Tuesday, June 18, 2019

more news from Hong Kong

The protests in Hong Kong, which went from a million strong last week to two million protestors this week, have reached a point where citizens have begun clashing violently with authorities. Hong Kong citizens want the extradition bill—which would grant China enormous power to extradite people in Hong Kong for any number of deeds that are not considered crimes in Hong Kong itself—to be repealed and for Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down. Tim Pool's straight-news channel Subverse is on the case:






as if the Latin influx weren't enough...

Tim Pool talks about the record number of illegal aliens from Africa now flying to the Americas to walk through Mexico and attempt to jump the US/Mexico border. Unbelievable. He notes that even certain elements of the left-leaning media are saying there's a huge problem at the border, but the Democrats in Congress refuse to listen and refuse to do anything about the situation, instead choosing to actively obstruct President Trump's efforts at improving border security because Orange Man Bad. The stupidity is mind-boggling.






an overview of various Brexit plans

TLDR News strives to be fair and balanced, or so its curator says. I'm convinced the channel is at least somewhat left-leaning, but whatever its political bias, it's admittedly very informative. Check out this latest video, released right before a major vote taking place today (June 18) in the UK. The video goes over several conservative candidates' plans for handling Brexit. I didn't understand all the terminology, and I think it would've helped to show the candidates' names along with their cute icons, but overall, I got a clear general impression of what's currently going on in the UK. Give the vid a watch:






one more via Bill

Herr Keezer lobs another good one:


And I've already covered, several times, the Scandinavia-as-socialist-paradise myth.



funny... but in need of a strong rebuttal


In reply, I could note that extroverts misuse the word "friend" so that it applies to the 3000 people they supposedly "know" and "care about" on Facebook and other social media. Most of these "friends" won't be there when the extrovert is stricken with cancer, physically brutalized, suddenly handicapped, or rendered homeless. That's going to be a harsh life-lesson for the carefree extrovert, who blithely locates profundity in the swirl of constant social interactions, almost all of which are anything but deep. Extroverts love to talk much more than they love to listen, which is why they're dumber on average. A supposedly African proverb says, "When the roots are deep, there is no reason to fear the wind." And that's what extroverts are good at: producing a lot of wind—sound and fury, signifying nothing. Introverts, who appreciate life far more deeply, are firmly anchored in what's real and what's important. This makes them strong and independent, unlike the needy extroverts, who quickly shrivel and wither when cut off from human attention and interplay. Extroverts are at sea when alone; they have no internal compass and must rely on others to get their bearings in life. Introverts can get confused about where they are and what they want out of existence, but never for long.

Extroverts are fun, without a doubt. They light up a room. They make boring banter less boring (when they're not purposely or inadvertently hijacking and dominating conversations*). They're even capable of having a small circle of true friends. But such folks are the exception: they're the pieces of corn in what is otherwise a steaming pile of shit.



*Admittedly, that can be a problem for certain introverts as well: the ones who think conversation equals pontification, or an opportunity to tell a neverending folksy story. God save me from self-righteous, long-winded lecturers and well-intended-but-deadly-boring raconteurs. My mother used to growl about men who "just go on and on," unaware of the soporific, brain-melting effect they're having on their captive audience. Many of these men are attention-hogging extroverts, but some of them are actually socially retarded introverts.



Styx re: online extremism

A staffer at my job, who obviously leans left, made the specious argument a while back that being online "radicalizes" people to the right. This is part of the larger narrative that, under Trump, there are now white supremacists and Nazis under every rug and in every dark corner. Styx has been saying for a while, now, that this is bullshit (and so has Tim Pool). The evidence simply doesn't support the claim, and the current plumping of this false meme is a throwback to the idiocy of things like the Satanic Panic from decades back. His latest rant on the topic:


While we're at it, Styx talks about how Trump yet again trolls twitchy, wild-eyed CNN:






Monday, June 17, 2019

cringe

Saw this cringe-inducing comment to a YouTube video the other day; it's from a self-styled "editor" who goes by "Malice Burgoyne." Corrections are in [brackets]:

As an editor, how polished a manuscript [is when it] arrives doesn’t mean much. The story itself is everything[,] and what a writer’s relationship is with [her] material becomes apparent within two pages (a thousand words). You see, writing and storytelling are two different things. Storytelling was around long before writing was. Storytelling is a conceptual ability. Writing is a technical skill. In between both develops one’s style from culture and experience.

The last book we published was a work by a gal for whom [English] was a second language. The structure was a mess[,] but she wrote with the number 1 thing any editor looks for even if [he doesn't] know [that is]: authority. It’s a leitmotif—dominant recurring theme—of any good storyteller.

As an author[,] you are god.

Concerning query letters[:] throw out anything you’ve heard. Start by telling me why you wrote the story. Or start with a quote directly from the manuscript.

Example:

“William had three sons. One loved women. One loved money. The other loved America.”

There’re more great books in circulation than any human can read in [her] lifetime. Why dafuq should I read yours?

Lastly, self-publishing is synonymous with slush-piling. No editor wants to hear a damn thing about your self-publishing or other [weed-gardening] accomplishments. Therefore, it’s a huge plus to know a potential client’s been published in literary magazines. This means [she] survived the slush pile, [was] assessed at sentence level by an excellent team of editors[,] and [was] finally published. Too many literary magazines exist to list[;] a novice must start there. Your MFA degree, workshops[,] and [NaNoWriMo] slush mean nothing to me. I want to know you can tell a story. Stop the impatience, the hubris[,] and [the] leapfrogging. Start with essays, letters[,] or shorts and get your ass published.
How embarrassing to announce you're an editor, then to trip over your dick with a dangling modifier (in red above) in your very first sentence. Then, of course, we've got all the punctuation errors, the diction errors, the comma splices, the faulty parallelism, and an irrational hatred of the Oxford comma. Writing is, as the "editor" correctly avers, "a technical skill." Perhaps he should work on that skill a bit more before waving around the claim that he's an editor. (I do enjoy his use of "dafuq," though, since I do the same thing.)

I could say more. I could talk about how I don't like the final sentence of the first paragraph because it's unclear what the writer means. I can sort-of guess, but the writer could have helped me out by providing a bit more clarity. Also: how is writerly "authority" a leitmotif? The writer's definition of leitmotif is "dominant recurring theme," but I'm still unsure how authority can be a dominant recurring theme. I can see authority being a crucial or essential trait of good writing: "She writes with authority." I also think the "editor" should use a term like trope instead of leitmotif; the latter is more closely associated with music. But even then, I'd hesitate to call authority a trope. A trope is like Homer's repeated description of the dawn, in The Odyssey, as "rosy-fingered" (ροδοδάκτυλος/rododaktulos—rhododactyl: rose-finger[ed]). If one writes with authority, that authority doesn't come and go the way tropes and leitmotifs do; it's a constant, underlying presence felt in and through the prose. Authority in writing, as a quality or a virtue, is never merely occasional.

Whatever. Sloppiness all around. As the kids say in these days of nominalizing adjectives, the guy's comment was very cringe.



gonna have to do some R&D

How long—how many pages long—is the typical movie-review book? I'm almost done assembling my book's manuscript, but it's frighteningly huge. I have roughly 300 files right now, and by the time I'm done compiling, that total will be near 350, I think (I'm going backwards in time, and my movie-review blog posts have become more frequent over the years, which means that the period going backward from 2011 to 2003 will have relatively few reviews). Each review's length varies, but many are around the five-page range (single-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman, US-letter paper). Some are as short as a single page.* That gives us a median of—what—three pages, right? Assuming the median is close to the mean, then 350 files times 3 pages per file equals 1050 pages. That's quite a tome.

