Monday, January 31, 2005

Star Trek movie quotes trivia quiz

Can you name the Star Trek movies from which these quotes came? More: Can you name the character saying each quote? Even more: can you name to whom (or to what) the character is speaking?

Some selections will be obscure; others should be easy to figure out. (NB: I'm quoting from memory, so some snippets might be sliiiightly off-- write in with corrections if you have them.)

No quotes will come from "Insurrection" and "Nemesis," both of which were huge disappointments to me. All excerpts are from Star Trek I through VIII.

"Computer? Hellooo, computer!"

"We can't fire, sir! They've damaged the photon controls and the warp drive! We must withdraw!"

"It was... fun. Oh, my."

"Yours is superior."

"Do you have a message for your mother?"

"What would your favorite author say?"

"Assimilate this."

"Coordinates 22-87-4. All systems normal and functioning."

"Absolutely I will not interfere!"

"I am programmed in multiple techniques."

"Drilling holes in his head is not the answer! The artery must be repaired! So put away your butcher knives and let me save this patient before it's too late!"

"I just love scanning for life forms."

"Damn. Are you sure? Maybe the scanner's out of adjustment."

"Reading Klingon-- that's hard."

"You don't have to believe it. I'm not even sure that I believe it."

"...or should I just punch CLEAR?"

"You must become one with the rock."

"Don't wait for the translation! Answer me now!"

"...everything that is not of the body..."

"Today is a good day to die!"

" don't splurge."

"We are working together!"

"..retract plank."

"Don't be a prig."

"James T. Kirk, renegade and terrorist."

"Twelve hours, forty-three minutes, present speed."

"Who is this? How dare you take prisoners!"

"Admiral, your young friend is mistaken. I meant what I said."

"Who am I to argue with history?"

"Up yer shaft."

"The line must be drawn here! This far, no farther! And I will make them pay for what they have done!"

"Time is the fire in which we burn."

"Sounds like the goddamn Spanish Inquisition."

"The Klingons don't take prisoners. Lights."

"I'd prefer to supervise the refit of Enterprise."

"Nothing unreal exists."

"Do it. Don't be tempted by the flesh."

"I can't go with you. I'm already there, remember?"

"If you were any other man, I would kill you where you stand."

"Federation battle cruiser! Have they scanned us?"

"Is that a poem?"

"You are an imperfect being, created by an imperfect being. Finding your weakness is only a matter of time."

"...but he's a retard or something."

"I hope for your sake that you are initiating a mating ritual."

"...and what did it get me? An empty house."

"Everybody remember where we parked."


"Arrogant presumption."

"Have we not heard the chimes at midnight?"

"I thought I told you never to call me."

"Beautiful day!"

"We have the right to preserve our race." [With thanks to Meredith C. for the correction. "Preserve," not "defend."]

"Nor have you-- as your continued predilection for irrelevancy demonstrates."

"I was not attempting to evaluate its moral implications, Doctor."

"D. H. Lawrence!"

"Just because we can do a thing, it does not follow that we must do that thing."

"I sealed the room myself!"

"Aft torpedoes! Fire!"

"We are a proud people, and we will go on being proud."

"Sounds Swedish."

"Warrior to warrior..."

"Maybe it's something we can transplant, hm?"

"You're blended, all right."

"This is fantasy. You wanted adventure? How's this? The old adrenaline going?"

"I would accept that as an axiom."

"Belay that phaser order! Fire photon torpedoes!"

"Perfect! Then that is the way it shall be."

"So much for the little training cruise."

"We can't just sit here."

"One damn minute, Admiral."

"To be... or not to be."

"He is a man of deep feelings."

"I'm laughing at the superior intellect."

"What do you suggest we do, spank it?"

"They were giving me a sour stomach."

There are 75 quotes listed above. I tried to select several quotes for all the movies... except one. One movie is represented in the above list by a single quote. Which movie is it? And which quote?

QUIZ ANSWERS! Here. No peeking until you've tried to answer all the above questions.


from Hell's heart, I stab at thee

I just went over to the Marmot's blog and saw this:

The man is entirely too popular. Based on my reading of blogs by analytical philosophers, I know it logically follows that the Marmot must die.


Sunday, January 30, 2005

"Go wash your bowls" redux

I went to Hwagye-sa (Flower Stream Temple, or, according to an online translation program, Anger Poultry House) today to meditate and meet up with a co-worker of mine to listen to Hyon Gak sunim give a dharma talk. Hyon Gak wasn't there, which disappointed my co-worker (and yeah, I'll admit to being a bit disappointed, too), but the not-quite-so-entertaining monk in his place had the chance to offer a real, live version of the famous exchange between Joju* and the novice (see here for my old post on that topic).

After an hour-long disquisition on The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva, the monk opened the floor for questions, and got one from a fellow monk who was videotaping the lecture: "This sutra just complicates my thinking. It's all about bodhisattva practice... you're supposed to be doing bodhisattva practice, to help me cut through my thinking, so how can you help me and my complicated mind?"

The lecturer made a sour expression and said, "Just keep an eye on your camera." It was about the only laugh-out-loud moment** in the whole dharma talk. But the answer was a recognizably Zen one.

*Chn. Chao-chou, Jpn. Joshu.

**No, dammit, I don't go to dharma talks selfishly expecting to be entertained, but when a talk is dry, I calls 'em like I sees 'em.


the Iraq vote

The Yangban has a great post about the Iraq vote here. Go read.


100 Below: Volume 4

"Human Resources Division."

"Hello? Is this the number for the audition?"

"Excuse me?"

"You're looking for a fellow in his seventies with a big dick, right?"


"Hard cummer, no problem going anal, no prostate issues?"

"Sir, I--"

"I use condoms! Wait-- was I supposed to say that? Does that help or hurt my chances? Shit."

"Sir, you're not--"

"I can eat pussy like there's no tomorrow!"

"Sir, if you'll just--"

"I could eat your pussy right now! Ever had your clit gummed?"

"Sir! Sir, I... well... yeah, come on over. Here’s our address."


Saturday, January 29, 2005

yeah, baby!

This fucking rocks. (link via Drudge)


housekeeping notes: sidebar graphics

I've done the graphics for the three additions to the HOLY SHIT section of my sidebar. As I mentioned before, I like to use Sino-Korean characters (hanja) for blogs that have a primarily religious focus or disposition.

First up is Ow, My Blog. The three characters are read as hapkido in Korean, and as aikido in Japanese. Harmony-energy-way.* Interesting, because the same three Chinese characters refer to two distinct martial arts (I elaborate on this point here).

Ow, My Blog!

Next up: Mis-nagid. The term misnagid apparently means "adversary" or "opponent"-- specifically, opponent of the Hasidim (see this reference). I was tempted to translate this into Sino-Korean as ma-wang, or King (wang) of Evil (ma, more properly "evil spirit"), a reference to Satan, the Adversary** of God. Instead, I chose jeok (pronounce it somewhere between "juck" and "jawk"), which simply means "adversary" or "enemy." Unlike my other images, I've added the Korean transliteration of the Chinese character.


I opted for a simple color scheme when I designed Get Religion. The hanja says jong-gyo, or "religion."

Get Religion

Now it's official: Welcome to my sidebar!

*I'm not a fan of the awful translation, Way of Divine Harmony. The word "divine" is an extremely loose translation of ki. I think it's a bad translation because it's misleading, unhelpfully freighted with Western connotations.

**As scholars point out, "the satan" wasn't originally God's absolute, diametrical opposite. The word has a legal resonance and would have been understood more as "opponent" or "opposing counsel"-- a reading that makes God's behavior toward Satan, and vice versa, understandable in the book of Job. (Read Elaine Pagels's The Origin of Satan for more on this.)


postal scrotum: pluralism and soteriology

[This piece has been cross-posted at Andi's place.]

The Maven writes:

Yet one more add-on to the clarification email... it's my opinion that the more folks try to distance themselves, the more it becomes evident how similar we actually ARE. I can contrast and compare Ultra-orthodox Judaism with something seemingly incongruent as Amish. Comparative theology is truly fascinating and equally disconcerting at the same time. The destination (enlightenment, nirvana, heaven, etc) is relatively the same, yet the views along that journey can be so radically different. Scary.

My background in comparative theology is more Christian-Buddhist and Christian-Hindu than inter-Abrahamic, which is something of a shame. But the Maven's comment brings me, finally, back to one of the reasons this blog even exists: to post musings about things like interreligious dialogue, comparative theology, etc.

One of my pet areas of study is precisely this question of whether "the destination is relatively the same." This is, according to the typology I've laid out in previous posts (see here: 1, 2, 3, 4), a convergent pluralist stance. I'm sympathetic to this stance because it's where I started out, especially after reading the work of John Hick.

But I'm no longer a clear convergent pluralist. Divergent pluralistic arguments are pretty strong-- the strongest being that the assumption of a single soteriology is unwarranted given the phenomenological evidence. Are people who attain enlightenment experiencing the same thing as people going to heaven? How do we know this? Aside from the fact that the liberal wings of the great traditions seem to claim something like this (e.g., many paths up the same mountain to the same summit), what other evidence do we have? The phenomenological evidence seems to be more in favor of traditionalists/conservatives who insist on the radical difference between* the various soteriologies-- Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, etc.

