Friday, March 31, 2006

the two-headed monster

The Two-headed Monster exercise is an English class variation of a number I've seen on the improv show "Whose Line Is It, Anyway?" It's actually a pretty dynamic way to make students aware of the grammatical and pragmatic elements of a conversation.

The setup is simple: students are grouped into pairs (or trios, if the class has an odd number of students) and are told that they are now fused together and have become two-headed monsters. The monster, unfortunately, has a problem: each head can utter only one word at a time.

A dialogue between two monsters might go something like this:

Monster 1
Head A: What
Head B: did
Head A: you
Head B: do
Head A: last
Head B: night?

Monster 2
Head A: I
Head B: didn't
Head A: do
Head B: anything
Head A: special.

The exercise makes students keenly aware of the grammatical constraints that determine what eventual form a given utterance might take. It also encourages students to understand how one instinctively "thinks through" a question by making the communicative process occur in slow motion. This in turn introduces them to pragmatics, because while a question "speaks itself into existence," students gain an increasingly clear idea of where the question is going. This, then, helps determine what utterance the other monster makes.

The improv nature of the exercise is important because it coaches students to think on their feet instead of relying on either a teacher or a text. In a class of twelve students, six monsters can mix and converse comfortably in monster-pairs. If you have ten students, the monsters will have to figure out how, exactly, they will form their conversational clusters.

The exercise can also be fused with more conventional exercises. For example, ESL/EFL students routinely do role-playing and task-oriented exercises, and these can be adapted to the Two-headed Monster scenario. Monsters at a picnic! Mommy and Daddy Monster interact with Baby (or Teen) Monster! Monsters go shopping! Monsters go on a trip! Monsters reenact scenes from famous movies! Monsters interview shady politicians! Or, for advanced students, Monsters try to tell each other riddles or speculate on what life would be like with only one head!

The Two-headed Monster exercise does have a major drawback, though: if you do it for too long, some students will find it tedious. As with the "Whose Line Is It, Anyway?" act, the exercise shouldn't drag on and on. It should also be used sparingly, i.e., not as an activity you do every single day.

Aside from that, I highly recommend this exercise to English teachers. Improv comedy is a rich source of exercises for English class, by the way. Watch some improv and you'll see all sorts of potential activities for your students.


_

Thursday, March 30, 2006

elbums

EFL Geek just posted a comment: "Your friend is a freak!" He goes on to wonder how my buddy Thomas St. John discovered his special gift, the elastic elbows.

Conjecture: Tom probably discovered it the same way most guys discover masturbation: through the magic of Vaseline and a nearby sheep.

You know-- most of us are actually capable of doing what Tom can do, but we have to use our scrotums. Tom was fortunate enough to be born with scrotums on his elbows, which makes his act somehow socially acceptable.

Meanwhile, thanks to irrational taboos, We the Scrotally Gifted languish in anonymity, our unconventional bartending skills untested. Because of American prudery, I am unable to stand before Carmen Electra with a ball sac full of wine and command, "Slake thy thirst, O Woman, from the limpid pool that lieth betwixt my stones!"

I have to know, EFL Geek-- how did the audience react, and who drank out of Tom's elbow? I told him he should try to get Leno, Asner, and Carmen Electra to drink out of it. Did they?


_

attack of the little card girls

After I left the office this afternoon, I lumber-waddled downhill from Smoo's main campus to the local bank. My empty wallet was screaming for more money, and I was hoping to hit up the newly installed super-ATMs to calm the wallet down.

Two unchaperoned little girls, probably no more than six years old, were in the bank's foyer, which is also where a long row of ATMs stood. The girls had been trying to do something with one ATM, but I couldn't see what. The mystery was solved when one little girl ran up to me and said, "Adjoshi! This card doesn't work in the machine!" Cottoning to my new and surprising role as The Nameless Adjoshi, I said, "Show me your card!" The girl dutifully slapped it in my hand.

It was a phone card.

I have it on good authority from no less a cosmic personage than Justin Yoshida that, in Japan, phone cards are generally used by two classes of people: the homeless and drug dealers. Perhaps, I thought, the same applies in Korea. These little girls didn't look old enough to be pushing crack, so I was forced to conclude they were homeless waifs. They certainly seemed to have the street smarts I associate with clever homeless folks: after I informed the first girl that her phone card wouldn't work in these machines, both girls asked to see my phone card. I guess they were thinking that some people's phone cards were somehow better than others' cards when it came to ATM access, a perfectly reasonable assumption in a hierarchical society.

I told the girls I didn't have a phone card because, like most people in Korea, I have a cell phone. Undeterred, and having completely forgotten that their original purpose was to extort money from an ATM, the girls demanded to see my cell phone.

At this point, I was too charmed and amused by these girls to say no, so I brought the phone out and gave it to them. They grabbed it, immediately figured out how to open it, then started pushing random keys in a touchingly determined effort to make the phone do something. At that point I laughed, reached down for the phone, and pried it away from them while saying, "OK, that's enough" in a voice that tried to convey both imperiousness and avuncularity. The girls gave up without resistance, perhaps realizing that I can beat any number of six-year-old girls in an Ultimate Fighting cage match any day. Phone safely pocketed, I indicated the row of pay phones outside.

"Try those," I advised.

"We tried, and they don't work," was the reply.

At that point, the girls realized there was no further benefit in talking with The Nameless Adjoshi, so they left the bank's foyer. I got my cash in peace, then lumber-waddled home.

Aside from the fact that the encounter was inherently amusing, what struck me was that the girls never once said "Huh?" or "What?" while I was speaking Korean with them. That's a good sign: children are the most honest critics when it comes to judging whether you speak a language clearly enough to make yourself understood. My early forays in France were punctuated by a lot of "Comment?" (and its ruder cousin, "Quoi?") until my accent improved. I get a lot of that in Korea, but it's usually from rude teenage girls who utter the Korean version of "Huh?", which sounds like a nasal "Eh?" (or perhaps the French "Hein?").

I was also struck by the fact that my foreignness was never once an issue in our bizarre exchange. Truly remarkable, that, and reassuring. Recognition of foreignness, and inability to understand someone's accent-- these things might be the artifacts of the mental filters we construct as we are further assimilated into our given culture. The Tao Te Ching tells us that "the five colors blind the eye; the five tones deafen the ear." This means that our mental filters can actually get in the way of true, unadulterated perception.

Perhaps these girls, for all their wiliness (and no-- they weren't homeless; that was a joke, for God's sake), were strangely pure of heart: in the world of unmediated percipience, there are no Koreans, no foreigners, and no funny accents.


_

feral guitar

I had no idea who Kaki King was until this evening. Now I want her album. Go visit Justin's post, which offers a YouTube clip of this amazing guitarista in action.


_

Ave, Jelly!

Visit Jelly's blog for your dose of the local phreax of nature: namely, Grape Foot and Grandpa Baby.


_

verily I say unto thee that I shit thee not

See? I wasn't lying. Tom appeared on Leno in the States on the evening of the 29th, and the show will be broadcast on AFKN this evening (the 30th) in Korea. Alas, I have no TV, so I'll be missing the broadcast. If any of you teched-up, gizmo-savvy folks would care to record the Ed Asner segment and render it as a downloadable video clip (or at least offer me a few choice screen captures), I'd be in your debt and would gladly give you every single one of my precious colon polyps.

Look at the image below, which was taken from the Leno website (hurry: the image changes periodically). Scroll down until you see the arrow pointing to my buddy Tom, who is pictured in a way that shows off his anatomical gift.





Send me an email if you've got the video clip, or if you happen to notice a clip of Tom's act on YouTube or Google Video or some other such service.

Kick ass, Tom!


UPDATE: I just noticed that, in the above screen shot, the intro paragraph mentions "George, Georgina, and Jonathan." Those were the three people on the previous Ed Asner segment. Oops. Way to update your site, NBC.


_

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

a night at the opera...







(pic stolen from the Marmot)

_

Ave, Sharon Stone!

Finally: a Hollywood talking head who has something intelligent to say!


_

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

catsturbation

A while ago, the Maven sent me a hilarious link to video of a masturbating cat (you'll need to sign up to become a YouTube member to see the vid; membership is free). In the video, the technical question of how a beast with claws can beat its own meat is... well, at least partially answered.



The Force will be with you. Always.


UPDATE: The certifiably hellbound Jeff Harrison emails with a link to a canine version of the above. It's worth it just to listen to the off-camera woman pleading, "Wilburrr! Please stooooooooop!" at the end. But the dog, having achieved a certain rhythm, can't stop: events, once set in motion, must be seen through to their sticky conclusion. That, friend, is the way of things. It's no use trying to figure out why. Who, after all, can claim to fathom the deep mysteries of the animal mind?



_

like Christians to the lions

A search through my SiteMeter showed hits from some LiveJournal message boarders who found my old centipede porn post. Thanks to that message board, I in turn found two lovely links:

1. Giant Centipede Eating Mouse I

2. Giant Centipede Eating Mouse II

In both videos, the giant centipede is a pet in a terrarium. The mouse is obviously standard food. The second video is crueler than the first: the centipede's owner uses a large feather to prod the mouse forever toward the centipede, the latter getting more agitated until it finally tackles the mouse. In both cases, the actual takedown isn't particularly dramatic, but if you're not the kind of person who can watch cute furry things being chewed on by cold, ruthless arthropods, you might want to avoid these videos.

