“Daddy, how did you meet Mommy?”
“Well, son... long ago, Mommy was possessed, see, and I was sent to exorcise her.”
“Mommy needed exercise? Was she fat?”
“She was pregnant with the spawn of Satan, so I suppose you could say she was fat, yes.”
“She needed exercise like Barkbark, when he gets those funny tummy rolls?”
“I did have to put Mommy on a leash at one point, so it was a bit like Barkbark, yes...”
“But what happened to Mommy’s tummy fat? It was really a baby?”
“Yes. The spawn of Satan, son.”
“Satan’s my uncle?”
[Hidden message (highlight text to see): I changed "exorcize" to "exorcise" for aesthetic reasons, not because the "-ize" ending is incorrect.]
Sunday, April 30, 2006
“Daddy, how did you meet Mommy?”
Having gotten wrapped up in the philosophical discussion about the nature of mind ("nature of mind" being a topic handled in completely different ways by Western philosophers and Buddhist practitioners), I've come to discover that one of the big names in the whole "substance dualism vs. physicalism" debate is a Korean gent named Jaegwon Kim, whose current position sounds startlingly like my own (keeping in mind that I may be misreading Kim; such things have happened before).
The Wikipedia article on Kim mistakenly labels him a substance dualist, but from my limited reading of the man, he's more of a physicalist than a dualist. His position has been evolving over the years (which is only natural; cf. early/later Wittgenstein and early/later Heidegger). He currently believes that there's very little about the mind that cannot be reduced to its physical components. About the only thing escaping so-called "third-person ontology" is qualia, the elements of subjective experience.
I'm going to have to get hold of Kim's books. Sounds like a fascinating dude. As I've written before, this entire debate is likely irrelevant to a Buddhist, but I find it-- dare I use the word-- stimulating.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
I suppose it was bound to happen: lightsaber dildos-- the next step up after the "bongsabers" from "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back."
Although I'd love to give credit to the person who sent this link to me, I've been asked, "for the sake of all that is good and respectable in the world," to keep mum.
Heh... it sounds almost as though I got the link from a priest, eh?
(For the timid: the video doesn't contain any nudity, but does have some pornish dialogue, especially at the very beginning.)
It's about 9:20PM. The forecast for Seoul hasn't changed. On Weather.com, it still reads at 60% chance of showers. Over at the Chosun Ilbo site, the cute little interactive weather graphic is reading a 90% chance of AM rain, and a 70% chance of PM rain. I put my faith, however blindly, in technology.
Will be hiding in the burrow, folks. Maybe next week, eh?
The Nomad alerts us to a new Koreablog titled The Yangpa. For those who don't know, yang-p'a is Korean for "onion." The blog is written in the satirical spirit of The Onion... and I'm left kicking myself, because dammit, I'm sure no one remembers that I blogged about this very idea in early 2004.
...here's my idea, which I'm sure will be rejected, but which I nevertheless present for your consideration: not simply a communal Koreablog, but one done in the style of The Onion. And let's call it The Yang-P'a. Or maybe as an in-joke, The Flying Yang-P'a. Satirical, fictional articles only-- stuff that's from the double source of your own creativity/wit, and the endless tragicomic material our nonfictional host country provides. Consider it, like The Onion, more of a loving tribute than a kick in the ass.
Hell, I can already imagine some headlines begging for articles:
White Man Surreptitiously Stared at On Subway
Dog Named "Anju" Narrowly Avoids Capture
Missing NK Baby Feared Eaten
Soap Actress Demands Reunification
Shouting Match Fails to Lead to Actual Fight
Chongno Bar District Vomit Splatters "Problem," Official Admits
Koreans Gossip About Foreigner in Foreigner's Presence
Life as LA Taxi Driver "Not What I Expected," Says PhD-holder
Spittle-free Sidewalk Discovered Downtown
Bush Branded Primate
Rest of World Once Again Ignored
Foreigner Proves Unable to Haggle in Namdaemun
Ass Size Linked to Burgeoning PC-bahng Culture
American Role Denigrated
Women Control Finances, Study Shows
Middle Finger Deployed, "P'ak Gyu!" Shouted
Foreign Style Copied
Foreign Influence "Dangerous," Millions Contend
Left-handed Woman Surprises Fellow Diners with Chopstick Ability
Demonstration Indicates Sheeplike Thinking
Overemotionalism Blamed in Suicide
Guilty Boss Weeps, Begs Forgiveness
Woman's Hair Dyed Strange Shade of Reddish Brown
Black Man Sighted With Korean Date
Christian Disses Buddhist
Foreigner Attempts to Haggle at Department Store
Squid Eaten Without Hesitation
Noh Finally Pulls Head Out of Ass
Lemon Soju Declared National Treasure #39886
Taekwondo Largely Irrelevant
Latest Culinary Trend is Shi-heom Ji-ok Gaegogi-- Dog Thrown from 15th Floor Balcony
White Man With Large Nose Causes Stir With Fluent Korean
Ahhhh, just think: bogus articles, faux editorials, spoofs of the ultranationalistic tone... all in the "funny because it's true" spirit.
Piss, fuck, diddle.
I must now wallow in bitterness as the idea takes flight in Hominid-free cyberspace. I have only myself to blame, and that is why you find me here-- in a dark alley, reeking of gin, growling incoherently, shitting my pants and masturbating spitefully.
Best wishes (grrrrrrrrr) to The Yangpa, which already has a good bit of hilarious material up.
UNRELATED ASIDE: Justin, who has taken to vlogging far more than most of the other bloggers on my blogroll, offers us "Jedi Breakfast." Go watch.
The Thing I Can't Talk About took a good seven or eight hours to do. Very frustrating, that. I'd like to talk about it, but it's "The Thing I Can't Talk About" for a reason, so I'm afraid that's about all I can tell you for now.
Oh-- I suppose I can tell you that it doesn't involve killing anyone... though that might already be too much information.
The Weather.com forecast for Seoul still insists on showers tomorrow. Until yesterday, the same site was insisting that Seoul would be experiencing a rainy Saturday, but I see nothing but sun outside my window, and the Weather.com report says of today: "Lots of sunshine. High 63F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph." For tomorrow, it's suggesting:
Showers ending in the morning with some clearing in the afternoon. High 69F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%.
The Huimang Shijang usually starts around 10:30 or 11AM, i.e., the tail-end of morning. But I'm not ready to set myself up on wet concrete, either. Check back with this blog later tonight (say, 10PM or so) to see what command decision I make regarding tomorrow.
If you visit me while I'm selling, by the way, you risk having your photo taken with my heavy, ancient Olympus, and you will likely end up on the blog.
Just so you know.
Friday, April 28, 2006
inside galactic center, so they say
a cluster of black holes is now at play
they give the galaxy its whirling shape
imparting spin to stars that spawned the Ape
and thus we orbit 'round a mighty drain
while sporting giant, useless, heavy brains
but to my mind, 'tis not a drain we see
'tis more an anus, heaving mightily
we go not in; far from! we do go out
the galaxy, an asshole primed to shout
this universe, so vast, so grand and black
a colon shooting us to hell and back!
Thursday, April 27, 2006
If you're an English teacher in Korea who's tired of looking at the butchered English of university student essays, take heart: the pain you feel is felt by others as well! The Party Pooper has posted a hilarious collection of writings by Canadian university students-- native English speakers, I presume-- who have some strange and wonderful insights about both European history and the English language.
At the end of the post, the Pooper offers his own "fractured" look at the Dokdo issue, Canuck undergrad-style.
My French Papa once gave me a book called La foire aux cancres, which was a French-language collection of student output in the same vein. Alas, the book's in the States; were it here, I'd quote liberally from it.
NB: While you're at it, be sure to check out Gord's take on students who plagiarize. Excellent post.
UPDATE: Dr. Hodges has written extensively about plagiarism. One of his posts on the subject can be found here (this post contains links to his many other plagiarism posts), and he provides a link to an online "plagiarism checker" here.
As of two minutes ago, Weather.com was forecasting light rain for Seoul on Sunday. If that scrote-kicking prognostication doesn't change by Saturday afternoon... not even Naomi Campbell will be able to save us, no matter how fast she chain-smokes the magic cigarettes.
And any hope of selling my wares at the Hope Market will be lost.
Thanks for nothing, Naomi, you whore.
IN OTHER NUDES: Rory kills me. No, literally.
Of the two concierges who man the front office of our dorm, one is old, friendly, and goofy; the other, unfortunately, is a weird, obsessive asshole. He doesn't normally bother me, but his public fixation with garbage, and how to dispose of it, occasionally gets under my skin.
