I think I'd like to see this movie: Hancock.
Even if it's completely stupid, it's got that whale-throwing scene.
Monday, December 31, 2007
In 2008, I will...
1. increase the length of my penis by 2-4 inches using all-natural supplements.
2. make her scream for more.
3. be invited to an orgy.
4. watch steamy Hentai chick fucked by tentacle.
5. witness cum-drinking sluts taking big black cock.
6. watch Steamy Amat3ur showing huge b00b5.
7. make self-respect with Ci@liis.
8. enjoy naughty, shaven grandma doing student.
9. be like an afterburner for my d1ck.
10. not let aging get in the way of an Erection.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
[UPDATE, 6/2/11: You might want to check out my huge essay on BSG's deity over at my other blog.]
While I wouldn't say that the Battlestar Galactica TV series and Isaac Asimov's Foundation series have a lot in common, one plot element they do share is the search for Earth. I was reminded of this as I plowed through Asimov's series during my sickness and convalescence; over the past week or so, I've gone through the first five Foundation novels. The fifth one in order of publication, Foundation and Earth, chronicles the adventures of impetuous Foundation Councilman and ex-Navy man Golan Trevize, rumpalicious Gaian hottie Blissanobiarella (a.k.a. Bliss), and Foundation historian/mythologist Janov Pelorat, resident geek.
In the Foundation series, the Galactic Empire exists roughly twenty thousand years in the future; the first five Foundation books chronicle the fall of this empire and the rise of Hari Seldon's two Foundations. These Foundations strive, along with a clandestine organization of telepathic robots and robot-created beings called Gaians, to shepherd the human race onto the path of Galaxia, an elevated state in which all humans, animals, plants, and abiotic phenomena are united in a gigantic, harmonious supermind. Trevize ends up being the person who determines the galaxy's fate, for he is known to the Gaians as someone endowed with an intuitive rightness when it comes to making big decisions based on little actual evidence (a distant parallel to Teela Brown's "psychic luck" in Larry Niven's Ringworld universe). But having decided on Galaxia as the course the galaxy should take, a conflicted Trevize, who despises the notion of a non-individuated massmind, is determined to understand what the specific reasons were for his decision. To this end, Trevize sets out with Bliss and Pelorat on a quest for Earth, where Trevize is convinced he will find the answers to his questions. The quest is the subject of Foundation and Earth.
In BSG, we have no idea whether we're in the Asimovian future or in a Star Wars-style past, "a long time ago." We are decidedly not in a galaxy far, far away, however, for Earth is the object of the ragtag fleet's quest. In the original BSG miniseries, it was presumed by both Commander Adama and President Roslin that Earth was a pious myth, and that it did not, in fact, exist. This presumption changed over the course of the series that followed, to the point where the third season of BSG ended on a cliffhanger in which the presumed-dead Kara Thrace/Starbuck returned and told Lee Adama that (1) she had been to Earth and back, and (2) she would lead the fleet to it. It's my understanding that, in the special BSG movie "Razor," there is a Cylon prophecy that Thrace will lead the fleet to ruin, but that's not the topic on which I want to speculate in this post.
Instead, I want to ponder the BSG version of Earth. What will Earth be like? I think we can assume it will exist: the final moment of the season-ender for Season 3 shows us a glimpse of the North American continent. Because the continent is recognizable, we can further assume that, when the ragtag fleet arrives, they won't be seeing Earth during its Pangaea phase, nor during some future time, millions of years hence, when the continents will have drifted and rearranged themselves into something unrecognizable. At the very least, then, we know the fleet will see Earth during a period when it's possible that humans will be there.
