A strong argument for avoiding aliens. Somewhat derivative, what with the "Mars Attacks" looks and the Cartmanesque anal probe, but the animation, while rudimentary, is expressive.
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Joel is in town and we did a Namsan hike this morning, starting around 6:30AM. For a dude who claims not to have worked out in a while, Joel attacked the mountain with vigor. Conversation involved a lot of state secrets, so I'm afraid I can't relate anything we said.
Except for one thing: I now know that Korea harbors centipedes much larger than the ones I've captured. Much larger.
A special hello to Joel's beautiful lady, Sunhang, whose name, I've discovered, is not pronounced "soon-hahng," but "seon-haeng."
Saturday, July 30, 2005
The new SAT's "Writing" section contains grammar questions that will definitely catch the unwary, as I discovered today while taking a few online SAT-format grammar quizzes. That was embarrassing. Luckily, I was alone: no one witnessed my debasement.
I recently acquired a new tutoring gig (Jabba's gotta eat); today, my student and I covered the essay-writing section and worked briefly on grammar. Tomorrow, we're concentrating almost totally on grammar and reading, with only a little time devoted to writing.
Word of advice: online aids vary in quality. One quiz I took contained several grammatical errors.
Gotta go buy another SAT book this evening. The kid's got his own texts (Barron's and Princeton Review), but he's been through most of their contents already; I see little use in going over material he already knows.
"I need someone with a biology background to explain to me how a half-Japanese chick can end up with green eyes."
Tinted contacts. That isn't biology; that's marketing. ;-)
Andrew R. writes in:
Hey Dirty Old Man®,
"I need someone with a biology background to explain to me how a half-Japanese chick can end up with green eyes. I thought the brown-eyed phenotype was the result of dominant genes."
Robert Heinlein covered this to death in part of "Time Enough for Love." Long story short, when offspring is 'half' anything, weird gene combos spring up at a rate much higher than most people would assume.
Thank you both for aiding me in my meditation on freaks. Perhaps this explains why I, a half-Korean, have such large breasts.
On behalf of my buddy Mike and as a way to pay homage to his new, improved blogskin, I offer up the following MWO coin of the realm:
Note the textured appearance, a reminder of ancient coins dug up by archaeologists-- a fitting touch for a lover of history. Note also the year: 2003, the year Naked Villainy was born. The Maximum Leader's title sits proudly atop the coin; the sacred term "MWO" (Mike World Order) balances out the year.
Last but not least, note the French motto: "Que les nains souffrent!" May the dwarves suffer!
Friday, July 29, 2005
Two of my drama students, parodying Macbeth, have to say the following lines:
MACDUFF: Ah, Macbeth! Ye killed my wife, ye murdered my babies, ye shat in my stew.
MACBETH: Och! I didnae!
MACDUFF: O, ay ye did. I had t' throw half of it away.
Borgeson, Jess, Adam Long, and Daniel Singer. The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged). New York: Applause Books, 1994.
Seven students came for my one-on-one sessions. Three more were supposed to show, but they bagged on me. Can't say I blame them: it's vacation weekend. I'll be stuck doing lesson plans and some private tutoring over the next few days.
My students today were a riot.
The first one, one of my favorites, ranted about how "America wants peace, but they bring war wherever they go." Dealing with youthful impatience and shallowness is what I do these days, and I did my best to get this girl to open her mind to the possibility that that peace/war slogan, along with the "It's all about the oil!" nonsense, might be obscuring a more complex reality.
Another student began by bluntly asking me whether I believed in God and ghosts. This could have been a much richer conversation had we had the time (each student gets only 15 minutes' face time when I do these rapidfire sessions), but we didn't get very far. She proudly claimed not to believe in either, declaring, in an eerily Jedi way, that God and ghosts were "for the weak-minded." I taught her the term "empiricist" and referred her to philosopher David Hume. Even tried to explain the whole "you cannot derive ought from is" thing.
At one point, though, I did have fun with her. She said, "If I can't see it, touch it, feel it, smell it, or taste it, then it isn't there." I asked her what her major was. "Math," she said. So I drew basic Euclidean shapes on the paper between us and said, "Here's a circle, and a square, and a triangle. But they're not perfect. Can you point me to a perfect circle? A perfect square? A perfect triangle? No? Then where are they?" She had a good laugh.
One of my cuter students showed up later in the day. While she was talking, I suavely exhaled a dried, gossamer booger onto the table. It landed on a piece of A4-size paper with an audible click. That was pretty cool. I don't think she noticed, though, and I managed to spirit the booger away before she got a look at the table. If she did notice... well, that'll teach me to clean out my nose a bit more thoroughly from now on. Cute Student said she wanted to do the Namsan hiking thing in a couple weeks, which is why I'm assuming she didn't see my flying chunk: a girl doesn't usually make such a proposition post-booger.
My last student of the day told me she'd had a terrible blind date a week or so ago, and that she was meeting the guy again that afternoon with her friend in tow. "Why?" I asked, incredulous. "To get revenge," she said. I asked her to clarify. "We were supposed to go Dutch last time, but I ended up paying double what I should have and the guy didn't say anything." Apparently, my student and her girlfriend were on a mission to get their money back (the blind date was 3-on-3, a fairly common dating format in Korea). I wished my student luck as she embarked on her quest, but in my heart I knew: anger, fear, aggression-- the dark side of the Force are they. Easily do they flow; quick to join you in a fight.
I then met an American buddy of mine, stuffed my face at the local Outback Steakhouse, and lumbered back to campus to stink up the teachers' office with my sweat-fetor. I apologized to the ladies who were working in there at the time; you know the odor's bad when you can smell yourself. Most of these ladies are approaching adjumma age, too, so I'm sure they made some catty remarks about my personal hygiene after I left.
I'm contemplating a late-night hike up Namsan. Problem is, I had a large lunch and an even larger dinner. Lunch has been squeezing itself out of my ass for the past hour, making me wonder whether I can risk a hike without needing to make a sudden break for a shitter.
I need someone with a biology background to explain to me how a half-Japanese chick can end up with green eyes. I thought the brown-eyed phenotype was the result of dominant genes.
I saw this green-eyed cutie as I was leaving Smoo campus to meet a friend. She had one of those white, stenciled boxes you normally see being carried by folks involved with fundraisers, and she walked straight over to me-- not shy, this one. In hesitant Korean (despite the fact that she was obviously American), she explained what her fundraiser was about. Playing along, I asked her in Korean where she was from. She told me she was from the States and was half-Japanese. We reverted to English after that. She gave me a piece of candy as part of her fundraiser shtick.
Yes, I am a dirty old man. I doubt she was even college age. Beautiful, wavy black hair. Nice lips. A great little smile.
Fuck. Where is my mind? Swimming somewhere in my sweat-soaked underwear, methinks.
Green-eyed Beauty complimented my Korean, but as Joel and Oranckay* can attest from direct exposure to my incompetence, my Korean is nothing to write home about. I accepted her compliment gracefully, though, and bowed to her as she thanked me-- again in Korean-- for my donation, and we went our separate ways.
I'm gonna get arrested one of these days, I just know it.
*I'd offer your ass a link to Oranckay, except he's still waiting on dda to to help out with his site. Hé, dda! Magne-toi, sale fils de Français!
My dorm is currently experiencing its second Internet service outage, which forces me to write this entry from Smoo, where I am currently enjoying a brief respite between one-on-one sessions with students.
More later as this story takes shape, grows boobies, etc.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Before leaving Smoo campus around 8:15 this evening, I stopped by the departmental office to confer with the Nice Office Lady about my student-- the one who, by all rights, should get an "F" and be booted out of my class.
As I suspected: NOL will do what she can to keep the student in the program, whether this means taking her down to a lower level or doing something else. Rules have no teeth when no one wants to enforce them. It's a universal truth.
Joel writes in:
[sic] Your a real dick with the grammar corrections. [sic] i couldn't stop laughing. [sic] If'n it makes [sic] ya feel [sic] betta I have been reading your blog for over a year and I still [sic] does not know what [sic] da fuck [sic] you's talking about. But one thing is for sure I am going to start proofreading all my posts like 3 or 4 times before I post them.
I love it.
Trivia: the word sic is Latin for "so/thus" or "yes." When you see it after an error in a given text, it's an editor's remark: "Yup; dat's wut he akshually wroted."
In truth, I'm pretty tolerant of errors these days. Mellowing with age, suffering erectile dysfunction. Sadness and ennui. My life is a parched vagina, thirsting for the sweet tongue of a young, nubile lesbian.
