Saturday, December 31, 2016

Free Speech returns?

Stepford Students No More?

Writing for The Spectator (October 8, 2016), Brendan O'Neill informs us that "Students are fighting back against the PC creed" . . . in Britain, anyway:
Something dramatic is happening on campuses. Two years ago, in this magazine, I wrote about the rise of the Stepford Students. These are the student leaders who might look and sound rad - all dyed hair and blather about 'intersectionality' — but who are really just officious meddlers in the lives of others. Whether they're banning sombreros because they're offensive to Latinos or No Platforming right wingers and off message feminists, these student officials strangle debate, and have tried to turn campuses from hotbeds of social and intellectual interaction into starched 'safe spaces' . . . . Now, however, a counter Stepford rebellion is stirring. Students are sick of being patronised, so they are shooting down this PC creed. They aren't hurling Molotov cocktails or staging sit ins, as students of old did - they're setting up free speech societies, boycotting patronising lifestyle lectures . . .
Good! May this trend continue - and spread to the States! Incidentally, the expression "Stepford Students" comes as a wordplay on "Stepford Wives," the title of Ira Levin's 1972 satirical thriller about rule-bound, conformist, robotic wives in an 'idyllic' neighborhood.


Friday, December 30, 2016

A penny saved is a penny . . .

. . . exaggerated!


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Gee-Whiz . . .

Piss Christ

. . . is what Andres Serrano, in a fit of better humor, might well have called his Piss Christ if he hadn't called it "Piss Christ."


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy . . .


. . . and wise? The proverbial health and wealth part, maybe, but as to wisdom - or what the Germans (interestingly enough) call "Vice-Height" - I have my doubts, for I have learned much from my failures and misfortunes, usually involving wisdom gained dear from direct experience, so I tinker at being a thinker


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Updating William James . . .. . .

NYT columnist Ross Douthat likes to collect nonconversion stories of famous secular people, and he pointed in a recent column to an ironic such story of the 'afterlife' as experienced by the famous atheist A. J. Ayer:
Three decades ago A. J. Ayer, the British logical positivist and scourge of all religion, died and was resuscitated at the age of 77. Afterward, he reported a near-death encounter that included repeated attempts to cross a river and "a red light, exceedingly bright, and also very painful . . . responsible for the government of the universe." Ayer retained his atheism, but declared that the experience had "slightly weakened" his conviction that death "will be the end of me."
Douthat goes on to write about other such short stories of nonconversion, but this one most interests me because I can explain its meaning, namely, that the river was, symbolically, a busy street that Ayer had a powerful urge to cross, even against the red light. Why, he could have been killed! That, of course, had to be prevented. Hence the pain that stopped him each and and every time he tried to cross.

Nothing, therefore, to see here. Just move along . . .


Monday, December 26, 2016

Still Christmas in the Ozarks . . .

Seoul Morning
Google Images

But 'Boxing Day' sits upon the Seoul throne for now . . .

Anyhow . . . I woke up early yesterday morning - 5:00 a.m., to be precise - and fed the cats before deciding to stay awake and write a little Christmas poem because we didn't actually have the time to properly celebrate Christmas this year, so we had no tree, no wrapped gifts, no multicolored flickering lights, merely the echos of a dream from which I'd wakened feeling guilty that I had received gifts in the dream without giving any in return, and even though no actual gifts awaited me, I elected to write my wife a Christmas poem, a gift to her, as you by now can surely see:
Christmas Greetings, 2016

A merry Christmas morning,
and I awake in mourning --

no Christmas gift to place und-
er our sad and wizened,

lonely little Christmas tree;
still, have yourself a merry

little Christmas, full of cheer,
a sleepy holiday here,

our Seoul Christmas, with much of
what we've ever had: such love.
I sent this poem to my wife who sometime later emerged, concerned that I might be upset at finding no gift wrapped for me.

What fortunate irony . . .