This brings back fond memories of the tarantulas I used to own.


_

Monday, March 27, 2006

as if you didn't know this already

My coworker Z, that ray of sunshine, conveyed the horrifying news with an evil giggle: her class had determined that I was the least manly of the three male foreign English teachers. I told my colleagues: "It's probably my large breasts."


But no-- the determining factor was, surprisingly, not the mantits.

It was my professed love of cooking.

Cooking, you see, is for people without a pair. Cooking is feminine. And that, folks, is the perception at one of South Korea's largest bastions of feminism.

I think I'll go cut off my dick and burn it in a public place.


UPDATE: I should note that the above female body in the Photoshopped image belongs to none other than Melissa Theuriau, the hot French newscaster whose image is all over the Net. Props to My Pet Jawa for showing me the way to her topless pics.


_

Sunday, March 26, 2006

good thing #2

One of my favorite students sent me a text message earlier today saying that "our intensive class" (she's referring to the class pictured in this post) was planning to get together for a picnic on April 8 out in the Gwa-ch'eon region, south of Seoul. I'm planning to bring some French- or Swiss-style sandwiches, plus some fruits. It's gonna be fun. Even if it rains.


_

good thing #1

I don't think I'm allowed to say too much right now, but I am a long-time personal friend of a dude who will be appearing as a guest on Jay Leno's "The Tonight Show" on March 29 (USA time) and March 30th (AFKN, Korea time). My buddy has... shall we say, a special anatomical gift, and he will be demonstrating it on the show in an act tantalizingly titled, "The Human Body Shot."

Stay tuned for Leno on the 29th (US) and 30th (ROK). Look for Thomas St. John. Barring any last-minute changes, Tom is scheduled to appear with star guests Rob Schneider and Carmen Electra. It's at times like these that I wish Tom had a damn blog. His site traffic would be through the fucking roof.

Tom's act, essentially in the tradition of Letterman's Stupid Human Tricks, will be featured in the Does This Impress Ed Asner? segment of Leno's show.

(Hint: "Human body shot" does not refer to the ability to shoot yourself in the chest and then regenerate à la Wolverine of the X-Men.)


_

my nasty-ass rice

(Not a rant against Condi.)

I have a plastic jar, about a half-gallon in volume, in which I normally keep dry rice. The jar had been sitting there for a couple months, full of rice, but untouched, unused. Today, given the leftovers in my fridge, I decided I'd make some fried rice. I grabbed the rice jar. Unscrewed the top.

And was greeted by an army of dead, winged bugs.

My very own Qin terracotta army.

Being the type of person who is more likely to be fascinated than revolted by things that are out of the ordinary, I decided to analyze the situation. Conclusion #1 was obvious: I'd left the rice unused for too long. Conclusion #1 led smoothly to Life Lesson #1: use your rice in a timely manner, or risk arthropod attack. Life Lesson #1 is one of those things that applies only to single men: men in relationships rarely have to learn this lesson (recall the French riddle, posted earlier, about how you know your wife is dead).

Conclusion #2 was the result of some poking, prodding, and exploration. First, I observed that all the mature bugs were on the surface, on top of the rice. I looked down at the side of the jar, which was transparent, and saw hundreds of tiny eggs: the second wave of the invasion, I suppose.

Second, I observed that the rice, when prodded with a spoon, behaved as if it had been exposed to moisture: it broke apart, but was slightly sticky. The insects, after hatching (and as they moved toward maturity), must have been using the rice as food, consuming and digesting it, then excreting something sticky and starchy. I say "starchy" because the surface was covered with something that initially reminded me of a spiderweb but which, on closer examination, was more like the starchy film I associate with rice cooker lids. If the insects had nothing but rice (and each other?) to chew on all those months, I think "starch" would be as good a guess as any about the composition of the mysterious gunk.

The third observation was that the insects-- and their eggs-- appeared to be dead. All of them. The eggs looked dry and inert; the insects, which looked like something between flying ants and mosquitos (couldn't have been the latter), were all quite kaput. Because they had all matured and died inside the jar, and because I have had no pest problem for the past couple months, I can safely assume that not a single insect escaped the jar. After taking a moment to smile grimly and imagine the insects' futile efforts to escape their immense plastic-and-rice prison, my smile faded and my mind queasily settled on Conclusion #2:

If the insects never escaped, but bred and matured inside the jar, then they (or their eggs) must have been in the original, store-bought packages of rice.

Fuck.

I suppose it's all right, though: American comedians traditionally make fun of peanut butter, whose jar labels apparently report the presence of insect parts. I'm not at all deterred by the thought that I might be ingesting bug heads in my PB&J-- "More nutrition for me!" I say. A few mysterious eggs in my rice won't do me any harm, as long as I don't give the little bastards a chance to breed.

I threw out my rice. Whether those eggs were dead or alive made little difference to me. They might have been interesting to look at, but there was no way in hell I was going to eat that many of them.


_

question for language hounds

I've been wondering about something:

In English, it's called cheese.

In German, it's Käse (or merely Käs', as in Leberkäs', one of my favorite German street foods).

In Spanish, it's queso.

The English, German, and Spanish words for cheese all look as though they come from the same root. Spanish is a Romance language, so one might think that fellow Romance languages like French and Italian would contain words similar in sound or spelling to queso. But no:

In French, cheese is fromage.

In Italian, it's formaggio.

The above two words are obviously related to each other, but seem to have little to do with cheese/Käse/queso.

My question, then, is:

Why? How did this come about?

I'll be checking an etymological dictionary sometime later today. Comments, in the meantime, are appreciated.


_

a message from our heavenly sponsor








_

the death of Chef in 14 frames

All praise to A Arte da Fuga for providing the YouTube video link that allowed me to make this decidedly lo-tech account of the death of a beloved South Park regular.

For those who haven't had the chance to see how Trey Parker and Matt Stone chose to get rid of the Chef character after Isaac Hayes, the soul-singing voice of Chef, quit "South Park" for ostensibly religious reasons (Hayes is a Scientologist), here's how it went down:


































































































This is right up there with the "death of Spock" scene in "Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan." Rest in peace, Chef. Good riddance, Isaac. Note to Parker and Stone: now that you've killed off a black character that violently, good luck finding an African-American voice actor to take Chef's place.






_

Saturday, March 25, 2006

"coconuts of wakefulness"

My brother David sent me a link to the interesting Buddhist site Be the Rigden, which appears to be about Buddhism via-à-vis modernity. Check it out. Rigden means "holder of wisdom/knowledge."


_

The Taekwondo Diaries:
get it now or be destroyed

My lovely English rose of a coworker zzZ (for "zzZ" is what she calls herself on her newly minted blog) has been an avid practitioner of taekwondo for several years. She earned her first-degree black belt last year, and has self-published a book that deals with the TKD world and her experiences in it.

zzZ's blog contains a sidebar link to Lulu.com, where you can find her book, The Taekwondo Diaries, along with some very nice 2007 calendars. The book can be ordered for a small fee as publish-on-demand hard copy, or can be downloaded for free as a PDF file. Here's part of the writeup zzZ crafted for herself on the Lulu site:

I decided to write this book after I was flooded by questions from people outside Korea who wanted to know if it was worth coming over to train.

This book is the first of its kind. There are already many technical manuals on the market covering forms and test tips for Taekwondo. Until now, there has been no such book about training in Korea. In light of over fifty million people training in this fast-growing sport, such information is long overdue.

The book doesn't only cover Taekwondo. It also contains a panorama of contemporary Korean culture from the viewpoint of someone who is actually living here. A bit of tongue in cheek is shown, but I can at least guarantee unique coverage of aspects of Korean life that haven't been printed elsewhere.

This is the review I wrote of The Taekwondo Diaries:

Ms. Smith has written an insightful account about what it's like to practice taekwondo in a world largely dominated by men. Her book offers historical and cultural insights, but for my money the best parts of it deal with her personal journey toward the black belt-- a journey at times demanding, disappointing and, ultimately, uplifting.

The Taekwondo Diaries is unflinchingly honest, and that's part of its charm. You'll find information about prominent Korean TKD masters both in Korea and abroad, insights about other Korean martial arts, and a chapter that takes a fond look at the Korean Tigers, South Korea's most well-known TKD team.

Written in accessible prose and chock-full of useful information, The Taekwondo Diaries will make a fine addition to your bookshelf.

I hope you'll visit zzZ's blog and Lulu entry (her real name appears all over the place on the Lulu site; for Google search purposes, I'm refraining from using it on my blog), and that you'll either buy or download her book. I know she'd been working hard on the research for quite a while and, perfectionist that she is, she doesn't consider the book to be done yet.

Go give TKDD a read. If you're a Koreablogger who also practices martial arts, you might think about the enormous potential for Korean-style budoblogging-- a blogger subculture we currently lack, but a subculture I think we need: it'd be a welcome relief to all that whining from skanky expat teachers that currently dominates the Koreablogosphere.


