Couldn't leave quite yet. One of my little brothers has written in with a question:
Dharma Mr. Buddah? Or the other way around?
Profound glory in glistening furr, wet from the urine fight.
And I answer:
this whole universe
finds itself contained in the
scrotum of my mind
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Couldn't leave quite yet. One of my little brothers has written in with a question:
This excerpt from an Ohio.com article should be on my masthead:
The shape appears again. This time, you'd swear there was a black, pointy head, sunken eyes, brown, tough skin outlined with tufts of hair. You'd swear it's Bigfoot.
Looked behind you lately? I might be right there in all my hirsute, hulking glory, scratching my pits.
Or attempting to scratch yours.
Visit the Marmot for his latest fisking of a Korea Herald article in which the author attempts (once again) to pass blame off to anyone but South Korea.
Meaty Marmot quote:
Look, South Koreans are "detached and powerless" because they have consistently failed to take on an "issue that directly impinges on their fate," i.e. the North's nuclear weapons program. I mean, Jesus, sometimes it seems like the Western press deals with this issue more than the Korean press. And look at the meaningless shit the politicians up in Seoul have been concerning themselves with - party reform, secret video tapes, judicial uprisings, everything BUT the nuclear crisis. Heck, Seoul seems more concerned with inter-Korean sports events and protecting Hyundai's corrupt business deals with the North than it is with ending the North's nuclear program. The South Koreans passed off responsibility for this problem onto the Americans, so I don't want to hear bitching and moaning about "powerlessness" and "detachment," OK?
In a different Marmot post: China has given some advice (cough) to NK. The Marmot remarks:
To be frank, I'm not sure how serious China is being here - I think this report is more for foreign consumption, i.e. oh, look how helpful China is being, rather than any indication of how China will behave during the six-party talks. As I've said before many a time, China could have put an end to this problem a long, long time ago, and the fact that it didn't says to me that Beijing sees this as an opportunity to win influence / political points vis-a-vis the United States - a very dangerous game to play indeed. Talk is cheap; when I see China actually do something other than protect the North Koreans in the UN, then I'll start believing that the Chinese really want to start playing a productive role on the peninsula.
Meanwhile, Kevin at IA gleefully flays Bill O'Reilly and Fox in a short post (do we really need to say much about this case? O'Reilly's suit was frivolous!).
Kevin again brings out the war hammer and goes to town on South Korean preachiness toward North Korea re: the use of violence in conflict resolution.
What set Kevin off was this, from the Chosun Ilbo (re: the recent NK-SK Universiade fracas, in which NK journalists attacked SK protestors of the NK government):
The violence North Korean journalists inflicted against local anti-Kim Jong Il protesters on Sunday was a violation of the law. If the journalists were unhappy with the demonstration, they should have objected to the Universiade's organizing committee, rather than engaging in a fistfight. Raising fists may be admired in North Korea, but such action is not tolerated in South Korea and in the international community.
Kevin had this to say in response:
Not tolerated in South Korea? "Raising fists" is the standard method of negotiation in South Korea. Violence is a widely used, broadly accepted part of conflict resolution in Korean culture. Unions use violence as a negotiating tool without fear of punishment. Forceful occupations, blockades, sit-ins, public disruptions, and violent rallies are the acceptable standard in South Korean protest culture, and the government does next to nothing to punish that behavior or attempt to change the culture.
What's more, South Korean journalists are no angels:
Reporters routinely use physical force to block politicians and (more commonly) entertainers if they refuse to answer questions.
I'm quite sure that Chosun Ilbo journalists regularly use the same tactics to get quotes from their targets. The same Chosun Ilbo journalists that are preaching about South Korea "not tolerating" the physical force used by North Korean reporters to register their displeasure with protesters.
The use of physical force and violence as means of opposition reaches into all corners of Korean society and all the way to the top. A few years ago an Australian company used video footage of a massive brawl in the Korean parliament to advertise dress shirts, and Koreans were outraged at the accurate depiction of their elected children representatives.
What really caught my eye in Kevin's post, though, was something I myself have contended privately in emails with my friends: the vaunted "Westernization" of countries that have undergone "nation-building" is more surface phenomenon than anything else. Kevin puts it this way, in language that repeats almost exactly something I'd said:
In short, there is absolutely no respect for the rule of law in South Korea. Respect only exists for the force of law, and the government perpetuates the vicious cycle of violent protests and civil disorder by recognizing and accepting violent protests as legitimate means to an end. Violent protests, blockades, and illegal occupations are always simply broken-up, but arrests are rare, and convictions with meaningful punishment are unheard of.
This very point, "rule of law," is a quintessentially Western notion, I think, very much rooted in Greek and hebraic culture. Logos is extremely important to Western society. It's an example of a "core value," if you will, that I don't think has really taken root in any non-Western "nation-built" countries except perhaps in name only. This is one of the major reasons why I can't view the Iraq project with complete confidence, even as I root for its success. The kind of reorientation we're seeking in Iraq simply may not be possible without literally decades of unrelenting effort to change millions of minds. I don't think my doubts make me a doomsayer; I simply think it's important to keep a realistic view of what we're undertaking any time we engage in nation-building.
Toward the end of his post, Kevin gawks at this passage from the Chosun Ilbo article:
A new "rule" for inter-Korean contact must be devised. That rule must focus on helping North Koreans understand the diversity of free and open societies and tolerate external criticism.
Jesus H, this is the topping on the hypocrite cake. Am I actually listening to the South Koreans lecture North Koreans about the value of the diversity of free and open societies? This, in a country which values diversity so much that a TV anchor who expressed an opinion critical of violent anti-American protests was promptly fired because viewers demanded it. The diversity of a free and open society is so valued in Korea that the reaction to jokes by Jay Leno was to flood NBC with complaints and file a lawsuit claiming Korea's national pride had been damaged.
Sure, diversity is valued...as long as the you've got pure Korean blood. Korea is free and open as long as you're on the right side of the all-powerful "public sentiment." External criticism is tolerated about as much as external invaders. Before you go teaching your northern brothers about diversity and tolerance, how about taking a crash course in it yourself.
My apologies to both Kevin and the Marmot for quoting so MUCH from their blogs, but I'm a lazy bastard at heart and these were simply too good to pass up. I'll restrain myself in the future.
Monday, August 25, 2003
Other bloggers have FAQs detailing their personal info, dammit. I haven't included one. Though I'm fond of writing imaginary interviews (check out Mark Leyner's books; he does them far better), I'd prefer to answer real questions from actual readers. But my brain is empty-- what does one ask a bulky, menacing Hominid? Having no clue, I scratch my pits, sniff my fingers for courage, then turn to the readership.
So ask me anything, no matter how pedestrian or wild you think your question might be. Nothing to fear: I won't be mentioning who wrote which questions. And if your question is too outlandish even for me, then I probably won't put it in the finalized FAQ (misnomer if ever there was one).
Send a question list that's as long or as short as you please. And yes, feel free to include whiny requests like,
Q: When are you going to change your blog's B&W color scheme to something interesting?
(A: I'm an aesthetic minimalist, so I kinda like it this way.)
Q: When will you include a comments option that allows me to append a comment directly to one of your posts?
A: Probably never. Steven Den Beste gets away with this, and I think he's on to something. But if enough want it... I'll think about it.
Q: When are we gonna see some pictures & graphics & stuff?
A: This is being worked on. I'm thinking about a comic strip. And a logo, which I'll design, since I cartoon.
So ask away. Send questions to my email address:
Remember to type "HAIRY CHASMS" into the email's subject line, or Satan will trash your email.
Thanks in advance.
I checked my Hotmail inbox and saw I'd been rewarded with the following, a short-but-profound question:
If the nature of things is void, how can we attach to anything?
I was in the middle of an overlong, pedantic response to this when it struck me: your question is the same as that of the Sixth Patriarch of Zen Buddhism, Hui-neng (btw, folks, it's pronounced "hway nung," rhyming with "spray dung," not "hooey neng" or "hwee neng").
You may know the legend: the Fifth Patriarch, Hung-jen, was searching for a successor. Hui-neng was an illiterate worker at the monastery who heard a recitation of a poem written by the prime candidate for succession, Shen-hsiu. Shen-hsiu had written:
Our body is the Bodhi Tree,
And our mind is a bright mirror.
At all times diligently wipe them,
So that they will be free from dust.
Hui-neng thought to himself, "My balls are bigger than this asshole's," and he dictated the following:
The Tree of Perfect Wisdom is originally no tree.
Nor has the bright mirror any frame.
Buddha-nature is forever clear and pure.
Where is there any dust?
[NB: I'm joking, of course. We have no idea whether Hui-neng ever referred to the size of his balls. But Hui-neng became the next Patriarch. Perhaps, as a good Zennist, he would have said his balls were "not-big, not-small." You'll have noticed that Yoda also claims, "Size has no meaning. It matters not."]
Translations of Shen-hsiu's verse and Hui-neng's counter-verse vary widely. Here's another version of Hui-neng's response:
Fundamentally no wisdom-tree exists,
Nor the stand of a mirror bright.
Since all is empty from the beginning,
Where can the dust alight?
You can see the strong resemblance to your question, Zsolt.
On what can the dust collect if there's nothing there from the first?
If the nature of things is void, how can we attach to anything?
So my answer to your question would be: "Yes, exactly." Your question expresses the wisdom you seek. As the saying goes, The question is the answer.