On my way to meet a friend for an early dinner this afternoon, the concierge adjoshi stopped me just so he could rant about garbage and the neighborhood cats. At first I thought he was telling me-- as he's done in the past-- that I needed to do something about my own garbage, but no: it turned out he was telling me war stories about how he now puts all the organic garbage inside heavy plastic trash cans to keep the cats out, and how he has to cart that garbage to the local dong-samuso (a sort of local district office) to dispose of it. "And I was doing this on my days off!" he said.
I wasn't sure what his point was. Was I supposed to congratulate him? All I knew was that I was late to meet my buddy, and that I was once again being forced to listen to a garbage-related tirade.
The lesson for today: depending on the nature of our jobs and habits, our personal worlds can range in scope from expansive to constricted. For this particular concierge, who spends his days in a cramped, first-floor office with a tiny TV, life is mainly about the goings-on of us dorm tenants, the nasty habits of cats, and finally, about the plastic-wrapped garbage that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Waking up at an uncharacteristic 6:20AM (when I'm on break, I usually sleep in, often to the double-digit hours), I walked up Namsan with my buddy Jang-woong this morning. He's happy to report that he's switched over to POSCO Steel from LG. He says the job ought to be less stressful: POSCO Steel is a giant in its field, with no serious domestic competition. LG, by contrast, has always been haunted by the specter of Samsung.
We got to see some falling cherry blossom petals (we ribbed each other about not being here with women; JW's married and his wife's expecting), and saw and heard several-- well, I'm not sure what they were. At a guess, wild turkeys. JW called them su-ggweong in Korean. Ah-- according to the online dictonary, it's a kind of pheasant. Looked tasty enough, but I didn't mention that fact to JW.
We talked a bit about the emerging world powers. JW said he'd recently read a magazine article that compared China and India. The article saw India, in the long term, as the more viable global power: it's already the world's largest democracy; it's already quite pluralistic; Indian families are very education-oriented (as a means for escaping poverty and possibly jumping caste), and so on. Both of us agreed that American supremacy was not forever, but JW seemed fascinated that the article clearly did not see China as the dominant power of the future. Koreans often hear about the rising importance of China; in fact, JW will be obliged to take Chinese classes once he starts at POSCO. Will the next generation of Koreans be trilingual?
I had sent an email to JW back when Dad had his heart attack, but JW said he never got it. We talked about our dads for a bit; JW's dad, who used to be a bigwig with the Korean broadcast system KBS and is now retired, is jockeying to become a member of some sort of media oversight commission-- I'm not sure about the particulars.
Other things were covered, including some matters of grave concern which won't be revealed here, but I have to say that, all in all, it was a better way to start the day than how I usually start it when I'm on break.
I've got the recording software, the FTP space, and the motivation. The major snag seems to be that the microphone I bought is not a simple plug-and-play. It's a 5-dollar cheapie, this mike, and it was only in looking at the back of the package yesterday evening that I saw horrible, filthy words like "sound card" and "driver" and "maggots." I have a MACINTOSH, for Cthulu's sake! Macintoshes aren't compatible with maggots! We all know this!
So it looks as though I'll be shopping a bit more carefully for a Mac-compatible, plug-and-play mike, perhaps even biting the bullet and visiting one of the local Mac stores so carefully hidden away in Yongsan's Jeonja Land. When I finally get the mike I deserve...
I might carry this mike over to the office and see whether it works with my Korean PC. Korean peripherals, like Koreans themselves, often have a great deal of self-compatibility. If the mike works, I might just hang out there, after hours, and record some bizarre shit.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
[A few updates appear at the bottom of this post. Heh. Bottom.]
My buddy Mike, a murdering bastard, describes the delight of plunging happy, loving beings into the inferno:
He razed the homes of three extended families[,] and insured that the family members died a fiery death. Indeed, as they tried to escape your Maximum Leader kicked them back into the inferno with his boot-clad foot. As the charred bodies smouldered, the Villainettes were allowed close to look at the carnage.
Kathreb notes something I've been saying as well: the presence of scandals in the Korean media is actually a good sign, an indication that people are at least making the effort to clean house. Read her excellent post here. At the end, she notes:
Despite, or perhaps because of, the recent corruption scandals it seems that Korea is on the right path. But it is critical to remember before criticising Korea for its corrupt society that other countries, though they might have a long history of democracy, pride themselves of their checks and balances, or just think they are honest systems[,] still face a constant fight against corruption and always will. Koreans and outside observers should keep this in mind and not hold Korea to an impossible standard.
And now: competing views of women!
One view of women is that they're attractive sperm repositories, or that one woman is (look for the post titled "She Come Round Here, Just About Midnight..."):
But this resident was different. Very, very different. This was one of the sleekest, sexiest black girls on the face of the Earth. In her heels, she was nearly six feet tall. She's perfectly slender in the places that matter and richly full in the places that matter more. Plus she is possessed of a British accent, but not British teeth. I know this because she's a very nice girl, with a smile for everyone she sees. To say that she is something of a celebrity to everyone in this building with a penis is an understatement too mighty for words. And this is a building that literally vomits beautiful women on a Saturday night.
Another view of women is that they're delightfully unattainable (or that one woman is):
All thanks to a sassy girl from the countryside who had literally blown our hair back with her bitchy, hip-switching, heel-clicking superpowers. If the X-Men were real, she wouldn't need a costume or special equipment. Just an endless supply of Twincake™ compacts, a short skirt, and a stocked shoe closet, and she'd be ready to drop in the middle of the most scorched-earth, super[villain]-laden, final Battle of Doom. With a laser-sharp, sidelong look, a single hair flip, eyeroll, and hip-switch, she'd have bodies flying away and falling before her in all directions. If she were to add a sly sneer to top it all off, the effect would probably be nuclear. This girl was, quite literally, the bomb.
Jelly's foodblog runs from ch'apch'aebap to seafood to boshint'ang. Now that she's got a camera, you've got pics!
Dr. Vallicella offers a hilarious summation of all the problems with Continental philosophy (from which postmodernism has largely sprung)-- in a single, marvelously tortured paragraph. Check it out.
All of Charles's posts at Liminality are must-reads. His newest post, a meditation on the subgenre "flash fiction" (of which my "100 Below" shorties may be a part), is no exception. However, I noted with some consternation the pre-Einsteinian cosmology evident in this part of Charles's essay:
To be perfectly honest, I don’t like the term. “Flash” (like “sudden) is a primarily temporal term rather than a spatial term—that is, it indicates something that is very sudden or brief. It also, at least in my mind, draws a connection with flash mobs. For flash mobs, the word is appropriate, as these events happen very suddenly and (generally) last only briefly. But I don’t like the term when applied to fiction. If you take it as meaning that the story is written in a flash, you do a disservice to the writer’s care and effort. If you take it as meaning that the story is read in a flash, you do a disservice to the attention of the reader.
Wherefore this separation of space and time!? What happened to the space-time continuum, Charles, you-- you-- UNRECONSTRUCTED NEWTONIAN?!
Elsewhere, Charles expresses my own feelings about most poetry:
Yet many would-be poets throw a bunch of angst-ridden words onto the page, giving them as much thought as they might give to, say, brushing their teeth or watching the evening news. Is what they produced poetry? No, it’s crap. Verbal diarrhea.
Precisely the point I was trying to make with the poems in my book (a more detailed explanation of my poetry can be found in this interview). Crap. Crap, crap, and yet more crap. Dress it up with lettuce and tomatoes and vinaigrette, and it's still just crap. Having given up on the prospect of ever writing real poetry (viz. much of Langston Hughes and certain powerful passages of Shakespeare), I, much like that drunken minstrel Barry Manilow, write the songs that make the whole world shit.
In the meantime: Go to the Charles, thou sluggard! Consider his ways, and be wise!
I would be remiss not to mention two posts by Jeff at Ruminations in Korea. The first post is about the joys and dangers of biking; the second is about the ugly realities of North Korea-- something South Koreans seem unwilling to face.
Is it my imagination, or is there something of a mini-renaissance happening in the Koreablogosphere? Along with the constant wave of new K-bloggers, many of whom are writing quite well, we seem to be seeing a reenergized Old Guard. Of course, a few of us look to the horizon and secretly hope for the End Times to draw near, so that we might witness the return of Incestuous Amplification, by far the funniest (and arguably the most bitter) Koreablog ever.
In udder news...
EFL Geek has an insightful post up re: using YouTube and other video sources for EFL teaching. This is something my colleagues and I have been discussing as well; one colleague in particular has already set up a site with video links, and we're leaning toward the idea of doing dialogues and productions, too.
After you read EFL Geek's post, be sure to click on that video at the end. I just about laughed my anus inside-out.
[To be repeated at irregular intervals throughout the week.]
Weather permitting, my fat ass will be sitting on the concrete at the Huimang Shijang (Hope Market) near Hongik University this coming Sunday, from about 10:30AM to 7PM, selling my wares. I will probably be the only foreigner there selling something, as was true the last time I'd made it a routine to be there. If it's raining, I won't be there. If it's threatening to rain, I might not stay the entire time.