_

Friday, March 24, 2006

French jokes about women:
a translation exercise

I found a site called "Blagues sur les femmes," or Jokes About Women. The site's in French, and I'd like to translate the jokes for you this evening. Some of these jokes will be familiar to anglophones because they probably came from l'anglophonie, but other jokes will be less familiar-- a breast of fresh air. Some jokes are untranslatable, but I'll do my best. I also have to admit that one or two jokes were beyond me-- elles m'ont passé sous le nez, as the French say: they went right under my nose (i.e., they went right over my head).

Ladies: this might be a good time to go change your tampons or whatever it is you do when you head en masse to the restroom. None of these jokes is particularly nice toward women, but as a man, I'd be lying to you if I said they didn't make me laugh. Luckily, many of my female readers are of the highly evolved, Camille Paglia Post-feminist School-- i.e., they know there's no reason to be offended when jokes about men are equally available. In the post-feminist world, an unsolicited tittie twist can be answered by a kick in the balls with a spike-toed boot. For the rest of you humorless, man-hating bull-dykes, though, it's time to mount your dildo-shaped broomsticks and fly the fuck outta here.

Attention, c'est parti! And here we go!

[French joke in italics; my English translation follows each joke.]




- Le petit gars demande a son père: Papa, quand je suis venu au monde, qui m'a donné mon intelligence ?

C'est sûrement ta mère, répond le père, car moi j'ai encore la mienne.


The little kid asks his dad: "Pop, when I came into the world, who gave me my smarts?"

"Had to be your mother," answers the father, "Because I've still got mine."





Pourquoi une femme ça ressemble a une cigarette?
Tu l'allumes, tu la tires et tu la jettes.


Q: What do women and cigarettes have in common?
A: Get 'em lit, suck on 'em, then toss 'em aside.





- Quelle est la différence entre une usine et une femme ?
L'usine débite des caisses et la femme encaisse des bites.


Q: What's the difference between a factory and a woman?
A: Factories put out boxes, and women's boxes put out.

[The above is a somewhat risky translation. I'm left to wonder whether there isn't an English-language original that says this better than I have. The verb débiter means "to sell" or "to furnish" or "to debit." Phonetically, débite sounds like des bites, i.e., some dicks.]





Deux femmes se rencontrent. L'une dit à l'autre:- "Tu as l'air bien contente !"
- "Eh oui! j'ai réussi à faire un puzzle en six mois".
- "Et qu'y a-t-il d'extraordinaire ?"
- "Sur la boîte, c'était écrit de quatre à six ans !"


Two women meet up. One says to the other, "Well, you look happy!"
"Oh, yeah! I managed to finish a puzzle in six months!"
"What's so special about that?"
"On the box, it says 'Four to six years!'"





Que se disent deux vampires lesbiennes lorsqu'elles se quittent ?
- A dans 28 jours !!!


Q: What do two lesbian vampires tell each other when breaking up?
A: See you within 28 days!

[Frankly, I'm not sure I got this, or even if I've translated it correctly. I'm wondering whether, beyond the menses-bloodsucker connection, there isn't some reference to the recent zombie horror movie "28 Days" hidden in here. Not having seen that movie, I couldn't tell you. The reason I think I'm missing something is that the joke itself doesn't seem to make sense. The vampires are breaking up, so they have no reason to see each other anymore. Maybe the joke is saying that the only reason for them to meet is to drink each other's menstrual flow. That still doesn't make sense to me: a now-single lesbian vampire could just go clubbing and find herself another sapphic squeeze.

A little help, por favor.

UPDATE, April 14, 2010: The verb "se quitter" can be used to mean "to break up," but its literal meaning is "to leave each other." The riddle could be asking something along the lines of, "What do two lesbian vampires say when they have to be away from each other for a while?"]





- Quelle est la différence entre une salope et une grosse salope?
La salope suce et se fait enculer alors que la grosse salope se fait enculer puis elle suce.


Q: What's the difference between a slut and a real slut?
A: A slut sucks you off, then takes it up the ass, while a real slut takes it up the ass, and then sucks you off.





Quelle est la différence entre un clitoris et les légos ? Si vous ne voyez pas alors retournez jouer aux légos.

Q: What's the difference between a clit and Legos?
A: If you don't know, then GO BACK TO PLAYING WITH LEGOS!

[I loved this riddle.]





Dieu a fait l'homme si complet qu'il lui a fallu mettre les organes génitaux à l'extérieur. Pour la femme, il y avait de la place de libre.

God made Man so complete that He had to stick the genitals outside the body. For Woman... there was still some room left over.





- Savez-vous pourquoi on dit qu'une jeune fille change de couleur le jour de son mariage ?
Le matin elle est en clair et le soir elle est enfoncée !


Q: Do you know why a young girl changes color on her wedding day?
A: Her morning starts off bright and white, but by evening she's fucked blue.

[I wouldn't mind some help translating this one. I'm not even sure it's translatable. The pun here involves the contrast between en clair and enfoncée, the latter of which sounds like en foncé. The adjective enfoncée (smashed in, dented, plunged into) suggests a woman now stuffed with cock snot. The pun is that en clair suggests "clarity" or "light color" while en foncé suggests darkness (foncé = dark).

So: A woman starts the day with morning brightness and finishes up with the darkness of evening.

But also: A woman starts the day brightly (white wedding dress, bubbling good cheer) and ends the day with happily bruised nether regions. That's essentially the pun being conveyed by the French. Again, I'm really not sure this translates. I might have to have another go at this.]





Pourquoi Dieu a-t-il donné des jambes aux femmes ?
Parce que sinon on les suivrait à la trace comme les escargots.


Q: Why did God give women legs?
A: Because otherwise, we'd be following their snail trails.

[Obviously a reference to vaginal emissions.]





Pourquoi les filles ne portent pas de mini jupes en hiver ?
Pour ne pas avoir les lèvres gercées.


Q: Why don't women wear miniskirts in winter?
A: To avoid chapped lips.

[The creator of this riddle obviously hasn't been to Korea. And I suspect this riddle appeared in English first.]





Quelle est la différence entre un ascenseur et une jeune fille ?
Tu mets ton doigt où t'habites.


Q: What's the difference between an elevator and a girl?
A: You have to use different body parts to press the right button.

[This is another one that's damn hard to translate. Here's the breakdown of the French pun: when spoken, the above answer to the riddle can be understood as (a) Tu mets ton doigt où (tu) habites (you press your finger [on the button indicating the floor] where you live), or (b) Tu mets ton doigt ou ta bite (you use your finger or your dick-- i.e., the difference is that you use your finger in the elevator, but your dick in the girl). My translation attempts to capture the essence of the "elevator/girl, finger/dick" dichotomy mainly by letting the anglophone reader use his imagination.]





- Comment savoir si votre femme est morte?
Vous baisez toujours autant, mais la vaisselle sale s'empile.


Q: How can you tell if your wife is dead?
A: You're still fucking as much, but now the dishes are piling up.

[This is not one of those riddles you tell at a woman's funeral. Here, too, I think this riddle appeared in English first. Can't verify that, but it's a hunch.]





Trois beaux-frères discutent entre eux.
Le premier lance : qu'est-ce que vous avez offert à la belle-mère pour son anniversaire ?
L'un dit : moi je lui ai offert un collier en or, il est joli mais vous savez je gagne pas des cents et des milles alors. Je lui ai aussi offert une écharpe; comme ça si elle aime pas le collier elle pourra le cacher.
Le second raconte la même histoire avec une montre et des gants pour la cacher.
Et le troisième dit : moi je lui ai offert des boucles d'oreilles et un préservatif.
Pourquoi ? s'exclament les deux autres.
Parce que si elle n'est pas contente elle ira se faire enculer !!


Three brothers-in-law are talking. The first says, "What'd you get the mother-in-law for her birthday?"
One says: "Me, I got her a gold necklace. It's pretty, but I'm not rich, so I also got her a scarf. That way, she can hide the necklace if she doesn't like it."
The second one says the same thing, but in his case, it's a watch along with gloves to hide the merchandise.
The third brother-in-law says, "Yeah, well, I got her earrings and a condom."
"Why?" the others exclaim.
"Because if she doesn't like those earrings, she can go fuck herself."

[Elle ira se faire enculer is, literally translated, "She will go get herself fucked up the ass." That sounds awkward, so I took the liberty of changing the future tense into a modal "can." In the same situation, an American would most naturally say, "If she doesn't like it, she can (go) fuck herself."]





Quelle différence y a-t-il entre le chocolat et une belle-mère ?
Le chocolat ça constipe et la belle-mère ça fait chier.


Q: What's the difference between chocolate and mothers-in-law?
A: Chocolate blocks you up, but your mother-in-law gives you the shits.

[The expression faire chier is literally "to make [one] shit," but is used in the same way that Americans use the expression "to piss off," i.e., to anger (someone).]





Pourquoi on ne doit jamais croire une femme?
- Comment pourrait-on croire quelque chose qui saigne 5 jours de suite et qui ne meurt pas?


Q: Why should you never trust a woman?
A: How can you trust anything that bleeds for five days straight and doesn't die?

[I'm almost positive I've heard this riddle in English before.]





Savez-vous à quoi correspondent les lettres ABCDEF pour définir les tailles des bonnets de soutien-gorge?
A - Appréciable
B - Bien
C - Canon
D - Dément
E - Enorme
F - Des faux


Q: When talking bra cup sizes, what do the designations A, B, C, D, E, and F mean?