Here's an interesting piece about Hui-neng: Hui-neng: Patriarch of Zen Buddhism.
Let me comment on Hui-neng a bit, though. I tend to think that his response isn't necessarily all that enlightened. After all, his poem makes the best sense only when viewed in relationship with Shen-hsiu's verse. We can (ironically) congratulate Hui-neng on his mirror-mind, the natural directness of his response, but he stood on the guy's shoulders.
Thirty blows to both of them!
I spoke too soon. Robert and Kevin DID post some gems.
The Marmot, blogging from the comfort of his new burrow at blogs.com, writes about the recent SK-NK Universiade fracas here. In reference to staging anti-North protests, the Marmot writes:
OK, now normally, I'd say that international sports events are not the time to pull shit like this, especially near the sporting venues. Sports are about sports, not politics. However, this is not a normal time - frankly, this Universiade has been highly politicized from the very beginning, and most of those politics have been of the "We Are One" / "These games will help bring peace to the peninsula" extreme bullshit kind. Being that's the case, I say, fight on my brothers!
And the Marmot's fangs plunge deep into North Korea's neck:
PS: Note to the North Koreans, who are now demanding an apology and that the protestors be punished: bite me - this is a free country, no thanks to you, and if you don't like hearing free citizens voicing their opinion, then perhaps its best that you get your asses on the next flight back to Pyongyang, where you can go back to orchestrating anti-American demonstrations to your hearts' content.
Koreabloggers, I'm discovering, have long been sick & tired of the whole Korean "demand an apology" game. I'm beginning to join their ranks on this. It's part of a larger victim-culture. Chief Wiggles recently got pissed at an Iraqi arms dealer who was complaining about all that the US was doing wrong:
All day long we entertain sources bringing forth the worst possible news of the trouble running in the streets of this country. We hear story after story of weapons dealers in their neighborhoods, counterfeiting operations around the corner, stockpiles of weapons in people's bedrooms, anti-coalition meetings going on, people trying to build up armies against us, attacks on our soldiers, criminal acts going on just down the street, illegal smuggling from neighboring countries, extortion rings, people wanting permits to arm themselves, stolen property being sold, aircraft being hidden, looters, rapists, and on and on.
That is what I listen to all day long. One guy came in under the guise of having a friend who heard on the radio we were giving rewards for weapons being turned in. He was actually an arms dealer trying to find out if he could sell the weapons to us, discouraged to find out we were not in the arms business and not willing to work with arms dealers. He went on and on all about how we were making so many mistakes in dealing with the problems at hand. He was saying the U.S. was not doing this right and not doing that right, saying we weren't taking care of all their problems.
Well, I had heard enough, upset by his lack of personal responsibility for some of the problems we are facing here. He is an arms dealer selling arms to people trying to kill us, finding fault with the way we are handling the problems. So I let him have it, asking him why he wasn't doing something to eradicate Iraq of some of the ills permeating their society. Why didn't he and others do their part, why don't they go do something, as patriotic Iraqi citizens to rid the country of some of these problems?
I told him we aren't here to be out front leading the way while the citizens sit in their homes waiting for new jobs or money to drop in their laps, but assisting from behind the lead of the Iraqi people. This is their country and their responsibility to deal with the problems at hand, with our assistance.
He actually took it well, acknowledging his role in contributing to the problem and how he should do something positive to perpetuate goodness and hope.
I was content with his answer, as he asked me if I could help him get his job back where he used to work, wondering if I would write a letter to his ex-boss.
I think a lot of the Koreablogs are screaming the same thing at Korea. How many Koreans are reading and internalizing this message, though...
Like the "Star Wars" Emperor, the Eric Hoffer-quoting Kevin can fire bluish-purple lightning from his fingertips. In this edition, his Incestuous Amps strike no less than the Chinese government, which Kevin sees as covering its ass by being openly stern (cough) with North Korea only a couple days before the big talks. Rather sudden, this sternness. Kevin writes:
The fact that party sources are feeding this to western media 2 days before the talks start is a pretty clear signal that they're attempting to deflect any (American) criticism of indifference. They obviously want it well-known that they're on the right side of the table and are working hard to give themselves a "well, we did our best" response when the talks are stuck in neutral.
There has been similar speculation that the US is taking much the same approach. It makes sense for us, if we're truly not taking the military option off the table. Colin Powell must not be allowed to offer the "informal written guarantee" of nonaggression!!
There are lingering questions about how stern China will be when push comes to shove. Kevin again:
And how far are the Chinese willing to go to "ensure" that denuclearization? Participation in a blockade? Completely isolating the Norks? What level of assurance will they be comfortable with once the denuclearization process begins? Will they force the door completely open or be convinced with a few cameras and 4-5 IAEA insepctors wandering around blindfolded?
I'd normally say, "Hey, China! Put it in writing!" But this is Asia. Putting something in writing doesn't mean shit.
Come to think of it, maybe it doesn't matter if we give NK an informal written guarantee. It'll be the same grade of toilet paper as whatever other documents issue from the talks.
Kevin's conclusion about the articles he reviews:
These 2 articles are a concerted PR effort by the Chinese government, and I'd bet they're aimed at both North Korea and the United States. A warning for the former and a plea for a pat on the head from the latter. Until we start seeing concrete action instead of quotes from Commies...this isn't significant in the overall scheme of things.
It's depressing, but I agree. I don't think we can expect much to come out of these talks. NK might provide some hysterical drama, but it'll add up to little more than the usual brinksmanship.
By the way, do you spell it "brinksmanship" or "brinkmanship"? "Toward" or "towards"?
Ah. According to Webster, "toward" and "towards" amount to the same thing.
Hmmm. Same for "brinksmanship" and "brinkmanship."
If you think they're bombing the Iraq-Turkey pipeline too much, wait'll the bombers hear about this!
ArnoldWatch: More meditations on Arnold's look. I think he needs to lose that damn hair dye. That's channeling Reagan a little too closely.
America's home-grown Taliban! Killing children to exorcize demons! Yaaaaay! In this case, the demon was autism, but we won't talk about that.
France's pile of corpses...
7,000-year-old clay crotch discovered in Germany! You think I'm kidding, don't you.
At Winds of Change, the following disturbing paragraph:
Has Germany made Europeans the new cash cow for Islamofascists? The German government is refusing to comment on reports it paid in excess of $5 million to secure the release of 14 Europeans being held hostage in the Sahara. The Germans say a multinational force is being organized to hunt down the kidnappers, but if the force is only now being organized, any money that changed hands will be long gone even if the kidnappers are captured or killed.
MLK had a dream. So does Earl.
Sunday, August 24, 2003
It was another weekend visa-renewal flight for the Hominid.
I did this earlier in the year as well. It was exhilarating, that first time, being in a place where I didn't know the language at all. I speak no Japanese (aside from a few lame phrases), and can't read a lick of the Japanese syllabaries (though I can make out some of the "travel" kanji). Quite unlike traveling in Western Europe, where I have recourse to my French (fluent), German (basic), and Spanish (also basic) knowledge, I was at a complete loss in Japan.
Fukuoka 1 involved a stay at the Tokyo Daiichi Fukuoka Hotel, located about four subway stops from the airport (which, luckily, is the terminus for Fukuoka's red line, making travel decisions absurdly easy: both tracks go in the same direction!). Lessons learned from Fukuoka 1:
1. Don't book a hotel while you're outside Japan, ESPECIALLY not online. This is just stupid. I paid around $85 for my room at the Daiichi. When I got downstairs at the international terminal, I saw a tourism office advertising hotel rates around $50-60. Grrrr.
2. When in your nice, modern hotel with heated toilet seat (these are slowly but surely gaining prominence in some parts of Seoul), DO NOT GET CURIOUS ABOUT THE BIDET FUNCTION.
In case you don't know, the bidet ("bee-DAY" [Fr.] or "bih-DAY" [Amer.]) is generally associated with French salles de bain (washrooms, not "bathrooms," exactly, since the French traditionally separate the toilet from the room with the bath & sink). In France, a bidet generally looks a bit like a low-set toilet, or a stubby sink. You squat over the bidet, lower your naked ass onto the porcelain rim, and turn on the water (there're often knobs for hot & cold water). A gentle stream of water, not unlike what might come out of a drinking fountain, will jump out and lick your ass crack. You then scrub away with available soap, wash your hands thoroughly, dry yourself off, and VOILA-- you're all set for that rimjob from Sylvie. Some bidets, instead of squirting water gently into your ass crack, will feature a normal faucet, leaving you to do the ole Scoop & Scrub.
But at the Daiichi...
Trust me on this: you don't want to get NEAR a Japanese hi-tech toilet's bidet function.
I had just finished crapping and wiping, but was still curious about the three colorful, innocent-looking buttons on a console jutting out from the toilet bowl, within arm's reach. I decided to try the bidet function (it was written in English and Japanese). So I hit "BIDET."
I heard a whir.
Something was obviously happening.
I heard the sound of water spraying.
And that, my friend, is when a laser-thin beam of water struck my asshole dead-center and almost caused me to take a second shit in sheer fright. I could actually feel the unwiped chunks of crap being sand-blasted away. When I say "laser-thin," I mean it felt like this fucker was firing a needle into my colon. If my buttocks weren't so large and unwieldy, they'd have snapped shut to block the attack. As it was, though, I let out a yell and turned the bidet function off. My anus was screaming, "No more! Oh, God! I'll talk! I'll tell you whatever you wanna hear! Just don't fuckin' do that again!"
