Wednesday, February 28, 2018

More Photos from Gangneung

A Myth of Falling

Ambrosia, for the gods alone,
but I take some for myself!

My punished powers weakened,
I find I can no longer
even tip to sip a cup!

The crown of creation,
now a bloodied mass of thorns
upon my brow . . .
plus a fire extinguisher.

Eve and Adam dwell
upon their fallen future because . . .

. . . heads will roll!


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Paradise Lost

Sun-Ae and I took a long walk yesterday in Gangneung, the city where some of the Winter Olympics took place, and here's a photo that she shot at my request:

Yes, those two are - reading from left to right -  Eve and Adam, and they serve as remainders of our fallen state, for the Korean title says "Paradise Lost" (1999). The artist is Oh Sang-il (오상일).

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Famous Mishearings

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen,
lend me your rears."


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Christina's Better Hairstyle?

Christina's New 'Do' Under that Cap?

Some days ago, I left a humorous message at Glasstire imploring Christina Rees to change her hairstyle from a recent one that reminded me of a bushel. My comment didn't pass moderation, but I think Christina got it because you see her much improved in the photo above as she self-consciously touches her cap and looks directly at me in a silent challenge that I find fault with this!

In fact, I like this cap, but I hope it's not just hiding that bushel of hair she was sporting in the previous photo . . .


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Lying to Women?


Let me see if I understand this. You can lie to women, but not to men. Strange rule! And it's stated outright, as if the rule-maker doesn't care that women can read it, too. But maybe the rule-maker figured men wouldn't let women learn to read.

Or maybe it's all just a joke. The term "Lev." is obviously an abbreviation for "Levity," that funniest of all humorous Old Testament books.

You'll laugh your ass-embly right off of you . . .


Friday, February 23, 2018

Comparisons are Odious?

Comparisons are odious? Isn't that like saying analogies are abominable?


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Proof of Error!

Here are the Photos Substantiating Yesterday's Blog Post
Korea Herald of February 19, 2018
Click on Images to Enlarge

(Okay, so it's only wrong one time out of thrice.)

(But this one's wrong one time out of once!)

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Winter Olympics: Korean Traditional Medicine and Fine American Cooking?

South Korea's female curing team
competes in the match with China . . .
on Feb. 18, 2018. (Yonhap)

Whether Yonhap or The Korea Herald is responsible, somebody needs to double check English spelling and not refer to the sport depicted above as Korea's "curing team."

In the same issue (February 19, 2018), The Korea Herald referred to Secretary of State Tillerson as the "chef diplomat"! Perhaps the writer was thinking of Yevgeniy Prigozhin, often called "Putin's chef."

But these are easy errors to make . . . and to electronically correct. However, I have the hard copy as proof of these two mistakes.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Professor James W. Vardaman: His Summary of His Oral History Interviews

His Sister Ann

In "Texans, Texas, and Me," Vardaman related a number of humorous anecdotes. The passage below offers a picture of the discussion of religious 'truth' as pursued in the Marine Corps:
After more than another year, I was stationed as a guard at the Naval Base in Bremerton, Washington. A lot of Texans were there. Lynch from Amarillo I especially remember -- big, raw, almost primitive. Another from Port Arthur -- DuPlantis, small and inoffensive. They had high words. Discussion was about religion. Lynch had some strong views about that subject -- especially regarding Jesus. Deep into the conversation, he proclaimed with unmitigated, if unproved, certainty that no one really knew what Jesus looked like. Duplantis really knew what Jesus looked like. Duplantis, thus, firmly dissented, saying "Oh, yes we do because holy St. Veronica had placed a handkerchief on the blood-stained face of the Savior and thus had preserved a perfect likeness." The holy relic was housed somewhere in Italy and many had seen it. Lynch shouted not to give him any of that Catholic shit. He meant business so Duplantis became, upon short reflection, persuaded to refrain from further discussion of the matter.
I think I'd likely follow the 'Christian' action undertaken by DuPlantis, discretion being the better part of valor, as someone said . . .

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Murphy's Law?

