e g r e g o r e s

"Graciously bestow upon all men felicity, the summit of which is the knowledge of the Gods." [Julian, Oration to the Mother of the Gods]

“A Witch In Love” (aka “Yuhee, The Witch”, aka “Witch Amusement”)

The Korean TV romantic dramedy “Witch Amusement” ran for a grand total of 16 episodes from March to May in 2007. The story centered on a young single professional woman in modern day South Korea who was derisively referred to as “manyŏ” (“witch”) behind her back by the people who worked for her.

The name of the “witch” in question is Yoo Hee, and the Korean title of the show was “Manyŏ Yoo Hee“, literally, “Witch Yoo Hee”. In Korean this is a rather clever play on words that can also mean “Witch Amusement” or “Witch In Love”.

The reason for referring to Yoo Hee as a “witch” is that she is seen as unfeminine and “cold”. She does not wear make-up and she always dresses in black clothes, and also wears glasses. She is also portrayed as pathetically unsuccessful in her attempts to have relationships with men.

The character of Yoo Hee (played by Han Ga In) is very similar to the Witch character portrayed by Kim Novack in the 1958 “Bell Book and Candle“, and also to the journalist/activist/feminist character played by Katharine Hepburn in the 1942 “Woman of the Year“. For that matter, all three characters show striking parallels with the real life story of Queen Elizabeth I, but with one major difference, for Elizabeth never married, and reigned as one of the most powerful and successful heads of state the western world had seen since the fall of Rome.

In contrast to the “Virgin Queen”, however, the three fictional characters Yoo Hee, Gil Holroyd (Novack), and Tess Harding (Hepburn), all end up surrendering their “unfeminine” independence to comply with social conventions in exchange for that ultimate goal that is the true heart’s desire of all “real” women: the love of a good man. (Don’t worry, I’m not really giving very much away by telling you this….)

As was the case with both “Woman of the Year”, and “Bell Book and Candle”, the lead character in “Witch Yoo Hee” is portrayed as proudly independent and highly successful. Han Ga In’s character is even a martial arts master who can (and when she feels like it, does) kick any man’s ass.

But despite (or rather, because of) her professional success and all around self-sufficiency, Yoo Hee is miserable and lonely, for, as a woman without a man, she is in an unnatural state. In fact, her greatest shame is that she has never had a second date. She has even programmed a list of “dating tips” into her phone to refer to during her unsuccessful string of blind dates (some of these dates turn out to be guys who lost a bet!):

  • Try to act cute.
  • Have a good appetite.
  • Act interested in the other person.
  • Try to find things in common.

Now, as I said already, just knowing that Yoo Hee will fall in love doesn’t give very much away. It’s pretty obvious where things are headed already by the end of Episode 1, and Episode 2 quickly removes any lingering doubts. Or does it? Let’s just say there is a lot more to the story than what has been (somewhat misleadingly) revealed here.

If you want to know more about “Witch Amusement” just check out the truly amazing website “dramabeans“, where two Korean-American women bloggers (who go by “javabeans” and “girlfirday”, and who may or may not be sisters, and/or criminals-on-the-run-hiding-from-the-law, and/or the same person,) provide detailed (and wonderfully snarktastic) commentaries on “kdramas” and other facets of “K-Pop” culture generally.

The cool thing, imnsho, about reading about “Witch Amusement” at the website “dramabeans” is that you have this hackneyed western cultural meme of the frustrated/liberated woman/witch being played out in a highly industrialized and in its very own and very strange way highly westernized country (and in a culture with its very own and very much alive-and-kicking ancient indigenous tradition of magical practitioners, most of whom are women), and then this all gets translated and reinterpreted for a western, English speaking audience by young Native-born Americans who happen to be young, successful professional Korean women who are obsessive fans of Korean pop culture. It is a cultural and sociological house of mirrors!