Out of sheer monkey curiosity, I decided to turn the bidet function on while I was standing, so I could see what that whirring was all about. Turns out that, nestled inside the toilet bowl in the rearward part of the porcelain curve, there's a plastic box hiding three extendable plastic arms about 4 inches in length and maybe a half-inch wide. When you hit the "BIDET" button, one arm extends (hence the whirring) and begins firing not one, but three well-aimed streams of water very forcefully upwards. One beam is perfectly angled to bulls-eye your anus. I hit the other two buttons; they ended up doing exactly the same thing. I didn't see any difference.
3. Don't be afraid of the subway ticket machine. So long as the machine's screen has a "push for English" button by it, you're fine.
When I got to the Daiichi hotel, it was nearly 8PM and rainy. So I stayed inside the whole night with nothing but a couple books for company. Had an exorbitant dinner at the hotel's restaurant; they were doing an East/West buffet. In the morning, they did an East/West breakfast buffet; the eggs were fine, but the sausage was laughable.
That was a few months ago. Fukuoka 1.
This time around, for Fukuoka 2, I deliberately skipped out on reserving a hotel room. I wanted the cheap rates. When I got to the terminal's lower floor, though, I discovered that all the major hotels were completely booked. I was given a list of about 20 cheaper hotels and told to call them myself by using the pay phone.
One thing I know from traveling a lot: subways and pay phones are yin and yang. Subways the world over operate on the same basic principles and are easy to navigate-- this was proved time and again in places like DC, NYC, Paris, Munich, Basel (OK, that was a trolley), and Seoul. Fukuoka turned out to be no different once I saw that lovely "push for English" button. But pay phones are the opposite: each country (hell, each city) has its own idiosyncracies. Luckily, the Fukuoka Airport pay phones also had "English" buttons and used purchasable phone cards. It took a bit to figure out the key-in sequence (before you even dial your number, you have to press a button determining the "speed of your connection," and you have to remember to press "start" after you dial your number), but I was calling down my list of small hotels in ten minutes.
Nada. No hotels with available rooms.
So I lumbered back over to the tourism office and spoke in broken English (yes, *I* spoke in broken English) with the female attendants, wondering aloud if there was any lodging left in Fukuoka. "Small rooms are OK, too," I said. Their eyes lit up.
Two things were fortunate: (1) I know enough about Japanese phonology to figure out English (Japanglish) when I hear it, and (2) I'd read ex-Zen monk David Chadwick's book Thank You and OK!, which talked at some length about "capsule rooms" in its opening chapter.
So when the one attendant squealed "Kapsuro!", my heart leaped. Ever since reading Chadwick, I'd been curious what it would be like to sleep in one.
I was given two phone numbers and got lucky. The "Well Be Fukuoka" had plenty of kapsuro. The tourism office ladies gave me a map and through mutual exchange of Japanglish (and some Korean; I discovered the Japanese word for "traffic light" is shing-go, which, thanks to Chinese, is almost the same as the Korean shin-ho), we figured out how I should get to Well Be.
Turned out to be absurdly close. Three stops on the subway, get off at Gion Station, and walk barely 5-7 minutes.
I should mention that it's been pissing buckets of rain in Korea the past few days, but in Fukuoka this time around, the evening and night were clear (and damn hot), quite unlike my previous Fukuoka trip. As a result, I got to see more of the city as I walked along. It was a strange feeling, and I've created a neologism to describe it: metatravoltic.
Remember John "Hash Bar" Travolta's little exchange with Samuel "We Should Have Shotguns" Jackson at the beginning of "Pulp Fiction," when they're talking about Travolta's trip to Amsterdam? Travolta's classic remark, which resonates with American college-age backpackers in Europe, was, "It's the little differences. A lotta the same shit we got here, they got there, but there they're a little different." [I clipped that from an online version of the screenplay, so it might not match the actual movie dialogue.]
If you live in America and go to another country (even to Korea, so long as you stick to what's modern), you can have a "travoltic" experience, like what Vincent Vega describes. But if you're an expat who's lived in a given country for a period of time, and then you go visit another nearby country, you get that once-removed, different-but-same feeling that I think the term metatravoltic expresses quite nicely.
Walking along the streets of Fukuoka, I was struck by how similar many things were to what I see every day in Korea: the tiny, edible cars; the proliferating 7-Eleven-style convenience stores; the redheaded and blond East Asians; the vending machines with their mystery drinks; the general lack of curvy female ass (gotta get used to the Asian steppes; it takes time, if you're into shapeliness, before the Korean gluteal flatlands look yummy). But some things were different: I could see at a glance that the Japanese are less prudish (at least in public) than Koreans when it comes to sexy mags, posters, etc. I also saw some truly creative-- and expansive-- Satan-themed graffiti. I almost never see all-out graffiti in Korea (aside from inchoate scribblings; there's little actual unsanctioned street art on the walls of Seoul; DC would put Seoul to shame, though my favorite place for graffiti has to be Zurich, especially by the Hauptbahnhof). And of course, in Japan, you drive on the left. Those were some of the differences I noted.
The Well Be turned out to be a multifunction building offering a sauna, kapsuro, and a TV lounge in which to sleep (maybe I'm too conditioned by stories about DC homeless shelters, but I wasn't about to spend my light on a La-Z-Boy recliner with thirty similarly reclining strangers). The building staff spoke no English; we got along just fine with pantomime. I laid out 3990 yen (around $34), declined the offer for a sauna (it was already too hot & humid outside, and I've always despised heat and humidity), and went straight to Capsule Room 116.
To reach the capsule, one staffer and I had to take the elevator down to the B1 level. We got out; the place was very quiet, obviously devoted just to sleeping (and, according to Chadwick's book, whacking off to the TV). I was led through a door into a darkened hallway. It was right out of that Star Trek episode from the old series, "The Space Seed," the one in which the Enterprise crew find Khan in hibernation aboard his drifting vessel. Remember the hibernacula? Remember how you had a side-view of the sleepers?
A kapsuro is almost the same thing, almost the same size (maybe slightly larger in volume), with the rooms stacked so that you get a view of someone's head or feet, not the length of their body. The short hallway I was in probably housed close to thirty people. It was 8:15PM, and there weren't that many occupied kapsuro. Number 116 was on the bottom, at the near end of the row where I was standing. The door was barely 2.5 by 2.5 feet; there was room inside only for the bed, a pillow, and a blanket, which I didn't use. There was no door to lock; instead, there was a "blind" you pulled down to "shut" your kapsuro. Obviously not for the security-minded.
The kapsuro reminded me of my childhood days, of being a tiny Hominid splashing in a then-huge bathtub. The kapsuro's interior was molded fiberglass, just like a bathtub, right down to the sickly yellowish color. But I was ecstatic: I was actually going to sleep in a capsule room!
So imagine a fiberglass rectangular parallelepiped roughly 3' x 3' x 7' (yes, the interior's slightly wider than the entrance hole). There was barely room for me to sit upright. There was a TV hanging from a molded niche in the ceiling (I never figured out how to turn it on), a small shelf on which to place your knickknacks, a tiny vent in the back blowing air, and a clock/radio set into the molded wall.
Basically a bed (kind of), and a few cubic feet of air, all for $34.
Luckily, the clock had an alarm function, and since I was dead tired, even at that early evening hour, that was all I cared about. I set the alarm for 5:30AM; I had a 9:15AM flight out. I read a tiny bit, began drowsing, and went to sleep around 9PM. When I got up, I packed my stuff, crawled out (you leave your shoes in the locker bank next to the lobby, by the way; I was barefoot on the carpeted floor inside the building), found a restroom (very clean and normal; no ass-attacking technotoilets) and a bank of sinks, with mirrors, hair dryers, neat stacks of towels, and various men's hair products grouped on plastic trays. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, wet and then blow-dried my hair... then looked down at one of the plastic trays holding the men's hair products and saw what appeared to be either a brand name or some attempt at profundity:
Mandom: Human and Freedom.
Sounds like a candidate for Engrish.com to me.
Left the Well Be around 6:15AM, found cheap breakfast at a convenience store (a very nice, greasy, fried meat/potato combination, whose name I don't recall, plus chocolate milk), and headed off to the airport.
Found myself back in Seoul around 12:30, and made my way to the temple. You know the rest, if you've been reading the blogs chronologically.
Ah, I almost forgot: my walk to the Well Be included a quick flyby of a Buddhist temple (there were tons in that area): according to the English on my photocopied Tourism Office map, it was called "Mangyo-ji." When I saw the temple's name in kanji (Sino-Japanese, like Korean hanja), I saw it was "Manhaeng-sa," or "Ten Thousand Practices Temple." I'm so glad I'm learning hanja. It's MUCH more useful than Korean for getting around, and it's helpful as an aid to learning Korean for us etymologically-minded folks.
So now it's about 4 o'clock in the AM, and I've just finished this damn post. I'm cross-eyed with fatigue and need to get home, so I'll proof this puppy and post it. Might have to proof it again later.
Oh, yeah-- lessons learned on this trip to Fukuoka: get the greasy meat/potato thing next time I'm there.
Mmmmm... greasy meat/potato thing.