Stephen Kaplan makes this case by viewing the problem through the lens of constructivist epistemology. One chapter of his Different Paths, Different Summits is devoted to exploring the question of whether ultimate human states (say, mystical experiences) share an underlying sameness. He concludes that they don't, but this irreducible diversity is no hindrance to his pluralistic vision. Perhaps he has a point.

S. Mark Heim's version of divergent pluralism is a strong caution against steamrollering diversity by placing so much focus on abstract commonalities. The problem with abstraction is that, once you've reduced a tradition to vague and general concepts like "ultimate reality," "salvation/liberation," etc., it's arguable that you're no longer talking about any given religion in particular. In Heim's view, this amounts to constructing a metaparadigm that is actually a form of crypto-inclusivism, constantly undermining any claims to pluralism.

Both of these writers bring good arguments to the table, and as a result, I've moved away from a pure convergent pluralism to what I hope is a more nondualistic stance. I can't concede everything to the divergent pluralists, because their arguments also contain some major flaws (I've discussed this in previous posts; see sidebar), but the issues they raise are too important to ignore.

*It goes without saying that there are myriad intrareligious differences as well.


KBJ on gay marriage

In yet another post deriding homosexual marriage, conservative philosopher Dr. Keith Burgess-Jackson writes the following:

There are different conceptions of marriage. To some, it is nothing more (or less) than an emotional bond between two (or more?) people. Since homosexuals can bond, they’re capable of marrying. Since marriage is a package of rights and duties, it is valued. To deny homosexuals an opportunity to participate in this valued institution is to treat likes differently, which violates the principle of equality.

The problem with this reasoning is that it rests on an unduly narrow understanding of marriage. Marriage is more than an emotional bond between two or more individuals. It is a procreative union. Society so values its children that it creates an institution that encourages men and women to form lasting bonds. Children need both a mother and a father. They need resources, love, and care over a long period of time. Marriage is a legal structure designed to ensure, or at least increase the likelihood, that children are brought into loving homes with two parents (one of each sex) and ample resources. Specifically, it provides inducements for fathers to stay with their children. Men, you know, have a tendency to stray.

This is doublespeak. KBJ is arguing that the pro-gay-marriage notion of marriage is narrower, when in fact it's wider, because it's more inclusive. An "unduly narrow" definition of marriage is one that yokes marriage to procreation.

While I find much to admire on KBJ's blog, his attitude toward gay marriage is repugnant.


postal scrotum

The Maven writes in with a clarification:

In my previous email to you (of which I noticed you copied verbatim to your blog--thanks again for the reference), I mentioned about (MY VIEW) of Hassidic/Ultra-orthodox Judaism as being "cultist." I wanted to also expand on that a tiny bit, so as not to come off as being an anti-semite. I hold this view for Jehovas Witnesses and Mormons and other similarly, radical, funadmentalist, Scriptural literalist, exclusionistic religions out there, where their main mode of indoctrination is by way of fear, brainwashing, excluding outsiders, shunning those who stray from the fold, as well as perpetuating xenophobic agendas.

I found some comfort in the blogs of both Mis-nagid as well as Shtreimel, as I see the same conflict of what I (or we) actually believe, yet remaining in the religion/s we were born into, and trying to reconcile our core beliefs and values within the confines of our birth religion/s. It's all a process.

Sometimes I think to myself how much knowledge complicates my life. Sometimes I wish I had a blind faith. I admire people who have a genuine, unmoving devotion to their religions. And the rest of the time, I sit back and just crack it all up to spiritual mystery. We can't possibly know everything we want to know.


Ave, Annika!

Annika improved on her sidebar image. She emailed me the following:

...and I'm happy to replace the old image with this. Gave me a good laugh.


Friday, January 28, 2005

100 Below: Volume 3

George was looking at her nipples. But Stephanie had more immediate concerns-- namely, the ugly blob of semen that stared beadily up at her from its perch on her scrambled eggs.

"Care to explain this?" she asked.

George merely grinned vacantly, lost in her nipples. Stephanie was uncomfortably aware that they were stiffening. George was a good-looking bastard, but he wasn't going to evade the semen issue.

"George, dammit, this isn't the first time," Stephanie said.

George blinked. "Think of it as gravy on mashed potatoes," he said.

Stephanie sighed, picked up her fork, and dug in.

Previous 100 Belows:

Read Volume 1 here.
Read Volume 2 here.


postal scrotum: frum Jews and "business"

I got plenty of responses to my question about what a frum Jew is.

The Maven writes:

Frum, I believe is a sign of piety or observance in the Hassidic community. I, too, had stumbled upon Shtremel's blog a few nights ago, and it is a compelling read, him straddling both worlds, almost akin to AMISH. Although, I tend to take the stance with the Hassidim that it is more cultish than an actual religion. So much of what they are taught from their elders isn't necessarily bible-based (or rather TORAH based). One thing I will say about Hassidism is that they tend to be more spiritual than other stripes of Judaism. Other varieties of Judaism seem more mechanical, doing things because you are commanded, rather than having a true love of the commandments (FYI there are literally 613 listed within Exodus, Levit, and Deut). And THAT is what I find fascinating about Shtremel's log. The fighting againt the cultist machine and every falsehood he's been spoon fed, all the while being married to an observant woman, having children with her, yet having a secret life that could be found out at any given moment. It truly is a compelling read.


FRUM ('fr&m) adj : conforming to established Jewish doctrine; Orthodox Jewish.

An email from Dr. Hodges says:

Dear Kevin,

About: "whatever a 'frum Jew' is"...

The word "frum" is Yiddish for "pious." It's the same as the hochdeutsch word "fromm," which you'll recognize as the surname of the famous Eric even if you don't know German (but don't you know German?).

In the Jewish context, "frum" probably refers to keeping kosher. But what do I know -- I'm just a hillbilly.


Jeffery Hodges

And Mis-nagid himself writes in!


Thanks for the link and the kind words. As for your question, frum means Ultra-Orthodox. It's the term Ultra-Orthodox Jews use to refer to themselves. See here:

Wikipedia entry

It's the most fundamentalist strain of Judaism, with the usual mix of creationism, bigotry, and supernatural history, like floods and revelations. It also has the required cultic strictures and prohibitions against reading or saying anything that conflicts with the cult's dogma. And that, my good man, is why I have to be anonymous.

All the best,

Regarding my post about the new slang, Sperwer writes in with the following:

re "my business" -- this is really old slang coming back around.

Nothing new under the sun, eh?


job search update

The interview went well enough, and the university seems ready to hire me. The job has good points and bad points.

Bad points:

1. I won't be paid a salary (can't trust those ads). The pay will be hourly (i.e., it'll vary from month to month), and stands at W30,000/hour, before taxes.

2. I'd have to teach children-- middle- and high-schoolers.

3. I'd have to work a split shift.

4. I'd probably have to work during winter and summer vacations. In other words, I wouldn't get 8-10 weeks off per year. So much for spending a month in the States every year.

5. My interviewer, in a candid moment, complained about how Westerners can be "hard to work with" because they only want to stay in the classroom/at school long enough to discharge their duties as teachers. Westerners don't seem to want to help out with curriculum planning, etc. My interviewer's point was that this is in contrast to the work ethic of Korean teachers, who volunteer their personal time for the betterment of the company. She didn't seem sympathetic to the Western notion that, if you're working but not receiving money for your work, you're being fucked.

Good points:

1. W30,000/hour is significantly better than what I'm getting now, which comes out to about W10,000/hour. Here's the math: Start with a base salary of 2.2 million won per month. Take out 3.3% for tax. That leaves you with W2,127,400. Take out another W200,000 for utilities and whatever other mystery expenses there are. Now it's W1,927,400. Calculate about 24 teaching days a month. Divide W1,927,400 by 24, and it's W80,308 per day. We teach 8-hour days, so divide by 8 and you've got an hourly rate of W10,039. At the current rate of exchange, this means I'm earning about $9.60 an hour. Peanuts. True-- I don't pay rent. That's a major savings. But compare getting W10,000 per hour to getting W30,000 per hour (and I still wouldn't be paying for housing).

2. The schedule would be around 20 hours per week of in-class teaching time, which is much better than my current 44-hour workload. I suppose I'd also be expected to do lesson plans and such, but I wouldn't mind doing that stuff in the quiet of my home. Not a big deal for me. I did much more as a high school teacher in America, routinely staying at the school until 8:00PM to tutor students, grade quizzes and tests, go over homework, etc. I was also told that there'd be no problem with private tutoring (though my inner skeptic needs a bit more convincing).

3. The housing would be huge. Well, maybe not by American standards, but I'd have a place measuring about 8 p'yong-- a wee bit smaller than my old place in Jangui-dong, but a damn sight larger that the 2- or 3-p'yong shoebox I'm in now. (A p'yong, which is a traditional Korean unit of measure, is roughly 4 square meters. For those working off the English system, imagine a square about 6 feet on a side. If you're the visual type, imagine two twin beds nestled side by side.)

