Caveat: Unguarded

At least paywalls are honest. Those “register to view” websites are creepy: you’re ceding “tracking rights.”

I’ve been a frequent reader of the Guardian website for several decades. I liked the way they settled into a “donate if you can” model, a la Wikipedia. I donated a few times over the years.

Recently they’ve introduced one of those “register to view” requirements. The Grauniad just lost a reader.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo

Caveat: a piece / of ripened memory

Part of Speech

...and when "the future" is uttered, swarms of mice
rush out of the Russian language and gnaw a piece
of ripened memory which is twice
as hole-ridden as real cheese.
After all these years it hardly matters who
or what stands in the corner, hidden by heavy drapes,
and your mind resounds not with a seraphic "doh",
only their rustle. Life, that no one dares
to appraise, like that gift horse's mouth,
bares its teeth in a grin at each
encounter. What gets left of a man amounts
to a part. To his spoken part. To a part of speech.

– Joseph Brodsky (Russian-American poet, 1940-1996)

Caveat: Hacking as spectator sport

This video intrigued me more than I expected it to. The guy is “hacking” one of those hardware wallets for cryptocurrency. He’s doing it for a fee, at the request of the device’s owner (because he lost his password), so this is “white hat” hacking.

The guy in the video reminds me a lot of my good friend Mark, in certain aspects of not just professional capacity but also personality.

Caveat: Contempt of Generations

This World is not Conclusion

This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond -
Invisible, as Music -
But positive, as Sound -
It beckons, and it baffles -
Philosophy, don't know -
And through a Riddle, at the last -
Sagacity, must go -
To guess it, puzzles scholars -
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown -
Faith slips - and laughs, and rallies -
Blushes, if any see -
Plucks at a twig of Evidence -
And asks a Vane, the way -
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit -
Strong Hallelujahs roll -
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul -

– Emily Dickinson (American poet, 1830-1886)

Caveat: holding the carols / Consciously at bay

December Blues

At the bad time, nothing betrays outwardly the harsh findings,
The studies and hospital records. Carols play.

Sitting upright in the transit system, the widowlike women
Wait, hands folded in their laps, as monumental as bread.

In the shopping center lots, lights mounted on cold standards
Tower and stir, condensing the blue vapor

Of the stars; between the rows of cars people in coats walk
Bundling packages in their arms or holding the hands of children.

Across the highway, where a town thickens by the tracks
With stores open late and crèches in front of the churches,

Even in the bars a businesslike set of the face keeps off
The nostalgic pitfall of the carols, tugging. In bed,

How low and still the people lie, some awake, holding the carols
Consciously at bay. Oh Little Town, enveloped in unease.

– Robert Pinsky (American poet, b 1940)

Caveat: oblivious popularity

The single most-visited page in my blog this year is an obscure blog-post I made in August, 2008, about a Japanese pop song I discovered by seeing its name on the screen of a stranger’s cellphone on the Seoul subway.

That’s weird. Such are the vagaries of the google search engine.

So here is the winner in the 2021 popularity sweepstakes. I’ve cleaned up the page a bit and added a link to the actual song, since I suspect most googlers are arriving on the page hoping to find the song.

Caveat: 오블리비어스.

Caveat: People are not going / To dream of baboons and periwinkles

Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock

The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches tigers
In red weather.
- Wallace Stevens (American poet, 1879-1955)


Caveat: where the field long slept in pastoral green

The Apparition
(A Retrospect)

Convulsions came; and, where the field
Long slept in pastoral green,
A goblin-mountain was upheaved
(Sure the scared sense was all deceived),
Marl-glen and slag-ravine.

The unreserve of Ill was there,
The clinkers in her last retreat;
But, ere the eye could take it in,
Or mind could comprehension win,
It sunk!—and at our feet.

So, then, Solidity’s a crust—
The core of fire below;
all may go well for many a year,
But who can think without a fear
Of horrors that happen so?

– Herman Melville (American writer, 1819-1891)

Caveat: On the mildly traumatizing effect of other people’s audiobooks

I had a weird breakthrough realization recently.

Someone I was chatting with asked if I listened to audiobooks. And I reacted with a visceral, emphatic, “Oh, no, I hate audiobooks.”

And then I thought to myself, now… where did that come from?

It didn’t used to be true. It’s a recent development. I used to listen to audiobooks now and then, that I downloaded from various places online. I used to listen to radio shows and podcasts, too, in a similar way. In fact I did that quite a bit in the years following my cancer surgery.

