Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year

Just a brief post this time around...

Many thanks to Robert for the shout-out. Here's hoping that people will continue to make donations and do what they can.

Over at Andi's blog, commenter Paul notes the following site:

At Verbum Ipsum, Lee links to a Lutheran site: Lutheran World Relief.

The Presbyterian Church's disaster response link is here. has a link on its homepage to multiple sources: see here.

The Infidel offers his perspective on the disaster here and here and here.

Rory has more links.

Fatman Seoul says his piece.

Arn's got a whole slew of links.

The Flying Yangban offers some links of his own.

Happy New Year, all. I'm off to watch "The Incredibles" this evening-- 12:10AM showing. Also: this is probably the last of the tsunamiblogging linkage for me. The links are out there; the word's being spread. I'll blog occasionally on the disaster, but the Hairy Chasms' focus will return to its normal lack of focus.

Peace. And be mindful.


Thursday, December 30, 2004

all disastered out, you say?

Well, your annoyance doesn't hold a candle to what these folks are going through, so I hope you won't mind if I continue to beat this drum for a while. Much as I bitch and moan about my hagwon schedule, the fact remains I'm well-fed and safe.

Some updates:

ThoughtNuggets has some useful links here-- see especially the Network for Good.

Annie (a.k.a. Miss Stinky Back in Seoul) emails the following:


thanks for the tsunami relief post - just wanted to let you know that if you call 060-700-0007 you'll get a 2,000 won (i think, i wasn't listening super carefully) donation charged to your phone bill (home or mobile) automatically. so you can donate without doing a bank transfer, all from the comfort of wherever you are. i suspect you'd want to call multiple times.

this is via unicef. more info (in korean) at


Thanks, A.

Charlie at his new and improved Budae Chigae blog has some good links as well. (Found via Nomad)

Keep turning to Tsunamihelp for updates on what you can do to help, and how things are going.

Arn and the ImpQueen provide their own exhortations.

Naked Villainy has two very good posts on the tsunami, one that offers a list of disaster relief contacts (as well as gloomy speculation on the final body count), and another that goes into the politics of aid appropriation. It's not as simple or easy as just tossing money into a basket.



I have to echo the breathless Drudge headline.

See here for the link. This is unimaginable, but it's happening, and the death toll might actually be that big.

If you've blogged about this and have tried to do your part to raise consciousness, thanks. If you haven't, please think about doing so. Post a short list of charities to which you'd feel comfortable offering donations and supplies. Keep this disaster in other people's faces; maybe they'll come around.

I spoke with a student today, and she suggested that expats in Korea should contact Korean media. Apparently, they (i.e., KBS, MBC, et al.) have the phone numbers and other contact info for where to send money and goods.


lust object redux

I taught an old student of mine for two class sessions on Tuesday. The old thrill is pretty much gone. She's still cute as hell, and I'd still like to bang her, but The Privye Membere wasn't bursting through the table as before.

Maybe I'm just too tired. I'm facing the day from hell tomorrow, what with 16 students scheduled, and only two breaks throughout the 9-hour day. I do a 10-hour day on Friday.

Was thinking of being on a mountaintop for New Year's Day to witness the first 2005 dawn, but thousands of people are going to have the same idea. Hell, I might do it, anyway.


Wednesday, December 29, 2004


NB: I'm leaving this post up for all of Wednesday. Updates will be posted at the end of this entry. Please scroll down and see what's up.

Every chance I had while at EC today (Tuesday, I mean), I watched the death toll projections mount on CNN. Most counts seem to be approaching 30,000, and it's possible the final toll will be much higher. At this point, it's hard to say: the totals we're seeing are based largely on the missing, not on confirmed dead (you'll recall that the death toll after 9/11 took a while to finalize as we went from wild speculation to elimination of repeated names on the rosters to a decent idea of how many people actually died).

CNN broadcasters took time out to mention a UN complaint about the stinginess of American disaster relief funding. I won't jump into that issue because I think a debate right now is useless. Instead, I'd like to ask my couple dozen readers to do their part to spread the word, to sensitize those around them, to think about contributing money, clothing, and other supplies to whatever relief efforts are under way, locally, nationally, and internationally.

The disaster was so fast and huge that we still have no clear idea of the true extent of the short- and long-term damage. I have dozens of Korean students who have either mentioned Phuket (in Thailand) as a travel destination, or who have returned from a recent trip there. For all intents and purposes, Phuket has been erased. Several Koreans are already known to be dead, and in the half-dozen or so countries swamped by tsunamis, hundreds of Westerners are feared dead, along with the tens of thousands (!!) of natives of these countries.

Please think about doing something to help. Here's a start:

Orient yourself by reading this OCHA report. (ReliefWeb's main page is here.)

Think about contributing time/effort/money to the International Red Cross.

Check out the list of disaster response agencies on this page.

Also, if you're a churchy or temple-y or synagogue-y or gurudwara-y type, check with your local house of worship about other ways you can be of service. Keep in mind that, as time passes, focus will be on things like warding off starvation, providing fresh water, and prevention of the spread of disease.

It's all well and good to be cheerfully introspective bloggers, chatting away in our little echo chambers, but when something of this magnitude happens, I think we'd all be remiss not to get off our asses, drop the politics and artsiness and goofiness, and do something-- anything-- to help out. Every cent, won, yen, and euro counts.

One last thing: The Nomad has a bunch of links that'll be worth your while. I hope he'll continue to provide updates. Visit his site often, or go where his links lead. Please spread the word. Please think about doing your part, even if that means chipping in a couple dollars or mailing off some clothing and a few supplies.

Thanks for reading.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds notes a one-stop-shopping tsunami blog. Very useful info there.

UPDATE 2: The Nomad has more here.

UPDATE 3: Drudge cites a Reuters article that moves the projected death toll up into the 60,000s. These are wartime statistics.

UPDATE 4: I keep hoping that other bloggers on my blogroll will start writing about this. The blogosphere's a powerful medium for the quick dissemination of information and activism. While I don't generally consider myself an activist, I'm reeling at the scale of the destruction. If you're a Koreablogger with information on what the Korean government is doing to help out, please post that info. If there are ways that expats in Korea can contribute to Korea-sponsored relief efforts (surely there must be churches and temples doing stuff here), please post that info as well. Many thanks to Rory for getting me started with this post of his.

UPDATE 5: If you're having trouble imagining the disaster's scale, think about a stadium-ful of people at a rock concert, suddenly dead and gone. And imagine that that stadium includes a large children's section.

UPDATE 6: Act locally. If you're a blogger who knows of a relief effort being run by an organization you trust-- even if 30 other people have mentioned it already-- please list the contact info for that organization on your blog.


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

can urine ricochet off clothing?

At the end of the morning half of my split shift, I lumbered over to the restroom just outside EC to drain the dragon. I was at the standing pissoir, firing away, when I noticed a small, half-dried, yellow droplet on top of the urinal, on the porcelain surface next to the chrome flusher.

This got me wondering how the hell the urine could have gotten up there. I found myself mentally projecting possible trajectories, doing a urinary ballistics test in my brain.

In case you ladies didn't know this, male urine doesn't usually fly upward unless the schlong is pointed in a generally upward direction. Given that most men pissing in public urinals are not sexually aroused, a given man's urine has little business rising above waist level.

Some possible scenarios:

1. Maybe some dude did have a hard-on. And while pissing, he sneezed or something.

2. The pisser was holding his dong, but he had the DTs or cerebral palsy, so it was a bit like a priest flicking holy water all over the place.

3. The guy was jumping up and down.

4. He didn't have a hard-on at first, but then the 60-year-old cleaning lady shuffled in.

5. He was scooping his urine up with cupped hands in order to wash his face. You know-- kill two birds with one stone.

6. He was having a "bad hole day"-- i.e., the piss was coming out funny. Bad hole days can be a source of hilarity. I've had the double-stream on occasion, but have yet to score the triple. The absolute worst is when the bad hole directs your piss back into your pants. Stop looking at me that way-- this hasn't happened in years.

7. Urine can ricochet off clothing... though we'd still have to explain why it was caroming upward.


p'il-seung Korea!