Whether the strangulation of Father John Geoghan (the priest involved in a major pedophilia scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston) represents karmic justice will depend on the Buddhist you speak to. The more philosophically inclined will tell you that karma doesn't work that way, it's not mathematical; the more folkorically-minded might say otherwise.
I choose to side with the folklorics on this one, if only because the very sight of this priest, after reading article after article about what he had done to so many, filled me with disgust.
Harmful action begets harmful action.
The bastard had it coming.
A couple days ago, I posted about the Reverend Alvin O'Neal Jackson of National City Christian Church, Washington, DC. The good Reverend had been plagiarizing sermon material for over 18 months. It seemed like a scandal was brewing, and if you read the initial article, you saw that Rev. Jackson wasn't happy with the flak he was getting. But Jackson apparently did some soul-searching and decided to out-and-out apologize in public-- unreservedly and with no mincing of words. And whatever scandal might have been brewing seems to have evaporated.
I can't help but compare these two people. Obviously, Geoghan's crimes are far more reprehensible. But how repentant was he? One victim of Geoghan's predations recalled that the priest stared coldly at him the entire time he [the victim] was on the stand, testifying. This is the picture many have of Geoghan: cold, unrepentant, projecting the air of not deserving what was happening to him.
And I laugh. Here's a hilarious paragraph from the article about Geoghan's death:
Geoghan, whose case triggered the worldwide church sex abuse scandal, was being held in isolation as one of two dozen inmates at the maximum-security Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center - a new prison designed specifically to house inmates considered to be at risk of being harmed by other prisoners.
I feel this is more just than rewarding Geoghan with solitary confinement, guaranteed meals, and a bed.
Nothing new (yet) from IA and Marmot, but Brian at Cathartidae asks (has been asking) a pointed question about Bush's deceptiveness: This lefty wanted Clinton to step down during the Lewinsky scandal... when will we see conservatives who are principled enough to call Bush on his bullshit?
Satan's Anus links to an interesting article about how the Bush Administration may actually have been underplaying the Saddam-al Qaeda connection.
In other religious news, we have this little piece of hilarity: Bush is the enemy of Islam. Yeah, well, he's also the enemy of liberal Christians, so get in line, Hamas.
Damn. Almost sounds like liberal Christians are in bed with Hamas. Heh.
"If you don't legalize gay marriage I'll blow up this bus!" Yeah... that's how religious liberals act.
ArnoldWatch: Bill Simon, one of Arnold's Republican competitors, can no longer make this a race issue. Har har.
Your tired, your poor, your biometrically scanned...
Frank J at IMAO links to the Rottweiler re: something that might actually serve as an indirect response to the Vulture.
Glenn disses Anna Kournikova... AND I AGREE.
Merde in France kicks De Villepin's ass for the French government's support of Hamas.
Brainy Smurf asks some probing questions about Bush policy and where we think we're going.
DUdu engages in some paranoid speculation.
One paragraph from the DUdu article, with which I was nodding in agreement until the very... last... sentence (a question):
President Bush inherited a country with a budget surplus, and now he has the distinction of spending our surplus and raising our federal debt ceiling to 7.4 trillion dollars. We are now turning federal budget deficits of 455 billion dollars in 2003, and there is no end in sight to the spending bonanza. An estimated 1 billion dollars a week is being burned on occupying and rebuilding Iraq, with the continual killings, sabotage and instability as the only result. The total Iraq bill in the foreseeable future could reach as high at 100 billion dollars. In addition to that, President Bush approved the enormously expensive anti-ballistic missile shield, and did away with the ABM treaty with Russia in the process. Add the understandable expenses associated with the terrible fall out of 9/11, and our President's spending excesses and overseas military adventures look like pure madness. Why, in turn, does nobody want to recall him?
The answer to that extremely stupid question, dickhead, is one that's been offered many times by those in your own party: Bush is a leader in a time of crisis. If you interpret this cynically, this means the public is perhaps blinded to Bush's foibles, especially in the fiscal department. If you interpret it more generously, it means Bush's leadership seems to be what most people want at the moment. Either way, you've got at least two explanations for why no one wants to recall him. Clear?
All that could change for Bush, of course, and indications are that people are worried about the economy and our projects in Iraq, etc.
I just added a permalink to a fascinating, fascinating article about "Dogen as philosopher," by TY Kasulis, Asst. Prof. of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii. If you have the time, read it. If you're into that sort of thing.
NB: He's TP Kasulis at the top of the screen, but if you scroll down to where the article begins, he's TY. A quick search at U. Hawaii's site reveals the official answer:
TP. If I'm not mistaken, he's the author of the very deep, very dense Zen Action/Zen Person.
Amritas is blogging again. Many interesting posts. Go visit.
Thomas St. John points out this article about a recent scuffle between North Korean journalists and South Koreans protesting the NK government. Yes! We are all one people!
In Iraq: ethnic tension. Surprise, surprise.
A disturbing MSNBC article about the US's possible use of torture. Disturbing, because it asserts and implies things without actually presenting hard evidence. And here's an ironic excerpt:
Padilla was declared an "enemy combatant" based on the assertion-- not the presentation-- of "some evidence" by the administration that he was a bin Laden bad guy.
Please don't think I'm taking this out of context. The author's moral outrage runs through the entire piece. But if he's outraged that no hard evidence was used in detaining Padilla, he should hold himself to his own standards in writing the piece, and provide more than just speculation and hearsay (about interrogation prodecures) to damn our operatives in the Middle East. Chief Wiggles? Your response?
Another person who should roast in hell.
PETA's tactics are just... shitty.
Ah, life in the South. Retarded assholes.
Chief Justice Roy Moore, the Alabama judge who had a huge monument of the Ten Commandments placed in the Alabama Judicial Building, has been suspended after refusing a court order to remove the monument. Interesting snippet from the article:
Moore supporters' around-the-clock vigil near the monument continued in downtown Montgomery. They have prayed, sung hymns, preached and kept an eye on the monument through the building's glass doors since Wednesday night, the deadline Thompson gave Moore to move the monument.
On Friday, about 100 protesters moved from the steps of the judicial building to a sidewalk in front of the federal courthouse, where Thompson works. Some ripped to pieces and burned a copy of Thompson's ruling. Demonstrators also held a mock trial, in which Thompson was charged with breaking the law of God.
"We hold you, Judge Thompson, and the United States Supreme Court in contempt of God's law," said Flip Benham, director of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.
[see this article as well, because I know human idiocy always makes you morbidly curious]
I came back from Fukuoka around 12:30 today, grabbed a cab and went over to Hwagye-sa for 1PM meditation. I was too late-- by about 5 seconds, as it turned out; I heard the chukpi (wooden clapper signaling phases in meditation) sounding for the first 30-minute session of ch'am-seon (zazen), but waited downstairs until the 1:30PM walking meditation period and hopped in line, just like the other latecomers usually do (the place has awful discipline... I really shouldn't have been allowed to do this, but the temple wants your money, like any religious institution).
Hyon Gak sunim gave the 3PM dharma talk, as usual, and part of his talk focused on the Alabama Ten Commandments ("Thou shalt not fuck thy sister"?) case. One theme of the monk's talk, as you might have guessed from my recent essay about attachment (in which I mentioned that dharma talks tend to be repetitive), was... attachment.
Attachment to precepts, in this case. Hyon Gak was talking about the five precepts taken by Buddhist clergy and laity, one of which is "don't lie." He told the famous story about the Buddhist who sees a rabbit going along a forest path, then watches the rabbit take the right-hand fork in the path ahead. A hunter runs up and demands, "Where'd that rabbit go?" The Buddhist cries, "He went that way!" and points leftward. The hunter sprints up the wrong path.
Hyon Gak's point was that attachment to precepts, especially for egotistical reasons (e.g., "I have to keep the precepts so I can be a good Buddhist!") can cause suffering, just as any other attachment can (in this case, a rabbit could get killed and a hunter could generate bad karma). A deep understanding of what lies behind the precepts, however, will allow one to relate to the precepts in a nonattached way, to act with compassion in a way that's "right" at that moment (cf. my essay on "right and wrong"), allowing one even to defy the literal meaning of the precepts in service to the higher principle of compassion, which is, after all, what underlies the precepts. Hyon Gak went on to talk about how the judge in Alabama was clinging only to the surface of the precepts embodied in the Ten Commandments, and wasn't seeing anything deeper.
And the result of this clinging is the stupidity we see in Alabama: anger, discord, people physically trying to protect the monument from being moved. From the Buddhist perspective, the whole thing looks stupid.
Hyon Gak said, "And I watched the news about these protestors, and saw them demonstrating, making faces like this"-- he pantomimed screaming and pumping his fists in the air-- "but I got bored with that and switched channels to see what was happening in Iraq, and I saw this--" he does exactly the same screaming, fist-pumping pantomime. "And I realized: it's the same mind!"
Yup. I think that about sums it up. Attachment leads to suffering.
Back to other news...
I'm a huge advocate of way more intel in the Middle East. This is a good first step.
A nation choking on its own ignorance...
Korean products aren't faring so well in the US.
An interesting article about Korean college students taking leaves of absence. Negative feedback loop:
A new disturbing trend on campus is that more students in advanced years are intentionally deferring graduation in order to gain practical job skills and find shelter due to the tight job market. Also contributing to the trend is widespread discrimination against unemployed college graduates by employers, experts note.
More opportunity for entrepreneurship! You can never have enough.