4. I'd have the chance to create original curricula. One thing I think Korean English education lacks is a theater option, and I love doing theater. Having taken two semesters of French theater in college, I can vouch for how effective a language learning method it is. It's a modified version of Total Physical Response: the director's constantly shouting commands at you in the target language, and you have to get it right. But what makes drama even better than TPR is that (1) you're working with a script-- a script you have to understand, which means you're being exposed to all sorts of different grammatical constructions, and (2) you're expected to speak, because you've got lines. Obviously, the script for such a class should be relevant to the students' needs. I wouldn't want to teach modern American English by working from a Shakespearean tragedy. Upshot: the thought of creating a drama curriculum is pretty damn tempting.

5. The university is a Christian school with a history of interreligious dialogue. They've got exchange programs at Buddhist schools in Japan, and a delegation of German profs is on its way over here for the upcoming semester. I'd be able to gratify-- somewhat-- my academic urges.

6. The campus, slightly outside of Seoul, is beautiful, hilly, and quiet. I like beautiful, hilly and quiet.

It's a toss-up. If I can, I'd like to avoid split shifts and teaching children, but I'm tempted by the advantages. I'm glad to be job-hunting early; I still have some options to check over. But I'll be keeping this university on my list.

One thing I still need to get: a list of teachers who teach there, to see what they think of their jobs.

Meantime, I'm still searching.


Thursday, January 27, 2005

possibly misheard lyrics

I was at a fusion noodle restaurant in Kangnam called C-Zen (pronounce it "see Zen") today. Some American pop song was playing, and I swear to God I heard the line, "She kicked me in my business."

Is this some sort of new slang, or did I mishear the lyrics?



An advert for a VW Polo, made in France. Very poor taste. Very funny.

Required QuickTime compatible player.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

going fishing

I've got an interview tomorrow at 10AM. The place is well over an hour away by bus, so my ass is getting to bed early this evening. Expect little to no blogging over the next 24 hours.

Many thanks to Dr. Vallicella: I printed out his refutation* of Bhante Nagasena's chariot argument... the paper came in handy as I was taking notes on the phone with Crystal, who will be interviewing me tomorrow. Lucky things seem to happen when I'm carrying around academic writing.

This university is one of many places to which I've sent resumes over the past few weeks (and I'm still sending out more resumes), so I'm by no means committed to it. I hope to take a look at housing facilities, get contact info for the English teachers who already live on campus, and find out what life is really like for the teachers there. One is well-advised not to trust what the job ad says.

*I still don't agree with it, though I am fascinated by it. More on this later.


because Nature is a whore with a vacuum

I did a lot of blog-culling recently, but I've got some replacements. Two new blogs for the "Holy Shit" section of my sidebar:

1. Mis-nagid, a blog by an atheistic frum Jew, whatever a "frum Jew" is. Choice passage:

Theology is a bogus field. When pushed, the honest theologians admit that any conception of God other than utterly incomprehensible is fraught with contradiction and logical problems. If so, on what do they base their conjectures? Nothing. They just forge ahead like mystics, making up cool-sounding things to please themselves. Theology is completely intellectually bankrupt. The most honest [theologians] know it and simply relabel their study of anthropology "theology" because they deal with the mythologies man created for himself.

Because I'm not plugged in to the Jewish community, most of this blog makes me feel like I'm missing an in-joke, but I'm fascinated all the same.

2. Ow, My Blog, a blog about "Buddhism, Aikido, art, books, music, and other stuff that gets stuck in your head." Choice extrait:

But the reason I don't really dig Christmas is twofold. First, not being a Christian kinda takes the stuffing out of the Christ part, and hearing stodgy fundamentalists whine about the "real meaning" is so tiresome. The other part is the commercialism and acquisitiveness, which really grates on my Zen nerves. And just to be non-dual, there's spiritual materialism (great piece at the Buddhist Channel today) stirring the great pot so that the spending becomes Christian, the Christianity becomes financial, and the whole mess becomes one great theologico-economic metaevent that makes it all too political as well. And I'm on a starvation diet where politics are concerned.

So what in Christmas appeals to me? The art, I suppose, the annual explosion of popular art in the form of decoration, music, public celebration, costumery, and general light-hearted sense of play in the behavior of some of the most uptight people. It's not the religious iconography, nor the superlative advertising blush that attracts me, just the common cultural stuff that still has mass appeal long after so much of our popular culture has been debased and sold back to us with negative emotions. Think about it: chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Yuletide carols being sung by a fire, and folks dressed up like Eskimos. Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright; tiny tots with their eyes all aglow will find it hard to sleep tonight. Now, you don't have to be rich or cool or Anglo or American or even Christian to appreciate that.

This is the same blog that gave us the magnificent Scrooge Sutra. After several visits, I've decided to add it to my gallery.

And in other news-- Mike honors the great Scottish poet Robert Burns. This post features what has to be the funniest ode to beer (or is it whisky?) I've ever read. You need to do what I did and read it aloud with a bad Scottish accent. Not only will you laugh your ass off, but you'll be able to make the words "joy" and "eye" rhyme-- an impossibility in American English, but plenty possible for a piss-drunk Scotsman.

[NB: Sidebar images for the new blogs will be up soon.]


Ave, Giblets!

There are some liberal blogs from which I just-- can't-- look-- away.


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Star Wars haiku

amputated limbs
strewn about the cantina
old badass grinning

with the Force you can
choke or throw your opponents
...or squeeze their titties

my Dark Side puppy
every time it takes a dump
"Duel of the Fates" plays

Princess Leia knows
she can never tell poor Han
that she blew Chewie

lightsabers are great
for fighting Jedi, but not
good for shaving pubes

true Force mastery
will be yours when you can shoot
lightning from your dick


TV/movie meme deflated

The meme has appeared on episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and elsewhere in movies and on TV: the idea that, if you're right-handed, you'll automatically use your right hand to catch/block an object thrown suddenly at you (the reverse supposedly being true for us southpaws).

I stand before you as living proof that this meme is bullshit. I'm left-handed, but I catch baseballs with either hand-- no preference. I also use right-handed scissors, but that's neither here nor there.

Just FYI.

I'll let the ladies guess which hand I wank with*.

*HA!! Trick question! In reality, I was born with a prehensile-- and therefore self-stroking-- penis! I was also blessed with the world's only "opposable" scrotum.


Infidel: still alive

He's back on the blogroll.

The Infidel wrote to tell me he's not dead yet. Good. I don't like amputating well-liked blogs from my sidebar.


Ryan and Buddhist theodicy

Ryan over at Ryan's Lair posts a passage from the Mahayanasangraha and comments briefly on the theodicy. For those of you who've never visited Ryan's blog before, I highly recommend it. Yeah, he's got that academic skepticism going, but he's an engaging writer and can probably run circles around the average lay Buddhist when it comes to his knowledge of Buddhist scriptures. Tangle with this budding Harvard Buddhologist at your peril!


Monday, January 24, 2005

BigHo job watch: a nibble

Got my first "yes" today from one university. More on this as it develops.


the new Thought Nuggets sidebar image


Took a hell of a lot of searching for images, but I found a lump of crap that was sufficiently dick-shaped to make the grade. So now we've got God presiding over a screaming lump of phallic shit (I added the creepy, glowing eyes), and a demure, large-breasted hentai woman.



Sunday, January 23, 2005

housekeeping notes

The observant will have noticed some changes to the sidebar. For the unobservant, then:

1. A slew of bloggers are now gone from the sidebar: Incestuous Amplification (dammit), Infidel/Duophony (dammit), Gweilo Diaries (what happened to Conrad?), Steven Den Beste (couldn't take his punctuation, anyway), and Allahpundit (whafuck?)-- gone.

2. Wooj's link has been updated to reflect his new address.

3. Dalma-daesa is finally making himself useful and pointing to what is currently the most worthwhile link.

4. And congratulations to Maven of Thought Nuggets: her hilarious ero-theo-scatological blog makes the blogroll. Image coming soon; am still brainstorming. At a guess, I'll have to combine sex, God, and shit. Right now, the only way I can cram those three themes into a tiny, 150x200 pixel image will be to depict God incarnated as a penis-shaped lump of crap, banging the hell out of some woman. That, or I'll craft an image based on Jack Black's line about "squeezing out a Cleveland Steamer on my chest." We'll see.


100 Below: Volume 2

"You fucked a goat?" Brian asked, recoiling.

"But it was a magic goat," Sally said lamely. "I thought it would make you happy."

"How would your fucking a goat make me happy, Sal? Jesus!"

"Because," she said, "now I can do this--" and she vomited onto the bed.

Brian yelped. A bright, glistening pool lay between them. It was composed of seven distinct colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. The colors swirled but never mixed, like living paint. Brian looked at Sally.

"You can vomit rainbows," he said in awe.

Sally wept. Because he understood.



