Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Girl And The Dancing Bear. Or Echidne's Poetry Translation Hour


I haven't done these poetry hours for several years.  The song below is based on a 1976 poem by a Finnish poet Marja-Leena Mikkola.  The poem (which I only learned about yesterday) is so popular in Finland that it lent its name to a Finnish annual poetry award (Tanssiva Karhu).

The poet has stated that she'd prefer to leave the interpretation of the poem to the reader, but that it can certainly be seen in several ways: as a description of real love* and as an ode to the importance of art in dark and dismal times.

I have provided a rough** translation of the poem below but without any attempt at trying to make it rhyme.





When the girl stepped in the wide halls
of her father's house 
she did not know
what was heavy
and what was light.

Then she was taken to the fair
- without care she was, 
without a hat she was -
and there she saw a dancing bear
among the grimacing clowns

And all she had to do then
to know
what was heavy
and what was light,
was to look into the eyes of
the leaping bear.

She forgot her father and mother
she forgot her childhood
and she hid herself among
the traveling clowns.

From then on she walked
with the bear,
From then on she slept
by the bear,
she shared with the bear her bread,
the cold, the hunger and work.

And the bear, the bear danced
when the girl beat on a drum,
and just like the sun eats of the moon
she ate of the bear's heart.

The road ran on, the years passed,
and still the clowns  they were clowning,
and in the midst of the fire and smoke
cheerful music rang.

But the bear at last grew weak,
and it fell on its side,
and it never rose again 
but slowly spoke:

"O, a light we have carried
into these years
of iron and of wrath,
we bore the light to a dark era
while taken for clowns.

The one who walks
the circus road
so long and broad,
that one knows 
what is heavy
and what is light.

The one who rules my heart
must cut it in two with a knife,
for my only crime has been
my bottomless love for her."

Now the mandolins cracked
now the clowns grew quiet
The girl took a knife in her hand
and the spectators paled.


When red drops ran
from the lips of the bear,
it looked at the girl and
said these final words:

"My love for you was like
a trip which has arrived.
Now the drum of my heart is quiet.
O, take it into your hands." 


This tale is old,
and already covered by
the most voiceless dust.
The girl herself doesn't remember
and even she has been forgotten.

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* Which I needed as an antidote after having read one economist's proposal about how to reduce the "sex inequality" problem in the United States which,  in his view quite understandably, results in threats of violence. The solution (which I will address later) would probably require some kind of force to be applied to women reluctant to part with all that sex they are hoarding or spending on Trump and other top alpha males only.

**  It's pretty bad.  I changed the word "market" to "circus" in one place because the connotations are different in English.  But I couldn't find a good translation for "ilveilij√§t".  It's roughly the same as clowns but more sinister, about making scary faces and so on.


Friday, April 27, 2018

Friday Thoughts, 4/27/2018: Kevin Williamson's Pregnancy, Trump's Latest Rant and Obligatory Veiling in Iran



1.  Kevin Williamson, the conservative writer who believes that abortion is first degree murder and deserves to be punished as such, is a gift that keeps on giving.

Kevin believes that a fertilized egg is a human being.  Suppose, just as a thought experiment, that someone violently attacks him and inserts a fertilized egg in his abdomen.  Suppose, also, that the necessary changes are made so that the fertilized egg can now use Kevin as its nutrition and as the place where it will grow to a much larger size, finally pushing its way out with considerable pain, discomfort and even the risk of death for Kevin.

Never mind that the whole process is traumatizing, never mind that the raped Kevin would be in pain and shock, never mind that others would be deciding about his life, his health and even about his possible death.   Kevin would not want an abortion, because it is murder.

Or might he change his mind?

I have no idea if Kevin has made such a thought experiment.  But even if he has done so, a thought experiment it would remain.  The questions he pontificates about will never touch his right of self-determination, because nobody can forcefully grow human beings inside him.  Yet I don't see the necessary humility in Kevin's writings, the kind which should be obvious to anyone who actually doesn't have skin in the game in that awful sense.

Perhaps our Kevin makes an exception to his abortion-is-murder rule for rape victims?  But that would be illogical.