This new dislike has been brought about, I think, because of Arthur’s tendency to immerse himself in his audiobooks in ways that are both dismissive of my presence and that impair his own ability to function given the limits of his attentional capacity. And so, at some point, I started telling myself: I will never be like that.

It’s not just Arthur – but his way with them is more disruptive of his interactions with others than most people’s.

The easiest way to make sure that I won’t ever be like that is to simply convince myself that I don’t like audiobooks. So my insight, in this recent moment, was that I have, in effect, been mildly traumatized by Arthur’s audiobook habit.

Caveat: Binge-scrolling Space Boy

I have been quite negligent in posting to this here blog thingy, except for the daily trees and poems.
You might wonder, well, what in the world does he do all the time, these days?
There’s my work at the gift shop – but it’s hardly full time. And there are my various projects: outdoor projects, like the storage tent and treehouse, and indoor projects like my mapping server, my geofiction, my aimless feints at unfinishable novels.
And meanwhile, I kill time reading things. Blogs, mostly – about politics or science or culture or philosophy. Lately, I have plunged into reading a few “webtoons.” This may require explanation for those not in-the-know with respect to current cultural trends. A webtoon is the online incarnation of the good-ol’ graphic novel, also called “manga” – a Japanese loanword but fully nativized to English at this point. Once upon a time, these were also called comic books, but the comic books of my youth or my parents’ youth have little in common with contemporary graphic novels, which often treat complex themes, have novelistic plots and characterizations, and can be of epic length.
I had a phase, about 10 years ago, when I was reading manga quite a bit. I picked up the habit from my middle-school students in Korea. It was something they did, and so I pursued it too, out of curiosity and to find points of common interest. There were some excellent old manga that I enjoyed – the Deathnote series, the Excel Saga, I even found a graphic novel version of the life of the Buddha that I read substantial portions of.picture (At right, a photo of my manga collection, on the shelf – you can see I even bought a Korean edition of Deathnote, thinking to try to learn Korean better while reading it.)
With the emergence of smartphones and the always-online generation of my last few cohorts of students in Korea, I noted that interest in manga (called by the cognate “manhwa” in Korean) had faded, and had been replaced by what have come to be called webtoons (In Korean 웹툰 [wep-tun]). These are graphic novels translated to the infinitely scrollable vertical format familiar to web browsers.
And since coming back to the US, I have occasionally dipped into the world of webtoons out of a kind of nostalgia for my years of daily interactions with Korean teenagers, most of whom always had a webtoon window open on their smartphone, which they would scroll through and read given any free time to do so whatsoever.
One webtoon I was enjoying was a sci-fi series called “Seed,” by a Turkish artist, I believe. It deals with themes of emergent Artificial Intelligence, the nature of cognition, and of course, lots of international spy-thriller events, too. More recently, I was browsing through a series called “No Longer a Heroine!” – a Korean series that I enjoy mostly because it’s a low-bandwidth way to remain somewhat immersed in Korean culture – the plot is reminiscent of any number of Korean television dramas of the most generic sort, but vaguely compelling nevertheless.
pictureBut then I found “Space Boy.” This webtoon started in early 2015, but this month is the first I’d known anything about it – though it’s been quite popular. It’s currently on episode 263. Each episode is like a chapter in the old manga books, and, given the format is heavy on artwork and often quite light on written dialogue, can be consumed in a matter of 5 or so minutes. But at 263 episodes, that’s a lot of scrolling. I did something I’ve never done before with a webtoon – I compulsively read through all the episodes, catching up to the most recent online. It took me about 5 days – a few hours each day, easily.
It’s a remarkable bit of narrative work. The art, too, is nicely done – but most webtoons I’ve seen are compellingly drawn, from an artistic angle, exploring visual space in interesting ways, providing support to narratives through creative bits of visual evidence and cues. This has all that, but the story itself is several grades above your “average” webtoon – at least in my estimation (and limited experience). At times, it reads like some kind of CS Lewis allegory about love, forgiveness, trauma, human frailty, and such. Other times it’s just a simple teen romance, and other times, it’s a sci-fi thriller.
I’m not sure that I have anything conclusive to say. The series is on-going and unfinished. But if anyone wants to try a long-running webtoon, they could do much worse than “Space Boy” as an introduction to the genre.