An article with a "no DUH" title. Some quotes:
Negotiators from the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia are heading to Beijing to achieve the unanimous objective of ending North Korea's nuclear weapons development, but they will bring their own strategies and issues that are molded to maximize their national stakes in the process of resolving the nuclear issue.
They say the objective is unanimous... I think NK would beg to differ.
"The talks will be complex and time-consuming because they involve various issues and national interests of the participating countries," said Paik Hak-soon, a senior researcher at the private Sejong Institute.
"Complex and time-consuming..." I think it might actually go quickly:
NK: America, will you give us the nonaggression treaty?
US: No. But we'd like to talk about--
NK: Fuck you. Bye.
[wait a few months/years; repeat as necessary until someone wakes up and realizes there is a discernible cycle]
The United States is using "dialogue" and applying "pressure" to urge North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons facilities in a "verifiable and irreversible" manner.
Actually, those quotation marks are all entirely apropos.
A senior U.S. State Department official also said Friday that North Korea's abandonment of its nuclear ambition can open "the door to a new kind of relationship" between the two countries.
Yes! NK is delighted to find out how far we've improved our biotech: we've grown a second asshole so that NK can rape that as well! Open that door to a new kind of relationship, baby! And don't forget the SEVENTH party at the talks, along with NK, SK, US, PRC, etc.: KY! To be applied in gobs to poop chutes everywhere! Are you lubed and de-pubed?
Caught between its Northern brethren and the blood-tied United States, South Korea is expected to focus its role in preventing the collapse of the six-party talks by the Pyongyang-Washington standoff and a smooth process of dialogue.
I.e., groan, grovel, gripe, groan, grovel, gripe...
China, which has been crucial in realizing the multilateral talks, attempts to enhance its international status by continuing its mediation between North Korea and the United States.
Yes, I think that's a fair statement.
According to experts, China has been active in seeking a settlement to the nuclear issue because North Korea's nuclearization can arm other countries like Japan and Taiwan, and that could lead to a negative impact on its economic development. It also does not want to see U.S. influence strengthened in Northeast Asia.
Maybe with too many armed countries in the area, it gets dicier for China to bully Taiwan.
Sharing common interests with other countries in keeping the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free, Russia is also concerned about economic issues that may emerge as the international community resolves the nuclear problem.
Russia is particularly interested in the connection of the Trans-Korean Railway and the Trans-Siberian Railway, and setting up gas lines that straddle the two Koreas.
If you haven't done so already, I advise you to go and read Kevin at IA's remarks about the railway, etc. in his rebuttal of Slate's Kaplan.
"Participating countries definitely have their own interests. South Korea should make every effort to fully reflect its position during the talks as the main party of the nuclear issue and will have to shoulder the economic burden regarding the matter," said Prof. Yun Duk-min of the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security.
What exactly IS South Korea's position gonna be? At a guess, jumping on the biotech lab table and requesting a second anus of its own.
Comrade Queef update:
The Korea Herald is beginning a series of articles discussing President Noh's six-month performance. This is the first article.
South Koreans are facing larger and larger amounts of personal debt, and it's affecting their spending. The whole society has succumbed pretty quickly to the evil temptations of credit cards & other forms of revolving debt. The national psychology is going to have to switch over a little faster from its old-time "savings, savings, savings" mentality to the more American "cash flow to stay happy" paradigm. The switch has begun, but it's gotta happen faster. Can it, though?
It gets back to that nettlesome "values" question that keeps popping up when people discuss how "Westernized" certain "beneficiaries" of nation-building are (such as Japan and South Korea). In my opinion (as I've contended before), the Westernization doesn't run as deep as the pro-nation-building contingent contends. I think, in fact, that Koreans may not be emotionally equipped to handle the current rate of societal change. Koreans of all age demographics are plumping up thanks to a more Western diet and the ass-fattening PC-bahng culture. Spending is, as already mentioned, problematic. Signs of addictive behavior are rampant (thanks, Dr. Drew Pinksy of the old MTV LoveLine & radio show, for teaching me so much about this subject). The younger Korean folks, caught up in the wave of "Me Here Now" [sic], seem to have forgotten important chunks of their country's history (esp. recent history). Adultery is becoming a pressing problem with the advent of Net/cell phone chat, and broadband ISPs. Koreans continue to migrate lemminglike to Seoul, basking in the comfort and protection of the almighty DMZ.
Koreans are by nature passionate and moved to extremes-- even more so than the notoriously fickle American public. It's no surprise that, in such a charged and antipodal environment, an emotionally dramatic religion like Christianity has made far deeper inroads in South Korean society than modern Buddhism, which for multiple reasons seems to be teetering on the edge of irrelevance (a long discussion of this issue is in order, but I haven't done enough research to present a coherent viewpoint). Rapid social change among a people with little experience with moderation is going to produce some strange and maybe spectacular results (good or bad)-- just you watch.
I don't think Americans necessarily know more about moderation, especially when the stats place overweight and obesity at 55% of the US population. But because we're a varied people, the variances tend to produce a sort of epiphenomenal moderation on a large scale. Americans have been dealing with revolving debt longer than Koreans; many of us manage to cope with it, in various ways, without plunging into despair. We've also been dealing with "rich country" syndromes (including obesity) longer than other countries, and have been coming up with a huge variety of strategies for facing them. South Korea is prosperous, and some of its citizens are becoming a bit more worldly, but the still-inbred nature of the society shows they have a long way to go.
A recent conversation with a rich couple is illustrative. I was eating dinner with them last week; we'd met through a strange series of connections: my mother's 60-something Korean friend, a certain Mrs. Quigg (yes, she's a naturalized American and married to a white guy... it just never ends), was on a Mediterranean cruise with her hubby when they met this young married couple, Mr. Yoon and Mrs. Im, who are Korean nationals. Mrs. Quigg passed their contact info on to Mom, who passed it along to me as a possible private English teaching opportunity.
So we're at dinner, the young couple and I, digging messily into some samgye-t'ang (a traditional chicken soup). Most of the conversation is getting-to-know-you stuff, but it becomes obvious that this couple has traveled. They've been all over Europe, and all through the US and Canada (their young kids are living and studying in Canada right now).
"Europe's so dirty," says Mrs. Im. I just smile and nod. "When you go to the public bathrooms, you can't put your handbag on the floor." I resist the urge to point out that this is true in most of the public restrooms I've encountered in Seoul.
"Korea's clean, isn't it?" asks Mrs. Im, leaning across the table and staring hard at me.
I hesitate, then decide to lie: "Yes. Very."
Mr. Yoon asks me what I find good and bad about the Korean culture (if you're an expat, you can groan: this is a question from the short list of Ten Standard Questions to Ask All Foreigners, which also includes "What do you think of Korean food?" and "What do you think of Korean women?"). I talk a bit about Confucianism's emphasis on respect and the value Koreans place on education. As one of the minuses, I mention how rushed people are, and the rudeness I encounter when people cut in line (as they do constantly here). I quickly add that I've gotten used to this, and do my own line-cutting because I don't take it personally (which is true).
"Really? Koreans are like that?" Mr. Yoon asks, sincerely taken aback.
Please understand: Mr. Yoon's blindness (?) seems to arise in part from his being rich. He and his wife have very little experience with the Seoul subway system, for example. They never travel like proles. But richness is no excuse: I've seen this same blindness in other Koreans, like the ones who sermonize about racism in America. As Kevin at IA says: GBFKM. Gotta be fuckin' kidding me. In case you haven't noticed, Korea's racism problem makes America look like a color-blind paradise.
Anyway, back to the values question. Rich, well-traveled, thoroughly modern and technologized Koreans may take advantage of the trappings of Western culture, and the shape of their society may, in its legal and administrative aspects, be quite Westernized... but make no mistake: Koreans remain thoroughly Korean. I don't think any truly fundamental Westernization has happened here.
OK... I want to write a bit about my trip to Fukuoka, so I think I'll just end this post here. Damn, I crapped quite a big cyber-log.
UPDATE: The Marmot has chosen a new burrow, at least for the moment, HERE.
Friday, August 22, 2003
Kevin at IA provides an excellent corrective to Fred Kaplan's overoptimistic assessment of the Korean situation.
Satan's Anus roars about Chemical Ali.
ArnoldWatch: The Big Man might consider tax hikes (I think it's good he's being flexible; it fuels my cynicism when politicans back themselves into a rhetorical corner) and endures ankle-biting from Feinstein.
Can the French really have lost this many old folks? My mind simply can't wrap around the figures. Over 10,000 deaths!? The title of the article also makes me uncomfortable.
L'Express has a long article dealing with the heat wave and what went wrong. Article title: "Why the Heat Wave Killed." Some section titles of note within the article: "Information wasn't put out fast enough," and "We're 20 years behind our neighbors." (The French expression "canicule," being used to describe the heat wave, is from the Latin "canis" meaning dog, like "dog days of summer." Frogs killed by dogs.)
Remember the whale fart? Here's news: God farts.
Merde in France smirks about a well-rested and tanned Chirac, back from his vacation in Canada, with 10,000 fewer constituents.
If you've never been by Winds of Change before... let me just recommend the entire blog as one of the most topical blogs I've seen in my admittedly limited cybertravels. It's now on my blogroll.
An alarming ArnoldWatch link: the Washington Post questions Arnold's fashion sense. The Hominid is scandalized.