Where we get murky is on the question of origins. If I'm not mistaken, BSG's human mythology has it that Earth represents a "thirteenth colony" founded by a thirteenth human tribe-- something of a reflection of the twelve tribes of Israel, plus one wayward group. This would seem to imply that, in the BSG universe, human life did not begin on Earth, but began elsewhere. But nota bene: "Life here began out there" is a tenet accepted by those humans who subscribe to the dominant human religion (has this religion actually been named?) in the BSG universe. And here is the problem: if the humans of the twelve colonies believe this tenet, then by implication, they do not believe that life began on one of the planets of the twelve colonies. If that's so, then neither Earth nor the twelve other colony planets is the cradle of humanity-- some other planet, yet unnamed, is where we came from.*
It's possible that the scriptures of the human religion in BSG have it wrong: perhaps Earth is indeed the cradle of humanity and not the thirteenth colony. It's also possible that Earth is the thirteenth colony but that, instead of striking out into space, it's merely the colony that remained where it was while the other twelve colonies left and settled other worlds.
I'm curious as to how the writers of BSG plan to make sense of all this. In Asimov's Foundation universe, Earth is a planet around which many legends have accreted, but as it turns out, it does exist. Characters in Asimov's series reason backwards in time as to why Earth must exist: quadrillions of humans, all of the same species, could not possibly have originated on multiple worlds: biologically speaking, the odds of such parallel evolution are too remote. Because the human worlds of the Galactic Empire and, later, the Foundation era have all been terraformed to conform to certain congenial parameters, the characters further reason that Earth must be the planet that set the original standards-- the Galactic day, hour, minute, and second must all come from that world; the temperature ranges in which humanity flourishes must all be found on that world. The characters eventually do find Earth, but Earth turns out to be a dead world, long since turned radioactive by various conflicts early in the period of imperial expansion.
What Earth will the characters in BSG find? Will Earth turn out to be a red herring or a MacGuffin? Will we witness the extinguishing of humanity by the Cylons before (or after) the humans reach Earth? Will the Cylons reach Earth before the colonists do? If Earth truly exists in the BSG universe (I assume it does), will it contain human life? Will it be "our" earth, the Earth of the early 2000s? If Earth is indeed the cradle of humanity, what havoc will this play on the BSG insistence on scripture and prophecy?
Quite possibly the most disappointing scenario would be for the BSG characters to find Earth as we know it, and for them to be able to speak in modern English with us. Here, too, the odds of such close parallel cultural evolution would seem to be slim, but as fans of BSG know, the soldiers of BSG are all conversant in US military jargon (the show contains a great deal of obvious and subtle military humor). Not only that, but the series has made a point of the fact that the language we're hearing is English: you'll recall the episode in which Boomer corrects Helo's English after he mistakenly says "further" instead of "farther." It's remotely possible that the English we've been hearing is merely there for dramatic purposes (cf. "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country," in which Klingons begin by speaking in Klingon with subtitles, then switch into English on the tacit assumption that they are still speaking Klingon-- a decision probably made so as not to tax the actors with too much Klingon), but I find this difficult to believe.
I trust that Ron Moore and his team of writers are smarter than the "Galactica 1980" crew, who had the ragtag fleet find Earth and be able to speak with Earthlings in fluent modern English. This makes me all the more curious as to what Earth our characters will find. I'd love for them to find a future, technologically fearsome Earth-- that, or a completely "parallel" Earth, i.e., one whose history has absolutely nothing to do with our own. But that's going to be a major stunt: the culture of the ragtag fleet already mirrors North American culture, which means that North American culture already exists in the BSG universe. Perhaps the best solution is for our intrepid group to find Earth devoid of human life-- an Eden waiting to be colonized.
I mention all this mainly because I'm fascinated by how the BSG writers seem to have written themselves into a corner. I was perfectly content with the original 2003 miniseries' line that Earth was a mythical planet; I thought it made perfect dramatic sense to keep it that way, and it was a pleasing twist on the 1970s series' hunt for a real Earth. Now, though, the writers of the new BSG seem to have committed themselves to an existent, non-mythical Earth; they've played up the fact that the colonists are essentially North Americans (which, for the most part, they are, excepting the odd Brit or Kiwi in the group) who speak 2000s-era English, and they've gone so far as to have Kara/Starbuck visit Earth and return (how this happens, we don't know). How will the writers extricate themselves from this mess? My great fear is that they won't be able to, and that whatever solution they arrive at will involve some degree of lameness, either on the dramatic level or on the conceptual level.