I've been sitting here trying to recall Murphy's Law:
"If anything can go wrong, it'll."
But what I've reconstructed doesn't sound quite right . . .

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Baylor University Oral History: Rebecca Sharpless Interviews History Professor James W. Vardaman

In poking around on the Internet for more information on my old Baylor history professor James W. Vardaman, I came across Baylor's oral history series, and I found three long interviews there with Professor Vardaman:
"Oral Memoirs of James W. Vardaman: A Series of Interviews Conducted by Rebecca Sharpless, July 15 - October 20, 2003"
In the second interview, Vardaman talks about Marine boot camp, six weeks of hell in which profanity was a good part of every sentence and just one thing was sacred: your mother. The drill sergeants were sadistic and stupid, Vardaman recalled, but they respected that one rule, "Your mother is sacred." Vardaman himself couldn't even let slip that his own mother was a bad cook:
Vardaman: The food [in boot camp] was better than any I'd ever had, but I couldn't say so. My mother was a horrible cook. My grandmother was worse. But, you know, your mother is sacred. You don't play with that. Your mother -- that's a [pure figure] -- [as for] the food -- I always had to say,

"Yeah, my mother was a good cook."

Nobody [back home] would admit that she wasn't [a good cook], but I knew perfectly well that the food I was eating [in the military] was the best I’d ever been given. Wasn't prepared very well most of the time. They didn't know how. They'd stick a person into the cook's slops [to serve the food], and you got it sloshed on your tray, mixed with everything else [and it was still better than my mother's cooking, but I couldn't say so because] . . . . food and your mother, they're one together [or were supposed to be]. These guys would dream about the[ir mom's cooking] -- kid from somewhere in Tennessee, Cauley was his name. Cauley would talk about his mother's fried chicken until I could see it. I just wanted it -- that so bad. I mean, he was a master at describing his mother’s cooking.

But I'll say one thing about [a] mother again, one more thing about [a] mother. Your mother was God. I can see how a Catholic could think of the Virgin Mary as somebody just absolutely fabulous who could protect you; save you, if you please. You never said anything [bad] about the mother.

One day at mail call, one of the drill instructors, the stupid, most stupid of the three, Jadzuk -- what an oaf, a clod. Lord knows where he crawled out of. Somebody must have kicked over a rock. Anyway, he was sailing the mail out to the platoon. Standing in his presence, [you'd see that] he’d find some way to insult you.

"Here, cotton ball. A coal cracker, I see. This is from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Are you a coal cracker?"

"Well, no."

"Yes, you are. I said you were. That's enough."

And then they'd go around this --

"So you're from Chicago. A gangster, huh."

Guy named Orpin, a Greek kid.

"A gangster. What outfit were you with? Pretty Boy Floyd or Al Capone?"

And that's it. You know, they could say anything they wanted to humiliate you. But one day at this mail call -- forgive me for diverging -- this stupid Jadzuk says,

"Oh, who here knows somebody named Daisy? Daisy."

I said, "That's my mother."

It's the only time I was able to get at these people and not be punished. Because, boy, that was your mother, and you had touched on the magic word."

Sharpless: So they didn't give you a hard time because you had a mother named Daisy?

Vardaman: He was going to [get me with the name "Daisy," or so he thought].

Sharpless: He was going to and then --

Vardaman: If it'd been a girlfriend, Lord only knows. But I had the right answer. [Mother.]
The entire three interviews are in this same vein - detailed, funny, simply great! Go and read!

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Three-Hour Walk in Changing Climate

Lunar New Year: An Exhausting Three-Hour Lunatic Walk Along the Jungnang Stream as Climate Change Does Its Thing!

Snow Melting: Climate Change!

Brownland Ice Caps Melting: Climate Change!

Starving Emperor Penguins: Climate Change!

Human Excrescences to Blame for Everything: Climate Change!

Black Swan Turns White: Climate Change!

Ducks Fearful of Rising Tide: Climate Change!

As you see, climate change is so real!

(Yes, I'm joking, so don't conclude that I either affirm or deny Climate Change!)

