A friend of mine sent me this link, which leads to a Japanese video that is, to put it mildly, decidedly painful to watch if you're a man.
Thanks, Robert. I've been grabbing my crotch in sympathetic agony for the past half-hour.
Speaking of video links, check out this marvelous aikido demonstration.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
A friend of mine sent me this link, which leads to a Japanese video that is, to put it mildly, decidedly painful to watch if you're a man.
Many thanks to the people who have sent their birthday wishes; I've met most of you, already know many of you, and hope one day to meet more of you. One on one, of course; we introverts don't do groups that well.
It's a gorgeous day outside, but I've been spending my birthday in the office, working on syllabi for the new semester, which begins next week. Alas. I might go do something tonight. Maybe I'll see a movie, if there's anything worthwhile playing.* Not walking up Namsan-- I did that last night, and it was a damn good walk, probably the first truly cool evening (well, 2am is technically morning) that I've experienced since summer began. The foul season appears to be loosening its death-grip; I'm hoping the trend continues.
Had my first round of Metamucil last night, and this morning my ass sang joyful arias. I hope that bottle of miracle powder never runs out.
So-- back to syllabus-making!
*Ah-- I see the French actioner "Banlieue 13" is here! I might go take in some mindless, Parkours-themed entertainment.
It's past midnight here in downtown Seoulio. I'm now 37 years old. Quick self-assessment:
Cardiovascular condition has improved by leaps and bounds since early June. Weight has not-- must think about diet and avoid nighttime snacks. Tits are arguably saggier than ever. Hunger remains undiminished. Debt reduction continues apace; certain major debts will be paid off by the end of the year. Ass gets sweatier more easily. Outlook still remains generally positive despite saggy tits, hairy nipples, and sweaty ass. Anus has developed a will of its own. More talkative.
Off to Namsan now. Got to make it all mean something.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
No self-respecting religious pluralist should be without this cool link to Georgetown University's new Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.
On the sidebar it goes, way down in the "Shit Close to My Heart" section.
I turn 37 on August 31, but my care package from the folks has already arrived. Dad, a former Northwest Airlines employee (one of the good ones, dammit-- put your stones down!), enjoys a 75% discount when FedExing anything anywhere. The only problem, this time around, was a hitch in Incheon Airport Customs (Murphy's Law: there's always a damn hitch) which held the package up for two days, but it arrived tonight. I don't know whom our family had to bribe to grease the wheels of bureaucracy, but a cardboard box was waiting for me upon my return to my dorm this evening. What follows is a series of pics describing the contents of said care package.
Here endeth our festival of materialism. Now get back to work!
According to this article, a certain Omeed Aziz Popal got in his SUV and started mowing people down with it, killing one person in Fremont, CA, then injuring over a dozen more in San Francisco.
I'll be following this story to see if the guy is Muslim, and whether his motivations are similar to those of the crackpot who opened fire on Jews in Seattle, Washington.
Could killing sprees be the American version of "the Muslim problem"? In France, gangs of young Muslims beat up Jewish teens. In Europe as a whole, imams preach violence to avid congregations. In America, where guns are easily available, it's not hard to imagine a near future where angry Muslims obtain firearms* or hop into cars and regularly "make statements."
Of course, in the above-linked article, the driver was armed with a car, not a gun. But what worries me is the combination "angry Muslim + weapon + desire to make a public statement."
If this man turns out to be Muslim, and further turns out to have been harboring a grudge against us infidels, this is going to cement some people's opinions about Islam in general. I can foresee a day when this sort of violent attitude will ultimately prove harmful to all Muslims residing in America. Innocent or not, they'll be ushered out. That's a shame, but the blame rests entirely on these violent folks, who aren't "pushed" by a "system," but who make choices, just as every rational person does.** As I've written before, this is why I refuse to demonize these people, to call them animals or barbarians or any other name that implies they are not responsible for their actions. They are responsible.
And my patience isn't infinite.
*I should note, too, that the usual argument-- that firearms are somehow effective in preventing violence-- looks fairly lame when sprees like this happen. Firearms are, at best, effective at preventing further violence, and then only if the gun owner uses his or her firearm effectively. Looks like it's time for ol' Kev to start reading up on firearm stats. I'm not anti-gun, but I have my doubts about some of the wilder claims to come out of the NRA camp. I think the NRA as a whole does a great deal of good by promoting the safety aspect of gun ownership; you can't promote gun safety if you're busy arguing that guns simply shouldn't exist. Too late: they exist, and millions own them. But some of the louder, less reasonable voices in the NRA treat as gospel the specious argument that mere ownership of a gun is insurance against gun violence.
**I remember the arguments being trotted out after 9/11: "They were pushed by poverty into this." This is unbelievably facile thinking, not to mention wholly inaccurate. How, then, do we explain why hundreds of millions Indians aren't hijacking airplanes and flying them into buildings? Or hundreds of millions of Africans? Or poor hicks in Appalachia? Sorry, folks: poverty is neither a necessary nor a sufficient cause of the international violence we see perpetrated-- repeatedly-- by a certain demographic.