Caveat: Zamza

I read a short story just now, that I enjoyed. It’s… difficult. It’s speculative fiction, of a sort. It reeks of Borges and postmodernism and pays homage to the recent developments in neural-net “artificial intelligence” (GPT-3 – not yet intelligent, but definitely something new and emergent).
Give it a try if you want. This is not a recommendation (in the spirit of the story itself). The link: Tropic of Zamza
Best quote:

Tropic of Zamza is only a book. It contains many words—92,581 of them, to be exact—but it is, mercifully, only a book. Being only a book, it lacks the capacity to physically injure you. You should remind yourself of this fact regularly, in the event that you make the horrible mistake of reading it.


Caveat: On Brokenwood and also the meta-mysteries of each day

Every evening, basically without fail, I watch TV with Arthur for 2-3 hours.
We don’t get broadcast TV or cable here. And streaming is too unreliable given our copper wire DSL connected to the rest of the world via Satellite uplink.
But Arthur has an immense library of TV shows and movies ripped from DVD and stored in his iTunes application hooked up to his Apple TV.
Mostly what we watch are mysteries and crime dramas, police procedurals, and old action movies. These are what Arthur prefers. He doesn’t like slow-moving dramas or “art films,” and doesn’t think much of comedy, either. But within his preferred genres his tastes are broad and cosmopolitan.
I enjoy these shows well enough, for the most part. But they aren’t compelling entertainment, for me. When Arthur has been gone at various times, and I’ve been here alone, I feel no inclination to watch TV on my own. I don’t miss it. But I don’t mind it when we do it, either.
pictureOne series I enjoy is a police detective series from New Zealand, called Brokenwood. The mysteries in each episode are genuinely mysterious – the show doesn’t telegraph the solution like many shows do. And there is a lot of understated humor in the scripts. I also enjoy the NZ accent. We recently started season 5.
In recent months, however, we’ve also been experiencing a kind of “meta mystery” each evening. A series we have been watching is the infamous NCIS – a US crime procedural which was ubiquitous on Korean broadcast TV, when I was living there.
Arthur has been struggling with his computer, and his efforts to rip and organize his shows. With respect to NCIS, he has repeatedly managed to mix up the titles/episode numbers vis-a-vis their actual contents. So for example we will start watching an episode labelled season 3, episode 18 only to find it is in fact season 3, episode 8, or season 2, episode 18. There is no particular pattern to the mistakes, but they are abundant. And Arthur gets quite perturbed, yet he struggles to sort out what is going on.
Each night, we have to start and stop several episodes to find the “right one” with respect to where we are in the series – given we are trying to watch them in order. Some nights, we give up and just watch one we haven’t seen. It doesn’t help that most of the time Arthur has no memory of any of the previous episodes, so he has to rely on me to tell him whether we’ve seen a given episode or not. I suspect this lack of short-term memory is also why the labels on the episodes get mixed up in the first place – he has his routines, which he won’t consider changing, where he does various cut-and-paste actions in his applications on his computer, and he holds information about which files he’s working with in his working memory. But if the working memory is unreliable, that can lead to the mislabeling we’re seeing. He won’t consider changing his procedure – I’ve suggested he write things down, or start breaking the steps down in such a way that he’s not trying to process multiple files at once. But he would rather spend an entire day re-arranging his files on his computer, cussing the whole time, only to find a mystifyingly still incorrect labelling of a collection of episodes as we sit down to watch in the evening.
It’s hard. There’s not much I can do. So lately I’ve taken to thinking of it, in my mind, as a kind of “meta mystery of the day”: to puzzle out what happened this time to the labels on the NCIS episodes. This has been going on for several weeks. I don’t expect it to change anytime soon. And given NCIS has some 400 episodes, we’re in for a long ride.

Caveat: In a storm, the very waves seemed friendly

The Idiot
Oh how this sullen, careless world
Ignorant of me is! Those rocks, those homes
Know not the touch of my flesh, nor is there one tree
Whose shade has known me for a friend.
I’ve wandered the wide world over.
No man I’ve known, no friendly beast
Has come and put its nose into my hands.
No maid has welcomed my face with a kiss.
Yet once, as I took passage
From Gibraltar to Cape Horn
I met some friendly mariners on the boat
And as we struggled to keep the ship from sinking
In a storm, the very waves seemed friendly, and the sound
The spray made as it hit the front of the boat.
- John Ashbery (American poet, 1927-2017)