Maybe the colonists should arrive at Earth and find signs from the thirteenth colony: "Earth sucks. Went elsewhere." Or maybe the writers should go with Edward James Olmos's joking scenario:
I personally — this is not [from] any of the writers, but my thing — I wanted to come into [the present day], find Earth, cruise on top of it, see it for what it is, and as we're coming down to it, we're blown up, we're nuked. And then [someone says to] the President of the United States, which is [George W.] Bush, "They've been taken care of. Thank God you saved the world again." And you turn, and you see who told him that, and it's one of the Cylons. [Laughs]
*Whether the planet Kobol counts as the cradle of humanity is uncertain. For true BSG geeks, the Battlestar Wiki has plenty of interesting speculation on whether Earth or Kobol is the true cradle of humanity in the BSG universe. This article in particular leans toward Earth. I saw no article, in today's brief search of the BSG Wiki, supporting the idea that a mysterious third planet might be humanity's cradle, but as I wrote above, this seems to be the implication from what we know of BSG's human cosmology. I'm not sure whether Kobol counts as the "out there" referred to in the colonial scriptures.
JK Rowling, apparently not satisfied that she is already queen of the universe, is publicly mulling the writing of an eighth Harry Potter book.
She's merely proving the Emperor's adage that all who have power are afraid to lose it.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Nathan sent me three items of note in an email. I'll simply reproduce the email here:
A triple-whammy from Nathan!
I thought you might find this link interesting--it's on fighting between Christian clerics in the Church of the Nativity. In an ironic twist, Palestinian police formed a human chain to separat the clerics in order to end the violence.
The second link is one that my friend Brian sent me. It's definitely NSFW, but it's absolutely hilarious, right down to the very last sentence. As my friend said, "I don't know how they can do this with a straight face."
Finally, I note, in good, Hairy Chasms style that I birthed a monster the other day; its diameter was about: 6.5 cm, or about 2.5 inches! For better or for worse (probably the former), no link.
All the best,
Congratulations, Nathan, on the birth of your prodigious turdworm.
Readers, you should also take the time to read Nathan's excellent post on a Muslim honor killing-- Canada's first.
This hasn't been a bad year, I must say.
Academically speaking, things went well. The previous semester, in particular, went better than anticipated, with higher-than-average attendance overall. While much of the academic year was tiring, it was a pleasant fatigue, not the fatigue associated with being given too much work by an unfeeling boss. Quite the contrary: I chose to do most of the work I did-- some of it paid, some of it unpaid-- and that made all the difference.
Financially speaking, it was good to begin the year totally free of credit card debt (I remain debt-free in that regard, as I simply don't use credit cards anymore), and to free myself of a personal debt to one of my relatives; this last happened about a month ago when I made the final bank transfer. While my recent trip to Europe sucked my US account nearly dry, I still have some stores in my Korean account, and will be saving like a madman from here until the end of my contract. It was nice to have a bit more purchasing power than I'm used to having, and to do all the purchasing with a check card, not a credit card. While I'll need to make some big purchases in the future, I can put those all off until I'm done with my walk.
Blogologically speaking, the year wasn't great, but wasn't bad, either. I wrote some decent posts, some not-so-decent posts, and got acquainted with the strange and annoying online phenomenon called Facebook (mentally, I call it Fecesbook). Blog traffic was down from last year, I think, which may indicate that the glut of Koreabloggers has pulled the core audience in many new and different directions, sadly leaving fewer readers for each of us. It's possible this blog has jumped the shark, and as I have no plans to become a slave to site traffic by focusing on gimmicks that bring in the hits, I suppose I'll just ride the traffic down to oblivion... at least until next spring, when I'll be switching over to Kevin's Walk.
Constitutionally speaking, 2007 was a bad year, as I experienced a good bit of weight gain at the beginning of the year and never really shook the weight off. I'm pretty sure the upcoming walk is going to ameliorate the situation, but the point is to stay healthy, not merely to get healthy. That's going to mean lifestyle changes of the sort I've been hesitating to enact-- not merely in terms of eating habits, but also in terms of general exercise.