A must-read Buddhist reinterpretation of Dickens's A Christmas Carol can be found here. I wish I'd written this myself.


why I shouldn't sit on my ass


Saturday, January 22, 2005


Well... in my home state of Virginia, anyway (along with a goodly chunk of the northeast). My family and friends are about to be clobbered with a decent-sized winter storm, so in their honor I post this link.


breaking news: Photobucket RULES

Photobucket officially kicks the ass of Flickr.

I'm a cyber-retard, plus I'm impatient, so I have to go with software that works intuitively. Photobucket's system took me less than five minutes to learn. Hard to beat. You upload your picture (they accept a variety of formats), and SHAZAM-- they even create the "img src" tag for you. I no longer have to add pic dimension specs, ALT text, or anything-- unless I want to.

Here, once again:

That's what I was looking for: the ability to post my pics the way I designed them to look.

By the way, some advice to those of you who like posting huge pictures: be sure to scale them down to a width narrower than that of your main text column. For me, that means staying under 601 pixels in width. For those of you with narrower main text columns... go slim. It's obnoxious when you oblige me to scroll sideways.

Photobucket comes as a relief, because I'm starting to run low on FTP space. The only thing that worries me is that I'm now at the mercy of their Terms of Service, a nightmarish throwback to AOL. I'm hoping, however, that Photobucket isn't patrolled the way AOL message boards are, so we'll be violating TOS with some regularity here. I hope.

For those of you looking to slap pics on your blog for the first time, here's the 5-minute procedure:

1. Visit Click the "Sign Up" link at the top.

2. Register for the FREE account. Take note of what features will be available for you. Select the PREMIUM account instead, if you so desire.

3. Go through the email confirmation procedure. Click the account activation link in your email. You'll get a screen that says YOUR ACCOUNT HAS BEEN ACTIVATED! Click that link as well.

4. You're in, baby. She's soft, warm, hot, pink, and wet, isn't she. Now log in. That should have taken, all in all, no more than 3 minutes.

5. You're at the ADD PICTURES window. Tweak the "Blog Options" to your preferences. If you're using Blogger, then for God's sakes don't hit Live Journal. Follow the instructions. When done, go back to the ADD PICTURES window by clicking on the "Album: YOURNAME" link on the left side of your screen.

5. Try uploading a picture. It's easy. On the ADD PICTURES window, hit BROWSE to select a file to add. Add the pic. Click "Submit" to put the pic in Photobucket.

6. Now you see the miracle. Scroll down. A thumbnail image of your pic is visible. Below that, you'll see three fields: (1) Url, (2) Tag, and (3) Img. FOR YOUR BLOGGING PURPOSES, just concern yourself with (2), the TAG.

7. Do a test post into your blog. Simply copy that tag, then paste it into your Blogger edit window (add "center" HTML tags to center the pic if you so desire*). Add whatever text you want before & after the pic. Post that thang as you would a normal blog post.

And that's IT! The procedure looks complicated when written out, but I simply followed Photobucket's instructions and did all this within a very short time. I can't imagine it taking you longer than 10 minutes, tops, to be posting images to your blog from Photobucket. After initial setup, future posting should be a breeze: log in, upload pic, copy tag, paste into blog entry, and POST.

[Special thanks to Nomad and Shawn for suggesting this service.]

*Almost everything I learned about HTML tags comes from this site. Visit it. Take the time to learn some basic HTML if you don't know it already.



This is a test post from

postal scrotum: cosmic thoughts

A buddy writes in...


I have had a thought poking about in my head for some time, but lack the time, energy, and focus to flesh it out. I shall pass it on to you in its most general state.

Regarding scientific truth and the existence of god/religious truth.

We have two, apparently conflicting, sets of information. Empirical information (or scientific) is from rationally developed methodology, applied to observable and measurable tests, and extended into the unproven by speculative hypothesis. The assumption of such exploration is that there exists a fundamental physical reality which may very well be too dynamic and too massive for human civilisation to ever fully comprehend. I personally accept that this is a given, within certain restrictions.

Specifically, physical reality and scientific proofs cannot determine causes, events, or interactions that exist beyond the parameters in time and space of the physical universe- by definition. This is because scientific methodology cannot, by definition, be applied to these. Examples would include: what exists/happens when you get beyond the physical dimensions of the universe? If the big bang theory is correct, then all matter and energ that exist have been radiating outwards for billions of years, but there exists a point beyond which they have not yet reached. All physical laws depend upon observation of matter and energy interactions between such that have been created by and since the big bang. (Or, if the Big Bang theory is correct, since whatever the universal origin was.)

This also opens the question of what came before the beginning, especially since it appears that time and three-dimensional space are coexistent effects. They cannot be defined in any meaningful way without the other. That means that observable time may well have started at the moment of the universal origin, whatever that was. This does not mean that nothing exists beyond or before- simply that empirical measurements do not apply in determining what that is.

On the other hand- we have an overabundance of religious origins and 'truth' which often conflict with each other and with scientific observation. Again, the ultimate truth of the matter may be beyond the capacity of humankind to observe or comprehend. What we have then is, at best, fragmented images of two fundamental truth systems. I propose that both must be true, but that we do not grasp either. The implications of such a statement are manifold:

1. The factors outside of the scope of the physical fundamental truth may well be covered in the spiritual truth.
2. If there are factors outside of the realm of the spiritual truth, they may well be covered by the physical truth.
3. At points where the physical and spiritual truth appear to come into conflict, there is a failure by the perceptive component (human) to properly understand one, the other, or both. In actuality, the two fundamental truths will never be in direct conflict, though that may be out of scope.

Case in point- scientific truth indicates that there was life on earth 600 million years ago, and mankind existed as modern man (homo sapiens sapiens) for at least 130 thousand years. A particular religion teaches (via counting years back though the holy books) that mankind was created 4040 years before the crucifixion of Jesus. Notice the difference. By my proposal, one or the other would be false, arising from a failed understanding of one or the other. Given the amount of measurable proof for the age of mankind, I would say that the process used to determine the age of man used by the religious time line arose from a failed understanding of said script. (This is actually a very simple matter to address in this case. The religious texts in question are considered highly metaphorical by the original peoples who created them. Forty days, for example, being a phrase meaning 'one damned long time' rather than an actual 40-day period. Literal interpretation would have been considered absurd by the originating peoples. The problem arises in the adoption of the original texts by a younger religion and the accidental inclusion of them as literal truth.)

Though the framework for comparison is too loose to be truly useful, the theory is that religious and scientific exploration could be used to help prove each other, and therefore be used as one form of cross-checking when determining some portions of fundamental truth. Such portions being limited, by necessity, to those areas where the scope of religious and scientific truth overlap.

I should note that I am NOT a scholar. I read lots of things and rarely remember, over time, the sources. It is therefore possible, even likely, that there is not an original thought in this entire discourse, but possible as well that at least the underlying elements have been arranged in a new and unexpected fashion. I hope you find it entertaining.





I don't think I'll be using Flickr to store pics unless I can figure out a way to blog pics the way I normally do.



Originally uploaded by bighominid.
Test post of a pic stored on Flickr.


Smaug speaks

At this point, I have to have the world's cleanest pair of kidneys.

I pride myself in drinking tons of water while at work. Actually, there's no cause for pride: I water myself out of necessity, because my job involves talking for eight hours with few breaks. The end result is that I have to take frequent trips to the loo, sometimes as often as once every half-hour. That rocks. A constantly draining dragon is a happy dragon.


Marcus Aurelius on armpits and halitosis

Do unsavoury armpits and bad breath make you angry? What good will it do you? Given the mouth and armpits the man has got, that condition is bound to produce those odours. 'After all, though, the fellow is endowed with reason, and he is perfectly able to understand what is offensive if he gives any thought to it.' Well and good: but you yourself are also endowed with reason; so apply your reasonableness to move him to a like reasonableness; expound, admonish. If he pays attention, you will have worked a cure, and there will be no need for passion; leave that to actors and streetwalkers.

The above is from Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, translated by Maxwell Staniforth, p. 87.


Friday, January 21, 2005

divinity and immortality

Dr. Vallicella, in his reply to a criticism of his criticism of a reduplicative argument about the nature of the Trinity, writes:

It is a necessary truth, indeed an analytically necessary truth, that anything divine is immortal.

This claim might pass muster among some philosophers, but it would be roundly booed by folks in the field of religious studies*. If "immortal" means "not subject to death," then I'd argue that many traditions claim their divinities to be mortal. Buddhism views all gods (and asuras, apsaras, hungry ghosts, etc.) as subject to the laws of karma and therefore mortal. The Norse tradition (thanks for the reminder, Mike) claims this as well. With enough digging, I could find other pantheons in which gods die and/or disappear.

In fact, it could be argued that Christians attribute mortality to God-- it's one of the paradoxes of the Incarnation and, historically, one of the sources of Christian antisemitism (see, for example, accusations of "deicide").

I'd find it hard to make the claim that immortality is an analytically necessary attribute of divinity, when the historical record of thought on the matter indicates otherwise. What does Vallicella mean by "divine," and does his definition match that of the great traditions? Specifically, does it match whatever received Christian definitions are out there? If it does not, then Vallicella's claim about the nature of divinity night represent a straw man, possibly affecting his larger exploration of the coherence of trinitarian doctrine.