Life as a language Nazi isn't easy. I used to be plagued by people who found my own typos and brain farts and made a show of quoting them back at me. Such idiots were operating on the assumption that I considered my own command of English beyond reproach. Not true: I prefer to have my mistakes pointed out.
After all, which is worse: walking around with your dick hanging out of your zipper all day, or being told up-front that your schlong is doing an impression of a chest-bursting alien?
There is a chain of blogs on the internet where everyone links to each other and all talk about the news. Its [sic] kinda like a webring which use to popular [sic] back in the day when the web was still young. Now we just link to each other on our own without signing up to some website and trying to get others to join. We talk about each other like old friends, and yet we have never met. I am barely now getting involved, have only had a couple linkbacks.
There are a couple blogs I keep scratching my head about. one [sic] is BigHomid [sic]. I think he is in Korea or some other part of Asia its [sic] hard to tell. His blog is complete gibberish and odd poems I think he wrote himself along with pictures he has drawn. Others point and laugh at what he wrote..., some are shocked that he said it.
I, myself, want to know what the fuck is he [sic] talking about, and how does this have [sic] anything to do with Korea or any tangable [sic] subject? Twisted and perverse, lost and confused..., what the fuck?
Consider this, my linguistically meticulous friend: you're "barely now getting involved," which means you haven't had the chance to read through my archives-- or anyone else's. A bit too soon to be passing judgement, don't you think?
Let's use a sci-fi analogy to understand this properly.
Imagine you're a freshly-made human clone-- a male, and you've spent time in the lab being rapid-educated, without ever once meeting an adult woman. A year passes. The doc says, "Dude, this is your big day. You've seen the pictures of them, you've read the poetry about them, and now, at long last, you're gonna meet your first woman." So you're like, "Fuckin' A, Doc." Your dick grins and drools in agreement.
The doc takes you outside the cloning building and points vaguely to another building across the grounds.
"She's in there, man," he says. "Knock yerself out."
So you walk across the lawn, go into the other building, and start looking around for this lady. Doors are marked with all sorts of letters and symbols you can't read too well (you're only a year old, remember; accelerated education isn't perfect), and you finally barge into one promising-looking room.
The room, you immediately discover, smells like shit. Of course, that's not about to stop a curious clone like you. You see a bunch of stalls in the room, notice a pair of petite feet peeking out from under the door of one of the stalls, and bash the door open.
There's a woman in there, all right, and she was in mid-crap when you burst in. She screams, the muscles of her body reflexively tightening in terror, which serves only to squeeze out more dung and produce a massive, wet fart as well.
You find yourself thoroughly disgusted by the sight and smell of this screaming creature and you stumble out of the restroom, barely able to comprehend how such a thing might be the other half of humanity.
"What the fuck?" you muse, as your dick frowns in sincere, analytical puzzlement. "Women aren't all they're cracked up to be." You decide from then on to stay away from all women, since they're obviously irrational, unsanitary, and smell like shit.
The moral of the story is: Judging a two-year-old blog after superficially reading a handful of posts is a bit like judging all women after watching one take a shit for twenty seconds.
And no extra IQ points for misspelling my handle. BigHomid. Who's the bigger homid, I wonder?
UPDATE: The gent kindly updated the spelling of my handle after reading the comment I placed on his blog. Coolness. All is forgiven. Except for the "gibberish" comment. That cut deep. So deep it abused my childhood. Now I have to go stick a few gerbils up my ass and practice butt-Kegels until I feel better.
If it's true that "I, myself, want to know what the fuck is he [sic] talking about," then I hope he'll write me an email and actually ask. Best way to find something out is through recon, not speculation and divination.
If you feel that a cutesy song about poop-- accompanied by frenetic cartoon visuals and photos of simulated shit-- is inappropriate for office viewing, then this link isn't work-safe.
At the end of the video, the makers even show you how they made the shit that stars in the vid.
(with thanks to S. Carroll)
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Mungley the Chimp held the rabbit over the water’s roiling surface. Something long, lean, and angry was whipping the water into froth.
“Talk,” Mungley said to Butch, “or Toby meets Shaskaa the Sea Dragon.”
Butch the Squirrel quaked but said nothing.
“Fine,” Mungley shrugged, and dropped Toby into the tank.
The dragon was quick. Toby the Rabbit exploded into pink foam. Shaskaa apparently thought Toby was just the appetizer: it leaped out of the water and seized a surprised Mungley in a tangle of fangs and muscular coils.
Screams. More foam.
Butch bolted. The dragon leaped again.
Screams. More foam.
Joel has been learning new Japanese vocab (scroll down).
So have I, thanks to Adam.
Justin links to a truly fucked-up video. (Video might take a while to load.)
Rat-killing by proxy, courtesy of Jelly.
Rory soon to make a big mistake.
Jeff's vomitous day. With wasps. A single paragraph reminds me of Nabokov's observation that "our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness." Rage, Jeff! Rage against the dying of the light!
I'm a bit slow in linking this, but the Pooper displays a pic of the sexiest eleven-year-old you'll ever see. I have to agree with the commenters that... well... something just ain't right about photographing a girl that young in that way. (pic is work-safe, but may disturb you)
The Nomad links to an interesting post by his buddy Gar re: the six-way talks.
Daehee has Nepal updates here and here. He's back in Korea for a month.
Max with some interesting posts on oral hygiene and vegetarians.
Stuck in a volcano? Why, go get your mom, of course!
The dog that laid land mines and struck a blow in the drug war.
Zen Mama Lorianne photographs ghosts.
Dr. Vallicella with an interesting post on impermanence and self-reference.
Jason W. emails (slightly edited to disclude personal info):
I translated and posted a story from one of Taiwan's trashier tabloids about a 19-year-old girl who awoke from a 5-year coma, only to be hidden (and beaten) for a year by her father, who wanted to keep the social assistance money she was bringing in as a vegetable. Nice, huh?
Check out Jason's excellent site, Wandering to Tamshui.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Dr. Hodges offers some interesting insights about the rise Islam in Europe-- a topic that has (rightly) received a good bit of scholarly attention lately. I agree that Islam's rise poses a challenge for a multicultural Europe in the near future. Multiculturalism unbalanced by some degree of assimilationism leads to problems when unassimilated minorities become a large political voice.
If a button-down, short-sleeve shirt is placed inside a washing machine, the sleeves will eventually end up inside-out. If the same shirt is placed inside-out inside the washing machine, the entire shirt will remain inside out.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
The amount of sweat I generate causes murmurs in the winter. During the summer, I inspire a mixture of awe and revulsion. My air conditioner has been churning since about 11AM today, and I've enjoyed its balm. Now, alas, I have to leave the premises, get a haircut, buy a CD, and grab some of those damn fashion magazines I've been dreading. Then it's back to the dorm to pick up my books and notes, and I'm off to Smoo to sit in the office and while away the hours as I generate more lesson plans and get ready for midterm week. The forecast for today calls for sweat, sweat, and more sweat.
I remain tired as hell, snowed under with work. Part of the blame lies in my not having hit Namsan more than once over the past two weeks. It's starting to show, too: my face is once again beginning to look like bread in mid-bake. But it's hot, dammit. Hot and humid: my two least favorite conditions. Mustering up the desire to hike (not to mention the time!) is increasingly difficult.
One of my students yesterday wanted me to come along with her to the funeral of Yi Gu, the last member of the Chosun (Yi) Dynasty, who was found dead in a Tokyo hotel a few days ago, and whose remains have been transported back to Seoul's Changdeok Palace. As the papers have noted, Yi would have been king if Korea had kept the royal system of government. Yi Gu's semi-exile in Japan (he spoke little to no Korean, but was able to conduct interviews in English: he'd lived in America and studied architecture at an Ivy League school in the States) was in large measure a function of South Korean dictators who had no desire to see the reestablishment of monarchy.
When he was alive, Yi would come back to Korea for ceremonial occasions, but I suppose his lack of Korean ability made it difficult for him to connect with the masses. My impression is that he lived a quiet life of relative obscurity in Japan.
During an interview, Yi did, however, firmly state his conviction that he saw himself as Korean, and he will be buried with his parents. His funeral is on Sunday at 10AM. While I'm curious about the funeral, I'm wavering about showing up because the crowds are going to be crazy, and the weather's likely to be hot as hell. My student, however, will be there with or without me because she's a big fan of Korean history.
Good luck enduring the heat, Sparky.
Friday, July 22, 2005
...and not a reference to the joy of "sloppy seconds," either!
My first Friday of one-on-one teaching this semester went pretty well. On my signup sheet, I had fifteen blank slots to fill (15-minute sessions, not 20 minutes this time, going from 10AM to 4PM), and thirteen of them were filled today. One student forgot to show up, but the other twelve were there. One thoughtful student even brought me lunch-- an unexpected pleasure.