A:

A = appreciable
B = budding
C = cannons
D = destroyers
E = enormous
F = FAKE

[Here, I made the choice not to translate literally because it was important to preserve the ABCDEF structure, something the English alphabet shares with the French one. Had I translated literally, you would have seen: "appreciable, good, cannon, crazy (i.e., it's crazy how big those melons are!), enormous, and fake." I suppose I could have translated Dément with the interjection "Damn!", since the expression, "C'est dément, ça!" ("That's nuts!") is pretty common.]





I hope you enjoyed this brief tour through the French language as much as I did.

Thank you; come again. (But not on the same spot.)


_

sword-did

My buddy Sperwer offers interesting and unsettling video footage of blade work here. If you read the post he's written to explain the video links, you may come away, as I did, feeling that Sperwer's tone was entirely too gleeful. This is a dude who's extremely comfortable around weaponry.

The next link, here, offers pics of Sperwer himself working out (nice view of the latest in Korean monastic fashion), as well as bordering-on-pornographic shots of the man's surgery-mangled hand. These injuries don't seem to stop Sperwer from practicing, which is a lesson to all us young, unwounded slackers.


_

Thursday, March 23, 2006

nature abhors a vacuum

Andi might have renounced violence as part of her monastic path, but at least one Buddhist continues his quest to learn how to split people in half. Check out Sperwer's continuing posts on the Korean sword-way, haedong geomdo, here and here.


_

what is religion?

The answer I gave to this question-- "What is religion?"-- in a grad-level Religion 701 class in 2000, was:

Religion is a human response to ultimate reality.

The answer was a great disappointment to our teacher, who described it as "cagey." The problem, of course, is that more specific definitions of religion fall prey to exceptions: if you argue that religions are primarily theistic, for example, then you may be unjustifiably excluding nontheistic strains of Buddhism* and other traditions. If you argue that religions all deal with salvation in some form, you may end up excluding "world-maintenance" traditions that have nothing to do with salvation (or other looming existential questions). Etc., etc.

But even my "cagey" answer has its problems. Consider each element of my definition and ask yourself the following questions:

1. Is religion an exclusively human phenomenon? If people in a given religious tradition describe a metaphysics wherein all phenomena participate with equal profundity in the eternal mystery-- a universe in which all things are necessarily imbued with religious reality-- how can one limit "religion" merely to the human sphere? Perhaps my definition is too anthropocentric.

2. Is religion merely a response? Mircea Eliade would probably argue that it is, and evidence abounds that religious people are convinced they are responding to something. But might we not be discluding those who initiate religious behavior without waiting for the manifestation of some Ultimate?

3. Speaking of which: might the inclusion of ultimate reality in my definition risk excluding those traditions or thought-sytems that proclaim there is nothing ultimate?

Me, I like my definition. I'm not about to part with it. I'm aware it causes problems, but I tend to think that it causes fewer problems than those long-winded definitions that seek to define a living, moving reality in dead, minutiae-ridden, contractual language. Definitions of core human concepts require a certain semantic plasticity and conceptual openness.

Then there's Zen Master Shin Go Seong's way of looking at things. "What is religion?" he asked me and a friend of mine when we were at his Zen temple in Germantown, Maryland for the first time. My friend and I mumbled something vaguely academic, to which Master Shin said, "No. Religion is deepest teaching."

This two-word definition has prompted a lot of thought on my part. Teaching implies that something-- we might call it knowledge or insight or something else-- is handed down in a chain of giving. Teaching implies interdependence. The term also leaves open the possibility that the teacher might not be human: perhaps a pot, now boiling over thanks to our negligence, can be a teacher. Perhaps birdsong can teach. Or itchy hemorrhoids. Teaching, then, is relational.

The word deepest-- and it's so typically Zen to brook no compromise by merely saying "deep"-- means that we go right to the heart of reality. Ultimate reality? Maybe. Yahweh? Krsna? Maybe. Slap a name on it; it won't matter much.**

Religion: Human response to ultimate reality.

Religion: Deepest teaching.


What is religion?





*The flat declaration that "Buddhism is nontheistic" needs to be unpacked to be properly understood. What terms like "theistic" and "nontheistic" might mean in relation to Buddhism is worthy of exploration.

**Seung Sahn repeatedly said that, when doing mantra, "Coca Cola, Coca Cola" is a perfectly fine mantra as long as it's chanted mindfully.





UPDATE: Healthy doses of religious wisdom here and here.


_

gracias, merci, danke (redux)

Many thanks to The Lost Nomad and A Arte da Fuga for the sudden slew of visits to this humble blog.


_

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

shattering the myths

As a half-Korean, I'm sick of people who spread myths about Korea, so I've decided to confront some of the most malicious canards head-on in this post. Given that my blog receives over 10,000 unique visits per hour, I expect the truth to spread virally-- an epidemic of correct speech to combat the skein of lies that enmeshes my people, keeping them from realizing their full potential as a global power.

Here we go:

1. Korean children do not dress their dogs up before eating them. They dress up the bones afterward.

2. Pikachu's exploits are not an allegorical representation of the campaigns led by Admiral Yi Sun-shin. I have it on good authority that Pikachu is not even Korean: he's Somali. Christ, look at his color scheme!

3. Koreans are not surgically rewired at birth to reject the notion of straight lines existing between Point A and Point B.

4. Korean women do not beat their men with baseball bats to "soften them up and make their meat tastier by infusing it with adrenaline" before sex.

5. Tangun is not the god of ramyeon.

6. Ddeok-bokgi is most assuredly not made from the severed fingers of North Korean orphans.

7. Kimchi-jjigae, a spicy cabbage stew, does cure cancer and can raise the dead. (By the way, dwenjang-jjigae is the best protection against vampires.)

8. Those huge coils of street vendor soondae (a type of blood sausage) do not come from ox penises.

9. Koreans have not developed the technology to download martial arts knowledge into their brains, "Matrix"-style. Which reminds me: those commercials where you see some chick or some dude casually walking up a wall? All faked by CGI.

10. The Yuk-sam ("63") Building is not a disguised nuclear missile silo.

11. Korean dogs are not all fitted with remote-control grenades as a precaution against invasion.

12. Korean women do not bathe in tubs of ground-up canaries to remove skin blemishes.

13. Korean middle schoolers do not spend their days chucking pig brains and rotten squid at each other.

14. The Chinese characters for "Taegu" do not translate as "City of the Blowjob." There is a Chinese character, dae, which means "big," and a character gu, which means "mouth, opening, entry," but the hanja for Taegu are not those characters. Seoul, on the other hand, is Old Korean for "Sit on my face."

15. Korean men, as a sign of manliness, do not masturbate with chopsticks dipped in glue and rolled in powdered glass.

16. The squirrels at Seoul's Olympic Park are not North Korean spies.

17. The triumphant interjection "A-ssah!" is not screamed at the moment of orgasm.

18. It is possible to learn Korean in under twenty years.

19. Koreans adore the Japanese, and the baseball player Ichiro is an adopted son of Korea.

20. The answer to the question "What lies inside a Korean woman's miniskirt?" is not "Horror, desolation, and the possibility of fangs."


_

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ave, Mike! (and HOYA SAXA)

My buddy Mike at Naked Villainy posts that he's rooting for my alma mater in basketball. I'm grateful. For the curious, I'm posting a link to the Georgetown University fight song (which contains its own link to an audio clip in which the song is sung by our very own Georgetown Chimes). Note that the long stanza in our fight song betrays a huge inferiority complex, as it bashes a number of schools:

We've heard those loyal fellows up at Yale
Brag and boast about their Boola-Boola.
We've heard the Navy yell,
We've listened to Cornell;
We've heard the sons of Harvard tell
How Crimson lines could hold them.
Choo Choo, Rah Rah, dear old Holy Cross;
The proud old Princeton tiger
Is never at a loss.
But the yell of all the yells,
The yell that wins the day,
Is the "HOYA, HOYA SAXA!"
For the dear old Blue and Gray.

Link:

GU Fight Song

On your knees and grovel before us!

(Please?)


_

fad of the moment: expat English teachers

The Koreablogosphere's heretofore harmonious existence has been shattered-- shattered-- by a cluster of posts on various Koreablogs with reference to a Korea Times article written by one Chris Brockie provocatively titled "Trafficking of English Teachers?", a title that, thanks to a threatening question mark that looms like a fist raised to smash a pet hamster, might lead one to believe that certain Koreans were somehow engaged in illicit activities.

Now: please sit back and savor the above run-on sentence. I wrote it just for you.

Links to the relevant articles:

Brendon Carr's "Shut the Fuck Up, Whiner" post is here.

Jeff's "If You Don't Like It, GO HOME, WHITEY!" post is here.

Nathan's "Lone Cowboy Against the Injuns" post is here.

*EFL Geek's "Jeff and Brendon Have a Point" post is here.

*Jodi's "Jeff Has a Point" post is here.

All of the above blogs (except Jodi's) have this in common: their post titles double as permalinks.

Here at BigHominid's Hairy Chasms, titles are merely titles. And that's why you love this place. The retro feel of an obsolete template. It turns you on. Makes your nipples glow and grow.

As a Seoul-based English teacher might write:

WHOSE YOUR DADDE?