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Dr. Michael Livingston: Tribute to Professor James W. Vardaman

I found a wonderful tribute to Professor Vardaman by a man whose life Vardaman changed, and I'm posting some of the tribute below (though the entire tribute can be found at the link):
A Great Teacher is an Earthquake – For Dr Vardaman

Michael Livingston, 2 February 2018

A great teacher is an earthquake . . . . I learned today that Dr James W. Vardaman has passed away.

He was a great teacher.

He was one of my earthquakes.

I . . .  had a number of scholarship offers for college . . . , including one from Baylor University . . . . [W]hen my father and I traveled to Texas for some campus visitations, Baylor happened to be a point between other destinations . . . . [W]e stopped into the visitor center.

It was a Friday, early afternoon. Campus was relatively quiet. The folks who greeted us learned that I wanted to study history, to become a teacher. Phone calls were made, and they suggested I go meet with a history professor who happened to be in his office.

A fault line, though I didn't know it, was forming.

Not long afterward, I found myself alone in the basement of the Tidwell Bible Building, home of the Department of History . . . . Professor Vardaman was grading.

I knocked. He looked up . . . The next hour comes in flashes. We talked of many things. Throughout, he treated me as a peer, as a man. He was, he later admitted, appraising me. In those minutes he found my strengths, my weaknesses, and most importantly, my potential. He knew what I needed, because this is exactly what a great teacher does.

He introduced me around. The world was a blur. He told me I belonged at Baylor. He told me he wanted me to be in his classes. He shook my hand.

I remember walking out to meet my dad, who was sitting on a bench beneath a wide and glorious tree. It was our first campus visit, but I confess to you now that I already knew exactly where I was going to go . . . .  Dr Vardaman, in a few minutes that afternoon, changed my life.

And then he did it again.

A few weeks into my sophomore year, I walked out of Dr Rust's survey course on the modern world and found a familiar face in the hall, waiting for me. I had not yet been able to have Professor Vardaman in class, but he'd apparently been keeping tabs on me. "I want you to come to Europe," he said.

I was, you must understand, a young man from a modest background who could count on one hand the number of times he had crossed the Mississippi. "Europe?"

His great bushy eyebrows nodded. "I run a study abroad program every spring in The Netherlands. I want you to come". . . .

Dollar signs were flashing in my head. Lots of them. If it wasn't for the scholarships I couldn't afford to be at Baylor at all. To add expenses to Europe on top of that? Well . . .

"I don't think I can afford it," I said.

The eyes beneath those eyebrows twinkled. "But if you could afford it then you would go?"

"Sure," I said, thinking he was risking nothing . . . .

A week later he was waiting there again. Same time. Same spot.

"Can we talk?" he asked.

"Sure," I said.

His gaze appraised, seemed satisfied. "You're going to come to Europe with me."

"Dr Vardaman," I said, trying to be gentle on the good soul, "I told you, I just don't think we can afford it. I've got scholarships, but --"

He waved me off. "Oh, I took care of that. I told some people you needed to go and now you have an extra scholarship to help cover it."

"You . . . what?"

"Let's go to my office," he said. "We'll need to talk about the details."

Not waiting for my reply, not waiting for me to retrieve my jaw from the floor, he turned on his heels and headed for the stairway to the basement. I followed him . . . to his office and then across the Atlantic to a semester spent in Maastricht that fundamentally altered my perception of the world and my place within it.

[And now,] James Vardaman has died. For all of us, the earth quakes again.
A good tribute. I need add no more . . . but Livingston does, so go to the link.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Glasstire of Texas: No 'Reesponse'

Christina Rees is a gifted expert on art who heads Glasstire, a site dedicated to art in Texas, though the focus occasionally shifts to other states, such as Arkansas, where she once visited Crystal Bridges, in the northwest part of the state, and made a snarky remark about "hillbilly meth." Perhaps she was even making a clever, hidden pun on 'crystal' meth?