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Scott Corey in his 'annual' e-bulletin

Old Coot Hikin'
(aka Scott Corey)

I hadn't heard from my old Berkeley friend Scott Corey (UCB Poli-Sci PhD) for a couple of years, and that's because two years have passed since his last annual e-bulletin, as he admits in his own words:
It has been two years since my last bulletin, but I'll try to be reasonably brief. The two best things have been getting past the need to work two jobs, and getting to hike farther out in the mountains. Since quitting the second job, I've been able to join the choir at the Methodist Church, and been in two local plays. The West End Theater is the best community theater I’ve seen, and it has been good for me to sing and speak in public after years of singing as I scrubbed floors. I was Mr. Brownlow in "Oliver!" More recently I had four roles in the "radio theater" (performed to an audience) version of "It's a Wonderful Life." The hardest was the Announcer, who needed to be a bombastic egomaniac.
Yes, I agree. There just aren't very many prominent bombastic egomaniacs that one might choose to model oneself after. Be as that may, didn't Scott mention hiking?
Hiking took off when Garrett Olney, a semi-retired Plumas County judge, asked if I could use a hiking partner. He has a four wheel drive truck, so we can get to trailheads I could never reach in my Saturn SL. He has a wealth of local knowledge that he relates as we hike to places like Dead Man's Springs, or Pilot Peak. He also shares my liking for cross country shortcuts and no-longer-really-there trails. But the best thing is the caliber of intellectual conversation. For me, dragging up a rocky trail or a snow covered slope, sore and dehydrated, while discussing police shootings, the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, Second Amendment issues, and terrorism is just about the best thing on Earth.
Sounds right up my alley . . . or hiking trail! Good way to work off stress! And that's needed:
The job is more stressful than ever . . . . And then there's politics. Our county went for Trump, but by smaller margins than the rest of rural Northern California. I am very dismayed that someone could get elected after speaking as he has. Despite my well-earned weariness with political correctness, I am disgusted that legitimate concerns of so many people have to be saddled with the baggage of Fox News claptrap. One colleague from Berkeley days has challenged me to start writing on the subject. The idea is that there aren't too many people who have, simultaneously, a good education, moderate politics, and extensive familiarity with rural, white, working class perspectives. So I guess I'll see what I have to say, and what can be heard.
Yeah, that pretty much leaves Scott as the chosen one. Good luck, Scott. You'll need it now. Trust in the Lord, but keep your powder dry.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Here we go again!

I promised I might (but is that a real promise) even post another extract from the recent review by the anonymous reviewer of Baek Minsuk's Sixteen Stories of Believe It or Not Knowledge, a collection of interconnected short stories that my wife and I have translated, so here's that extract from the review:
Overall, . . . the translation is quite fluent, fluid, and fun. The description of the "egg diet" suggested by Believe It or Not magazine . . . is an excellent example of how well the translator renders Minsuk's humor - reminiscent at once of Bolaño, Murakami, and Kafka - in engaging, thoroughly colloquial English.
Humor? Moi? I mean - me? Maybe he meant my wife? Was I in on the joke? Anyway, I now got some other names to look up. Lemme see . . . uhh, Bolaño? Who's he? And what's curly thing crawling over the "n" in his name?


Friday, December 23, 2016

International Authors is calling . . .

If I might  be allowed to do so, I'd like to urge my readers to go take a look at the International Authors site and see what's offered there. I'm not entirely disinterested in this appeal, for I expect that my book of poems will be appearing at that site soon.

Anyway, regardless what you might think of my poetry (when it shows up), there are other writers there to look into, so you might consider sending any avid readers thataway!

Or - given that the holiday season is upon us - consider giving some books as presents.

Folks still do read books, you know.

Don't they?


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Translation Evaluation of Baek Minsuk’s Sixteen Stories of Believe It or Not Knowledge

My wife and I received some kind words from a reviewer about our recent translation of Baek Minsuk’s Sixteen Stories of Believe It or Not Knowledge:
The translation itself is generally quite impressive. Humor is notoriously difficult to translate, but here the translator makes it clear from the first sentence that we are reading the words of a master humorist, a manic raconteur, and a brilliantly eccentric theorist of contemporary culture. "Having produced everything imaginable," the narrator says, regarding entertainment in the age of the Internet, "humanity has now started to produce things humanly unimaginable." This sentence alone gives some idea of the high quality of the translation: it is both idiomatic and eloquent.
Nice to hear praise like that! I might put up some more in a couple of days, if I have more time . . .