Last semester, when I was doing the one-on-one thing, I was asking students to sit for 20 minutes and wasn't budgeting any breaks into my schedule. This time around I reduced the session time to 15 minutes and allowed myself a 5-minute break between students. Turns out that that makes all the difference in the world. I also scheduled in a lunch break, which definitely helped.
Plenty to do the rest of today. Haircut (badly needed), a CD to buy, some fashion magazines to buy for my Topical Issues class (arg), and a mountain to climb. I've been remiss all week.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Next week, my Topical Issues in Conversation class will be dealing with fashion. Shit, this is going to be something: I have zero clue about fashion, and somehow I have to prep four lessons on the topic. Luckily, my students aren't that advanced (except for one lady), so I doubt I'll be using terms like "flared" or "plunging" or "outré" in discussion.
Wish me luck. Gonna visit some fashion websites now.
My advanced class, along with working in the Interchange 3 textbook, handles a lot of higher-level cognitive material. I'm particularly fond of giving them moral dilemmas along the lines of what you can find in the Book of Questions series, as well as conundra (a.k.a. lateral thinking puzzles).
One moral dilemma, the so-called "Dirty Harry Dilemma," evokes 1971's "Dirty Harry," a cop movie starring Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan, a homicide detective not above circumventing the law to get the job done. At one point, Callahan catches the kidnapper of a girl whose time is running out: she's stuck somewhere with a limited air supply. Dirty Harry resorts to torturing the criminal to find the girl. Was Harry justified in using torture?
My students gave Harry a resounding yes. Torture, they concluded, is messy and illegal and all the rest, but if it's the most efficient means for finding urgently needed information, then all bets are off, baby.
If, after kidnapping some girl, you ever find yourself held captive by one of my students, don't count on being interrogated nicely.
NB: I should've been asleep two hours ago, but dammit, I forgot I had more shit to do. God, it never ends.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Would like to say more. Not now. Running on three hours' sleep... been going since 6:30 to now, and it's not over.
I decided to institute my one-on-one classes again-- this time on Fridays only, since that's my free day. Good Lord, a lot of people have signed up! I decided to do a block from 10AM to 4PM, excepting an hour for lunch, and most of the slots for this coming Friday are already filled. Holy shit.
More to say later, maybe. Might have to sleep first.
Lemme leave you with this thought: studies from way back in the 1970s showed that animals will forgo food to activate a contact that electrically stimulates the pleasure center of the brain-- i.e., the wiring produces classically addictive behavior. In a similar vein, sci-fi writer Larry Niven developed an alien weapon called a "tasp," which rendered an enemy nonfunctional by putting them in a state of extreme pleasure. Why not do something like this for us fat people? Design a machine that produces the tasp effect only when the modified person is exercising at a certain minimum level for a certain minimum amount of time. Sure, it produces an addicted "wirehead," as Niven called such people, but those folks-- we-- will have been duped into what is, effectively, exercise addiction.
My little brother David recounts this amusing incident from just the other night. A bit of background: David has an office job, but he's also bartending and barbacking at a club called Polly Esther's in DC.
Enjoy David's idiosyncratic spelling.
Have awlsome story - happened on sat nite while I wuz bartending at Pollys...
Worked a private party, lots of people, this couple talked tew me and said I wuz a good bartender, so patient, etc etc so they stayed around, even when most of the crowd around my bar left... Could also be cuz I wuz hooking them up with free shots - they were good tippers.
BUT I wuz having a problem that nite, every shot I drank I would always cough - strange. So it wuz an awlsome moment when they were complimenting me again, and I gave them both a shot (plus I had one), we drank eht together and as I was swallowing mine, I started coughing.
I tried not to cough the shot back out, so I held my mouth tight and tried to keep on smiling, thinking I'd wait out the cough and swallow the shot then. But no, a cough came out and the shot sprayed out of my tight-lipped mouth in an ultra-fine mist right at their faces. I think (hope) they were too drunk to notice, but I blurted out a "sorry" and walked to the other side of the bar, trying not to laugh too hard. They didn't compliment me again that night. Actually, they left a few minutes after their "misting."
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
As it turned out, the chicken didn't arrive in time. I waited a good 45 minutes before I cancelled the damn order. With only ten minutes to spare before class, there was little reason to risk waiting longer.
Fuck you, don-ggaseu jip!
Then, to top it off, a girl in my 1:10PM low-level intensive class decided to be a bitch about being "fined" for speaking Korean in class. (It was decided that, for the intensive courses, we'd all be given cute little cans to collect fines for various infractions: speaking Korean, allowing the cell phone to ring, coming late to class, being unprepared, etc. The money is to be used to fund our end-of-term party.)
Most students pay the fine with a groan and a look of resignation, but this girl simply said "no" when I told her to pay up. So I put on my patented Wrathful Buddha expression (see below) and she paid, grumbling. The incident was a vivid reminder of what it was like to teach high school French in America.
Kept my temper in class. As far as everyone else was concerned, nothing was out of place. But I'm on a short fuse now, and the last thing I want to do is scare the rest of the class with a nasty outburst, such as what I used to do with my high school students. If this girl tries the same shit again, I'm going to take her aside and tell her she can shape up or get the fuck out of my class, no refund from the office. If that prompts her to leave in a princessy huff, so be it. I won't shed a tear for that kind of student, especially not when everyone else is making an effort.
Still want chicken. To eat, not to hump.
Am at the office. I ordered a ch'i-kin jeom-bo ggaseu for W6500 at around 12:15. It's on its way. It's 12:35 now; I was told it'd take about 30 minutes to arrive. I have class at 1:10PM. Will the Kevin be able to eat his meal, do some final photocopying, and squeeze out his lurking toilet tuber in time? Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, ponder this:
Give the sword to whomever arrives first.
Is the above usage of whomever correct?
More on this later.
Monday, July 18, 2005
I found this link, titled "Fuzzy Math," via the fantastic new Taiwan-related blog, Wandering to Tamshui. Holy shit, that's funny. Even if you're a Bush lover, you'll have to marvel at the fantastic job these people did in editing Bush's words to spell out a whole new message.
Now the GOP needs to come up with its own Dem-bashing mix.
I visited J very briefly in the hospital this evening, and he's up and about. Says he'll be out of there Tuesday morning. You have to understand that J's an active, soccer-playing Brit (ah, yes-- football; sorry, old boy), and the absolute last person I'd expect to suffer this sort of problem (collapsed lung, not spontaneously ascending testicles).
Thanks to the one person who responded to the call for charitable contributions; there are treasures stored up for you in heaven. As it turns out, there's no formal bank account to which to send cash, so while your charity is appreciated, I think the EC hierarchy and J's friends and coworkers will be finding ways to obtain the requisite fundage. He won't be left high and dry.
...I must say I do harbor a slight suspicion that J has been faking all this just to get some attention, that filthy Limey bast--
What's that you say? A lot of staffers at EC read this blog? J himself is aware of what's on here?
Oh, shit. Good thing I didn't mention that thing about the cocaine and the room salon.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Earlier today, I went out and saw "War of the Worlds," starring Katie Holmes's intrepid, inspired fiancé, Tom Cruise. While I didn't find the movie great, it had its moments-- perhaps the best one being where Cruise almost gets eaten by a gigantic alien anus.
Spielberg's "War" is faithful to HG Wells's book in many respects, but while the movie featured plenty of mechanical tentacles, Spielberg's aliens weren't anything like the mean, klutzy octopi that emerged from their attack vehicles in Wells's 1898 vision:
Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me steadfastly. The mass that framed them, the head of the thing, was rounded, and had, one might say, a face. There was a mouth under the eyes, the lipless brim of which quivered and panted, and dropped saliva. The whole creature heaved and pulsated convulsively. A lank tentacular appendage gripped the edge of the cylinder, another swayed in the air.
Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness of movement due to the greater gravitational energy of the earth--above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes--were at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous. There was something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something in the clumsy deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this first encounter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust and dread.
Suddenly the monster vanished. It had toppled over the brim of the cylinder and fallen into the pit, with a thud like the fall of a great mass of leather. I heard it give a peculiar thick cry, and forthwith another of these creatures appeared darkly in the deep shadow of the aperture.
I turned and, running madly, made for the first group of trees, perhaps a hundred yards away; but I ran slantingly and stumbling, for I could not avert my face from these things.
Quite a few critics complained about two major problems with Spielberg's film: first, the aliens don't seem to have a reason to be here. Second, Spielberg's alien tripods-- based on HG Wells's 1898 version of George Lucas's Imperial walkers-- seem far too retro to be plausible as attack vehicles.