Caveat: Published

The book is now “live”. Link to Amazon.
This is the first volume, subtitled “Mostly in Korea.” The poems included are through July 21st, 2018, when I left Korea – it seemed a good breaking place. I’ll put together another volume, subtitled “Mostly in Alaska” for poems written subsequently.
I would like to be clear – I would be very pleased if people bought my book. But owning a book is a kind of fetish object, and if you’re simply interested in reading the poems, please don’t feel obligated to give me (and Amazon Corporation!) money. The poems are all freely available online. You’ll have to go back in time to the first page (highest numbered) to see them in chronological order, since the blog format provides them in most-recent-first order.
I made very few changes to them in making the book (mostly in the area of formatting), and that was intentional – I want the “free versions” to still be “canon.”

Caveat: Starman

It is a little known fact that Arthur once appeared in a major Hollywood movie.
That movie was Starman, which was released in 1984. I knew this fact, but I’d never seen the movie.
Last night, he and I watched the movie.
Here is the scene where he appeared – I took a photo of the TV screen.
Arthur claims you can see his white hat in the pilot’s window-bubble. I’m not sure – the resolution on the photo-of-the-TV-screen is too poor to judge either way.

Caveat: será como cerrer el libro

Meditación de lo mortal
Morir será como cerrer el libro,
mas no será como apagar la luz
o beberse la última
para quien va juntando
tanto disperso mundo,
no descansar, mas sí
dejar que otros reúnan
lo que juntó con lo que no se he juntado.
- Ángel Crespo (poeta español 1926-1995)


Caveat: Я молодость свою переросла



Уже богов — не те уже щедроты
На берегах — не той уже реки.
В широкие закатные ворота
Венерины, летите, голубки!
Я ж на песках похолодевших лежа,
В день отойду, в котором нет числа…
Как змей на старую взирает кожу —
Я молодость свою переросла.
– Марина Цветаева (русская поэтесса, 1892-1941)
Praise to Aphrodite


No more so rich are the gifts of the Gods;
even the river is different now.
Through wide and widening sunset gates
the doves of Venus fly away.
And I, stretched out on cooling sand,
soon into numberless days go forth.
Like a snake, looking back at his old bright skin –
I have outgrown my youth.
– Marina Tsvetaeva (Russian poet, 1892-1941)
– Adapted by Rose Styron

Caveat: dinosaurs eating people

What I’m listening to right now.

Fenn Rosenthal, “Dinosaurs In Love.” Rosenthal is not quite 4 years old. She had help from her dad in production, but the composition is hers.

dinosaurs eating people
dinosaurs in love
dinosaurs having a party
they eat fruit
and cucumber
fall in love
they say ‘thank you’
a big bang came
and they died
dinosaurs fell in love
but they didn’t say good bye
but they didn’t
say good bye


Caveat: an infinity of worlds or creatures

Below is an early, European effort at conceptualizing the bigness of the universe. Though there are passages in the Buddhist scripture (the Pali Canon) that are somewhat similar – without reference to the unitary God – that date to a much earlier era, of course. Anne Conway is an interesting character from the history of philosophy. It’s argued that she had a profound influence on e.g. Leibniz. But she’s somewhat erased from the standard histories – possibly in part because of her gender.

Since [God] could have created worlds or creatures from time immemorial, before 6,000 – before 60,000 – before 600,000 – years ago, he has done this. God can do anything that doesn’t imply a contradiction. ‘Worlds or creatures will exist continuously through an infinite time in the future’ – there’s nothing contradictory about that; so there’s no contradiction, either, in ‘Worlds or creatures have existed continuously through an infinite past time’.
From these divine attributes, properly understood, it follows that God has made an infinity of worlds or creatures. He is infinitely powerful, so there can’t be any number n of creatures such that God couldn’t create more than n creatures. And, as we have seen, he does as much as he can. His will, goodness, and kindness certainly extend… as far as his power does. Thus it clearly follows that he has infinitely many creatures of infinitely many different types, so that they can’t be counted or measured, either of which would set a limit to them. Suppose that the universe of creatures is spherical and is this big: ‘Its radius is n times the diameter of the earth, where n is the number of grains of dust in the entire world.’
And suppose that its ultimate parts, its atoms, are this small: ‘A single poppy seed contains 100,000 atoms.’
That yields an immensely large finite number of very small atoms; but it can’t be denied that God with his infinite power could make this number greater and greater by multiplying to infinity…. And since (as I have said) God is a necessary agent who does everything he can do, it follows that he did and always does multiply and increase the essences of creatures to infinity. – Anne Conway, from The Principles of the most Ancient and Modern Philosophy, 1690