Personally I am very curious about this Korean word translated into English as “Witch”. I poked around and found two other occurrences of the word manyŏ:

사자, 마녀, 옷장 이야기 /
Saja, manyŏ, otchang iyagi /
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (by C.S. Lewis)

포르토벨로의마녀 /
Pʻorŭtʻobello ŭi manyŏ /
The witch of Portobello /
A bruxa de Portobello (by Paul Coelho)

Muckers

1.

The incidence of muckers continues to maintain its high: one in Outer Brooklyn yesterday accounted for 21 victims before the fuzzy-wuzzies fused him, and another is still at large in Evanston, Ill., with a total of eleven and three injured. Across the sea in London a woman mucker took out four as well as her own three-month baby before a mind-present standerby clobbered her. Reports also from Rangoon, Lima and Auckland notch up the day’s toll to 69.
[The Hipcrime Vocab, by Chad C. Mulligan]

2.

Background: ‘mucker’ is an Anglicisation of ‘amok’. Don’t believe anyone who says it’s a shifted pronunication of ‘mugger’. You can survive a mugger, but if you want to survive a mucker the best way is not to be there when it happens.
[You’re an Ignorant Idiot, by Chad C. Mulligan]

3.

Out there: all those millions of people . . . Like looking up at the sky and wondering which of those suns shine on beings like ourselves. Christ: when did I last look up at the night sky?

He was suddenly appalled These days, a great many people never left their homes at night except for some specific purpose, when they could call a cab to the door and expose themselves for no longer than it took to cross a sidewalk. It wasn’t inevitably dangerous to wander the night streets of the city – the hundreds of thousands who did still do so were proof enough of that. In a country of four hundred millions there were two or three muckers per day, yet some people acted as though they couldn’t get past the next corner without being attacked.
[Stand on Zanzibar, by John Brunner, pp. 128-129]

4.

“In my country,” Jogajong said, “a man who thinks like you goes voluntarily to join his ancestors. Or used to in the old days. Now, the usurper Solukarta has copied your Christian habits and closed that way of escape. Which is a reason why we have so many muckers, I think.”
[Stand On Zanzibar, p. 576]

Rajan Zed: Some Negative Reviews

Here is a list of Zed-skeptic material that I have been able to track down on teh interwebs (if you know of any others, please send them my way, or post your own list, but please let me know!):

*Please note that I almost didn’t post the item from Sepia Mutiny (thus the asterisk) because the author, “amardeep”, inexplicably insinuates some comparison between Rajan Zed and Aseem Shukla of the Hindu American Foundation. But see Shukla’s very polite and substantive response in the comments section here.

And now here are two excerpts from the above listed sources:

(1) The first excerpt is from “Senate opens with its first Hindu prayer“, an article from the February 22, 2008 Seattle Post Intelligencer, reporting on a Zed performance before the the Washington State Senate. This article is linked to and quoted in “Rajan Zed on a promotional spree”, linked to in the above list.

Rajan Zed, who calls himself “a prominent Hindu chaplain and Indo-American leader” from Reno, Nev., sought and received permission to deliver the traditional opening prayer.

Wearing saffron-colored clothes and displaying the tilak, a traditional religious mark, on his forehead, Zed spoke in Sanskrit and English and uttered “om,” regarded by Hindus as “the mystical syllable containing the universe.”

Washington was the latest of six Western state senates that Zed has opened in Hindu prayer, each reportedly for the first time, in the past eight months. He also was the first Hindu to open the U.S. Senate in prayer, which drew protests from the gallery and has been viewed nearly 300,000 times on YouTube.

His appearance in Olympia did not result from an invitation from Washington’s Hindu population, a community of at least 25,000 by some estimates. Leaders of three Seattle-area temples said they knew of Zed from news accounts or not at all.

“I don’t know how he advertises himself or how he gets access to these things,” said Shyam Oberoi, secretary of the board of trustees of the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center in Bothell.

Swami Bhaskarananda of the Vedanta Society of Western Washington in Seattle said Zed sounds like “someone ambitious” whose appearance might be “politically motivated — he wants to be known.”

