Not five minutes ago, as I was about to clear out my email trash folder, I saw a spam mail from "Jesus" with the subject line, "What are you up to" (no punctuation). I don't open spam emails, but Gmail allows you to see the first few words of the email text.
Penis enlargement ad.
I'm not sure what to think about Our Lord and Savior approaching me through email and saying, "Ask and ye shall receive." Was this email an invitation to send back a petitionary prayer on behalf of my penis? How exactly should I phrase such a prayer?
O Holy Jesus H. Christ, Lord of Hosts, God of Abraham and Isaac and John C. Holmes, Thou who didst lead Thy people from Egyptian bondage into S&M bondage, I humbly pray for Thy blessing. While I am thankful for the gift Thou hast already given me, I beseech Thee: grant me a dick the size of a baseball bat. Surely such a gesture is well within Thy power, O Lord-- surely the effort is less taxing than Thy Parting of the Red Sea. I wish merely to perform a version of Thy miracle, O Lord: the Parting of the Red Buttocks. I ask Thee merely for a rod, a staff, to comfort me, a scepter to guide me through the ladies' Valley of the Shadow of Yeast. Grant me this wish, O Lord, and I promise that all women will grind in Thy Name.
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Not five minutes ago, as I was about to clear out my email trash folder, I saw a spam mail from "Jesus" with the subject line, "What are you up to" (no punctuation). I don't open spam emails, but Gmail allows you to see the first few words of the email text.
Skippy writes a post that includes a magnificent YouTube video of Kermit the Frog singing what Skippy terms "the Johnny Cash arrangement of Trent Reznor's 'Hurt'." If that doesn't pique your interest, I don't know what might.
The video had me rolling. "Rainbow Disconnection" indeed.
[Warning: this is no sentimentalized Kermit the Frog, so if you want your sweet memories of Kermit on Sesame Street to remain unsullied, do not click the above link.]
Jason alerts me to a site called Television Without Pity, and points me to a very well-written (and very long) review of the season finale of "Battlestar Galactica." As always: geeks only. But fans of hipster prose will enjoy the review for its snap, its gleeful jumble of ancient and modern cultural references, and its nimble wit. The review reminds me that a lot of English majors are (or want to be) amateur psychologists and comparative religionists-- people who weave celestial archetypes and terrestrial tropes rather self-consciously into their examination of human nature. Or, at least, human nature as it appears in prose and on screen.
Although Jason had mentioned that the reviewer's name was Jacob, I somehow missed this. As I read the review, which Jason had quoted in the email, I began to assume the writer was female. Partway through the review, it became obvious the writer was male, which was a "whafuck?" moment for me. I need to run the review's prose through a gender analyzer.
I like the review's take on the best moment of that episode:
This whole season has been just one question: when we preserve humanity, what are we preserving? When they take away everything that makes you, when your entire self is taken apart in the unfolding, when the angel shows you the door and begs you to walk through, you have only one choice. It shines bright as five stars, and burns twice as hot: "My name is Saul Tigh. I am an officer in the Colonial Fleet. Whatever else I am, whatever else it means, that's the man I want to be. And if I die today, that's the man I'll be."
My only complaint about the review (does snark on snark constitute metasnark?) is that, in his haste to get it written, the writer is sometimes unclear about which character said what. On occasion the oversight is outright misleading-- not tragic if you've seen the episode more than once and can mentally reassign quotes to the proper people, but potentially irksome for folks who either missed the episode or saw it only once. That's a very minor complaint, though, and to focus on it would be unjust to the rest of the review, which is artfully engaging.
Go check it out!
UPDATE: The Gender Genie had no trouble seeing this was written by a man. The score:
Female Score: 13596
Male Score: 17190
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!
The Genie scored it fairly close, though. My most recent long entry on BSG scored this way:
Female Score: 1774
Male Score: 2660
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!
Friday, March 30, 2007
I was under quota for two classes today. YES: the slippage has already started! So it looks as though I'll be dining on water and vitamin pills today. Ha ha!
A few posts ago, one dude wrote a hilarious comment about what effect this Gandhi Diet is going to have on me and my blogging. I need to find that comment and post it for all to see.
My French student J-P, who attends my Level 1 conversation class, decided to buy a copy of my book after I brought a couple copies into class to show off. The purchase was a surprise, and I have to wonder whether J-P will actually be able to read the book, but hey-- I'm W21,000 richer. Heh.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Yesterday afternoon, I sat down with my supervisor and our department head and signed four copies of my contract for the coming year. I've been at Smoo for two years now, and the job remains as enjoyable as it was when I first got here. Sure-- there have been rough patches, but overall, this existence is a far cry from the typical hagwon grind. It's by no means the best-paid university job in Seoul, but I like my bosses, my coworkers, and my students. I also like our campus, and the fact that I live smack-dab in the middle of downtown, where almost everything is within easy reach of a bus, subway, or taxi ride. Here's hoping that this third contract year, which begins for me near the end of April, will be a case of "third times's a charm." It's been a good ride so far; may it get even better.
This conversation, from earlier today, was in Korean; I was speaking with a colleague who teaches Korean to foreigners.
SHE: Are you heading out?
ME: Yeah, soon. Maybe I'll go to Namsan.
SHE: Wow, really?
ME: Yeah-- from, uh, about November to last month, I hadn't exercised, so I'd gotten fatter.
SHE: Oh? I hadn't noticed.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
"Battlestar Galactica" ended its rather low-rated third season with the return of Starbuck, whom we had thought dead, and with the revelation that at least four of the "Final Five" Cylons have been on board Galactica for some time now. The four: wannabe union leader Chief Tyrol, harried-but-sensual Tory Foster (aide to President Roslin), Pyramid player and guerrilla Samuel Anders, and perhaps most shocking of all, Admiral Adama's best friend and former executive officer-- Colonel Saul Tigh.
In the final few minutes of the episode, Starbuck appears in a Viper, flying alongside a shocked Apollo after she has buzzed him at the fringes of the Ionian Nebula. She turns serenely toward Apollo and tells him that everything's going to be all right: she has been to Earth, and she's going to guide everyone there. One wonders whether this vision of Starbuck isn't some spacefarer's version of the mad hallucinations known to our own terrestrial sailors.
I don't want to take up space recapping the episode, so I'll direct your attention to the Wikipedia summary, here (the summary is for Parts 1 and 2; you'll need to scroll down to read about Part 2). Instead, I'd like to plunge right into some of the questions I have about what events will mean for the rest of the series. The questions are:
1. What is Starbuck's ontological status? Is she the presumably human Starbuck we thought we knew? Is she a Cylon (cf. Leoben's "become what you are")? Is she merely a Cylon-style "projection" of Apollo's fevered brain? Series guru Ronald D. Moore has said that Katee Sackhoff did, in fact, sign on for a fourth season, so she'll probably have some role to play. But this leads to another problem, namely:
2. Moore has proven capable of lying on his podcast (and possibly in interviews) in order to mislead his viewers and keep them guessing. I don't blame him for doing what he could to minimize the leakage of spoilers; it was a major coup to be able to convince loyal fans (with help from the cast, of course) that Starbuck was definitely gone. If Moore can lie about something as major as Starbuck's fate, what reason do we have to trust anything he says from now on?
3. The article I linked to before says we're nearing the final act of the series. According to Moore, there are one or two more acts to go; the final act will involve the finding of Earth. Allow me once again to draw your attention to the question I had asked earlier with regard to what the finding of Earth will mean. What will the Earth be like? What era in Earth's history will the fleet encounter? Will this be an Earth of the far future, or of the present, or of the past? Will humans find it, or will this be a joint finding by humans and Cylons?
4. The four putative Cylons-- Foster, Anders, Tyrol, and Tigh (let's call them FATT)-- were all summoned by the same music, which turned out to be Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" (Jimi Hendrix's cover is more famous than the Dylan original). As the episode reached its climax, the members of FATT actually began singing parts of the lyrics. An immediate snarky question is whether Bob Dylan (and/or Jimi Hendrix) is a Cylon siren-- Pied Piper as frakking toaster. I see all sorts of corny possibilities with this, but I somehow doubt that either Mr. Dylan or Mr. Hendrix will actually figure in subsequent episodes. No: for me, the crucial question-- and it's one I've asked before-- is why the hell everyone in the fleet speaks modern North American or UK English. By having the characters recite Dylan lyrics (including a funky locution like "I can't get no relief"), we establish that these characters are not speaking a totally different language that has been rendered into English for purposes of dramatic narrative. No: the characters are speaking actual English. Does this mean that, when the characters reach Earth, they'll feel right at home?