Although Blue Vicar sounds suspiciously like a man of the cloth with a yen for strip clubs (not that there's anything wrong with that), it's actually the name of an interesting blog devoted to collecting wine-related stories from expats. The blog is based in France and run by an American woman named Anne, whose husband apparently tracked me down after we both posted in the same thread re: theodicy (on Verbum Ipsum, I presume).
Several days ago, Anne sent me a very kindly worded email (which at first I thought was spam, except that she had done the correct thing and written "hairy chasms" in the subject line, thereby sending the email directly to my inbox) explaining her site's mission, how she'd found me, and asking whether I had any wine-related stories to share. I replied in French that I already had my hands full maintaining my own blog (every once in a while, an offer to engage in une oeuvre collaborative comes my way, as I'm sure happens with other bloggers), and she very civilly let me "off the hook," as she put it. But not entirely: she asked if she could publish my French email, and I self-importantly said yes. So there it is, flaws and all.
If you're into wine, Blue Vicar (well, it's actually written blueVicar on the site) is a great little place to stop by and browse wine stories. I'm not particularly interested in wine or wine stories (and I told Anne as much), but I suspect that most of my readership drinks something. One of my favorite high school French teachers was a member of Les Amis du Vin in the States, but I think her doc told her to lay off the tippling. That, friends, is about as close as I can get to a wine story.
Bon, si vous êtes passionnés du vin, allez visiter blueVicar!
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
This has to be the happiest news I've read in quite a while:
Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is being made to watch his appearance in cult cartoon South Park while he is behind bars.
The deposed leader on trial in Iraq was featured in the movie spin-off as the lover of the devil. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut featured Hussein and Satan attempting to take over the world together.
Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone said US Marines guarding the former dictator during his trial for genocide were making him watch the movie "repeatedly".
"I have it on pretty good information from the Marines on detail in Iraq that they showed him the movie last year. That's really adding insult to injury. I bet that made him really happy," Stone said.
I speak no Japanese, unless you count the ten or so phrases I keep handy for those rare moments when I encounter a Japanese man or woman. Barely two hours ago, I went to the local "super," basically a mom-and-pop mini-store, and was about to buy my usual twelve liters of bottled water when I peered inside the store and saw a cluster of Japanese girls, standing around looking confused. Smoo has plenty of international students, and many of them are Japanese, so this in itself wasn't a novelty. What made this situation a bit different was that these girls apparently couldn't speak Korean, which is a rarity here in the Smoo neighborhood. Most of the local Japanese I've met have been able to speak passable to excellent Korean.
The ajumma who runs the store called me inside and asked me to speak with the students, who were apparently planning to cook ddeok-bokkgi for ten. On the counter was a single bag of ddeok that might have served three, and the ajumma wanted me to tell them that she didn't have any more ddeok than that single bag (it's a very small store), and that the girls should try a larger store.
I said to the girls, in broken Japanese, that I didn't speak any Japanese (what I actually said was "Nihongo wakarimasen," which I think means something more along the lines of "I don't understand Japanese"-- probably grammatically incorrect to boot), then switched to slow, clear English to explain the situation to them. They filed out of the store, presumably to go to the larger grocer down the street.
The funniest thing about this incident was the shopkeeper's friend-- a bent, toothless old woman who looked to be in her eighties or nineties. She kept cackling, "What country are they from? What country are they from?" "Japan," I finally said, hoping to stop her from repeating the question for the tenth time. I suspect she was fully aware what country the girls were from.
So-- that was my bit of linguistic heroism for the day: using so-so Korean and shit-level Japanese, along with slowly spoken English, to negotiate a non-deal between a group of Japanese girlies and an old Korean shopkeeper.
Monday, August 28, 2006
I had just about finished making a beautiful catblogging post last night when Photoshop Elements suddenly quit on me. Genius that I am, I hadn't bothered to save any of the four pictures I'd been working on, so I was left at Square One. Because it was late and I was dead tired, I decided to put the work off.
And so we rebuild. Expect greatness later tonight.
You go into the bank and have to deal with Dani-fucking-elle, the trainee Luddite how can't operate a pencil sharpener without six weeks of on-the-job training, and then she still fucks it up. The rest of the fuckers just sit around shuffling your money to make profits that they keep, and charge you for the fucking privilege. Then there is the guy who sits on top of a mountain somewhere and dreams up new fucking fees.
The above is just a sampler. Rory's got a hilarious bank-related rant up. Go take a look, ya' fockin' wanka'!
Drudge links to an article on Hotair.com that takes NBC to task for having aired a plane crash parody as part of the opener for the 2006 Emmy Awards ceremony. The crash scene apparently parodies scenes from the TV series "Lost" (only one episode of which I happened to catch while in the States last December).
The writer of the Hot Air post, someone named Ian, notes that the parody aired right on the heels of a deadly plane crash in Kentucky. Ian quotes Mary Katherine Ham of Townhall.com, who wrote:
The Kentucky plane crash happened at 6 a.m. There was plenty of time to alter the intro of the Emmys to something more respectful. It wouldn’t have been polished and post-produced, but it would have been polite.