Perhaps the deadly potent "kimchi fart" isn't a myth after all. South Korea apparently ranks fourth in the world in terms of flatulence-related mortality.

As always, you think I'm kidding. But I'm not.

(thanks, Mark R, for the link)


Monday, December 27, 2004

week from hell, Day One

Today was my normal block shift from 2PM to 10PM, but tomorrow I do a split shift. Later in the week, I'll be doing a 10-hour shift or two, as well as a second split shift.

I don't blame my co-worker for being on vacation, but damn this cramps my style most menstrually.

I wanted to find an image of what a split shift feels like, so I scoured the Net assiduously, and I think I found one.



OK, maybe that's not exactly what a split shift feels like. But if you come here for entertainment, don't get all picky and whiny. It's never good policy to graft the hand that feeds you.


I'm trying to think of a caption for the picture, which I love (and which I did steal from somewhere). So far, here's what I've got.

1. "Your papers are not in order."

2. This dog was genetically engineered to whack you off.

3. You can't see it, but he's also got a set of human balls!

4. Fido reached out and accepted the gun silently, gravely, aware that the entire mission depended on his catlike reflexes and steady aim.

5. "Obi-wan, you fucked up with Anakin. This is your new Padawan learner. Do it right this time."


and how was your Christmas?

Mine was quiet. Saturday, Christmas Day, was spent doing almost nothing except staying indoors, reading William Gibson's cyberpunk classic Neuromancer (for the first time; it's the book that gave us the terms "the matrix" and "cyberspace," if I'm not mistaken), and feasting on Alice Springs Chicken at the local Outback Steakhouse. I've noticed that the servers at Outback tend not to approach me unless I call out to them. Maybe they're afraid I can't speak Korean. Whatever their fears, they need to get over them and give me some decent customer service. I don't bite-- yet. I speak Korean well enough to handle ordering Outback items, and I'd rather not be forced to wait ten minutes to have my order taken when the place isn't even that busy.

I spoke with my parents in the evening when I got back home; Mom and Dad seemed to be fine, if a bit lonely, what with no kids in the house. Both of my brothers were off doing separate gigs (one as a bartender; the other as a professional cellist). I gorged myself on chocolate. My limbs were aching. Incipient diabetes?

Oh, yeah-- I Photoshopped that monks-and-Christmas-tree pic. Yes, I'm easily amused. Some commenter on Andi's blog wrote, "Yo, ditch the tree." I assume he was joshing, making a pun out of Andi's blog's name, "Ditch the Raft." If he was being serious, then Heaven help him and his attachments to name and form. I've talked about Buddhists who can't escape the tight-sphinctered Jesus meme here-- Buddhists looking for an excuse to act just as doctrinaire as they did back when they were Christians. Some people never learn.

[Of course, I'm sure none of this applies to the commenter at Andi's place!]

Sunday was laundry and French teaching day, as per usual. My socks were actually stuck-- frozen-- to the metal laundry rack when I retrieved my clothes from the 5th-floor balcony this evening. I love it.

Spent part of the evening IMing with the Maximum Leader. He and his kiddies are rather sick; send him your get-well wishes.

If I get up early enough tomorrow, I might try and see a matinee before work. Preferably "The Incredibles," but who knows? It's going to be a hellish week, because one of our staff is on vacation, so we have to cover her classes. This means a more crowded schedule than usual, as well as a day or two working longer-than-normal hours. Another reason to seek greener pastures.

Bloggers and other pundits have been debating about how politicized the phrase "Merry Christmas" has become. The whole argument is asinine. For the liberal take, see Brian's entry on the subject. He's got some good points. For the conservative take, see this Scrappleface entry. Also some good points, mockingly made (though some of the extreme conservative commenters made me cringe).

I've blogged on this before: liberals need to remember that freedom of religion isn't the same as freedom from religion, which seems to be what some folks on the left want. That's neither realistic nor healthy. People are going to be religious, like it or not. Religions are too complex to earn the label "inherently evil," so I don't buy the social engineering argument that the world would automatically be a better place without religion. Religions do bring out the shittiest in us, but they also bring out what's good and noble. Don't go imposing simplistic analysis on complex questions.

The best answer for Americans is to lean on our tradition of tolerance and secularism, to give each other room to say our "Merry Christmas"es and "Happy Kwanzaa"s and "Happy Hannukah"s without being offended. There's no reason to assume that I, as a Christian, am trying to convert you or oppress you when I wish you a Merry Christmas. Such an assumption-- made without talking to me first-- only indicates your own arrogance and closed-mindedness.

At the same time, conservatives need to remember that there's no reason for me, as a Christian, to feel oppressed or offended by a Jew wishing me a Happy Hannukah, or by an atheist who prefers to wish me Happy Holidays. And then there's the issue of respect: if I know a Jew who prefers not to be wished a Merry Christmas at Christmastime, then I should honor his wish, instead of stubbornly insisting on wishing him a Merry Christmas, anyway. I'm not "dumbing down" the holiday when I respect a non-Christian's wishes.

It's possible to find a middle way through all of this. We don't have to snap automatically to the extremes. Life is lived in the muddle of the ordinary; our stupid polemics often mislead us into thinking the world is only black and white when in fact it's full of color. Religious conservatives who feel the "reason for the season" is being lost in a wave of materialism and secularism have a point, but religious liberals also have a point when they urge caution and mutual respect. Each side can offer the other its best wishes without acrimony. That's the whole point of living out and benefitting from pluralism.


Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!

way more than three wise men

(I'm sorry, but I have to cross-post this on Andi's blog. She might have a cow.)


Christmas compassion for evil people


Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good roll in the hay.


Friday, December 24, 2004

the meaning of fear

Wanna see something really scary? Check out Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka in the preview to "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." (requires Quicktime)

I'm still struggling to understand the revulsion I felt while looking at Depp's face. Don't get me wrong: I think Depp's a fantastic actor (loved him in "Once Upon a Time in Mexico"), but the scenes in this trailer are just creepy.

My quick prediction: the movie will flop. Too many people will compare this to the Gene Wilder film and find it wanting. Tim Burton, helming the current effort, seems to be going-- yet again-- for an "Edward Scissorhands" vibe. While Burton's aesthetic and storytelling sensibilities do have much in common with Roald Dahl's, I don't think they're a match. Maybe it's because they're too similar at times.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

in praise of the Lindt chocolate truffle

A series of haiku in praise of my all-time favorite confection, a bunch of which I received in a care package from the folks today (Turd's Day the 23rd).

what I ate tonight
would have felled a lesser man
many truffles died

Jesus never said
"Thou shalt not eat Lindt truffles!"
He kicks fucking ass

as the people starve
up in North Korea, I
pop another in

two layers of bliss
feeling naughty, I suck on
preteen chocolate tits

can you imagine
fatass bunny crapping out
mounds of Lindt truffles?

stay the fuck away
this Lindt truffle's mine mine MINE
man, you asked for it

when close to your balls
Lindt truffles can generate


various tributes

If you missed the Smallholder's recent paroxysm of posting (around 30 posts, if I'm not mistaken), go visit Naked Villainy, scroll waaaaaaay down, and start reading upwards and forwards in time.

Many thanks to Dr. Vallicella for his recent post in answer to my latest Lonergan rant. Dr. V notes at several points that he would need more context to understand Lonergan's meaning. I'll go back to the relevant spots in Method in Theology and try to offer more context, if possible, but I think most of what I posted amounts to brute claims by Lonergan. Lonergan's Method isn't heavily footnoted, which I've always found problematic because I know in my bones that a lot of his ideas come from elsewhere, even if I can't isolate sources.

Dr. V is also pondering whether to undertake a more detailed study of Lonergan. For the sake of my sanity, I hope he takes the plunge. I agree that Lonergan's got some good ideas, but I still find him unnecessarily obscure. I assume that all those Lonergan centers have sprung up because there's something about Lonergan that's worth reading, but those centers could also be the product of some sort of mass delusion.

Annika might be curious to know whose body my head is attached to in the pic that now serves as my comments link. Click the image (see sidebar-- "Vomit Vile Vituperation!") and read Rory's entry to find out with whom I've been fused. Me, I could've sworn it was a man.