5. What's up with visions and telepathy? The series started off in a way I enjoyed: the question of religious reality was left quite vague. Now, however, it seems that visions and prophecies can actually be trusted because they are in some sense real, not only for Cylons but also for humans. President Roslin ends up having some sort of vision that involves two known Cylons (Athena and Six), Baltar, the half-Cylon baby Hera, and the Final Five (who appear as luminous silhouettes). The two Cylons acknowledge having had the same vision along with Roslin. What's that all about? Mary McDonnell, who plays the president, has expressed her hope that her character will not be a Cylon, but I wonder whether this telepathic ability (you'll recall that Roslin and Athena wake up screaming at the same moment) implies something about her nature. Or maybe she gained certain Cylon abilities after having received some of Hera's half-Cylon blood...?
6. Ron Moore says that the return of Roslin's cancer is appropriate as it signals a new phase in her life and brings us back to the original prophetic template, in which she was depicted as a "dying leader," a sort of Moses figure who might not make it to enjoy the Promised Land. I wonder what this might mean for the budding romance between her and gruff Admiral Adama. I admit I've been rooting for this romance; these are two strong figures who seem to be an almost divine male/female pairing-- shakta and shakti, Logos and Sophia-- each representing complementary qualities which, together, keep the fleet from self-destructing. When their chemistry is off, the fleet suffers. If Moore is to be trusted, it seems this romance is doomed. I wonder if a larger, tragic story arc is being sketched out, or if Roslin's eventual death(?) will sound a bittersweet note in an otherwise happy ending for our ragtag fugitive fleet.
I admit I'm bothered by the emphasis on modern English, not to mention the series-long insistence that the fleet is, primarily, a cross-section of contemporary American culture, right down to the military slang. It worries me because I wonder what that first contact with Earthlings will be like.
I'm even more disturbed by Moore's and his writers' perpetual leash-yanking. We, the viewers, are constantly left to guess whether what we've seen is (1) real, and/or (2) somehow significant. I understand that Moore wants to keep us hooked by leaving us forever in suspense, but I think the balancing act is beginning to fail. Why?
A major concern for me is that Colonel Tigh is, apparently, a Cylon. Up to now, it has been implied that Cylons are indistinguishable from humans at the cellular level, but that differences become apparent at the molecular level. It has never been implied that Cylons age; they come into the world as fully-formed adults. Tigh, you'll recall, used to have hair. Now, however, it would appear that, if Tigh is a Cylon, Cylons are capable of being drunk, weak around manipulative women, and suicidal. They can also go bald.
It has also been implied that Cylons have been unable to reproduce, except in one special case: Boomer/Athena with Karl Agathon (Helo). But Chief Tyrol, who we now know (or think we know) is a Cylon, had a baby with his wife Cally; the implication, post-revelation, is that their baby is a half-Cylon. Assuming Cally is human.
Because the series has been so relentless, especially lately, about making the ambiguity of identity a crucial theme in almost every episode, I find myself tiring. The list of unresolved questions grows.
"Am I a Cylon?"
"Is that a real person, or a projection?"
"Was that a true vision of the future, or a drug-induced hallucination?"
"Is this thing between my legs a penis or a vagina?"
The questions pile on; the answers seem no closer to us, and I'm beginning to wonder whether I'll even like the series by the time it ends. One scary thing: at this point, I don't even care what the origin of the Final Five Cylons is-- including the question of why Tigh, who has been serving in the fleet for decades, is a fully-formed humanoid Cylon whereas, forty years ago during the first Cylon War, the attacking Cylons were nothing more than the "toaster"-style Centurions. My lack of interest in this question doesn't bode well for my appreciation of the fourth season.
So that's about where I stand. While I was riveted by the finale, I was also frustrated by how the show has become one long tease with no real payoff. Here's hoping the fourth season of BSG is indeed the final season, and that most or all of the crucial answers will be delivered to us by the end.
Here's a parting thought: what if it turns out that everyone is a Cylon, and that Earth has been Cylon for millennia? That would be a fantastic punchline: There were never any humans in this series.
And all praise to Annika's commenters in this post for bringing up a combination I never thought about: Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson. Both are articulate; both are media-savvy. They complement each other, too: the genteel, deliberate Thompson can counteract Giuliani's occasional(?) pugnacity.
But I'm saying this without knowing the first thing about Thompson's voting record. I'd better check on that before I say anything more. I'm looking for centrists, after all; if Thompson turns out to be a right-wing looney (I doubt it; he's had a long career in both politics and Hollywood, and doesn't seem to have a looney's reputation), I won't support him. Commenters in Annika's thread also note that it's unclear how serious Thompson is about running, and whether he'd accept the second-fiddle position on the ticket. That latter issue is bothersome because of what it may imply about his ego and ambitiousness. Again, I need to check into this myself. Perhaps this suspicion about Thompson is more rumor than substance.
But Annika's commenters also seem to think that Barack Obama has already had his day. I seriously doubt that. Obama has proved to be a moving orator and despite some inevitable mistakes (what politician can claim to have run a mistake-free campaign?), he appears to be a very quick study in how to play the game.
Politicians are often grilled by their enemies for perceived inconsistencies. We are all prone to them, but because politicians have chosen to live such public lives, their inconsistencies seem somehow worse. As I get older, I find my cynicism weakening on occasion, because I realize these folks, dirty bastards though they be, are only human. Obama will likely weather the coming storm, unless he's been hiding something truly dark, such as a predilection for the blood of newborns.
I'm going to write more extensively on the final episode of the season ("Crossroads, Part 2") later, but for now, here's a link to an interview with Ronald D. Moore in which he talks about the season-ender and where "Battlestar Galactica" is heading next.
In the Koreablogosphere, Stafford gets full honors for scooping us regarding Starbuck, who is apparently alive (meaning that Ron Moore is using his podcasts to mislead his audience). Looks as though my original intuition was correct. I shouldn't have second-guessed myself.
Ah, yes: Stafford offers a great link to this very, very geeky unofficial podcast that discusses the final episode. Only for true BSG geeks.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
I told my students-- as gently and humorously as I could-- about the Gandhi Diet both yesterday and today. I have no idea how disquieted they are by this diet. I suspect they won't care much until Week 7 or 8, when the inevitable absences will begin to take their toll on my Jabba-like figure. Because the classes vary in size, I have had to establish different thresholds for each class. For example, in a class of five people, a single absence is all right, but if only three people show up, then the threshold has been passed and I will have to starve that day. In a class of eight people, I will allow two absences, and so on. Will this keep the students coming to class? Will it cause me to look like a stick? Stay tuned!
POST SCRIPTUM: Yesterday was the official beginning of Gandhiness. Both yesterday and today, students showed up in sufficient numbers to keep me eating.
Stronger than a flock of ninjas!
Cleverer than a herd of priests!
Scarier than a buttock stampede!
Cooler than breasts with two nipples each!
What are we talking about, kids?
We're talking about Charles's CALZONES!!
Welcome to your radiant foodblogging wonderful is life delectation!
Monday, March 26, 2007
If you'd rather not bat around questions of violence and its justification, Brian at Markandeya has an equally pressing ethical dilemma at the end of this post (no, I'm not joking: I take the situation he describes seriously, because it's going to impact more than a couple people). Brian's asking, "What would you have done?", so this is your chance to offer your unique take.
Oh, the Namsan math question. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with displacement. Like the mountain can only hold so much human flesh, so your going up triggers a release of flesh from the summit.
I just went over to CafePress on one of my frequent trips to read about the hows and whys of marketing. I took a look at the "Top Searches" column on one page and noticed that the top two searches are for "Barack Obama" and "Rudy Giuliani."
Just thought you should know.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
I've just created a 150 by 200-pixel ad for my book. It's small enough to tuck into most sidebars. If you're willing to stick an ad on your blog (and believe me, I understand if you'd rather not sully your patch of cyberspace with adverts), I appreciate the help. Please feel free to copy this ad and place it on your site. I'll be making more ads soon (including my first-ever attempt at a true animated cartoon), so if this one doesn't float your boat (I can already hear fans of Bush grumbling*), perhaps another ad will.
