Saturday, March 31, 2018

Cliché: The Height of Rhetoric

"All Americans are very open"-eyed . . . except for those who aren't American eyes-ed.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Wise Words?

Some months back, I coined the word "Proverbose" and defined it as "Wordiness: many more with much more less."

And this has led my mind to thoughts of "Concisenice," defined as "Wordlessness: much more fewer with fewer many more."

Works for me, but what about you?


Thursday, March 29, 2018

A French Aphorism in English

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand

As Charles Maurice de Talleyrand famously said once:
A diplomat who says "yes" means "maybe," a diplomat who says "maybe" means "no," and a diplomat who says "no" is not a diplomat.
Fair enough, but I would have rendered the English version as slightly different:
A diplomat who says "yes" means "maybe," a diplomat who says "maybe" means "no," and a diplomat who says "no" is no diplomat.
This small shortening wouldn't trouble anyone, now, would it? Brevity, after all is the sole art of wit.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Yang Sung-tae on Korea's Constitution

Yang Seung-tae and I

My old friend Yang Seung-tae, writing "The Constitution deserves better" (JungAng Daily, March 26, 2018), nods in agreement that "Constitutional revision is definitely necessary," and he explains why:
As the situation changes, the Constitution, which defines the state's system and governing methods, needs to be updated to reflect those changes.
But he is skeptical that this revision is being undertaken with the proper seriousness:
Korean politics are stuck in a strange place. Worse than the ridiculous situation is the fact that not many people understand how absurd it is. The proposal for the constitutional amendment, for example, has no arguments backing it up.
He affirms that arguments could be made but aren't being made, so he expresses his view as follows:
I suspect that this constitutional amendment is another attempt to serve the liberal camp's vested interests.
I lack the knowledge to comment on this, so I leave to interested readers a link to take them to the article, where they can apply their own critical skills.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Mustafa Akyol: Islamism Alienating Muslims

Liberal reformist Muslim leader Mustafa Akyol, commenting in an NYT column  ("Islamism is driving Muslims to convert," March 26, 2018), has noticed that Islamists are inadvertently driving Muslims out of Islam, and he offers for our consideration the case of Iran:
The antigovernment protests that erupted in Iran in the last days of 2017 showed that millions of Iranians are now disillusioned with the Islamic Republic. Moreover, there are signs that quite a few Iranians are now also disenchanted with Islam itself. Often silently and secretly, they are abandoning their faith. Some opt for other faiths, often Christianity.
This is happening not only in Iran, as Akyol points out:
This trend is certainly not limited to Iran. Authoritarianism, violence, bigotry and patriarchy in the name of Islam are alienating people in almost every Muslim-majority nation.
And it is happening nor only at the state level, but also at the communal, even family level:
Authoritarianism at the communal level is also similarly self-defeating, as observed by Simon Cottee, a British scholar who interviewed dozens of ex-Muslims for his book, "The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam." The process of abandoning Islam accelerated in most cases . . . when young Muslims who had begun questioning religion faced rigid reactions from their families. "The narrow-mindedness they encountered, especially on privately airing doubts to those they trusted . . . just served to intensify their doubts."
Why is contemporary Islam so problematic? Look to Islam's past:
The core problem is that traditional Islamic jurisprudence, and the religious culture it produced, were formed when society was patriarchal, hierarchical and communitarian. Liberal values like free speech, open debate and individual freedom were much more limited. Hence Muslim jurists saw no problem in "protecting the religion" by executing apostates and blasphemers, and by enforcing religious observance. Some of them, like Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, whose ninth-century teachings were a precursor of modern-day Wahhabism - also championed blind faith, a notion of believing "without asking how."
This sort of Islam cannot long endure in the age of modernity:
Modern society, however, is a very different place. People are more individualistic and questioning, and have much more access to diverse views [of which Islamists keep themselves intentionally ignorant] . . . . Questions cannot be answered by platitudes, and ideas cannot be shut down by crude dictates. And those [Islamists] who insist in doing so will only push more people away from the faith . . . [that Islamists] claim to serve.
Akyol warns that continued Islamist domination of Islam will lead to mass secularization. If he's correct, then Islamism faces a dilemma: give up on political power and lose out to liberal Islam or press harder for political control and lose out to a non-Islamic future.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Estranged Sayings Nr. 22