I can try whittling the page count down. One thing to do will be to change the font to something naturally more compact, like Garamond, and also to shrink the font size from 12 points to 10. The problem, though, is that I'll also be shrinking the page size down to something like B5 or B6, so I might end up with the same hellaciously huge page count.

Since I'll be rereading all these reviews, I'll doubtless find ones whose prose I'm not proud of, and those reviews will be unsentimentally chucked. That ought to whittle the book's size down by a couple hundred pages. I could also simply stop compiling now and publish only from a restricted date range, e.g., from 2012 to 2019. Much to think about.

Putting the manuscript together is the easy part. Editing's going to be a bitch.

ADDENDUM: having just done some R&D, I see that many movie-review compilations have page counts ranging from 900 to 2000, so maybe I won't have to whittle that much.



*Then again, some of my articles, like "The Tao of Chance," print out to 14 pages.

4 via Bill

Bill Keezer is de retour and recuperating from much-needed back surgery. Here are a few memes and toons from the latest volley he sent my way (I'm on his mailing list):



I'm not a big fan of Branco's art, but I love the work of Michael Ramirez:







Sunday, June 16, 2019

the Hong Kong protests

I wonder how many Hong Kong residents are pining for the days of British rule, back when things like civil rights actually mattered. Unless you've been trapped inside a flerken's pocket dimension, you know that, in Hong Kong, there's been an ongoing protest of over a million Chinese who are incensed that the mainland-Chinese government wants Hong Kong to pass a law (proposed in and by Hong Kong, bizarrely enough) allowing mainland China (and, potentially, other countries) to extradite Hong Kong citizens and fugitives taking refuge in Hong Kong (i.e., any suspected criminals in Hong Kong—as defined by mainland-Chinese law, not Hong Kong law*). China Uncensored, which has become my go-to YouTube channel for China-related news, has been on the case. The CU crew is currently in Hong Kong, live-vlogging. Here are some videos they made before they went overseas:






*Hong Kong passed from British rule to Chinese rule in 1997, but it is still considered a "special administrative region" despite also being considered fully Chinese.



tidbits that caught my eye

Seen on Instapundit:

[Texas governor] Gregg Abbott Is Making It Fun To Watch Authoritarianism Die

It may be increasingly infested with blue voters, but Texas is still an example of what a state should look like, and it’s only getting increasingly better while Governor Greg Abbott is in charge.

Over the past few months, Republican legislators have been working with Abbott to take the government’s hands off the people. Superfluous laws and authoritarian actions are dying highly public deaths, and Abbott is making it all too entertaining to watch.

Abbott has a habit of taking to social media to allow you to watch the signing of bills that pry the government’s kung-fu grip off of the people. This includes red light cameras, looser liquor laws—including one that allows it to be delivered directly to your home like a pizza—a law protecting free speech on campus, and even a law that allows children to open up a lemonade stand without running into the law.

Hispanics Stick with Trump Despite Tough Border Stance

President Trump is poised to launch his 2020 reelection as popular with Hispanic voters as other Republicans, bucking predictions that provocative nationalist rhetoric and hard-line border policies would crater his support with this critical bloc.

When Trump, four years ago Saturday, descended the escalator to the lobby of his iconic New York skyscraper and announced his first campaign, he riffed that Mexicans "with lots of problems," including rapists, were crossing the southern border. Many Republicans, establishment and otherwise, were mortified. They fretted that nominating Trump, never mind electing him, would permanently doom the GOP with Hispanics.

It hasn’t worked out that way. Available polling consistently shows Hispanic support for the president at around 30% — about the same as it has been for many Republican politicians post-George W. Bush and pre-Trump. Indeed, [some] party insiders focused on improving Hispanic support for the GOP now contend that he has room to grow with this cohort in [the] next election.

“He starts in a much better place for reelection than when he launched his 2016 campaign,” said Daniel Garza, a Bush administration veteran who runs the Libre Initiative, a Koch network group that encourages Hispanics to embrace conservative policies. “One would think immigration would be a major anchor for him, but he’s turned it into at least a push,” he said, suggesting his policies would neither harm nor help the president.

That’s quite a turnabout for Garza. Here is what he told the Washington Examiner about Trump in August 2015: “His positions are indefensible. I would actually rise up against him.”

Unlike House, U.S. Senate Unanimously Condemns Anti-Semitism

When you write about anti-Semitism, there’s typically not much good news to report; the world’s oldest hatred has been making a comeback not only overseas, but also here in the US of A. So, it’s both good and important to pause and celebrate the U.S. Senate unanimously passing a resolution that unequivocally condemns anti-Semitism.

Where the House of Representatives fumbled, the Senate succeeded. And thank G-d for that.

In March, the House struggled to rebuke blatantly anti-Semitic remarks from freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar. Rather than forcefully denounce anti-Semitism within their own ranks, House members passed a watered-down resolution calling out out all hatred. While that message was unobjectionable, it was also totally non-responsive to the historical moment.

By contrast, Sens. Ted Cruz and Tim Kaine led the Senate in embracing a resolution yesterday that squarely condemns anti-Semitism in all of its forms. The Senate resolution offers a sweeping historical view of anti-Semitism across borders and millennia. It recognizes that the virus of anti-Semitism is different than other forms of hatred, has occurred both overseas and domestically, and that it requires a unique, targeted condemnation.

In addition to citing pogroms, forced conversions, and the Holocaust, the resolution mentions that Jews retain the dubious honor of being the most targeted religious group for hate crimes. While Omar isn’t named, the resolution alludes to her poisonous remarks, noting that “Jews have faced, and continue to face, false accusations of divided loyalty between the United States and Israel, [and] false claims that they purchase political power with money.” Given the struggle to pass [anti-boycott] legislation on the Hill this year, the resolution also crucially castigates those who would “boycott, confiscate[,] or destroy Jewish businesses.”

[...]

Contrast all of this with what’s happened in the United Kingdom. Joan Ryan, a British member of Parliament who left the Labour Party over anti-Semitism earlier this year, recently spoke about her experience at the American Jewish Committee’s 2019 Global Forum.

Asked what lessons she’d offer Americans about arresting (any or all) political parties’ slide toward anti-Semitism, Ryan replied, “It is important that others in different parts of the world look at what’s happened to us because it happened so fast and it’s gone so deep, that really it is quite unbelievable. So, I think you have to be ever vigilant.”

She advised, “You call out anti-Semitism wherever, whenever you come across it, and you do it right from the beginning. You don’t wait. It’s like a virus, and if you don’t do that right from day one, right from the first instance, then it will take [hold].”

Styx comments on that horrible bigot, Donald Trump, whose global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality, especially in countries where gays are thrown off the tops of buildings, seems to have had an effect. Styx observes that Trump will naturally receive no credit for this.


Styx has also been beating the drum regarding the Ebola crisis in Africa, which the West, disturbingly, has been ignoring. The epidemic has spread from one country to another (Congo to Uganda), but despite the increasing number of victims,

WHO unexpectedly declines, again, to call Ebola outbreak a global emergency

In a controversial decision, the World Health Organization (WHO) has again decided not to declare Africa’s latest Ebola outbreak, which has killed more than 1400 people and just crossed into a new country, a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). “It was the view of the committee that the outbreak is a health emergency in the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] and the region, but it does not meet all [the PHEIC] criteria,” Preben Aavitsland, acting chair of an expert committee convened by WHO, said at a press conference on Friday evening in Geneva, Switzerland.