Thanks in advance for your help. Marketing sucks, but I have to do it.
REMINDER: Please be sure, when displaying my ad, that you add a link so that people can click the ad image and go directly to my CafePress site.
*In my defense, though, I'll note that few GOPers ever considered Bush an intellectual powerhouse.
While searching for goofy images to convert into a smallish sidebar ad for my book (something you, Dear Reader, might consider sticking on your blog if you feel so inclined), I stumbled upon a page by Vladimir Tikhonov, whose interests seem, in some ways, to parallel my own. In terms of religious studies, I mean-- not scatology. I'll be slapping a text link to his site on my sidebar.
Also of interest is this essay I found. It's by a self-described Mexican Catholic attending the University of Alberta. The essay relates his experience at a four-day Buddhist prayer retreat on Cheju Island.
Another discovery along the way: Bob the Angry Flower explains "its" versus "it's." Thank God someone tackled this.
Somebody found my blog after doing a Google search on the string "garlic makes your tits hairy."
But if you want to see a hilarious list of Google searches, check out Justin's list over at Cosmic Buddha. (With thanks to Google Analytics.)
Curtis writes in from "Somewhere in Arizona" to say:
Skully arrived today and I unpackaged it waiting for time to read. I like the format as I can tell I can sample it like I do the fridge in the late hours. Delving in for a taste as the mood fits. I can tell this by quickly paging through it.
As it sits on the table before me the cover is curling up to the binding in some strange phallic gesture. It sits at full staff. Is there some allegorical meaning to this that I don't understand? In what chapter is the secret hidden?
Somewhere in Arizona
Curtis also sent along this picture:
Skull on the Water?
My own copies of Water from a Skull behave much the same way, though the covers seem to have settled down after a week or so. Look here:
As you can see, the Korean cover (on the right) behaves perfectly, whereas the CafePress book's cover seems a bit... unruly.
From what I've seen on the CafePress message boards, there have been some complaints about the behavior of CP book covers. I wish there were something I could do. I realize Curtis is just funnin', but if you, Dear Reader, would rather own a copy of Water from a Skull whose cover behaves better, PayPal me $27.95 (that's $21.95 plus $6 for international shipping) and I'll mail you a Korean-made copy. As you see in the above pic, the Korean copy behaves itself.
I've got a list of ten blogs I'm planning to blogroll, but I need to ask a question before I slap the blogs up:
Stafford, why the hell do you want to be blogrolled so badly?
For those of you who don't know, Stafford has been needling me in his blog posts, and I can't for the life of me figure out why. My blog simply doesn't get much traffic, so it's not as though my blogrolling of someone is going to boost their numbers in any significant way.
At one point, Stafford wrote this:
You'd think with all the references I make to Kevin's fine prose he would make me a cool picture for his sidebar...hint hint.
And then he wrote this:
On to other things. Do you think Kevin will give me a link in his sidebar if I plug his book?
I've never heard of a blogger who actually wanted to be blogrolled by me. It's a bit like wanting George W. Bush's autograph at this point in his presidency.
Stafford has been a good counselor over the past year or so, frequently popping in by email to offer computer advice and the like. He has also, as he says, been linking to my blog rather frequently.
So I relent. J'abandonne. I can put it off no longer. Stafford-- in a few days' time, you'll have your wish. A sidebar icon featuring your blog, The Chosun Bimbo, will be brought up from the depths of hell and placed on my sidebar. You HAPPY? YOU HAPPY, YOU FOCKIN' KIWI WANKA'?? (Of course, with the Kiwi accent, "wanker" sounds like "weng-kah" to me! Haw haw!)
The other nine blogs are:
Thoughts of a Goat: This one, a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away-- to the future, to the horizon! Never his mind on where-- he-- was! Hm? What-- he-- was doing! The Goat says he and his missus will be leaving for Canada around the end of 2008, so at some point I'll have to shift his icon to another part of the sidebar. In the meantime, take a look at his shit story. "Shart," indeed.
EFL Geek: I know, I know-- fuckin' FINALLY. This blog is definitely the go-to site for EFL/ESL information. Given how much of the Korean expat population is here teaching in some capacity or other, I highly recommend that you visit this site and pick up some tricks.
ROK Drop: Run by GI Korea, this is one of the most impressive Korea-milblogs out there. GI Korea is also one of the most tenacious when it comes to certain issues, such as the No Gun Ri "massacre."
Hunjang-ûi Karûch'im: Antti Leppänen-- a stinkin' Finn!-- runs a very scholarly/personal blog I've been meaning to blogroll for, oh, several years now. Antti is a guy, in case you're wondering. (Sorry, dude; the name's not that common in the States, as you know. I keep wanting to call you Auntie Leppänen.) Antti is fluent in Korean and is a doctoral student in cultural anthropology in Helsinki. Thank God he blogs in English and not Finnish.
The Iceberg: A blog by someone on the run from the law. Currently managing a basketball betting pool. He also killed several kittens the other day. He likes chewing on their fresh pituitary glands.
Pretentious Musings: Quite possibly the only movie review site I'll ever need, ever again. Kevin Koehler is known in the Koreablogosphere as the brother of Robert Koehler, a.k.a. The Marmot. I bet Kevin gets a kick out of people referring to his big bro as The Marmot. I can imagine the ribbing: "Hung like a marmot, eh? Show me yer hole!" Kevin reviews old and new movies. While there's a nasty whiff of grad-school postmodernism coming off his text, his reviews are nevertheless well written, insightful, and downright enjoyable.
Conscious Entities: The illustrious Malcolm Pollack is the gent who clued me in to this blog. CE is devoted to issues in the philosophy of mind, which has become a major interest of mine over the past two years. Yes: Conscience and Titties.
Blog d'Elisson: Well written and lively, Elisson's blog (burn in hell, Jew bastard! when the end comes, Jesus is gonna eat EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU HEATHENS!) describes itself as "Another Monumental Exercise in Self-Aggrandizement and Time-Wastage." That's pretty much what blogging is. I tend to reduce it all to narcissism, but "self-aggrandizement and time-wastage" covers all the bases. Elisson is, as I once noted, an example of those "six degrees of separation," an expression of the ways in which apparently unconnected people are connected. Elisson knows (or he "e-knows") both Rory and Skippy.
Addofio: A tough lady with a tender, thoughtful, eloquently written blog. Obnoxious commenter lately (har har), but that's not going to stop me from blogrolling her. I was especially fond of a recent post she'd written about teaching being an act of faith. Yes-- that it is.
The sidebar icons won't be ready this weekend, even though I had hoped to do them by Sunday evening. But they'll be going up over the next week or so, so keep watching my sidebar for new pics in the art gallery.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
My friend Tom emailed me a link to this article, which talks about Wal-Mart's exploitation of workers in the Philippines... but also notes a sinister Korean connection:
For the first time, the Philippines figures in the growing list of Wal-Mart’s social responsibility critics.
Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, does not have an outlet in the Philippines but has several suppliers based all over the country. One of them is Chong Won Fashion, Inc. (lately renamed C. Woo), a Korean-owned garments company which makes ladies shirts in its factory at the Cavite Export Processing Zone. Chong Won’s workers have formed a union that has accused officials of the Korean firm of harassing their employees.
Why does it always-- and I mean always-- seem that, when I'm walking uphill on Namsan, I encounter fewer people going downhill when I'm near the foot of the mountain than when I'm near its summit? Generally speaking, that's how it works: as I start up the mountain proper, there's almost no one. But as I get near the top, I encounter more and more people on their way down my path.
If this were a simple matter of dispersion and concentration, I wouldn't be bothered by this problem. If, say, Namsan were a perfect cone shape with no distinct paths, then it's obvious that, as you approach the top of the cone, you'll encounter a higher concentration of people. But Namsan isn't a perfect cone, and the number of paths up the mountain is finite. As soon as you step off the summit, you're on a particular path.
This phenomenon seems to occur no matter what time of day I hit the mountain-- whether it's 6am or 9pm or 2am, the result is always the same: there's almost no one when I'm at the bottom, but there is a significant number of people going downhill (usually in groups) when I'm near the top. Why do I never encounter these "downhillers" near the bottom?
My theory, based on a complete ignorance of mathematical principles, is that, no matter what time I go to Namsan, everyone else has gotten there before me and has decided to come down only as I approach the mountaintop.