Caveat: sin hallar el plomo

En esta noche mi reloj jadea
junto a la sien oscurecida, como
manzana de revólver que voltea
bajo el gatillo sin hallar el plomo.
La luna blanca, inmóvil, lagrimea,
y es un ojo que apunta... Y siento cómo
se acuña el gran Misterio en una idea
hostil y ovoidea, en un bermejo plomo.
Ah, mano que limita, que amenaza
tras de todas las puertas, y que alienta
en todos los relojes, cede y pasa!
Sobre la araña gris de tu armazón,
otra gran Mano hecha de luz sustenta
un plomo en forma azul de corazón.
- César Vallejo (poeta peruano, 1892-1938)


Caveat: a Lamarckian fantasy

I did something unexpected over the last two days: I read a novel.
For whatever reason, I don’t read much fiction anymore. I used to read it continuously. But over time my reading diet has become more and more focused on non-fiction. I mostly read history, philosophy, sociology, and what is sometimes called “cultural criticism,” which subsumes things like literary theory, postmodern cultural analysis, etc. And it remains the case that I read at least several new wikipedia articles every single day. As an utterly random example – I happen to have a tab on my phone’s browser open to a fragment of WWII history, at the moment: the Battle of Monte Cassino.
Anyway, in fact, I think it’s safe to say this was the first novel I’ve read in at least two years.
But it’s a bit of a “cheat,” actually. The novel is one I read before. Maybe a bit over 30 years ago, when I read a novel every few days.
The novel I read is Dune Messiah, by Frank Herbert.
Why did I (re-)read this book?
As has been mentioned, Arthur and I have a custom of watching television for a few hours each evening. We don’t have “broadcast TV” here (whatever that even is, anymore), nor cable, nor any of those many internet subscription TV services like Netflix that dominate the modern media markets. Arthur keeps and constantly expands a library of DVD series and movies, which he rips onto a plethora of external multi-terabyte harddrives, shared through the “My Library” functionality of his MacBooks’ iTunes application. It’s a pretty expansive library.
So over a few nights starting last week, we watched the 3-part Dune TV miniseries from the year 2000. With respect to the show, I can say that I may have seen it before – the aesthetics of it were vaguely familiar. In some ways it’s an impressive production for a non-blockbuster-level TV production. The costuming and some of the set design is excellent, capturing the the exoticism of the novel, while the acting is inconsistent, and the special effects are often alarmingly jarring – special effects rarely age well due to the rapid changes and advances in that domain. Overall, as a sci-fi adaptation, I’ve seen both worse and better.
But of course I’m more interested in commenting on the Dune books. Having just watched the TV show, which was an adaptation of only the first book in the series, I was walking past my collection of books and there it was, sitting on the shelf: the second book in the series. So I took it down and started reading. Perhaps curious, with the mileau and characters fresh in my mind, as to how it played out.
And I read it straight through.
I had been expecting to find that the Dune books had not aged well. Certainly, my memory of them had not aged well. I recalled them as impressive at the time I read them as a teenager, but pretentious and implausible in retrospect.
In fact, in actually reading the book, it’s better than I imagined, while nevertheless allowing my retrospective criticism to stand unchallenged.
The novels were always famous for being philosophically “deep” and for being quite innovative in their view of possible futures for humanity. They deserve that. And I think some of their “predictions” (although really, being set in a 10000+ years future, “predictions” is probably a bad standard to apply) have actually aged remarkably well.
The books are best viewed as a collection of philosophical aphorisms bound together by an implausible plot but strung along with compelling characters. Being much more conscious of the “craft” of writing than I was as a youth, I see how the books are stitched together, now – more than I did then. I speculate that Herbert wrote his aphorisms first and added the plot as best he could around them. I might be wrong, but it has some of that flavor to it.
Some of the philosophy has aged very well. I read glimpses of some of my most respected more contemporary philosophers: Gilles Deleuze, Frederic Jameson, etc. Yet much of what they wrote came after the Dune books. Was this type of thinking merely “in the air” of the 1960s and 70s? Perhaps so.
One of the more notable things about the Dune books that I have for a long time felt aged very poorly is the aspect that might be termed “Lamarckian fantasy.” I just invented that term, but I use it to refer to the dominant themes of “genetic memory” in those books. Characters have access to the lives and memories of their ancestors via some kind of transcendental genetic transmission. Shockingly, the relatively new, burgeoning field of epigenetics may be rendering this type of fantasy a kind of reality, though not in exactly the way Herbert envisioned. Recently, a study showed, for example, that laboratory mice are able to “inherit” behavioral traits acquired by their parents, even when raised entirely separately (in isolation) from those parents. The presumed mechanism for the transmission of these traits is via hormonal load passed from mother to child at fertilization, influencing epigenetic factors in neuron development. This is essentially a return to Lamarckian thinking, supposedly discredited since Darwin. And suddenly, therefore, Herbert’s concept of inherited memories has a new, scientifically plausible mechanism. One wonders….
This is much more of a book review than I am normally inclined to write. I suppose just the shock of having actually read a novel motivated me. And the fact that I had what I felt to be a genuine insight into how Herbert’s masterpiece series might have anticipated more than he realized, if not quite in the way he envisioned.