In defense of the film I'd argue that the aliens' purpose was self-evident: they were "terraforming" our world. A brief, horrifying moment of this was shown as Cruise peeked out the window of crazy-loon Tim Robbins's basement: tripods stalking the earth repeatedly slammed their tentacles into the ground-- chuk chuk chuk chuk chuk chuk chuk-- seeding it with the red weed intended to cover the planet's land area, then spraying human blood over the entire mess to help the weeds grow.
My response to the second critique is: relax. Yeah, the tripods were retro, but if it's true that the aliens sank those things into the ground thousands or even millions of years ago, then even by the aliens' standards they'd be pretty out of date.
But the second complaint has merit on a different level: we citizens of the 21st century expect our alien attacks to correspond to our 21st-century expectations of Hollywood special effects. If Spielberg was trying to evoke Wells's novel with those tripods, he should have gone further and set the action back in 1898 England. Why not give Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning (who plays Cruise's plucky, screamy daughter in the film) the opportunity to speak in an English accent? (I can hear my Brit readers cupping their hands over their balls and groaning in agony at the thought.)
I have a few complaints of my own. One is the standard geekish grievance: if the aliens were intent on extermination and had mapped out our population centers, you'd think they'd have thought of a more efficient way to eliminate us than by using stilt-legged tripods armed with precision weaponry. What a waste of time and energy, zapping us person by person!
Were I the alien general in charge of the initial phase of human extermination (and for all you know, I am he), I'd have done what humans are already capable of doing: floated a few nukes (or the alien equivalent) over the earth's major population centers, flattened global civilization with thousands of titanic airbursts, then swept in with wave after wave of aircraft to carpet-bomb and otherwise eliminate the remaining human populace-- most of whom would be following major roadways in long refugee lines, and therefore easy pickings for alien pilots. Alien neutron bombs would preserve needed structures, and after the initial two phases of the invasion, there'd still be enough humans left over for conversion to blood-spray to feed that red alien artery-weed.
I wasn't upset by the fact that humans were largely helpless against the alien attack. This was a story of running and survival, somewhat along the lines of Spielberg's 1993 "Jurassic Park." It did start to get annoying that Tom Cruise just happened to dodge those alien death rays at just the right moment, and just happened to survive the attack of the alien anus, a bit like the servant in the book of Job who was always there to give a breathless account of the latest Satan-wrought disaster on Job's family and property: "...and I alone escaped to tell thee."
Speaking of Satan, I immensely enjoyed the concept of alien pilots plunging to earth in a rain of lightning bolts:
I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. (Luke 10:18)
...and yet the geek in me had to wonder how it is that humanity's city builders never noticed these enormous machines, which didn't appear to have been buried that deeply beneath the ground.
Like other critics, I also wonder about the cameraman who, in that one early scene, was able to use his handheld camera to film the alien attack even after the electromagnetic pulse had nullified all other electronic items.
Spielberg also seemed to be making not-so-subtle references to his previous films. Much of the movie is a film student's dream: find the reference to "Jurassic Park" (the camera-tentacle that menaces the protags much as the velociraptors did)! Find the reference to "E.T." (running motif: aliens and children)! Find the reference to "Jaws" (look for waterborne peril in the ferry scene)! Find the reference to "Minority Report" (Tom Cruise! Tom Cruise! TOM CRUISE, damn your balls!). Find the reference to "Schindler's List" (caged, frightened people)! Find the reference to "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (narrowly escaping peril after peril-- watch the Cruiser leap and dodge)! And the common thread in almost all these films?
The happy Spielbergian ending!
Good God, my eyes! They bleed! Ululate with me now!
One reason why I can't bring myself to like "War of the Worlds" more is that Spielberg, damn him, is back to pulling punches-- a trait that ruined the otherwise interesting "A.I." Perhaps Spielberg's finished exploring his dark side. Unfortunately, it works against him here as the family drama, which is the movie's major subplot, comes to a treacly conclusion. I had no problem with the aliens' defeat at the hands (flagella?) of our microbes; this is, after all, how HG Wells scripted it in the late 19th century. But the father-son reunion at the end of the movie left me cold. 1996's "Independence Day," for all its jingoistic corniness, did a better job with Will Smith's triumphant "Didn't I promise you fireworks?" to the little boy who might become his stepson.
Spielberg gets points for keeping the suspense ratcheted up; he's a good one for atmospherics. And unlike George Lucas, Spielberg is, thank God, an actor's director, coaxing good performances out of everyone. I differ from other critics in my estimation of Tim Robbins's turn as the unhinged Ogilvy (a character also found in the Wells novel): I thought Robbins played the character just fine.
Perhaps I should end this meditation with a few remarks about Tom Cruise, Scientology, and Cruise's public meltdowns, but I won't. I can separate Cruise the actor/performer from Cruise the nutball. He turned in a decent performance in Spielberg's movie, and as far as the movie goes, that's all that counts.
If I were to rate the movie, however, I doubt I could give it more than a 6 out of 10. Despite the tension, there was little doubt that Cruise and Company would survive to the end; and that sappy family reunion-- in front of what appeared to be an undamaged house in a largely undamaged neighborhood-- didn't have any impact. I have to wonder what a different director might have done with this movie. I'd be especially curious to see what the likes of James Cameron would have done with it. That's a man familiar with huge soundstages, futuristic robots, high-quality CGI, and nasty aliens.
See "War of the Worlds" at your own risk. You'll be entertained by the visuals, but you might find the story lacking. My Korean companions gave it a thumbs-sideways, and I'd have to agree.
Just got word today that a former coworker of mine at EC suffered a collapsed lung and has been hospitalized. He's unfortunately without insurance, so the office staff has taken up a collection for him, and the bosses are also planning to contribute something.
If I were to find and display a bank account number to which in-Korea folks could wire money, would you be willing to wire some over? Amount doesn't matter-- small or large, any amount will help. More on this as I talk to friends. Am hoping to visit the guy either today or tomorrow. You don't know him, but keep him in your thoughts all the same.
With regard to my previous spiel on women liking it hot, Andrew R writes:
You said, "There's another angle: I'm increasingly convinced that women in general-- and not just Korean women-- prefer a room to be slightly warmer than what men find comfortable."
Just to add ethnicity to the angle: Asian women (Japanese, at least) REALLY ARE cold all the time. Keep in mind this quasi-fact: the average body temperature for Americans is 98.6ºF - and for the Japanese women I polled it was 96.8ºF. I'm not sure what the average is for Korean women, but I assume it's the same.
Also, since most asians deal with summers of 105ºF and 99.999% humidity, maybe they really are used to the heat.
A biological wrinkle!
I think I blogged about this once a long time ago, but at the risk of senescent repetitiveness I'll mention it now: back when I was working at my infection control job in DC, one of my co-workers was a cute blonde chick. Let's call her "A." My work occasionally took me over to her cubicle, and on several occasions A would get up and invite me to take her seat while she went off to do other errands.
Good Lord, her seat was hot! I thought my crotch radiated a lot of heat, but A's crotch was intense. Holy shit. Maybe women, as per their recessed "holy of holies," like a warm, womb-like ambience. Maybe men, in accordance with their protuberant genitalia, prefer cooler environments.
Anyone else got theories? Keep 'em coming!
Ha-- coming! I slay me.
It's a sound effect from my youth, a piece of onomatopoeia I haven't heard in years. The sound doosh! represented many things in elementary, junior high, and high school, almost all related to action movies and TV series: multiple bullet impacts (doosh, doosh, da-doosh!), the sound of someone's ass being kicked, the sound of a fist connecting with a jaw, the sound of boats and cars and planes and farm animals smashing into each other at high rates of speed, or even the sound of someone slapping someone else.
Doosh! could be prolonged to indicate an impact occurring in slow motion (dooooooooossssssshhhhh!), or could be done with a "reverb" effect to help your audience understand what it felt like to be struck in the face by Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man. The latter sound effect had two major bionic variants: doo-doo-doo-doosssshhhh! and doooooo-sh-sh-sh-sh-sssshhhh!
Somewhere along the way came puberty and the realization that doosh! had a different meaning for women. Boys adapted quickly to the new linguistic environment, and in a fit of gender-lexical imperialism they reappropriated doosh! to create the awesome slang term doosh!bag.
Ah, the good old days.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
It's taken two years and the addition of several guest bloggers (most notable among them the prolific Smallholder), but at some point in the next 48 hours, my buddy Mike's excellent blog, Naked Villainy, will finally surpass my own in terms of raw number of posts made. If Blogspot's counter is to be trusted, we currently stand at:
BigHominid's Hairy Chasms: 2043 posts (including this post)
Naked Villainy: 2041 posts
My reign of terror will soon be at an end, but let the record testify to the sheer diarrhetic volume of prose I've written over the past 740-some twistings of this tortured planet-- almost all of which have been the scribblings of one lone hominid on a mission to convert everyone to the middle way.