Televisually and cinematically speaking, I probably caught about five times more TV shows and movies from illegal online downloads (and YouTube) than from legitimate DVDs, streaming videos, movies in the theater, and so on. While I'm still behind the curve regarding What's New on American TV, I find that age has made me care less and less about what the general public finds interesting. The two most gripping series for me have been, as my readers know, "Battlestar Galactica" and "24," the former of which I'm completely caught up on except for "Razor," the latter of which I still need to finish (I've yet to watch Season 3, the season where Nina gets hers). I saw the pilot episode of "Prison Break" and wasn't wowed. I saw the pilot of "The Bionic Woman" and merely shrugged. I've never been a big fan of "CSI" or "Law and Order," and can't say I've been motivated to watch series like "Heroes." In a sense, it keeps life simple to like only two TV series; as for movies, I find that I'm attracted to an increasingly narrow percentage of new films; I watch all the previews over at Apple.com/trailers, and most of them leave me shaking my old and crotchety head.
Authorially speaking, it was a good year: this was the year I finally gave birth to Water from a Skull, a long-promised compendium of essays and research papers on various religious and philosophical topics. I'm grateful to my parents for having arranged the book-signing event we had in June in northern Virginia, and was happy to see both old friends (Go, Hoyas! shout-out to Charlie) and some new faces-- DC-Metro bloggers who showed up out of the blue, including the elusive Corsair and the intrepid Jason of Wandering to Tamshui.
Socially speaking, 2007 saw me remaining the hermit I am (true since, oh, 2005). My students think I'm an off-the-scale extrovert despite my protestations, but the fact remains I prefer to spend my free time alone and in the quiet, avoiding both phone conversations and visits to my relatives. While I do have half an eye on one purty Korean lady, I know that I'll be leaving in April, so I see no sense in pursuing the matter. Advice from my guy friends has been primarily of the "Oh, just have a fling!" variety, but... nah. When I say "half an eye," I mean it-- this isn't passion, here. She just seems sorta cute. I'm actually curious as to whether I might meet someone during my walk. My inner romantic kind of hopes that that's what happens, but you never know.
Funny thing... did I tell you there's a rumor about me at Smoo? Somehow, the gossipers got it into their heads that I have a son. Yeah, that Kevin-- what a stud, eh? Heh. This is what comes of students being convinced I'm an extrovert.
So now we all look forward to 2008, which I hope will be even better than 2007, not just for me, but for all my readers and for everyone of good, noble, industrious character (I don't include myself in this group, but I hesitate to wish a happy 2008 to the evil and lazy). We Yanks have got our own presidential election coming up, and at this point it seems as though anything goes. Enjoy the ride, stay safe, and don't step on any land mines.
I sent a copy of my book, Water from a Skull, to my French maman and papa; Maman assured me that Papa would give it a go. Both parents were learning (or re-learning) English recently, for job-related reasons. They're retired now, but they still look in on their clothing business and sometimes deal with English-language emails.
I imagine that reading my book is going to be something of a struggle for Papa, who is the more likely of the two to sit down with it. He promised to try it out, though; I'm hoping it's to his liking. To his credit, Papa has an interest in foreign languages, though he tends to prefer classical ones like ancient Greek and Latin. Well, if the old SAT wisdom applies across the Atlantic, then knowing those Greek and Latin roots may be of service in reading my book. He also has an interest in religious and philosophical questions, which makes me think my book will be up his alley.
I told my French folks that I'd like to do a French-language version of the book someday, but that it would take an enormous amount of time. We'll see. After the walk, I'll be back in Korea, perhaps at Smoo again, or at a university that offers a better vacation/benefits package. Assuming I get long vacations, I'll embark on la version française, among other projects.
Friday, December 28, 2007
You've doubtless heard the news that the former prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, has been assassinated. The killing occurred after an election rally; she was shot twice, once in the neck and once in the chest, before being rushed off to a hospital. Her killer then committed suicide by blowing up an explosive device on his person. At least twenty other people are also dead, and more deaths are being reported as a result of anti-Musharraf rioting: some elements view Pervez Musharraf, the current president of Pakistan, as directly or indirectly responsible for Bhutto's murder.