Caveat: what we see

“I believe that nothing can be more abstract, more unreal, than what we actually see. We know that all that we can see of the objective world, as human beings, never really exists as we see and understand it. Matter exists, of course, but has no intrinsic meaning of its own, such as the meanings that we attach to it. Only we can know that a cup is a cup, that a tree is a tree.” – Giorgio Morandi (Italian painter, 1890-1964)
Natura Morta, oil on canvas, 1956.

Unrelated: what we don’t see…
“‘Why does God not show Himself?’ – ‘Are you worthy?’ – ‘Yes.’ – ‘You are very presumptuous, and thus unworthy.’ – ‘No.’ – ‘Then you are just unworthy.'” – attributed to Pascal

Caveat: юу вэ юу вэ юув

There’s nothing like a bit of Mongolian nationalist heavy metal music to set the mood on a chilly January day.
What I’m listening to right now.

The Hu, “Yuve Yuve Yu.”

Их л удаан идэж уугаад наргиж цэнгээд хачин юм бэ юу вэ юу вэ юув
Эцэг өвгөд Монгол гээд л цээжээ
дэлдэн худлаа орилох нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Эргэж буцаад хэлсэн үгэндээ эзэн
болдоггүй андгай өргөдөг нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Эцэг эхийн захиж хэлсэн үнэт сургааль
үнэгүй болдог нь юу вэ юу вэ юув, юу вэ юу вэ юув
Ээ дүлзэн сөгд сөгд
Ээ лүндэн бууг бууг, бууг бууг
Дээдсийн заяаг удамлаж төрчихөөд унтаж
хэвтээд сэрдэггүй юм бэ юу вэ юу вэ юув
Дэлхийд ганцхан Монгол гээд л амаа
хаттал худлаа ярьдаг нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Дээдсээр амьдрах заяанд төрсөн Монгол
түмэн нэгдэж чаддаггүй нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Дархан Монгол улсаа мандуулж өөд нь татаж
сэргээж чаддаггүй нь юу вэ юу вэ юув, юу вэ юу вэ юув
Ээ дүлзэн сөгд сөгд
Ээ лүндэн бууг бууг, бууг бууг
Өвөг дээдсийн өвлөж өгсөн газар
шороог хайрлаж чаддаггүй нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Өтгөс буурлын захиж хэлсэн үнэт
сургааль худлаа болдог нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Өнө л мөнхөд мандан бадрах чонон
сүлдэт Монгол түмэн тэнгэрийн тамгатай
Хөвчин дэлхийд нэрээ дуурсгах хүмүүн
тахилгат эзэн Чингис нартад залрана, нартад залрана
Ээ хар сүлд сэр сэр
Ээ хаан төр мөнх манд, мөнх манд
Юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ
Хачин юм бэ
юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ
Юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ
Хачин юм бэ
юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ
Ээ хар сүлд сэр сэр
Ээ хаан төр мөнх манд, мөнх манд


Caveat: πoetry

I saw this at a blog I read, called JF Ptak Science Books. The guy is a dealer in old and rare books, with an emphasis on books related to the history of science and ideas. He often posts very interesting things.
He found a text of a poem published in 1905, which has an unusual constraint: each word in the poem has the same number of letters as a digit of the number π (3.141592653589793238462643383279), in order.
The poem’s text:

Sir, - I send a rhyme excelling
 3     1   4  1   5       9
In sacred truth and rigid spelling.
 2    6     5    3    5      8
Numerical sprites elucidate
    9        7        9
For me the lexicon's dull weight.
 3  2   3     8       4     6
   If "Nature" gain,
    2    6      4
   Not you complain,
    3   3     8
Tho' Dr. Johnson fulminate.
 3    2     7       9

Most definitely a bit of oulipisme-avant-le-lettre.