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Oh, great, something else to worry about . . .

Leonid Bershidsky

Leonid Bershidsky informs me (and several million other people) about the power of AI's neural networks:
Machines also have been getting better at producing literary work. This year, an AI-written novel passed the first round of a Japanese fiction competition.
Thank God, the abomination got no further than passing the first round! Hmm . . . or could I turn this to my benefit? Maybe have some neural network write a first draft of a novel, which I could then rework, rather like what I do as half of a translation team with my wife.

Speaking of which . . . but no, I'll save that for tomorrow.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Small wonder I scare folks off . . .

Lookin' bedraggled
Photo by YoungYeah Hong

. . . if I often look like I did at last evening's GLEO festivities, following a long business meeting. We used to be the EPO, under the previous administration, but as this year's Nobel Literature winner once put it, "The times, they are a-changin' . . ."


Monday, December 19, 2016

Dylan writing literature? Not really.

Cohen and Dylan
Google Images

In a short Nobel speech (read by the American Ambassador to Sweden, Azita Raji), Dylan tells us that not once had he ever had the time to ask himself if his songs were literature.

That's not quite true though, for I distinctively recall Dylan stating in "I shall Be Free No. 10" some words to the effect that he was writing literature:
Yippee! I’m a poet, and I know it
Hope I don’t blow it
No, Mr. Dylan, if these lines are evidence of your poetic skills, then you've already blown it. Yes, I know you're merely being jocular and ironic. But you're still not much of a poet, as Carl Sandburg must have told you that time you dropped in on him to show him your 'poems' that weren't poetry. Leonard Cohen, on the other hand, is a poet, even without the music:
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
There! See how much better a poet Cohen is than Dylan? But I don't want to leave anyone with the wrong impression. I am a Dylan fan. He's great. He has written some great songs. His real strength, however, is not so much the words as the music. The music is what makes him great.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

I am an Eggcorn!

Yes, that's me - the nutty intellectual egghead! My Cyber-Friend who goes by the title "The Big Henry" alerted me to this sort of linguistic error in which one word is misheard as a different word or combination of words. This kind of error is exemplified in the word "eggcorn," apparently how one woman misheard the word "acorn"! Her word "eggcorn" is now the label for errors of this sort.


Saturday, December 17, 2016

I didn't even notice that . . .

Dylan and I

. . . Dylan was a no-show at the Nobel Prize Ceremony a few days ago, so I'm doing a no-show in his honor today.


Friday, December 16, 2016

The Uncanny Among Insects . . .

. . . because the mantis will turn and look at you. We notice this and feel weird, observed, says Dr. Gavin Svenson:
[P]eople are intrigued by mantises because they react differently from other insects. "They will turn and look at you," he said. Museum visitors who encounter the occasional praying mantis display are often taken aback. "They'll say, 'Whoa, that thing made eye contact.'"
Good thing we're a lot bigger! But anyway, what's their official name,  "Preying Mantis" and "Praying Mantis"?


Thursday, December 15, 2016

This gets me to thinking . . .

A Thinker?
Circa 4,000 Years Ago
from Yehud
IAA laboratory
Credit: Klara Amit / IAA

. . . that somebody had his thinking cap on four millennia ago! But what was he thinking about? He appears to be hatching a rather large conception!


Wednesday, December 14, 2016


My maternal grandfather loved kids and used to entertain us with stories, but when he grew weary of the acting - for he told his stories with great fervor - he'd head us off with a very short story:
I'll tell you a story
about Jack-a-Nory:
And now my story's begun.
I'll tell you another
about his brother:
And now my story's done.
But his ruse never worked, for we then wanted more stories about Jack-a-Nori! Incidentally, only yesterday did I find out where Grandpa learned this little rhyme: From Mother Goose!


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Shortest Story Ever Told and Retold

Once upon a time . . . they all lived happily ever after.


Monday, December 12, 2016

But also . . .

. . . Newport! For that extra-cool menthol taste, such that filling your lungs with smoke is just like taking a breath of fresh air!