While my students have actually been pretty good about attending class these past two weeks, I'm bothered by the somewhat unstable attendance in my second class of the day on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. So in the interest of furthering my weight loss ambitions (Namsan proceeds apace and I'm on the brink of ramping up the pain), I'll be proposing my Gandhi Diet to the class: if the number of absences in any given class exceeds a certain threshold number, then on that day, I won't eat.
I've decided this will be a proposal, not a threat, which is how I had originally planned to present the idea.* The proposal approach works better for two reasons. First, the students really haven't been that bad yet, so it makes little sense to threaten them. Second, by couching this diet as a proposal, the students know that they are under no real pressure to help me out, unless they actually have a conscience about the matter. In my experience, most young, well-to-do Seoul girls nearing the end of adolescence aren't that altruistic, so I imagine I'll be losing a good bit of weight over the remaining ten weeks of this term.
I'm also joining the campus gym on Monday along with my buddy (and now coworker) Tom, and will be eating healthier food, too. I've been cutting back on food over the past couple weeks, but I can't say I've swung over to Atkins Diet no-carb insanity, which is probably what I need to do if the idea is to lose a lot of weight in a short time.
The students get the news on Monday and Tuesday. Wish me luck.
*I'm not as nefarious as all that; the threat would have been presented in my usual cheerful, joking manner.
Friday, March 23, 2007
With potion and lance at the ready, the intrepid knight did ride into battle against the foul, noisome Dragon of the White Cave. The fell beast proved, alas, surprisingly easy to vanquish: a single jab of the lance and one phial of potion were the monster's undoing, and the dragon found itself sucked, roaring and whirling, into the watery abyss. Thus it was that the knight cursed his ill fortune and returned, victorious but untested, to his lands.
No honor was to be gained this day.
I'm about to leave the office. When I do, I'm going to pick up a few items. Among them: a toilet plunger and some Drano (or the local equivalent). My toilet backed up this morning, and given how solid my own crap was before I flushed, I am positive that the cloudy feces I saw in the toilet after that first horrible flush... was not my own.
There may be a problem in the building. I've been shitting into that toilet for two years with no problem; the toilet has faithfully-- even eagerly-- gulped everything I've launched at it. Last night, however, I noticed that our concierge's ground-floor toilet had experienced a backup. Not having put two and two together, I went up to my room, took a pre-sleep dump, and thought no more of the matter. Whatever blockage had occurred last night must have worsened by morning, though, because when I flushed after my morning crap (yes-- a crap before and a crap after sleeping: two craps to bracket the sleeping period like fetid parentheses), I saw something I hadn't seen in years: a rise in water level accompanied by the dark presentiment that something ancient and terrible was about to occur. I heard the old, familiar sound of a toilet gargling instead of swallowing, and just knew: Cthulu approaches.
As with most men who witness toilet blockages, I was riveted by the spectacle of my own (and possibly someone else's) shit rising inexorably toward the toilet bowl's edge. I don't remember this clearly, but I suspect my eyes had widened in tandem with the upwelling of that dark, evil water. Luckily, it didn't spill over the edge, though I did tempt fate by flushing a second time.
Pride dictates that I must solve this problem myself. Allowing the concierge and another repairman into my dorm to behold a shit-filled bowl would be shameful enough to merit seppuku.
I am off, then, to do battle with a porcelain dragon. But first-- my lance and a phial of potion!
UN chief Ban Ki Moon was giving a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq when a rocket struck nearby, leaving him rattled but still able to take one more question from a journalist before wisely calling it a day. Ban's visit was unannounced, and he was in the fortified Green Zone.
See here; link via Drugged.
Starting sometime last week, my traffic began to swell like a kicked scrotum, and I had no idea why. Most of the hits, according to SiteMeter, were from people who found my blog after doing Google Image searches-- almost always for the same three or four images. For several days, my unique visits were over 500, then for three days in a row, they topped the 600 mark. Things are calming down now; my results for Thursday were a more reasonable 425 or so. I expect things to revert to the old average of around 350 by early next week.
I have a theory as to the sudden rush: my images stored in the Cox.net FTP space came back online, and people who had been frustrated at being unable to access those coveted pics for the past several months were finally able to satisfy their image jones. They went on a feeding frenzy for about a week, and now they're bloated. I have no idea whether this theory holds water, but the timing makes me suspect a correlation between the FTP problem and my site traffic.
So unless I am mistaken, the sharks are replete. For the moment.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Forget about politics for a moment and simply read these words, just as they are, without any special context. Elizabeth Edwards said:
[P]eople who knew we had lost a son said, 'You are so strong,' and when I had breast cancer people would say, 'You are so strong,' and I thought, 'They don't know that there's a trick to being strong, and the trick is that nobody does it alone. I wanted, from the perspective of someone going through it, not [to] tell them what to do, but [to] show them what great support I got.
Nice to be reminded of our interconnections.
Some students accosted me in the hallway after my second morning class today. They said, "Teacher! We saw you on TV yesterday!"
I didn't bother to watch myself, knowing, as I did, that I had done a terrible job on camera. The video is probably still available on the KBS website somewhere. I hope it disappears soon.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
I dithered after work and watched Zack Snyder's "300," an adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name, on my computer. It struck me as a confused production, overall. The music incorporated elements from heavy metal (those were the weakest moments in the soundtrack) as well as some heavy-handed orchestral themes vaguely reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith and Howard Shore, with over-the-top of chorals in case you didn't get the message.
The beefcake factor (the actors in this film trained their hearts out for their roles) makes "300" into what is arguably a woman's movie. While guys will appreciate the carnage, I think I speak for most men when I say that we don't need to see the warriors nearly naked. Ladies: enjoy the abundant pecs and abs of the Spartans, but don't be surprised if heads suddenly part company with those bodies.
The decision to film the movie almost entirely on a soundstage backfired, in my opinion, because I found myself overly conscious of the fact that almost everything I was seeing was CGI. The use of high-contrast lighting along with computer-generated glow and haze were an obvious strategy designed to cover up the backlot. Instead of appearing Wachowski-smooth, the effects ended up looking almost "Highlander"-cheap. I will, however, say one thing in praise of CGI: it's now possible, almost trivial, to depict realistic stabbings and beheadings without having to rely on clothing to cover up squibs and other old-school tricks of the trade. It's quite gratifying, for example, to see a spear erupting out of some guy's chest.
The acting was actually the best part of the film. I found it corny but sincere; I wasn't expecting much (and neither should you), so I wasn't disappointed. Gerard Butler was quite convincing as King Leonidas (Jesus, those teeth!), as was Vincent Regan in the role of Captain Artemis. Regan had a minor role in the movie "Troy" as Achilles' second, and he was one of the standouts in that film as well. In "300," Regan's role is much larger, and would have been more poignant had it not been for the general goofiness of the entire film.
So the verdict is that "300" is decent, though not stellar, eye candy, with almost nothing left for the brain except the references to famous quotes from the legend of the Battle of Thermopylae*-- with Thermopylae rather pornographically translated as "Hot Gates" in the movie. This might be deliberate: it is, quite possibly, a reference to the porn star Hot Gates who, if I'm not mistaken, is mentioned in Frank Miller's graphic novel Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
"300": entertaining, but no "Sin City."
Check out my buddy the Air Marshal's hilarious review of "300" over at Naked Villainy.
*Examples: (1) "Molon labe," a taunt meaning "Come and take them," shouted in reference to the Spartans' weapons, which the Persians had demanded they submit. (2) "Then we will fight in the shade," spoken in response to the Persian threat that the Persian army's arrows would fly thick enough to obscure the sun. (3) The Epitaph of Simonides, which is recited in its entirety in the film by our one-eyed narrator Dilios, portrayed by David Wenham, whom many will recognize as Faramir from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy.
I downloaded the newest Google Earth and sure enough, Interlaken, Switzerland was done up in great relief, as was the rest of the country. I found my old "home" in Bourguillon, did a quick overflight of Fribourg proper, and sailed around the Alps a while. Quite cool.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Malcolm has very kindly plugged my book on Waka Waka Waka as well.
Talk about back cover blurb copy:
Kevin has a piercing and wide-ranging intellect, is a marvellous writer, and has a truly skanky sense of humor.
You have no idea how touching I found this, man.