UPDATE: To be clear, my only concern in this post is with the definitional issue: what does "divine" mean? What does "immortal" mean? And why, given the actual claims about divinity made throughout history by the different traditions, does Vallicella part with those traditions to say that immortality is an analytically necessary attribute of divinity?

*An admittedly vague term. People in this field, and I'm one of them, are still defining what the term means.


100 Below: Volume 1

[What follows is a tale under 100 words. I may end up doing more of these.]

This story, a tragedy, begins as so many tragedies must: with flying snot.

As Art Mazursky’s nimble hands were busily punching numbers into the cash register, sleepy, nonagenarian Mrs. Philoctenes waited with eternal patience. She was, in fact, in the middle of a wide-mouthed yawn.

At that moment, the sneeze struck. Art turned his head sideways to avoid spraying his keypad. A vulgar mucus projectile shot out of his throat. It flew into Mrs. Philoctenes’s unsuspecting mouth. Art stared in horror as the old woman, startled out of her yawn, began to gag.


Thursday, January 20, 2005

profiles in knighthood: bad peeps

A look at some of the not-so-nice folks in the Star Wars universe.



chew!?  never heard that one before


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Trinity, rationality, and a Big Question

A question for Dr. Vallicella and others who are attempting to discern whether the doctrine of the Trinity is intelligible:

Is there no room in philosophy for mystery?

I ask the question as a disinterested nontheist, but am honestly curious as to whether philosophers ever reach a point on the conceptual map where they give up and label the outer regions with "Here be dragons."

I think there will always be a basic tension between philosophy and religion as long as philosophers believe that core religious doctrines must (or can) be rationally accessible.

My own take on the Trinity is that it's a nice metaphor. As one of my friends suggested, it's an image that describes the relationship between the many and the one. In that sense, it's archetypal. Consider a close cousin of the trinitarian formulation: "form is emptiness; emptiness is form." The many and the one exist in and through each other. I don't think there can be any rational parsing of this extraordinary-yet-ordinary fact.

Actually, some Buddhists see a parallel between the trinitarian notion of perichoresis (mutual indwelling of the Persons of the Trinity; if I'm not mistaken, the Greek means something like "dance in the round") and the Buddhist notion of pratitya-samutpada, or dependent co-arising. I object to the parallel because perichoresis isn't meant to describe something outside the Trinity itself, whereas pratitya-samutpada is applicable to all phenomena.

Discuss among yourselves.


the Emperor's new robe

I admit it: I'm a Supershadow junkie. Supershadow, who claims to be a personal friend of George Lucas, has been running his fan site for some years now. The site's purpose is largely twofold: (1) to provide scoops and major spoilers about the Star Wars films and other Lucas-related projects, and (2) to give the fans a voice in the creation of the Star Wars films.

Fans are apparently scandalized that James Earl Jones will not be voicing the new Vader (SS says you shouldn't trust the mainstream sites on this: most are still claiming that Jones will be voicing Vader), but they're hopeful about Episodes 7-9, as well as a projected Star Wars TV series that might or might not cover the years between the prequel trilogy and "classic" Star Wars.

Supershadow is often critical of Lucas on his site, but he's completely brainwashed into believing that the new trilogy is superior to the old one. He conducted an interview with Lucas recently, and I wanted to quote the section that dealt with the much-maligned Jar Jar Binks. Consider this Exhibit A: evidence of how out of touch some people can be.

SuperShadow: Do you enjoy receiving ideas and comments from the fans?

George Lucas: Yes, it keeps me in touch with what the fans desire.

SuperShadow: Anything you don’t like about the fans?

George Lucas: The ones who despise Jar Jar are not high on my list.

SuperShadow: Speaking of Jar Jar Binks: Why is his role in the prequel trilogy getting smaller and smaller?

George Lucas: Jar Jar served his purpose in The Phantom Menace. There is nothing really for him to do in the subsequent movies. His basic purpose was to bring the Gungans to help Queen Amidala and her people.

SuperShadow: Negative reactions to Jar Jar by a tiny fraction of the fan community didn’t influence this decision to limit Jar Jar’s role in Revenge of the Sith?

George Lucas: No, not really. Jar Jar receives more fan mail at Lucasfilm than any other character. He has been a success on all levels. He’s the funniest character I have ever created.

SuperShadow: Chewbacca is a character similar to Jar Jar yet Chewie’s role in the classic trilogy did not diminish as the trilogy progressed?

George Lucas: Chewie is different. He is one of the main characters. He’s always with Han so you have to have Chewie too. They go hand in hand.

"He's the funniest character I have ever created."


Tuesday, January 18, 2005


1. My divorce from Mac OS 8.6 continues: I finally figured out how to activate AppleTalk so I can print stuff out while on OS X. Up to now, I'd been switching back and forth between OS X and OS 8.6 whenever I'd need to print something. Now, all I have to do is unplug the cable from my modem and attach it to my Farallon Ethernet thingie. This is important because I've been wanting to print directly from my ass-kicking Mellel word processor, which is nestled in OS X.

2. My nasty Lonerganian surprise for Dr. Vallicella is looking less and less nasty as I reread Dr. Vallicella's arguments on ontotheological personalism, especially here, in his critique of the famous "chariot" dialogue between the Buddhist monk Bhante Nagasena and King Menander (Milinda). I don't think Lonergan's going to be all that helpful. So, at least for the time being, ixnay on the urprise-say.

3. Morale continues to sink at EC. If you're in Korea and know of any university opportunities, feel free to send 'em my way.


Monday, January 17, 2005

Happy Birthday, Dad!

We get only one Dad in the world. Here's mine, wearing my mortarboard the day I graduated from my Catholic University Master's program in 2002:

Dad the Grad

Dad's a hard worker. He's the kind of guy who can't kick back and just watch TV. He tends to stand in the back of the room, ready to deploy at a moment's notice, while the rest of us watch TV. I don't think Dad lets his guard down except for when he's all alone... and when he's all alone, I'm not there to see whether he's actually relaxing, so I never know what he's really up to.

This year, Dad's 63, and he's planning to retire from his long, long career at Northwest Airlines. I don't think he has any real love for the company, considering how well (cough) they treat their employees, but I admire Dad for toughing it out in one of the most stressful customer service environments you can imagine. I'd never be able to work a ticket counter; I'd strangle the first customer who gave me any lip. Somehow, Dad's been through it all without ever losing his cheer and his basic faith in the goodness of people.

It's an honor to be the son of a great man.

Happy birthday, Dad.



(last year's Dad entry can be found here)


Sunday, January 16, 2005

the anthropic principle

Some folks were blogging about the anthropic principle a little while back (see Bill's great entry here, for instance).

My problem with the anthropic principle is the implied determinism-- an assumed inevitability such that, if certain initial cosmic conditions and/or constants had varied by the smallest fraction, humanity would not have arisen.

I don't know anything technical about quantum indeterminacy, but it seems to me that, if the universe possesses an objectively indeterminate aspect, it'll be impossible to confirm the inevitability of human life.

Plus, there's this: if initial conditions had been different in the primordial cosmos, it's possible that other forms of intelligent life would have arisen and engaged, at some point in their history, in exactly this kind of speculation, marveling at how the universe seems to have been fine-tuned to produce them.

A while back, I wrote a piece titled "the brown chowder splats louder." A paragraph from that post, which uses feces to address some Buddhist issues, is relevant here:

Where do your ass-babies come from? I think it's obvious that crap isn't a self-creating, self-sustaining thing-in-itself. No: your warm, steaming offspring are a labor of love, the result of the concerted efforts of your desire to eat, the dutiful (doodieful) choreography of your digestive system, the culture/society that makes certain forms of food available to you, the world history that gave birth to that culture/society, the galactic history that gave rise to our world, and the cosmic history that gave rise to our galaxy. You, right now, sitting on the toilet, asshole puckered and about to utter that maternal chocolate scream, are an event that's been billions of years in the making.

There's nothing to stop us from applying the anthropic principle to more than human beings. If we assume that every phenomenon is both (spatiotemporally) unique and causally interconnected with other phenomena, then it should be obvious* that every moment contains events that could not have happened had previous conditions been otherwise.

If the anthropic principle can be so readily applied to all other phenomena, does it add anything to the discussion? Why not talk about a scatological principle**, or a urological principle***? Why not a saurian or ornithoid or xenomorphic**** principle? I don't think the anthropic principle holds any explanatory power. It assumes a cosmic determinism our sciences appear to be refuting, and is too readily applicable outside the anthropic realm. If creationists are looking for an argument for the existence of a creator (of humans), they'll need to look elsewhere.

[NB: The anthropic principle suffers the same problem as Intelligent Design Theory: there's no reason for classical theists to assume the Judeo-Christian God is behind all this. Both the AP and IDT could be taken to imply some sort of massive alien engineering... at which point our speculations are running up against Occam's Razor.]

* If you agree with the implied determinism of the anthropic principle, I mean.
** Perhaps the universe's crowning purpose is to produce human shit.
*** Or piss.
**** Or lizards, or birds, or aliens.