The committee gathered for the third time after news emerged this week that the virus had spread from the DRC to neighboring Uganda, so far killing two people there—a 5-year-old boy and his grandmother—who had crossed the border. Many infectious disease experts and public officials had expected, and called for, WHO to declare a PHEIC when Ebola broke out of the DRC. “I’m baffled and deeply troubled by this decision,” Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., tells ScienceInsider. “The status quo is no longer tenable. It is time to sound a global alert.”

One comedian noted that a major effect of Ebola is that it instills the desire to get on a plane and go to a foreign country. And you still think strict border control is a racist idea?



Saturday, June 15, 2019

Mike hits the Big Five-Oh

My buddy Mike (below, far left, glasses and 'stache—pic taken August 2018), the feared curator of Naked Villainy, turns fifty today. The Big Five-Oh. The ol' half-century.

Mike and I are the open and closed parentheses surrounding the July 20, 1969 moon landing: Mike was born a month before the landing, on June 15, and I was born a month after, on August 31. Mike and I didn't meet until the third grade, but once we met, we got along famously. We've followed different life-paths, but we've always been best friends. Mike's been a history buff since he was a kid; I used to be a science nerd, but I got more into religion and religious studies around college. Neither of us does work that has any relevance to our college degrees: Mike works with his brother-in-law (also a Mike) in property management, and I've worked in the EFL field—first as a teacher, and now as a prole in EFL publishing.* Whereas I remain single and childless (and probably will forever, at this rate), Mike married in 1995 (I was his best man, of course), and he now has three kids: two daughters and a son. His eldest daughter also happens to be my goddaughter. Turns out she's a science nerd; that's what she's doing in college. Her sister, also in college, is a science nerd, too.

Mike's away on a trip this weekend, reliving—according to him—his 10th birthday by road-tripping to historical sites he had visited when he was young. I ordered Mike a birthday present from Amazon before I knew he was going to be away; the package arrived on Friday, after Mike and family had departed, so it'll be waiting for him upon his return. Mike said he's been feeling rather blah lately; maybe it's the mid-century blues, or maybe it's something else. Here's hoping his trip down memory lane proves therapeutic for him. He shouldn't feel too sad: I'll be following him over the Cliffs of Fifty in another couple of months.

Happy Birthday, old friend!



*In undergrad, I majored in French and went through a certificate program to become a French teacher, which meant taking a slew of courses in linguistics and pedagogy, so in a sense, I do have a background, thanks to my French major, in what I'm currently doing in EFL publishing. But what I now do has nothing to do with my Master's degree, which is in religious studies. Just thought I'd clarify that point.



fight choreography!

I'm a fight-choreography junkie, and I've watched plenty of videos that show snippets of fight choreography from various films, but I don't recall ever seeing a piece of choreography rehearsed from end to end before. Adam Savage, at his Adam Savage's Tested YouTube channel, spent a week in New Zealand at the Weta Workshop (known for doing the special effects for both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit). Adam's goal was to create a comical knight-versus-monster fight, which required him to get into the nitty-gritty of costume design and manufacture, location scouting, practical effects (lots of spurting blood), and of course, fight choreography. The following video, from Day 5 of the trip, is mostly about Adam and his Kiwi counterpart, the hulking Shane, blocking out and practicing the main part of the knight-versus-monster fight. It was fascinating to watch the process unfold and to see the scene come together. Shane, who has done work in the LOTR films, managed the choreography, but it was a dialectical, collaborative process. Watch the video below and learn more:






PJW gets ready to say goodbye to YouTube

Censorship on big platforms, especially of the right, continues apace. Pretty soon, every non-leftie you know is going to be banned, which only facilitates the rise of alt-tech. Many of the alt-news people I listen to have already established presences on other media: Minds.com instead of Facebook, BitChute instead of YouTube, Gab and Parler instead of Twitter. Here's Paul Joseph Watson talking about his impending disappearance from YouTube:


ADDENDUM: John McCrarey sends the following link to a Twitchy article talking about how Tim Pool just had a video removed from YouTube. It was about censorship on YouTube and Pinterest, so yes: YouTube censored a video about censorship.



that Burger King commercial

This commercial, too, is fully subtitled despite the lack of foreigners. Obviously, I've seen this sort of subtitling before, so it's not new to me. I often wonder whether it's a thing that was picked up from the Chinese, who also subtitle everything (although, in the case of the Chinese, one reason for doing this is the profusion of dialects, thereby necessitating subtitles to help people understand the dialogue). Are there mutually incomprehensible dialects in Korea? I mean, I had trouble with the way people talked down in Daegu, but the language wasn't totally incomprehensible. Anyway, here's that Burger King ad:


I understand, pretty much, what's going on: the man comes into Burger King and wants a hamburger value meal, and when the cashier gets ready to tell him the price, he flatly declares the price to be "four dollars." The cashier lamely tries to tell him that his value meal represents a lot of food, but he keeps insisting that he'll only pay four dollars. The cashier finally relents and charges him W4,900, which is, as it happens, almost exactly four American dollars. The man breaks into English with an, "OK, thank you!" and formally, stiffly shakes the cashier's hand. I think the male actor does a hilarious job of deadpanning the whole way through, and the surreal situation that played out was also pretty funny.

Here's what I don't get, though, and I'll rely on Korean-fluent Charles to decipher this for me: when the man grates, "Four dollars," the screen flashes "사딸라" (sa ddalla) and not "사 달러" (sa dalleo), which is the usual Korean spelling for "four dollars." Is there some sort of pun that I'm missing? I feel there's another layer of comedy that I'm not getting at all.



Tilda Swinton speaks (a wee bit of) Korean

Strange and statuesque Tilda Swinton—who is basically Cate Blanchett for weirdos—has done a commercial for Trip.com here in Korea. She utters one line of carefully spoken Korean: "여행이 영어로 뭐지?" (Yeohaeng-i yeongeo-ro mweoji?)—i.e., "What is 'trip' [yeohaeng] in English?" See for yourself:


I'd been wanting to slap this up on the blog for weeks. I'm glad the commercial made it to YouTube. I guess Tilda's pronunciation wasn't clear enough to earn her the "foreigner pronounces so clearly she doesn't need subtitles" status.* In Korea, the assumption is that, if you've got a foreign face, you probably can't speak Korean, and Koreans are so thoroughly convinced this is true that they'll stick subtitles on the screen even if the foreigner speaking Korean is speaking the language perfectly. Koreans are psychologically thrown off by the mere sight (and, well, sound) of a Korean-fluent foreigner: that's how low their expectations are regarding your language proficiency, and that's why so many of them will burst out in startled laughter if you start speaking comprehensible Korean to them. Obviously, there are exceptions, e.g., Koreans who know you and your proficiency level and have had a chance to get used to hearing you speak Korean, as well as Koreans who work around Korean-speaking foreigners all day long (e.g., in Itaewon, on college campuses, etc.). Certain famous foreigners who have proven their Korean ability, and who appear in TV dramas and such, don't always have to be subtitled. I'm thinking specifically of German-turned-Korean-citizen Yi Hanu, a.k.a. Lee Charm, né Bernhard Quant of Bad Kreuznach. Oho—I see on Wikipedia that he was embroiled in a sex scandal in 2013 when he was caught having sex with a prostitute in Japan. Very Bad Kreuznach, indeed! Anyway, it tickles me to see stars I recognize suddenly appear out of nowhere in Korean commercials. You go, Tilda! Rock on, O Ancient One!



*To be fair, the Korean guy's lines also appear as subtitles. Subtitling often happens in TV commercials, and I find it cringe-worthy. Very often, it feels as if someone were telling a joke and then explaining it, which is the best way to suck the humor out of a joke. Granted, not all commercials are subtitled, but many are.