Flypaper strategy? Terrorism is apparently the "number one security threat" in Iraq now.
Israel and Palestine: more of the same shit.
In case you thought it was all bad news, I bring you this.
Was Ross Perot prescient? The businessman-as-leader meme seems to have gained world prominence.
As predicted long ago by other Koreabloggers, NK will still insist on the bilateral thing.
Defectors? What defectors? North Korea is a paradise, I say!
Your strike of the day. I was wrong: this is well beyond the frequency with which strikes happen in France.
Some empty rhetoric for your reading pleasure.
The South Korean government vs. the press: Round 2.
Yang Suicide Watch: no, I haven't forgotten. Yang's feeling the heat.
Korean cargo workers on strike... yawn...
Korean commentary on US foreign policy.
I'm cutting my blogging off early because I have to prepare for my quick trip over to Fukuoka, Japan tomorrow. Just spending the night in a hotel and trundling back to Seoul to renew my 90-day tourist visa. Am currently working on two visa possibilities-- not sure which will happen more quickly: (1) an F-4 visa for people of Korean heritage (which would be sweet, but might also be deemed unconstitutional by the government); and (2) a regular old E-2 visa to teach. I may or may not have hooked an English teaching gig at Ehwa University. Both the F-4 visa and the Ehwa gig are brainchildren of my buddy Thomas St. John, who gets a shout-out here for his tireless efforts on my behalf.
While I'm on the shout-out thing, I failed to credit my buddy Dave, who originally pointed out the whole Sokal hoax (see below) to me.
So: no blogging on Saturday, unless I do it in the early morning (I have an afternoon flight). I'll probably blog on Sunday, since I'll be back in Seoul around noon, Seoul time.
One week to go until I'm 34 (American age, not Korean age). If you like the blog and want to congratulate me for living this long (I'll be having an "I Outlived Jesus" party), feel free to pass along a donation. Or buy my book, Scary Spasms in Hairy Chasms, either through me directly or through Amazon.com. Buttons are on the left margin.
Stay cool, don't die of the heat, and be safe.
Thursday, August 21, 2003
The Marmot links to this Parapundit entry, and chews on food for thought. And yes: very belated thanks to the Marmot for the Winds of Change links. I'm no longer monitoring traffic since I removed my SiteMeter button, but I'm sure I enjoyed an increase. Kamsa-hamnida.
A worthwhile article from the Georgetown Voice about a subject that interests me.
A hilarious IA post on looting together.
Bush by a landslide? That's been my contention on this blog (after some persuasion from friends), though I can't call him my favorite human being. This Drudge/Zogby post indicates that Bush's ride to a second term might hit some snags.
ArnoldWatch 1: Arianna in the gunsights.
ArnoldWatch 2: I think this Arnoldian sound bite, "The public doesn't care about figures," is a gaffe that may have repercussions. Come on, Arnold. And by the way, get some substance on your website!
ArnoldWatch 3: How could I have neglected to link to this??
This is the kind of news that makes all men wince and curl into a fetal position.
The good Dr. d has put up a brief autobiography, a veritable cavalcade of naked women. I never knew he was such a horndog.
(made you look)
And FINALLY: I thought I simply wanted to die in my sleep-- just stop breathing at age 95 and fade out. But now I know there's an even better way to go.
I opened my mailbox a few minutes ago and found this, which I post without comment for you, the reading public, to ponder. Reactions are always welcome.
AC is a man..maybe.
I have read a number of articles by Ann Coulter, but until recently had never
seen her speak. Last week my partner and I tuned in Larry King Live! on CNN to
watch an interview with Ann. At this point it should be noted that, though I
delve into politics at times, my partner and I are both artists, and both
professionally trained. (As opposed to some middle aged woman at a craft fair.)
Only a few minutes into the program, my partner stated "She's a man!" causing
me some minor confusion, as I had been listening rather than watching the
television. When I directed my attention to the screen, I could see what she
meant. Ann has an Adam's apple. As we watched the rest of the program, I must
admit that at times I lost track of what she was saying as the camera would do
a close-up and I would become distracted by the bobbing motion of the front
center of Ann's neck. I was on travel the next ten days, but being a curious
sort I spent a portion of my (nearly nonexistent) free time looking at some
pictures of Ann on the web. My observations are as follows:
Ann has an Adam's Apple, or some significant swelling at the front center of
her neck that moves when she speaks. There are glands inside the neck in that
general region that could be swollen, and her neck does appear to be more a
woman's neck in the other photos I was able to find. Those photos were
undoubtedly touched up, as they were created for publication (such as book
covers) and the qualities of the face had been noticeably smoothed as well. This
is normal for pictures used for such purposes, and is not suspicious in itself.
Ann has body proportions much more common in men than in women. I do not mean
breasts and hips, but the proportion of upper arm to lower, the shape and
breadth of the neck and shoulders, and such. Note that all of these
characteristics are within the human potential for women, they are just much
more likely in men.
Still being a curious sort, I cannot help but speculate- could my partner be
correct? Is Ann Coulter a man? (Or rather, was Ann once a man?)
OK, maybe I do have one comment: whatever her testosterone level, Ann wrote a cool zinger re: motivation to run in the California recall election:
It is puzzling why anyone would want to assume control of this fiasco. It's like vying to become Roseanne Barr's next husband.
UPDATE: Saddam also has identity issues.
Remember my "paranoid thought" a couple days ago, about Muslims planning mischief in Korea?
Read this and tell me I'm not on to something.
This is how Islam makes a name for itself in the world. The terrorists don't seem to care, and neither do Muslim moderates. How do you dialogue with such people?
*** *** ***
Some Islam-related links...
A Beliefnet article about progressive Islam.
DUdu casts doubt on how well things are going in Iraq. Interesting to match DUdu up against Chief Wiggles.
Opening paragraph of this article:
As you read this another act of sabotage is being considered, planned or carried out, another "improvised explosive device" is being planted, another 18-year-old American kid from some town you never heard of is staring out into the pitch-black desert night straining to see what is or is not staring back at him, another Iraqi family is sweltering through yet another broiling late summer day with no electricity to ease the sting, another 18-year-old Shia from some town you never heard of is contemplating jihad against the American infidel, and another American family just opened their front door to two military officers in their class A's, there to tell them that Johnny wont be coming home.
The writer's post-war concern for the plight of Iraqis is touching. While I was against the war, and see the "moral" justification for it as doubtful (I've argued earlier that I find the "national self-interest" argument to be more honest), I agree with those who say that liberal concern for the plight of the Iraqis was largely absent as the pre-war rhetoric was intensifying. Liberals were apparently forced to toss aside their previous argument about the human cost of sanctions, having to change from "down with sanctions!" to "keep sanctions in place!" because the war plan (and Bush) represented the greater evil.
I consider that hypocritical.
Not to say I think the hawks were right on this. I dislike the so-called moral justification, which to my mind can't stand alone as a reason for going to war in Iraq. And I'm holding the current project to a high standard. We have to find WMDs (and I think we will, eventually, even if it turns out they've floated across Iraq's borders). If we don't, we lose way more than diplomatic capital. We also have to go all-out with nation-building, since that's the project we've chosen for ourselves. Change in Iraq, to be worth anything, has to be fundamental, down-to-the-roots deep. I have my doubts that it's going to be that deep, but I think we have to pull for this effort all the same. Does that sound conflicted to you? It should: I'm honest enough to admit I'm human.
The DUdu author argues against the "Flypaper Strategy":
Their contention is a simple one: the continuation of combat in Iraq is - contrary to popular wisdom and all supporting evidence thereof - beneficial to the United States and its interests. They claim that by engaging not only the Iraqi insurgents but also by drawing other militant Islamic warriors into the Iraqi theater we are not only fighting these people in a site of our choosing but by their very presence in Iraq they are not free to wield their wickedness elsewhere. It was David Warren, writing in his Essays On Our Times website, July 5, 2003, who gave this line of thinking its nom de guerre: The Flypaper Strategy.
This thoroughly repugnant term, which has been picked up by other conservative writers - Andrew Sullivan in particular - directly implies that the soldiers of the American Armed Forces are the bait to a trap from which our Islamic enemies will enter but not leave alive. President Bush proved that he himself is a big proponent of the strategy with his remarkably ill-considered challenge to "bring 'em on," issued a few weeks back from the safety and comfort of the White House. But where he and all the other adherents to this philosophy have failed is in not asking themselves who exactly in this wretched situation is the spider and who is the fly.
I had a good chuckle at this: the flypaper analogy doesn't include spiders. Idiot.
Neil MacFarquhar writing in the New York Times on August 11, 2003, reports, "in much the same way that the Russian invasion of Afghanistan stirred an earlier generation of young Muslims determined to fight the infidel, the American presence in Iraq is prompting a rising tide of Muslim militants to spill into the country to fight the foreign occupier." While it remains highly speculative that the manpower and resources deployed in Iraq by non-Iraqi guerilla fighters/terrorists has left the Islamic militant movement unable to strike elsewhere, it is this kind of reporting that shows that the second tenet of The Flypaper Strategy may actually hold some water.