Anyway, several commenters (including me) called her on her cultural chauvinism (Texan attitude toward Arkansawyers?), but she never responded, and the other day, I saw my opportunity to be snarky about her current hairstyle, which you see above, so I wrote:
"Christina, while your beauty can rescue any hairstyle, don't hide your light under a bushel."
There's a biblical allusion there (Matthew 5:14–15, Mark 4:21–25, and Luke 8:16–18), which folks might or might not catch, and I thought I had made my snark humorous, but my remark seems not to have passed moderation - and I can't really fault Glasstire for nixing it since I didn't address anything of substance . . . or of substance abuse.

Still . . . I thought my remark humorous enough to post, which is why I post it here.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Baylor Professor James Vardaman: Memories and Obituary

Professor James W. Vardaman
Photo by Louis Muldrow

I've borrowed, and lightly edited, the following information and official obituary, all of which I believe was originally collected for Baylor University by Lori Fogleman:
"Baylor Mourns Passing of Professor Emeritus of History and Master Teacher James Vardaman" (Baylor Media Communications, Feb. 7, 2018)

Baylor University is mourning the passing of Professor Emeritus of History and Master Teacher James W. Vardaman, Ph.D., who died Jan. 31 in Waco. He was 89.

"Dr. James Vardaman was an iconic figure for thousands of students at Baylor University who were fortunate to take one of his classes in British, French, German, European and world history or journey with him on one of his numerous study abroad trips around the world," said Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D. "Dr. Vardaman was one of the University's most distinguished teachers, attaining the highest designation of Master Teacher. He was brilliant in the classroom, and he highly valued the open hours he spent with his students beyond teaching, which is a hallmark of a Baylor education."

A recent College of Arts and Sciences article stated that, "During his 33-year teaching career at Baylor University, Dr. Vardaman instilled a love of history in thousands of students and in the process he became one of the most beloved faculty members on campus. Many students would echo the sentiments of film director Kevin Reynolds, who recalled his time at Baylor by saying, "It is one of the greatest treasures of my life to be able to say, 'I took history with Jim Vardaman.'"

Many Baylor faculty members and friends have been sharing their remembrances of Dr. Vardaman, among them:

Robert M. Baird, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Master Teacher: "The contributions Jim Vardaman made over the years to the life of Baylor University were so many and diverse that if you had not witnessed it first hand, it would be hard to believe: the architect of Baylor's multifaceted study-abroad-program, shepherding hundreds, maybe thousands, of students over the years in his annual summer Baylor in London Program, the long-time chair of the Beall-Russell lecture committee that by dint of his persuasive persistence brought the likes of Bill Moyers, Edward Said, Carlos Fuentes, and Czeslaw Milosz to Baylor, and in the classroom a Master Teacher. Beyond the classroom he and his wife Betsy entertained countless students at meals in their home, many of these students from foreign countries so in need of the warm hospitality of the Vardamans. We have, indeed, lost a giant in the life of Baylor."

Wallace Daniel, Ph.D., former Baylor history professor and Distinguished University Professor of History, Mercer University: "Jim Vardaman is the very image of Baylor -- totally committed to students, to teaching and to scholarship, firm in his belief that teaching is the noblest of professions and convinced that one must strive to be the best one can be, all the time, every day. He not only expected this of himself, but it was this quality that he expected of his students, and he inspired it in them. In his legendary trips with students abroad, he brought students to the world. As chair of the Beall Russell Lectures for nearly 20 years and the international leaders whom he invited here, he also brought the world to Baylor. In so many ways, his contributions to Baylor and its students are profound."

Babs Baugh of San Antonio, longtime Baylor University supporter and friend of the Vardamans, president of the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation: "I never had a class with Dr. James Vardaman, but his impact on my life was profound. I had the privilege of helping him plan many of his travel experiences -- especially with friends going anywhere he wanted to go. They knew that it would be interesting to them because he knew the history of every place and would share that knowledge with us. He often began his lecture for the day by saying to the group, 'I insult your intelligence by telling you this but . . .' No one was ever insulted! With that brilliant mind came little spurts of great humor and the singing of the Marine Corps Hymn – all three verses. This great teacher loved God, Betsy, his country and Baylor University, his sister Ann Miller and his many friends. If you are fortunate enough to be one of the latter group, you will understand why we will miss him so much."