I am, at this very moment, missing out on a presentation at Yonsei University. Here's the info I got from Sperwer last week:
Subject: [KS] The 67th Yonsei-KF Korean Studies Forum
The Korean Studies Program and the Institute for Modern Korean Studies at the Graduate School of International Studies, Yonsei University are pleased to invite you to attend the 67th Yonsei-KF Korean Studies Forum, which will be held on Tuesday, March 20th at 6:00 PM in Room 702 of New Millennium Hall at Yonsei University. The speaker is Professor Asanga Tilakaratne, Department of Philosophy, University of Hawaii. The title of his talk is "Multiple Ways of Studying Religion: Is there One Right Way?" Professor Tilakaratne's brief biography can be found at the end of this email.
The presentation will be followed by a dinner reception. I hope you will come to enjoy the presentation, discussion, and reception. Please contact XXXX at 01X-XXXX-XXXX, XXXX@XXX.XXX for further inquiries.
Professor of Korean Studies
Director, Institute for Modern Korean Studies
GSIS, Yonsei University
Professor Asanga Tilakaratne is a Senior Professor at the Departments of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Hawaii. He is also Senior Lecturer at the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies (University of Kelaniya), Colombo. Tilakaratne received his Ph.D in Comparative Philosophy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. His thesis explored Transcendence, Ineffability and Nirvana: An Analysis of the Relation between Religious Experience and Language According to Early Buddhism (1986-1992). He completed his Master's degree in Western Philosophy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Tilakaratne received his Bachelor's degree in Buddhist Philosophy and Pali at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.
Damn, damn, damn. Somehow I'd forgotten that this lecture was tonight. Piss fuck diddle penis in a bear trap.
A quick public thank-you to Nomad and Richardson for plugging my book. I appreciate the effort and the resultant spike in traffic. Welcome to all Lost Nomad and DPRK Studies readers! This quasi-Koreablog is not read by think tanks, journalists (barring a few outstanding exceptions), and politicians, but is avidly read by people who are interested in scatological nonsense and/or the occasional religiously themed essay.
Monday, March 19, 2007
How is this possible?
I've gotten several comments and emails about the disappearance of my ad, which is hosted on Photobucket. Earlier today, I had received an email from Dr. Hodges about a similar problem on his blog. I seriously doubt that I get enough blog traffic to justify a "bandwidth exceeded" warning, so I'm wondering what's up. In Dr. Hodges's case, the problem apparently cleared up on its own. Here's hoping the same thing happens for me.
UPDATE: Problem solved. Subscription renewal time had come along, and I hadn't clicked "automatic renewal." Bandwidth is back to being unmonitored.
Drudge has linked to an attack ad that remixes the old 1984 Macintosh ad made by Stanley Kubrick. You might remember that ad: it's done in 1984 fashion, with people sitting like submissive drones in front of a huge screen on which Big Brother is spouting his rhetoric... until a woman-- a riot of color among the gray drones-- runs in with a sledgehammer and destroys the screen with it in a glorious slo-mo sequence. Imagine the ad redone, with Hillary Clinton's image and words in place of those of Big Brother, and with a multicolored "O" (for "Obama") instead of Apple's Macintosh symbol. That's the attack ad in question.
Obama's cronies claim not to have had anything to do with this ad, which has already spread like wildfire (see an article about it here). If I were Obama, I'd be whacking off about now: if we assume he's telling the truth and he didn't have anything to do with the ad (and judging from what little I know of Obama, I'd wager he is telling the truth), then the ad does his dirty work for him, leaving him clear to proclaim his innocence. Meanwhile, if anyone tries to launch a similar ad, they'll simply come off as a shallow copycat. Well played!
The deeper implications of this are beyond me. I read, recently, a snide comment about how Democrats are experts at taking each other down. While there's some truth to that, the flip side is that the GOP is pretty expert at shooting itself in the foot, too. But I'm hesitant to make any pronouncements on what this all means.
Which is why, in these trying times, all eyes turn expectantly Skippyward for guidance.
I hope I didn't alienate people with my previous posts about the need for letters in front of and/or behind your name. Even if you've got no letters next to your name, a review on your website would be fan-damn-testicle and much appreciated. If I were to make a small ad that could be easily tucked into a sidebar, I'd appreciate your hanging that ad up as well. If you're anti-ad, I understand; no pressure. I have ads on my sidebar, but only for my products and those of a friend. I couldn't imagine hanging random ads up on my site.
My point is: yes, a review of my book by anyone, regardless of alphabet soupage or lack thereof, would be welcome. I would also appreciate it if you, the reviewer, provided me with a link to your review.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
I mentioned before that having letters behind your name would be very helpful should you decide to offer a testimonial about Water from a Skull. I should also note that letters in front of one's name would be equally welcome-- letters such as "Rev.," "Fr.," "Sr.," "Sri," and so on. In that same vein, a label like "-roshi" or "-sunim" would be as welcome as "MA" or "Ph.D."
I'm always happy that my blogroll features a fascinating mix of searing brainpower and nimble wit. Several shining examples of such witpower present themselves for your delectation on this fine, fine spring day.
If you haven't been following this Civil War exchange over at Naked Villainy, you should. What sparked the thread was the contention that the Civil War isn't really all that interesting a subject for study-- a claim made by my buddy Mike. Mike knew his claim would provoke some strong responses, and he managed to rope in no less a blogospheric deity than Steven Den Beste (formerly of the USS Clueless).
The thread in a nutshell:
Old Slow Trot: Mike's post that began the kerfuffle. The argument seems to be that the Civil War's outcome was a foregone conclusion, which makes most "what if" speculation superfluous.
Civil War Kerfluffle: Mike's first update. (NB: "Ker-fluff-le" turns out to be a legitimate spelling, but I'd never seen it before. I normally see "ker-fuff-le.")
The South Couldn't Have Won: Mike's full-length explanation for why he thinks the Civil War's outcome was a foregone conclusion.
Once More Unto the Breach: Smallholder's erudite followup to Mike's post.
If Union Victory was Inevitable, Why Did It Take So Long?: Smallholder's detailed followup post.
Question for the Smallholder: a post by the Air Marshal regarding parallels between the Civil War and the Japanese mentality in World War II.
Japan: Smallholder's response.
Civil War Reprise: Smallholder takes on blogosphere giant Steven Den Beste, who had responded to Mike's long argument.
Go over to Liminality and read Poetry in Negotiation, an essay about a venerable East Asian negotiation tactic: the submission of poetry to make a point. Charles offers a characteristically erudite take on a recent incident in which Korean FTA negotiators submitted a poem to the American side. The Koreans were apparently trying to express their frustration with the turn the negotiations had taken. Charles notes:
But this is not child’s play we’re talking about here, and they [the Korean negotiators] had to know that eventually the American negotiators would find out the true meaning of the poem and the historical background behind it. Though they probably didn’t know at the time, I’d bet that they know now. Whether they care or not is another story entirely, of course.
Check out Malcolm's blog for "Causing Problems," the beginnings of an exploration in the arena of philosophy of mind. Malcolm's post commences the exploration by taking us right to the question of mental causation. As Malcolm says:
So, if the mind is made of a substance that is not of the physical world, an obvious question arises: how does the mind do anything? How does it get the body to move, and how do the physical changes in the body get through to the mind? In short, how do they interact? This is the same problem that young children often point out when they watch Casper the Friendly Ghost on television: if Casper can fly through walls, how can he catch a ball?
I could use my readers' help with what comes next with this book: marketing.
Yes, the book needs to be marketed and to be honest, I hate marketing. There's being a ho, and there's being a ho, understand? Marketing means selling yourself, promoting yourself, spreading the word about yourself. Me, me, me to you, you, you. It's one thing to maintain a blog and attract a readership through the simple act of writing. (Writing, after all, is one form of communication, and except for the recluse's jealously guarded diary, it implies an audience.) It's another thing to take this to the next level and actively bother people about what you've written.
But that's what comes next.
What I need to do-- and fast-- is start to spread the word to various circles: university ListServes, church/temples email lists, blogs, and sundry societies devoted to questions of philosophy and religious studies.
So from my readers, at least early on, I'm humbly asking two things: (1) a brief or lengthy review of my book,* and (2) some help in spreading the word to people you know who might be interested in books like mine. If you've got a neighbor or fellow church member who might be interested in a book like Water from a Skull, please tell them about your purchase.