Bhutto's past is a checkered one, as I learned from scanning some online news and encyclopedia articles. She was twice prime minister of Pakistan (1988, 1993), and twice brought down on corruption charges related to money laundering and under-the-table deals involving gold importation, fighter craft, and other matters. She was nevertheless a fighter for women's rights, and while she had earlier supported and funded the Taliban in the 1990s, she changed to a more anti-Taliban stance. Bhutto's education was largely Western, primarily in the US and the UK. Her family has long known turmoil; she exiled herself from Pakistan, and her father, also a former prime minister, was hanged on charges of conspiracy to commit murder.
I can't say that what I've read of Bhutto makes me much of a fan of hers, but I see hints that she was a voice for modernization and for the plight of women in a country with conservative public morals. My thoughts go with Pakistan, though, as the country endures another-- yet another-- wave of violence.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Le temps passe vite, et il est déjà le 27. Voici quelques petites photos de la belle famille de mon frère français, Dominique.
Time goes by fast, and it's already the 27th. Here are some pictures of my French brother Dominique's beautiful family.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Today seems to have passed in a post-Christmas fog. I'm eating luscious leftovers from yesterday's party and pondering the long to-do list, which no longer includes social engagements before January but which does include a lot of time spent in the office.
I was in the office last night for a long time after the party, mainly just reorienting myself. I watched a couple DVDs: "A Knight's Tale," which is one of my favorite feel-good movies, and "Blade Runner: The Final Cut," which was good but didn't exactly wow me: if the Big Issue is that Deckerd himself might be a replicant, well... there are logical problems with that scenario, primarily because he's been around so long and has both a history and a reputation in the police force. Couple this with his relative physical ineptitude when compared to both combat and non-combat replicant models, and he doesn't come off as a convincing replicant. Gaff's origami unicorn seems to be a hint that Gaff knows about Deckerd's unicorn dream(s), but the movie establishes that memories can be implanted without saying whether this is true only for replicants.
So now I'm sitting here, wondering if I should trudge over to the office this late in the evening. And I'm thinking to myself, Nah. I'd rather finish my Asimov novel and slap up those France pictures.
Merry post-Christmas, all.
I forgot my camera, so I'm afraid I have no pics of the evening at Smoo (my first time back at school since the start of vacation).
The third floor was almost pitch black when I arrived-- lights were off everywhere except in the area in front of the elevators. I got to school a few minutes early, but one student was already there, sitting in the semi-darkness. Two other ladies arrived-- late-- and as it turned out, that was it for our group. I'd been expecting anywhere from four to six people, so I prepared enough for six (plus a hungry Kevin, of course). We obviously ended up with leftovers, but the three ladies who did show up cleaned their plates.
My buddy Dominique sent me some cute pics of Christmas at his place; I'll be slapping those up later in partial penance for not having taken pics of tonight's meal.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Food prep for tonight's meal (yikes-- only 90 minutes to go!) continues apace. I think I'll be ready in time... I've told the students to meet me at 6PM... we'll see how many actually come on time! Ha ha!
While I had JW's help two nights ago-- he brought his car and I was able to take all my food and equipment in a single trip-- I'm going to have to lug everything over to school without a car tonight, and will probably need two trips because I've got to tote along my gas range and some pots and pans. Or maybe two trips won't be necessary: I've got this huge Costco shopping bag now, and that might save me the extra trip.
You know what's unbelievable to me? There's actually construction going on next door today. The new building is coming up quickly, but you'd think the workers would at least have Christmas off. Either the boss is Ebenezer Scrooge or he gave the workers some sort of fiscal incentive.
Photos of the meal later.
Whether you're dreaming of a white Christmas or of something more ethnically diverse, whether your focus is on Jesus or some other cosmic figure or on nothing remotely theistic, whether you're "keeping your don't-know mind" or shouting "I know, I know!" to anyone who'll listen... may this be a day of peace, good food, good music, good companionship, and-- if you've got a Significant Other and no kids are about-- good sex. Nothing quite compares to a lusty roll in the pine needles.