I have my own doubts about whether a large and diffuse terrorist network is truly going to "concentrate" its resources in constant attacks on US soldiers in Iraq. First, you don't need much more than a rifle to snipe at random soldiers. Materials for bombs are probably all over the place; there's no shortage of supply for would-be terrorists. None of this implies that terrorists are so distracted by our presence in Iraq that they won't/can't plan strikes elsewhere. To that extent, I agree with the DUdu author. But in terms of body count, they're losin' 'em just like we are. It's the "there's just more of 'em to kill" doctrine.
A "female blogger from Iraq" quoted on the DUdu message board says this re: the UN building attack:
You know what? Something like this could never happen to the Ministry of Oil. The Ministry of Oil is being guarded 24/7 by tanks and troops. It has been guarded ever since the fall of Baghdad and will continue under Bremer's watchful eye until every last drop of oil is gone. Why couldn't they have put a tank infront of the UN building? Why? Why? Why? We know the Pentagon's planning has been horrid up until now, but you'd think they would have seen this one coming from a mile away...
Which explains why the oil pipes leading to Turkey were so easily sabotaged. We MUST be protecting the oil above all else! MUST be!
Yeesh. I admit it: maybe being in the situation isn't always a guarantee that your perspective is more privileged. After all, the Shiites calling for US departure are in the situation, and I wouldn't trust their opinion any more than I trust the female blogger's. So you have every right to ask what makes Chief Wiggles more trustworthy to me. The only answer I can give is that this is a guy whose training appears to include the ability to think from a bird's-eye perspective, to see the big picture, instead of doing what the female blogger does when she marvels at her newfound ability to identify gunfire and vehicle noise. The female blogger's doing exactly what an untrained person like me would do in a war: worrying about herself and those close to her, retreating to a narrow perspective. I trust someone like the Chief not to do that, even under heavy fire. I don't blame the female blogger; I'd probably blog about the same kind of stuff if I were in her shoes. But I wouldn't trust me to have a clear(-headed) view of the proceedings.
Meanwhile, in other religious news: an interesting article on Beliefnet about reaction to critiques of Mel's film, and the antisemitism these reactions reveal.
I can tell you don't want to do this. I see it in the way you're hanging back, tossing your head, whinnying loudly, foaming at the mouth, and opening your eyes so wide that the whites are visible all the way around.
That's why I brought the tranquilizer gun today, my friend.
We're doing this, whether you want to or not.
You see, even if I have to drag you, we're going to visit Kevin at Incestuous Amplification, and we're going to read an article about taking responsibility for yourselves as a nation, instead of passing the buck to the supposed victimizer. Seems to be a big theme these days, responsibility.
Still won't come? Then you won't mind if I take aim and do this...
Now that you're drugged and helpless, I'm grabbing The Marmot and plopping him on your ugly face. He's insisting he's not a heartless bastard, but then like a coked-up Jack Nicholson he flies into a rage and screams, "There'd better be a fuckin' good reason for this!"
I'm not sure the Marmot's stable, so I'm dying to see what he does to your face.
Fresh from eating Dubya's eyes and brain, The Vulture takes a quick flight over the terrain. Once he lands, I'm taking you to visit him, too.
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
The sun shone brightly over the monastery. Birds chirped and sang. A gentle breeze was blowing. You couldn't ask for a better, more beautiful day. The Korean Son master surveyed the assembly of hundreds of monks and nuns in silence. Once or twice, he nodded, as if listening to some inner voice. The sea of bald heads and grey robes was perfectly still, waiting for the master to begin his dharma talk.
Suddenly, as if on fire, the Son master sprang to his feet, clutched the microphone in a death grip, and bellowed, "I've got big balls! I've got big balls!"
The assembly regarded the Son master in shock. A few moments passed. The Son master, still standing, breathing heavily, wiped his sweaty upper lip with the back of his free hand and shouted, "And they're such big balls!"
A monk in the assembly stood up and cried, "Dirty big balls!"
A nun popped up, pointed a trembling finger at a monk she had a crush on, and squealed: "And he's got big balls!"
The accused monk, scandalized, stood and pointed back at her: "And she's got big balls!"
And the entire assembly, on fire with enlightenment, rose as one and shouted to the heavens, "But we've got the biggest! Balls! Of them all!"
The whole world seemed new. The master whispered silkily into the mike, "And my balls are always bouncing, to the left and to the right. It's my belief that my big balls should be held every night."
Silence reigned again. The dharma talk was over. The monks and nuns bowed in hapjang to the Son master, and filed away to their respective posts. Pretty soon, the master was alone at the podium. Slowly, he stepped down and began his graceful, measured walk across the compound, all the while reciting the mantra:
Some balls are held for charity
And some for fancy dress
But when they're held for pleasure,
They're the balls that I like best.
*** *** ***
UPDATE: I went digging through Robert Buswell's The Zen Monastic Experience to look for an anecdote. Finally found it.
Ch'unsong sunim (1891-1978), a well-known disciple of Han Yongun (1879-1944), was one of the last masters to cultivate "unconstrained conduct" (muae haeng)-- practice not limited by the usual constraints of monastic discipline and decorum. Refusing to conform even in his old age, Ch'unsong continually wandered from monastery to monastery, disdaining even to observe the retreat periods kept by all the other monks. Tales of his audacious and often obscene conversations with laywomen-- all of which tended to center around pointed references to their vaginas-- are rife among the monks. In one of the more well-known stories, assassinated president Park Chung Hee's late wife, a devout Buddhist, is supposed to have invited Ch'unsong to deliver a lecture at her birthday celebration-- his reputation somehow unbeknownst to her. Ascending the dharma platform before all the distinguished guests, Ch'unsong sat still for thirty minutes, not uttering a single word. Not wishing to make a scene before the First Lady, no one said anything, but the audience was growing visibly agitated. Finally, once he saw that everyone's patience had run out, Ch'unsong bellowed, "Today is the day the First Lady's mother burst her vagina!" and walked out. Needless to say, he was not invited back.
Please don't get the wrong impression about Zen monasticism from this. If you pick up Buswell's book (which I highly recommend), be sure to read his concluding chapter, which is a reappraisal of Zen based on Buswell's "inside" knowledge of monastic life (he was a monk at the Korean temple Songgwang-sa for four or five years; he was originally a monk in a Thai order). Korean monastic Zen turns out to be quite scholastic, despite its antiscriptural reputation; it relies heavily on Theravada texts; and the "subitist" notion of enlightenment, to which monks may pay lip service, is belied by the actual meditative praxis, which can take decades to cultivate the proper mindset. Sudden enlightenment early in a Korean Zen monk's career is exceedingly rare.
Meanwhile, enjoy the spots of Zen wackiness when they appear, in books or in real life.
For a more Christian meditation on change, visit Chief Wiggles here. Chief's latest journal entry about the Baghdad bombing is worth reading, too.
The Vulture, not satisfied with pecking out Bush's eyes, is now digging around in search of brain matter. The Vulture also recommends Joe Conason's new book and quotes a passage from it.
Personally, I'm not so sure that Conason is any different from Andrew Sullivan in tone (esp. when shrill) and tactics (lotsa sound-bite hardball). Satan's Anus, also following the book, directs us to this blog by Julian Sanchez fisking Conason. The InstaSatan himself can be found rumbling here.
Now that blog-city seems to have recovered from demonic possession, Kevin at IA grabs his heavy war hammer and smashes away at Korean sheepitude here, as he debunks astrology. Tossing aside the hammer and picking up Chinese broadswords, Kevin hacks away at the stinky "apology to North Korea" business of the past couple days. Choice phrase: "whimpering pussy." Maybe President Noh should be known as "Comrade Queef" from now on.
The Marmot begs to differ with Kevin re: "superstition," and quotes Shakespeare's famous line: "...There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." [Hamlet, Act I, Scene V]
[Trivia: "dreamt" is the only English word ending in "-mt." Can you name two English words that contain the letters A, E, I, O, and U, in order? No cheating with Google or other aids.]
My own take is probably closer to Kevin's. The Marmot writes: "It frightens me to know that we are consigning a lot of precious wisdom to the dustbin of history in the name of rationalism." I'm sorry to abandon a fellow Hoya, but my feeling is that it's in the light of rationalism that we discover many of these truths aren't particularly precious or wise, and are worth keeping only as historical relics, serving as markers of our progress (or lack thereof). I take a dim view of Christian faith healers and snake handlers, and don't attribute divine powers to these people. I don't see feng shui as actually channeling/directing ki in any meaningful way, and after eating dog, I can say I didn't come away significantly changed by the experience. I attribute value to stuff that actually works, like the principles of philosophical Taoism that realize themselves on the mat in a hapkidojang or taekwondojang.
This doesn't keep me from being superstitious, however. My own superstition is that we all seek roughly the same level of stress, no matter our lot in life. Completely unprovable (for now), but there you go.
But I loved Robert's story about the man killed by his ass. Right up my scatological alley.
Bill Whittle FINALLY put out his newest long essay-- this one on RESPONSIBILITY. As with his "Trinity" essay, I ended up agreeing with Whittle on the grand scheme, but differing with him in the particulars. Whittle obviously hasn't studied deconstruction (which he mistakenly calls "deconstructionism," despite the repeated assertion by deconstructionists that it's not an "ism" at all); I don't like the philosophy much, either, but it's best attacked by someone conversant with the lingo.