Ian seconds this:
NBC has armies of writers and producers on a show the scope of the Emmy Awards. They could have come up with something to replace the Lost sketch, and if it was really lame a simple explanation that they had replaced a planecrash sketch out of respect for those lost in the Comair crash would have been right and classy.
Yes, it would have been more tasteful and more classy. But I reject the subtext of Ian's post, summed up when he writes:
On the other hand, if the Comair crash had happened on the Left Coast, would NBC have gone through with the skit?
Come on, Ian. If you're suggesting that "lefties look out for their own," then look in the mirror: righties are no different, and truth be told, I don't think it's a bad thing to be loyal to one's own. If you're suggesting that "lefties are more insensitive than righties," look in the mirror again. In terms of rhetoric and tactics, I often see little difference between the two sides. Cries of "Asshole!" and "Retard!" can be heard in stereo from where I stand.
And, hey-- didn't we just go through a whole flap about free speech and insensitivity with the Muhammad cartoon fiasco? I happened to agree that those cartoonists and those newspapers had every right to publish those cartoons, insensitive though they be. I also felt that the overall Muslim reaction to those cartoons was both an overreaction and rooted in a basic misconception about whether Muslims may portray the Prophet. To be consistent, we should acknowledge that humor in any culture often crosses the bounds of taste, and somebody somewhere is going to be offended by any attempt at humor. This in itself isn't a reason to "act sensitive."
[NB: I watched the plane crash parody clip (which Hot Air, despite its disgruntlement, conveniently provides for your... amusement?), and thought it was pretty funny. It would have been funnier had I been following the "Lost" series, but such is life.]
The argument that NBC could have changed the skit around sounds specious to me. It's not as easy as you think to reassemble the writing team, get the actors all back together (when they've likely jetted/driven off to who-knows-where), and have a viable alternative skit in the space of several hours.
I do, however, agree that NBC did have some options open. They could have nixed the skit entirely, for example. They could have made an announcement about the Kentucky crash, per Ian's suggestion. There were tasteful alternatives available to NBC; I concede that. But was NBC under some pressing moral obligation to pursue them? I think not: imagine cancelling action-oriented cop dramas just because people die in car accidents all the time.
I also think that the reaction from Kentucky to NBC's perceived insensitivity was proportionate-- no embassies burnt, no crowds of angry Kentuckyans on the street shouting "Death to NBC!" In all, I think this situation played itself out about as well as it could have, and this incident wasn't nearly consequential enough for rightie bloggers to get exercised about supposed leftie behavior. Neither the plane crash nor the parody should have been politicized. This wasn't about right or left.
Upshot: I've just wasted a few minutes claiming that the topic at hand isn't worth writing about. Go figure.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Is Robert Wright what I think he is? I've argued that Wright is likely a closet theist who doesn't want to admit his fundamental orientation (forgive me if I seem to be appropriating GLAAD language). His latest interview, with Karen Armstrong, offers compelling evidence in my favor. Here's a transcript from the section of the interview where he asks Armstrong about purpose in history:
[To Armstrong] Having failed to get you to engage in one kind of God-talk, let me try another thought on you that's pertinent to the desire of a lot of people to have a sense of higher purpose, the sense that there's a reason they're here-- or that we're here, collectively. And it has to do with the question of whether history has any purpose. My own view is that if you look at... patterns in history, the unfolding of history, there is reason to believe that there's some larger purpose that's hard to fathom-- we can't entirely figure it out, but that there's something unfolding, some point to the exercise. [latter emphasis added]
In his interview with Steven Pinker, Wright says the following:
[To Pinker] Ok, well, speaking of cosmic beings, there's a kind of teleological flavor to this in my mind. In other words, if (a) you know, these moral truths are really out there, they're absolutes and (b) we naturally evolve in that direction-- I mean, if we naturally evolve toward moral truth, that suggests to me in a vague way there is some purpose to the whole exercise. [emphasis added]
As the interview with Pinker continues, Wright holds to an explicitly teleological view while Pinker politely dissents.
I think Wright is clearly a disciple of telos (Gk. "end," "purpose," "goal")-- perhaps even in the Teilhardian "Omega Point" sense (though for Wright, what that point is is uncertain)-- and would like to take the further step of suggesting that "the exercise," as he repeatedly calls it, is being run by a divine intelligence. He can't come out and say that quite yet, but I see him as building a case for theism.
Can an atheistic case for cosmic telos be built? I suppose it could; it would probably replace the God of the Abrahamic scriptures with some enormous alien intelligence.
[NB: I'm not concerned with the concept of telos as it may explicitly or implicitly appear in the writings of someone like Karl Marx. Marx's concern was fairly parochial: for him, the directionality of history meant the directionality of human history, not cosmic history.]