I'd also like to congratulate myself for making it into the "Batman Begins" trailer. Witness this screen shot:

yeah, you KNOW wut gonna happen next!


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

the debatable Lonergan

Before I quote you some long passages from Bernard Lonergan's Method in Theology, I wanted to offer you a list of some Lonerganian insights, some of which I simply don't understand, others of which strike me as having nothing to do with reality. All page citations are from Lonergan, Bernard. Method in Theology. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971.


A. Page 9: "...different levels of consciousness and intentionality have to be distinguished. In our dream states consciousness and intentionality commonly are fragmentary and incoherent. When we awake, they take on a different hue to expand on four successive, related, but qualitatively different levels. There is the empirical level on which we sense, perceive, imagine, feel, speak, move. There is an intellectual level on which we inquire, come to understand, express what we have understood, work out the presuppositions and implications of our expression. There is the rational level on which we reflect, marshal the evidence, pass judgment on the truth or falsity, certainty or probability, of a statement. There is the responsible level on which we are concerned with ourselves, our own operations, our goals, and so deliberate about possible courses of action, evaluate them, decide, and carry out our decisions.

Question 1: Why is "imagine" located on the empirical level and not the intellectual level?

Question 2: Aren't "reflect" and "work out the presuppositions and implications of our expression" almost the same thing? If so, why are they located on different levels? How is Lonergan assigning these operations to their levels?

B. Page 15: "...sensations can be produced or removed at will."

Question: They can? I call bullshit on that one.

C. Page 18: "...the absence of the effort to understand is constitutive of stupidity."

Critique: Sorry, but that's simply wrong. As I wrote in the margin of that page: "Stupid people can make efforts to understand."

D. Page 27: "What is good, always is concrete."

Question: Huh? What does this mean? No explanation is forthcoming in the chapter.

E. Page 57: "Meaning is embodied or carried in human intersubjectivity, in art, in symbols, in language, and in the lives and deeds of persons. It can be clarified by a reduction to its elements. It fulfils various functions in human living. It opens upon quite different realms. Its techniques vary in the successive stages of man's historical development."

Question 1: What does "techniques" mean in the above? What are the "techniques" of meaning?

Question 2: Does the above paragraph actually provide a definition of meaning, or has the definition been postponed until we can perform a "reduction to its elements"?

F. Page 61: "A pattern is said to be pure inasmuch as it excludes alien patterns that instrumentalize experience."

Comment: I have no damn clue what this means.

G. Page 77: "For meaning is an act that does not merely repeat but goes beyond experiencing."

Comment: Now meaning is an act? I know less than I did before.

H. Page 102: "Judgment proceeds rationally from a grasp of a virtually unconditioned. By an unconditioned is meant any x that has no conditions. By a virtually unconditioned is meant any x that has no unfulfilled conditions. In other words, a virtually unconditioned is a conditioned whose conditions are all fulfilled."

Comment 1: Uh...

Comment 2: The phrase "in other words" struck me as unintentionally humorous. The "explanation" following that phrase left me in deeper murk than before.

I. Page 112: "...language is the vehicle in which meaning becomes most fully articulated."

Comment: All the religion-related posts on my blog add up to an attempted refutation of this claim. Lonergan himself is quasi-foundationalist in outlook; he's not a total postmodernist by any means. But this quote of his could easy lead one to believe he was a closet PoMoer. It is, by itself, entirely consistent with the Derridean claim of "il n'y a pas de hors-texte."

I could go on and on through this book, but in a subsequent post I'll cite something lengthy for Dr. Vallicella to chew on... though he should feel free to untangle the above citations, if he wants.

Previous Lonergan rants are here, here, and here.



The byeenis ees an aaften myeesaanderstyood oorgan. Maeny wyymen syeem, forr whatyeever ryeeason, to fyeear eets appyeearance. "Thaat byeenis loouks ryeady to dyoo some dyaamage," thyeese wyymen syay. So theey spyend thyeir dyayes hyuurrling yeepithyets aat eet, cyalleeng eet "cyock" and "dyick" and "hyose myaanster."

Thyees approoache ees nyot the myost construuctive. Wyymen shyoould spyend myoore tyime geeveeng the byeenis bleasuure. Bllau-yobs aare quyiite pyossiblyy the myost eeffeecient myeans of accyaampleesheeng this ryelatyeevely seemple tyask. The myaagical syynergyiy of leeps and taang upon the syuurface of the byeenis can lyead the maale to a myost syatisfyying clyiimaax een a myaatter of myyiinutes. Byeest of aall, bllau-yobs ryeequire lyeetle eef aany tyalent. The byeenis ees nyot a veery dyiscreeminatyory oorgan.

This message is a pubic service announcement
from Dr. Lunterfrijdindoordensonnen.


interesting developments

I didn't have the expected meeting with the bu-wonjang-nim, because it seems that that guy, whoever he was, has decided not to take over the management of our branch. Word has it he doesn't want to work with Imelda (not her real name). The guy wasn't really a bu-wonjang in the sense of someone well-established: he was merely a prospective bu-wonjang. (See previous rant to find out what a bu-wonjang is, and who Imelda is.)

This means I won't be meeting with anyone about my lab coat. How long can my defiance last? I'm as curious as the rest of you.

NB: Smallholder advises me to suck it up, honor the contract, and wear the damn lab coat. His arguments would make sense if we were in America. My emailed reply to him (slightly edited):


Ah, you think like a Westerner-- contracts are actually important to you.

Yeah, if I were in the States, I'd agree with you. We could actually talk about "principle." But here, where the bosses don't really give a shit what the contract says, all's fair in love and war. You keep your dignity in whatever way you can. I'm probably going to lose mine after tomorrow.*

As for your sympathy for my boss-- don't worry: she needs none. The woman's a sneaky little bitch, using the receptionists as spies, laying guilt trips on Korean and expat teachers to get them to do her bidding, issuing random threats about firing Korean teachers-- even writing up a TWO-PAGE-LONG list of complaints about one of the expat teachers, a newbie, who in my opinion is trying her best & didn't deserve such shitty treatment (she's only been in Korea for six months). If my boss were to get canned for failing to manage me, that'd be icing on the cake.

Part of what allows me (or any expat here, for that matter) to think and act so extravagantly is that being fired isn't a tragedy. There's no black mark on your permanent record-- all hagwon (language institute) jobs are shady to some degree or other. In all likelihood, you'll be fired for unfair reasons. That's typical of many expats in Korea. Foreigners who toe the line to the Korean bosses' satisfaction almost never receive extra perks for their good behavior (or the perks are insultingly minimal). If anything, they're screwed harder, because they've proven they can be used. It doesn't pay to be a good little soldier in a Korean business.

In such a poisonous environment, idealistic talk about upholding a contract means little.

I loved the poem all the same, but thought I should inform you of the ugly realities here.

BTW, as I blogged before, my brother already gave me the "stick to the contract" lecture. Heh. Yeah, in a perfect world...


UPDATE: I also talked to B this evening. She came over to our branch office with a few boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts, and after I caught up with her a bit, I told her about Imelda's claim that B had been negligent. B's response: to look glum and say, "Well, maybe I did make a mistake." Personally, I don't think B made any mistake, but I'd put her in the uncomfortable position of having to defend Imelda. Why? Because that's what a good Confucian would do. This isn't to say that Koreans don't talk trash about their bosses; they do-- all the time. But we were in the staff lounge, and the door was open. I guess B had little choice but to play nice. Upshot: I came away feeling I was right to think that Imelda was, in fact, the lying party in this.

*I wrote this before I found out the bu-wonjang wasn't coming back.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

BigHo brush art

bite my bliss

steaming lump of crap
thuds upon the dusty ground
all the women cheer


a real Christmas meditation

For those of you with siblings you love, this post by my friend Arnie will hit you hard. It made me think about my own brothers, whom I love very, very much.