[NB: In 1996, physics professor Alan Sokal managed a hilarious hoax, in which he penned a bullshit "postmodernist" paper and managed to get it published in an important literary journal called Social Text; the paper was titled "Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity." Sokal, soon after, published a gleeful "confession": he'd wanted to see whether the intellectual standards of a postmodernist flagship publication could sniff out the obvious bullshit in his paper... the fact that they didn't was damning, and PoMo thinkers have been on the defensive ever since. Sokal's got the history of the debate here. Go through Salon archives and read Gary Kamiya's "Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Total Bullshit," which covers the Sokal hoax, or "Social Text Affair," as it's now called. For a painfully exact parody of deconstruction in action, read The Onion's fucking hilarious "Grad Student Deconstructs Takeout Menu."]
I won't devote any long posts to attacking deconstruction on this blog... after tons of private emails with my best friends, I feel like the subject's been beaten to death. Suffice it to say that Jacques Derrida's deconstruction amounts (in its "good" aspects) to little more than a bad rehash of Buddhist metaphysics. A critique of "the metaphysics of presence" (another way of talking about essentialism) was not only anticipated by Buddhism; it was addressed by certain Greek philosophers as well (in other words, Derrida's critique of the philosophical underpinnings of the West isn't as sweeping as some might think). Deconstruction, to my mind, serves no real function either as critique or as something, well, constructive. Derrida himself isn't a bad guy (at least, he didn't make quite the same over-the-top postmodernist claims as Baudrillard after 9/11); he's actually got a good sense of humor-- about himself and his "philosophy." If deconstruction is to be praised for anything, it's for the sense of play it brings to one's approach to text. Beyond that, however, I don't see what real use it has (my buddy Dr. doCarmo might want to post an objection!).
Back to Whittle. I tend to think Whittle may be over-romanticizing the past, especially in his implication that American journalism used to be objective. I'm sorry, but that's wrong. There's always been slant, and while Whittle's right to call the American press on the carpet for acting irresponsibly, it's still up to the rest of us to read with discernment-- to read around, and not just settle into a partisan groove that gives only one side, one spin. In any case, Whittle's essays, however much you agree or disagree with them, are always thought-provoking, and I'll keep reading them. I'm probably not as critical of Whittle as, say, The Vulture might be; perhaps Brian should take a whack at him. I'll be sure to read.
In perfect consonance with Whittle's essay, however, Merde in France mocks a recent French murder case in which the murderer's defenders say he wasn't responsible for his actions.
The Naked Villain, having read my latest Buddhism essay (just below), speculates: "Perhaps the Buddhists are also Freudians. At least in so much as they are not attached to the idea of a permanent immutable God or scripture." I don't doubt there are elements in Buddhist psychology (and Buddhism in general) that dovetail with Freudian theory, but whether these similarities represent anything deep is... well, beyond my competence to say. But I'll ponder & research. Meantime, I suggest Mark Epstein's Thoughts Without A Thinker, which offers some insight into Buddhist psychology.
Mike also offers the following interesting link, related to his Buddhist-Freudian observation.
UPDATE: I found this article re: the issue of religion and therapy on Beliefnet.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
[UPDATE, February 26, 2004: I've been thinking of retitling this "On Attachment," because the essay doesn't really focus as much on Islam as I thought it would. And maybe that's proper, because attachment isn't uniquely a Muslim problem. It is, as I argue in the essay, a human problem.]
I've been trying to figure out a way to write a Buddhist critique of Islam. I've already written and deleted two long essays, and it's getting frustrating. The thoughts are there, but ultimately, I'm concluding, the essay would have to be short (which goes against my prolix nature).
Buddhism isolates only one major human problem in the Saseong-jae (Sino-Kor. "Four Holy Truths"): the problem of tanha (Skt. craving, thirst, hunger, desire). This is the cause of dukkha, suffering. Eliminate tanha, and you eliminate dukkha. Somewhere in between tanha and dukkha, there is upadana, attachment or clinging.
I tend to view attachment as "desire over time." It's what happens when you allow desire to gain momentum. If I become attached to a particular idea and allow my attachment to gain momentum, then my thoughts, speech and action will cease to correspond to reality. Perhaps the worst feature of attachment is the obsession with fixity. Attachment is an echo of the basic desire we have for permanence and solidity. I want to believe I'm going to live forever, so I believe I've got a soul, and/or there's a permanent God who sits in judgement of it. I want to believe God is numerically singular, that he is "our rock and our salvation." Like Isaiah, I want to affirm that "the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever." I want to believe that mine is a house built on rock, not on sand. Fixity.
But Buddhism tells us reality is change. Being is becoming. It's all sand: even rock is going somewhere, eventually.
If you're a traditional Christian, or any kind of Muslim, you don't want to hear this. Truth for you is probably eternal, unchanging. And if you don't believe this, I bet you probably believe the truth is founded on something firm-- the ground of the universe, the Ground of Being. For Christians, truth is incarnated in the Christ (incarnatio); for Muslims, it's reified in the Koran (inlibritio). We have souls; there is a paradise which the good will inhabit forever; there is no God but God.
And that's the problem. If you clutch the scriptures and shout, "This truth! Only this!", you're only showing the depths of your attachment to ideas: ideas about God, truth, reality. Attachment isn't healthy, which is why a proverb like "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!" arose. You have to let go of truth, of scripture, even of God. If God exists, if scripture has any meaning, then these things are alive and dynamic-- moving.
The child clutches his teddy bear, refusing to let it go. It's an unreasoning attachment, but perfectly natural for a child. What happens when you reach for that teddy bear and try to pull it away? The child goes nuts! As adults, we should behave more maturely, but we rarely do. We still grab and cling-- to political affiliation, religious teaching, and unhealthy habits of body and mind. Try shouting, "Muhammad was just another guy!" in the streets of Tikrit. What happens? The child goes nuts!
Attachment to ideas is the worst. The belief that this, and only this, is the Right Way-- that's attachment. The resultant inability to see the other's point of view, as they see it, produces suffering. Attachment, which is "desire over time," always produces suffering.
This could just as easily be a Buddhist critique of Christianity or Buddhism, because attachment is a universal human phenomenon. No one is immune. But my focus for the moment is Islam, and what I see as the root problem in Islam is attachment: attachment to specific ideas of God, attachment to specific interpretations of scripture, attachment to specific forms of interpersonal conduct.
Does it make sense to plan your lifelong diet by following, fanatically, only one recipe? Such closed-mindedness will lead to malnutrition, I think. If your recipes don't reflect the changing reality of your needs and your surroundings, then your life will lack zest and variety. So we have to be ready to put aside our favorite recipes as we face new situations. My famous gumbo, chock full of shrimp and andouille sausage, isn't going to work if my dinner guests are all vegetarian. I'll have to put that recipe aside. Or I might have to keep the recipe, but vary it: maybe the Gumbo Lovers' Society is coming over and they all love my signature gumbo... but with a different kind of sausage.
Attachment causes suffering. It's a product of the child's mind, and a thought-habit we form early. Let's say I want to go see "The Matrix Reloaded." I round up some friends, and off we go to the local multiplex (pretend for a second that I'm not blogging from Seoul, and am in the land where multiplexes are sprawling affairs with huge parking lots). During the ride, my friends suddenly decide they'd rather watch "X2." Now I'm pissed. I feel betrayed. I grumble assent, but inside, I have no desire to see "X2." My concern is only for myself: How could my friends be so inconsiderate?
Analyze the situation and see where the attachment lay. It lay in my fixation on a particular movie. Far from viewing this evening as an opportunity to hang out with friends, I toss aside the human realities and make a damn movie my focus. This is selfish, but I'm blind to this. So now I'm in a bad mood. My friends see I'm pissed, so they're not in the best mood, either. "X2," far from providing a good night's entertainment, turns out to suck, mainly because I'm pouting. Attachment leads to suffering.
When religious folks get into arguments about truth or God or the True Path, they're still children clutching their teddy bears, because that's the childish lens through which they view the world. You know I'm right: the lack of rationality, the lack of a sense of responsibility for one's own actions, the overemotionalism-- it's all there. The teddy bear scenario, the movie scenario, the Islam scenario-- these are all situations that can be analyzed the same way, because the root of the problem is the same in each case. The difference is only in degree, not kind.
[NB: this claim may horrify some of you who'd like to insist that there's a fundamental difference between killing 3000 people in the space of a few hours, and spoiling an evening by pouting about a movie. I submit that the objection to my formulation is grounded in essentialist presumptions, and you already know, if you've read previous posts, my opinion of essentialism. If you'd like to write in, though, I'll respond at length to this issue. Suffice it to say I do realize there's a real and vast difference between 9/11 and a bad movie night; I'm only saying that that difference isn't fundamental. The same moral issue is operative in both cases. If you're still shocked, I want you to analyze that for a bit. You may discover that, at the roots of your own emotionalism, you're attached to a melodramatic notion of "human catastrophe" that prevents you from seeing the moral connections I'm trying to highlight. There may be a such thing as evil, but evil comes from somewhere.]
Because Buddhism's Four Noble Truths (I'm reverting to the more typical English translation here) boil the human reality down to such a simple dynamic, is it any wonder that Buddhist dharma talks often sound repetitive? Sit in on a few Zen dharma talks, and you'll see what I mean. I've managed to write the long essay I wanted, but in truth, the actual Buddhist critique of Islam is brief, because it's the Buddhist critique of all unskillful action: suffering is the fruit of desire and attachment. These things are all rooted in the mind. Human problems and solutions all begin and end in the mind. Which is why each of us, in our own way, has to wake up.