By the way, does that fellow in the ad above have a demonic nose, or is its demonic appearance just an optical illusion?


Sunday, December 11, 2016

And how could I have forgotten . . .

. . . Kent? Which I associated with Clark Kent, the mild-mannered secret identity of Superman, though I don't recall that either Superman or Clark Kent smoked. Did they?

And what's this obsession with taste in old cigarette ads? Does one really taste cigarette smoke? If so, need one actually inhale? Maybe all this talk about taste is simply misdirection intended to draw attention away from the fact that what the smoker really craves is that nicotine rush to the brain, which comes only through inhaling the smoke deeply into the lungs.

As for taste, de gustibus non disputandum est . . .


Saturday, December 10, 2016

And I'd completely forgotten . . .

. . . Raleigh cigarettes! They were largely before my time - like this ad from 1942 claiming that Raleighs are more golden. Apparently, the golden color indicates a milder, tastier smoke. Or so say the experts, I guess . . . but wouldn't milder mean less 'tasty'?

Friday, December 09, 2016

But look how young and healthy people were . . .

. . . when they smoked cigarettes way back in the 1930s!

Interesting fact: F. Scott Fitzgerald's favorite cigarette was a Chesterfield.


Thursday, December 08, 2016

And I can still recall . . .

. . .  how Grandpa loved Pall Mall cigarettes. He smoked them for many, many years - till the habit finally caught up with him. I once told a friend, "Smoking's bad for you. My Grandpa smoked a pack a day all his adult life, and it finally killed him at 87."


Wednesday, December 07, 2016

And we'll never forget Winfield's . . .

. . . because we never even heard of them in the first place. But we can clearly see what level this ad is working on.


Tuesday, December 06, 2016

And don't forget L&M . . .

. . . which - if I recall - stand for Low Morals. Like with those two in the ad above - Marlboro Man in his younger, wilder days lighting the fire of a lady in red (as though we wouldn't know what that means)! The two practically state it outright! She says "Low." He says "More." Pidgen English for "Low Morals"!


Monday, December 05, 2016

And let's not forget Prince Albert roll your owns . . .

I recall that my maternal grandpa rolled his own Prince Alberts for a time when I was young, and someone who knew that called our number and asked me:
"Does your grandfather have Prince Albert in a can?"


"Better let him out ha-ha-ha!"

"Who, me?" I asked, not catching the joke and puzzled at the laughter.

The caller turned serious. "Yeah, you or your grandfather."

"I'd better ask Grandpa. He probably wouldn't want me to empty his tobacco without permission."

Long silence. Then: "Not tobacco. Prince Albert!"

"Prince Albert is tobacco."

"No, I mean the real Prince Albert! The man!"

"Idiot" I said. "You can't put a man into a can that small!"
I hung up the phone and ignored the ringing that immediately followed, and the phone rang and rang and rang and rang and rang and rang . . .


Sunday, December 04, 2016

And don't forget the Marlborro men . . .

. . . were once little Marlboro babies!

They don't look quite so rugged, independent, and taciturn at this young age . . . but they likely needed a few years' smoking for that sort of transformation to take effect.

They owe it all to their Marlboro moms . . .


Saturday, December 03, 2016

"You can take Salem out of the country, but . . .

. . . you can't take the country out of Salem!"

Whether in the country or out of it, Salem refreshes your taste . . . if I might splice together two Salem ads.

Here's the country jingle.

I recall the "out of the country" ad especially well because my hometown of Salem, Arkansas had a great basketball team around that time, so when we went to the state tournament, some of our opponent's fans sang that song against us.

And has anyone else noticed that the ad's jingle pauses after "but" - as though the line were: "You can take Salem out of the country butt . . ."


Friday, December 02, 2016

And the 'honesty' of Lucky Strikes . . .

. . . Luckies are less irritating.

In other words, Lucky Strikes are irritating . . . but they're less irritating, less annoying, less harmful!


Thursday, December 01, 2016

And people who'd walk a mile . . .

. . . for a Camel, as stated in the image above.

Implying that a Camel cigarette was a mile's worth better than other cigarettes.

But would he go the extra mile?