Here's a sentence you don't often see:

"I am Buddhist, but many thanks to the God of the United States," the baby's father, Yukiho Ohashi, said in Spanish.

To find out what it's all about, go here. (link via Drudge)


Ave, Yangban!

If you haven't already, be sure to check out the Flying Yangban's recent piece about anti-reunificationism and the Gaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea. I'm a little bit dubious about citing a single business example and applying it to the wider peninsular situation (especially when there are so many pro-reunificationists on both sides of the DMZ), but Andy may be on to something. His punchline:

The Gaesong Industrial Complex can function only as long as North Korean labor is not mobile.

Be sure to read the comments to Andy's post as well. There are some alternative theories.



Something my brother David wrote-- and which I blogged-- back in October of 2003:

Birds lay eggs. We eat them. Animals eat them. Sometimes raw. Sometimes boiled. Sometimes things eat things that eat eggs. And sometimes even things that eat things that eat eggs also like to eat eggs.

Wisdom for the ages.


Saturday, January 15, 2005

postal scrotum: Jeff, enemas, and Judaism

Jeff of the fantastic blog Beautiful Atrocities writes:

Really, Kevin, publishing gushing fan letters. Are you Andrew Sullivan now??

And are you sure you're not Jewish? I was 20 before I even knew what an enema was. A Jewish friend was incredulous, telling me that bowels were a MAJOR topic of conversation in Jewish families...

Any of my Jewish readers care to weigh in?

I had no idea what an enema bulb even looked like until 1994, when I came to Korea for an extended stay. The Maximum Leader and my brother David had conspired to give me, as as a parting gift, an enema bulb. But they didn't give it to me directly: they hid it inside my carry-on.

I never used the bulb, but I had a ball reading the instructions. In 1995, almost a year after my arrival in Korea, I was fucked in the ass by my first hagwon. The gift was an omen.

As for my being Jewish... Jew, Korean, what's the difference? They both share an overachievement neurosis.

(For more on enemas, read this lovely story.)


postal scrotum: Pagoda edition

The following epistle comes from Jason Wright, a former employee of one of the biggest hagwons in South Korea, Pagoda Language Institute. The letter describes just about every foreign expat's experience with hagwons here. Read and enjoy.

Hey Kevin,

Since you began documenting your EC saga on the blog it's like I've turned into Tim Robbins in "Jacobs Ladder." The horrific PTSD memories of the split schedules, the broken promises, the dysfunctional management, and the cold sweat you get after you've realized you went an entire month without learning any of your hundreds of students' names have come back something fierce. Sometimes I wake up completely soaking wet (my wife insists I peed the bed, but I know better!) thinking about what i went through over there.

You see, I once plied the waters you find yourself in. I once taught at Pagoda in Apkujeong while living up the hill from Kangnam Station, and much like yourself I often felt like some furry little mammal, constantly having to think one step ahead of the hounds.

I started off at the Apkujeong Pagoda after living in Taiwan for a few years teaching kids, so I pretty much knew what I was getting into, teaching-wise. But nothing could prepare me for the BS I ended up putting up with in Seoul. After getting sucked in by what was a pretty damn good interview (plus the fact that my then-girlfriend-now-wife worked for the company), I had a pretty good feeling about what I was going to get into. But right off the bat, I noticed how low the morale was among the foreign teachers. Usually, there's a certain percentage of teachers in hagwons who get out their "living overseas" issues by spending a chunk of their time complaining about the school. These guys, however, were different. Each person knew exactly how many days they had left on their contract, how many days left until they could get the hell out of Korea (or find another school to complain about for another year). These foreign teachers (mostly well qualified--it turned out Pagoda prided itself on fucking over only the best foreign talent back then) were the saddest sacks; all were lured over being promised no split shifts, no pre-screening students (that was left to the hapless head teacher), and the promise that the staff were there to support the teachers. With apologies to Robert Shaw, "they had black, lifeless eyes--like a dolllll's eyyyyyes."

As you may know, Pagoda is a big fish in a small hagwon pond. Its founder once spent a very well-publicized night in jail for tax evasion a few years back, and runs his little fiefdom in an truly Machiavellian fashion. Pagoda hires talented Korean teachers and squeeze them for every won they can get out of them. The organization sees its native teachers as lessees who use their classrooms, and charges them handsomely for it. Like at EC, each teacher is under INCREDIBLE pressure to keep registration rates (re-registration rates even more so) up, and to play the teachers off against each other by scheduling the teachers with the best retention rates at the "peak hours." Since they're paid by head, it can get incredibly vicious, and in true "Survivor" style, alliances and schisms inevitably crop up, only to be occasionally brutally put down by the management by firing some of the easier targets in the herd (a good friend of mine--a Japanese teacher--was given her walking papers for being seen talking to the wrong faction leader at the wrong time).

Inevitably, the TV English teachers get the most money, for they attract the largest percentage of hagwon students: those fearless digitalists who want to be able to watch "Friends" on AFKN. These TV English teachers are at the top of the food chain and bring in the most money to the school, so the management pays them insane amounts to keep them around (one popular teacher, who graduated from Harvard, was said to be pulling down around US$100,000 per year with her classes, her self-produced CDs and books, and her trophy Ivy league diploma). The other teachers (like my wife) were constantly struggling to keep re-enrollment rates up, and were always having to take students out for drinks (guess who pays?) right before re-enrollment time every month to bribe them to take the class again. Just brutal.

I happened to start working at the Apkujeong branch in the dead of winter, and I soon realized that Pagoda was saving money by not turning on the heaters in any of the classrooms, which made for excruciating mornings. Students looked to the foreign teachers to get the heat back on, but no dice. The cold, coupled with the split shifts (where the day never ends) wore us down like an overpitched bullpen, and soon people started coming down with pneumonia and the like. I caught a bad case of bronchitis, and was reprimanded for requesting a couple of days off. After 3 months of hanging upside down in the Wampa Cave, I had enough and put in my 45 to jump ship to another school to write mock English tests (another horror story for another time that involves blatant copyright violations, foreign teacher/Korean teacher fistfights in the teachers lounge, and student revolts after the Anton Ono short track skating incident) . Money was never an issue when i left, but at the time I was concerned because the management had been accepting foreign teachers' resignations, but then turned around and refused to sign their release papers (thereby making it illegal to stay in the country and working elsewhere on the same visa). This happened to a few Pagoda coworkers as they attempted to leave.

I guess the point of this story is that money is probably not your biggest concern, nor is the fact that they might try to shitcan you on the smallest pretext---the thing to worry about is whether or not they sign your walking papers.

I wish you best of luck in your last 45. Just make sure you have enough money in your account for an emergency trip to Osaka in case you need to get a new visa. Keep yer powder dry and your head down and you'll be OK.

Pilseung, Byotch--

Jason in D.C.
(aka Lower G.I. Joe)

I don't want my blog to become an extension of the rant boards over at Dave's ESL Cafe, but I felt Jason's illuminating letter might offer my Stateside readers a good overview of how shitty the employment situation can be here.

To keep it all in perspective, though, I have to remember that it's often worse for the Korean teachers, who find themselves under enormous pressure to perform, and who do so, as a rule, for very little reward.

In all, I'm not particularly stressed about my situation-- not as stressed as my posts might lead you to believe. I'm old and tired now; ten years ago, when I was younger and angrier, I'd have thought about suing or taking some other legal approach. Now, however, I find it difficult even to dredge up enough emotion to care. Instead of seething in fury, I'm thinking strategically. I'm better at emotional judo now, much better than I used to be. While I'll never be a master poker player (when I'm truly angry, I can't hide the fact), I've internalized the golden rule that, in an argument, less is often more. So, like Jason says, I plan to keep my powder dry and my head down.


what I didn't tell my co-workers today

Our boss at the local EC branch, Imelda (not her real name), called me in today (Friday) for a meeting. As before, the meeting started in English and ended up in Korean.

Man, that woman's a fucking piece of work. She actually tried tears on me today. "Kevin, I couldn't sleep at all last night," she said. Dramatic pause.

"Why?" I asked, playing the part of Big Oaf.

"Because of you!" she said, eyes reddening. As she talked to me about how much she wanted me to reconsider my decision to leave... on came the waterworks. I sat there and said nothing, did nothing while she wiped away tears and blew her nose in a tissue. This shit doesn't impress me; I was a high school teacher in America and saw plenty of crocodile tears. If Imelda thought she was going to prompt a sudden show of sympathy from me, she was wrong. And if you think I'm being a cold bastard about this, well... fuck you. This woman's one calculating player. Spare your sympathy for the starving children of meat-packing plant workers.

Imelda's keen to know my true motives for leaving. (My stated reason, money, wasn't enough for her, even though it's part of the truth.) To that end, she asked a probing question:

"Is it because K [EC's founder] is moving into our building?"

I was tempted to answer, "Does the Pope shit in the woods? Do bears wear funny hats?", but then something better occurred to me. Dodging her question, I asked:

"How do you feel about K's coming to our building?"

