when I got to the station that I almost took a train for St Louis. And you were pretty dazed, too. You forgot to give me any tea. But we're both very, very happy, aren't we? I drove back to Lock Willow in the dark but oh, how the stars were shining! And this morning I've been out with Colin visiting all the places that you and I went to together, and remembering what you said and how you looked. The woods today are burnished bronze and the air is full of frost. It's CLIMBING weather. I wish you were here to climb the hills with me. I am missing you dreadfully, Jervie dear, but it's a happy kind of missing; we'll be together soon. We belong to each other now really and truly, no make-believe. Doesn't it seem queer for me to belong to someone at last? It seems very, very sweet.

And I shall never let you be sorry for a single instant.

Yours, for ever and ever,


PS. This is the first love-letter I ever wrote. Isn't it funny that I know how?
Yes, 'Spyder-Man' gets the girl, but the process wasn't simple and easy. Jerusha humbled him and proved her worth by winning a scholarship, so she need not depend on him further, and she received good news from a publisher concerning a book for which she would be paid enough to reimburse him the money he'd already provided her, by which she could enter marriage with him, free and equal.


Saturday, August 06, 2016

Jerusha succeeds with success!

Jean Webster
Author of Daddy-Long-Legs

Just yesterday, I noted Jerusha's sharp tongue, and we have evidence today that it can sharpen a story, as Jerusha tells her benefactor how she's going to repay him his kindness in supporting her education:
Before I begin - here's a cheque for one thousand dollars. It seems funny, doesn't it, for me to be sending a cheque to you? Where do you think I got it?

I've sold my story, Daddy. It's going to be published serially in seven parts, and then in a book! You might think I'd be wild with joy, but I'm not. I'm entirely apathetic. Of course I'm glad to begin paying you - I owe you over two thousand more. It's coming in instalments. Now don't be horrid, please, about taking it, because it makes me happy to return it. I owe you a great deal more than the mere money, and the rest I will continue to pay all my life in gratitude and affection.
Is Jerusha about to escape the eight-limbed clutches of Daddy-Long-Legs? Stay tuned . . .


Friday, August 05, 2016

Back to Daddy-Long-Legs: Control Freak

Jerusha's Sharp Tongue

Jerusha's benefactor - the man whom she refers to as "Daddy-Long-Legs" - has offered to send her to Europe for the summer, but she has already offered her services as tutor to a girl who begins college as a freshman at summer's end, so she declines the offer. When her older friend Master Jervie 'hears' about this - he's the benefactor, of course, but hasn't yet informed Jerusha - he has a strong reaction. Jerusha tells us:
[Master Jervie] is going abroad too this summer; not with Julia and her family, but entirely by himself. I told him that you had invited me to go with a lady who is chaperoning a party of girls. He knows about you, Daddy. That is, he knows that my father and mother are dead, and that a kind gentleman is sending me to college; I simply didn't have the courage to tell him about the John Grier Home and all the rest. He thinks that you are my guardian and a perfectly legitimate old family friend. I have never told him that I didn't know you - that would seem too queer!

Anyway, he insisted on my going to Europe. He said that it was a necessary part of my education and that I mustn't think of refusing. Also, that he would be in Paris at the same time, and that we would run away from the chaperon occasionally and have dinner together at nice, funny, foreign restaurants.

Well, Daddy, it did appeal to me! I almost weakened; if he hadn't been so dictatorial, maybe I should have entirely weakened. I can be enticed step by step, but I WON'T be forced. He said I was a silly, foolish, irrational, quixotic, idiotic, stubborn child (those are a few of his abusive adjectives; the rest escape me), and that I didn't know what was good for me; I ought to let older people judge. We almost quarrelled - I am not sure but that we entirely did!

In any case, I packed my trunk fast and came up here. I thought I'd better see my bridges in flames behind me before I finished writing to you.
We gain a clearer image of Daddy-Long-Legs (Master Jervie) through focusing on his terms of abuse, which are yet another means of control, or would be if Jerusha allowed it, but she doesn't allow it.


Thursday, August 04, 2016

Bad Moon Arising?

Here's another recycled poem, this one from about the mid-eighties:
Winter Moon
When the moon rose full from the hills,
It raised trees of the night:
Black trees,
Shadow trees,
Trees of burnt bone.
I thought of holocausts
And hands raised in supplication
Before the altar of an unknown god.
I thought of dead ones risen from the dust,
Multitudes waiting for sinews, and skin.
I saw each hold his lonely place.
I saw it was the world’s untimely end.
What this poem tells us is that the world's end will arrive this winter with the rising of the moon no matter who loses the presidential election.


Wednesday, August 03, 2016

One of these things is not like the other!

Because I find flaws in both Trump and Hillary, some of my friends fear that I am promoting a moral equivalence, ignoring that one of these candidates is worse than the other. Let me put paid to that fear. This is a post to clarify my position. As the Sesame Street jingle says: "One of these things is not like the other . . ."

Remember: "One of these things is not like the other"! That one is the one! I trust I have made my position perfectly clear. There should be no more fears of a moral equivalence! Everyone can now rest easy . . .


Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Here comes the judge(ment)

Concerning poetry, specifically, concerning the old poem below, which of the two versions is best? Or less bad:
Diana's Lover
Stretch forth your hand to grasp the moon within
and close your fingers close around her globe;
and feel her warmth, and see her lunar glow
shine golden through your now-translucent skin.

Then press her gently, deep into your breast
until you feel the beating of your heart,
and know the moon herself has come to rest
within that prescient throbbing, restless part.

Diana's Lover
Stretch forth your hand to grasp the moon within
and close your fingers close around her bow;
and feel her warmth, and see your lunar skin
shine golden with a now-translucent glow.

Then press her gently, deep into your breast
until you feel the beating of your heart,
and know the moon herself has come to rest
within that prescient throbbing, restless part.
For what it's worth, the second has the more consistent rhyme scheme.

For your enjoyment, here's "Diana."


Monday, August 01, 2016

Election's gonna get mighty cross . . .

Reptilian Election
Image from Roberto Durante

I'm collecting my various poems for publication with International Authors . . . if I can interest the other editors enough to convince them that my poems are worth the light of day. Or even the light of night. A nightlight, so to speak.

Anyway, I came upon a humorous poem I'd written some time back, and maybe it offers some sense of how cross this year's candidates can get:
Now if you cross a crocodile with an alligator,
Do you get an alloguile or a crocogator?
Then if you cross a crocogator with an alloguile,
Do you get an allodater or a crockoguile?
And if you cross a crockoguile with an allodater,
Do you get an allodile or a crockodater?
Or if you cross a crockodater with an allodile,
Do you get an allocrater or a crackadile?
But if you’ve hypo-theti-cized enough as a match-mater,
Be satisfied with crocodile, and also alligator.
Yes, be satisfied! Or else . . . or are things already too late for a threat of "or else . . ."? We may think this election's between a crocodile and an alligator, but it could already be a fight between two of these other cross critters!

Should we go third party? Vote for a cross between Kang and Kodos? No. Best to recall their warning: to vote third party is to throw your vote away.