Monday, December 20, 2004

Owen on Lonergan

From beyond the grave, Owen Rathbone expounds on his fellow Canuck in my newly revamped comments section (see sidebar; look for the Glam Rock Kevin; hit the image and leave a comment):

Saw your post on Lonergan. I actually had the misfortune of having to research this fellow for an employer in Toronto. For several weeks I visited the Lonergan Center in Toronto, photocopied a lot of materials and tried, in vain, to decipher what the heck Lonergan was on about. I understand him more now thanks to summaries of his works I have read recently on the Internet but, to be honest, I think the man was and is highly overrated. A lot of his writing simply is indecipherable because it is bad prose -- not necessarily because his ideas are not worth considering.

Yeah, I agree that Lonergan's got some decent ideas, but he was incapable of expressing them well. Our professor offered us grad students a lame excuse as to why Method in Theology was so dense and explained itself so little: it's because Lonergan, who wasn't young when he wrote MiT, thought he was going to die soon, so it became more important for him simply to get the basic arguments out than to pretty up the prose and fill in the details.

I don't know whether that's an urban legend, but there may be something to the idea that Lonergan was capable of better writing. I did read a few chunks of one of his other works, Insight, and those chapters* were-- despite being from a much larger work than MiT-- a fairly navigable read.

There's something bizarre about having whole "societies" devoted to the study of Lonergan (or any other philosopher, for that matter). It's a scholastic version of the groupie-ism of Trekkies (Trekkers/Trekkors). A Lonergan Center? We might as well enslave a few thousand poor people from across the globe and begin work on the 5-mile-high Lonergan Pyramid. He deserves no less.

And while I'm ranting about Lonergan, I'll note another complaint: Lonergan tended to define his terms by including the term to be defined in its own definition. Example, page 75 of Method in Theology:

A term of meaning is what is meant.

Lonergan also liked to write definitions that tie themselves up in metaconceptual knots. Here's the very first sentence of Lonergan's introductory chapter in MiT, ostensibly a "definition" of theology:

A theology mediates between a cultural matrix and the significance and role of a religion in that matrix.

Give me a fucking break. I mean, where do I begin? I'm not sure I ever understood the above formulation, though I had to pretend I understood it for my coursework.

When normal human beings use the phrase "X mediates between A and B," it's understood that A and B are separate, distinct, not part of each other. But in the above, B (significance and role of a religion in a cultural matrix) appears to be a subset of A (a cultural matrix). Or more precisely, B, the "significance and role," appears to be a subset (or aspect?) of B-prime, "a religion in that matrix," which is in turn a subset of A, "a cultural matrix."

We lost yet?

To make matters worse, I'm not sure how the word "between" has any meaning in Lonergan's definition. Element B is pretty damn abstract. I was never able to visualize the mediating function of theology between a cultural matrix (which is a pretty clear concept to me) and a significance/role. How does one get "between" the cultural matrix and the significance/role of a subset of that matrix?

Forget I asked.

Because my readers like pain, here are some links:

The Bernard Lonergan Web Site

Lonergan Institute at Boston College

The Lonergan Centre of Sydney

I haven't visited any of the above links in detail. I don't intend to. I still resent my profs for putting us through Lonergan. It really was like being shrunk to the size of an egg and forced to struggle our way out of a sheep's intestines.

*One chapter dealt with a phenomenon called scotosis, which my mind immediately converted to the crippling disease scrotosis. I go through much the same process whenever I see the acronynm SCOTUS, or the name of Duns Scotus.


Lonergan's cultural ignorance

I promised earlier that I would provide examples of dense and unreadable passages from Bernard Lonergan's classic work, Method in Theology. I don't have time to do that right now, but I wanted to quote a short passage that exemplifies another problem I have with Lonergan: he thinks things through without checking whether they correspond with reality. Lonergan's entire cognitional schema seems to be like this. Based on his (extremely sparse) footnotes, I gather he did little to no work with the cognitive scientists of his day, relying instead on his own genius (cough) and the work of other philosophers to develop his now-famous formulation of experience, understand, judge, decide. One ignores science at one's peril.

In the following passage, from Lonergan's chapter on meaning, Lonergan makes claims about the universal, objective meaning of a smile. After claiming that a smile does have meaning, and that a smile is "highly perceptible," he says the following on pp. 58-59:

Both the meaning of the smile and the act of smiling are spontaneous. We do not learn to smile as we learn to walk, to talk, to swim, to skate. Commonly we do not think of smiling and then do it. We just do it. Again, we do not learn the meaning of smiling as we learn the meaning of words. The meaning of the smile is a discovery we make on our own, and that meaning does not seem to vary from culture to culture, as does the meaning of gestures.

To his credit, Lonergan notes that smiles happen for different reasons: recognition, friendship, welcome, love, joy, delight, contentment, amusement, refusal, and contempt among them. But I'm not sure how Lonergan squares these various purposes with the idea that a smile's meaning is invariant.

In Korea, people often smile to say "I'm sorry," something we don't normally see in America. Smiling is a culturally conditioned activity: we do indeed learn how to smile, in the sense that we learn when to smile. Whatever meaning arises from the act of smiling arises at the same time from the social and cultural context in which the smiler finds herself. It's misleading to say a smile and its meaning are spontaneous. They are determined as much by the exterior nomos (to borrow a term from Peter Berger) as by one's interior reality.

I should spend some time digging through Method for more examples of where Lonergan makes claims that have little basis in reality. In the meantime, I'll find some unreadable passages and slap them up on the blog.



Thanks to Rory, I now have a new comments button on my sidebar. Check out the new and improved "Vomit Vile Vituperation." All hail Rory!


Sunday, December 19, 2004

dubious honor

What does Rory fantasize about?

It appears he fantasizes about yours truly. I don't know where he got those pics of a younger me, but damn, they sure bring back memories of my Glam Rock phase, when my tits were smaller and my head was positively massive thanks to the shovelsful of cocaine I was snorting back then.


a quick post from Kyungju

I started off late on Saturday-- very late. But the trip was worth it. Kyungju's downtown is a lot calmer than Seoul, and once you're out by Bulguk-sa (Buddha Realm Temple), it's quiet, quiet, quiet-- exactly what the doctor ordered. The only problem was that the trip was too brief. I didn't get to see much, but I did get to walk around the temple grounds and eat some very un-Buddhist bulgogi jeong-shik at the yeogwan where I stayed.

I'm off to Seoul in a few minutes; just stopped off at a hard-to-find PC-bahng to fire off this brief missive.

Coming up this week: my meeting with the EC bu-wonjang-nim about my lab coat. If I lose the debate and am forced to wear the damn thing, I have a request of my readers: please send in "flair." If you saw the movie "Office Space," you know exactly what I'm talking about. Flair can be in the form of pins, or even better, military insignia. I want to be Sergeant Doctor Hominid. If you have some flair and you'd like to send it, please email me and I'll give you a mailing address.

(An "America! FUCK YEAH!" pin might be nice.)

By the way, if this news is true, it's very disappointing. I'm not in favor of curtailing the civil liberties of Muslims in my country. That starts us down the same route as France.

UPDATE 12/20: A co-worker of mine, R, points to the actual source for the above. Read it here. R notes that the news articles are a bit sensationalized.

Re: Dr. Vallicella's offer to help out with Lonergan (and Anthony Flood's reaction to my moaning), yes, I'll be providing several passages.

I anticipate hearing that the passages I select aren't that difficult, but there's no objective answer to the question of unreadability. I could produce a small army of CUA grads who will readily agree with me that Lonergan is a slog.

The problem with Lonergan, especially with Method in Theology, is that it's assumed you have some background in Lonergan's thinking. Lonergan doesn't use English like a normal human being, and MiT was my first taste of him.

If Lonergan were alive today, I'd force him to maintain a blog. It's been my pleasure to read the likes of Dr. Keith Burgess-Jackson and Dr. Vallicella, even when I disagree with them, because they keep their ideas largely clear and accessible. Lonergan simply hurts.


Friday, December 17, 2004

signing off for the weekend

I'm off to Kyungju this weekend, avoiding the mandatory company Christmas party. No blogging until Sunday evening, I fear, so I leave you with a shameless display of Hominid swag. Think about buying and sending off some items. If you've got friends with a gross sense of humor, my store is the place to shop.

