Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's Over (a script for a future Youtube Video)

Fade in- a voice ominously whispers - "It's Over.'

The sound of rustling wind over a devastated landscape of gnarled trees and burned out buildings.

"It's Over" voice repeats in a slightly louder fashion, accentuating the annoying breathy voiced nature of the whisper.

A chorus of foreign tongues then chimes in, their words are superimposed on the screen until it is filled:


Se acabó


C'est fini


È finito


Sudah selesai

The original voice then resumes in a crescendo of irritating whispering which drowns out out the foreign chatter:

"It's over!!"

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A sermon by Samuel Johnson

In addition to the Parochial and Plain Sermons of Newman in the 19th, there is perhaps no better sermon writer than Samuel Johnson in the previous century. This year being the 300th anniversary of his birth, it is appropriate to take a closer look at his writings. In particular, I will examine excerpts from his Sermon 1 pertaining to marriage and comments on the ideas expressed therein:

As a general relation to the rest of the species is not sufficient to procure gratifications for the private desires of particular persons; as closer ties of union are necessary to promote the separate interests of individuals, the great society of the world is divided into different communities, which are again subdivided into smaller bodies, and more contracted associations, which pursue, or ought to pursue, a particular interest, in subordination to the public good, and consistently with the general happiness of mankind.

Each of these subdivisions produces new dependences and relations, and every particular relation gives rise to a particular scheme of duties; duties which are of the utmost importance and of the most sacred obligation, as the neglect of them would defeat all the blessings of society, and cut off even the hope of happiness; as it would poison the fountain whence it must be drawn; and make those institutions, which have been formed as necessary to peace and satisfaction, the means of disquiet and misery.

(Man is a social creature and therefore he must be necessarily in relation to his fellow. Thus society is subdivided into different groups which in turn have their own subdivisions. This entire edifice is cemented by different the different social duties we owe one toward another; otherwise the system breaks down and can become oppressive.)

The lowest subdivision of society, is that by which it is broken into private families; nor do any duties demand more to be explained and enforced, than those which this relation produces; because none is more universally obligatory, and, perhaps, very few are more frequently neglected.

(At the most basic level, the family is the building block of human society. And thus it is for the common good of society that this institution should be protected from abuse.)

Almost all the miseries of life, almost all the wickedness that infects, and all the distresses that afflict mankind, are the consequences of some defects in these duties. It is, therefore, no objection to the propriety of discoursing upon them, that they are well known and generally acknowledged; for a very small part of the disorders of the world proceed from ignorance of the laws by which life ought to be regulated; nor do many, even of those whose hands are polluted by the foulest crimes, deny the reasonableness of virtue, or attempt to justify their own actions. Men are not blindly betrayed into corruption, but abandon themselves to their passions with their eyes open; and lose the direction of Truth, because they do not attend to her voice, not because they do not hear or do not understand it. It is, therefore, no less useful to rouse the thoughtless, than instruct the ignorant; to awaken the attention, than enlighten the understanding.

(Social ills are not primarily the fruits of ignorance as is often believed. Solutions will not come from endless educational programs and increased awareness. The problem lies at the heart of man and his rebellion against the good. His willful blindness towards the Truth, as it were.)

But cruelty and pride, oppression and partiality, may tyrannize in private families without controul: meekness may be trampled on, and piety insulted, without any appeal, but to conscience and to Heaven, A thousand methods of torture may be invented, a thousand acts of unkindness or disregard may be committed, a thousand innocent gratifications may be denied, and a thousand hardships imposed, without any violation of national laws. Life may be embittered with hourly vexation; and weeks, months, and years be lingered out in misery, without any legal cause of separation, or possibility of judicial redress. Perhaps, no sharper anguish is felt than that which cannot be complained of, nor any greater cruelties inflicted than some which no human authority can relieve.

(Although autonomous in their own realm subsidiary institutions like the family run the risk of becoming to unregulated when abuses of power are allowed to occur unabated. These insults often do not go directly against the law but are still unjust. More importantly, what is right and wrong is not limited to what the laws state as a strict positivism would have it.)

It may, indeed, be asserted, to the honour of marriage, that it has few adversaries among men, either distinguished for their abilities or eminent for their virtue. Those who have assumed the province of attacking it, of overturning the constitution of the world, of encountering the authority of the wisest legislators, from whom it has received the highest sanction of human wisdom; and subverting the maxims of the most flourishing states, in which it has been dignified with honours and promoted with immunities; those who have undertaken the task of contending with reason and experience, with earth and with heaven, are men who seem generally not selected by nature for great attempts or difficult undertakings: they are, for the most part, such as owe not their determinations to their arguments, but their arguments to their determinations; disputants, animated, not by a consciousness of truth, but by the number of their adherents; and heated, not with zeal for the right, but with the rage of licentiousness and impatience of restraint. And, perhaps, to the sober, the understanding, and the pious, it may be sufficient to remark, that religion and marriage have the same enemies.

(Until recently no one really questioned the importance of marriage for the maintenance of society. Only a select minority who felt resentment for some reason or another toward it sought its overthrow. But through numerous societal changes over the years this is no longer true and the married state is no longer seen as necessary. It is at best a private contract of some sort which is solely dependent on consent. To wit, the enemies of the traditional idea of marriage are also, as Johnson points out, the enemies of religion; that is, religion in its traditional cast as well as our connection to human wisdom accumulated over the centuries.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dangdut- Music in Indonesia

While most of popular Indonesian music is like Western pop, there is a subgenre called dangdut that combines both Middle Eastern and Indian rhythms to create a unique sound. The following is a clip from a popular song right now in Indonesia that is influenced by this style of singing.