I'll be selling at least three different things: (1) brush art and calligraphy; (2) copies of my book of raunchy humor, Scary Spasms in Hairy Chasms; (3) black-and-white cartoon line art of various sizes and kinds, probably featuring stupid-looking animals.
Prices for the above will be, respectively, (1) about W1000-W3000, (2) W10000 per copy, and (3) anywhere from W1000 to W5000. As at any market, discounts are possible if you buy in bulk.
I've set a release date for my book of religion-related essays, Water from a Skull: Monday, June 26, 2006. Not long from now! The book will be available online via publish-on-demand at my CafePress site. I won't be using the Lulu option, because I'm not convinced of the quality of Lulu's printed product.
Currently, the books stands at around 400 pages, but there's a good bit of cutting and condensing yet to do. The price, not yet fixed, will likely be around $20.
Last time I made a habit of selling at the market, I got photographed a few times and was even interviewed. If you're an expat in Seoul with a talent for making things, the Huimang Shijang is a great place to sell your product. Beware, though-- the stuff that sells best is what appeals to college kids, especially girls: hand-woven hats, hand-crafted accessories, baubles and bangles and all that other cutesy stuff. I saw some very talented artists there, including a dude who was making and selling some impressive paintings, and another dude who was trying to sell hand-carved dojang (chops or name stamps)... neither was selling that much. Meanwhile, the woman next to me, who had an impressive display of cheap jewelery and hand-made wallets, was selling at a decent clip.
But it's called the Hope Market for a reason, ja? We all hope to sell a lot.
See you Sunday?
I blogged the directions to the market long ago. Check this post out for details.
Monday, April 24, 2006
Hojuin noted a few days ago that Australia lost its first soldier in Iraq. His followup post contains a great meditation on old soldiers.
For a rehash of the major issues in the ongoing Iraq debate, I'll point you to Nathan's post here. The comment thread includes a very civil discussion that covers the talking points of both sides. I assume the discussion isn't over, so revisit that thread frequently.
[Irrelevant aside: Hojuin and Joel are shaming me. Joel posted his own "pulling a Shatner," but in the reverse direction-- he's visibly thinning out. Hojuin listed some impressive fitness goals in this post. I can already leg-press 200kg, mainly because my legs have to support this enormous body, but my upper body could do with a tough regimen. Last year, I'd hoped to be running up the Namsan steps, but that goal is mocking me now, thanks to my own indolence.]
Sunday, April 23, 2006
While lumber-waddling over to the office earlier today, I encountered one of my current students. She shouted my name from across the street (people usually see me before I see them; I chalk that up to my wrapped-up-in-myself introversion), and I shouted a "Hello!" back. I had to cross the street, anyway, so I looked both ways and then walked up to her.
Before I crossed, my student shouted something in English that included the word "boyfriend." I had an inkling as to what that was about, and she confirmed it once I was next to her:
"Kevin! I want to boyfriend!"
The above sentence meant one of two things:
1. "I want a boyfriend," or
2. "I want you to be my boyfriend."
I had a sinking feeling that she meant (2), so just to be sure, I asked, "You want a boyfriend?" She nodded vigorously. I followed up with, "Where can we find one for you?" She smiled coyly and grabbed the sleeve of my jacket.
"You know!" she said with a snaggle-toothed smile and giggle.
How the hell do you extricate yourself from such a situation? I dodged the implied question in her eyes and mentioned that some of the students from our class were planning to meet with me for lunch this coming week. Because she'd been absent on Wednesday, she hadn't heard about the plans. I smiled and told her that I might be seeing her next week for lunch along with everyone else, and silently prayed that that would be enough of a dodge to get me out of this conversation without hurting her feelings.
"Well, enjoy your sandwich!" I finally said, pointing to the toasted sandwich she had in her left hand.
"I can't!" she replied as we said goodbye and parted ways. Ah, sadness.
I haven't had that sort of encounter in years, and had thought that most of today's Koreans were more sophisticated in how they approached foreigners these days. I remember getting requests in the 90s along the lines of, "I like you! Will you be my friend?"
Then again, I may be wrong. I received an email from someone I'd met last Thursday. The email read in part:
our talking time was short .
but It was so fun and very nice-^^
I think you are fun and very nice guy!!~
I hope that we be gooood friends-^^
The above isn't a "lust note" by any means; I take it as purely innocent. But it's an uncomfortably direct display of feeling which I've never gotten used to. I'm a cowboy at heart, I suppose... a stereotypical American in terms of my preferred mode of interaction with friends. You don't announce or proclaim your friendship; you simply become friends. The process takes time and perceptivity, and there's no official moment when it happens.
My Korean buddy Jang-woong, whom I've known since 1994, probably understands this the best of all my friends in Korea. We can do the old geezer thing: make a brief remark, then spend a few minutes just chewing on the thought and nodding our heads sagely while staring off into the distance. Heh... you can almost hear the harmonica, smell the baked beans, and see the Conestoga wagons. I think Jang-woong was American in a previous life.
It was hard to tell how serious my "I want to boyfriend!" student was today. She didn't look particularly crushed at the end of our exchange. I'm kind of hoping she simply skipped merrily away, gnawing her sandwich with those topographically unique teeth of hers, all thoughts of budding intimacy with her plump English teacher forgotten.
But there's a chance that she was serious-- that she took a big risk in shouting out her feelings to me for all the street to hear. She might have been shamed enough by my weaselly rejection to decide that she can never again show her face in class. After I upbraided one student in a different class about cell phone usage, that student stopped attending. It's an immature reaction, but not uncommon.
So I have to wonder: did I lose a student today? I have no class this coming week, but if she's not in class two Mondays from now, I'll know something's up.
The weird thing is this: in class, she has often loudly proclaimed that she has a boyfriend.
Not that any of this matters. The student in question is actually one of my worst: in class, she whispers while I'm talking, often uses Korean instead of making an effort to speak in English, and doesn't seem too intent on actually learning. There's very little I find attractive about that.
UPDATE: I should note that I'm about as good-looking as Woody Allen, so I can't attribute this female attention to any facial or bodily charms. I suppose some students like my in-class personality, which is pretty animated and often reminds the ladies of Jim Carrey (perhaps Drew Carey is more apropos). I always protest that I'm an introverted person, but I keep hearing that collective "uuuuhhhhhhhhh" of disagreement from my classes-- the Korean equivalent of "uh-uh," i.e., "No, that's not true."
While I'd love to delve into Jungian psychology and discuss "shadow sides" and the like with my students, I usually keep it simple and just say that, during class, I'm pretty energetic, but outside of class, I'm pretty boring. To my readers I would submit that this doesn't represent some sort of insidious, two-faced way of behaving: on the contrary, I think most of us have a "public face" and a "private face." Students who visit me in the office after a day's teaching are usually treated to the quieter me.
Exercise: identify as many Buddhist tropes in this movie preview as you can.
The entire trailer is a Buddhist sermon, a treasure trove of Buddhist words and images. It's very much in the spirit of "The Karate Kid" (now with Nick Nolte in the Mr. Miyagi role, wearing a Sean Connery-style head of hair and beard), with a bit of kung fu hocus-pocus thrown in.
To be honest, I'm not really a fan of the hocus-pocus when it comes to shows involving Buddhism (or other religions, for that matter), not least because such shows perpetuate silly stereotypes and outright misconceptions. One of my great disappointments with the "Kung Fu: The Legend Continues" TV series was the fixation on Shaolin superstition. One particularly embarrassing episode featured Kwai Chang Caine fighting a demon, then getting temporarily possessed by it before ultimately defeating it. Other episodes showcased Caine hanging spiderlike from flat walls, teleporting in the woods (to the consternation of the bad guy), multiplying himself into four Caines so as to surround an opponent, and so on.*
The best episode out of that series was the least magical: it was the one where Caine, our priestly do-gooder, helped out a mother and son. The mother was being physically abused by her husband, a bitter police officer, while their young son could only watch helplessly. The episode was well-constructed and even touching. The drama remained human the entire time, as far as I can remember. Even the one major fight sequence was understated, stripped of the usual exaggerated sound effects and over-the-top music. In that sequence, the abusive husband found out his wife was taking kung fu lessons at Caine's kwoon, and he tried to attack Caine. Caine's defense against the attack was undramatic and even plausible. There was a lot to like about that episode.
Trivia: Bodhidharma, the Indian monk known as the First Patriarch of Ch'an (Zen, Seon) Buddhism, supposedly taught at the original Shaolin monastery. Read about him here.
*For those asking the inevitable question, "If you hated the series, why did you watch so much of it?", my answer is that I have a sentimental soft spot for the series thanks to the original 1970s cult TV show. An attachment, I suppose.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
“There’s nothing more to say,” Frak’s oral sphincter blatted. “Get out.”