She was surprisingly forthright. She's not looking forward to it. Then again, it's no secret that K's been giving his branch managers grief. Like any CEO, he wants those numbers higher, higher, higher! No sane branch manager would look forward to having the Big Boss sitting right over his or her head, where he's then free to inspect the branch at will simply by walking down one flight of stairs. So Imelda's forthrightness isn't all that impressive, either: of course she fears the arrival of K. It costs her nothing to confess the obvious.

Imelda kept asking me whether the monster schedule had anything to do with my departure. I said yes, it did-- something I'd already told her during our previous meeting. Earlier today, one of my co-workers, a guy named J, mentioned that we should have at least three guaranteed breaks in our schedule. I passed this on to Imelda without mentioning J (no need to get the guy in trouble). Imelda, still wiping away tears, warbled lamely that-- get this-- she had no idea things were so bad. The mind boggles at this woman's nerve. She even went so far as to claim that she'd asked some of the foreign teachers whether everything was all right, and they'd told her that things were just fine. I refuse to believe that any of my co-workers would have said that with a straight face, but let's do a bit of speculating.

1. Assume none of my co-workers claimed that everything was fine. This means Imelda's a liar-- something that wouldn't surprise me one bit.

2. Assume some of my co-workers did tell Imelda that all was well, no worries. I can see plenty of prudential reasons for saying that to Imelda, not least of which would be to keep from being fired. I wouldn't blame any of them for wanting to cover their asses while they hatch their private escape plans.

In either case, Imelda's still the bad guy in this. With K on the way, Imelda can make whatever promises she wants about improving life at EC, but it's unlikely she'll keep those promises, whether she means to or not. K will see to that.

I suspect that Imelda's tearful display was the first move in another game of chess at the office. I can imagine any number of dirty tricks coming my way-- mysterious penalties assessed, early firing, refusal to pay a single won after I leave. I'm mentally preparing myself to roll with any eventuality; for me, the point is merely to get out.

I should also note that Imelda does have a reason to cry: a teacher will be leaving right under K's nose. And it's possible I'll be the first of several. Imelda's own ass is on the line. So, a question for my audience: do you think I feel much sympathy for the woman?

Our meeting ended with a plea for me to reconsider, to think about what I was doing. I told Imelda that, if I'm to get a university job that starts in March, then I'd better think fast, eh? Imelda's not stupid. She knows I won't be changing my mind.


notes from home

My brother David wrote am amusing email the other day. It's pretty long, but two excerpts are worth noting.

1. David and Dad have decided to get rid of the old and battered mailbox that's stood forlornly across the street from our house for years. David writes:

Parents are doing fine - I helped dad put in a NEW MAILBOX yesterday! Kids were pushing our nasty 30-year-old mailbox over and it was slammed a few times with a baseball bat (middle of the mailbox was crunched-in)... it's a tough job putting a new mailbox in the ground! We opted to take a large 4"x4" square pole of wood and set it in a bucket of concrete as an anchor. A few days later dad started putting the whole mailbox assembly together - it's not an easy job - lots of drilling, etc. yesterday we dug a new hole in the ground, put the pole in, put the whole black plastic mailbox assembly over the pole, drilled and screwed everything into place, and now we've got an awlsome mailbox. I'll take a pic of eht and send eht tew yew. Dad got a traditional mailbox which I think won't last if these kids keep playing with it... they have a mailbox that is called "Ironsides" cuz the entire thing is made of heavy-gauge steel. It's THICK and I'm waiting for the new mailbox to be bashed-in so we can put in the IRONSIDES. Yeahhhhhhhh baby. Yew readie?

2. David writes about the trouble my other brother, Sean (referred to as "Bean" here), is having with his nasty, used Subaru.

Bean is doing fine, we think. His Subaru is DEAD. Well, not the whole car, but his entire suspension system has died. His car doesn't have the traditional spring suspension system like most cars have - somehow his car has air suspension... normally that kind of suspension is reserved for luxury cars. Wonder why subaru decided to put that kind of suspension in a '91 station wagon. Anyway, his car has no suspension system at all now and it is the funniest thing to watch Sean take his car down the road. The car is essentially riding directly on the frame - pretty much like a buggy would be (before they had springs) when pulled by a horse. So any small bump sends his car into a fit of bouncing and wild gyrations up and down, left and right. I followed Sean to a garage and it was probably the funniest thing I've seen all year. Larger bumps make the car actually lose contact with the pavement. Sean has bruises from all of the bumps he took while driving and he's hit his head on the roof before... a friend of his was wearing sunglasses on top of his head and when they hit a bump his head hit the roof, causing his sunglasses to make an indent into his skin. It's so funny to watch the car go - but it's also very dangerous. The Subaru dealership said his entire suspension system has crapped out, and it would cost $1,500 to fix it.

Sigh... I miss my family.


Friday, January 14, 2005

a fearful earful

As much as we expats like to paint Koreans with a wide brush, it simply isn't true that all Koreans think alike.*

Today was a case in point. I had two students tell me how much they disliked Korea and were hoping to get out and find better jobs (as well as a better life) elsewhere.

Then in walked Miss Nationalist. Let's call her Ji.

I'd interviewed Ji when she first came to EC; her English was already pretty good and I could speak to her full-speed. She's hoping to study international relations at a foreign-language university, and is taking classes at EC to brush up on her conversation and interviewing skills. She normally takes classes from a different teacher, but tonight she had me.

As part of her university entrance requirements, Ji apparently has to answer a series of politically-themed interview questions. Among the ones we covered tonight:

1. Why was the US attacked?
2. What can we do to protect the environment?

Both of these questions elicited boilerplate, blame-America responses. The US was attacked, Ji contended, because it wants the oil found in Muslim countries, and has an aggressive foreign policy that has oppressed the Muslim world for far too long. Ji answered the second question by saying that American resistance to signing the Kyoto Protocols was a major factor in the world's pollution problem. It was therefore the world's job to persuade America to get on the ball.

When I pointed out that Ji hadn't bothered to take note of the ideology driving certain Islamic factions, she smiled in embarrassment. She'd never considered the possibility that the people who'd attacked the US on 9/11 were all rich, not driven by poverty, but by a larger Wahabist vision of the reestablishment of Dar al Islam. I also pointed out that US resistance to the Kyoto Protocols dates back to the Clinton administration, and isn't a stance original to George Bush. At the same time, I was willing to grant that the US isn't above reproof in all this: we've been part of the problem, too.

To her credit, Ji took my responses in stride. My suggestion to her was to approach geopolitical problems not with pat answers, but with open questions, and to try to seek a balanced view where possible. The only blunt suggestion I made to her was, "You need to learn a lot more about Islam." We'd wandered into the subject of missionary religions and tolerance. I'd asked Ji whether she'd submit to a traditionalist Muslim husband and she-- a modern woman-- recoiled at the thought.

The session ended well. I was delighted to meet a young, sharp, opinionated mind, but disturbed at how deep the brainwashing already was.

*That's not meant to condescend to my Korean readers; rather, it's to set the record straight in the minds of certain non-Koreans, many of whom have put their ignorance on display in various Koreabloggers' comments threads.


Thursday, January 13, 2005

postal scrotum: the genius of moi

I received the following email from a certain M. DeLeon:

I Asked Jeeves about "trout intestinal polyps" and was directed to [your] blog. I was quite taken aback, and marveled at the sheer scope of intellectual genius that was bestowed upon my eyes. I hope you are very proud of yourself.

It's all about the intellectual genius here at the Hairy Chasms. I'm proud, I suppose, in the same way that a baby is proud after leaving a massive load in its diapers.

Pride goeth before the plop.



My former Korean partner, J, told me that, right after I'd handed in my resignation letter and had my little talk with Imelda, she (Imelda) asked J to persuade me to stay.

Heh. I think that gesture was calculated to reach my ears. I have no illusions about how replaceable I am.

On a personal note, "The Incredibles" kicked ass a second time around. The theater was nearly empty (today was the last day "The Incredibles" was showing at that particular theater), but I had a ball all the same. Fantastic animation, amazing CGI detail (even down to facial tics and random bodily quirks), snappy dialogue, a flowing plot, and great voice casting. The critics are right: Samuel L. Jackson was underused, but overall, that flaw was forgivable. If this movie doesn't win an Oscar, I'll be surprised.

I saw the online preview for "Cars," the newest Pixar effort. I think it's going to be their first flop. The preview was entirely unappealing to me. I suspect it'll be unappealing to a lot of people. Watch it here and judge for yourself.


a Christian response

And since I've given you something from the Dhammapada, I might as well follow up with one of my favorite prayers, attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.



on anger

[This is being cross-posted at Andi's place.]

I'm giving in to my scripture-quoting Protestant tendencies to bring you this morsel from the Dhammapada:

Give up anger, give up pride, and free yourself from worldly bondage. No sorrow can befall those who never try to possess people and things as their own.

Those who hold back rising anger like a rolling chariot are real charioteers. Others merely hold the reins.

Conquer anger through gentleness, unkindness through kindness, greed through generosity, and falsehood by truth. Be truthful; do not yield to anger. Give freely even if you have but little. The gods will bless you.