*Updates.


_

100 Below: Volume 19

“At last, we shall see who is stronger!” roared the tiger.

“At last!” squeaked the rabbit. “The debate has gone on too long! Today we settle it!”

The furry little creature held out its foreleg. The tiger’s enormous paw came down and swallowed the rabbit’s appendage whole.

“Arm wrestling!” bellowed the tiger. “We begin when I say go!”

“Agreed!” yelled the rabbit.

Seconds ticked away as the implacable enemies glared at each other. The tension mounted.

“GO!” the tiger roared, then ate the rabbit’s head.

“Ha! I love doing that,” chuckled the tiger.


_

Monday, March 20, 2006

Steve Jobs misses out

Mac would sell a hell of a lot more G4s if they actually advertised like this:




(Image found on this Portuguese-language blog, which also features this freaky image of a fractal hand, and this sound clip of the "Throat Singers of Tuva." The blog is a feast for the senses.)





_

Sunday, March 19, 2006

impressive. most impressive.

As a fight choreography junkie and all-around geek, I have to do my sacred duty and point the world toward Justin's post here, which features a Google Video (yes-- finally available in Korea) of some teens cutting loose with their lightsabers in yet another Star Wars fan film lightsaber fantasy. As far as I can tell, the film's title is "Ryan Wieber vs. Michael 'Dorkman' Scott." We'll call it RWMS for short.

Notice the difference between this fan film and others like it: except for the long shot at the beginning of the RWMS fight, the editing is generally tight and rapidfire; it conveys the mood very well. Note, too, that the choreography reflects an understanding of Star Wars-style saber fights. Most fan filmmakers seem unable to grasp how saber fighting is done: it involves a lot of very fast whirling, with blade contact generally occurring in mid-whirl (i.e., no actual contact is being made, but it looks cool). The Yoda-Dooku fight exemplifies this. At those moments when blade-to-blade contact is direct, the moves tend to favor Chinese as opposed to Japanese styles (with Liam Neeson's fighting style being, perhaps, a notable exception-- quite a few of his moves, especially against battle droids, were more reminiscent of quick-draw samurai exchanges). Star Wars fights also incorporate the big martial arts no-no: turning your back to your opponent to execute a whirling slash. The move is useless in real life, but fun to look at on screen. The trick, however-- the thing most fan filmmakers keep missing-- is that such moves need to be done very quickly (and preferably with tight closeups to give them more oomph). Too many fan film duels look slow and limp because the camera work is poor and the choreography isn't energetic enough. RWMS doesn't make these mistakes.

The RWMS fight also incorporates some clever references to other movie duels. I don't think I caught them all, but I definitely saw traces of the Dooku-Yoda duel from "Attack of the Clones," the nighttime fight scene involving Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat) from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," and the obvious reference to Kenobi's goofy-looking ready stance in "Revenge of the Sith" (the scene where he squares off against Grievous). Some of the atemi reminded me of Qui-gon Jinn's backfist against Darth Maul in the three-way duel in "The Phantom Menace," and there was some exchange where both opponents held their sabers in a reverse grip that was pure Zatoichi. When Dorkman punches our hero Ryan right in his leg wound, this calls to mind the scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" where that one Nazi kept punching Indy in his wounded shoulder during the long truck chase.

While RWMS has its faults, it's easily one of the best-choreographed fan film duels I've seen. Add to that the fact that the principals are just kids, and... well, I'm envious. Spielberg probably started off something like this.

Go watch RWMS. Then watch it again. Geeky cool.


UPDATE: A little research reveals this fan film came out in 2003, so none of the moves in the choreography could have referred to "Revenge of the Sith," which came out in 2005. What looked like a reference to Kenobi's ready stance might simply have been a reference to certain postures seen in some kung fu flicks. Speaking of kung fu: I was, frankly speaking, surprised not to have picked out any blatant "Matrix" references.


_

Sunday, Sunday

Thanks to a persistent cough (I blogged about it last week), I've decided to skip out on meditation in the zendo this week in favor of going it alone. Today's agenda includes:

1. a visit to a local museum where a student works; she's planning to show me around the place

2. finishing up the lesson planning I started on Saturday

3. zazen on my own, possibly outside because it's a nice day and my cough is less likely to disturb both myself and others

4. a possible Namsan hike, since I didn't go yesterday

5. laundry

6. finalizing the new Golgotha image (the strip isn't dead; it's only sleeping)

That ought to be enough for one man for one day.

Meditate on this:

The words "less" and "fewer" are generally associated with uncountable and countable nouns, respectively. Less sugar; fewer calories.

But if I write the sentence, "Give your answer in 500 words or...", do I write "less" or "fewer"?

I've never been absolutely consistent on this point, but I lean toward "less." Why? Because there are plenty of instances in English where countable nouns are reckoned in "chunks" and thus as uncountable nouns.

Consider:

Five hours is a long time to have sex.

In the above example, the phrase "five hours" is being treated as a single, determinate block of time. Each individual hour is not being considered a separate entity. Note, too, that the above construction violates another "rule" of grammar: the verb should agree with its subject. "Hours" is plural, yet the third-person singular form of "to be" is in evidence. This is why my students think English is a crazy language.

And now, distance:

Ten miles is too short for a marathon.

Same deal as above, as I think you'll see.

Given all that, I think that "500 words or less" is quite apropos.

(I think I wrote "fewer" in a comment on Rory's blog, for which I am eternally ashamed.)


_

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ave, Charles!

Check out Charles's latest post on Liminality, in which he chronicles last night's culinary adventure in detail. The post includes plenty of pictures of meal-in-process (Salad as Metaphor for Change and all that).

One photo in particular makes me laugh: the fifth one down. I remember the moment it was taken. I said something like, "Was that gay enough for you?" Look at the photo and you'll see what I mean.

Charles also wrote something I found hilarious:

...we engaged in some very interesting conversation, half in Korean and half in English. The Korean was a concession to Hyunjin, who appreciated the fact that she could speak Korean and be understood by everyone present. Kevin is much more proficient at switching back and forth between English and Korean than I am. I’m used to speaking Korean pretty much all the time, but I can switch gears into English when the occasion requires it. I can also distinguish between Korean-speakers and English-speakers (that is, by speaking the appropriate language to each), but going back and forth between Korean and English in the same sentence confuses me. Kevin, though, has mastered this skill.

This is a polite way of saying I speak a sort of pidgin Korean with Koreans who can speak English. It's very rare for me to run up against Koreans who know no English, so my lazy side kicks in and I sprinkle my Korean with English words and phrases instead of relying on Korean circumlocution to get me around lexical and conceptual obstacles.

Charles's comment also brings up memories of my early experiences speaking French. I went to France for the first time in the summer of 1986 and spent a month with a large French family in Carquefou, a suburb of Nantes. That was where I made the acquaintance of my French "brother," Dominique. In 1988, I went back to France with my family in tow, and we all stayed at Dominique's very spacious house (his parents run their own clothing business).

This was to be the first time I would try switching rapidly back and forth between languages, as I was the only person in both our families competent enough to do this quickly. Domi could speak some English, but he'd had no real chance to practice (while in college, I met people who could do this between three or four languages without thinking) and his vocabulary was limited. This meant that my presence was often required just so the older folks could have a decent conversation.

On one day in particular, my dad and my French "papa" decided to talk about history, politics, and who knows what else. I basically disappeared into the background, my only function being to rattle off translations as Dad and Papa went back and forth in their native tongues. By the end of this conversation, which must have lasted almost two hours, my head was literally aching from the mental effort I'd exerted. Since that time, I've gotten used to the idea of switching back and forth between languages, but in 1988 I was a college sophomore on the edge of becoming truly fluent in French (said fluency has come and gone; the Kevin of 2006 is, sad to say, quite competent but pretty rusty-- rouillé, as they say in French), and had never had the chance to test the limits of my ability before.

So I understand when Charles says that switching languages midstream can be confusing. I'd add that it can be painful, at least to those of us with small brains. Hats off to people who engage in simultaneous interpretation for a living. Hats off twice for people who do simultaneous interpretation between languages with radically different grammatical structures-- like Korean and English. My undergrad alma mater offers a certificate program in simultaneous interpretation; I was never brave enough to try it.

I should note, though, that many Koreans in the States engage in the sort of Konglish I was using Friday night. My mother is a prime example. The difference between me and those Stateside Koreans, however, is that they generally aren't lacking any Korean vocabulary: they remember the Korean words but have found certain English locutions more convenient. I remember something like that happening in Switzerland: as we Yanks got used to spending most of our days speaking French (or, in the case of two girls in our group, French and Swiss German), certain gallicismes began to creep into the English we spoke with each other. Take, for example, the French "gare" and its English equivalent, "train station." It's much easier to say, "I'll meet you guys at the gare" than it is to say, "I'll meet you guys at the train station." Something like that logic may be operating in the heads of Stateside Koreans.

Anyway, to echo Charles: it was a great evening. I'm now looking forward to a barbecue over at his place. I understand that there's a dog on the premises over yonder, and it has somehow remained uneaten. That may change.


_

the war begins



For more on this, see here. (link via Drugged)












_

yesterday's dinner

Dinner with Charles and his lovely wife went quite well. Charles took many pics of the meal, so you might see some foodblogging on either or both of our sites.