Nimeya, who was currently female, whipped her antennae and clacked her enormous mandibles in agitation.
“What of the children?” she chirruped, chitinous plates vibrating. “Who will care for them when your tertiary brain atrophies, Frak? When you can no longer recognize your own offspring, nor ejaculate enough spacta to feed them and drive them into inbreeding frenzies?”
“Inbreeding frenzies are overrated,” trilled Frak. “And I married you despite the fact that you’re my sister.”
Nimeya farted haughtily from her three primary anuses, then scuttled out of the burrow.
I haven't scanned Occidentalism long enough to see why the Metropolitician has devoted so much space to denouncing the site, but I was there long enough to find a clip of the controversial South Park video depicting Muhammad-- without the infamous blackout during which Muhammad appears. (See my previous post on the subject here.)
Don't click on the following video if you're easily offended by images of political and religious figures crapping on each other and, at the very end, the American flag. Trey Parker and Matt Stone were trying to make the point that Comedy Central's censorship was purely motivated by fear of violent reprisal. While the images of George Bush and Jesus pooping on each other and Old Glory will be offensive to many, those images won't be censored by Comedy Central because most Americans aren't violent idiots (despite certain non-Americans' loony protestations to the contrary). In other words, freedom of speech is a right we trumpet only when it's safe (and lucrative) to do so.
I copied the file off Occidentalism (this post had the relevant link). To be viewed from my Photobucket FTP space, the video requires Flash 8. Sorry 'bout that. If it's any consolation, Flash 8 is easy to install.
Well... not exactly. I didn't really end up on the OhMyNews International BBS on my own merits. I had help from someone with the handle "Stovall" who took interest in my previous post and quoted it in full.
Lookie here, and enjoy the comments that follow it.
A review of some of the Koreabloggers who've posted on the topic of Mr. Yang shows some common themes:
1. Yang is nuts, or overdramatic, or both.
2. His method of protest isn't likely to affect anyone but Koreans.
3. Chicks don't dig guys who stab themselves only part-way.
4. The self-stabbing looks suspiciously Japanese (as Jelly points out in my comments section, the actual seppuku ritual leads to, uh, irrevocable results). Some bloggers and commenters have interpreted this in decidedly humorous ways.
Where I probably disagree with some bloggers is on the issue of whether most Koreans are this passionate. While I think many Koreans might respond to Yang's gesture with sympathy and/or understanding, I don't think most Koreans are silly enough to go to such extremes. People like Yang make the news because they're not common.
Nathan's fine blog alerted me to the fact that the Metropolitician's Michael was engaged in a running battle with Matt of Occidentalism, a site I'd never visited before, or even knew about.
All I can say is... you gents sound like you're in loooooooove.
Friday, April 21, 2006
UPDATE: This post has received some very thoughtful comments. Check them out by clicking the time stamp link.
I'm going to sound like a cold, cold bastard for saying this, but I have little patience or sympathy for people who want to kill themselves* (the friends and relatives of those people? that's another matter).
Nutty folks like Yang Bong Ho-- the dude whose image has probably circled the world because he's got a large knife jutting out of his stomach as he kneels on rain-soaked marble-- make Korea look bad. I side with all Koreans who view him with embarrassment; I can't relate to those Koreans who view him with sympathy.
The fact that Yang didn't even stick the knife in very deep makes me think he knew damn well he wasn't really going to kill himself.
But there's a larger issue here, a certain sickness: the Korean inclination toward theatrical public self-abuse. Whether it's finger-slicing or self-immolation or half-assed seppuku with a kitchen knife, some Koreans have a flair for the dramatic. What truly interests me is that, in those cases where the self-abusers appear to be committing suicide, they rarely die. That suggests an awareness, on some level, of the histrionic dimension of the public act. This isn't Christ on the cross, folks: this is people looking for media attention, and succeeding. The sickness isn't insanity, per se: it's terminal drama-queeniness.
To be fair, American TV, especially if you consider the local news in all fifty states, regularly showcases our own home-grown nuts: people who shoot five or six coworkers, then crawl into a hidey-hole to spend a few hours talking with police about whether they want to live or die. Sometimes these standoffs end with the shooter shooting himself (and it's almost always a "he"). Quite a contrast to how such dramas end here in Korea.
I think the percentage of public suicides in America is probably higher than it is in Korea, mainly because the American crazies are truly fucked in the head and sincerely ready to die, either by their own hand or in a hail of police gunfire. Korean "crazies" could learn a thing or two from their American brethren about how to do it right, how to commit to the act.
Next time, sink the knife all the way in, Mr. Yang. Otherwise, it's only cheap theater. When I look at that picture, which shows a knife that's barely penetrated the rectus abdominis, I'm not impressed.
*I'd do my best to help such a person if I could, but I'd be lying if I told you I could sympathize with them. Most people kill themselves because they've concluded that they have no other alternative. This conclusion is almost always wrong; my sympathy is reserved for people who are terminally ill and living lives of extreme pain-- people who truly have no hope. I reserve suicide as an option for myself in such circumstances. In the meantime, I'm heartened whenever I hear stories of people who have gone through a suicidal period and then "snapped out of it" somehow. I respect the courage and effort it takes to perform such a feat.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Did a bona fide celebrity, the grandson of the man who composed "Korea Fantasy," leave a comment on this humble blog?
If so, I'm honored. If the commenter really is Miguel Eaktai Ahn, then I want to direct him to my brother Sean, who currently lives in Toronto and is an excellent cellist. Sean deserves a shot at the big leagues.
Mr. Ahn, if it really is you, thank you very much for stopping by. If you're interested in contacting my brother, I can give you his email address. Of course, I'd need to confirm that you really are you, but that's a mere formality: your comment seems sincere.
One thing I would love to know: why is this famous piece of music so difficult to find in Korea? I looked all over the place without success.
Rory has begun his Photoshopping of yours truly. I saw it while in the office, and a coworker wondered what I was howling about. So now, Rory-- you've gained yet another Korean fan.
I loved this. The next one better be truly cruel.
By the way-- Rory's pic of the dingo symbolizes our differences in how to pluralize the word. I'm trying to convince Rory that "dingoes" is indeed a proper pluralization. "Dingos" is also possible, if Wikipedia be believed. The online Merriam Webster lists "dingoes" as the only possible plural, however. Googlefight results score the "dingos" vs. "dingoes" contest in favor of "dingoes," but it's close. The score:
dingoes = 450,000 results
dingos = 382,000 results
Rory commented that, since the dingo is an Aussie beast, it might be best to pluralize the word the Aussie way. I submit that "dingoes" is the Aussie plural!
In the meantime, I expect to be pounded by some mean Photoshopping. Rory's far more talented at it than I am.
UPDATE: I thought about doing a Rory parody, but the ultimate Rory parody/tribute has already been done. Visit this post of Rory's, then click the link for the great work done by Peemil, the "demented one." I can't beat that.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
It is I, your hippopotamus, back again with strange and interesting news from my 1pm MWF Level 1 conversation class.
The class itself was pretty normal. Nothing out of the ordinary to report-- until the very end of class.
"Kevin!" one of my young ladies barked as the students made ready to leave.
"Yes!" I barked back.
"How about doing something with us next week?"
My student was referring to our department's upcoming one-week break, during which time Smoo students will be taking midterm exams and letting off stress in the evenings. We teachers in the Lingua department will be on break. She was probably asking if I'd like to join the students one night for dinner at a cheapie resto.
I resisted the urge to take the conversation in a lascivious direction and uttered a noncommittal grunt. But another student, the oldest one in the class,* got bold and asked:
"What would you like to do with us?"
As all native speakers of English know, the word do is positively tumescent and pulsating with meaning. I don't think I smiled or anything, but my student must've caught something on my face, because she followed up with:
"How about we all hit the sauna?"
This provoked a giggle fit from some students, and gave me the opportunity to do an exaggerated riff on the scandal we'd all provoke. I mimicked our department head shaking her finger at me and asking in a pointed, schoolmarmish way, "Is it true that you were in a sauna with ten women the other night?"
We all laughed the proposal off. But now I'm stuck with this image in my head. I dare not describe it lest I be ratted out by a coworker and end up fired simply for being male. Let's just say that the image may or may not have involved scented oils and long, languorous massages, cheerfully given and received.
*I forgot to add that little detail earlier-- the fact that that student was the oldest one in the class. She's in her mid-20s, which may explain her boldness.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
I'm about to head back home... but first I should note this comment left over at the Marmot's Hole by none other than the infamous Hardy and Tiny.
Click on the above link, then follow H&T's link for a look at Robert Koehler's... gentler side.
Congrats, Robert: you know you're big-time when you're the target of parody.
Good Lord, H&T-- That is a parody, right?
UPDATE: Fun's over. Looks like Robert's deleted H&T's comment.