UPDATE: I'd like to welcome the (disturbingly large number of) random visitors who have reached this entry after doing a Google search on "tonsil stones" or "throat pellets" or "tonsilloliths." I hope you'll stick around and enjoy the rest of the blog, which covers a wide range of issues from religion to politics to culture. There's plenty of humor here, too, if that's your thing; I'm a student of religion, but have a very irreverent side. Click the banner ad at the top left and think about buying a copy of my book on religion, Water from a Skull (the image comes from Korean Buddhism). Or buy one of the last remaining copies of my book of gross humor, Scary Spasms in Hairy Chasms: A Panoply of Paeans to Putrescence and a Cornucopia of Corrosive Coprophilia. One-stop shopping for profanity and profundity. Or, if you're so inclined, click the main banner image and see what's currently happening on the blog. Enjoy!
Have you ever coughed up a whitish or yellowish piece of nastiness that feels as though it came from the back of your throat? It's usually shaped like a tiny piece of gravel, but with no rough edges. It can be only a millimeter or two in width, or can be a big honkin' piece of crap nearly 8mm wide. When I was young, I made the mistake of smooshing one after having hacked it into the sink. The resultant stink was indescribably bad. Over the years, I've probably hacked and horked up dozens or even hundreds of these bad boys, but I never knew what they were called.
My buddy Dr. Steve very colorfully referred to them as "throat pellets." Just a few moments ago, my brother David sent me a link to a page that describes what these things are. They're called tonsilloliths, or tonsil stones (hence "-lith"), and they're as filthy as they smell, according to Dr. Hoffman:
These things are called tonsilloliths ("tonsil stones").... They are typically white, or whitish-yellow, irregularly-shaped, foul-smelling, and usually smaller than a pea. The tissue lining the tonsils (oral mucosa) is fairly sensitive, so people with this problem often report that they feel an irritation in the back of their throat and are able to pick these critters out of their tonsils.
Like your skin, oral mucosa sheds continuously. The dead cells become incorporated in your saliva and then you swallow them. Yum! One more anatomical fact that you need to know: the surface of your tonsils is pockmarked with deep pits, appropriately called "crypts" (since dead stuff accumulates in these pits). Oral mucosa lines the crypts. Under normal circumstances, as this mucosa sheds, the dead cells leave the crypts and are swallowed. In some unlucky people, ...the dead cells accumulate and glom together to form hard little balls. All of this dead stuff makes great food for bacteria, and of course your oral cavity is colonized by all kinds of bacteria. Consequently, the tonsilloliths are ripe with bacteria. This accounts for the smell.
A slightly gloomier entry on tonsilloliths, which highlights some of their dangers(!), can be found here.
I haven't had any tonsil stones for months, but they do tend to reappear in the winter. I often associate them with sickness, but I've coughed them up even when I haven't been sick.
Cool pic of tonsilloliths in their natural habitat here. Look toward the left side of the picture for two white points.
This dick is made for whackin',
and that's just what I'll do
one of these days this dick is gonna
whack all over you.
Ah, sweet memories of my time as a porn star. Who better than Jackie to receive a warm load of love?
I don't want to be killed by a sea turtle, and I don't want lapdancing at my funeral.
Actually, on that last point, I should specify that I'd rather not have a funeral at all: I'd rather be cremated, divided up, and scattered in the places I love: some of me sprinkled in Virginia, some of me in Korea, and some of me in Interlaken, Switzerland-- the most beautiful spot on earth. No ceremony necessary; it'll be enough to know that people are visiting those places and enjoying themselves, sniffing the breeze and perhaps inhaling a few molecules of Kevin thereby.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
The reason my father taught me how to box was to defend myself against Dodgers fans.
--Rudolph Giuliani, inveterate Yankees fan and former mayor of New York City, from the chapter "Be Your Own Man" in his book Leadership (Hyperion, 2002), p. 208
English teachers in Korea must fight an uphill battle to uphold their honor (such honor as we have) in the face of repeated scandals and a general lack of respect for the profession-- said disrespect emanating from both Koreans and their non-Korean teachers.
The Nomad has collected a few links to blog posts on the subject here.
My opinion in a nutshell:
1. The Korean system and Korean attitudes toward both foreigners and English education do much to contribute to the problem. To that extent, Mike is right to suggest that the problem is structural. Hiring practices that screen out the undesirables should be put in place after first arriving at a clear notion of "desirable" and "undesirable."
2. At the same time, any structure is composed of individuals, and these individuals make choices. The structure plays its role, but individual teachers (and students) are responsible for their own actions (or, in the case of harassment, inaction-- say, by victims who fail to report a problem, or by authorities who fail to act swiftly after hearing of a problem). The best approach to the structural issue, then, is to think globally but act locally: hold teachers accountable when they perform unprofessionally, but by the same token, reward those who show above-average performance. An individual boss can make a big difference in this area, and individual teachers are grown human beings who can conduct themselves well or poorly both inside and outside the classroom. Responsibility at this individual level is just as important as instituting structural fixes.