Thank you in advance for your help. And a BIG thank-you to the readers who have already-- already!-- visited my online store and bought copies of the book. As I said long ago, I have no illusions that the book will make me rich, but I do hope to sell a couple hundred copies within a year. Your assistance is crucial in achieving that goal.
Eventually, I will develop and install less intrusive ads on this blog, but for the moment, I'm going to let the big, obnoxious banner ad hang there.
*If your review is going to be mostly negative, then it's obviously unlikely that I will want or need it. You are, of course, free to review the book however you want, and I admit I'll be curious about the critiques I receive (motivation to make a Second Edition later on!), but what I'm looking for are reviews that help market the book-- quotes I can place on the book's back cover, for example. Because marketing power stems in part from the credibility of promoters, having a string of letters behind your name of the "MA, Ph.D, CEO" type will be an enormous help.
That reminds me-- if you are of the academic persuasion, I might need you to write a foreword or afterword for the Second Edition (not likely to appear for at least a year or two). Gracias.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Even the heavens celebrate:
At long last, my book Water from a Skull is on sale at my online store. Click on the above picture to go there and buy yourself a copy!
It's too late for me to do it tonight, but I'll soon be installing a button alongside the banner to remind people of the book for sale.
I apologize for the many, many delays and appreciate your patience. I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.
(Before I forget: Happy Saint Pat's!)
Friday, March 16, 2007
The second CafePress book I ordered has arrived. Funny how the mail works. I almost feel as if there's no need to open the envelope this time, given what I now know.
By the way, it's quite possible that the book will be officially ready this evening. Yes: sometime before midnight. No promises, but there's very little for me to do at this point except minor tweaks and quick uploads.
The announcement, however, might take some time to craft, as I'm looking to find and integrate pictures of fireworks and women having orgasms. Isn't that how you would advertise the arrival of a book on religion? Stay tuned.
Not a bad first week, especially when compared to last summer and fall. Classes have been good overall, though I've already got one or two students skipping out (including a goofy one who used to skip a lot several semesters ago; she hasn't changed, and she's still Level 1 because she has never completed one of our courses), as well as two students who have not even shown up for class yet. The latter students will remain on my roll for the next two weeks; experience has taught me that some students will register, then not bother to show up until Week 3.
My last class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays is by far the most pleasant class to teach; I'm glad that this group, which meets at 1:10pm, is so cheerful and naturally engaged. Sometimes it takes a real effort to motivate a group when the collective psyche is dull.
One girl in my CNN English class looks to be troublesome. My prediction is that she will weed herself out of the class, perhaps within the next two weeks. We're following a curriculum by YBM Sisa, and the first topic we hit yesterday was "artistic robots," based on a 2006 CNN broadcast about robots that play guitar, visually render sounds by drawing them on paper, react to human facial expressions, and so on. I overheard this girl whining about how she didn't want to talk about this topic. I said nothing to her this time around, because she also confessed to her partner that she was feeling depressed about some job hunting-related problem or other. But the next time she whines, I'll have to give her my "don't be lazy in my class" spiel. Bellyaching about the discussion topic is pretty childish.
Aside from her (and truth be told, she wasn't a big problem), I have no real complaints. We'll see how the semester unfolds.
I'm told that, starting next week or the week after, we might have new classes added to our schedule because more students-- the stragglers-- have registered. We're all teaching far below the minimum number of weekly contact hours: 13 instead of 18. If we're unable to teach the minimum number of hours, we will be given extra duties and assignments. This isn't always a bad thing, but it can be annoying sometimes.
Oh, yeah-- today, while sitting by myself at lunch and minding my own business, I was accosted by a small crew from KBS. They were there to film a segment for a weekly broadcast; the theme for the 21st (when this particular broadcast is to air) is "rice." I had ordered two menu items; when the crew accosted me, they gave me two more plates of food to eat, as well as a can of Pepsi.
"We need a shot of you eating," they said. So I chowed down a bit. "We need you to answer some questions about Korean food and this restaurant," they said. I insisted on conducting the entire interview in English, so if you catch this show, you won't hear me speaking any Korean (as I did a couple years ago, when KBS caught me at a Buddhism conference in Anyang), though you might be able to hear the interviewer posing his questions in Korean. I gave the thumbs-up sign way too many times, so unless they edit me down to size, I'm going to look corny as hell.
Then came the final request: "We need you to say, 'Korean rice is the best!' into the camera." They made the request in Korean. Feeling somewhat contrary, I said in English, "Korean rice is excellent!" That's the honest truth as far as I'm concerned; Korean rice is excellent. But I wasn't about to contribute to a propaganda campaign that makes Korean rice out to be "the best."
I had to do this twice: once as a dry run, and once while eating. I felt like a whore when the segment was done and the camera crew had abandoned me to my meal. They never once asked me my name, so I shall be one of a long line of Random Awkward Foreigners to appear on TV. If you want to have a good laugh, check out KBS 2 TV on March 21st at noon, a show called "Gamseong Magazine." The episode is titled "Haengbok-han O-hu" (Happy Afternoon). Then write me about how much I suck.
Funny thing is: I'm not camera shy. What took me aback is that I was eating alone and was suddenly shanghaied by these people, including the restaurant's owner, who was dressed up more snazzily than usual. I'm happy to make faces for the camera (later on, my coworkers told me I should have retched and heaved), but I also require a minute or two of prep time to put on my game face. Oh, well.
And now: lesson plans and finalizing my book. Not to mention a Namsan hike tonight.
The third book I had ordered from CafePress has beaten the second book here, and I've got great news: it works!
You'll recall that I had ordered the third book after having created a PDF on my own, using a method completely different from the one recommended by CafePress to create my document.
Listen up, Mac users--
Let's assume you've got Adobe Acrobat (full suite, not just the Reader), and are planning to self-publish through CafePress. If you need to whittle your document down to the correct page dimensions for proper printout, use the "crop" feature in Acrobat after you've created your PDF. I'll go into this a bit later, but know this: it works like a charm. You avoid the messiness of having to follow the convoluted instructions on the CafePress site,* and you get an almost-WYSIWYG result every time. I say almost-WYSIWYG because you need to assume your printed text will be about an eighth of an inch higher than it should be on the page. I don't know why this happens, but that's the result I've seen in both the first and third copies of my book. I'm pretty sure the second copy, when it arrives, will have the same problem. All one need do is adjust top and bottom margins in one's word processing document before generating the PDF.
What's next: tweak the cover design one final time, then tweak the text (thanks, Charles), then re-generate the PDF and cover images, then upload the whole mess, and voilà-- the book will be ready. Expect that to happen this weekend. No, seriously. This weekend.
Believe me, I'm as exasperated as you are. "You" meaning "you dozen people who read this blog semi-regularly, and not the other 400 or so people who hit the blog after Googling 'dick bouquet' and 'hairy pussy' and the various unsavory cartoons I've drawn." (Like this one.)
*Go here, scroll down to "Create Custom Sizes," and start reading. The procedure is way too complex, and was written for Windows users. Just know that all you need to do is (1) generate your PDF, (2) crop it to the correct page dimensions using the "crop" function, and (3) make sure the document is formatted for PDF version 1.5, not 1.6. That's it. No kidding.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
My French "brother" Xavier wrote me, wondering what dates I'd be in France in June. It was with no small amount of guilt that I wrote him back, cc'ing my other "brother" Dominique and my "Papa," to say that I would be postponing the trip until my next vacation, in December. The June trip to the States will involve a side trip to Texas; the cost of these plane tickets will make it too expensive for me to think about doing Texas-Virginia-France in a single month.
I really didn't want to write that email, because I've already postponed the France trip by a year. While I'm able to save up far more money this year than ever before, I'm not saving up scads.
My friend Max talks about the glass prison. I'm not sure I could deal with such working conditions without going crazy, mainly because I'm a slave to my bowels.
Max's post also provides an interesting angle on the question of how crowded Japan is.
As a male teacher at a women's university, I have to be careful how I conduct myself around my students, but now and again I'll commit some faux pas and then fervently hope that it either wasn't caught or wasn't taken the wrong way.
This past Tuesday, the first day of my CNN English class, I was talking with my students about an article I had found over at The Marmot's Hole regarding one Jason Lee, a Korean-American who shot two men who had tried to rob his Philadelphia diner at gunpoint. One man was wounded; the other was killed, and the first few commenters to the article were mainly saying, "Bravo!"