Of note was the disastrous start of the meal, which I credit to my own indecisiveness: right up to the last moment, I wasn't sure what, exactly, I would be making as an appetizer. I had thought to make some sort of crispy chicken concoction, but what I ended up with was a half-assed fondue bourguignonne. In true journalistic fashion, Charles snapped pictures of both triumph and tragedy. The good thing was that the tragedy came at the beginning and was limited to the appetizer. The fettuccine alfredo (with shrimp), the salad, and the dessert all went well. We ended up stuffed to the gills.

Check out Charles's latest "sub2k" fiction piece, "Waking Up."


_

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Patrick's Day interreligious meditation

You'll just have to watch this space for updates, because I'm in the midst of preparations for tonight's dinner with friends, but in the meantime, check this out:

Religious Pluralism and Islam

The above article, fresh off the press (well, not really: the lecture was in 2005, but the article appeared on the website just yesterday), is by my academic and religious hero John Hick, known to some folks in the interreligious dialogue business as "The Thinking Man's Spong." Where John Shelby Spong is a firebrand and all-around uncivil liberal Christian, Hick is a thinking liberal whose classic formulation of "the pluralistic hypothesis" remains in play today, despite massive critique. Many of my early blog posts were devoted to an exploration of Hick and his rivals.

Readers of this blog will note that the above-linked article doesn't really say much that's new, except in one crucial area: Hick now strikes out against the cynical accusation that religious pluralism is an artifact of Western liberal academe (and therefore somehow, by implication, unworthy of consideration). This move is new to me: before this, Hick has responded to such criticism (if "criticism" is the proper term for a commission of the genetic fallacy) by shrugging and observing that pluralism, as a systematic point of view, would have to have arisen somewhere. It's good to see the old guy come out swingin'.

The article also contains some points I disagree with; a critical review of Hick's piece will come later.

Meanwhile, enjoy. And Happy Saint Pat's.


_

endless streamers of scalding cat puke

I don't know... the post title amuses me.


_

why, dammit, WHY?

Newly-minted sramanerika Soen Joon (a.k.a. Andi) writes in response to a comment on a recent post of hers that she'll never be fully assimilated in Korean society no matter how hard she tries-- this being in contrast to American assimilationism, where different cultures and ethnicities get woven into the overall fabric. Her response is a touching read (full disclosure: it's positive in tone, and about more than just the assimilation issue), but I wanted to focus on this particular part of it:

I'll probably still get stares and eager, if a tad aggressive, questions about my choice to come to Korea (and now, to become Sunim).

When I attended Hyeon-gak sunim's Korean-language dharma talk a few weeks ago, Hyeon-gak was asked, "Why did you choose Korean Buddhism?"

Hyeon-gak's response was simultaneously curt and priceless:

"Why am I drinking this coffee? Why is my bowl here and not there? Why are you Korean?"

The answer might not mean as much when it's being parroted by someone else, but Andi, if someone asks you why you decided to become a nun in a Korean order, I'd advocate making Hyeon-gak's response your own.


_

Thursday, March 16, 2006

back from shopping and peeved at whiners

My experience with taxi drivers in Seoul has been, I would guess, about 99% positive. Of the hundreds-- or maybe thousands?-- of times I've taken a taxi in this city, I can count the number of negative incidents on both hands. Taxi drivers here are generally friendly and get you where you need to go. They're also, in my experience, an honest lot, just trying to get through the day like the rest of us.

That's probably why it sucks all the more when taxi drivers act like assholes: because it's so rare. Tonight, somewhat pressed for time, I took a taxi to Lotte Mart. The driver was fine; I even paid him a bit extra to apologize for the shortness of the trip (all of thirty seconds).

On the way back, however, I had trouble getting a taxi from the front of Seoul Station, where there are two parallel access lanes and plenty of taxis, especially at night. The cabbies in both access lanes kept sending me over to the opposite lane; no one seemed to want to take my fare. I bounced back and forth between three taxis before I finally got pissed off and told the fourth guy, "No-- I'm getting in this taxi."

The guy whined the entire time about how I was supposed to get a taxi from the other access lane. Then, when I showed him the shortcut route to my dorm, which leads up a steep hill, the guy had the nerve to complain about how steep the hill was. I told him I've been up this hill with plenty of other drivers, and stopped just short of telling him to shut the fuck up.

The whole bouncing-back-and-forth thing took only about two minutes of my life, but it left me miffed. Son-nim-i wang i-da! The customer is king! (i.e., "The customer is always right.") That sort of treatment has never happened to me in front of Seoul Station before. With the sheer number of taxis I usually find there, it's a simple matter of walking up to a cabbie, looking for his curt nod, then getting in the car. What the fuck was up tonight? Is there some new taxi-entering rule I'm unaware of? Had I just been lucky all those previous times?

On the upside, tonight was the first time I uttered a stream of angry (if mistake-ridden) Korean. It was a good chance for me to practice voicing my pissed-offedness in a language other than English or French. I think I'll give myself a "C+" for my effort, and an "A" for avoiding swear words.


_

fêting St. Patrick

I've been warning my students about an American tradition associated with St. Patrick's Day: if you're not wearing green on the 17th, you get a pinch. We'll see how many students show up tomorrow wearing something green.

Tomorrow evening, Charles of Liminality and his wife Hyun-jin will be coming over for a Saint Patty's dinner. The menu:

Appetizer: freshly fried chicken fingers and vegetables with spicy dipping sauce

to be followed by...

Main Course: Kevin's by-now-patented shrimp fettucine alfredo, with garlic bread accompaniment

to be followed in turn by...

Salad: Kevin's quasi-Mediterranean concoction

to be concluded by...

Dessert: fresh fruit (courtesy of Charles and his better half), along with Nigella's egg-free chocolate mousse-- something I've never inflicted on anyone else before

Either Charles or I (or perhaps both of us) will be taking pictures during the meal. Perhaps new, coat-less crucifixion postures can be conjured up so that Jesus and the Penitent Criminal can reflect the changing season. Of course, if Charles ever decides to shave off his facial hair, we'll be in big trouble. I've never liked ancient depictions of a clean-shaven Jesus. Not enough of a heavy metal vibe in those images.


_

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

the ass-kicking Sunday

CHAPTER 1: BUKHAN-SAN

The indomitable Sperwer and I spent five hours on Bukhan-san (North Han Mountain, not North Korea Mountain) this past Sunday. Our purpose was to hike up the mountain and then across it, eventually ending up at Hwagye-sa in time for 1PM ch'am-seon (zazen). We started our walk next to the blasted husk of the P'yeongch'ang-dong Olympia Hotel, and quickly left most of civilization behind.

This being a Sunday, it was inevitable that we would run into mountain gnomes. Our first encounter with such a gnome happened at a ticket booth located next to one of Bukhan-san's many trailheads. We asked the old (and friendly) gnome in the booth about how best to walk from where we were to Hwagye-sa; he offered us a hand-drawn sketch of the path to come, along with approximate times for getting there. With that, we started up our chosen path. Only a few yards after the trailhead, we had a taste of interreligious encounter in action: Christian graffiti on a Buddhist rock.

Behold the saving power of Jesus:



The large, vertical Korean inscription on the left is for Mireuk, also known as Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future. You'll note two Christian crosses painted on the rock-- the left-hand cross is faded and is right next to the Buddhist inscription (which simply reads, "In the name of The Great Maitreya Buddha"). There's also some black-ink graffiti under the right-hand cross, but I don't know what it says. Sperwer, who took all the pics on this pilgrimage, was amused by the Christian folly.

The day was colder than I'd anticipated, and it was a damn good thing I'd decided to wear a sweatshirt along with my tee shirt and thin windbreaker. I had no gloves and opted not to use my hood: I know my own body pretty well, and therefore know that I'm capable of sweating even in below-freezing temperatures. Fortunately, the cold also kept the muddy ground firm, so slippage was not as big an issue as it could have been during the hike.

The trail wended its way upward, but didn't switchback very much. There were moments when Sperwer and I had to stop to get our bearings, or to make sure we were heading up the correct fork of a given trail. There were balisages (here's a Swiss example) along the way, pointing to major destinations and offering estimates on distance that Sperwer and I soon learned to mistrust.

A lot of what we did wasn't so much hiking as climbing. There were plenty of moments when we had to slide down some rocks, or heave our large selves up and over other rocks, or use a rope (already there on the trail, waiting for use) to pull ourselves along, or grip a convenient railing to keep steady on steeply angled surfaces. The trail also had some precarious spots where a rope or railing would have been nice.

After about an hour of walking and politely letting other, faster hikers pass us, we stopped and Sperwer snapped some pics of Where We'd Come From. Here's one such pic, looking down from our heavenly perch to the mundane realm:


At one point, we stopped after a set of stairs and made some new, temporary hiking friends: a group of middle-aged (and very fit) Korean men and women who shared tangerine wedges with us and bantered about life in the US and Korea and elsewhere. One man from that group actually stayed behind to walk with us while the rest of his party went on ahead at a quicker pace; we found out he'd been to a lot of places in the US that where familiar to both Sperwer and me.