Friday, June 14, 2019

suicide, according to Ernest Becker

Learn to embrace death, because like it or not, she's going to embrace you.


Ernest Becker wrote the Pulitzer-winning The Denial of Death back in the 1970s. A disciple of Otto Rank, Becker put forth the idea that human beings anchor their self-esteem and self-worth in the notion that they are the heroes of their respective stories. Man is both a physical and a symbolic (or symbol-generating) being, thus inhabiting both a physical/fallen and a symbolic/heroic world. Depression and suicide are what await the man who ceases to believe he is the hero of his own story, who sees himself as temporary, mortal, fallible, and frail. What point is there in living life if one can no longer touch the immortal realm?

Man's life is normally lived in denial of death; this denial is, according to Becker, the basic impulse for why humans create civilization: so they don't have to stare straight down the tunnel at impending death, but can instead be distracted by the sideshows of life in all of its social complexity. When we're being social, or engaged in heroic endeavors, we can forget the deathward plunge that awaits us all. But we never completely forget: memento mori is always somewhere in the backs of our minds, causing us to question our purpose, the very value of being alive. Strange to realize that, within each of us, the skull—the death's head—already resides, and it will wait years or decades, if necessary, to manifest itself. For some weak souls, this prospect is too much: mortality is too much, and if one believes oneself to be the agonized protagonist in a theater of pain and horror, then suicide does seem to be the best option.

But that's not you. Remember that you're the hero of your own personal adventure. Never lose that thought. Live according to my high school's awesome Latin motto—esse non videri: being, not seeming. It's better actually to be a hero than merely to seem a hero. And even if being a hero is merely a reaction to the prospect of death, there's still much good that can come from a heroic approach to life.



shout-out to my alma mater


Good ol' Georgetown University, my old school, sits by the Potomac River, almost within sight of the Kennedy Center and still, after all this time, lacks its own subway stop. (You have to get off at Rosslyn Station, in Virginia, and walk 25 minutes across Key Bridge, over the Potomac, to reach the bottom of the hill on which my campus sits.)

For whatever reason, I suddenly felt a pang of nostalgia about the place, where the cheer was the weirdly Latin-Greek "Hoya Saxa!"—often translated as "What rocks!" (See more here.) Our school's Latin motto is Utraque unum, a biblical phrase in keeping with the school's Jesuit roots, which means, "Both into one," from Paul's idea (expressed in Ephesians) that Jews and Gentiles now together form a single body of Christ. The motto, when considered in the context of Georgetown's blue and gray colors, also expresses a post-Civil War sentiment: the divided halves of the United States have become one again.

Founded in 1789, the year the US Constitution was officially implemented (it was ratified in 1788)—not to mention the year of the bloody French Revolution—Georgetown University is the oldest Catholic institution of higher learning (notice how I didn't use the more succinct term "school"... because that's what happens when you're feeling pretentious) in the United States. Like most universities, GU has both an alma mater song and a fight song. I managed to dredge both of these songs up on YouTube. I share them with you now, to give you a small taste of our university's spirit (and here, by the way, are the lyrics):

The alma mater song:


A bunch of possibly-not-sober guys doing our fight song, which covers topics from gambling to football to basketball to not-so-hidden Ivy-League envy:


A better version of the fight song, karaoke-style:


Despite my nostalgia—which I don't feel that often—I'm strangely unsentimental about the place. I made some friends there, but I've been more in contact with old friends from elementary, junior high, and high school than I have with friends from college. I don't think I have any grad-school friends with whom I keep in contact, despite having had a good time studying with those nerds, many of whom were going for their doctorates while I cruised blithely along towards my MA in religious studies. One reason for the lack of sentimentality may be that Georgetown was hellaciously expensive, and it took me (and my parents) years to pay down that debt, despite the financial aid. I often feel that, despite being surrounded by smart and talented people during my four years of undergrad, my consciousness only really started to blossom after grad school. Yeah, call me a late bloomer. I'm slow that way.

But every once in a while, I do miss Georgetown. Thanks for listening to the music that is part of my personal history.



Thursday, June 13, 2019

20Q can suck my fat ass

The 20 Questions website has been around for years. Go give it a try if you haven't already done so. You'll have noted, assuming you've played the game, that at the very end, there's usually a list of "contradictions" that come up. These contradictions arise from how you answered the computer's questions versus how "others" answered the same questions. 20Q isn't merely a game: it uses a machine-learning algorithm to help it "learn" which questions to ask. In theory, the machine gets better over time, but I haven't noticed much improvement over the years: the thing still asks plenty of goofy, out-of-the-blue questions.

Anyway, in a recent session, I thought of "bologna," and 20Q wasn't able to figure out what I was thinking. Here's the list of excuses it gave for why it couldn't figure out the answer, with my reactions written beneath each one (and I'm stifling the urge to change all the comma splices to semicolons):

Is it something you bring along?
You said Yes, 20Q was taught by other players that the answer is No.

What—you can't bring your bologna sandwich along to the office? Now I'm curious about all the dumbasses who affirmed that bologna, like Thor's hammer, can't be lifted off a horizontal surface and carried somewhere else. Maybe Thor didn't need to go as far as Niðavellir to forge a Thanos-killing weapon: he could've sculpted one out of bologna, according to the pea-brains who think bologna is magically rooted to the earth's core.


Does it come in a box?
You said Yes, 20Q was taught by other players that the answer is No.

I hesitated on this one. Maybe I was wrong. Bologna often comes in a plastic package that's vaguely reminiscent of a box, albeit a cylindrical one. Maybe I should've answered "maybe."

Does it roll?
You said Maybe, 20Q was taught by other players that the answer is No.

A chub of bologna (yep—that's what it's called; when I looked it up, I thought it'd be called a log) does indeed roll. A single slice can theoretically be bowled, if you've got proper technique, and it might roll a short distance before collapsing. Hence "maybe."

Does it smell bad?
You said No, 20Q was taught by other players that the answer is Yes.

Does it smell bad coming right out of the package? Only if you're an idiot who buys rotten bologna. What're these stupid fuckers thinking when they answer "Yes"?

Do you use it at work?
You said Yes, 20Q was taught by other players that the answer is No.

This is one of 20Q's many awkwardly phrased questions. You don't use bologna: you eat it. So the dilemma in answering this question is: what if "use" actually means "eat" in this context? What if a million players answer this question with a "no," thereby teaching the machine-learning algorithm to cut bologna off from any possibility of being associated with the location where one is likely to be eating lunch, i.e., work? So I chose to interpret "use" as "eat" and answered with a resounding "yes."

Is it found on a desk?
You said Sometimes, 20Q was taught by other players that the answer is No.

Here again, "other players" are idiots. Bologna can be found on my desk, as part of a sandwich, at lunch. What are these other retards thinking?

Is it slippery?
You said Sometimes, 20Q was taught by other players that the answer is Doubtful.

Let your bologna go bad in the package, and it'll be plenty slippery. Store your bologna properly, and eat it well before its sell-by date, and there'll be little reason ever to think of your bologna as slippery. (And by "your bologna," I don't mean your dick. But feel free to eat your dick before its sell-by date if that's what floats your boat.) So yeah, when you average out the respective conditions of the packs of bologna sold and stored all over the United States, bologna is sometimes slippery. Who the fuck answers "doubtful"?

20Q has a long way to go, and maybe the reason it's not improving very quickly is that the general public keeps feeding it these stupid, fucked-in-the-head responses.