Renewed my alien registration card today, so I'm good for another year. It appears I can keep the same visa, but if I plan to leave the country, I have to get the dreaded multiple reentry permit. You'll recall that I was worried, late last year, about whether I'd be able to get back into Korea with the visa I had, as I had not taken the time to acquire a multiple reentry permit. Everything turned out fine, because we discovered that my visa already had an "M" for "multiple" printed on it. This time around, though, I'll have to pay the piper. Won't do that for another month or so, though.
The processing today took only about fifteen or twenty minutes, which is unbelievably fast for a normally sluggish bureaucracy. The Seoul Immigration Office's front entrance was being picketed by a group of anti-Chinese people speaking out on behalf of Falun Gong. I'd seen the same group in Kangnam before; they showcase lurid pictures of abuse by what I imagine are the Chinese authorities; some pictures are quite graphic.
Once inside the building, I grabbed the proper form, took some photos in the downstairs area (turns out I didn't need them, but that's fine-- I can scan them and use them for your entertainment later), bought the requisite W30,000 stamp for a residence extension, went back upstairs to the first floor, punched the little take-a-ticket thingie, got my ticket-- Number 101-- and then waited.
For about five seconds.
It was incredible: Number 101 flashed on one of the overhead call number screens, and I was out of my seat even before my enormous ass had had a chance to begin warming it. The girl who handled my paperwork annoyed me by constantly going "Eh?" as if I were speaking gibberish instead of Korean. My Korean's in dire need of improvement, but it's not totally incomprehensible, dammit. Aside from that, she was polite enough, and I was processed very quickly. My alien registration card now sports a little stamp on the back of it. Later in the afternoon, my supervisor told me that that stamp has a tendency to rub off, so I'd need to be careful.
The highlight of my few minutes at Immigration today came when I saw an old nemesis of mine-- the asshole functionary who gave me shit over ten years ago when I applied for a visa extension to be able to stay in country. I'd been hoping to continue my court case against my micropenis of a hagwon boss, and this fuckwad refused to grant the extension. His face was unmistakable: it had "anus" written all over it. When I last saw him, he had a huge mole on one cheek. Today, I was astonished to see that he'd earned enough money to have gotten it removed. Didn't make him look any friendlier. I'm sure he recognized me, because we went round and round in 1995.
Aside from seeing Anus-face, everything went fine. No new, stress-induced facial tics to report. We're done for now; I'll get the multiple reentry permit next month, when I have more money.
Am stuck in the office right now, working on some projects, and regret that I'm unable to join a group of bloggers who are meeting this evening-- Andy Jackson (Flying Yangban), Joshua (Korea Liberator), Robert Koehler (The Marmot's Hole), and others. Gentlemen (and whatever ladies are in attendance)-- I salute you. Hoist an extra point for me, even though I don't drink.
Monday, April 17, 2006
On Hines Ward:
(what the hell is he?
is he brown... or one of us?
fuck it--) WELCOME, HINES!
hemorrhoids are mine!
no one else may touch or sniff!
stay out of my pants!
[NB: It may not be obvious from the above haiku, whose only purpose is to make light of a ridiculous situation, but my sympathies actually lie with the Koreans. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Wooj did a post that extensively covered the historical argument in favor of the Korean claim. I found it convincing, and am heartened that most Japanese folks these days don't even really care.]
Regarding "chopsticks technique":
done far more precisely now
thank you, Hwang Woo Seok!
Regarding the upcoming elections:
Law of Septic Tank
"Biggest pieces float to top"
that's just how it is
Regarding male plastic surgery:
We are one people!
Proudly of one mind and heart!
Soon to be one SEX!
(I sense a certain Y-chromosome deficiency...)
Regarding Girl Monday and Wednesday:
booty? cleavage? WHERE??
female flatlands bring me down
ass crack tumbleweeds
fucking Aussie drunk
just because he rapes dingoes
thinks he is da shit
Regarding Korea and Star Trek:
Spock hairdos abound
in the Land of Morning Calm
home to Borg Klingons
Regarding Korean addiction to Korean food:
where is my kimchi!?
how can you eat apple pie
Regarding the Korean mania for forcing kids to learn Englishie:
hedge clippers? Mommy?
'cause you want to trim my tongue?
but I don't-- Aaaaaaagggghh!! AAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGHHH!!
Sunday, April 16, 2006
A Breitbart.com article about a new South Korean boom-- male plastic surgery-- got me thinking. Would I want such surgery?
Not for my face, no. I like my current disfigurement.
I would, however, love to sport a bulletproof scrotum.
Bear with me a moment.
Many Western cynics claim that the Korean plastic surgery wave comes from a pernicious American influence: Korean men and women want to look like white folks. "Not so!" I reply. The awful truth is this: They want to look like white folks from L.A., which, when you think about it, is pretty sad.
Few sane Americans consider Los Angeles a "typical" American city. Southern California's cult of the body centers on L.A. as its Mecca. Whether you're a movie star or a gangsta, you need a well-toned body and surgically enhanced face to get you through a typically unpredictable L.A. day. Dodging bullets, being harassed by racist bosses, or flirting with dime-a-dozen, over-surgeried lawyers-- a mid-20s L.A. male might encounter all of the above situations before lunch. Without the liposuction, nose sculpture, and eyelid tucks, you'd be a freak, and your life would be one long, relentless ass-kicking. That train of thought is contagious, of course, so the surgery meme has swept the world. Koreans got the bug almost as badly as the Venezuelans.
I come from Washington, DC. As the comedian once said, "Washington is Hollywood for ugly people." Too true, too true. Strangely enough, life in DC has many parallels to life in LA. Along with the general sense of unreality, we've got: dodging bullets, being harassed by racist bosses, and flirting with dime-a-dozen, over-surgeried lawyers (from L.A., most likely)-- all such events being standard fare for a mid-20s Washingtonian male, and as in L.A., all likely to happen before lunch.
But in DC, where people are less likely to talk about "poppin' a cap in yo' ass" than about, say, "termination with extreme prejudice by members of Delta Force," certain surgical enhancements make more sense.
Which brings me back to the bulletproof scrote.
I'd like an armored ball sac because I'm tired of people shooting at my nads whenever I go home to visit my family in northern Virginia. DC gangstas and Virginia rednecks all love their guns, and the major roads in and around the DC-Metro area-- Routes 395, 95, 495, 66, and so on-- are lined with eager marksmen who spend their entire day just waiting for an exposed crotch to drive by. Since I usually sling my balls out the driver's window to give my arms room to hold the steering wheel, I frequently find myself playing "dodgem" with the local snipers.
To make matters worse-- Langley, Virginia isn't far off, and among those pot-shooting gangstas and rednecks are plenty of government-trained killers looking to see if they can "bust a nut" at a range of fifty yards while you're tearing up the asphalt at 70 miles per hour.
I don't want to end up drilled through the balls. I don't want to become a statisticle. Our roads are already lined with drivers' corpses, all of whom have to be removed by overworked county services. The workers come out at night in their orange uniforms, clearing away the cars and the bodies, resetting the roads for the next day. An aerial view of northern Virginia, DC, and southern Maryland would reveal columns of smoke forever reaching into the sky-- the endlessly burning heaps of countless gun victims, most of them having been shot through the crotch for the simple reason that they had the misfortune to sport hairy oysters.
Is this right? Is this the safe, secure society promised us by Emperor Palpatine?
In an ideal world, no one would be shooting at my balls. In the meantime, Korean plastic surgery may offer a temporary solution to my woes. By armoring my scrotum, I can rest assured that DC-Metro snipers, try as they might, will never separate me from what the Québecois refer to as "my kids." And I'll stop dreading my trips back to the land of the free and the home of brave.
Easter is a time of new life. How apropos, then, that my French friend Dominique should become a proud dad (for the fourth time over) on April 14-- a truly Good Friday. Here are some pics of the happy family and their new addition, Timothé.
First, Tiny Tim and kids, with Mom barely visible:
Next, one with Mom (Véronique) more visible in the picture:
Finally, Domi and Tim:
Two boys and two girls... we've got TEAMS! Let the battle of the sexes begin!
Saturday, April 15, 2006
First, a shout-out to Soen Joon sunim, the hottest monk I know, not least because she quotes John Hick at length.
Next, a shout-out to one of the best classes I have: my Tues/Thurs 7:50am intro-level reading students. We're slogging through Aesop's fables, and the students have been great so far. We're now halfway through the 12-week semester, and attendance (except for this past Thursday) has been fantastic. Here's eight out of the nine:
It's a wonder that they've been so faithful, especially when I compare them to my MWF 7:50am class, which dwindled quickly from twelve people to three-- and it's not always the same three people! That class is the only one to show such high attrition, and I've been racking my brains as to why. Maybe it's my in-class farting.