Cullen Smith, B.B.A. (Law) '48, J.D. '50, retired Waco attorney and longtime friend of the Vardamans: "Jim joined the Marine Corps at age 16 toward the end of World War II. The day he received his discharge, he drove to Waco and entered Baylor. Because he had not graduated from high school, he was accepted conditionally. Years later when a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established at Baylor, Jim was made a graduate member. Jim was loved by his students. I have attended two dinners honoring him. Students flew in from all over the world, literally, to honor him. On numerous occasions when my wife Ann and I have joined Betsy and Jim at local restaurants, former students of all ages would come up to speak to him. Amazingly, he always remembered them by name. It was obvious they loved him. Jim loved to travel. He led numerous tours to Great Britain, Europe and the Middle East. In cities, we would often have a local professional guide to take us around. I would begin to notice Jim standing on one leg and then the other. Finally he could stand it no longer. He would correct the guide about the facts, one after another. If we had another tour the next day, the first thing the guide wanted to know was if Professor Vardaman was present. I have heard, and I believe it is true, that on one occasion, a member of the British Parliament asked to be temporarily excused during a debate in order to check with Dr. Vardaman at Baylor regarding some facts about English history."

Dr. Vardaman’s obituary was published today (February 7, 2018):

Dr. James W. Vardaman was born on Nov. 26, 1928, in Dallas, Texas, where he grew up as the youngest of five children of Daisy and Ephraim Jeremiah Vardaman. In 1945, at 16 years of age, he enlisted in the U.S. Marines and served in the Philippines as well as on board the Pasadena. His military service provided him an introduction to the wider world, to war and the aftermath of war, to typhoons, to sergeants and their disciplinary techniques, and to fellow enlisted men in the Marines with whom he lived and served. His lifelong regard for friendships made during those years was always specific to the individual. He spoke of fellow Marines warmly by name, state, hometown and pithy remarks that were as fresh in his mind at 89 as they had been when he was 20.

He also maintained lifelong regard for those military and government leaders whose values and vision enabled them to conduct themselves by admirable and lofty standards.

Most importantly at that juncture in his life, military service in World War II gave Dr. Vardaman the door through which he walked into higher education -- the G.I. Bill. He was grateful forever. Being decommissioned at one minute after midnight on March 18, 1949, at a base in Oklahoma, he then drove all night to Waco, Texas, where he enrolled that day, the last day of registration for the spring quarter at Baylor University. As a distinguished scholar and historian later in life, he reflected on occasion that the most significant moment in his life was seeing his name and grade posted on a small piece of paper by a professor’s door in the summer of 1949. He had passed a university course – and was going to be able to become a college student at Baylor.

His intensity for learning and maximizing every day of higher education had begun. Beginning with gratitude for his sister, Ann Miller, who tutored him at Baylor, his love of all things literary and historical grew with each year of extraordinary courses and undergraduate studies. The fine history faculty, particularly Dr. Bruce Thompson, affirmed their student's aptitudes and encouraged him to consider a career as an historian because it would be a perfect fit. It was. He completed Baylor in two years, taking overloads each term. He earned his master’s degree at the University of Minnesota in 1952 and his Ph.D. in British History at Vanderbilt in 1957.

His teaching career included winning the top teaching award at TCU, then earning a special place in the lore of Virginia Military Institute for five years as well as taking wide-ranging opportunities for summer teaching and fellowships, including University of Virginia and University of North Carolina. However, in 1967, when several Baylor professors and Judge McCall contacted him regarding an open position in the history department, there was no question what would be his next step in academe: He was coming "home" to his alma mater. Here he thrived and received many teaching honors. He was named a Master Teacher in 1993 and elected to Phi Beta Kappa, as an alumnus.