You should've seen the contradictions when I thought of a sheep. "Does it have a long tail? You answered Depends, 20Q was taught by other players that the answer is No." And that's because these morons don't know that many species of sheep have long tails that get docked. Or this: "Does it communicate? You said Yes, 20Q was taught by other players that the answer is No." Christ. So sheep don't bleat? And: "Is it black? You said Sometimes, 20Q was taught by other players that the answer is No." So most people have never heard of black sheep, ja?

ADDENDUM:

20Q correctly guessed that I was thinking of an apple pie, but as always, it informed me that there were... contradictions. To wit:

You were thinking of an apple pie.

You said it's classified as Vegetable, 20Q was taught by other players that the answer is Animal.

Really? About the only animal product in an apple pie is butter, and even there, vegan butter exists. An apple pie is mostly fruit and vegetable matter, I'd say. Animal? Really?

Does it taste good fried? You said Yes, 20Q was taught by other players that the answer is No.
Hell yes, an apple pie is good fried! Have you never been to a Korean McDonald's? Unlike in the US, where things went politically correct years ago, and Mickey D's apple pies are now baked, apple pies are still fried in Korea.

Is it delivered? You said Sometimes, 20Q was taught by other players that the answer is No.
I'm pretty sure that plenty of US bakeries deliver. Idiots.

Would you find it on a farm? You said Maybe, 20Q was taught by other players that the answer is No.
So a sturdy Hausfrau on a farm can't bake an apple pie? Ever?

Is it commonly used? You said No, 20Q was taught by other players that the answer is Probably.
Here again, the use/eat problem. In this case, it seems the general public also interpreted "use" to mean "eat," whereas I went the other direction.

Is it colorful? You said Yes, 20Q was taught by other players that the answer is No.
Variegated browns, golds, yellows, all cohabiting in a topographical riot of shades and hues... if someone were to paint a beautiful apple pie, would that painting be described as colorless? I think not. So, to 20Q I say:






oh, that fake news

Tim Pool, a self-identifying leftie, constantly calls out the left for its fake news, and the left keeps on shoveling it out there. Here's another example of the sort of sloppy journalism we've come to expect from these monkeys.



depressing abstract

This paper (PDF) is from 2015, but I was just notified of it thanks to Academia.edu. It's about a topic that's near and dear to my heart: student-centered, task-oriented learning. This particular variety goes by the names "project-based learning" (PBL) or "project-oriented learning" (POL). You can learn more about PBL done well at this old blog post of mine. The idea is to make the student more proactive in his/her own education through the use of projects, but once you read the abstract below, you'll realize the depressing reality that Koreans don't do well when given too much freedom. Thinking for oneself isn't a cultural value in Korea; the mentality does exist, but it's not indicative of the country's collective headspace. Read on. I've inserted asterisks to mark where I have comments.

Kim, Mi Kyong. (2015). Students' and teacher's reflections on project-oriented learning: A critical pedagogy for Korean ELT. English Teaching, 70(3), 73-98. This paper explores students' and teacher's experiences with project-oriented learning, as a form of critical pedagogy for Korean English language teaching. The teacher in this study developed and implemented a model of project-based instruction into a Korean tertiary context. The data set consisted of learner journals, teacher journals, and interviews. Six findings were ascertained: (1) The project approach created resistance from both the students and the teacher;* (2) Communication between the teacher and the students eased the students' frustrations; (3) The goal-oriented nature of project work encouraged students to construct linguistic and topic-related knowledge; (4) Group work promoted independent and collaborative learning; (5) The teacher's role as a facilitator continued to confuse the teacher;** and (6) Plagiarism seemed to limit student learning.*** Based on the findings, two pedagogical implications were drawn: Student-centered approaches in large low-level classes would require some degree of teacher-centeredness in order to respond to language demands;**** and learner and teacher journals can serve as an indicator of a need for teacher-centered methods.*****

*I'm going to assume the teacher is also Korean. Korean teachers tend to freak out when exposed to Western teaching methods. They're used to following a very specific program with little to no opportunity for divergence from the step-by-step plan.

**Almost certainly a Korean. Don't look to Koreans for improv.

***A culture that encourages both passivity in learning and uncreative problem-solving will of course be okay with plagiarism—a problem that many Koreans don't see as a problem. If a person can steal someone else's work and look good as a result, well, in a status-oriented society where prestige is more important than intellectual honesty and moral integrity, idea theft tends to be rampant.

****So what's the fucking point? Reread that sentence: for student-centered learning to work, it needs to be somewhat teacher-centered. Priceless.

*****My God, the whining. I don't think I could get through those journals. They'd all sound the same, and they'd all be filled with the moaning and groaning of lazy people rebelling at (1) the new thoughts bubbling up in their heads thanks to exposure to another culture, and (2) the notion of being responsible for one's own future and fortune (gasp!).

A comparison of pedagogical approaches:



ADDENDUM: this paper is also depressing for other reasons. The author (who, I gather, was also the instructor described in the paper, i.e., I was right to guess that the teacher was Korean) emphasizes a concept called "critical pedagogy," which already made my spider sense tingle because of the word "critical," which is beloved of postmodernists. Going to the Wikiversity page merely confirmed my suspicions:
Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional cliches, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse. (Empowering Education, 129)
This is a recipe for paranoia and other forms of insanity. How does one live a happy life when one is always trying to peel apart every situation as if social reality were an onion begging to be analyzed (more like anal-yzed, as in ass-raped)? I can't fathom it, personally. Maybe that makes me stupid. Maybe I'm a rube who prefers to remain unaware of subtext.

Wikiversity's article on critical pedagogy goes on to say this:
In this tradition[,] the teacher works to lead students to question ideologies and practices considered oppressive (including those at school), and [to] encourage "liberatory" collective and individual responses to the actual conditions of their own lives.
And according to the research paper whose abstract is discussed above, what exactly happened when students were encouraged to operate according to "liberatory responses"? By the teacher's own admission, the class turned to shit. It was only rescued when the teacher herself stepped in and made the class more teacher-centered, which is what Korean students normally expect, anyway. We expats encounter this inertia every damn day. Korean academics might be amenable to postmodernist bullshit, but Joe Normal students in Korea are not. While this academic/prole divide is a strike against PoMo-style thinking because of its academic elitism, it doesn't mean I have much sympathy for Korean students and teachers, who really need to change their pedagogical approach—and not toward postmodernism—if they want to be truly creative and innovative. East Asia, taken as a whole, is beginning to see some innovative thinking (cf. South Korea and robotics), but the continent isn't going to change as long as everyone insists on hanging on to old, useless educational traditions like rote memorization, multiple-choice testing (which encourages the false belief that, in every situation, there is only one correct answer), student passivity, and utter reliance on the teacher. This is a big mountain to move.



Wednesday, June 12, 2019

from the New Yorker

Just stumbled across this while randomly surfing:






peetzuh tawk

The Bon Appétit team recently did a five-part series about building the perfect pizza. Now that the series is over, the team has released the video of their initial bull session. It's a good, 50-minute conversation, but if you have the time, and if you want to watch a bunch of people think through the process of designing a perfect pizza, the following video—which I found quite educational—might just be for you:






Tuesday, June 11, 2019

worldwide protests on behalf of Hong Kong

Get the story here, from Tim Pool's other YouTube channel, Subverse:


Note the comments along the lines of "Wow—actual, in-depth journalism for once!"

Tim Pool is a godsend, and I say that despite disagreeing with him in some major ways.



a lovely painting from #3 Ajumma

#3 Ajumma's husband, the third of my mother's four cousins, died this year on my father's birthday, January 17. Since that time, it's almost as if Ajumma's heart had exploded into light and color, and all these paintings have suddenly appeared. Ajumma, through her expressive art, has shown me a valid way of dealing with grief by creating or channeling these marvelous, impressionistic worlds. This latest painting is one that I find particularly beautiful:






no wut sux?