3. Expressing lust on a blog probably brings one close to a certain ethical line, but whether that line is crossed will depend on several factors: one's own attitude and writing style, one's own intentions, the mindset of the reader(s), and so on. I, for instance, have admitted attraction to some of my hotter college-age and adult students while at a previous place of employment, but I have always played those feelings for comedy on the blog, primarily because such situations were funny to me, and because I knew I'd never act on those feelings. Look But Don't Touch.
4. Mike is entirely correct to say that there should be a very clear teacher-student relationship: professionalism demands nothing less. To that end, I never invite my students to my place (except on one occasion, when a group came over for about ten minutes to help me carry some stuff to campus for an in-class foodfest), and while I give my email address and phone number to my students, I always wait for them to call me first. Most students don't even bother. I also don't "hang" with my students in a relaxed, buddy-buddy sense. I've started groups such as our English Circle and the free French class, but you won't see me chowing down and doing shots with students on weekends or weekday evenings.
5. Korea currently plays host to a lot of Western freaks, quite a few of whom I've met, many more of whom I've heard about. But Korea abets the situation by fetishizing the English language and, as Mike notes, white Western culture (though I'd add that black American culture has its influence here, too, as seen in the form of awful, watered-down rap and R&B).
6. However, educational standards are improving, as more Korean parents become aware of the overall problem, and schools start to tighten up their hiring practices. That's the good news. But:
7. In Korea, a general disrespect toward teachers in general, foreign or not, seems to be on the rise, which isn't good news for anybody. I see this aspect of Korean society swinging in a disturbingly American direction (having taught French for two years at an American high school, I know firsthand how disrespectful American students can be), and hope Korea will see the cliff it's heading toward and apply the brakes. This is one of those areas where Korean Confucianism, retooled for modern sensibilities (e.g., a Confucianism that drops the notion of female inferiority), might offer a better solution to the disrespect issue than a greater infusion of Western egalitarianism and individualism might. I'd like to elaborate on this, but don't have the argument fully formed in me noggin right now.
I saw an earthworm on the sidewalk. Normally, earthworms don't get my attention, but this one made we wary. Sure enough, as I got closer, it reared up and addressed me.
"You thought you were rid of me, but I've come back!" it shrilled triumphantly.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"Damn you, Fordensen, you know who I am! You did this to me! You!"
"I don't know what you're talking about," I said. "And I'm not Fordensen."
The earthworm paused, then wilted.
"Shit," it groused, resuming its wriggling trek.
I sighed with relief, for you see: I am Fordensen.
Friday, August 25, 2006
I'm looking forward to this movie, "The Pursuit of Happyness," which I hope does make it to Korea (unlike "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle," which I had to watch on bootleg DVD at a friend's place).
The poster says it all, and the preview (click the image; you'll need QuickTime) reaffirms why Will Smith is one of my favorite actors.
As you can tell from the preview, the story will be predictable-- an uplifting drama about triumph over adversity, the responsibilities of fatherhood, and terminally cute kids. But I'll drop a few bucks to see such a film all the same. "Good Will Hunting" was just as predictable a film, but I consider it one of my favorites-- perceptively written, well-acted by all the principals, and entertaining as hell.
I cooked my pasta and made garlic bread for my Intensive 4s, and there was much munching. I was surprised to see Hymen in attendance; a different girl buggered out, which makes me wonder whether she might've been the one to zap me on the eval form. Her stated reason for being absent today was completely different from the reason she'd given me yesterday: she told classmates (via text message today) that she had to visit her relatives again, whereas yesterday she had told me that she was involved in another group project, and that was why she wouldn't be able to make it to English class and our drama rehearsal.
Yes, drama. The skit.
Somehow, we pulled it off. I'd like to add "without a hitch," but we had two major line flubs: our Evil Queen forgot a line toward the beginning of the play (I had to be le souffleur,* the person who "breathed" the lines to her), then our narrator/Fairy Godmother jumped in to start Scene 6 before Scene 5 had ended. Ah, well... such things happen, and when they happen on stage, I tend not to worry so much (unless I'm the one flubbing). What gets me riled is the crap that happens during a rehearsal-- lack of concentration, lack of punctuality, etc.
Today's final dress rehearsal, which occurred just before the end-of-term ceremony began, was everything that yesterday's rehearsal should have been: people knew their cues and hit their lines; costumes were in order; the play had a flow to it that was lacking yesterday, and we finally-- finally-- got the running time down under twenty minutes. The only thing the rehearsal lacked was loudness, so that's what I told the cast: be twice as loud during the actual performance.
The audience reacted well to the Queen's mugging; some teachers and I agreed that the student in that role-- short, squat, and wearing a crown almost half as tall as she was-- was a natural, as were the girls playing Cinderella and the Prince. During the performance, the cast members did a very good job of enunciating their lines with understandable intonation and pronunciation; I was impressed.
When the play was over, I about collapsed with relief. Yesterday's lackadaisical rehearsal had bothered me deeply. Many pictures were taken today, but I doubt they'll find their way to my email box.
But there's no time to rest on me laurels. I still have test rating and extra duties to perform before I call it quits today; looks like I'll be in the office until rather late this evening.