Caveat: as fast as I can

I present a flashback to the mood of this blog 2 years ago – when I often posted contemporary songs I thought would resonate with my middle-schoolers.
I continue to believe Taylor Swift is one of the best songwriters of the current era in the pop genre.
What I’m listening to right now.

Taylor Swift, “The Man.” The context for this song, is, at least partly, her ongoing legal battles with the condescending record company execs who absconded with her intellectual property, and who are, perhaps not coincidentally, men.

I would be complex
I would be cool
They’d say I played the field before
I found someone to commit to
And that would be okay
For me to do
Every conquest I had made
Would make me more of a boss to you
I’d be a fearless leader
I’d be an alpha type
When everyone believes ya
What’s that like?
I’m so sick of running
As fast as I can
Wondering if I’d get there quicker
If I was a man
And I’m so sick of them
Coming at me again
‘Cause if I was a man
Then I’d be the man
I’d be the man
I’d be the man
They’d say I hustled
Put in the work
They wouldn’t shake their heads
And question how much of this I deserve
What I was wearing, if I was rude
Could all be separated from my good ideas and power moves
And we would toast to me, oh, let the players play
I’d be just like Leo, in Saint-Tropez
I’m so sick of running
As fast as I can
Wondering if I’d get there quicker
If I was a man
And I’m so sick of them
Coming at me again
‘Cause if I was a man
Then I’d be the man
I’d be the man
I’d be the man
What’s it like to brag about raking in dollars
And getting bitches and models?
And it’s all good if you’re bad
And it’s okay if you’re mad
If I was out flashin’ my dollas
I’d be a bitch, not a baller
They’d paint me out to be bad
So it’s okay that I’m mad
I’m so sick of running
As fast as I can
Wondering if I’d get there quicker
If I was a man (you know that)
And I’m so sick of them
Coming at me again (coming at me again)
‘Cause if I was a man (if I was man)
Then I’d be the man (then I’d be the man)
I’m so sick of running
As fast as I can (as fast as I can)
Wondering if I’d get there quicker
If I was a man (hey!)
And I’m so sick of them
Coming at me again (coming at me again!)
‘Cause if I was a man (if I was man)
Then I’d be the man
I’d be the man
I’d be the man (oh)
I’d be the man (yeah)
I’d be the man (I’d be the man)


Caveat: hay montes

Penas (Verso XXXIV)
¡Penas! ¿Quién osa decir
Que tengo yo penas? Luego,
Después del rayo, y del fuego,
Tendré tiempo de sufrir.
Yo sé de un pesar profundo
Entre las penas sin nombres:
¡La esclavitud de los hombres
Es la gran pena del mundo!
Hay montes, y hay que subir
Los montes altos; ¡después
Veremos, alma, quién es
Quien te me ha puesto al morir!
- Jose Marti (poeta cubano, 1853-1895)

This poem was recently brought to my attention because my friend Bob asked if I could provide some insight and translation for the poem, for a choral production he’s working on that includes this text set to music. It seems not that different from other things I’ve blogged, and given how sparse my blog has been intellectually, of late, I thought I might as well post what I gave him here.
It’s important to separate who Martí actually was from the mythical being he’s been made into by subsequent generations of Cubans of all political stripes. He was a classical liberal, and in an aesthetic school called “modernismo” -not exactly the same as “modernism” because of different circumstances. He spent a lot of time in the US during various exiles from Cuba, and was heavily influenced by US poets such as Walt Whitman. He was no communist, but he was aware of Marx and I believe may have interacted some with socialists and communists and anarchists in Europe – you take your allies where you can find them. He did believe in universal human rights as that doctrine emerged from the wake of the abolition movements of the 19th century.
I do believe this poem is political. He was fighting for Cuban independence from Spain, inspired by the liberal fantasies (ideals) exemplified to whatever degree of accuracy by the US, Mexico, Guatemala – all countries where he spent time. So what he’s saying is that the time for self-pity is over. Stop complaining and get up and fight for your freedom, fellow Cubans = fellow humans everywhere. That’s how I interpret it. There are mountains we should be climbing, now, battles to be fought. We’ll let God sort out later who was good and who was bad.
Versos was published in 1891, and Martí died while leading Cuban freedom fighters in Cuba in 1895. His political program was quite mature at that point, and it would be hard to read the poem any more innocently.
Here is my own word-for-word translation.