He chaired the Beall-Russell Lectures in the Humanities for nine years, bringing to campus distinguished national and international giants, such as Nobel Prize recipient Czeslaw Milosz; the Very Reverend Michael Mayne, dean of Westminster Abbey; A. S. Byatt; Edward Said; Bill Moyers; Robert Haas and many others. He taught in and then directed many international programs for the University, including teaching in Baylor in Vienna and Baylor in London before becoming director of Baylor in the British Isles, a program housed for nearly 20 years within the confines of Westminster Abbey at Westminster School. His international teaching included serving an exchange professor to the Yunnan Nationalities University in Kunming, PRC, in 1984-85 and was followed by a memorable trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway across Russia. He began the semester-long program for Baylor in Maastricht, The Netherlands, in 1995, a program that continues to be a proud feature of Baylor’s international programs and draws students and faculty from across the University. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Dr. Vardaman also led many alumni trips across Europe, to South America, and most notably, of course, back to the British Isles and Ireland. His relationship with former students was a great treasure to him, as were his friends and family. Dr. Vardaman concluded his tenured years at Baylor in 2000 after 33 years of teaching and inspiring students to ground their worldviews within the vast narrative of humankind.

At retirement, Dr. Vardaman built a library to contain about 5,000 of his favorite books. He could be found there many hours a day for the past almost two decades. Drawing on his vast knowledge, he was the perfect reader of the great tomes across all times and spaces, countries and civilizations. He often offered up sober details about historical events and personages to his family and close friends, insights that the most learned scholars could possibly have profited from knowing. (One point among many to remember: the Magna Carta was "sealed," not "signed" by King John at Runnymede.)

In 2017, a professorship in the history department was established in Dr. Vardaman's name. As additional tributes have been lifted to Dr. Vardaman's memory and legacy this week, Michael Livingstone, a former student, has described him as "my earthquake." Another, Dr. Scott Harper, reflected on his professor in terms of the Dylan Thomas poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" and speaks for many when he says: "I have never known anyone like Dr. Vardaman who more raged against the dying of the light: the light of enlightenment and education, the light of justice for wrongs committed at every level of society and culture, the light of friendship and love, the light of his own life. He did not go gentle into anything."
I took perhaps only two of Vardaman's courses, but he asked me to serve as his grader for my final year at Baylor, and I not only got to know him well, I kept in touch with him over the years after I left Baylor, and I can honestly say that we were friends. But I never knew so much about him as I now know after reading memories such as these and writings of his own that I found online. I can now say not only that he was a great teacher and a great friend, but also a great man.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Kim Yo-jong (sister of North Korea's leader) talks with Moon Jae-in (South Korea's leader)

In a recent Olympic meeting, Kim Yo-jong and Moon Jae-in discuss North-South relations:

Moon: What I am saying is, you're not nearly so fat as your brother.

Kim: There is a reason for that fat.

Moon: Do explain.

Kim: As our beloved, great leader, my brother requires a certain, je ne sais quoi . . . heaviness.

Moon: Gravity?

Kim: Exactly. Gravity. Indeed, his job demands morbid obesity, the eventual sacrifice of his divine body for unification. It is a very grave requirement. Only a man of his enormous girth can be attractive enough to unify southern Korea with our northern system. You are aware of the inverse-square law?

Moon: Yes, that law partly explains my erratic behavior . . .


Monday, February 12, 2018

Dracula: A Ladies' Man Or A Lady's Man

Foretaste of Gory Divined
That vampire guy always did have good taste in women!

(But is it true love this time?)

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

There's a Faceless Nose Somewhere . . .


Cut off your nose to spite your face.

(After a story by Nikolai Gogol)

(But nothing to do with The NoZe)

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Two Drawings by Jae-Uk Hwang

Two faces with a big, big nose . . .

. . . the latter with a tiny little rose.


Friday, February 09, 2018

Ever More Obscure References . . . As Time Goes By

Shocked, Shocked!
Fly off the handle by the seat of one's pants on the wall.


Thursday, February 08, 2018

Siri-Us Tough

Don't call us, we'll call you names!


Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Going to the Dogs?

Cynic's Perspective
A dog in the manger is man's best friend on a moral vacation.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Holy Mother of All Korean Barbecue Restaurants!

Yoo Ji-young
Photo by Park Hyun-koo

Kim Da-sol, reporting for The Korea Herald, tells us that Yoo Ji-young's atypical Korean barbecue restaurant Tongue and Groove Joint can be found in an Itaewon back alley, but that's about as specific as the article gets.