You thought life under a Hominidal sun was the epitome of desolation? Anus-nibbling fool! Now you truly enter a period of darkness and peril. Fasten your seat-tentacles, buckle down your loose skin flaps, and secure your eyestalks in their plastic reinforcements: Naked Villainy is a cruel mistress, crueler than Kali, and your ass is hers.
(Psssst... don't you wish politicians gave concession speeches like that?)
At Smoo, I'm in an office with a bunch of ladies. They're a great crew, always feeding me food (I've felt guilty for not having brought them anything in return, but I've been dirt poor) and giving me the chance to practice Korean. Most of them are Korean teachers, so they know how to make themselves understood to us goofy non-native speakers of Korean. A couple of them are pretty cute, too, though most of them are married.
Alas, they have one flaw, these ladies-- a flaw shared by many Koreans: they love to leave the goddamn windows open while the A/C is blowing. In America, we're taught that this amounts to throwing your money out the window, and I agree*. Especially in the evening-- when fucking mosquitoes are zooming in like miniature TIE fighters-- keeping the windows open is a dumb, dumb move. Many Koreans, traditional at heart, can't stand closed windows because they feel that an open window somehow connects you more closely to nature. Never mind that we're in Seoul, which is about as removed from nature as New York City. I don't see how letting in more pollution and humidity can be considered healthy.
The standard Korean reply to A/C lovers like me is naeng-bang-byeong, literally, "cold room sickness," the result of having an air conditioner on in an enclosed room. In contrast with the ridiculous "fan death" superstition, there are indeed reasons to be cautious in how you use your A/C. Having worked for a company that deals with infection control, I can attest that A/C filters are often breeding grounds for all sorts of microscopic nastiness. But the answer to this is not to open a window: it's to clean your filters and keep those windows closed.
Another reply is that Americans keep their A/Cs on too cold a setting, which means it's really the American's problem if he's sweltering while everyone else shivers. What I find hilarious about this argument is that it's usually accompanied by the accusation that Americans are wasteful with electricity... even as the accuser is turning on the A/C and opening a window.
There's another angle: I'm increasingly convinced that women in general-- and not just Korean women-- prefer a room to be slightly warmer than what men find comfortable. Perhaps this is a subtle attempt at destroying sperm. Or maybe women find a heat-relaxed scrotum more aesthetically appealing than a ball sac that's been transformed into a tire tread by the cold (as one of my friends puts it). Further research is called for. Whatever their motives, many ladies I know seem to get cold far too easily.
Ladies of Smoo: I love you, but you really should make a choice. Either close the windows and use the A/C, or turn that puppy off and let the skeeters invade.
Ladies everywhere else: I love you, but keep the room cold. I have a selfish reason for this:
*Many Americans drive with the windows open and the A/C blowing. I find this equally stupid. In Korea, one of the most frustrating things is sitting in a sweltering car with a driver whose idea of "cooling" is to put the A/C on its absolute lowest setting. Might as well kill the A/C and roll the windows down all the way-- two-fifty-five air conditioning, as we used to call it back home: two open windows at 55 miles an hour. And one sunburned arm.
Kevin does indeed have the script for his play, stolen straight from the jaws of death! Behold:
Here's an excerpt from the play's opening, in which one actor reads off information about the life of Shakespeare from the index cards in his hands:
William Shakespeare. William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. The third of eight children, he was the eldest son of John Shakespeare, a locally prominent merchant, and Mary Arden, daughter of a Roman... (flips to next card) ...Catholic member of the landed gentry. In 1582 he married Anne Hathaway, a farmer's daughter... heh. He is supposed to have left Stratford after he was caught poaching in the deer park of a local justice of the peace. (next card) Shakespeare arrived in London in 1588. By 1592, he had achieved success as an actor and a playwright. After 1608 his dramatic production lessened, and it seems that he spent more time in Stratford. (next card) There he dictated to his secretary, Rudolf Hess, the work Mein Kampf, in which he set forth his program for the restoration of Germany to a dominant position in Europe. After reoccupying the Rhineland zone between France and Germany, and annexing Austria, the Sudetenland and the remainder of Czechoslovakia (next card), Shakespeare invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, thus precipitating World War II. (to DANIEL) I never knew that before. (DANIEL gestures to him to wrap it up. ADAM reads rapidly.) Shakespeare remained in Berlin when the Russians entered the city, and committed suicide with his mistress, Eva Braun. (next card) He lies buried in the church at Stratford. Thank you.
Friday, July 15, 2005
For a "nothing" Friday, it's been a busy day.
Got to Smoo around 10:15AM today to see about a free listening clinic being offered to interested students. Discovered I wasn't needed (the students were doing self-study), which was fine by me. The students apparently took care of everything themselves. So I sat down in the office and furiously cranked out lesson plans for 90 minutes, then went to the bank and transferred money to my American account. Sent only about $1200; will need to send more later, but need to keep some for my dental appointment on August 5 (thanks, Sperwer, for the help with that).
Ate a very nice lunch with my level 2 conversation students over at a Mongolian restaurant-- guksu-jeongol, a close cousin of shyabu-shyabu. Fresh-made pasta, paper-thin slices of meat, mushrooms, beef broth... followed by an eggy, mollusc-filled rice porridge that served as the second course. Quite good, if a bit pricey. The restaurant was in the underground arcade beneath the Seoul Financial Center, a building I'd never entered before. Quite a few nice-looking (and money-sucking) restaurants in there.
Left the restaurant and went with the students to Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, a chain I've seen in Korea but never in the States, where it apparently originated. I assume it's a Starbucks knockoff. Had myself some sort of iced chocolate milk with a huge dollop of whipped cream; it basically morphed into a milkshake while I was sucking it down. My students seemed to enjoy our little outing; too bad they spoke to each other in Korean for much of the time, but I'd probably act the same way were I in their shoes. It wasn't really an English lesson, so I didn't stress about it. I spoke to them in English the whole time, they answered me in English, and that was fine with me.
Left the students around 2:30 and tooled around with my American buddy T for a few hours in the Chongno/Kwanghwamun area, then headed over to Itaewon, where we wolfed down Whoppers at the infamous Burger King and picked up my book (photographic evidence to follow; stay tuned). Have been taking dumps all day as well, largely a consequence of a binge at Outback Steakhouse last night. Plops dropped all over Seoul. Hats off to the Koreana Hotel for a nice, comfortable restroom.
Tonight: more lesson planning, then a sweaty hike up Namsan, then laundry. I'm seeing "War of the Worlds" on Sunday. Saturday will likely be spent reading through the entire Reduced Shakespeare Company script, then reducing the Reduced script even further, condensing the 97-minute running time to about 25-30 minutes.
A script for about 30 people. Hell, will we even have 30 people next week? This past Wednesday, I had only about 25, a huge drop-- more than I expected-- from the 40 who came the first lesson-- this despite glowing reports from the students to the main office about how much they'd enjoyed the class. What's infuriating about such unreliability is that the students make it difficult for me to figure out just what script I should be using. Before the semester, I'd planned for about 10-15 people-- a guess based on the previous semester's four students. A day before the semester started, I learned we were to have 35-40 people, which meant throwing out everything I'd put together. This in turn meant finding an appropriate script, which led to my desperate search for The Complete Works, a search concluded only today. If students drop out to the point where we've got only, say, 20 people, then that places a huge load on the remaining students' shoulders.
It's a challenge. I might have to get nasty with my students and tell them that, if they drop out, they shouldn't bother coming back. I confronted a few of my Wednesday absentees when I saw them on Thursday; they offered lame excuses about being too tired or having made plans with friends. As of this coming Wednesday, everyone who's planning on staying in the course will have to be there, no exceptions. Yeah, I'm simply gonna lay down the fuckin' law, pull a George Bush, say you're with me or you're agin' me, and go from there.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
The Nomad writes in about belching and farting simultaneously:
Re: belching the same moment you fart
In a moment of extreme inebriation, I've puked while taking a dump...is that along the same lines?
No; that's skipping the training phase and moving straight into full-contact matches with Bruce Lee. I bow to your prowess.
I still haven't done it, though God knows I've tried: belching the same moment I fart. It almost happened this morning in a restroom at Smoo, but no: once again, the belch came too late.
There's a name for that act, but I've forgotten it.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Previously, Bill Pickford emailed me the following Bible verse:
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap - Galatians 6:7
Kind of a theistic version of the law of karma.