(2) This next one is from “Is Rajan Zed Promoting Hinduism Or Damaging Hinduism?”, linked to in the above list:

According to Rajan Zed’s website “Rajan is an acclaimed Indo-American and Hindu statesman who has taken up Hindu, interfaith, religion, environment, Roma and other causes all over the world”. I have lived in the United States for a very long time and I have never met any Indian who would consider Rajan Zed as an “acclaimed Indo-American and Hindu statesman”. The Universal Society of Hinduism that he leads is virtually unknown and till date very little information is available on what this society has achieved since its inception.

His website has a lot of photographs of him with some politicians and minor celebrities. It reminded me of the photographs you will see behind the cashier of many Indian restaurants and grocery stores in the United States. In the last few years he has made a lot of statements on behalf of Hindus and Hinduism that are way off base and portrays the religion as one that cannot be criticized, made fun of or subject to any sort of interpretation.

My Article In Pagan Friends Webzine On Nazis and the Occult

Hey everybody! Check out my new article in Pagan Friends, the webzine that all the cool kids are reading these days: Hidden In Plain Sight: The Non-Occult Roots Of Nazism. The main point of the article is to show how the Nazis didn’t need no stinking Occultism to do their thing (and that those who claim there is a “connection” of some sort between Nazism and Occultism are peddling nonsense).

So who is this Mencius fellow?

Anyone familiar with the great Chinese philosopher Mencius could not help but think of him if they happened to read Jerry Coyne’s July 31 USA Today piece As atheists know, you can be good without God. That’s because Coyne opens his essay with a personal anecdote illustrating “the instinctive nature of moral acts and judgments,” which was the defining theme of Mencius’ philosophy (and which Mencius famously illustrated in a way highly reminiscent of Coyne’s anecdote).

For those not familiar with Mencius, and/or those who know a little and wish to learn more (a category in which I place myself) a very handy resource is the article on Mencius in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (the entry is by Kwong-Loi Shun, Chair Professor of Philosophy at Chinese University of Hong Kong, and he is also author of Mencius and Early Chinese Thought). And for anyone not familiar with the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, it is to wikipedia as Buffalo mozzarella is to Cheese Whiz.

Here is how Professor Shun begins his article:

Mencius (fourth century B.C.E.) sought to defend the teachings of Confucius (sixth to fifth century B.C.E.) against other influential movements of thought, especially those associated with Mozi (fifth century B.C.E.) and Yang Zhu (fifth to fourth century B.C.E.). He is probably best known for the view that “human nature is good”, a view of human nature on the basis of which he defended the Confucian ideal and developed an account of the self-cultivation process. His view was subsequently challenged by Xunzi (third century B.C.E.), another major Confucian thinker, who defended the alternative view that “human nature is evil”.

Confucian thinkers of the Han (206 B.C – 220 C.E.) were influenced by the teachings of both, but by the late Tang (618–907), influential intellectuals such as Han Yu (768–824) came to regard Mencius as the true transmitter of Confucius’ teachings. This view was shared by Confucian thinkers of the early Song (960–1279), and Zhu Xi (1130–1200) included the Mengzi (Mencius) as one of the Four Books, which became canonical texts of the Confucian tradition. Mencius came to be regarded as the greatest Confucian thinker after Confucius himself, and his teachings have been very influential on the development of Confucian thought in the Song, Ming (1368–1644), Qing (1644–1912), and up to modern times.