Problems! Who dares to say
That I have problems? Later,
after the lightning-bolt, and the fire,
I'll have time to suffer.
I know about a deep regret
among the problems without names:
The enslavement of men
is the great regret of the world!
There are mountains, and there's need to climb
the high mountains; later
we shall see, soul, who [it] is
that has set you, for me, to die.

The key word, of course, is penas. I prefer the translation “problems” – it feels contemporarily idiomatic. Penas has a very wide semantic field: “pains” “sufferings” “sorrows” “guilt” “sins” “problems” etc. Especially in the context.
We deploy the word “problems” in modern English similarly. Cf rapper Jay-Z, “I got 99 problems ….”
I almost chose to translate it as “complaints” – to emphasize the fact that the tone of the poem (to me) is a bit of “Get off your butts, people, and DO something!”
Other vocabulary worth comment: pesar. Also fairly wide. I prefer “weight” to “regret” but that doesn’t work with the intensifier “deep”. Perhaps “heavy weight” rather than “deep regret.”
As a syntactician, I love the double (in)direct objects in the last line (“… te me …”) – what Spanish grammar is famous for, in stumping linguists and being a fairly famous example of something characteristically difficult about the language.

Caveat: Train Canon

I found this video, below, mildly entertaining in a weird way. I suppose I’m not feeling very productive. I’m still in a funk about the residency problem from Univ of Alaska, and meanwhile the stormy weather and my flu-thing are also keeping me from doing much useful otherwise. Recovering from my trip, I guess, and feeling like I shouldn’t have taken the trip in the first place – spending money I don’t really have and accomplishing very little.


Caveat: in the system

Juneau School Inservice
     --for Walter Soboleff
T'aawchán reads
how it feels to be
a Tlingit in the system
while a gauze of snow
winds past the windows
as if to cover up the problem.

– Nora Marks Dauenhauer (Tlingit poet, 1927-2017)

Caveat: the beauty of things is sufficient

It is a sort of tradition in this country not to talk about religion for fear of offending – I am still a little subject to the tradition, and rather dislike stating my “attitudes” except in the course of a poem. However, they are simple. I believe that the universe is one being, all its parts are different expressions of the same energy, and they are all in communication with each other, influencing each other, therefore parts of one organic whole. (This is physics, I believe, as well as religion.)
The parts change and pass, or die, people and races and rocks and stars, none of them seems to me important in itself, but only the whole. This whole is in all its parts so beautiful, and is felt by me to be so intensely in earnest, that I am compelled to love it, and to think of it as divine. It seems to me that this whole alone is worthy of the deeper sort of love; and that here is peace, freedom, I might say a kind of salvation.
I think that one may contribute (ever so slightly) to the beauty of things by making one’s own life and environment beautiful, so far as one’s power reaches. This includes moral beauty, one of the qualities of humanity, though it seems not to appear elsewhere in the universe. But I would have each person realize that his contribution is not important, its success not really a matter for exultation nor its failure for mourning; the beauty of things is sufficient without him.

– Robinson Jeffers (poet, 1887-1962)

Caveat: 한국어영화

Having nothing better to do on the 15 hour transpacific flight, I happened to stumble across the fact that the Air Canada movie selection included quite a few foreign films – including 4 Korean movies.
I decided somewhat arbitrarily that transpacific flights should include Korean movies (such movies have been included, so often, in the past, because my most frequent transpacific carrier has been Korean Airlines).
So I binged on Korean movies. No comment with respect to quality – this is not, nor has it ever been, a movie review blog. You can find summaries and reviews elsewhere, better than anything I could write.
But I enjoyed watching them – a few hours of immersion in Korean culture, absent from my day to day life since last summer.
The movies I watched:
돌아와요 부산항애 – a violent cops and robbers thriller where the two antagonists (cop and robber) are twin brothers.
스타박스다방 – a comedy involving a guy starting a coffee shop in a small coastal village in Korea, where many of the characters die at the end.
선명탐정: 흡혈괴마의 비밀 – an anachronistic comedy adventure involving vampires in Joseon Era Korea (1700s).

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