Eventually, we made it up to Dae Seong Mun, the Great Fortress Gate. I'm proud to say we managed this in about 1.5 hours, which put us a half hour ahead of the schedule laid out for us by the ticket booth gnome. We sat and rested in the cold air and paradoxically warm sun; Sperwer seemed to take the hike in stride better than I did. Tough bastard, he.

Interesting aside: during our trek, we were accosted by a group of Korean hikers who brought us a better map than the hand-drawn one originally given us by the gnome. The lead hiker in that group told us he'd been given this new map by the gnome, who, I suppose, had felt guilty about sending us on our way with only a few squiggles to guide us. I don't think either Sperwer or I minded the hand-drawn map; it held all the relevant information. The new map, a photocopy from some guidebook, had a bit more detail but showed us essentially the same salient landmarks. Once we were up by the fortress wall that spans the ridge of Bukhan-san, it was hard to get lost.

Here I am at Dae Seong Mun, in Kim Il-sung pose:


Not wanting to rest too long lest the cold cause us to cramp up, Sperwer and I set off from Dae Seong Mun toward Dae Dong Mun (Great East Gate) and K'al Bawi (Knife Rock). We eventually broke away from the fortress wall and started downhill, trickling toward a hotel called Academy House.

By this time, we'd been hiking about four hours, and our bodies were starting to feel it. I began to wonder whether sitting zazen at Hwagye-sa would even be possible. The rocks at some points were tilted so haphazardly that I remarked to Sperwer that the terrain reminded me of a carnival house of horrors. Hiking with Sperwer was fun because he knew how to keep his good humor. I've hiked with people who let fatigue get in the way of their enjoyment: they started the hike on the assumption that one's good humor would be linked to one's energy level. Not a wise assumption when doing anything strenuous.

We finally made it to thicker, warmer air and level ground. Having come off the mountain at a point close to Hwagye-sa but not quite where we'd hoped, we decided to cheat and grab a cab: with only 20 minutes left to reach the temple, I needed to change out of my sweat-sogged clothes before meditating.

CHAPTER 2: HWAGYE-SA

We reached the temple with enough time for me to rush into a restroom, take a whiz, change my clothes, and clump up to the fourth-floor International Zen Center. I had no intention of sticking around for the dharma talk; I simply wanted to get my meditation in.

The first 30-minute round of meditation went fairly well, except that I did almost nod off at one point. It's a good thing I didn't slack off too badly: Hwagye-sa seems to have instituted a new disciplinary measure-- monks now patrol the meditators with a jang-gun ch'uk-p'i (lit. "general's stick," as Robert Buswell notes in his The Zen Monastic Experience; people familiar with Japanese Zen will know this stick as the kyosaku), a stick with which a meditator is lightly whacked to provide that extra push to meditate properly. As the monk walks by the meditator, the latter can request (through a hapjang-style bow) the administration of the stick, which is applied as light, slapping blows to one or both shoulders, usually on the trapezius muscles. This disciplinary measure can be found at other Korean temples, and is the stuff of Zen neophyte legend at Japanese temples, but up until a few weeks ago, I'd never seen the General's Stick being used at Hwagye-sa.

Sperwer decided he needed the stick, so he bowed and got a couple taps on each shoulder. A woman to my left got the stick twice; in her case, she had been nodding off badly enough to be easily visible from the corner of my eye. The stick doesn't help only the person struck by it: the repeated slap-thuds also encourage the rest of us to tighten our practice.

The second round of meditation also went well, but not perfectly. I found myself doing another nap-jerk, and my damn ticklish throat started up again, so I ended up coughing several times before the tickle went away. I hate my throat, but unlike in the old days, I now know better than to play an ego-game when the tickle begins: instead of pridefully attempting to repress the tickle through poorly executed biofeedback, I simply let the tickle happen, ride through the experience, and keep on meditating. Make nothing, keep nothing.

I survived the third round of meditation as well (10-minute walking meditation sessions in between the seated sessions), and that was that. Thank you, Jeebus! Sperwer and I headed out the door and caught a taxi back to P'yeongch'ang-dong. The cabbie let Sperwer off, then drove me downhill to the nearest bus stop. I had originally hoped to ride the cab all the way back to Smoo, but the cabbie apologized and told me he was scheduled to do something else, so it wouldn't be possible. I told him it wasn't a problem, got out of the taxi, limped toward the nearby bus stop... then said "fuck it" and flagged down another cab.

That evening, I took three aspirins to quell the throbbing in my thighs. By Monday morning, my legs were a mess. Meanwhile, Sperwer sent me a sprightly email saying he was feeling much better: apparently, the man heals from his aches as fast as the liquid metal T-1000 Terminator recovers from gunshots.

While Sunday kicked my ass, it also kicked ass. I was happy to get out and do something I'd been wanting to do for a while; now it's a matter of recovering and doing it (or something like it) again.


_

Japan's future custodians

No, it won't be a Western-style R. Daneel Olivaw, Isaac Asimov fans: it appears that East Asia is taking the lead when it comes to indulging the human urge to anthropomorphize. A recent article notes that Japanese scientists are developing a humanoid caretaker robot that will act as a custodian for the elderly.

To my mind, it's a short leap from "humanoid caretaker for the elderly" to...

RoboMiddleSchoolGirl: Humanoid Caretaker for Your Diddle!

I imagine that sex with a robot would be a glorified version of sex with an inflatable doll. It would include many of the same risks, too. For example: disease. While a robot might be inorganic, its crevices could easily contain emissions from previous customers, a cybernetic analog to "sloppy seconds."

Some risks would be unique to robot sex. Example: for anyone with castration anxiety, the principal worry would be a misfire of the female robot's orgasm algorithm. Imagine a robo-cooter clamping down on your johnson with the force of a trash compactor. Another worry would be accidental rippage because of an electrical surge during a handjob. Or a robot whose brain confuses "stroke" with "punch."

I wish the Japanese luck as they continue their improvements. The bots they will eventually design to take care of elderly Americans (the tech will be developed just in time to wipe the asses of senescent Baby Boomers) will doubtless have to be able to handle 600-pound people on a routine basis. They'll also have to be capable of defending themselves against graffiti artists and other pranksters, not to mention old folks who manifest violent tendencies and hide guns all over the house.

I'll be curious to see how all this pans out in the coming decades, especially as I near the age where I, too, will need my own inhuman caretaker. (Currently, such caretakers are referred to as "children.")


_

baseball and Chef

Bloggers seem to be talking about two things right now: (1) the US's defeat at the hands of South Korea in baseball, and (2) the defection of Isaac Hayes (the voice of Chef) from the beloved "South Park" series.

I don't have much to say about (1) except "Congratulations, South Korea!" Like the Nomad and others, I do have to wonder why we pay our professionals the big bucks if they only plan to slurp donkey dick at crucial moments. Not having seen any of the games myself, I'll just have to trust the bloggers who say that the Koreans played great ball. An American buddy of mine who's a big fan of Korean baseball must be beside himself with glee: this is a bit like David trouncing Goliath.

As for (2)... it appears that Isaac Hayes is a Scientologist, and he apparently wasn't happy about a recent "South Park" episode that raked Scientology over the coals. Bloggers are pointing out Hayes's hypocrisy in speaking out against such parodies only now, after the series has spent years mocking various forms of religious piety.

I agree that this is hypocritical of Hayes, but I should also point out that Hayes might not be acting under his own volition: Scientology is a scary beast that doesn't tolerate even the appearance of disloyalty. Hayes probably had little choice but to say what he said and bugger out. It's a bit sad, really: what the hell else has Hayes done in recent years that comes anywhere near the significance of his role as the hot-lovin', child-protectin' Chef? Where will he go now? He certainly doesn't have a future in envelope-pushing comedy.

You might argue that Hayes is a big boy who could simply renounce his religion (if my speculation about his being pressured to quit is correct). True, he is a big boy, but this wouldn't make quitting easy: it'd be a bit like renouncing one's allegiance to the Mafia, and might have similar consequences. So while I'm not impressed with Hayes's arguments for leaving, I do think there's more going on than meets the eye, and it's probably of a sinister nature, given the pile of reports about Scientology's inner workings. Hidden somewhere inside my scorn is a nugget of sympathy for the guy.

In the meantime, I think the creators of "South Park" summed it up well when they blasted Hayes:

"South Park" co-creator Matt Stone responded sharply in an interview with The Associated Press Monday, saying, "This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem — and he's cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians."

Nature abhors a vacuum. Who will replace Chef? Will Trey Parker and Matt Stone apply some affirmative action to the problem and insist on hiring a racial minority? Will they push the PC envelope further and hire a white dude to sport an ethnic accent? Or: will they finally follow my suggestion to hire James Earl Jones as voice talent?

(link found at Naked Villainy)


_

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

incoming!

The intrepid Sperwer looks like he's getting ready to tackle Dr. Vallicella.

Sperwer was my hiking partner this past Sunday; I'm working on a post about that experience, which may come out tonight or tomorrow.


_

congratulations, Andi!

A big hug to Andi of One Robe, One Bowl, who has successfully completed her haeng-ja (postulancy) training and has been ordained a samini-sunim (novice nun, Skt. sramanerika). Andi-- now Soen Joon-- is on her way to full nunhood.