Nothing says "Christmas!" quite like a BigHominid greeting card. Here, once again, is a review of what we've got in the online store:

The newest mug design:

all life is characterized by suffering

The Ass-Lion mousepad:

buy a mousepad, dammit

The Tittie Christmas card:

buy a well-endowed card!

The Santa's Judgement card:

he knows when you've been bad or good...

The Dog Fart Christmas card:

all hail the ass gas

The Ass-flavored Christmas card:

new colorized cards!

The Phosphorescent Snot card:

new colorized cards!

The Pungent Genitals card:

new colorized cards!

The Rudolph card:

new colorized cards!

The Santa Didn't Come card:

new colorized cards!

The Gift of Pain card:

new colorized cards!

The Tongue Chomp card:

new colorized cards!

The Ass Lion card:

new colorized cards!

And last but not least-- the Two Assholes card:

new colorized cards!

Many thanks to the folks who bought my book through Amazon. Don't let the current "only 1 left in stock" discourage you; more can be had either through Amazon or directly through me via PayPal (see here).

My online store also features plenty of other items, like mugs and mousepads. A quick reminder of some of the things you can find there:

Ssshhhh!  My ass is doing its breathing exercises!

I think you'll become a member soon.

Another mousepad!

This one confronts, in haiku form, one of the great, sad truths about mousepads. Click on the image to buy one. And watch where you stick your dong.

I'm going to start hiding secret messages in these little dialog boxes.

QUICK NOTE: The images I slap onto my blog are, by necessity, rather low-dpi, always lower than 200dpi, and usually hovering around 72dpi. You'll have noticed some graininess or blockiness to the images, but this does NOT translate to bad image quality for the CafePress products. The graphics files I give to CafePress are all 300dpi images (sent in PNG format), and since I've seen what they look like on CafePress products, I can vouch for their quality.


up through the atmosphere, up to where the air is clear...

Click the above image to see a FULL-COLOR version of the mouse pad!

Don't forget all the other lovely, loathsome designs-- it's practically a little art gallery now. Visit my online store. Help feed a religion student (not that I need much feeding... OK, help buy me a treadmill, Pilates work station, and Everlast 70-lb punching/kicking bag).

Juju and mojo mean roughly the same thing.

haw haw

The mugs:

Fart in an elevator and someone might just kick you in the balls.








Lonergan makes my sidebar

Here, thanks to Dr. Vallicella's site, is a link to Bernard Lonergan, one of the densest, most unreadable thinkers I ever had the misfortune to study while doing grad work at Catholic University in DC. The Lonergan link is now on my sidebar, because misery loves company and reading Lonergan is the short route to misery.

I really need to throw some Lonergan quotes up on this blog to show you what I mean by "dense" and "unreadable." I have Lonergan's classic Method in Theology here with me in Seoul, though God only knows why. One of my profs at CUA, Father Komonchak, was a student of Lonergan's*. I think Fr. Komonchak is cool as hell-- very clear, very crisp. Lonergan, on the other hand, is as opaque as twice-shat cream corn.

Part of my problem with Lonergan is the typical frustration of the young student who finds himself face-to-face with a hard read: I want my philosophy presented in an easily digestible manner. Philosophers themselves will doubtless argue that I'm just being lazy, and they might have a point, because I am lazy. But I don't think I'm unjustified in asking philosophers, who supposedly aim for clarity of thought, to write readably. Readability and clarity are linked. I'd even go so far as to say they're fused.

Is this really such a hard task? If you philosophers grouse that we students need to work harder at understanding you, then I suggest you look in the mirror and do the same for us: work harder to make your ideas more accessible, dammit. I think it's possible to meet halfway.

No need to dumb things down; I'm not asking for My Pet Goat. All I'm asking for is something elegant, for arguments and ideas that flow like the graceful rhythms of nature... instead of belching smoke and going nowhere, like a busted old car in need of constant attention.

I'll settle for Is My Pet Goat Real?

*"He was a pupil of mine before he turned to evil..."


damn-- forgot to mention

Thanks for voting. Apparently, I've been nominated twice, for Best Korea Blog and Funniest (Asia) Blog. I'm sucking sheep ass in both categories, and it makes sense: my blog isn't much a Koreablog to the extent that I don't devote much time to exploring Korean language, culture, history, and politics; and I'm not a specifically humor-oriented blog, either.

If you'd like to do your part to make sure I finish dead last in both categories, please vote for other blogs by following this link. You can vote once per day, one vote per category.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

hey hey!

Guess what's now open in Korea!

Visit Brian's fine blog to find out more. But caveat emptor: Drambuie Man leaves a comment to Brian's post that gives me pause.


First Noble Truth

In honor of the haiku I wrote in the previous post-- this new mug design, now available at my CafePress store:

all life is characterized by suffering

It's a good metaphor for what teaching at a hagwon can be like.


reactions to Suzuki-vs.-PoMo

My Suzuki vs. PoMo post has been generating some comments over at Andi's blog. Feel free to add your voice, especially since I don't allow anyone to vent on my blog (there's nothing stopping you from sending me an email, though, if you're dying to comment).


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

damn, that was fast

I emailed my resume last night and had a "thank you; we'll talk soon" reply early this afternoon.

I checked my email during a break this evening, and received the following bad news:

i've been just told by management that they have chosen another person. sorry.

So there we are.

The occasion calls for a haiku to express my disappointment:

naked, feet aloft
using hands, I drag my balls
across broken glass


another EC rant

Today (Tuesday, I mean) was both marvelous and shitty. Marvelous, because my schedule was amazingly light (it's been fairly light ever since I switched partners, as happens at EC every few months). Shitty, because I had the first of our so-called "pay meetings" today.

Pay meetings weren't a regular feature of expat life at EC, but one of my colleagues felt they would be a good idea, and I agreed. My colleague's point was that, up to now, there's been almost no communication between our boss, Imelda (not her real name), and the expat teachers. The impression we expats get is that management is distant and aloof, making declarations from on high.

EC's Korean teachers have had pay meetings on a regular basis, and they're almost never pleasant. The meetings are an opportunity for management to bitch at staff about student complaints, absences, low reregistration rates, and whatever else comes to mind.

True to form, today's pay meetings weren't pleasant for most of the expats, either. In my case, the first item of business was my lab coat, or rather, why I don't wear it. I told Imelda it was stifling (only part of the truth; I decided not to get into the whole "it's fucking degrading" bit). She said that my lack of a lab coat didn't concern her, but the bu-wonjang-nim (vice president of EC) saw me without the coat the other day and commented on it. Her tactic was the classic guilt trip: "I don't care about the lab coat, but please wear it or I'll get in trouble." I told Imelda I would talk to the veep and explain my position. I've decided to wuss out: if he insists I wear the lab coat, I'll cave in and wear it. The benefit to you, the reader, is that you'll finally see me in the monkey suit, reduced at last to powder-blue indignity.

Next order of business was my pay. I'd worked three Saturdays in October, which meant I'd gotten an extra W100,000 in November. I was also promised by B, one of the front desk workers (no longer with us), that I would be working only one Saturday in December, but for less pay. I agreed that this was fair, and assumed I'd see the deduction in my January pay (the money we receive is always for the previous calendar month).

So: I worked a normal two Saturdays in November, which meant I should have gotten a normal W2.2 million (before taxes) this month. Instead, I got 2.1 mil (1.8 after that deduction, plus taxes). Somewhat pissed off, I asked for an explanation. The one given was complete bullshit: according to Imelda, B never told her that I'd been promised a single Saturday of work in December. Therefore, this confusion was all B's fault, and Imelda's solution, once she "found out" about my arrangement, was to lop off W100,000 from this month's pay. But why? Shouldn't the deduction occur in my January pay, since I'm working only one Saturday in December?

Try to imagine this. B, a front desk worker in constant communication with her immediate boss, Imelda, somehow failed to mention a rather important arrangement involving one of the expat teachers (and there are only six of us). I don't buy it. I think Imelda's looking to shift blame onto B because B's moved to another branch. Imelda assumes I won't do the legwork of tracking B down and asking for her side of the story, which means Imelda underestimates how psychotic I can get when I've been fucked over. I will be asking B for her side of the story. Soon.