Injuring no-one, self-controlled, the wise enter the state of peace beyond all sorrow. Those who are vigilant, who train their minds day and night and strive continually for nirvana, enter the state of peace beyond all selfish passions.

There is an old saying: "People will blame you if you say too much; they will blame you if you say too little; they will blame you if you say just enough." No one in this world escapes blame.

There never was and never will be anyone who receives all praise or all blame. But who can blame those who are pure, wise, good, and meditative? They shine like a coin of pure gold. Even gods praise them, even Brahma the Creator.

Use your body for doing good, not for harm. Train it to follow the dharma. Use your tongue for doing good, not for harm. Train it to speak kindly. Use your mind for doing good, not for harm. Train your mind in love. The wise are disciplined in body, speech, and mind. They are well controlled indeed.

Advice I'm not likely to follow, advice I routinely fail, but good advice all the same.

[Easwaran, Eknath, trans. The Dhammapada. Berkeley: Nilgiri Press, 1985. Citation is from Chapter 17, pp. 148-149.]


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

t'al-ch'ul (escape): the deed is done

Imelda got my letter of resignation today. She took it stoically. No rage. No gnashing of teeth. I kept on my best behavior. It's all good (so far). I'm celebrating by watching "The Incredibles" this evening for the second time. Will splurge by taking a taxi home. Haw haw.


putting my money where my mouth is

I'm drafting my letter of resignation to EC. Enough's enough. I'm currently applying for several different positions, including a couple university posts both inside and outside of Seoul. We'll see how that goes.

EC requires a 45-day notice if you're planning to quit. I'm going to be teaching until the end of February-- just in time, I hope, for the start of the Korean academic year.

Even if the job searches don't pan out, I'll have no regrets about leaving EC. To teach such long hours for so little pay, and with no support at all from the management, leads to the feeling that I'm wasting my time. I could be doing something worthwhile.

I'm also concerned about how I've been unable to save any money up to now. I send so much money home for debt (almost all education-related) that I have little to survive on for the month-- certainly not enough to think about a plane ticket home.

I'm looking at jobs that either pay a lot more or give me the opportunity to earn some money on the side. We'll see what comes of that.

What are my grievances? Ah, I suppose you think I'll list them all in my resignation letter! What, are you fucking nuts? If I turn that letter in with a long list of complaints appended thereto, what's the likelihood I'll be getting my final month's pay?* And remember this: once you've stated your intention to quit, they'll be looking for reasons to fire you before your declared quitting date. No-- as far as Imelda knows, I'm looking for a new job because I need more money to finance my debt. Have no fear, though: management will eventually learn the true reasons for my departure.

1. Being crammed for three months in a tiny studio apartment, unable to unpack my possessions because I'd been told I'd have to move "shortly," with no exact indication as to when that might have been.

2. The stupid lab coat requirement.

3. Being asked to conduct student placement tests between classes, when we have barely five minutes to do them.

4. Being asked to conduct placement tests when we're off the clock (I've been asked to do this twice already).

5. Having had my pay docked W100,000 for the wrong month.

6. Perhaps most important: watching helplessly while my Korean colleagues get financially shafted and otherwise mistreated by both Imelda and K, the founder. "Helplessly," because I worry that speaking out on their behalf will simply get them all in trouble, and I'm not sure they'd appreciate my intervention, anyway.

There's nothing noble about staying here and tolerating this bullshit. Life is short; I'd rather live it constructively. I'd also rather have more free time. I keep thinking back to the first bad omen I had about EC: the day I came in for my interview, I heard two Korean teachers talking in Korean. One sighed to the other, "In-saeng-i eop-da," or "I have no life." I should have walked out right then. Silly me for making the wrong choice. Luckily, we can unmake our choices and, I hope, learn from them.

More on this as it happens. I'm morbidly curious about how Imelda will take the news. Not that it matters; in typical hagwon manager's style, she won't view my departure as a big loss. Other teachers are being trained as we speak; most will be replacing dropouts. That's how it works at hagwons. It's a revolving door. I'm revolving out.

*To be clear, I expect them to try some dirty tricks about this as well. I'm mentally prepared just to walk away, even if they offer nothing. Fuck 'em. My litigating days are over.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

the train wreck that is Rory's new life

It was with no small amount of morbid curiosity that I read Rory's recent entry about his new, noisy neighbors, and how he's chosen to deal with them.

This seems like a violent incident waiting to happen. I can only hope that, when it does, Rory has his digicam ready to chronicle the bruises, lacerations, evulsed organs, and spilled blood.

My senior year of college, I was in a five-person apartment. We all got along fairly well, but two of our number had opposite musical tastes. Whenever Matt came back from classes, he'd crank up his stereo with Don Henley's "Boys of Summer." This would piss off my housemate Joe, who'd go into his bedroom and crank up Mojo Nixon's "Don Henley Must Die," a song I ended up preferring. Matt and Joe never spoke to each other about what they were doing; they let their music do the fighting. Here's hoping that Rory's new neighbors also see their way clear to a non-violent solution.


postal scrotum 2: kirogi

Jason writes with a link to a fascinating article about the deliberate fracturing of Korean families for the sake of the children's education in America.

Hey Kevin,

The [Washington] Post carried a story yesterday about Kirogi-- [Korean] families who split up to give their kids better education opportunities in the US. Interesting read.

WaPo link

Jason in D.C.


Savage postal scrotum!

Scott writes:

Hi Kevin,

Re: (the Savage diatribe), you wrote, "(Savage): We shouldn't be spending a nickel on this, as far as I'm concerned. ... I don't want one nickel of my money going over there. ... I am sick of being bled to death by every damn incident on the earth.
(Kevin): This takes some fucking nerve. Burn in hell, Savage."

Putting aside Dan's whining about God and Islamic hippies dying, his first point was/is a point of contention in the US - and that's about all the money being sent. Private donations from US citizens total *almost* as much as the tax money Bush gave away. I'm all for forced charity, but the reaction to the tsunami has shown that private folks (citizens, churches, charity organizations, et al) are more than willing, able and ready to respond when needed.

What also got Savage riled up was the UN and it's constant whining that it's the only appropriate organization to help (read: bullshit). But while the UN is bitching about being 'undermined in it's efforts to help the victims', real aid is being delivered by the folks who do the heavy lifting (national militaries operating outside the blue-helmet goofball & rape squads).

I'm all for the US going in and fixing the problem, a la the carrier group now there with the equipment needed to deliver supplies to damaged areas. And it's great that other countries (like Team Japan) are jumping in with huge amounts of get-the-job-done. But even ordinary Americans get tired when:
- Beggars who really shouldn't be choosers (namely the affected gov'ts) are declining aid from certain specific people (read: the Israelis),
- The UN is being a petulant 5-year-old child because the rest of the world won't wait for the UN to get it's impotent self in gear.

So yes, Savage is an ass. But he's got a point about all the bitching going around with respect to how things are getting done. Because yet again, the USA is stepping up in a big way - and largely getting a big raspberry in return.


I don't listen to Savage's broadcasts and have no idea what his larger argument is, but I felt his rant was completely out of line. It's also not consistent with what his fellow conservatives have been saying and doing. I saw one conservative repudiation of Savage here. A noteworthy quote:

This chucklehead is called a conservative. There's nothing conservative about this idiocy. A joyless, hyper-libertarian sect might make such statements, but not conservatism.

After all, it's conserving the mores of the Western, Christian heritage. The sacredness of human life, the duty to help the helpless, the justness of giving to the needy, this healthy humanism is what we're preserving. Find the Good Samaritan ethic anywhere in Savage's comments.

Conservatism shows respect for the collected wisdom that's accrued in custom and tradition over the ages -- what C.S. Lewis calls the Tao. Compassion, aid to the needy and the preservation of life run through the Tao. Savage jettisons this in favor of Ayn Rand's cold-blooded new morality. Fortunately, the rest of the conservative world has been very proactive in supporting tsunami relief.

Conservatism is warmer, deeper and more human than the sterile individualism Savage is selling. Allowing him to be one of our spokesmen both perverts the movement and plays into every false stereotype the critics make about us.

We justly critique the Left for embracing the fabrications and betrayals of Michael Moore. But we need to keep our own house in order as well.

[link found at Satan's Anus]

As I survey my own blogroll, I see almost unanimous agreement from all parts of the political spectrum that the victims of the tsunami are worthy of aid. Disasters like this represent times when most of us put aside petty differences and chip in however we can. Sure, we have to deal with our own resentment, because we know our efforts won't be fully appreciated by the recipients of the aid we give. In this particular case, we also have to worry about whether we're helping people with an anti-American agenda. I think we should worry about that later. The people need help now, and we have to hold out hope that, among the bad eggs, some will see the light and respond to what we do with gratitude. Or we could be cynics like Savage and tell the world to go fuck itself.

I don't deny the importance of the issues you're raising, Scott, and I'm glad we agree Savage is an ass. He simply pissed me off because he's out of line, and because he quite obviously doesn't represent the majority of conservatives.