More later as the mood strikes.
*Strangely enough, I don't know the English term for this.
UPDATE: Jeff writes in with the terms "Line Director" and the more colloquial "Prompter." Thanks, man. Check out Jeff's post about one of my favorite Korean Zen temples, Haeinsa.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Speaking of Justin, the man himself posts about a blog called Damn Interesting. Justin links to a particular entry titled Operation Acoustic Kitty, written on August 22, not long after I had written my own post featuring spy cats.
The summer semester's pretty much over. All that remains is Friday: one final jjong-p'ati, and then our end-of-term ceremony, which includes our skit.
Ah, the skit.
I know I invited my readers to come watch the show, but... maybe you shouldn't bother. One of our main characters has absolutely incomprehensible pronunciation, and our "dress rehearsal" today was a fiasco. We have one more rehearsal tomorrow, just before the ceremony begins, and that's it-- we go on stage, ready or not.
That reminds me: thanks to unreliable students, I'm now a cast member. A knight, to be exact-- a servant of the evil queen (no evil stepmother in this retread of the Cinderella story, but we do have a fairy godmother). Behold:
The monstrosity on my head was constructed by Your Humble Narrator last night, to the sound of baying wolves and banshee screams. The helm-- for that's what it is-- is full of staples; my colleague Z saw me wearing it and gave me an exaggerated grimace meant to convey deep revulsion at the aesthetic level. Right ray of sunshine, she is. My students reassured me that, "Wow! You have a talent for arts and crafts!", which is a nice thing to say, but unfortunately untrue. I can cartoon, and I knock off small-potatoes brush art, but that's about it. Construction paper befuddles me.
Over the past three days, the students have had to fill out their evaluation forms, and I've dropped from my winter high of over 99% to a mere 96% approval rating. Alas. The one girl who screwed up my average hit me hard, and I know exactly which student brought me so low: Justin Yoshida would know her as "Hymen." Hymen was absent six times over the course of our short semester, and she was also late more than three times. She has, technically, failed the course. Whether she'll be given the "F" remains to be seen: our office is occasionally too merciful.
When in class, Hymen would act like a smartass and complain about the work we were doing. Since she was the only one with such complaints (and the only one to make similar complaints on her eval form), I will ignore her nonsense after a few hours of Bruce Wayne-style brooding and self-criticality. I do try hard to please the maximum number of students while providing what I hope is a tough-but-fair curriculum, and I realize you can't please everybody, but I still need a moment to fume. No worries: like the crap in me bum, the anger will pass. It always does.
In the meantime, say hello to Mr. 96%.
On the other hand, some students from my Intro and Level 1 classes very sweetly wrote me notes that I proudly share with you now:
Hi! Kevin, I'm EY. Tomorrow we will have a final class. So I'm very sad. Your class was the most interesting English class I've ever experienced. Besides I gained confidence about English. I can speak English confidently although it isn't right. Thank you for your effort to improve my English ability. I will attend your Level 1 class. Very very thank you^^".
It's me. M.A.^^
Since I took part in Intro, I have been very happy. Because of your funny and exciting teaching. Thank you very much!!
I can be took an interest in English thanks to you. Please don't forget me ~ (heart)
I thought that was very sweet.
My Level 1 students threw me a party. I had brought spaghetti sauce and pasta, and I knew they were bringing drinks and dessert, but I had no idea they would set up a lovely spread like what I saw today: ice cream, neatly sliced trays of various fruits, and a cake with five candles, representing the four remaining (!) students and me. Camera phone photos were taken... I'm hoping some of those pics come my way.
These students also gave me an origami'ed piece of paper labeled "Love Letter," and I was told not to open it just then, but to wait until later.
The students had written a slew of messages on one side of the paper, scattered randomly across the page, with no signatures attached to any of the messages. Here's what I saw (obviously, in no particular order):
be carefull! when you go to the Namsan
Thank you (heart)
I like you. Kevin. Thank you very much. You must remember me!! please... (crying emoticon)
See you next year. We must meet again (Level 3). are you scared? (giggle emoticon)
Frankly speaking, you're sooooo handsome. (is it lie?)
I wish you have a nice trip in 2007.
make a girl friend(s) Kevin!!! (heart)
Hi Kevin! How are you? I'm fine, kk. I'm glad to meet you. You are a good teacher.
Our dinner was great! French food was very delicious
You know I love you
please, don't forget me!!!!!
We have a great time during this class.
We prepared this party for you. We are thank you. We think we have had really really good time with you.
With well-wishes like that, how down can a guy be, eh?
And now... off to cook some shrimp and prepare a meal for my Intensive Level 4s, who weren't nearly this effusive. They nevertheless got the brass ring, and a promise is a promise. I had told them I'd cook the fettuccine alfredo for them, and I'll do it even if it kills me. Hymen better enjoy her damn meal.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
"No West for the reary," as the joke goes about us fatasses. I have a ton of cooking to do this evening in preparation for a series of three jjong-p'ati (end-of-term celebration), so expect only intermittent posting at best over the next few hours.