The debate over my pay became heated, switching from English to Korean. Both Imelda's and my face were getting pink. In the end, Imelda said she wouldn't be deducting anything from my January pay-- i.e., I will be receiving a full W2.2 million (before taxes), as if I'd worked two Saturdays in December instead of one.

Question for the audience: do you, for a moment, think I trust Imelda?

My current Korean teaching partner, D, has been a trouper at EC since before I signed on. He worked a split shift for nine months without complaining. While many Americans will be quick to blame D for not having said anything earlier, I tend to be more understanding: work conditions are shitty everywhere in Korea. There's always some boss somewhere trying to fuck you over. If you come to love Korea, it's unlikely that that love will have anything to do with your job (unless you've got a cushy company job or a decent university job at a place that actually cares about academic integrity). What would D gain by rebelling?

For Koreans at EC, conditions are much worse than they are for expats. First, Koreans are paid less. Second, they are the ones whose pay is affected by reregistration rates, absenteeism, and the like (we expats are, in principle, on salary; even if students complain about us, it doesn't affect our pay). Third, Korean employees get no vacation and no sick days. Is that fucked up or what?

EC outrages me on several levels, and I'm having trouble deciding whether my own situation or that of my Korean colleagues is more upsetting. The problem, too, is that, for expats, work conditions at EC aren't all that hellish: we don't have to create lesson plans, nor do we have to send out homework assignments and keep in constant phone contact with the students-- something our Korean counterparts all have to do. The hell resides in (1) the local branch's perverse management, and (2) the rays of ultimate evil emanating from EC headquarters in Yeoksam, just down the street from us.

The EC system, as it's set up, doesn't encourage a teamwork dynamic. If a student has a complaint about an expat, the complaint goes to Imelda first, where it's then passed along to the Korean partner teacher, who then has the sorry duty of breaking the news to the expat that something's up. I've received only one complaint so far (and in my arrogance have dismissed it as illegitimate), but this was the route the complaint took. Other expat colleagues say the same thing. It's a terrible way to run a school, but it's also quite Confucian: direct confrontation is to be avoided, especially if the student (whose status is lower) has a problem with a teacher (whose status is higher). The student complains to someone higher than the teacher, like Imelda; Imelda, being of higher rank, can dump on the teachers at will, because Confucianism is gravity-operated: complaints, like shit, float downstream.

Because expats and Koreans are paid differently, our motivations are different, and this also affects the teamwork dynamic. When a student calls in to say he can't make class, this gets counted against the Korean teacher who, if s/he accrues too many absences, can receive a pay cut or even be fired. The expat teachers, on the other hand, view every absence with joy: "Yay-- a half-hour break!"

Thanks to a recent measure instituted by K, the founder of EC, Korean teachers are now able to view each other's absentee and reregistration rates. The idea, which I find fucking twisted, is that this disclosure will spur the Korean teachers to be more competitive with each other. This, in turn, will theoretically drive down absentee rates. Everybody wins!

The problem, of course, is that such a system simply increases the Korean teachers' sense of desperation. Even the teachers with very low absentee rates get nervous, because now they're afraid of being resented by their colleagues. More important than this, however, is that the whole notion of determining a teacher's pay by calculating absentee and reregistration rates is a sham.

Students fail to come to class for a variety of reasons. Most EC students are adults, usually businesspeople. As such, their schedules are in constant flux. Meetings run overtime, or the company is experiencing some sort of crisis. Students also get sick, or have family/personal problems requiring their attention. None of this is anything the Korean teachers at EC can control, and yet these factors help determine whether one is paid well or fired.

The upshot of all this is that I've been shopping around for another job. EC, as I may have mentioned a while back, was never my first choice for employment. A buddy of mine has a possible lead: a proofreading/copy editing position for a major news agency here. The pay sounds fantastic: over W3 million a month, which would be quite a leap upwards for yours truly. There's some competition for this position, naturally, so I'm not assured a spot. But I've sent my resume in. We'll see.

If I get the job, I'll find it hard to say goodbye to students and co-workers. I have no complaints about my students, even about the one who complained. I've been lucky to have good partners, too: J, J, and D have all been great. But I don't want to continue working for an organization so bent on dehumanizing its employees. While I doubt the news agency job will be much better in that respect, it has the added benefits of better pay and civilized hours. It'll also be free of the typical hagwon-related bullshit with which we expats are all too familiar.

I should note, however, that life at EC is nothing like the hell Shawn Matthews went through during his first few months in Korea. I finished his book, Island of Fantasy, yesterday, and can honestly say I sympathize: Shawn had it bad. The "Wonder School" Shawn describes was breathtakingly brazen in its maltreatment of employees. One of Wonder School's owners comes off as nearly psychotic. I've known psychotic Korean bosses, so I can relate to Shawn's experience. While I'll be happy to find greener pastures, I can't say that EC gets as high a shit-o-meter rating as some other hagwons do.

Wish me luck. More news as it happens.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

lots to talk about

More later, when we're alone, my sweet.


and speaking of manuscripts...

Welcome... to Fantasy Island!

I received my copy of Shawn Matthews's Meisterwerk, Island of Fantasy, today. When I opened the package, the book was wrapped in simple brown paper with an earnest "Thank you!" noted thereupon. It's even been autographed (and dated, no less).

I've been reading and enjoying Island of Fantasy since I started it this afternoon. Shawn has a great ear for Korean-vs.-expat dialogue: even when the exchanges appear a bit cartoonish, they ring true. Any Western expat who's been in Korea longer than a few months will know exactly what Shawn's talking about.

To his credit, Shawn makes an effort to view his experiences positively; his reminiscences are seen through a filter of good humor. Shawn's a clear writer; his prose is unpretentious and moves the story along nicely. I'm already about halfway through the book, but know enough to recommend it-- highly-- to those of you who haven't purchased a copy yet. Do Shawn a favor and shower him with filthy lucre. He's written a terrific story and deserves your attention.

(You expat teachers in Japan will probably relate to this book, too.)


not sure why this makes me smile, but...

...after years and years of wooden and/or outright bad acting, David Carradine's has been nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his role as Bill in the Kill Bill movies.

By all rights I shouldn't like David Carradine, but for some reason that escapes me, I do. He's one of my favorite B-movie actors, and the man really thinks he's a Zen master. Read his (sometimes unintentionally hilarious) interview with the Onion AV Club here.

Before you go, refresh your mammaries and read my reviews of both Kill Bill movies, here and here.


Monday, December 13, 2004

400 pages

I'm diarrhetic where it counts.

Did a lot of work on my manuscript over the weekend, and it appears I've typed enough religion-related material on this blog to fill over four hundred single-spaced 5x8" pages using 12-point Garamond Condensed font.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to generate book material-- for any kind of book, be it religious or humorous or both. I don't think I've produced enough humorous writing to put out a sequel to Scary Spasms in Hairy Chasms, but I'm seriously contemplating bulking up the original book with some extras-- sort of a Scary Spasms version 1.2: Evulsed Eyeballs and Cat-clawed Testicles effort, if you will.

The upcoming religion book, which still doesn't have a title, won't be available until sometime next year-- early in the year, I hope.

Four hundred pages. Hypergraphia. Am I epileptic or something?


Sunday, December 12, 2004

a brief look around the neighborhood

The Maximum Leader isn't happy with his lax ministers, who failed to post anything on his blog during his absence. He is, however, proud of his baby boy's very first blog entry.

Get your infusion of foreign policy news over at Duophony. Of special interest to me was Joseph's post about an increasingly frustrated Russia.

Charlie, where's your blog? And Conrad, where are you?

Wooj is off to London, and thence to Parts Unknown.

YOUR EVENING MUST-READ: A marvelous Party Pooper takedown of a female Korean lecturer in the States who purports to conduct a "cross-cultural skills" class. Americans will cheer the Pooper's step-by-step fisking of an article she wrote. I agree with the Pooper that the lady sounds like she's trying to rationalize why her class went poorly. Some of my Canuck readers will probably just shrug at the Pooper's rant. "More Yank arrogance," they'll grouse. But moderates in all countries will realize the Pooper's made some valid points, the most important of which is that this lady falls short of her own curricular standards.