Back from Indo

Just got back from Indonesia yesterday. I spent about a month there from April 17- May 17. Here is a short summary:

We started out from Columbus, flew to Houston and then- for no apparent reason- had a transit in Moscow for an hour. 11 hours later we were in Singapore. After a few days there with her older sister and husband we took another flight to Jakarta and drove about 3 hours to Bandung, Diana my wife's city. In the course of the first few days I got sick from some stupid dust allergy or something and we had to put down Diana's sister Eveline's dog. In total we ended up spending three weeks there getting to know relatives and going to Bandung's various shopping malls.

Later we went on to Surabaya for one night on our way for a week vacation in Bali.

In Bali went to Seminyak, near Kuta; Ubud, further inland; and Tanah Lot.

In the final days of our trip we went back to Jakarta in transit to Singapore and then back to Houston via Moscow once again.

That's all for now since I'm kind of beat- it being a 12 hour time difference and all.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Against the fourth commandment

The following is a translation of a Spanish short story:

Saul’s mother was a character. She had managed to get her numerous family ahead without ever letting them get out of her shadow. Despite her advanced age, that night, in the hospital emergency room, she showed her character again. When she saw her son cross the hallway on a stretcher, she went towards him and reacted like one would expect:
“But, Saul, are you stupid? Are you?”
The young man showed signs of confusion and bruises that took a while to disappear. “I don’t know what happened to me, mom,” was all he could say. It was strange, without a doubt, that such a capable horseman like him would have undergone such a predicament. But he was dedicating himself a lot to his work, just like his mother had thought many times before, and the past few weeks had been very bad- a lot of hustling about. So what his wise mother heard from her son’s mouth afterwards, she chocked it up to that.
“Besides, mom, I’m very confused. It must have been the blow but now I see in the Christians in a different way.”
“Don’t say stupid things, Saul,” his mother blurted out at him, yelling. How were they going to let such a secure salary like that stop coming into their home?. “Soon you’ll see things differently.”
“No, mom. No. I see it very clearly, like a burning light.”
A doctor interrupted the maternal-filial argument to discharge Saul. “Again,” the doctor said to him with a certain tenderness, “drive more careful next time.”
Saul got down from the hospital bed with difficulty, clumsily helped along by his mother. “I’m serious, mom, I’m convinced.”
His mom took her son’s protective armor and placed it noisily upon his shoulders. “Not one word more!” she yelled, scandalizing the emergency room. “You’re not going to give up such a good salary for such foolishness!”

(From the blog: Bola de espejos)

En contra del cuarto mandamiento

La madre de Saulo era una mujer de carácter. Había conseguido sacar adelante a su prolija familia sin dejarla salir más allá de sus faldas. A pesar de su avanzada edad, esa noche, en la sala de urgencias del hospital, volvía a demostrarlo. Cuando vio a su hijo traspasar el pasillo tendido en una camilla, fue hacia él y reaccionó como cabía esperar: “Pero, ¿estás tonto, Saulo, estás tonto?” El joven daba muestras de aturdimiento y de unas magulladuras que tardarían en desaparecer. “No sé qué me ha pasado, mama”, acertaba tan sólo a decir. Era extraño, sin duda, que un jinete tan hábil como él hubiera podido sufrir semejante percance. Pero se entregaba mucho a su trabajo, tal y como tantas veces había pensado su madre, y estas últimas semanas habían sido muy malas, de mucho trajín. A eso achacó la sabia madre lo que escuchó poco después de boca de su hijo: “Además, mama, estoy muy confuso. Ha debido de ser el golpe, pero ahora veo a los cristianos de otra forma”. “¡No digas tontadas, Saulo!”, le espetó su madre gritando. ¿Cómo iban a permitirse en casa dejar de percibir un sueldo como ése, tan seguro? “Pronto verás las cosas de otro modo”. “Que no, mama, que no. Que lo he visto muy claro, como un fogonazo”. Un médico interrumpe la discusión materno filial para darle el alta a Saulo. “Y otra vez”, le dice con cierta ternura el doctor, “conduce con más cuidado”.
Saulo se baja de la camilla con dificultad, ayudado torpemente por su madre. “Que esto va en serio, mama, que estoy convencido”. La madre coge la chatarrería protectora de su hijo y se la coloca con estrépito sobre sus hombros. “¡Que ni una palabra más!”, le grita escandalizando la sala de urgencias. “¡Que no vas a dejar un sueldo tan bueno por semejante tontería!”

Friday, March 06, 2009

Too big to fail and too big for the law

Then he [the judge]ordered that a mosquito be hanged without further ado and that it be drawn and quartered because the unfortunate thing had fallen into the net of the law. But to an elephant that had trammeled over them all, without distinguishing between human and divine laws, he doffed his hat to him as he passed by, weighed down with prohibited weapons, fire arms, good lances, lock pics, and pikes. And he also told him that even though he was doing his rounds, if he were obliged, all his ministers would go accompany him and drop him off at his cave.

(From El Criticón by Baltasar Gracián, Crisi VI, Volume I: In the Springtime of Childhood, p. 141)

Mandó luego ahorcar, sin más apelación, un mosquito y que lo hiciesen cuartos porque había caído el desdichado en la red de la ley. Pero a un elefante que las había atropellado todas, sin perdonar humanas ni divinas, le hizo una gran bonetada al pasar cargado de armas prohibidas, bocas de fuego, buenas lanzas, ganzúas, chuzones, y aun le dijo que aunque estaba de ronda, si era servido, le irían acompañando todos sus ministros hasta dejarle en su cueva.

(El Criticón, Crisi VI, TOMO I: En la primavera de la niñez, p.141)