So I started telling my students about how, in America, many shops, banks, and convenience stores possess a silent alarm, usually positioned under a countertop for easy access. You reach under the countertop and trigger the alarm with your fingers to summon the police. I'm sure something like this exists in Korea, though I've never checked. (Or does it exist?)
I was standing while talking to my students about the silent alarm. While in that standing position, I pantomimed leaning slightly over, reaching under an imaginary counter, and repeatedly tweaking that silent alarm button with the middle and ring fingers of my right hand.
It was only as class was ending that I realized what my actions must have looked like to a roomful of women.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Camille Paglia on Newt Gingrich (from Salon, to which I refuse to link because of their silly subscription policy):
In other political news, when Newt Gingrich announced last week that he had had an adulterous affair during the 1998 investigations of Bill Clinton, I burst out laughing -- not simply at Gingrich's hypocrisy, about which I was never in doubt, but at the comic mental picture of Gingrich in erotic extremis. I have never understood conservatives' enduring affection for Gingrich, which is constantly expressed by callers to radio shows.
Aside from his command of the Republican recapture of the House of Representatives in 1994, it is difficult to identify Gingrich's substantive achievements. While he poses as a futurist, he has an unfocused mind that mistakes erratic connections for insight. I literally cannot stand the pattering of that thin, raspy, uninflected, adolescent voice. Why anyone would imagine Gingrich has presidential possibilities is beyond me.
Newtophiles, get a damn clue. He's-- not-- presidential-- material.
"Namsan during your lunch break? The hell you say!"
It's true. Just back. Still taking the easiest route up the mountain, but probably ramping up the pain starting late next week, when I'll be adding one set of stairs back into the routine. Eventually-- perhaps sometime in April-- I'll be back to all three sets of stairs.
I hate hiking when there are lots of people about. It's bad enough being stared at for being a foreigner; it's worse when you happen to be a large and sweaty foreigner.
Oh, yeah-- Jelly says she's alive and making White Day ricotta.
That's right: in case you forgot, today is White Day-- the flip-side of Valentine's Day. Today is when the men fuck the brains out of the women, or something like that. It's apparently an ancient tradition.
I listened to Ronald D. Moore's podcast for the episode "Maelstrom," and yes-- Jason and Stafford have it right: Starbuck is dead. Moore mentions that the conversation with Katee Sackhoff, the actress who plays Starbuck, was "difficult." Normally, in a series, a main character is killed off if the actor playing that character is (a) planning to move on to other projects, or (b) being fired, but in this case, it appears that Moore and his team of writers felt that Starbuck's death made a certain dramatic sense, fitting into the narrative logic of the series.
I'm sad to see Starbuck go, not so much because I'm a fan of the character, but because I think Sackhoff is a talented, expressive actress, and it's a shame to lose her. According to Moore, the cast, which was glum when they received the news of what was in store for Starbuck, seemed pretty much to feel the same way. Edward James Olmos, who plays Admiral Adama on the series, said the show would never be the same. There are, apparently, legions of Starbuck fans who agree.
RIP, Starbuck! May your fans proceed without undue harm through the stages of grief. In the meantime, my respect to the show's writers for making some tough dramatic decisions and for keeping all the main actors on their toes-- BSG is not the series to offer you job security! Have a Plan B, because you never know when your ass might be killed off.
CafePress responded very quickly by saying they have processed a refund for the first order, and that there is no need to send the book back.
While I'm still steamed, I admit I've had no real trouble with CP's customer service. We went back and forth on the PDF upload issue, but part of that was unavoidable, I think, because most of CP's customers are using Windows machines, and my problems were Mac OS-related.
I've also had no real complaints about CP's other products, some of which I've ordered. My own CP account's "order history" shows that, so far, no one aside from me has asked for a refund for any of the products they've bought from my shop. My point is that I truly hope this monstrous gaffe was a rare-- no, make that unique-- occurrence.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Charles posts a followup to his wedding anniversary essay.
My buddy Mike's blog has undergone surgery and has come out as a WordPress blog. It seems to be under construction still, but I imagine the kinks will all be worked out shortly.
Malcolm Pollack has the dubious honor of having been kicked off Dr. Vallicella's blog. I joked that I should make an "I Got Ejected from Vallicella's Place!" tee shirt. Send Malcolm your condolences or congratulations.
Annika correctly notes that Newt Gingrich is a lost cause as a GOP candidate for president.
I haven't been home yet, so I don't know whether the second and/or third copies of my book have arrived from CafePress, but I've begun the return/refund process for the first copy I'd ordered. It still disgusts and amuses me, even a day later. I've sent CP the official online form to make them aware of my complaints and my desire for a refund; they are supposed to send me instructions on how, exactly, to send the book back.
CP's website says they do not refund the cost of shipping the item back. One final kick in the balls, eh?
I've eaten Vietnamese pho in the States on several occasions, but never in Korea, until today. While the meal, eaten in the Hongdae neighborhood, was a wee bit pricier than back home, the taste was fairly familiar, though substantially Koreanized in some respects. I should have brought along my camera, but I had no idea we'd be ending up in a pho resto for lunch.
A tragedy in pictures.
I went back and checked the 305-page PDF that CafePress had done for me, and which I had uploaded to the CP site. The PDF is fine; no foreign manuscript adulterates its pages. This means that the foul-up probably occurred when the book was being physically assembled, not when it was being printed. Having seen this process in action at my local CopyZone, I can see how a bit of inattention might lead an unthinking worker to stack manuscripts incorrectly. The CopyZone folks have been very precise in their handling of my manuscript, but I see that the back of their work space is filled with reams and reams of as-yet-unbound manuscripts.
As you might imagine, this snafu greatly diminishes my estimation of CafePress. Up to now, I've been happy with how they handle products like mugs and mousepads and tee shirts, but when the very first book I order shows up with nearly half the text missing and replaced by a foreign text, I'm not left in a good mood. This isn't as selfish as it might sound, either: I'm worried that, because the mistake occurred during book assembly, it might occur for my customers as well. Anyone who buys my product needs to know they're getting what they pay for, return policies notwithstanding. When my printer makes a mistake, I end up looking bad and potential readers end up wasting time and money.
Perhaps I will keep this book and follow the advice in the intrusive half-manuscript about how to create, market, and sell my products. But right now, I'm wondering whether it might not be better for me simply to sell directly from the printer here.
Two more books are coming from CafePress. The second book ought to have slightly better-aligned cover graphics. The third book will sport the same cover as the second book, but will contain the final (and, we hope, error-free) draft of the manuscript. As I mentioned before, the third book is also from a different PDF file-- this is a file I created on my own and uploaded directly to my CafePress site after much struggle. I'm very curious as to whether that third book printed out properly. I'm crossing my fingers in the hopes that the next two books' interiors will contain nothing but my 305-page text. We'll see.
Meanwhile, many thanks to the mystery author of that CP marketing manuscript for the, uh, free consultation.
Monday, March 12, 2007
After almost two weeks, the first copy of my book (first of three, that is; you'll recall that I tweaked the manuscript and graphics, thereby necessitating two more orders to check whether everything is fine) has arrived from CafePress. The news isn't good.
More on this momentarily. I need to upload photos of the tragedy.
We're back to classes here at Smoo, the term having started a bit later for our department than for others. It's good to get back into a routine. Classes seem fine overall; the second class of the day strikes me as a bit sleepy and undermotivated, but it's hard to judge such matters on the first day alone.
Today was purely Level 1 conversation classes. Tomorrow, I'll be teaching an intro-level reading class, along with this so-called "CNN English," a listening/reading curriculum developed by a major publisher on the peninsula. The curriculum uses material from CNN broadcasts and articles to develop students' listening and reading skills.
More on this later.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Here, with explanations, are the pictures I took of my first-ever attempt at ch'amch'i dwaenjang jjigae, a stew made with a salty bean paste (dwaenjang, with the "w" barely pronounced; it sounds more like "den-jang"), a load of different vegetables, and tuna (ch'amch'i).
As I mentioned before, I'm looking for advice on how to improve the stew, which was good, but seemed to be missing something. Feel free to leave comments or write me an email.
And now-- forward!