Stavros would rather that bloggers suffer the indignity of begging others for money instead of using their brains and talent to try and make a little cash to fund their online habit. Got that? Don't work-- beg. Since Stavros himself has spent time groveling, I suppose that's perfectly fine for him. Hey, to each his own. At least he didn't spend that post obsessing over his favorite subject.

[Full disclosure: my own blog had a tip jar, of sorts, early in its career. Then I thought better of it after an email from the (somewhat left-leaning!) Minister of Agriculture over at Naked Villainy. Now I sell stuff because I'd rather work for the money than whine for it. Does it net me much? No, of course not. Even if the money were pouring in, I'd still be in debt after a year. This is one dude who'll probably never know what it's like to be rich.]

The Nomad displays a fine, fine catch. And check out his most recent posts to get a taste of some righteous indignation re: everything from sexual assaults by Korean high school boys to SK's suck-ass Sunshine Policy of appeasement.

Daehee shows us his dad.

Who is Gord? Gord is an alley cat.

Rory's got some inventive blog award categories.

So, how'd the meeting with the folks go, Neil?

Heh. Applebaby.

We're off to Tijuana... Japan.

China can be scary sometimes.

Kilgore's Kung fu Klassic.

Jeff notes that outrage is all the rage. I spent some time on Jeff's site and read through his short story links (go here). He's a fantastic writer. With all the techspeak in his prose, I ended up thinking he's the short story lover's Michael Crichton, but with better turns of phrase and superior characterization. I especially enjoyed the Cuba satire.

I didn't know there was a reunion going on, but then again, I'm always the last to find these things out.

Is Arn gunning to become the next Fred on Everything? This is a great post.

Dr. Vallicella ruminates on Bob Dylan and Islamofascism, among other things.

Deus absconditus.


does Sean Connery have bodyguards?

I've slept less than two hours, from about noon to 1:45PM today. I was up all night, learning the ins and outs of my wonderful new Israeli word processor, Mellel. I'd wish the designers in Tel Aviv a Happy Hannukah, but I understand that Hannukah, as a Christmas competitor, is much bigger in America than in Israel (not to knock the event or the history to which it refers, of course!).

I also wrestled with my Mac OS X and discovered some neat stuff about PDF conversion.

"Why is all this important?" you ask.

It's because I'm reaching a crucial phase with one of the books I'm trying to put together. This is the religion-related book, the one my mother can sell at work (oh, damn-- she might be retiring next year). I've compiled a huge manuscript, and am in the process of weeding out the unwanted material-- never an easy task for a literary narcissist. The next phase will be editing the material, cleaning up the prose, tying themes together, giving the book some sort of coherence. Right now, it's just a disparate compendium.

The phase after that will involve formatting the text-- proper fonts, pagination, chapter/section headings, the addition of any graphics, etc.

Then the whole thing gets converted to a monster PDF and uploaded to my CafePress site.

But we're not done! I also have to design the front and back cover, as well as the book's spine. Anything good takes time; this might be a few months, but my point is that, as of this weekend, there's been a surge in my progress thanks to the all-night tinkering. I can now create exactly the PDF I want, formatted to taste.

Now I just need to think of a title. Suggestions? If I like your suggestion and use it, you'll be credited in the book. I'm thinking of something that cleverly combines most or all of the following themes: Christianity/Presbyterianism, Zen/Buddhism, Eastern philo/religion, interreligious dialogue, and philosophy of religion. Feel free to wax poetic. How about:

Even Testicles Erode: A Presbyterian Appraisal of Buddhist Emptiness and Other Matters.

Phallus-ophy: A Nasty Man Laughs at God

The Garden Within My Buttocks: Scattered Religious Insights by a Christian looking Eastward

Goddammit: An Irreverent Look at Eastern Philosophy and Religious Pluralism


(No, the above titles aren't meant to be serious, but they're in the spirit of what I'm looking for.)


bloody Sunday

Somewhere in the world, a woman is having her period, and it's a heavy-flow day.


Saturday, December 11, 2004

this Saturday sponsored by Hardy and Tiny

My stats took a massive hit when I went on one-week hiatus, and it's been a struggle ever since to recover my original numbers. My slow crawl back up to nearly 200 hits a day has been arduous (we're not there yet by any means), and today's peak (as of this writing, I'm only a few hits away from 200) is due to the stellar-- if somewhat bizarre-- work of Hardy and Tiny, the hilarious Koreablog that winked back into existence a little while ago.

My history with H&T is a bit jumbled. For a long time, I didn't blogroll him (I assume it's a "him" and not a "them") even though I'd intended to. Then, when I finally blogrolled him, he went offline, the bastard. Then, when he came back a little while ago, I'd taken my bad link offline, so we were back to Square One.

Sorry about all that, dude.

Anyway, the Hardy and Tiny blog is now enshrined on my blogroll and H&T is online. The planets are finally in proper alignment; Armageddon can begin at last. For the sidebar logo, I cribbed a pic from H&T of a lovely, mud-spattered lady with a very shapely ass. I'm probably going to be accused of morphing into a porn blog because that pic features a delicious hint of pussy hair, but I figure the risk of eternal damnation is worth all the trouble-- not to mention the esthetic rush of seeing that marvelous ass on MY sidebar every day.

Which reminds me: Please do not whack off to my H&T sidebar image. I don't want to think that people are visiting my site with their pants unzipped. Sorry, but that just doesn't do it for me.

Please visit Hardy and Tiny instead, and choke that chicken to your heart's content.


Zen and postmodernism: Suzuki's wisdom

I've never been a big fan of postmodernist thinking. My contention, coming at this from a more or less Zen angle, has been that Pomo-- especially as exemplified in the thought of Jacques Derrida-- is content to play in the realm of dualism. While Derrida's deconstruction shares certain thematic traits with Buddhism, such as the idea that there's no "transcendental signified," i.e., no ultimate ground of meaning, Buddhism is saying something more, namely, that there is a settled suchness to reality.

Shunryu Suzuki's classic Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind has been on my bookshelf for ages, but tonight I decided to take it along to dinner with me (Outback Steakhouse pig-out evening: All Hail the Alice Springs Chicken). As I often do with unfamiliar books that purport to be compendiums or reference texts, I flipped to a random page and started reading. It didn't take long to strike gold. In the following passage, Suzuki clearly delineates the crucial difference between the Zen perspective and the postmodernist one. He says:

When we say something, our subjective intention is always involved. So there is no perfect word; some distortion is always present in a statement. But nevertheless, through our master's statement we have to understand objective fact itself-- the ultimate fact. By ultimate fact we do not mean something eternal or something constant, we mean things as they are in each moment. You may call it "being" or "reality."*

The first two sentences of the above paragraph are, whether Suzuki intends this or not, a concise summation of the postmodernist position. The rest of the paragraph, however, shows where Zen goes and postmodernism doesn't.

Pomo thinking is largely satisfied with the idea that reality is a construction. Depending on the Pomo thinker, this can be taken to mean that reality is a web of power dynamics, or layer upon layer of simulacra without any bottom, or the eternal play of (human-generated) malleable signifiers. "Who am I?" isn't a question the Pomo thinker can take seriously, because his first urge will probably be to deconstruct the question.

In a sense, this is what Buddhist practice does, too. The "I" is deconstructed and shown to be empty. Emptiness itself (if we follow Nagarjuna) is shown to be empty. Ultimately we end up right back where we started, here in the just-this of this moment, scratching our asses, toggling the page up/page down keys on our keyboard, sipping a drink, or blogging about our enormous dogs.

But if the Korean monks I spoke with at Haein-sa are correct, then "Naega-nugu-nya?" ("Who am I?") is a question of utmost importance. Suzuki is saying there is something more than the flimsy, doily-like, de/constructed "reality" of the Pomo point of view. What that reality is, we can't say directly, just as you can't talk about the Tao. It's also wrong to say we can "know" that reality, because this is still dualistic talk: the subject-verb-object metaphysics of "knower, knowing, thing known." But never doubt there is a reality, resplendent in its trivial suchness.

So what's the answer to the reality kong-an?