Two of the parties are happening tomorrow (Thursday). The first party won't require much: everyone has promised to bring something, and I'm simply bringing the materials for a petit déjeuner à la française, as I did last time: milk, sliced baguette, butter, Nutella, and French jam. Make a bowl of hot chocolate, spread butter and jam (or Nutella) on your slice of bread, dip in the hot chocolate, and enjoy. Seeeeemple.
The second party will happen right after the first, and this will be a sort of brunch event. I'm once again cooking my meat sauce and bringing along spaghetti, and throwing in some garlic bread to boot. Other students will be bringing in salad, drinks, and desserts.
On Friday, I'll have a third party with my "first place" class, the Intensive 4s. They surprised me by ending up in first place, despite their blasé attitude toward the course. My second class of the day, a Level 1 conversation class, would have been in first place had it not been for two students who failed to show up for crucial exams (a crime for which they received zeroes).
I turned in my grades for the intensive class earlier today. Although this class ended up in first place, no one in the class received an "A," primarily because no one could be bothered to do the homework (blogging) in a consistent manner. If the people who kindly contributed comments to the blog in question would care to offer advice on how to make blogging-as-homework more interesting, please write in. Keep in mind that I view homework this way: (1) as a way to reinforce things learned in class, and/or (2) a way to move beyond things learned in class. In either case, homework must be related to what is done in class, and can't represent a sudden and radical departure from the curriculum. That, to me, is useless. English teaching shouldn't merely be a matter of "throw enough knowledge until some of it sticks," and homework should never consist of mere busy-work or other random activities.
The intro-level class, which came in third, boasts two "A" students. The collective average of the Intros is low because this class also had some spectacular failures: people who simply didn't have the right stuff when it came to learning English. Perhaps these failures were having a bad-hair semester. We'll never know: a few of them simply dropped out without a word, perhaps not mature enough to face the prospect of a test that would hold them accountable for their own learning. I was heartened, though, that so many students decided to tough it out to the end. When I compare these morning classes (Intro and Level 1) to the ones I had the previous semester... well, there's no comparison.
Enough ruminating! I'm off to make pasketti sauce.
There'll be no one to stop us this time.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Gord of Eclexys writes:
Re: your post here:
What you say about thermodynamics is true, but I've read in a couple of places (most memorably in George Johnson's (admittedly somewhat dated) Fire in the Mind that there's an emerging, and I should say quite tentative, understanding that while the laws of thermodynamics hold, there may also exist a tendency towards increasing complexity in the universe. It's not just the cosmic anthropic principle nutters that think so, either...
This doesn't even need to be ascribed to any kind of underlying, universal [telos]; it could be that rather than life and the increasing types of complexity we observe in all kinds of systems arising from something basically stochastic, that maybe the wacky digital-physics people are correct (I know only a little about them, from conversations with Vernor Vinge mostly) and underlying all that physics we think we understand right now is a kind of computation-like process. Rudy Rucker, though I'm not a total cheerleader for some of his more New Age ideas, has said some interesting things about "gnarly computation" that seem to make sense in terms of algorithms that would lead to complexity, as opposed to pure entropy or just endless repetitions of the same self-replicating structure. Imperfect self-replication (aided by mostly slow-acting environmental factors) could arguably be an algorithm by which, over geological time, a sort of gnarly computation occurs. And there's no saying that this might not just happen to be a basic feature of the universe we find ourselves in, though heaven forbid this be used to promote Intelligent Design.
Anyway, cool to see someone else around here thinking about this stuff.
Off to dig through the library stacks and find out whether the issues of Nature are in English or, to my chagrin and some really long shot I think unlikely except karmically, translated into Korean.
Perhaps Carl Sagan got it right in his novel Contact: the universe was designed, and the "artist's signature" is inscribed-- and ready for decoding-- in irrational numbers like pi.
You will, of course, have seen Malcolm Pollack's reply to my telos post.
[NB: Email has been edited for privacy's sake.]
I just read your ravioli write-up. Lots of pleasant memories – particularly of helping my grandmother make ravioli from scratch in her big kitchen in the old family house. Damn, now I’m hungry. Time for a chunk of parmesan. For a big boy, you're still in the minor leagues when it comes to scarfing down blocks of the stuff. I put it away in pieces 10 times that size, and have a debit account at Wood & Brick to prove it. Must be the Italian genes.
For what it's worth-- I ate the entire wedge that very evening (technically, morning), all in one sitting, after first allowing a few hours to pass: had to digest that maginficent ravioli dinner. Every Parma-bite was goooood.
Maybe we should have a Parmesan-eating contest... nah, scratch that. The point is to appreciate the cheese. We each do that in our own way, I guess.
Just imagine how the Swiss stare in horror at how I consume Gruyère.
Which of the following lines is not uttered in all six Star Wars movies?
(The answer is in "invisible ink" in this post. Highlight the text to read it.)
(a) "Hello, there!"
(c) "I've got [or "I have"] a bad feeling about this."