"A nap-plea day keeps the doc tora way."
The word tora (虎) means "tiger" in Japanese, but in this case [of Pearl Harbor, it] is an abbreviated radio codeword, an acronym for totsugeki raigeki (突撃雷撃), literally meaning "lightning attack," indicating . . . that the objective of complete surprise had been achieved. (See Keith Higa, Quora)
But what does "keeps the doc tiger way" mean? Perhaps it means to keep the doc on the way toward lightning attacks . . . like Mr. Flintstone in his hammock.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

An Interesting NYT Article On Race

According to Harvard genetics professor David Reich, despite the current orthodoxy that race is only a social construct, "it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among 'races."' Oddly enough, Reich accepts the view that race is a social construct. He explains as follows:
A classic example often cited is the inconsistent definition of "black." In the United States, historically, a person is "black" if he has any sub-Saharan African ancestry; in Brazil, a person is not "black" if he is known to have any European ancestry. If "black" refers to different people in different contexts, how can there be any genetic basis to it?
That's Reich on race as a social construct, but he otherwise believes that race is real, namely that the various races are human populations that are different enough from each other to constitute races. I'm sure that some of my readers understand all this better than I do. Such readers are invited to read the article - "How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of 'Race'" (NYT, March 23) - and try to understand the logic (that race is a construct and a real thing), then come back and explain it to me.


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Query: What does "Easter" mean?

Being a well-known expert in religions and grammar, I often get this sort of question. On this particular issue, we must recognize that "Easter" is a comparative form. Here are the three forms:

Positive Form: East

Comparative Form: Easter (more East)

Superlative Form: Eastest (most East)

In other words, a place could be East of Eden, another place could be Easter (more East) of Eden, and yet another place could be Eastest (most East) of Eden.


Friday, March 23, 2018

"You are what you cheat."

If you cheat on your grapefruit diet, your eyes will turn into grapefruit halves, and you will gradually become a preying mantis and gorge yourself on insect parts no matter how much you may pray not to.

But how in the world does that illustrate becoming what you eat, you say?

Hey, I don't make these proverbs up. I just quote 'em. Your job is to fix the meaning!


Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Otherized Donald

Otherizing The Donald As An Other

Free speech, free expression? These words are free . . . so far. But hate speech, that's gonna cost yuh. What is "hate speech" yew ask? Nasty talk 'bout other folks. Otherizing folks who're already otherized. Hyperotherizing! Like The Donald. Look how 'others' look at The Donald. He's the othermost otherized illegal alien member of the Green Party.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Real Bird This Time

Real Bird
Unreal Feeder
Photo by Sun-Ae Hwang

I told Sun-Ae that we should make a bird feeder so that we might observe birds up close, so she found an old wooden box, I drilled four holes in it, she tied the box to the railing outside our window, and a couple of birds showed up today, initially suspicious, but soon confident in their gluttony.

More will come . . . and more! . . . and more!! . . . and more!!!

And when our numbers suffice, we shall overwhelm the world!!!!

Oops. I was supposed to keep that part secret.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Even with Fake Birds?

A Bird in the Hand
is Worth Two in the Bush
Rick Hebenstreit

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

"Well then, I'll trade them two in the bush over yonder for that there one in yore hand, even-steven, okay?"


"Hey, wait a second! These birds are fake!"

"Nah, they're just sleepin'."

"Like that parrot you sold me? The one that's still sleepin'?"

"Egg-zakly like that parrot."


Monday, March 19, 2018

Big Throbbing Feet, Or?

"A foot in the door" sounds painful.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Postmodern Postindustrial Posted Insight

"An elevator is more peaceful than an escalator."


The former lifts you up, whereas the latter makes the bad worse.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Non-Legal Non-Advice

Image Only

A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client with a charlatan for a lawyer.


Friday, March 16, 2018

Problematic Proverb: "A fool and his money are soon parted."

"A fool and his money are soon parted."

Now, I don't like to pry into some private priorities, but I can see how even though parting money is a simple and arguably good thing to do, parting a fool entails not only being not even a dubiously good thing but, in point of fact of a certainty, being a horrendous, difficult, unhappy task fraught with severe consequences for the state of one's soul.

Proverb Rewritten: "Concerning a fool and his money, parting the money is acceptable, but parting the fool is not, as it constitutes murder."


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Aphorism Explained

I learned something today from a site titled "Smart Words," the "something" being the word "aphorism":
Aphorism: A tersely, memorably phrased statement of a truth or opinion; an adage. [from Greek aphorismos, from aphorizein, to delimit, define. Apo- (1. Away from; off; Separate. 2. Without 3. Related to) + Horizein (limit, boundary)] Example: He's a fool who cannot conceal his wisdom.
What I learned was that the "ph" is not the letter "phi," but rather "pi" and the rough breathing mark.