The illustrious Joel emails me in apparent reply to Pickford:
Job 21:3 - Suffer me that I may speak; and after that I have spoken, mock on.
I should just sit back and watch the fireworks. But here's my own contribution:
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and say: No one of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the food of his God. For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, one who is blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or one who has a broken foot or a broken hand, or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or a man with a blemish in his eyes or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.
Sometimes the Bible is plain funny.
"Welcome to McGodMart, 24-7. How can I help you?"
"I'd like a large McBall, please."
"Not too early in the day?"
"Yeah, you know how it is. This heat's a bitch, and nothing says 'cool' quite like a cupful of smashed nads."
"Well, we've got the Leviticus 22:24 special, or our standard Deuteronomy 23:1, which is pretty popular around here."
"What's the Leviticus special?"
"Crushed animal testicles, my friend. We only use the freshly harvested ones."
"What kinda' animal balls're in there?"
"It's a pretty standard blend of ram and bull, but we also throw in some rabbit just to keep people guessing. Oh, and once in a while we surprise everyone with a healthy dose of bear. It varies from week to week."
"OK, hook me up with one a' those."
"Dump 'em on there, baby."
"You got any of that sugared ovary juice left over?"
"To be honest, we're down to the dregs at the bottom of the container. The taste's a little... too rich for some folks."
"Dump it on there, baby."
"OK, that's $1.75."
"Better'n fuckin' Starbucks, man."
I asked my most advanced students to write freeform stories today. The procedure was this: each student had a piece of paper, upon which they wrote the story's first sentence: "This morning, I got up really late." They were then to find a partner, exchange papers, and write the second sentence of the story thereupon. Next, they had to take back their own paper, find another partner, and repeat the procedure until they had a decent story-- beginning, middle, and end. In other words, no student had control over his own story. With twelve students in the class, every story was fated to evolve in unpredictable directions.
I'd assigned this merely as a time-waster because the students were looking tired (we'd slogged through a healthy chunk of our textbooks; it's hard to find a student who loves the textbook, no matter how well-designed it might be), but I made an interesting discovery when the students read their stories aloud: the stories, aside from being completely wacked (something I'd expected), covered just about every major cinematic genre: we had Harry Potter-style fantasies, horror stories, sad and introspective yarns, gross-out stories, twisted love stories, and more.
The gross-out story had me in stitches, though I think some students were uncomfortable to hear it read aloud: the protagonist (and remember: the protag is the result of a tenuously collaborative effort; many students created him) woke up sick from an alcohol and food binge the night before; he vomited, bent over and tasted his vomit, ate the vomit, then vomited a second time and ate the vomit again. This went on for three or four rounds. Obviously, the guy couldn't get enough of his own puke. Definitely my kind of story.
Another story involved someone waking up and seeing a baby. The baby suddenly morphed into a huge gorilla, and the gorilla bellowed that it was the protag's mother. Unable to believe this claim, the protag asked for proof. "Look in the mirror and you'll see you're a gorilla, too!" the gorilla screamed.
All of this without the aid of drugs, people.
A third story involved a woman who discovered her husband had been cheating. This made her happy, because she didn't feel so guilty about the affair she was conducting.
A fourth story involved a sex change operation and a lover who went from straight to gay. Don't ask.
I ended up telling my students I thought they were all sick, which meant they were all like me. Proud smiles in response.
Should've asked my students to hand in their masterpieces; they would've been fun to blog.
This just in via email from reader Bill Pickford:
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap - Galatians 6:7
I guess I can't call this hate mail. Christians, after all, are incapable of hatred. So: Pax vobiscum, Bill.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
... or "Charlie et la chocolaterie," as it's called in this glowing French-language review. Lots of praise heaped on Tim Burton, Danny Elfman, and Johnny Depp, with praise left over for Helena Bonham Carter and Christopher Lee, who the reviewer notes has been hard at work, appearing in all the recent blockbusters.
Personally, I'm a little iffy about Tim Burton's style; it's often too odd and cold for my conventional tastes. He's not quirky the way John Cusack is quirky, see. But this review makes me think I might want to see the movie whenever it finally pops up in Korea.
Ah, the way fortune turns!
I was anticipating my usual W270,000 for my private class... then I got a call saying the class has been cancelled for the summer as my tutoree, ten-year-old Min-sung, has expressed a desire to actually have a vacation for once in his life. I sympathize with the kid, but there goes my income. W270,000... gone. Poof.
I was hoping to use part of that cash today to rush-order The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) from What the Book, but no such luck. Fortunately, a buddy of mine was able to float me the cash for the exorbitant rush-order sum (FedExing is murder on the wallet), and I'll be paying my buddy back when I get paid by Smoo on Friday. Christ, what a fucking pain it is not to have money. I take back every idealistic thing I said as a youth. Money's important, and I didn't know what the hell I was talking about.
I visited What the Book yesterday and met the owner, who seems like a nice gent. Saw him again today to place my order. He was quite helpful, though he couldn't absolutely guarantee that the book would arrive at the end of this week. If it doesn't, I'm screwed. I spent last weekend trying to find a copy of that book, visiting bookstores and libraries, all to no avail. My friend forked over the cash, the order was placed, and now we wait. Ideally, the book'll be here by Friday. I'll grab the book, pay my friend back, treat him to an "I'm sorry" dinner (probably at Outback or Bennigan's), then start carving the text into a workable script for my group.
Tomorrow is Wednesday, and I'll be curious to see how many people will have dropped out of the drama class. I'm expecting at least 5-10 dropouts, maybe more, because students will have been discouraged by the sheer size of last week's class. There's a chance I'll be wrong: drama class, unlike conversation class, encourages teamwork on a large scale, and few people want to appear on stage alone. A certain "huddling sheep" factor might keep students from dropping out and leaving their comrades twisting in the wind. I doubt that'll be the case, but it's possible.
I may have lost Min-sung's class, but it looks like I've got work coming in: you may be looking at the new copy editor for the Smoo Times (not its real name, obviously). The job supposedly pays a measly W200,000 a month, but I'm going to see if I can't negotiate for W300,000. Maybe I'll start by asking for W500,000 and bargain my way down. If haggling stops at W400,000... I won't complain.
Nature abhors a financial vacuum.
Monday, July 11, 2005
BACKGROUND: My dad retired at the end of June, and I blogged about the fact that he was going to be given a retirement party at the church. A couple days after I blogged that entry, my brother David wrote in with an urgent notice for me to erase that information STAT. So I erased the offending sentence, and hoped that Dad hadn't bothered to glance at the blog. What follows is the text (edited for privacy) of the speech I would have given in his honor had I been at his party this past Sunday. David, on three hours' sleep, somehow managed to get up, emcee the event, and read my speech along with doing his other emceeing duties. Hats off to David, and many thanks to the crowd of guests who came to fête my Dadso.
And now, in the spirit of corniness and sentimentality, I offer you, Dear Reader, the speech my brother read.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Honored Guests, Distinguished Academics, Mr. Vice President, and Dignitaries from every land, thank you for attending this gathering in honor of my father’s retirement.
I am unable to attend, so I am relying on someone-- probably a member of the family, and if not, then a paid Shakespearean actor-- to deliver this special message to my father, David E. J. N., faithful employee of Northwest Airlines lo these many years.
Dad belongs to a generation that remembers the notion of “company loyalty.” If you say the words “company loyalty” to someone of my generation, you’re liable to get a blank stare, but Dad’s a living example that such values still exist in American society. I admire and respect his dedication.
Having worked in customer service myself, I understand how difficult such a job can be. My own job in DC sometimes involved sitting at the phones for two or three hours a day, and, like any good Christian, I was often filled with the urge to strangle the moron on the other end of the line.
Dad, however, worked for years at Northwest’s ticket counter. Those were far more stressful conditions than I’ve ever known, but Dad handled the job with pride, humility, and a conscientiousness that even people of his generation would marvel at. More than that: Dad somehow managed to remain cheerful through it all, and almost never brought job-related bitterness home with him. So far as I know, Dad strangled no one.
Dad’s life, especially over the past few years, has been led on a schedule I recognize from my studies in Buddhism. As with Buddhist monks, Dad’s routine would begin at about 3:00AM. Ideally, Dad needed to be asleep somewhere around 9:30PM, but this has rarely been possible, for there are chores to do around the house, or church-related activities in the evening. Dad has spent years operating on 4 to 5 hours’ sleep. Perhaps “Buddhist monk” is the wrong metaphor: I think “college student at exam time” is a more appropriate description of Dad’s schedule.