It sucks when you plan to eat chili dogs at the office, and you bring the dogs, chili, and cheese, but you forget the damn buns. So today was an Atkins chili-dog day.



gonna put this out there

The following claims need verification, but if true, they paint an ugly picture. Seen on Gab:


My buddy Steve, who writes only rarely on his blog, recently posted the following claim:

...Republicans have for a decade now been waging war on Democratically inclined voters of color, finding ever more creative ways to keep them from the polls.

Steve's post, alas, contains a number of false claims, but let's focus on the one above. The first interesting thing to note is what happens when you click over to the article that Steve linked to. The article says nothing—not a single thing—about "creative ways" or nefariously racist intentions; that's purely something that Steve has read into the piece.* The article merely notes that Republicans have sought "stricter" requirements for voters, and it enumerates some of them in the vaguest possible terms, never exploring the why behind the impetus for the restrictions,** and never noting that the restrictions themselves aren't particularly earth-shattering. Sloppy journalism. The article's author, showing his/her leftist bias, probably left out the reasoning behind the restrictions as a form of disingenuous cropping: writing about the restrictions' rationale would reveal how reasonable that rationale is, and we can't have that. This sort of cropping is a bit like the physical cropping of photographs to hide the shameful fact that you're campaigning in a half-empty church.

Side note: the Brennan Center for Justice, to which Steve linked, is hilariously described on Wikipedia as "a liberal or progressive, non-partisan law and [public-policy] institute." Sorry, but you can't be both lib/prog and non-partisan. Don't be coy about your agenda.



*I've heard worse, actually, and I blogged, at least obliquely, about some tricks apparently pulled by GOP sympathizers here.

**Don't you worry: I posted about the why just yesterday.



Monday, June 10, 2019

Tim Pool on the so-called "white power" hand gesture

Pool tackles leftist double standards:






the GOP is truly evil

Seen on Gab:


Obviously, this is disgustingly racist.



Ave, Charles!

Proper stromboli: a post from a long while back (February 12, 2007*).

(First Ave'd here.)



*Charles doesn't tag his posts with the year they were published, so I had to search his archives. Grrr.



stromboli cherry: popped, but not well

This is my first time ever making stromboli, and I made six of the fuckers. A stromboli is different from a calzone in a few ways, not least being that the tomato sauce is often (but not always) inside the dough pocket, not outside in a tiny dipping ramekin.

I somewhat faithfully followed Wolfgang Puck's recipe for pizza dough, per the instructions of YouTube's Chef John. All in all, the prep went well: the dough behaved the way it was meant to, although I didn't find the taste all that spectacular. For a beginner like me, though, the dough served its purpose.

Wikipedia's entry on stromboli says this:

Generally, strombolis do not usually contain tomato sauce, unlike calzones.

Hmmm. The entry on calzones says this:

In the United States, calzones are typically made from pizza dough and stuffed with meats, cheeses[,] and vegetables.

No mention of tomato sauce, but this guy puts sauce in his stromboli. Don't always trust Wikipedia. Here are some blurry shots of my stromboli:




Aside from using Wolfgang Puck's dough, I painted a bit of olive oil on the inside of the dough pocket, per Chef John's admonition that you don't want your sauce sticking directly to the dough. I layered on mushrooms, mozzarella, and a halal beef analogue for pepperoni that I'd bought from the Foreign Food Market, sliced, and pre-fried. On top of the pepperoni went some ricotta, super-thin deli-sliced ham, sopressa (a bit like salami), bacon (pre-fried), and a bit of thin provolone. I folded over the dough and crimped it, using a fork, in most cases, to make the seal tight. (It turned out that crimping with the fingers was sufficient—no forking necessary). Instead of an egg wash, I painted butter across the tops of all the stromboli, and I used kitchen shears to cut three vents into each pocket to prevent explosions.

Chef John's instructions say to bake the stromboli (well, his recipe was for calzones, but no matter) at 500ºF for 15 minutes. My oven goes up to that temperature, but it's somewhat under-powered, so I ended up baking for twice that long, adjusting my heating elements about halfway through so as to brown the top thoroughly (which is one of the features I love about my oven: you can go top-burner-only, bottom-burner-only, or both-burners-at-once). All the stromboli came out more or less well except for the second one, which got somewhat burned (see "C" in the third photo above).

I don't have a photo of it, but my sixth and final stromboli came out the best of all of them. I didn't add any beef "pepperoni" to that one because I had way more sopressa, at the end, than I'd calculated. So for the final stromboli, I used up the rest of the sopressa, plus a bit of extra mozzarella. Can't wait to eat that one.

There isn't enough room in my freezer, even after more than half a month, to tuck in all five stromboli: I ate the first one out of the oven for dinner, so there were only five left to deal with. I'll either fridge them up for now or take them to the office this week and dump them in the faculty/staff freezer.

The stromboli that I ate tasted fine. As mentioned above, the dough did its work, but it didn't taste like anything special. I'll look around and see what improvements I can make to both the taste and the texture of the dough.



Sunday, June 09, 2019

radicalized by YouTube?

Styx argues that the whole "YouTube radicalization" trope is bullshit. Many on the left claim that YouTube is a hotbed of radicalization by the right, which is nuts. Tim Pool has also debunked this myth—and has demonstrated that, if anything, YouTube facilitates movement toward the left—but the myth persists.






self-flagellation time!

You saw this carafe in my McCrarey post:


There's probably a name for this type of carafe, but I wouldn't know what that name is. When the small pitcher came to our table at Tabom Brazil, I wrestled with the massive, heavy-plastic top to remove it, and it was a chore, refusing to budge until I applied a great amount of torque to it. The top of the carafe had a weird little circle at its center, and I did wonder whether that circle was a slit through which to pour the water, but the rest of my mind said, "Nah," and I kept wrestling with the top every time a new pitcher of water arrived at our table.

The third time I wrestled with the top, a manager finally came over and said something like, "No, you just pour it like this—" and sure enough, the water flowed easily through the circle cut into the top. As John commented, the manager didn't bust my balls about it.

At the previous post, John had joshingly commented about this "highlight" of our Saturday meet-up, so I thought I'd post about it to announce to the world what a doofus I am.

I've had this sort of trouble before. Ages ago, when I first became addicted to those tiny bottles of Martinelli sparkling apple juice, I tried removing the bottle caps with my pocket knife's bottle-cap remover. It was months later that I bothered to look closely at the cap, where I saw the instruction "TWIST" written in all-caps thereupon. But I was foiled again: trying to twist off the cap with my bare hands requires skin that's tougher than mine. So now, when I twist off a Martinelli bottle cap, I use a piece of tissue paper that's been folded several times over.






2 paintings from #3 Ajumma

These seem a bit more somber and serious than Ajumma's usual color work:







African-geography quiz

Wow, do I know nothing about African geography.

I scored an abysmal 19% on this African-geography quiz, and the thing took me an embarrassing 15 minutes.

Click the above link, take the quiz, and see how well you do.

The quiz is a great motivator, though; I plan to cure my ignorance of African geography over the coming days by taking and re-taking this little exam until I score 100% and can do the quiz in under 5 minutes.

And here's the Asian-geography quiz. A lot of countries that I don't consider Asian are part of this quiz. I got a 76% (in under 4 minutes), but here, too, I'll try to improve until I hit 100%.