The proprietress, Yoo Ji-young, looks like a very nice lady, saintly even, what with that halo of light surrounding her head! Though an earlier restaurant that she called Witch's Table might give one pause . . .

Anyway, if any reader should happen to know where in Itaewon this eatery is to be found, feel free to provide directions in a comment, and also let us know about prices.

Odd, that the reporter neglected to report on these two essential points . . .


Monday, February 05, 2018

Vardaman's Stamp of Approval, and a Sad Farewell to the Man

Some six or seven years ago, I sent the Vardamans a poem and an article. The poem was titled "Final Exam," and it was inspired by words of wisdom from Louis-Hector Berlioz that Vardaman loved to quote: "Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils." My poem reads as follows:
Final Exam
If time be better teacher than the rest,
I need an explanation to explain
Precisely why that final taxing test
Should have to cause such overtaxing pain.

That final is a killer, so I'm told --
No student ever makes it out alive.
I'd rather take the test when I get old,
But don't know when my test-date will arrive.

Yet if I only knew the testing place,
I'd try to stay so very far away
So as to never ever show my face
For testing on that very fateful day.

And once that final test date were surpassed,
I'd live because that final test were passed.
So much for my poem, which now appears in my book of collected poems, Radiant Snow. As for the article, it was one I'd composed for the 2011 Global Forum on Civilization and Peace, a yearly forum for which about eleven other articles had likewise been written. All articles were published together under the title Resolution of Conflict in Korea, East Asia and Beyond: Humanistic Approach. My own paper was titled "Points Toward a Culture of Discussion."

Professor Vardaman read the article, and Betsy read the poem. Here is his response to my article - and note his dark allusion to the NoZe Brotherhood, Baylor's satirical social club (to which I might or might not have belonged):
Dear Jeff,

I sit here on a Thursday evening approaching 8 p.m. and hearken back over the years, remembering such warm and fine things about you.

I take pride in you though perhaps I have no right to do so. I'm sure that all of the things that impel you to greatness took place in Salem, Arkansas, long before you appeared on Baylor's campus and in my life.

I'll always recall your intelligence, your wry humor, your hard work, and your sensitivity - despite your allegiance to a dark organization [called the NoZe Brotherhood] which made its home in Elm Mott . . . .

I recall, incidentally, some of the very, very bright people who were your fellow members in that organization. It seems to me it is now in a bit of decline. I hope that is incorrect. Baylor always needed the sharp [intellectual] knife which your group [metaphorically] thrust into the belly of our beloved Baylor. It was always done with love, not malice - I think and hope.

It is hard to believe that you have indeed become a successful Gypsy [Scholar] with your keen mind still intact.

I thank you for your warm words [about my teaching and my character]. I hope I deserve some of them.

I read your article and found it deeply interesting, indeed, in places quite fascinating. It seems to me you have asked the good questions, and you certainly have picked a judicious topic!

And it goes without saying that I agree with your basic thesis. What educated person could disagree with your opinion!

I trust you will be convincing when you deliver your paper at your conference.

It's good that you related Sam Huntington's clash of civilizations - rarely do people talk about his view of culture in a positive way as you do.

I appreciate your allowing me to read your work. It is quite stimulating.

Let me quarrel with one word you use twice in your essay. The word "probing." I think you should look it up. "Probing" is often mistaken for something more than it is. Probing means to explore a bit, not to really come to grips with the issue. The term is often misused. I will expect that you will not misuse it again.

I was very happy to find at least one thing a bit fuzzy in your thinking.

You've done it well. You've paid the price. I know it has not been easy. There's the loneliness, sometimes the rejection, sometimes the longing for rich understanding from others that just won't appear when we need it most. It pleases Betsy and me that you have been selected to discourse at this global forum. Hopefully it is more than a stewpot. With you there, I think it will be.

We wish you were at Baylor. Since you are not, it is most rewarding to hear from you.

We care about you and what happens to you and your family always.