As Korean Zen master Seung Sahn says, if you want to "attain watermelon," you have to cut a piece and eat it. "BOOM! Your experience!" Seung Sahn cackles. You and the watermelon are not-two, of course. In a deep sense, you don't really "attain" watermelon any more than you "know the taste of" watermelon. Nothing to attain; nothing to taste; no you. Think of the watermelon as your dharma talk, a sermon about the nature of all things, pointing directly and unerringly to what is, to right now, to this moment.

*Suzuki, Shunryu. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. New York: Weatherhill, 1997 (37th printing). The quoted text is from the section titled "Communication," on p. 87.

NB: For a charitable explanation of postmodernism, visit my buddy Dr. Steve's online explanation here. The folksy tone of his explanation is designed to cater to an American undergrad's often-minuscule attention span.

NB2: This post is being cross-posted on Andi's blog, Ditch the Raft. Andi is on retreat, and I promised to contribute a few posts to her blog during her absence.



What would a Christmas song sound like if sung by someone with Tourette's?

Wonder no more!


if you meet Jesus on the road...

the bestest gift of all

(No actual Jesuses were harmed in the making of this toon.)


aboot Joel

That's how Kevin of IA would have written it, anyway.

Joel's got great commentary on a new ABC TV series that's apparently causing some controversy, here in Korea, for its portrayal of Koreans-- especially Korean men. Joel, who's been watching the series, puts the whole thing in great perspective. I suggest you read his piece.


whoa-- there is a God!

So says famed atheist-- now ex-atheist-- Anthony Flew, according to a recent article. Flew's conclusion appears to be based on the dazzling complexity of DNA, and he's come to accept some version of the Intelligent Design argument as an explanation for life on earth.

A few notes:

1. Flew states that science "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved." But scientists themselves are far from unanimous on the subject. If anything, the prevailing ethos of scientific skepticism almost guarantees that scientific "Intelligent Designism" will remain a minority position. Flew is using scientific evidence to come to a conclusion not reached by a majority of scientists.

2. As plenty of people (including Flew himself) have pointed out, Intelligent Design Theory in no way implies that the designer is the Judeo-Christian God.

3. Flew's conclusions, if based only on what we know about the human genome, are derived from too parochial a source to be applicable cosmos-wide. Unless Flew is stating a narrow contention that "life on earth was designed," he would need to consider evidence from science's cosmological wing before claiming that the entire universe has an intelligent designer. Not having read any Flew before stumbling upon this article, I can't say for sure that Flew is, in fact, citing only the genome as evidence for his newfound theism.

4. An interesting insight I read in the pop-science book Taking the Red Pill: Philosophy and Religion in the Matrix is this: Never confuse intelligence with consciousness. The man who contends this, Peter B. Lloyd (see especially pp.118-120), says it may be possible for us to design machines that solve problems and navigate the human world with extremely complex heuristic algorithms, but this doesn't mean the machines are anything more than machines. As he puts it:

Intelligence is the capacity to solve problems, while consciousness is the capacity for the subjective experience of qualities.... A digital computer can be programmed to perform intelligent tasks... without any need to introduce enigmatic conscious experiences into the software. On the other hand, a conscious being can have subjective experiences-- such as seeing the color red or feeling anger-- without needing to use intelligence to solve any problems.*

If we accept Lloyd's definitions and apply his insight to the question of intelligent design, we have even less reason to believe that our hypothetical intelligent designer is in fact a Person in the required theistic sense (and it is, after all, theists who are most interested in this argument).**

I don't think science is going to provide an answer to the fundamental question, "Why is there something instead of nothing?" Not anytime soon, anyway.

[Article found through a link on Dr. Vallicella's site.]

*I would caution anyone seeking to rebut Lloyd's position that they need to read Lloyd's chapter in its entirety before passing judgement. The snippet I've quoted doesn't tell you everything.

**Notice that, even if you define "intelligence" and "consciousness" differently from Lloyd, it's still conceivable that the universe's designer isn't personalistic.


Friday, December 10, 2004

forgot to mention

The attentive will have noticed that, as of Thursday night Seoul time, all the blogger sidebar images have been put up. That means:

What Not to Do in Asia
Reverend Jim's House of Pain and Redemption
Fatman Seoul
Verbum Ipsum
Bill's Comments

...are no longer mere links: they're BigHominid links, part of the Rogues' Gallery. Nothing fancy, but there we are.


ultimate firearm

the bestest gift of all


Thursday, December 09, 2004

on the question of "rest"

Kangmi asks:

Where does rest fit into your picture of the yoke and the cross?

Kangmi wrote this a while back in reference to my previous post, and I apologize for not responding sooner.

The quote from Matthew 11:28-30 is this:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

I wouldn't take this quote to imply a literal, physical rest. Jesus' sayings, taken as a whole, aren't very comforting on that score. The ultimate comfort seems to be spiritual, heavenly, not to be found in this present world but perhaps somewhere else, in the realm of some ultimate fulfillment. So Jesus wasn't saying, "Follow me and you'll end up lounging in a fine-ass La-Z-Boy recliner." But he must have meant something when he talked about "rest."

I'm not privy to the historical Jesus' point of view, of course, so I'll simply offer my own take. I think "rest" means the spiritual settledness that comes with walking the path of love and peace. For Christians, love is key; St. Paul's partial description of it in 1 Corinthians 13 gives us insight into how one should properly orient oneself to ultimate reality and to each other. Love isn't vanity; it isn't le grand geste.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body [to be burned], but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

There's a special problem here: "rest" conjures up the image of plopping down, taking a breather, not moving much. In everyday English, the word is the antithesis of "work." The image of love, described above by St. Paul, doesn't seem very restful in the normal sense at all. In fact, it seems an awful lot like work.

But ask any good father or mother what love means, and you'll probably hear that it means slogging through the day-to-day tasks of the household. To live as a loving parent or spouse isn't to live life with a mystical, beatific smile frozen on one's face; on the contrary, it's to be elbow-deep in the crap and drudgery of the ordinary. As M. Scott Peck contended in his classic late-70s/early 80s hit, The Road Less Traveled, "love is an action." Most people are deluded into thinking love is merely a feeling.

Love, like anything worthwhile, manifests itself only over time. Feelings are mercurial; they come and go. Love shows itself through what we do. Love is what we do-- our present actions and the accumulated history of those actions. And love is more than that: it's a fundamental orientation-- the right orientation toward ultimate reality and other people, deeper and closer than breathing, absolutely holy and absolutely mundane.

The loving parent isn't all about self. She can't afford to be selfish if she's hoping to do her job right. The same goes for a loving spouse, or a loving teacher, or a loving friend. When Paul says "love never ends," I take this in the same spirit as "housework never ends": it's not about boundless eternity; it's about facing each moment and renewing one's commitment to be loving, over and over again.

Two of my best friends in the world are parents several times over. Ask them about love, and they'll talk about the work that goes into family. They sound tired all the time. They are tired. But take a moment to ask them whether it's all worth it. No, don't bother asking them: you already know the answer is yes.

I'd submit that the "rest" Jesus is talking about is the power that lies behind that yes.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

your quick dash of religion

Bill over at Bill's Comments has a neat essay on the birth of Jesus. Give it a read.

I'll remind readers that I wrote my own Christmas meditation here.


the care package and Pearl Harbor Day

I've been suffering from a throbbing neck pain for the past week-and-a-half or so. It feels like it might be the result of a pinched nerve. That, or it's a nasty cramp from somehow sleeping in the wrong position (or does that amount to the same thing?).

My Dad wrote to ask what I wanted in my Christmas care package. I asked for (1) deodorant, (2) socks, and (3) Ben Gay.

Just so my non-American readers know, Ben Gay has nothing to do with homosexuality. It's the brand name of a well-known pain-relieving ointment (see pic here), and I'm hoping it'll help me get through my current discomfort. It's been a real bitch.

Second note to non-Americans: Never apply Ben Gay to your balls.

My Pearl Harbor Day was spent in class, where no one wanted to discuss the attack. My brain's pretty empty, so I'll point you over to Justin Yoshida for his brief reminiscence, which includes links to his previous (and excellent) entries on Pearl Harbor Day.