Saturday, June 08, 2019

a goodbye lunch with John Mac (and nephew)

Today, I ventured into Itaewon and had lunch at Tabom Brazil with John McCrarey and his nephew Justin, who lives and works in Korea and speaks Korean quite well. I had intended to treat John, but he insisted on paying, throwing arguments at me like "you're on your austerity" and "I'm older than you," taking no notice of my claim that "this is Korea, and he who invites pays." I didn't put up a fight, though, and the meal was excellent no matter which of us paid. John and his nephew, it turns out, are on opposite sides of the political aisle, but they're civil about it. (As to the question of whether Netflix has removed "Blazing Saddles" from its roster: the answer is that, yes, it's been removed. Sorry, Justin, but it's not fake news.)

John took a pic of me and his nephew, then emailed me the pic:


We hung around the resto after finishing our meal and chatted about this and that. Justin, it turns out, spends much of his time industriously studying Korean and doing freelance work as an English teacher. I wish him well. John, for his part, hasn't had a very good time visiting Korea; too many ghosts, I think, although he may have resolved his spiritual crisis if this post is any indication. In any event, he doesn't seem too keen on coming back to Korea except, perhaps, for a very brief stopover when he's on his way somewhere else.

I wish John happy trails when he leaves tomorrow night. May he arrive safely back in the PI, where his cute dogs (one of which he lovingly calls "borderline retarded") are waiting for him.



"Glass": review

[NB: spoilers.]

M. Night Shyamalan's "Unbreakable," a story about superheroes and their relationship to comic books, came out in 2000. Seventeen years later, "Split" continued the oddball superhero story from a very different angle. This year, "Glass" appeared and seemingly completed what was supposed to be the director's trilogy.

The theory that Shyamalan puts forth in his movies is that comic books aren't fiction so much as veiled descriptions of an actual phenomenon: the existence of special people born with particular powers, abilities, and inclinations. Further, the theory—propounded in "Unbreakable" by Elijah Price, a.k.a. Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), is that pairs of opposites will appear at roughly the same time. In the 2000 film, Mr. Glass—who suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease that renders his bones extremely brittle—believes that his opposite number, someone utterly "unbreakable," must exist somewhere in the world. Price is an evil genius, so he sets up a series of disasters to see who might survive them. David Dunn (Bruce Willis) survives a train crash that kills everyone else on board, and when Price gets wind of Dunn's survival, he's pretty sure he's found his man. Dunn, along with being phenomenally strong and impervious to everything but water, also has the telepathic power to touch people and see some of their major sins. When Dunn finally meets and shakes hands with Mr. Glass, he realizes that Glass is the "supervillain," if you will, who caused the train crash that killed hundreds of people. For Glass, meeting Dunn is a moment of great vindication: his theory about the existence of superheroes has been confirmed.

Fast-forward seventeen years to the movie "Split," and Dunn appears in a post-credit scene that establishes that Kevin (James McAvoy), who contains over twenty personalities, exists in the same world as Dunn and Glass. Kevin contains, among his multiple personalities, a hulking, feral berserker known as the Beast, and the Beast is obsessed with the idea of purification through suffering. What the Beast doesn't know is that Kevin's father was also on the train that David Dunn had been riding all those years ago, and it was the death of Kevin's father that sent Kevin spiraling into his dissociative identity disorder. This fact isn't revealed until late in the movie "Glass."

In this final entry in the trilogy, the three superhumans—Dunn, Glass, and Kevin—find themselves captured and placed inside a mental institution. Dunn's and Kevin's rooms have been set up to blast them with their respective weaknesses should they try to escape: Dunn's room has a brace of hoses that will incapacitate him (remember: water is his weakness); Kevin's room is rigged with hypnotic, flashing lights that randomly activate his various personalities, preventing him from acting coherently. Mr. Glass, meanwhile, has been catatonic for years, much like the Joker in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, so his room has no special measures built into it. Supervising these three characters is Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson in creepy mode), who brings the three superhumans together to tell them that they are not really superhuman—they merely think they are.

But bringing these three people together proves to be a mistake: Glass revives from his catatonia and contrives a way to break himself and Kevin out of the institution. The mastermind leaves a message for David Dunn, telling him that he plans to reveal to the world that enhanced beings exist; he and the Beast will together wreak havoc at the opening of a new glass tower in Philadelphia, so if David wants to stop them, he'll have to rely on his super strength to break out of his cell. Dunn, who had almost been convinced by Dr. Staple that he was no one special, eventually manages to escape. This takes us to the movie's final act, which takes place in the parking lot in front of the mental institution and not at the glass tower. David's son Joseph, who arrives at the institution as the fighting begins, tells the Beast about how Kevin's father had died in the train crash that Glass had engineered. The ploy only partially works: the Beast thanks Elijah/Glass for creating him, but crushes his bones, anyway. The Beast fights Dunn, but only inconclusively, and Dunn ends up being killed by black-suited commandos who drown him in a puddle inside a pothole in the lot's asphalt. The Beast, meanwhile, sees Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), the girl he had tormented in "Split," and reverts to being Kevin through her kind and calming words. This allows the people who drowned Dunn to shoot Kevin with a sniper rifle (the Beast is arguably bulletproof, but the other personalities are not), and Kevin dies.

So the big reveal in this film is that Dr. Ellie Staple is a member of an old, clandestine society that tracks down and neutralizes superhumans in an effort to keep their existence a secret from the world, preventing people from knowing that "gods" live among them. Her commandos are the ones who drown David Dunn and shoot Kevin (Glass dies from the damage that the Beast did to him). As it turns out, though, Mr. Glass never intended to attack the glass tower: his goal was to garner video footage of the Beast and David Dunn performing superhuman feats, and to release this footage to the world. As he lies dying, Glass tells his distraught mother (who also arrived on scene) that this fight wasn't some final battle: it was an origin story. In other words: once the footage becomes known, other superhumans will come to realize they're not alone, and the world will undergo a revolution.

"Glass" is watchable, but it's also somewhat confusing and disappointing. The character of Glass himself requires a bit of unpacking. He's much like Magneto in the X-Men universe: a genius with something akin to a racialist agenda, someone with a deep conviction that more of his superior "kind" are out there. At the same time—and again, this is like Magneto—Glass is fine with killing masses of people to confirm his central conviction. This makes one wonder what will happen when the world wakes up and realizes that seeming gods walk among them. Since Glass's theory is also that these gods exist as pairs of opposites, then this means the superhuman community is a Manichaean one, representing a balance of good and evil. What's the point of making these special people aware that their "kind" is so numerous, especially if, once aware of who's good and who's bad, they'll array themselves into two tribes that will then battle it out? How does this benefit the world, exactly? Color me perplexed.

As for what was disappointing, it was once again the final twist—the revelation that this secret society exists. The whole point of 2000's "Unbreakable" was that Glass was the one to craft a theory and then confirm it. The existence of this secret society means that Glass merely stumbled upon something that a whole community of god-killers already knew about. Shyamalan's reveal of the secret society in "Glass" diminishes and cheapens the effort and actions of Mr. Glass in "Unbreakable." This is perhaps the most major disappointment for me. Another disappointment, though, was David Dunn's death. As the kids say, Dunn "went out like a bitch." Getting drowned in a shallow pothole-puddle is a horrible way to go, and you'd think the screenwriters could have contrived a better end for the character. Instead of the better end, alas, they went for the bitter end.