And Betsy wrote:
Jim is very proud of you, and your sending him a copy of your paper meant a lot to him. When he put it down, the first thing he said was, "Impressive." I think that means you have taken all the final exams you need to take and have passed with flying colors.
As you see, Betsy has responded to my 'Final Exam' poem, wittily connecting its theme to the first word uttered by Professor Vardaman upon reaching the end of my paper: "Impressive."

I could ask no higher evaluation from such an elevated source, and I hope I deserved the praise. I know I'll never hear its like again, leastways not in his voice.

Now, he belongs to the ages . . .

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Sunday, February 04, 2018

The World has Lost Its Historian: James W. Vardaman

Professor James W. Vardaman
"Book Junkies," Waco's Magazine
Kevin Tankersley

I received word yesterday of Profesor's Vardaman's passing. I hope to put up a better blog post about him soon, when I have more details. The photo above shows him at about 86 years old, and I think the article was published around 2016, so my educated guess puts him at about 88 as his age upon passing.

Vardaman was a great teacher. He came to class without notes and spoke without hesitation for the full 50 minutes of lecture time in profound detail, and answered questions in even more depth.

I've known a lot of historians in my own time as a historian, but I've never met anyone remotely like him - nobody with such breadth and depth and such total recall. His field was British history, but he seemed to know everything. He was the world's historian.

But he wore his knowledge lightly - and more impressive than his memory was his humanity. You might find some of that here.

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Saturday, February 03, 2018

Spanish passage on my blog . . .

La botella sin fondo de la cerveza
Simple Spanish Spiel

I found this Internet scrap of information in Spanish about me and my work on Thursday:
El Dr. Jeffery Horace Hodges. BA 79, ha publicado su primera novela, La botella sin fondo de la cerveza. un cuento moral postmoderno fáustico naif de un joven que cambia su alma al diablo por una botella de cerveza sin fin, pero tiene un cambio de corazón. En alrededor de 150 páginas, el libro incluye muchas ilustraciones del artista conocido Terrance Lindall. Hodges tiene dos títulos de posgrado en Historia por la Universidad de Berkeley y vive en Seúl, Corea del Sur con su esposa, Hwang Sun-ae, y sus dos hijos . . . . Él es un profesor de la Universidad Femenina Ewha, una escuela cristiana fundada por misioneros en el siglo 19, donde enseña composición y la . . .
The passage just breaks off like that. I also see that my first and middle names got reversed. This sort of thing happens all the time with my especially difficult name, but I don't want to start whinging about that. I did wonder how this bit of information got onto the Internet, and I think I've figured that out. It probably comes from Baylor Magazine in the Spanish edition. It thus originates in the English version that I myself penned.

But I'm pretty sure I got my own name right.

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Friday, February 02, 2018

Epiphanies from Kostelanetz

Depicted above is the multifaceted writer Richard Kostelanetz, who has published enough to fill an entire bookstore, and I blog on him because he and I were both born on May fourteenth - though he beat me to the date by seventeen years - and because his "Epiphanies" are similar to my "One-Line Poems." Let me offer an example from page 214 of Emanations:
Their battle won, the enemy defeated, the general congratulated his men, "Beware of drink and women."
If the sentence sounds somewhat clumsy to you, you're probably reading it to the wrong beat, for Kostelanetz aims at not even a bit of clumsiness (cf. page 195), and what you might be hearing is an expected expression "congratulated his men" oddly linked logically to a following, incommensurable warning against alcohol and women. Properly read, not stumbling over a smooth if unexpected turn of a phrase, this accounts for much of the humor here, and a similar pattern is found in many other epiphanies. As for me in my one-liners, I don't aim at clumsiness either, but I sometimes stumble into it anyway, unlike Kostelanetz . . .

But back to the topic . . . Kostelanetz is very proliferic (as implied above), and if you're interested in more, then visit his website.


Thursday, February 01, 2018

Emanations: I am Not a Number

My copy of last year's Emanations finally reached me, as my wife's photo shows:

No, that's not a photo of my wife, rather a photo that she took. She also took a photo of my opening poems, which are found on page 245:

There are six more pages of these, but I'm not posting them here . . . or anywhere else online (though you might try finding them in my collected poems, Radiant Snow).