Also of note: a student in another of my great classes (Level 1, MWF, 1pm) gave me a cute little Easter egg. It was in its own origami basket. Koreans obviously don't use the Japanese term when talking about origami; instead, they say jong-i jeop-gi, which literally means "paper-folding."
The above pic is rather lame; I had to magnify the egg a bit to give you a better idea of what it (and the basket) looked like. The egg is gone now; I've already eaten it. Ha ha!
May your Easter be a time of mindfulness and renewal. For me, it'll be a time of thankfulness that my dad is still around to see another spring. And summer. And fall. And so on. For a long, long time, I hope.
Joshua at The Korea Liberator has a great post up titled "Meet Your New Censors," which deals with the recent Comedy Central decision-- hard on the heels of their previous cave-in to Scientology-- to remove a depiction of Muhammad that would have appeared in an episode of "South Park."
An Associated Press news article about the Comedy Central censorship is here. As Joshua and the AP article both note, one reason cited for the CC censorship was "public safety." I had to laugh: if anything, CC should run the episode and test whether American society-- especially its Muslim component-- is capable of handling the airing of such an episode without taking to the streets, or threatening Trey Parker and Matt Stone with death, or performing some related bit of God-inspired idiocy. I'm confident that America can take the punch with more maturity and sanguinity than certain other societies. If anything, Muslims in America are probably more cautious than their brethren in places like Europe.
Joshua gets to the heart of the "public safety" issue when he writes:
And let me express some appreciation to Comedy Central for being willing to tell the truth: this is about the fear of violence, not the fear of giving offense. What this means is that our society presumes that Muslims, unlike other human beings, are not responsible for their own actions. Add gasoline to fire, add offensive images to Muslims. It matters not. There is a presumption of moral incapacity, and a presumption of governmental incapacity to maintain order.
That's it in a nutshell. "Presumption of incapacity" is what a nanny state is all about. We'll make your moral decisions for you!
Parker and Stone could (should?) bugger out of Comedy Central and head to a cable network that would appreciate them. It would damage CC in the same way that Howard Stern's move to satellite radio has hurt free radio. I bet CC would rethink its stance pretty quickly if the creators of "South Park" decided to strike camp. CC is, of course, entitled to manage its own affairs however it wants, but the "South Park" creators are also free to go wherever they want. Should Parker and Stone decide to leave, well, that would be a win-win situation for everybody!
One of CC's most touching moments came just after 9/11, when comedian Jon Stewart offered an uncharacteristically emotional account of how the collapse of the World Trade Center's twin towers altered the view out his window. What could he see now that he couldn't see before? "The Statue of Liberty," Stewart said. As Comedy Central tiptoes closer to the noose being prepared for it by its "new censors," I wonder if Stewart will remember himself and remember that moment in his career, the moment he spoke out for liberty. I recall being touched by his commentary, and all in all, I find Stewart a funny and decent guy-- not the liberal stooge some conservatives make him out to be. But he's currently abetting a growing global problem.
In somewhat related news, I've added a Retarded Animal Babies (RAB) link to my sidebar (along with three blogs, though I haven't created sidebar images for them yet). Look in the "What Keeps the Ass Crack Grinning?" section of the sidebar. My favorite RAB quote comes from Episode 14, where it's fifty years later, the babies are all grown up, and most of them (except Donkey) have somehow lost their retardation and gone on to achieve great things. In that episode, Rabbit-- who has become a pompous Hollywood star now sporting an outrageous British accent-- talks about another of their number, Puppy. Puppy's desire to "fuck the world" has turned him into an evil genius who lives off-planet and plots the earth's destruction. Rabbit's line about Puppy (you need to hear it to get the full impact) is:
He rules a planet made entirely of BOOBS, constantly engorged in an extended, five-dimensionally infinite orgasm!
The line is delivered with such relish that I laugh even though I've heard it about ten times already. If we were "one nation under Shari'a," Retarded Animal Babies would be forbidden fruit... along with the kind of entertainment normally provided by the likes of Comedy Central and Jon Stewart.
Friday, April 14, 2006
Alan Watts, well-known Zennist and LSD-lover (according to one biography, he even did acid while staying at some Japanese temples-- I'm not sure how well-received such behavior was by the local monks), wrote a great little essay that appears in an old collection, The Gospel According to Zen. The essay is called "Wash Out Your Mouth," and I was happy to see that someone has placed the piece in its entirety online.
I've reprinted the essay below. Don't commit the genetic fallacy against Watts: the man himself wasn't a shining example of Zen-style living, but his words are still sound dharma.
WASH OUT YOUR MOUTH
Christian piety makes a strange image of the object of its devotion, "Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." The bearded moralist with the stern, kind, and vaguely hurt look in the eyes. The man with the lantern, knocking at the heart's door. "Come along now, boys! Enough of this horsing around! It's time you and I had a very serious talk." Christ Jesus our Lord. Jeez-us. Jeez-you. The Zen Buddhists say, "Wash out your mouth every time you say "Buddha!" The new life for Christianity begins just as soon as someone can get up in church and say, "Wash out your mouth every time you say 'Jesus!'"
For we are spiritually paralyzed by the fetish of Jesus. Even to atheists he is the supremely good man, the exemplar and moral authority with whom no one may disagree. Whatever our opinions, we must perforce wrangle the words of Jesus to agree with them. Poor Jesus! If he had known how great an authority was to be projected upon him, he would never have said a word. His literary image in the Gospels has, through centuries of homage, become far more of an idol than anything graven in wood or stone, so that today the most genuinely reverent act of worship is to destroy that image. In his own words, "It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away, the Paraclete [the Holy Spirit] cannot come unto you." Or, as the angel said to the disciples who came looking for the body of Jesus in the tomb, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen and has gone before you...." But Christian piety does not let him go away, and continues to seek the living Christ in the dead letter of the historical record. As he said to the Jews, "You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life."
The Crucifixion gives eternal life because it is the giving up of God as an object to be possessed, known, and held to for one's own safety: "For he that would save his soul shall lose it." To cling to Jesus is therefore to worship a Christ uncrucified, an idol instead of the living God.
Today is Holy Saturday. According to tradition, our sins are being expurgated as Jesus burns in hell for our sake. The Lord is off the cross and buried, out of sight. But is the idea of "Lord" out of mind, as it should be?
Not every one that saith unto Me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father who is in Heaven.
(Mt. 7:21, 21st cent. KJV)
Just live your life, and your life will be sermon enough. Leave piety-- especially public piety-- for the self-righteous.
UPDATE: Last year's meditation is here.
A small rant-- a mere ranticle.
The words are enmity (EN-mity) and remuneration (re-MU-neration), folks. Not emnity and renumeration.
I know what you're thinking: you think EM-nity makes sense because it roughly matches the spelling of words like con-DEM-nation. You also think that it's re-NUM-eration because the "numer" somehow reminds you of "number," which you associate with money. (You might also be thinking of "numismatics," i.e., coin collection and study.)
Trust me: I thought that way myself about those two words. But I was wrong, and I purged myself of that particular bit of ignorance years ago. In cruising some online articles this evening, though, I saw my old bugbears, alive and well, roaming on other people's blogs.
If you happen to see "emnity" and "renumeration" anywhere near you during your online safari, grab a high-power rifle, shoot 'em dead, skin 'em, and restock the veldt with "enmity" and "remuneration."
That is all.
I suppose it was bound to happen. A few days ago, for test design purposes, I made a command decision and restructured my mixer exercise (for background, refer to this previous meditation on the mixer quiz): a student now signs her paper, gives it to her partner, and then keeps that partner for the duration of the activity.
The bad news: what I have is no longer a mixer.
The good news: a much-improved format for testing that eliminates many of the cheating- and confusion-related problems inherent in previous mixers.
The original mixer format is still viable for class activities, but for tests, I'll be sticking to the one-partner concept. I made two other changes as well:
1. Only one partner at a time has a test sheet. This makes it very clear to the students that the speaker must speak and not write anything. When both partners have mixer papers in front of them, both partners also have pens and pencils. Instead of talking, many partners quietly reach across to their test papers and scribble a correction, or even an entire answer.
2. Mixer tests are distributed in two versions: A and B. Yes, it means more work for me when it's time to create tests, but I think it's worth it because it keeps nearby students from eavesdropping.
Again, these changes to the mixer are purely for tests-- not for regular mixer activities, where the ambience is more relaxed and a bit of chaos is actually desirable.
What I absolutely want to avoid is the sort of exam where an English conversation student spends half a semester speaking in class, and then is suddenly confronted with a written exam. My mixer exam has a writing component, to be sure, but the person doing the writing is not the student being tested: it's the student's partner, whose sole function is to take dictation. If the partner makes a mistake in writing down an utterance, it's up to the speaker to tell her partner what correction needs to be made. The speaker can't reach for a pen or an eraser to make the correction in silence.