By the way, Andi, if you're reading this-- here's a passage from the end of CS Lewis's The Last Battle, the final book in his Narnia series, which I finished last week. It's a fictional vision of heaven. Lucy, the little girl from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, speaks first. With her is the Faun, Mr. Tumnus, also a character from the first book:

"I see," she said at last, thoughtfully. "I see now. This garden is like the Stable. It is far bigger inside than it was outside."

"Of course, Daughter of Eve," said the Faun. "The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside."

Lucy looked hard at the garden and saw that it was not really a garden at all, but a whole world, with its own rivers and woods and sea and mountains. But they were not strange: she knew them all.

"I see," she said. "This is still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful than the Narnia down below, just as it was more beautiful than the Narnia outside the Stable door! I see... world within world, Narnia within Narnia..."

"Yes," said Mr Tumnus, "like an onion: except that as you go in and in, each circle is larger than the last."

Good luck, sramanerika, as worlds continue to open before you!

And as always:

成佛하십시오!




_

Monday, March 13, 2006

no hell hot enough

A full reprint of a Breitbart.com article (found here, via Drudge):

Hecklers harass families of US soldiers killed in Iraq
Mar 12 7:21 AM US/Eastern



Five women sang and danced as they held up signs saying "thank God for dead soldiers" at the funeral of an army sergeant who was killed by an Iraqi bomb.

For them, it was the perfect way to spread God's word: America was being punished for tolerating homosexuality.

For the hundreds of flag waving bikers who came to this small town in Michigan Saturday to shield the soldier's family, it was disgusting.

"That could be me in that church," said Jackie Sandler whose son Keith is currently serving his second tour of duty in Iraq.

The fringe group of fire and brimstone Baptists from Kansas has been courting controversy for more than 15 years, traveling the country with their hateful signs and slogans.

The Westboro Baptist Church first gained national notoriety when they picked the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming student who was murdered in 1998 for being gay.

They have since picketed the funerals of Frank Sinatra and Bill Clinton's mother, celebrated the terrorist attacks of September 11 as an act of God's wrath, and have even targeted Santa Claus and the Ku Klux Klan.

But it was the callousness and cruelty of harassing the grieving families of soldiers at dozens of funerals across the country that has sparked a grassroots movement of bikers determined to drown out the jeers and taunts.

In Flushing, Michigan they turned their leather-clad backs to the five women and held flags and tarps up so that mourners walking past wouldn't see the signs saying "God hates fags," "fag vets" and "America is doomed."

Many found it hard to hide their anger when Margie Phelps, the daughter of Westboro's founder, called out "All this for little old us? Oh, you shouldn't have. I feel so special," before she started singing "the Pope, the Pope, the Pope is on fire. He don't get no water let the heretics burn" in front of a Catholic church.

The glee with which the women hurled insults made John Franklin, 64, sick to his stomach.

"This guy's family deserves a peaceful funeral. It's not right what they're doing," said Franklin, who fought in the Vietnam War. "The only reason they're able to walk around like that is because the veterans fought for their freedom."

While Westboro's congregation remains stable at around 100 people - most of whom are the extended family of founder Fred Phelps - the ranks of the Patriot Guard Riders has swelled to more than 16,000 in just a few months.

The protests come at a time when many Americans think the war in Iraq was a mistake but are anxious to show their support for the troops.

Four states have enacted legislation barring protests at funerals and a dozen more are in the process of introducing bans. But it is unlikely that the bans will stand up to legal challenge.

The group is careful to protest in public spaces and is well aware of its constitutional rights - 11 of Phelps' 13 children are lawyers.

"This nation is poised to trash the first amendment just to stop my preaching," Fred Phelps said in a telephone interview. "I'm kind of honored."

Phelps said he and his congregants are targeting the funerals because God's way of punishing an "evil nation" of "fags and fag enablers" is to "pick off its children."

"I don't have any sympathy for these parents. They're all going to hell," Phelps said. "The family's in pain because they haven't obeyed the Lord God."

The group is so outrageous that some among the extreme-right have speculated that Phelps is a plant aimed at giving the anti-gay movement a bad name, said Mark Potok, the director of the intelligence project at the Southern Poverty Law Center which tracks hate crimes.

"I don't think they have any constituency beyond their own members - even the Nazis aren't interested," he said.

Phelps' virulence and frequently graphic condemnations of anal sex could mask a deeper issue than a radically literal interpretation of the Bible, Potok speculated.

"This man probably thinks more about gay sex than any other person in the United States of America and one can only guess at what that means," he said. "Many of the most homophobic people are deeply afraid that they might be gay."

Charles, in a comment to a previous post about the death of the murderous dictator Slobodan Milosevic, wrote:

OK, admit it: this is one of those times when you desperately wished there was a hell, and that it involved anal violation by demons wearing porcupine skins for condoms.

Yes, Milosevic deserves an eternity of porcupine-enhanced rogerings. So does Fred Phelps, who is one of the few people I wouldn't mind personally torturing. Not being saddled with concerns over the purity of my own soul, I would gladly give in to the dark side if it meant being the cause of this man's-- and his entire family's-- unending agony. While some folks would rather remain somehow "above" the level of this creature and his ilk, I'm an advocate of serving him a terrestrial version of the Old Testament justice he professes to love. If that means getting dirty, well... let's get dirty.


_

Smells Like Golgotha: Chapter 51








_

and now, in a
heartbreaking performance...

...we present you Jelly's cat Kamikaze:








_

Sunday, March 12, 2006

this article is a stub

I'm sick of seeing the above sentence appended to short-short Wikipedia articles. The honeymoon is over, I think: my warm fuzzies for Wikipedia have pretty much faded. The notion of an open-source encyclopedia sounds nice on the surface, but you can't take Wikipedia seriously as a resource for, say, research papers.

So it comes to this: Wikipedia, while interesting to look at, doesn't do it for me anymore. I find myself acting like an unfaithful spouse, visiting other encyclopedias when I need hard information instead of dealing with Wikipedia's over-the-top "edit wars." Who needs that neurotic shit?

Wikipedia. The en-psycho-pedia.

Wikipedia is a frustrating spouse. She won't go down on me. She won't do anal. She keeps insisting that I shave my armpit hair and trim my pubes. She won't let me tongue her navel, and she insists she was born with hypersensitive nipples. It's too much. If she's gonna be like that... this marriage can't last.

Now, to the point: the title of today's blog post-- based on the idea that a stub is a short article soon to be replaced by a longer, more substantive one-- simply means WATCH THIS SPACE, because I've got a decent story to tell, and I'm hoping to tell it with pictures.

Just a teaser: The story starts off with Kevin up at 5:30AM on Sunday after getting only two hours' sleep. We then switch to a nearly five-hour trek along the windy, freezing ridge of Bukhan-san. Then-- SMASH CUT to Hwagye-sa INTERIOR, where Kevin and Sperwer (who led the hike and proved to be a tough bastard) have traded constant trudging along the mountaintop ridge for sitting stock-still in the zendo. The latter for the standard 90 minutes.

More later. Stay tuned.


_

pussy


(above pic ruthlessly stolen from Jelly's blog)


I swear, that cat is as big as one of God's testicles. I often find myself wondering how it would taste (the cat, not God's testicles).

Or whether I could use the ponderous feline as a wrecking ball to demolish buildings.


_

les poitricules: allez, Franck!

I have high hopes for this site:

Seins du Monde (Breasts of the World)

Franck writes, in his blog's very first, typo-ridden post (I'll be charitable and attribute his typos to excitement, but in truth, many French folks these days can't spell worth a damn):

Voilà, je me lance. Le but de ce blog, est re répertorier les seins de toutes les femmes du monde. Ho, non pas des célébrité, car celle-ci sont accessible trop facilement, il suffit de regarder la télévision ou aller au ciné pour apercevoir ces petits appendices si beaux.
Mon idée est tout autre,

Blogger des poitrines de parfaite inconnue, qui si elles le souhaitent m'enverraient leurs photos. Vous l'aurrez compris je vénère les seins, petits, gros moyens, refait, je les aimes tous. Ce site est la pour faire une place aux poitrine de femme, petit mamelon, gros téton, vous êtes tous les bienvenues

Si le coeur vous en dit, n'hésitez pas à m'envoyer vos photos seins@seinsdumonde.com

A bientôt je l'espère

Franck Aubry


Translation:

And here I go. The goal of this blog is to report on the breasts of all the women in the world. Oho, not those of celebrities, because those are too easily accessible: all you have to do is watch TV or go to the movies to catch those beautiful appendages.

No, my idea is totally different: to blog the breasts of perfect strangers who, if they wish it, will send me their photos. You've probably guessed that I worship breasts-- small, plump, average, redone-- I love them all. This site is here to make a place for the female chest: little mammaries, fat teats, you are all welcome!

If you find yourself moved to do so, don't hesitate to send me your photos!

See you soon, I hope.

Franck Aubry

Bonne chance, Franck, et bonne récolte.

[NB: By the way, "les poitricules" is my French translation of "chesticles," a favorite term of mine. The French word is derived from la poitrine (chest) and la testicule (testicle).]

UPDATE: The site hasn't been updated since June 9, 2005. Sadness. I'm guessing that Franck hasn't had much luck roping the women in. He needs to hit 'em while they're drunk. That's apparently how "Girls Gone Wild" does it.



_