I’ve emailed back and forth with Dad and know he has post-retirement plans. I’m happy to hear that he aims to keep himself busy, but I’m not surprised. Dad’s not the type to sit still. He’s barely the type to sit: when the family’s watching TV, Dad can usually be found at the back of the room, standing, arms crossed, ready to deploy, almost as if he’s waiting for some siren to go off and summon him to duty.
Duty and constancy are two values that shine through in Dad’s life-- as an employee, as a military man, and as a father. Underlying those two values, though, is something far more important, and that’s Dad’s love. He’s always loved his family, he’s always loved the Church; and his love for his fellow human beings shines through in his everyday dealings with friends, acquaintances, and customers. Over the years, some customers have written letters to Dad’s bosses to that effect, impressed with the humanity he brings to his work.
My father is no saint, however. He has three vices that have put his marriage in danger: chicken, apple pie, and ice cream. Luckily, these three vices haven’t claimed the marriage, but over the years they may have claimed several of his teeth. One can only wonder what will happen, now that Dad will be spending more time at home... closer to the refrigerator than ever.
How do you sum up a career? Well, don’t ask me; I’m Dad’s son, not his co-worker. In the end, though, when we think of Dad, we don’t think of him in his capacity as a Northwest Airlines employee: we think of him as one of the best human beings we know: a man who is patient, kind, and cheerful. A man who has taught values by example-- thoroughness, neatness, dedication, determination. A man whose life is, in the final analysis, marked by love.
Today, we celebrate an ending, but also a beginning. Dad’s not the type to spend time on nostalgia. After this ceremony, there will be things to do, and Dad doubtless has a to-do list in his pocket, right now.
Happy retirement, Dad! I love you!
Sunday, July 10, 2005
In honor of Julie's dad, who just turned 60, I wrote:
WHAT HAPPENS AT 60
when you're feeling creaky bones
and your sac has but two stones,
the third descending testicle appears!
three nuts! you're more a man
than your next-door neighbor Stan,
a greasy gent with caulifower ears!
feel the power of three balls
and walk naked through your halls!
a testicle for every twenty years!
rejoice now with the wife!
squirt the sacred juice of life!
"Three testicles! HOORAY!" the choir cheers!
Here, we see clearly that the deadliest terrorists are recruited from among the poor and desperate, oh, yes:
AL-QAEDA is secretly recruiting affluent, middle-class Muslims in British universities and colleges to carry out terrorist attacks in this country, leaked Whitehall documents reveal.
A network of "extremist recruiters" is circulating on campuses targeting people with "technical and professional qualifications", particularly engineering and IT degrees.
Yesterday it emerged that last week's London bombings were a sophisticated attack with all the devices detonating on the Underground within 50 seconds of each other. The police believe those behind the outrage may be home-grown British terrorists with no criminal backgrounds and possessing technical expertise.
A joint Home Office and Foreign Office dossier — Young Muslims and Extremism — prepared for the prime minister last year, said Britain might now be harbouring thousands of Al-Qaeda sympathisers.
Lord Stevens, the former Metropolitan police chief, revealed separately last night that up to 3,000 British-born or British-based people had passed through Osama Bin Laden's training camps.
The Whitehall dossier, ordered by Tony Blair following last year's train bombings in Madrid, says: "Extremists are known to target schools and colleges where young people may be very inquisitive but less challenging and more susceptible to extremist reasoning/arguments."
In fairness, the article also notes the following:
The Iraq war is identified by the dossier as a key cause of young Britons turning to terrorism. The analysis says: "It seems that a particularly strong cause of disillusionment among Muslims, including young Muslims, is a perceived 'double standard' in the foreign policy of western governments, in particular Britain and the US.
"The perception is that passive 'oppression', as demonstrated in British foreign policy, eg non-action on Kashmir and Chechnya, has given way to 'active oppression'. The war on terror, and in Iraq and Afghanistan, are all seen by a section of British Muslims as having been acts against Islam."
Be wary of spin, though: the phrase "young Britons turning to terrorism" is dangerously misleading. Who are these al-Qaeda recruits, these "young Britons"?
Most of the Al-Qaeda recruits tend to be loners "attracted to university clubs based on ethnicity or religion" because of "disillusionment with their current existence". British-based terrorists are made up of different ethnic groups, according to the documents.
"They range from foreign nationals now naturalised and resident in the UK, arriving mainly from north Africa and the Middle East, to second and third generation British citizens whose forebears mainly originate from Pakistan or Kashmir.
"In addition . . . a significant number come from liberal, non-religious Muslim backgrounds or (are) only converted to Islam in adulthood. These converts include white British nationals and those of West Indian extraction."
Stats, please. Guess we'll need to read the report and parse out the demographics.
Beware, beware, beware of spin.
UPDATE: The above linked article contains links to the actual document. More on this later. (Article found via Drudge.)
[UPDATE: Post given a cumbersome new title that more accurately reflects the contents.]
Am I detecting a strange divide between anglophilic conservatives in the American blogosphere, and non-anglophilic ones?
While not a gung-ho anglophile myself (I love England, but won't adopt British spelling and pronunciation to demonstrate that love), I side with the anglophiles in holding out hope that Great Britain won't pull a Spain and shrink from a strong response to terrorism.
To recap my own middle-of-the-road position about the war on terror:
1. Liberals and others are wrong to label the current global situation a "police action" or in need of police action. This is a war, and not because we say so: the other side says so, and when over 2700 people die in the space of a couple hours, it's offensive to portray such an event as the equivalent of a car bombing that takes out a few shop windows and hurts a few passersby.
2. Liberals and others are wrong to make this into a question of poverty. There is no necessary connection between international terrorism and poverty. If there were, liberals would have to explain why we don't see frenzied Hindus or sub-Saharan Africans slamming jets into American skyscrapers. It would also be incumbent on liberals (and Muslims) to explain why Islamic terrorism is the only form of terrorism to go international on the scale it has. Operations like those that have been pulled off in the US, Spain, and England take time, patience, intellect, and money. None of these operations was the work of the poor and desperate, nor do the perpetrators represent the poor and desperate: quite the contrary, they use their own poor as part of the echo chamber that amplifies their twisted ideology.
3. Conservatives and others are wrong to write off Islam with their mocking "Religion of peace?" mantra. There are around 1.2 to 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, and they are not all knife-wielding head-choppers out to reestablish the Caliphate or the Dar al-Islam. While it's legitimate to ask just how many Muslims skew "moderate" in the Western sense of the word, it's ridiculous to paint over a billion people with the same brush. Calm down.
4. Conservatives and others are wrong to believe that we should prosecute a war in the old way. This is, at heart, a war of the mind and needs to be fought as such. This will occasionally mean the use of military force to the extent that states are sponsoring terrorist acts, but there are other methods for coercing states that don't involve bloodshed. My own belief is that we have to improve our intelligence-gathering in the Middle East, and I'm happy to see that more people are learning Arabic. Deadly strikes will be part of this war, but they will need to be made by quiet, precise teams who go in hard and fade out. Our military philosophy has been shifting in this direction, I think.
But a war of the mind is, ultimately, not won by killing. It's won when the opponent's mind has been somehow changed. Perhaps conservatives are right to say that you can't change the mind of a terrorist bent on a mission; that's not what I'm talking about. No; I'm talking about what we do long before such a mission is even planned. I've advocated counter-propaganda on this blog, as well as interreligious dialogue. We're clever; we can figure something out, and change our plans to adapt to new situations. Fight the mind.
5. Conservatives and liberals both make the mistake of describing each other as irrational. This precludes any useful debate, and the polarization of the politiblogosphere is evidence of things going awry. It might be appropriate to ask ourselves-- while we search for moderate Muslims-- where the moderate, reasoned voices are in our own midst. Calling a liberal "stupid" or "overemotional" accomplishes what, exactly? It certainly does nothing to sway the liberal. Calling Bush "Hitler" accomplishes what, exactly? It certainly does nothing to sway the conservative. Is this name-calling being done so that each side can feel better about itself? Then maybe it's time to grow the fuck up.
6. I think we're right to prosecute a war, but readers of this blog know that I've had my doubts about doing it in Iraq. I had the chance to read conservative Donald Sensing's reasoned arguments for why Iraq is an appropriate battlefield in the war on terror, but I still fail to see how one can pursue a "build democracy" program at the same time one is following a "flypaper strategy." New infrastructure gets built... only to be torn down by more terrorists. How does this make sense?
7. I agree with conservatives that the major print and TV media skew way liberal. It's one reason why I'm interested in milbloggers-- the people in the shit, the people who actually see what's going on and can report the things not reported in the news: friends made, schools built, electricity reestablished, cell leaders killed, and so on.