While the format still isn't perfect (what format is?), today proved that I've hit upon a reliable testing method. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I teach four Level 1 classes. The classes are of different sizes and collective temperaments, which meant, earlier today, that the newly redesigned test would face four different environments. Result: the new test worked like a charm in all four classes. Student questions about how to take the test were few to nonexistent, and now that I've graded the test papers, I'm seeing student results that dovetail fairly well with my own impression of each student's proficiency. (I had a suspicion that, with previous versions of the mixer test, grades may have been somewhat inflated.) This time around, we saw something like a bell curve: a lot more Bs and C, only a few As, and one or two Ds. No Fs, fortunately.
The test also takes less time now. A true mixer involves quite a bit of Brownian motion as students buzz around the classroom seeking partner after partner. By chaining each test-taker to a single partner, we cut down on motion, streamline the process, and introduce a lot more focus to the activity.
An additional benefit of all these changes is that I can finally address one of the most egregious flaws of the mixer format: namely, the absence of a listening component on the test. An English conversation class will inevitably cover all four macroskills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing, but a disproportionate priority will, as is only proper, be placed on the first two skills. My previous mixer exams allowed a student to speak, but because the speaker's partner was silent, and because the speaker's utterance was prompted by something written on a sheet of paper, there was no true listening involved.
I now have 10-15 extra minutes in a given testing hour, so I'm free to whip out the pre-fab audio test components that accompany our textbook. They're specifically designed for quizzing and testing. The listening comprehension section of my new test involves a dialogue (on audio CD) followed by multiple choice questions. While I normally avoid multiple choice like the plague, I think it's fine for listening comp on the test: not so different from what students normally encounter when taking TOEIC and TOEFL tests.
I might improve upon the listening section in successive versions of my increasingly streamlined exam (perhaps students will hear a question and write a short rejoinder, for instance), but for now, multiple choice listening comp is better than no listening comp at all.
In all, not a bad day for testing.
I'll be posting later on about improvements I made to my mixer exam, which ran quite smoothly today (and is, arguably, no longer a true "mixer"). Am currently grading papers, but I ran across one gem. A student wrote, in response to the question, "What is your favorite main course?":
My favorite main course is a lip.
She meant "ribs."
Another student professed her love of "robster."
Good Friday is not a bad time to be eating robster in the name of our Rord.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
It's the fan film George Lucas will never want to see: a hilarious retelling of "Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" can be found here. The production is Polish, if I'm not mistaken, and full of pop culture references that Americans and Brits will recognize right away, including a running gag based on an infamous Monty Python skit, and a very queeny C-3PO. No lightsabers, but plenty of laughs, and lots of dead "Jedi kids."
I played two of my standard "trust" exercises with my Tues/Thurs 9am conversation class today. They'd just been through about 70 minutes of review for their midterm exam next Tuesday, and in the remaining 20 minutes I wanted to do something relaxing.
The second exercise, which I'll talk about first, was a fairly simple Total Physical Response-style activity: we built an obstacle course out of chairs; a student would close her eyes and be guided verbally through the obstacle course by another student, who would have to issue commands like, "Take one step forward," or "Step sideways, to your right," or "Turn left!"*
When it was my turn to go through the course, I loudly declared to the students, who had had a difficult time of making it through the obstacle course, "Now you get your revenge!" We added a few more chairs to make the course more complex, and then I was at the students' mercy. Quite fun.
The first exercise, also based on trust but not really about conversation, produced some surprising results. I don't know the formal name for this exercise, but it involves people standing in a circle, with one person in the center of the circle. The person in the middle hugs herself, closes her eyes, and relaxes-- feet planted, ankles loose-- allowing herself to fall like a felled tree in any direction. The people encircling her have to be standing close, and when the "tree" falls toward anyone in the circle, that person gently pushes the tree away, in another direction. The tree, if fully relaxed, can end up being passed around the inner edge of the circle, or bouncing back and forth among the circle members like a weird sort of tetherball. The exercise continues for about thirty seconds, then another person goes into the center and the previous tree now joins the circle.
People in the circle have to be alert to the tree's approach. Their hands have to be ready, and when they push the tree away, they can't do it with too much force, or they'll cause the tree to topple. The exercise is conducted in relative silence, and when done right, can be extremely relaxing for the person in the center.
Today, most of us were tentative, and a few of us toppled, stumbling out of the circle (no one hit the floor). What surprised me was that the most introverted girl in the class proved to be the most trusting participant, abandoning herself totally to the gentle pressure of various hands on her shoulders, arms, and upper back. She never once stiffened, never once made a sound. She simply went with the motion, a blissful reed in a warm and welcome wind.
I never would have suspected that this girl would be so trusting, but there she was, eyes closed, a huge smile on her face. I was impressed. And I was obviously wrong about her.
(By the way, this is the same group of students to whom I insisted that vinegar was bitter, not sour. Must be my week for getting things wrong, eh?)
*As you might guess, this TPR exercise can be modified all sorts of ways to teach very practical verbs. You can make a game of it as one student guides another blindfolded student to a tabletop laden with various objects for her to lift, hand (to someone), fold, roll up, unroll, throw, put on X, slide under Y, put inside Z, etc. Phrasal verbs like "reach over," "pull out," etc., can be practiced this way, and the exercise provides invaluable preposition practice (in, out, under, through, to the right of, next to, etc.).
Although I haven't tried it yet, I think you could do blindfolded TPR exercises where students have to, say, put something together (to make a collage, for example, or to assemble a specific style of Lego house).
I wouldn't advise giving blindfolded students the goal of cooking something, though. Don't bring "realia" like frying pans, spatulas, and gas burners to class unless you're into burnt hair and shrieking.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Perhaps I should retire from language teaching. What appeared to be a minor disagreement with my students turned into an all-out war for the universe itself, and I lost.
The question that sparked the war: If, in teaching the difference between the words sour and bitter, you create a two-column chart with "sour" as one heading and "bitter" as the other, where would you place the following items:
taste of lemon
taste of vinegar
taste of unsweetened chocolate
taste of hanyak (often harsh-tasting Chinese medicine)
taste of unsweetened cinnamon
taste of unsweetened grapefruit
Me, I would place lemon and grapefruit under the "sour" category, and everything else would go under "bitter." How about you?
My Level 1 students saw me draw my chart and place the above items in each category, but they looked at each other when I wrote vinegar under "bitter."
"We say vinegar is sour," one student from my Thursday morning class timidly offered.
"NO!" I boomed. "Vinegar is bitter!"
Ultimately regretting my outburst, I decided to research the matter at home. It seems I'm wrong-- or at most, only partially right.
Looking up sour and bitter in the online dictionaries proved useless. The definitions in most online resources are unhelpful. The fact that sour and bitter substances produce roughly the same facial reaction is also an unhelpful guide to distinguishing the two tastes.
But according to the online Webster's, vinegar is defined thus:
a sour liquid obtained by fermentation of dilute alcoholic liquids and used as a condiment or preservative
Most shitticularly shittical, that.
Not about to give up that easily, I took a leaf from Charles's book, brought the matter to GoogleFight, and got the following results:
"sour vinegar" = 11,300 results
"bitter vinegar" = 378 results
For those of you who don't know, placing your search string in quotation marks forces Google to search for exactly that search string, and not for permutations and combinations. With a mere 378 results to back me up, I am forced to concede defeat: even in the anglophone world, vinegar is generally considered sour. And now, like a grumbling, hissing Gollum, I must return to my nasssty little studentses, head hung low, and confess that I was... disastrously wrong.
Speaking of "fuck," people have been linking to Masamania's hilarious photoblog of a Japanese "dick festival." Try to hold down your lunch when you see the older white dude wearing a Japanese loincloth the wrong way, such that a pair of somethings is visible. Masa's commentary about the whole thing is hilarious.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Chris writes re: my dad--
I am a long-time reader of your blog.
I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of those wishing your father well. I am an older guy and had the same thing happen to me here in the Land of the Not Quite Right. Since I am writing this I guess everything turned out ok. During the whole horrible event one thing happened that I seem unable to forget...
My wife and the doctor were talking next to my bedside while I was flying on the morphine they gave me and I heard him say, “You’d better prepare for a funeral.” (I guess the doctor thought my white skin precluded me from being able to understand Korean.) Then a few minutes later he opens my closed eyelid and shines a bright white light in my eye!!! First, I hear I am going to die and then the next thing I see is a bright white light. Scared the shit outta me! I thought Holy shit, this is it! Then he took the light away and I saw a very ugly woman (who I later realized was a nurse) standing over me. I remember thinking, Shit! Satan is an ajumma! I knew it! I just fucking knew it!