Mencius, Jerry Coyne, and Chögyam Trungpa on Basic Goodness

Mencius said, ”Everyone has a heart that is sensitive to the sufferings of others. The great kings of the past had this sort of sensitive heart and thus adopted compassionate policies. Bringing order to the realm is as easy as moving an object in your palm when you have a sensitive heart and put into practice compassionate policies. Let me give an example of what I mean when I say everyone has a heart that is sensitive to the sufferings of others. Anyone today who suddenly saw a baby about to fall into a well would feel alarmed and concerned. It would not be because he wanted to improve his relations with the child’s parents, nor because he wanted a good reputation among his friends and neighbors, nor because he disliked hearing the child cry. From this it follows that anyone who lacks feelings of commiseration, shame, and courtesy or a sense of right and wrong is not a human being. From the feeling of commiseration benevolence grows; from the feeling of shame righteousness grows; from the feeling of courtesy ritual grows; from a sense of right and wrong wisdom grows. People have these four germs, just as they have four limbs For someone with these four potentials to claim incompetence is to cripple himself; to say his ruler is incapable of them is to cripple his ruler. Those who know how to develop the four potentials within themselves will take off like a fire or burst forth like a spring. Those who can fully develop them can protect the entire land while those unable to develop them cannot even take care of their parents.
[From: Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 2d ed. (New York: Free Press, 1993), pp. 22-23. (online here:http://www.chinapage.com/mencius2n.html)]

Jerry Coyne said (more recently): “One cold Chicago day last February, I watched a Federal Express delivery man carry an armful of boxes to his truck. In the middle of the icy street, he slipped, scattering the boxes and exposing himself to traffic. Without thinking, I ran into the street, stopped cars, hoisted the man up and helped him recover his load. Pondering this afterward, I realized that my tiny act of altruism had been completely instinctive; there was no time for calculation.

“We see the instinctive nature of moral acts and judgments in many ways: in the automatic repugnance we feel when someone such as Bernie Madoff bilks the gullible and trusting, in our disapproval of the person who steals food from the office refrigerator, in our admiration for someone who risks his life to save a drowning child. And although some morality comes from reason and persuasion — we must learn, for example, to share our toys — much of it seems intuitive and inborn.”
[source]

Chögyam Trungpa said: “Buddhist psychology is based on the notion that human beings are fundamentally good. Their most basic qualities are positive ones: openness, intelligence and warmth. Of course this viewpoint has its philosophical and psychological expressions in concepts such as bodhichitta (awakened mind), and tathagatagarbha (birthplace of the enlightened ones). But this idea is ultimately rooted in experience-the experience of goodness and worthiness in oneself and others. This understanding is very fundamental and is the basic inspiration for Buddhist practice and Buddhist psychology.

“Coming from a tradition that stresses human goodness, it was something of a shock for me to encounter the Western tradition of original sin. It seems that this notion of original sin does not just pervade western religious ideas. It actually seems to run throughout Western thought as well, especially psychological thought. Among patients, theoreticians and therapists alike there seems to be great concern with the idea of some original mistake, which causes later suffering-a kind of punishment for that mistake. One finds that a sense of guilt or being wounded is quite pervasive. Whether or not such people actually believe in the idea of original sin, or in God for that matter, they seem to feel that they have done something wrong in the past and are now being punished for it.”
[source]

As is so often the case with Atheists these days, Jerry Coyne makes the glaringly ignorant ethnocentric mistake of believing that he is arguing against all religions, when in fact he is arguing against Christianity. Mencius, a Confucianist scholar who lived well over two millennia ago, and Chögyam Trungpa, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher who died in 1987, both affirm that “basic goodness”, to use Trungpa’s term, is inherent in human nature. So we don’t “need God” to be good according to the deeply religious views of Mencius and Trungpa.

Mencius on the Debt Ceiling Crisis

Mencius had an audience with King Hui of Liang.
The king said, “Sir, you did not consider a thousand li too far to come. You must have some ideas about how to benefit my state.”

Mencius replied, “Why must Your Majesty use the word ‘benefit’? All I am concerned with are the benevolent and the right.

“If Your Majesty says, ‘How can I benefit my state?’
your officials will say, ‘How can I benefit my family,’ and officers and common people will say, ‘How can I benefit myself.’

“Once superiors and inferiors are competing for benefit, the state will be in danger.

“When the head of a state of ten thousand chariots is murdered, the assassin is invariably a noble with a fief of a thousand chariots, When the head of a fief of a thousand chariots is murdered, the assassin is invariably head of a subfief of a hundred chariots. Those with a thousand out of ten thousand, or a hundred out of a thousand, had quite a bit. But when benefit is put before what is right, they are not satisfied without wanting it all.