In this first picture, we see the cast of characters strewn about orgy-style on my bed. From the left: we've got rice (not needed this time around), a plastic bag of goguma (sweet potatoes-- an unconventional choice), a cylinder of red chili pepper flakes, cans of tuna (one of which I had dropped at the store, which is why it's dented; I don't normally buy dented cans, but that one was my fault), onions, several varieties of mushroom, a plastic container of the previous freakish soup I had made (more on this later), a rectangular container of dwaenjang (from a former coworker), garlic (small, round container), more mushrooms, and green peppers.
A comment about that garlic: that particular brand is like nothing I've ever smelled before. I want to try that brand again. When you sniff the garlic, you smell something sweet and almost buttery; it was unusual, and I immediately liked it.
Next pic (below)-- the washing begins! I didn't really need to wash the onion, but it said it wanted to hang with the other veggies before they all got slaughtered (probably trying to convert them all to Christianity or something).
In this pic you see, along with the onion, two types of mushroom, a lone green pepper (I'm saving the other two for something else), an eggplant (others to be kept in reserve), and two goguma. Those goguma are tough little bastards when you cut them-- not at all like cutting into regular Idaho potatoes. I knew right away that they'd need some softening-up time before I could stew them with everything else.
In the picture below, it appears as though I've either vomited or shat into the pan. While that's a good guess, it's also wrong. What you see in the pan is the remains of the freakish soup I had made the other night when I had an empty fridge and few leftovers: I had some very chunky multigrain rice, some tuna, and some dwaenjang. I mixed it all together and made a soup, which was lame as hell. But the soup gave me the idea to go all-out and do the thing right, hence the present effort to make a legitimate jjigae (Korean-style stew).
Korean stews and Western stews have certain things in common: they're fairly forgiving in terms of proportions, and it's often just a matter of "chop n' toss"-- throw the ingredients together in the pot and fire that thang up.
But Korean stews are usually such that they don't need hours of cooking time. Budae jjigae ("boot camp stew," i.e., stew with hotdog and other mystery meats), for example, requires only a few minutes until it's ready. While I don't know for sure whether dwaenjang jjigae is the same as budae, it seems to come out pretty quickly when you order it at a restaurant. On the one hand, the price you pay for a quick stew is that the ingredients don't really have a chance to blend together. On the other hand, you experience the freshness of each ingredient right away, which is a pleasure in its own right. Ultimately, neither type of stew is better than the other; it's a matter of preference. I happen to like both.
I put the leftover soup in the pot as a sort of "base" on which to build the current stew.
In the following pic, we see chopping in progress. The veggies have all had time to pray, and are now being done away with. The eggplant was surprisingly springy and had no seeds-- odd. This is a far cry from the enormous, bloated aubergines I remember enjoying in France. My French mom made us some incredible stuffed eggplant once. I wish I had pictures.
Chop, chop, chop. All in the name of healthier eating.
Below, we offer a plateful of chopped veggies to Dalma Daesa, but you can see he's turned up his nose at what I'm sure he perceives as shameful excess. Damn monks.
Below are two varieties of mushroom that needed little cleaning; I simply chopped the dirty bottoms off the shrooms on the right. The mushrooms on the left are called neut'ari in Korean; they're apparently called "agaric" in English, but a Google search of "agaric" brings up many different mushroom images, so "agaric" might be too generic a name for these particular shrooms. I admit I like these neut'ari a lot; they're quite meaty. The shrooms on the right are called p'aengi beoseot in Korean; a "p'aengi" is a spinning top. In English, we apparently use the Japanese term "enoki" to describe these little guys. I often place these shrooms in my ramyeon to spruce the soup up. Ramyeon by itself is pretty boring, so I'll add enoki, squash, egg, and whatever else might be handy.
I ended up using only about half of the p'aengi beoseot in my stew. That's fine; I plan on making the stew again when I've run out of the first batch.
In the following pic, we see that I'm boiling the goguma into submission, softening it up separately to reduce cooking time in the main stew. We also get a glimpse of the barf in the pot, which now has some goch'u (chili peppers) atop it.
Ah yes-- I dumped tuna onto the vomit as well, along with the tuna water for flavor.
In case you're wondering why the hell I'm using tuna and not some other meat, it's because one of the popular stews here-- at least in our teachers' office at Smoo-- is ch'amch'i kimchi jjigae, or tuna kimchi stew. Smells good, and is more delicious than the concept might lead you to believe. My Korean colleagues rarely order anything other than Korean food, and tuna stew is frequently slaughtered and eaten by the ladies.
My thought, then, was to try the same thing, but with dwaenjang stew.
I thought this next pic was pretty colorful. I'm showing you the platter one more time because the composition has changed. Compare this pic with the previous one showing Dalma Daesa-- what's different?
Below: we've added more water and are ready to start the real cooking.
The ingredients are about to meet their tasty fate:
In the following pic, you see I've added a glop of garlic, some red pepper, and the all-important dwaenjang, the bean paste. Time to fire up the camp stove...
Below: this is pretty much what the stew turns into as it cooks. The main goal, now, is to keep it moving and not allow the bottom to burn. No one likes a burned bottom. (By the way, this smells fantastic.)
And that's pretty much it for prep. Cook the nasssty little veggies, Precioussss.
Et voilà-- the final result:
The happy brown color is about what you'd expect for dwaenjang jjigae.
The stew was good, but not great. So the question is... what's missing? One thing dwaenjang jjigae usually has is beans. I don't know their name in English or Korean, but these beans, which are light-brown in color, are a common sight in such stews. I did have such beans in this stew, thanks to that chunky, multigrain rice I had added in at the beginning. Another thing, now that I think of it, is green onions.
But the soup was missing something else, some oomph. What was it? What did I miss? I know that, as I was eating, I felt as though I could have added more seafood without harm. Clams came to mind, as did squid. They would have given the soup some salty, burly character, I think. Did the soup need minari or ssukgat, either of which might go into budae jjigae?
Anyway, there you have it-- my stew. Not too starchy (except for the little goguma I put in; usually, such stews use normal potatoes), not too salty (no extra salt added), and just spicy enough.
OK-- fire away with your thoughts.
UPDATE: Aha! Could it be that we're missing dubu (tofu) and squash? I had intended to buy squash, but somehow forgot it on my shopping run.
UPDATE 2: Instead of fumbling about, I should have just followed this fine-looking recipe.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
One thing I cannot forgive the French:
The Gérard Depardieu adaptation of Edmond Rostand's play Cyrano de Bergerac is beautifully filmed and superbly acted. Scenery, costumes-- everything works. Those following the subtitles can take comfort that they were provided by the great Anthony Burgess-- yes, he of A Clockwork Orange fame.
Everything works... except one thing.
The music before the first major fight scene.
This is the moment when Cyrano is about to face off, alone, against a hundred enemies. The music, which up to now has been quite good in its own right, suddenly becomes a rip-off of the theme from Tim Burton's "Batman."
I was bizarrely reminded of this after reading Dr. Jeonuchi's very cool post about movie themes the other day. Dr. J links to several movie themes, including Danny Elfman's tremendous (and now much-emulated) score for "Batman." As I listened to the music, a vision of "Cyrano de Bergerac" rose unbidden in my noggin.
[Warning: pedantry follows.]
Somewhat unrelated note about how I treat movie titles as opposed to book and play titles:
You see above that "Cyrano" appears both italicized and in quotation marks. The notion changes depending on whether I am referring to a movie or to a complete written work, such as a book or a play (as opposed to a chapter or scene or single poem). In such matters, there are several literary conventions to choose from. On the blog, I do the following: (a) italicize book and play titles; (b) place book chapter titles, poem names, and movie titles in quotation marks; (c) leave magazine titles and vessel names capitalized but un-italicized (e.g., Newsweek, USS Enterprise); (d) leave the names of movie series capitalized but un-italicized, reserving quotation marks for a specific movie title (e.g., the Matrix trilogy of which "The Matrix Revolutions" is one movie); (e) surround TV series titles in quotation marks (as with movie titles).
In case you've stayed awake at night, wondering at apparent inconsistencies in how I deal with certain names and titles, I hope that the above helps explain my approach on the blog. Note, too, that I follow different conventions when writing research papers, as I generally follow The Chicago Manual of Style (or the Kate Turabian version of CMoS). Different conventions for different media-- for example, on the blog, it makes sense to follow online convention by putting a space between paragraphs and avoiding indentation. This makes no sense, however, in a research paper, so I follow a different standard for academic writing.