Some of us like this sort of stuff -- etymology, I mean.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Boys will be photogenic boys . . .

We have photos from the WAH Center! Here's Terrance:

And here are Carter and Bien:

Two of the three boys are holding up an image from my story, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer.

You might also be interested in my volume of poetry, Radiant Snow.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

According to James Mackintosh (1765-1832) . . .

. . . who seems to have thought quite a lot about a whole bunch of stuff in law, politics, and history:
"The powers of a man's mind are directly proportioned to the quantity of coffee he drinks."
Ah, so, that's who says that! Well, I do need a drink. Espresso. Five shots.


Monday, March 12, 2018

As somebody once said . . .

Somebody There?

"The pears of . . ."

No, wait. Try again.

"The powers of a manx mind . . ."

Ugh. Try again.

"The powers of a man's mind are dreckly . . . tireckly . . ."


"The powers of a man's mind are directly propositioned . . ."

No! Dammit!

"The powers of a man's mind are directly proportioned to the quandary . . ."

No! No! No!

"The powers of a man's mind are directly proportioned to the quantity of coffin . . ."

Once again.

"The powers of a man's mind are directly proportioned to the quantity of coffee he drains . . ."

One last try.

"The powers of a man's mind are directly proportioned to the quantity of coffee he drinks."

Perfect. But next time you intend to quote somebody, have your morning coffee first!

Says who?


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Will Jong-un get Trumped?

Who's the Weightier,
Trump or Jong-un?

Kevin Kim recently posted his skepticism about the up-coming NK-USA no-nuke talks:
[C]all me a yuge skeptic when it comes to the idea that Trump can succeed where others have failed. I'm reminded of Ellis, the doomed character in 1988's "Die Hard," who thinks he can negotiate with a killer and somehow come out on top because, hey - it's all deal-making. You might say that's disanalogous because Trump's the one [who has the desk] with the "bigger button."
I then staked out my position, basically conforming to Kevin's position, but querying whether Trump's the one whose desk has the bigger butt on it:
How can President Trump know that "he's the one with the 'bigger butt on'" his desk, compared to President Kim Jong-un? The North Korean president is grossly overweight, so his butt could easily cover more desktop area than Trump's. President Trump is likely assuming that his own far larger girth will translate into a "bigger butt on" area covered on his own desk. If such a test is to be undertaken, each of the two leaders had better come prepared with an ass-covering explanation for his loss, for one of the two men will of necessity lose in this bare-assed, butt-faced, bum-caked competition.
Well, we'll soon enough see the results of this up-coming arselogical contest . . .


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Quixote as a Ghostly Charles V

I referred obliquely yesterday to the ghost of Charles V, so here's some more obliquity:
Don Quixote's names and actions hide a . . . secret. Following [the literary theorist, Tzvaten] Todorov, there is a double movement toward and away from the revelation [of that secret]. In the end, all that can be said is that the play of genre and narrative may point to a specific hidden mystery, one that deals with a clash of civilizations and the anxieties it causes the protagonist. This secret both complements and contrasts with the vision of a knight as a ghostly Charles V. Don Quixote as a new Charles is deprived of all power except that of the imagination as he rides through the genres. He personifies an emperor who upon abdication has become 'the ghost of all power.' While the emperor repeatedly walks the halls of the monastery thinking of his past achievements and hollow present, the knight rides through an impoverished Spain, seeking the power that Charles discarded, only to find visions less substantial than his emaciated body. It may be that his haunting is there to warn those who sympathize with the knight that the imperial pursuits of the narrative are flawed, that the secret must be revealed. (Frederick A. de Armas, Don Quixote Among the Saracens: A Clash of Civilizations and Literary Genres, 2011)
There. That ought to raise more questions and eyebrows!


Friday, March 09, 2018

The Ghost of All Power?

Consider: "A countenance more in sorrow than in anger."

The word "countenance" means the expression on one's face, and we might wonder if the phrase is a reference to Don Quixote, the "Knight of the Woeful Countenance," but this in fact is a quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet (1602), a scene in which Horatio (Hey, that's me!) describes the emotional state of the ghost of Hamlet's father.

But for now: "Knighty-Night."


Thursday, March 08, 2018

This makes no sense!

A Male Dog is Not a . . .