After I came to my senses, and was assured by the pain in my chest that I wasn’t dead – yet, I was wheeled into the OR and had the same procedure as your father. One thing your dad has going for him is a Korean wife. I'll tell you what, if you want to stay on a diet and have to take care of yourself, there is nothing better than having a Korean drill sergeant - uhhh I mean wife, making sure you stick to the program. I know it helped me get religion about my health real fast.
Anyways, another reason I wrote is that while looking at your latest post I noticed that Hyeon-jeong was next to you in 10 of the photos. It made me go hmmmmmm. Is there something you’re not telling your faithful readers? Hmmmmmm.
Best of luck to you and your family. I hope your dad gets back on his feet in record time. Keep the updates coming. I really enjoy reading about your adventures/misadventures.
I already replied to Chris directly about the student, but since others have written in wondering aloud about the same thing: she's a student, and an undergrad at that. There is nothing between us. Besides, she has a boyfriend.
Around 11am today, I called home. That would be about 10pm the previous day in DC. Dad's now back from the hospital, though he'll have to return there for rehab. He's forbidden from lifting anything over 10 pounds for the next week or so. He's under a few other restrictions, too.
Dad sounded strong on the phone, even cheerful. We have high hopes that he'll make a speedy recovery. One thing Dad mentioned was that, psychologically, it's initially hard for a heart attack victim to take seriously that he's just been through a real, bona fide heart attack. I understand: I'm still unable to believe it. We'll have to deal with the crushing realization later, I suppose, when it truly hits us.
This will be the last DadWatch post: I doubt Dad would like for his every move to be displayed on the blog. Therapy-- not to mention dignity-- flourishes when there's a modicum of privacy.
Again, many thanks to all the personal friends and e-friends who've sent us their concerns and well-wishes. Our family appreciates your thoughts, your kindness, your prayers, and all the other good vibes you've sent our way.
Last night's trip into a bakery (no pastries-- I swear upon my tarantula's grave) was punctuated by a visit from a youngish, possibly homeless guy. He was wearing some sort of overlarge windbreaker; he had a black beard (a modest Korean-style one, not the kind you'd find on Grizzly Adams) and a wide, dark blue headband. I thought he was a local artist at first, since many male Korean artists distinguish themselves from regular guys by growing beards.
He wasn't an artist. He was a crazy dude. I had apparently walked in on some sort of passive-aggressive confrontation between the bakery's female nighttime manager and Crazy Dude. The latter began hawking up some phlegm, and just as he was about to launch it, the manager yelled at him. Crazy Dude immediately whipped out a well-used handkerchief and gallantly said, "Don't worry-- this will be very clean," or something to that effect. Then he loudly expectorated into the cloth and pocketed his handkerchief.
Crazy Dude then noticed me standing there and, over the manager's commands of "Nagaseyo" (please leave), he addressed me in startlingly good English. At that point, I decided I'd pretend only to speak and understand French.
I can't remember exactly what he said, but I think it went something like, "Please don't mind that lady behind the counter. She has some sort of mental complex. It has nothing to do with me." He also said he was the son of some high official-- again, I can't remember who. For all I know, he could have been referring to someone from the Koryo Dynasty.
I kept my eyes resolutely forward, toward the harassed-looking manager, who was ringing up my purchase. Crazy Dude, tiring of his game, left. I left soon after, and didn't see Crazy Dude anywhere outside. Strange.
You see a lot of unhinged people in Seoul. I imagine the same would be true in a large American city like New York. I'm from the DC area, and we have a substantial homeless problem. A lot of those folks are plain nuts, and in need of help. This dude I saw last night, though... there was something wily about him. I have to wonder how nutso he really was. I got a strange feeling that he was playing for laughs as much as anything else. All we needed was a camera crew from a reality TV series.
More crazies! We need more crazies!
Monday, April 10, 2006
According to Star Trek legend, you can tell what time of year it was when a given episode of the 1960s-era "Star Trek" TV series was filmed. How? The key is to watch William Shatner's gut. There were times when the captain of the Enterprise wore a girdle to keep himself from spilling out all over Sulu and Chekov. A slim Shatner meant warm weather. A puffier Shatner meant colder weather. Thin... puffed. Thin... puffed. Thin... puffed. And so it went, right up to the 1970s. A more reliable harbinger of seasonal change, there never has been.
What you see above is Kevin in April 2005 versus April 2006. I'm doing my patented double-chin-hiding technique in the first picture (and failing), but it's still obvious that my face was substantially thinner last year. Plus: I had a neck. Or at least a neck-like connection between my torso and my head.
Over the course of time, as our satellite photo reveals, the neckoid has been absorbed in a facial tectonic shift as my double chin makes its move in the battle to dominate my face. And it appears to be succeeding. Note, too, that I've sprouted a dog in the interim. Doctors have informed me that dogs are a normal side effect of weight gain, and they go away once you start dieting and exercising.
In April 2007, we can expect a total takeover-- a face showing nothing but chin. Here, for your edification, is an artist's rendition of what that takeover will look like:
When that day comes... bolt on your titanium jock straps.
Although no one's accused me of this (probably because I periodically repeat my refrain about not being either liberal or conservative), I sometimes feel I don't have enough liberal-leaning Koreablogs on my sidebar. I've got plenty of left-leaning bloggers in general slapped up on the gallery, but most of the Koreabloggers listed there skew decidedly rightward, which is, perhaps, a fair reflection of where the American wing of the expat Koreablogosphere leans.
In the liberal spirit of affirmative action, then, I plan to include a blog already noticed and registered by most Koreabloggers: Michael Hurt's leftie Scribblings of the Metropolitician. The blog is well-written, intelligent, and thorough-- reminiscent of Charles's Liminality, not so much in terms of style and tone, but in terms of underlying conscientiousness-- something often missing in the quickly tossed-out posts written by so many bloggers (including yours truly), and therefore a valued commodity among writers who care about the craft of writing as much as they care about the mere act of communicating information.
I'm also eager to blogroll Michael because he shares with me (and Charles, and others on my blogroll) a love of interdisciplinary approaches to questions, and he handles his topics much more systematically, not to mention more gracefully, than I do. Two fantastic examples of what I mean are currently visible on Michael's blog:
1. Why Korea Needs Star Trek, which explores basic differences between Korean and American culture through the lens of each culture's appreciation (or lack thereof) of Star Trek, and
2. The Gates of the Minjok, a post hailed by several bloggers as a "must-read" piece, which it is, not least because Michael gets to put on his historian's cap and show he's actually learned a thing or two.
It's not as though Michael needs any hits from my blog; if the guy writes this well and is also being invited to "virtual parties" for Lap-POP events, then he's probably rakin' in the numbers. I'm blogrolling him, as always, for my own selfish reasons.
I should note that I don't necessarily agree with all that PoMo jargon Michael uses (or, more precisely, the jargon doesn't agree with me). I used to use those terms, too, after I'd taken a scriptural hermeneutics course. Didn't realize how much I'd been brainwashed. But the PoMo jargon's presence isn't enough to distract me from the fact that Michael runs a good, solid blog.
[Note to Michael: once you're more than a few years away from academe, you'll suddenly snap out of it and start using normal English again. Terms like alterity and totalizing metanarrative and différance* and all that other Derridean, Lacanian, Baudrillardian, Foucaultian, blame-the-West bullshit to come out of the academic Left's sphincter-- those terms will all fade into the recesses of distant memory.]
So: coming soon-- a sidebar image for Scribblings of the Metropolitician, a sturdy alloy of blogological style and substance.
Little did I know that the formerly mysterious author of Sound of a Dog Eating Grass was none other than Todd Thacker of OhMyNews International (OMNI), the very same gent who interviewed me back when the MIC censorship was going on (see that article here).
Todd's an extremely busy man. His blog, of necessity, gets the short end of the stick because, well, Todd's journalism is what pays the bills.
He is, however, looking for encouragement to continue blogging. If you've read Todd's articles in OMNI, you know he's a fine writer. You may also be aware that Todd's an editor at OMNI. With writing, editing, deadlines, and travel, Todd probably needs a good verbal ass-kicking to pick up the blogging pace. That, after all, is the Korean way: Show no sympathy for the overworked. Instead, make them work even harder.
Jerjerrod: The Emperor is coming here?
Vader: That is correct, Commander. And he is most displeased with your apparent lack of progress.
Jerjerrod: We shall double our efforts!
Vader: I hope so, Commander, for your sake. The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.
So go visit Todd's blog. Read his latest post about home being where the heart is. Leave a comment. Command him to continue posting. Threaten to shove a splintery broomstick up his ass if he slacks off with the blogging. Todd's a calm, seemingly laid-back guy, so he needs to be confronted with something dire, like the prospect of a bloody asshole, if we're to get him moving.
Todd's blog will also be on the sidebar soon.
*Deliberately spelled with "-ance" at the end and not "-ence" to make a semantic point, which I won't get into here, but which I think I've blogged about elsewhere.