2.  This video (about Trump phoning in to the conservative Fox and Friends show) must be great fun to watch from some other planet.  It's a snapshot of the mental state and emotional concerns of the most powerful man on earth:



3.  Many Iranian women have protested the obligatory veiling laws of the Iranian theocracy in the early months of 2018.  This opinion piece, published more than a month ago, clarifies some of the issues which are poorly covered in Western feminist writings.*

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* The reasons for that poor coverage are very complicated, but include the argument that those who share the genetic background of the colonizers of Middle Eastern countries shouldn't center their own views about gender equality, acting, perhaps, like ideological colonizers, but should give center stage to women who live in the colonized countries in defining what feminism means for them.  Given the colonizing and racist history, the advice is theoretically excellent. 

But in practice trying to follow it has serious negative side-effects: Women in very patriarchal cultures are not likely to get their voices heard, unless those voices agree with the patriarchal values.  So sometimes the overall effect is a certain type of selective silence among Western feminists.  The scant coverage of ISIS and its treatment of women (which is horrendous by any yardstick) is one example of that silence.










Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Incel Sites As Breeding Ground For Terrorism



Elizabeth Barrett Browning begins her Sonnet 43 with this line:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
If we replace "love" with "hate" in that line we are well on the way to understanding the misogynist sites, because misogyny on those sites comes in all possible flavors.  So many, indeed, that journalists must occasionally explain to those  who are blissfully unaware of the existence of those sites what "incels" might want or what "Pickup Artists" think of women or what "the return of the kings" might mean.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

On the Online Incel Movement




Rumors, as yet unverified by the Toronto police, suggest that the Toronto van killer may have acted out of misogyny.  This is based on a now-removed Facebook post, attributed to the killer:


Some argue that the post could be a 4chan hoax.  We shall see.  But even if it is not, understanding what the incels are and what they believe is both necessary and very unpleasant.  This Twitter thread gives the basic outlines of the hate movement.

And a hate movement it is.

For those of you who wish to know more about Elliot Rodger, "the Supreme Gentleman," I recommend my long post on him, written right after the multiple murders of innocents Rodger committed in Santa Barbara.

Trump's Choices: Pruitt and Pompeo



Trump's choices of people (the best people, the bigly people)  for his administration are always worth a laff riot or two.  Or would be, if we were watching this show from another planet with lots of nectar and manna and popcorn and beer.

Just consider what Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, may have been up to.  The New York Times published a long list of accusations a week ago, and they make charming reading even if some of them are not true.  To give you just one example:

Lawmakers have argued that the Morocco trip, during which Mr. Pruitt promoted natural gas exports, was inappropriate since the E.P.A. plays no formal role in overseeing gas exports. The trip cost about $40,000, according to agency records, with the flights alone costing $17,000.

Pruitt is the proverbial fox guarding the chicken coop. There's a report that he encouraged the National Mining Association to ask Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement.  Remember that the guy is supposed to guard our environment.  Then down a gallon or two of nectar or beer.  That's the way to survive this upside-down world.

For a second example of Trump's weird choices, take Mike Pompeo's nomination as the secretary of state.* 

I'd prefer we didn't take that choice, of course, given that the guy seems to  really dig Rapture** and that the secretary of state can actually increase the likelihood of Rapture coming, in this case by seeing the global politics as a holy war between extreme Islamism and, I assume, extreme Christianism.

Pruitt and Pompeo are good examples of the two important groups among the Republican politicians:  The Money Boyz and the Godbotherers.  Both get what they want.

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* His nomination is out of committee because Rand Paul flipped his vote on that!  Had he not flipped, Pompeo would have been the first candidate for the secretary of state position who didn't get a favorable recommendation from the committee.   (This footnote has been corrected for an earlier error where I called Rand Paul Paul Ryan.  I always confuse the two names. My bad.)

** For those lucky enough not to know about the Rapture Christians, here's a nice and relaxed take on the history of the concept. 

You know that Rapture has taken place when you see piles of clothing lying on the ground and your fundamentalist neighbors have disappeared into heavens.  (I assume that you will not be among the Raptured if you read this blog.)

That's the time to steal all their belongings, for at the next stage you and I and all other sinners will be eradicated in a fiery storm of punishment from the loving fundamentalist Old Testament god who made all of us in his own image.

Once we have been incinerated, the Raptured will be returned to earth which will become a blissful eternal paradise.

It's that last bit which gives Rapture-believers the incentive to try to end the world now rather than later.