8. I agree with liberals that there is always a place for dialogue. I've invested years of my life in studying the question of interreligious dialogue, and believe it to be a worthy pursuit. True dialogue requires openness to several things: openness to change in oneself and one's religious tradition, openness to reinterpretation by the other, and openness to the possibility of continued but tolerant disagreement. No one can dictate the goal of dialogue, but let me suggest one: peace.
9. I firmly believe that Islam is going to have to face the fact that its belief system, on the whole, isn't compatible with a 21st-century worldview. The same could be said, on a smaller and less deadly scale, about certain Christian (and Jewish, and Hindu, and Buddhist) beliefs and acts, but now is Islam's time for sincere self-reflection. What I'm saying here applies only generally; of course I make allowances for Muslims who don't fit the profile I'm sketching. But my essential point is that moral equivalence isn't the answer here, any more than it would be in equating, say, Tony Blair to Kim Jong Il. Tony Blair and Kim Jong Il belong to two very different species of politician. They are two very different types of human being. If you refuse to see that one is clearly better than the other, then there's little hope for you.
In other words: Islam can't point the finger at past Christian atrocities and claim moral equivalence between Christianity and itself. Islam needs, desperately, to reform. In my view, it needs a huge dose of secularism, and as others have argued, this can't be imposed from without: Islam has to come to this realization from within.
There are huge obstacles to this, two of the biggest being theological and sociological. The theological obstacle is rooted in the total absence of a "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" ethos. Nothing in Muslim scripture hints at this. Islam, as it is now, brooks no secularism.
The sociological obstacle to a Muslim reformation is that there isn't simply one monolithic Islam, but many Islams that don't move in lockstep. The West still hasn't properly come to grips with this insight: Islam is a varied phenomenon. However, this variety doesn't absolve Muslims of their obligation to examine the need for fundamental change.
10. Liberals and conservatives should take a moment to marvel at the deep cooperation there has been between George Bush and Tony Blair. Politically speaking, these two men come from parties that are normally considered completely at odds. Blair is a lefty; Bush is (at least in terms of social policy) very much a rightie. But the two men's collegiality-- fraternity, even-- is striking. Whatever you might think of Bush and Blair (and to be honest, I don't think much of Bush), note that they have found a way to work together on multiple levels despite their many and deep differences. This capability is a reflection of something profound in Western society and is, ultimately, why those who love freedom will prevail.
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Having given you boobies, I now give you the World's Ugliest Dog:
(NB: I found this dog via a commenter's link on Annika's blog. More about the dog here.)
What goes through your mind when you look at Sam, the World's Ugliest Dog?
To me, Sam doesn't look alive. He's like a reanimated piece of dog jerky. He'll bark and yap in that creepy, undead way of his, then I'll pick him up by his scrawny tail, peel off a hind leg, and eat it. Then I'll chew thoughtfully as I contemplate my struggling, tasty, undead dog. Finally, I'll peel off another hind leg and toss Sam back onto the ground and let him drag himself around in excited little circles.
Don't harsh my mellow by telling me Someone Else has already thought of this. I'm pretty sure Someone Else has, but I want to relish this moment as my own.
Today I'm celebrating my poverty by making my quasi-French sauce, but with some subtle and not-so-subtle variations. For instance: a few days back, I bought a mess of vegetables, including way too much squash. Today, I decided to add some squash into the sauce, along with a bit of sugar-- something I hadn't tried before.
Both ingredients make a difference!
Having bought too many potatoes as well, I decided to try a different tack with the Béchamel sauce. The thickener in normal Béchamel is flour. What I did was to peel, chop, and boil two medium-sized potatoes, then mix them in the blender with a ton of milk, plus salt, pepper, basil, and a splash of olive oil. No butter. You're essentially making liquidy mashed potatoes.
And the results are fantastic. You end up with a rich, creamy, almost totally lump-free sauce. One disadvantage: once the sauce starts to cool down, its tuber pedigree becomes obvious to your taste buds. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's a reminder that you're not digging your way through a real Béchamel.
I imagine that, with a bit more milk, some onions, some butter, and some extra spices, you could make yourself a decent cream-of-potato soup.
Fact: boobs will drive up site traffic. I woke up late this fine Saturday morning, flipped on the Mac, got online, and took a look at my SiteMeter, which has been giving depressed readings for the last few weeks as people go on vacation (or tear their hair out because I'm writing about drama class again). I don't usually have 200 unique hits by noon, but I do today.
Last night's boob post brought the masses back and assured me that my readership is largely male.
My buddy Tam Gu Ja wrote in to inform me that yesterday's floppy image comes from a happy cyber-collection of bouncy mammaries. I now present to you:
Some of those images are nice, but some are just lame. The folks who hijacked Supershadow's site chose well. They might be t33n g33ks, but they know their boobies.
You can thank Tam Gu Ja for the site info. Visit his blog, Meliorare, for cool images and insights spanning the known universe. He's a damn smart guy, he works in an interesting field, and he's got a pic of the world's strangest... uh... bicycle (or is it octocycle?) on his blog right now. Meliorare appears on my sidebar.
I was trying to visit Supershadow.com earlier today, but discovered that the site had been hacked. I was greeted by the following (not exactly work-safe, but not unpleasant to look at, either):
I went back to Supershadow later in the evening and saw the girl had disappeared. Maybe her arms were tired and she needed a break. Lifting your shirt thousands of times an hour can be tough.
Friday, July 08, 2005
The Brits have answered the attack, and their answer is to soldier on. I respect that. My thoughts are with the people of the UK and with all those who've been affected by the multiple bombings in London. Because my fellow anglophones have put on a stoic mien in the face of terror, I know that they have things well in hand. I'll stop my updating for now (see previous post), quiet my mental meditations on death, and celebrate life. How?
...I hereby declare this blogger cute!
There is still beauty in the world.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
[Check back for periodic updates at the bottom of this post; the situation is still developing.]
I just visited my buddy Mike's blog, Naked Villainy, and saw the terrible news that four blasts have ripped through the London transportation system (Tube and bus), killing at least two. Mike links to articles here and here. He also quotes an impressive piece from Winston Churchill, part of which I'll reproduce here:
We have to ask ourselves this question: Will the bombing attacks come back again? We have proceeded on the assumption that they will. Many new arrangements are being contrived as a result of the hard experience through which we have passed and the many mistakes which no doubt we have made - for success is the result of making many mistakes and learning from experience. If the lull is to end, if the storm is to renew itself, we will be ready, we will not flinch, we can take it again.
We ask no favours of the enemy. We seek from them no compunction. On the contrary, if tonight our people were asked to cast their vote whether a convention should be entered into to stop the bombing of cities, the overwhelming majority would cry, "No, we will mete out to them the measure, and more than the measure, that they have meted out to us." The people with one voice would say: "You have committed every crime under the sun. Where you have been the least resisted there you have been the most brutal. It was you who began the indiscriminate bombing. We will have no truce or parley with you, or the grisly gang who work your wicked will. You do your worst - and we will do our best." Perhaps it may be our turn soon; perhaps it may be our turn now.
We live in a terrible epoch of the human story, but we believe there is a broad and sure justice running through its theme. It is time that the enemy should be made to suffer in their own homelands something of the torment they have let loose upon their neighbours and upon the world. We believe it to be in our power to keep this process going, on a steadily rising tide, month after month, year after year, until they are either extirpated by us or, better still, torn to pieces by their own people.
Note to the assholes who did this: You fuck with the British at your peril.
UPDATE: More than 40 dead?
META-UPDATE: Mike's got a good list of links embedded in his own updates here.
UPDATE2: Around 40-50 dead (counts vary from 37 to 52 in this ABC News article) and 700 wounded. Chaos in the subway (three stations hit); a bus was targeted as well. From the article:
The attack on London brought out a steeliness that recalled Britain under the blitz of German bombers in World War II, when many Londoners sought refuge in the Underground, site of Thursday's carnage.
As Wednesday's jubilation at winning the Olympics gave way to the terrible shock of Thursday's attacks, a shaken Blair rushed back to the capital. He then delivered an almost Churchillian appeal for unity, saying in a televised address that it was "a very sad day for the British people, but we will hold true to the British way of life." He praised the "stoicism and resilience of the British people."
Both were in evidence across the city, as volunteers helped the walking wounded from blast sites, commuters lent their phones so strangers could call home and thousands faced long lines for homeward-bound buses or even longer walks without complaint.
"As Brits, we'll carry on it doesn't scare us at all," said tour guide Michael Cahill, 37. "Look, loads of people are walking down the streets. It's Great Britain, not called 'Great' for nothing."
UPDATE 3: Winds of Change has running commentary.