Nor is this a . . .
I bitched because I had no shoes,
then met a man who had no feet,
which made me bitch still more because
he didn't worry over shoes.

Vocab Words:



Student: "This is a very hard test, Teacher. Can we have more time?"

Teacher: "No, but I'll give part credit for being wrong."


Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Beyond our Ken

But what, then, does "Ken" mean?

Meaning: Understanding

As in: Beyond our Understanding

Humpf, I knew that already.

As for the name "Ken," from "Kenneth," see here.


Tuesday, March 06, 2018

All Greek to Me . . .

Thirty years ago, I shared a poem with a Greek friend of mine, and she pointed out that the title, "Anamnestic Dementia," mixed Greek and Latin. I didn't much care at the time, so I didn't change it, but now that I will be publishing the poem, I want to get it right, so I contacted her again, to ask about using "Anoiosis" in place of "Dementia" and she replied:
"Anoiosis​" does not sound right to me . . . When I check the dictionary, "anoia" is the word used there for dementia in Greek. So either "Anamnestic Anoia" or even leave it with the mixed "Anamnestic Dementia."
I prefer the pure Greek, so "Anamnestic Anoia" it shall be! But if any of my readers who are experts in Greek want to weigh in on this, please feel free to add your voice . . .


Monday, March 05, 2018

Spilt Spelt "Spilled"?

Is it: "No use crying over spilled milk." Or is it: "No use crying over spilt milk." But in either case, why no use crying? Should one rather cry over unspilled/unspilt milk? And what about spoiled or spoilt milk?

So much conventional wisdom to unpack . . .


Sunday, March 04, 2018

It's cliché to say so, but . . .

. . . "cliché" is so often described as an "overly commonplace, banal, or trite saying, expression, or idea."

Can't anyone offer something different, something good to say about clichés?


Saturday, March 03, 2018

Don't Angrify the Blood

Today's idiolectual idiom: "Mad as a hater."

Note: The rare word "hater" rhymes with the common word "tater."

What? Not "hater?" "Hatter?" Okay, "Hatter" it is!

Mad as a "hatter,"
That's whatsamatter.

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Friday, March 02, 2018

Review of Vitasta Raina's Novella: Writer’s Block

Vitasta Raina, urban planner and architect, lives and works in Mumbai, India, where she composed her novella, Writer's Block. The pun on block as "impediment" and block as "city unit" is intentional, and writers living in the block might or might not experience writer's block. Some do, some don't, but for the most part, the writers living there seem sufficiently ruly and productive.

But the city Chalet and its residents, the so-called charlatans, are about to undergo a crisis.

However, I don't want to reveal many plot spoilers. I will therefore offer a few thoughts. The story covers about 64 pages and focuses on the lives of eight writers, who are called "CAST," and distributes them across eight chapters (8x8=64), the last of which is titled, "While the Credits Roll," as if the novella were a motion picture. The first seven chapters are identified as "epiphanies," which would make them divinely inspired insights, and the subtitles read like a continuous poem of free verse style with occasional rhyme, as here on the first page:
I am if I choose to be
But I have no choice
In these million years of evolution
I have finally lost my voice (page 1)
The chapters are prose of native speaker quality, the sentences often of complex length, but nevertheless concise and clear. For example, here is a sentence describing a model of the city:
"Representing a city that in the last decadal cycle of the City Census estimated almost sixty percent of the inhabitants as parasite slum dwellers, the model displayed high rise residential estates, office complexes, shopping arcades, golf courses and a meandering network of transit corridors, flyovers and flyunders connecting the ends, the edges, the fringes and the cores of Chalet." (page 9)
The model is of an idealized Chalet, and mickle are the ways this city could be represented, extremes of poverty and riches, of asceticism and gluttony, of good and bad, of weak and strong, a list that could go on and on.

But the electricity abruptly stops working, and so does everything else, most significantly, the elevators. At that severe inconvenience, Chalet is turned upside down, literally, as the rich pour into the streets and the poor ricochet up to the penthouses. Still, life goes on, for most of the writers, who are stuck in the middle, neither rich nor poor, and Chalet goes on as well. This is all along expected as one reads this slender volume, but the details make for the difference, and for the unexpected.

Five Stars out of Five!

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Thursday, March 01, 2018

Misunderstood Sayings

At a workshop to prepare for the upcoming semester, another instructor there used the expression "to know from the get-go," but I heard "to know from the gecko."

But maybe that other instructor is - with my help - on to something, as the image above would seem to show, so go to the gecko for to be in the know-know . . .