The answer is (a). That line is uttered by Obi-Wan Kenobi in "Star Wars: A New Hope" when Obi-Wan greets the droid R2-D2, and in the prequel "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith" when Obi-Wan greets the biodroid general, Grievous, before their saber duel on the sinkhole planet of Utapau.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Lest we forget that fundies aren't limited to Islam, I give you our own homegrown Taliban Lite:
Sunday School Teacher Let Go For Being Female
Woman Taught Sunday School For 54 Years
POSTED: 8:45 am EDT August 21, 2006
WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- The pastor of a church that has stopped letting women teach Sunday school said that won't affect his decisions as a city councilman in upstate New York.
Rev. Timothy LaBouf dismissed a female Sunday School teacher this month, saying a woman can perform any job -- outside the church.
The First Baptist Church in Watertown dismissed Mary Lambert Aug. 9 after adopting what it called a literal interpretation of the Bible.
The reverend recently dismissed Lambert, who had taught Sunday school for 54 years, citing the biblical advice of the apostle Paul: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent."
Lambert has publicly criticized the decision.
The church board said other issues were behind Lambert's dismissal, but it did not say what they were.
LaBouf, who also serves on the Watertown City Council, issued a statement saying his stance against women teaching men in Sunday school would not affect his decisions as a city leader in Watertown, where all five members of the council are men but the city manager who runs the city's day-to-day operations is a woman.
"I believe that a woman can perform any job and fulfill any responsibility that she desires to" outside the church, LaBouf wrote Saturday.
Mayor Jeffrey Graham, however, was bothered by the reasons given Lambert's dismissal.
"If what's said in that letter reflects the councilman's views, those are disturbing remarks in this day and age," Graham said. "Maybe they wouldn't have been disturbing 500 years ago, but they are now."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
Here in Korea, St. Paul would get his ass kicked: Korean Protestantism is one of the biggest producers of women in authority. Ajumma power!
Charles will be putting up what he calls "my [i.e., his] side of the story," but in the meantime I thought I'd entertain you with a Konglishy rendition of what it's like to make ravioli from scratch. Charles is a formidable cook, and as I had never made ravioli before-- let alone decent pasta-- this was an educational experience for me.
The following sequence of 29 photos has been divided into three sections: (1) ravioli-making, (2) the "prequel" (in which you will see a bit of what I went through to make the meat sauce that topped the ravioli, and (3) a "sequel" that depicts a little bit of insanity just for Charles, who couldn't believe that I'd actually eat large chunks of Parmesan cheese.
One thing my narration forgot to mention is that Charles also baked his own excellent bread for the occasion. Fresh vegetables came from his family's garden, right there on his property, and the excellent veggie dip was crafted by Charles's lovely wife.
Without further ado, then... on with the Konglishie!
PART ONE: RAVIOLI-MAKING
PART TWO: THE PREQUEL (SPAGHETTI SAUCE)
PART THREE: THE AFTERMATH (DEATH OF THE PARMESAN CHUNK)
Lee of the always-interesting Verbum Ipsum has written a very good post on theodicy and divine omnipotence. The post discusses theologian Keith Ward's point of view on the subject of ontological necessity and possible worlds, concepts that have more relevance for philosophers than for most theologians, I think.* I've reproduced my reply to Lee's thoughtful post below. I invite you to read his post first to give my reply some context. Not being a classical theist, I'm not too vexed by the problem of theodicy, so it's pretty easy for me to find God guilty of the ultimate sin.
Very interesting post.
If God chooses to actualize one of his possible worlds, and that world of necessity contains both good and evil, then God is ultimately responsible for bringing evil into existence, because (on the assumption God is absolutely free) God could have chosen not to actualize such a world.
Many, if not most, theodicies are about absolving God of his responsibility for all evil. In my opinion, no theodicy succeeds at this. Given that evil exists, and assuming that God created the universe, then at the very least we know God created a universe that contains the potential for evil. Therein lies God's responsibility.
If I scatter mines on the surface of a field and then tell a group of children to go play in the field, "But don't touch the mines," there's a chance those children will come out of the field unscathed.
Should a child decide to handle a mine and perish, we could argue that the child is at fault for having ignored my order... or we could admit that I should never had scattered mines over the field to begin with. Ultimately, I am responsible for that child's death.
PS: I watched Robert Wright's interview with Keith Ward over at Meaningoflife.tv, and found Ward quite intelligent and affable.
*The term "ontological necessity" doesn't appear in Lee's post, but the concept is there.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
A wave of foodblogging coming your way... this entry is about my Friday-evening outing with the girls of Smoo-- specifically, my Level 1 conversation class. One of my students took the following pics, which feature our salad entrées and the chocolate moelleux dessert, but apparently there are no pics of the main courses.
That day, there was a large group of mostly Korean folks sitting behind us. One of their number was speaking fluent Korean with a strong American accent, and he kept mentioning Georgetown. I was tempted to turn around and shout "HOYA SAXA!", but that would have freaked out the natives and been corny to boot. Who the hell shouts "Hoya Saxa" in a French restaurant?