“By contrast there has never been a benevolent person who neglected his parents or a righteous person who put his lord last.

“Your Majesty perhaps will now also say, ‘All I am concerned with are the benevolent and the right.’ Why mention ‘benefit?’ ”

From: Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 2d ed. (New York: Free Press, 1993), pp. 22-23. (online here: http://www.chinapage.com/mencius2n.html)

From the Desk of Rajan Zed: Miley Cyrus, Naked Yoga, the Church of Norway, and so forth

From the desk of Rajan Zed:

Hindu Intimidation Campaign Stops Film Showing In New York City

The Forum for Hindu Awakening has taken credit for an intimidation campaign that succeeded in preventing a public showing of the film “Sita Sings the Blues.”

The group claims that “Hindus have found this animation film to be an extremely denigrating twist on their sacred epic ‘Ramayan’.” (link)

The Forum for Hindu Awakening had warned Starlight Pavilion, the venue where the movie was scheduled, “to cancel the booking for this event as a show of goodwill to the Hindu community …. otherwise we would be forced to intensify our protests.”

To get an idea of what the Forum for Hindu Awakening was implying when they talk about “intensifying our protests”, we need only look at two recent stories on their website praising incidents of mob violence against Christians in India.

In one story at their website (link), dated April 3, praises a group of “devout Hindus” who broke up a private gathering in the home of a recent convert to Christianity. The mob beat up the Christian preacher who had been invited to the home and also vandalized his car for good measure. The same article also praises another Hindu mob who seized a Christian missionary and “dragged” him to the local police, who immediately released the man (religious freedom is, after all, guaranteed under the Indian Constitution). Both incidents took place in Jalgaon, Maharashtra.

In another article (link), dated July 23, a mob of “alert Hindus” in Nashik, Maharashtra, is congratulated for having “foiled” a “ploy of conversion.” If one reads the body of the article, though, one finds that the “ploy” consisted of a group of 8-10 Christians who were peacefully distributing literature. These Christians were physically attacked by a mob who seized them, their literature, and the car they were using. The mob then proceeded to stage a public book burning of the literature they had forcibly taken from the Christians (consisting of over one thousand books). The missionaries themselves were “handed over” to the police, who released them since they had committed no crime.

The sad story of the film cancellation has been covered by a number of journalists who have written prominent stories about it, including Sumathi Reddy writing for the Wall Street Journal, Saumya Arya Haas writing for the Huffington Post, and Salil Tripathi for the Daily Beast, and has also been blogged about by Kurt Semple at the New York Times, and Katherine Boyle at the Washington Post.

And, if somehow you have never heard of Nina Paley or her film “Sita Sings the Blues” then get thee to Nina’s blog and check her out! The film itself also has its very own website, where you can watch the whole thing for free online!

Also, here is a peak at just how awesome Nina Paley is:

Book Burning Hindus?

The so-called “Forum For Hindu Awakening” has posted a story on their website titled “Alert Hindus foil ploy of conversion by Christians on the day of Ashadhi Ekadashi“. This story brags about the fact that a bunch of thugs in Nashik (Maharashtra) physically assaulted a group of “8-10 Christians [who] were going around in two vehicles with the books and explaining importance of Jesus.”

According to the story (at the link) these “Hindu” thugs seized the Christians and their books. And then they burned the books (over one thousand copies). The Christians were turned over to the police, who released them without charges (for they had committed to crime in India, a nation with a Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion).

The twitter feed of the Hinduism Today magazine has also posted a link to the story. Since the people spreading this story are themselves Hindus, it seems, sadly, that it is probably true.

The fools at the “Forum for Hindu Awakening”, along with the world’s most hyperactively self-promoting “Hindu Statesman” Rajan Zed, were the geniuses behind the ridiculous calls last Summer for a boycott of Sacred Source, because of some items for sale at the Sacred Source website that Rajan Zed and some others found offensive. Well, perhaps the boycott wasn’t so ridiculous since it included death-threats!