As a capstone to a trilogy in a year with several other capstones ("Avengers: Endgame" and "Game of Thrones" also capped off their storylines—reviews and remarks pending), "Glass" could have been much better. It wasn't a completely awful film; I enjoyed, for example, its use of 2000-era footage from "Unbreakable" as flashback material—a clever answer to today's wave of CGI de-aging. But when I compare Shyamalan's movie to something like the "Battlestar Galactica" finale or the "Breaking Bad" finale, it doesn't measure up at all. Sloppy writing is the basic culprit, here, and that's truly a shame because both "Unbreakable" and "Split" are good, solid films. Watch at your own risk.



a good reminder

Via Bill Keezer:






Women's World Cup: France 4, ROK 0

My buddy Dominique texted me about the 2019 Women's World Cup in soccer. Part of our exchange (my words in yellow):






Friday, June 07, 2019

a discourse on acquiring (not learning) a language

If you have an hour, the following video might interest you, especially if you're trying to pick up a foreign language:


The guy is obviously a disciple of Stephen Krashen, who champions a naturalistic approach to acquiring languages, not learning them. Krashen's theory is that acquisition, which is what babies and toddlers and little kids do when they effortlessly absorb language, works at a subconscious level, which guarantees that any linguistic information you add to your mental storehouse will actually remain there instead of being forgotten, the way memorized vocabulary and grammar rules are quickly forgotten. The natural approach also means listening to comprehensible input (another key Krashen term) and responding to it without being corrected. Learning, which is less instinctive and more deliberate and self-conscious, is less effective, partly because it's more about the work of memorization—memorization of grammar rules and vocabulary, which is rarely enjoyable for folks who aren't language nerds.

And this is where I start to part ways with the Krashenite doctrine. I've written before about how my formation in French was done in the old-school way, i.e., with plenty of grammar charts and writing/speaking drills and exercises. Ultimately, this background helped me speak a rather precise French at a fluent rate of speed. My brother Sean attended the same high school I did, but he went through a more oral-proficiency-oriented approach that was more in line with Krashen's philosophy. Sean probably did learn to speak French at length at an earlier stage in his program than I did in mine, but I have to say that his writing was atrocious because, with nobody bothering to correct his output, much of what he wrote was seriously ungrammatical. This is why I'm not convinced when people say that you shouldn't worry about grammar when learning a foreign language. I get the professor's point, in the above video, that you're better off focusing on fluency through acquisition if your goal is to get speaking the language as rapidly as possible, but I fear that his approach leaves a lot by the wayside—not just consciousness of grammatical correctness, but also basic things like reading and writing, two skills that the professor feels ought to be put off until much, much later.

I suppose how you learn a language has a lot to do with what your priorities are. If you're going on a business trip where you'll need only verbal skills, then of course you'll de-prioritize reading and writing. But personally, I don't see how a person could live and function in, say, Korean society without quickly becoming conversant with hangeul, the local alphabet. (Hangeul does not mean "Korean language," by the way: it means "Korean writing," so if you hear someone say, "I don't speak hangeul," you know that person's an idiot... or at least very poorly taught.*) Hangeul knowledge is what lets you read restaurant menus or subway maps that don't have English translations. It's what lets you sound out shop signs and other written clues that can help you navigate a city like Seoul. Without basic literacy (which will eventually mean more than merely sounding out syllables), the written world around you becomes mere background noise, and you deprive yourself of a chance to delve a bit deeper into the place where you've chosen to live. How sad to remain at a superficial level.

The above video highlights some things I agree with, e.g., the value of TPR (Total Physical Response) as a language-learning tool. As a French major, I took two French-theater classes that greatly helped in my study of the language. Theater, done in the target language, is at least 90% TPR. The TPR curriculum normally involves comprehending commands that are given to you by the instructor, which gives the learner a chance to be exposed to some very common and practical verbs (and nouns!), so I'm a fan of this approach for sure; it represents a type of whole-body learning that you don't get from merely sitting at a desk (although, in the above video, the professor demonstrates a little TPR while seated). And while I do think some focus on grammar and other technical aspects of a language is important, I agree, to some extent, that those aspects ought not to be the central, obsessive focus of one's language-learning journey.

Ultimately, the professor suggests studying abroad, which I also think is the best way to acquire (as well as learn) a language. Your rate of knowledge-accumulation and fluency-improvement will accelerate once you're in a country and culture where your target language is spoken day and night. And it doesn't matter how old you are: as you can see in the video, the professor is no spring chicken (and what the hell is up with his eye?). Just make the effort. A whole world is waiting to open up before you.





*That's as annoying as hearing expats say "us waygooks" when they're trying to say "us foreigners." The word for "foreigner" is waegugin (or technically, oegugin in the Korean government's romanization system). The in at the end means "person." The waeguk part is the adjective "foreign," so a person who says "us waygooks" is saying "us foreigns," not "us foreigners." Idiot. The term oeguk can indeed be used as a noun, but as a noun, it means "foreign country." Oegugin (oe + guk + in) = outside + country + person, like the German Ausländer (Aus + länd + er: outside-country-person).



Tim Pool's analysis of collective insanity

Tim Pool on why the left has gone nuts:


My only problem with the analysis is that, while it may be correct, it exculpates the left by making it into a victim of "the media." I do like Pool's analysis of data showing that liberal whites are, racially, the most self-hating group out there. No one else even comes close to embodying that level of self-hatred. And now that I think about it, I'd say it's as much because of that demographic's ideology as it is because of "the media" that the left is as insane as it is.

Those times when I've written about suicide on this blog, I've touched on the issue of insanity, rationality, and human freedom. Using the example of the would-be jumper poised at the edge of the roof, I've argued that, in such an extreme situation, most of us will attempt to talk the jumper down from the ledge. This is because we instinctively appeal to the jumper's rationality—a rationality that we all possess, even if it's shot through with mental illness. The mentally ill still retain a degree of free will, thanks to their rationality—however vestigial—so they're still responsible for their actions. (Aside: this may be one reason why I don't buy the "insanity defense." A psychopathic killer is plenty rational, as is evinced by the methodical way he plans his kills.) Upshot: even if the left has gone insane, as Tim Pool has repeatedly stated in a series of videos, it should not be exculpated.



Thursday, June 06, 2019

a toon via Bill

My belated salute to D-Day and its veterans is the passing-along of this toon to which Bill Keezer had linked:






pain, the de-motivator

I think my right foot is getting better, but I'm not completely sure. We're off work today because it's Memorial Day here in South Korea, and I've been flat on my back pretty much all day. I'd had big, ambitious plans to be out on the paths, walking a 30K-plus-step route, but the pain of getting up and moving about my apartment has de-motivated me to the point where I don't even want to do the cooking I'd thought I'd be doing. I have some cukes and carrots that need pickling, a mass of bacon that needs frying up, and calzones that desperately need to be made (I'll be using Wolfgang Puck's pizza-dough recipe, courtesy of Chef John from Food Wishes) before the delicate salami in my fridge goes rancid.*

I'm thinking I might just forgo the cooking until the weekend, and if my salami has gone bad by then, well, I guess I'll break my austerity and buy another package. I've broken my austerity way too often this pay period, anyway, so... in for a penny, in for a pound.



*The idea is to make six calzones and freeze them immediately. This isn't ideal: the notion of reheating frozen calzones in a microwave causes an actual twinge of pain. Ideally, I'd pull the frozen calzones out the night before, let them thaw, then reheat them in some sort of oven—a toaster over or whatever. That's not possible, alas; the closest I can get to reheating the calzones without damaging the dough is to 'wave them first, then finish them off in a pan on top of a gas range. That sort of reheating risks smoking, so I may have to do it outside. Luckily, the fifth floor of our new office building has an open space where a man can quietly reheat his food without being disturbed. Or so I hope, anyway.

SIDE NOTE: I'm calling them "calzones" out of habit. Technically, they're going to be stromboli because they'll have tomato sauce on the inside.

ADDENDUM: I did manage to pickle some cucumbers and carrots. So there's that.