Monday, December 24, 2007
The meal at Jang-woong and Bo-hyun's place seemed to go well. Everyone professed satisfaction with the food, though there was the usual friendly carping about it being too rich (especially the fondue and the whipped potatoes, I think). The boeuf bourguignon was, in my opinion, even better than last time (everybody cleaned their plates, so I assume my company agreed). I got a kilogram of stew beef from the Hannam butcher and had him slice the meat thinly. By the time the wine sauce had reduced during the prep phase, the meat was practically falling apart, it was so tender. And this time around, instead of using canned cranberry sauce, I whipped up a mess of my own cranberry sauce to add to the beef (the recipe on which I based my dish can be found here*). The sight of the cranberries, and the texture they added, gave the beef a more Christmasy feel, somehow.
But the real hit was, surprisingly, the whipped potatoes, into which I slipped a teaspoonful of bacon fat this time around.** Lemme tell ya'... it makes a difference. Holy crap, them was some guuuuud potaters. I think the Missus wanted to concentrate on those at the expense of the beef, but politeness prevented her.
No pictures from my camera, alas, though my friends might send some of the photos they took. Speaking of photos-- I showed them the photos I had slapped up on the blog (they got the Photobucket slideshow version so as to avoid offending the Missus with the risqué contents of my sidebar).
JW's and BH's son, Ji-an (his English name is John), is at the stage where he's standing upright and able to walk alongside a piece of furniture as long as he's able to clutch its edge. He's also got a magnificent little laugh that matches his already-grandiose sense of humor. In addition, it turns out he's extremely ticklish. Ha ha! I had fun torturing him with The Claw-- the selfsame clawed hand my father used on us three boys when we were squirming tykes. "The Claw gets all!" Dad would yell... and it did, too. It got everything. We would find ourselves face-up on the floor, staring ceilingward in terror, while The Claw would make its slow and awful descent and our eyes would follow it with that giddy mixture of dread and delight. It would then jab itself into our ribs and tickle us until we were ready to puke from laughing so hard. I recall a lot of screaming and writhing about. Ji-an's response tonight was lot like that when I pulled the Claw on him. What an amazing little kid.
I came away from my nearly 5-hour visit with more in my bag than when I left: BH gave me a bunch of ready-to-cook bulgogi, a huge chunk of cheesecake (much of which will be disappearing tomorrow), some bottled red peppers, a gigantic bar of dark chocolate (I don't normally eat dark chocolate, but I see scads of creamy hot chocolate in my future), a twin set of coffee mugs, a very nice scarf, and even a pair of socks-- Wilson (as in the sports brand), which will replace my dying Omar Sharif socks (don't laugh; Omar Sharif is too a brand).
So here I sit: sated, bloated, replete. Luckily, still able to type. I might not be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, but I can definitely type and digest at the same time.
*Obviously, this isn't true boeuf bourguignon, but it's damn close. My own variant takes into account my general hatred of onions in Western food. Instead of onions, there's onion powder. What's more, I add three different kinds of mushroom: shiitake, king oyster, and regular old button mushrooms. This necessitates nearly doubling the amount of fluid that goes into the mix, partly because of the brute volume, partly because mushrooms are notorious for their spongelike properties.
**This was in addition to the other naughty ingredients that melded so sensually with the boiled potatoes in my food processor: butter, cream, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and parsley. Lots of cream.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
With grudging thanks to Instapundit, I have now made the acquaintance of a little device that promises to revolutionize my nasal life: the neti pot.
I don't have a neti pot here in my humble abode, but I don't think it'd be hard to jury-rig one.
(That YouTube video rocks, by the way. If I were the drinking type, I'd watch it over and over while drunk.)
I'm cooking for a group of 4-6 students on Christmas Day, but before that happens, I'm meeting up with some Korean friends today and preparing a "first run" of the somewhat international meal I'll be offering on Tuesday:
appetizer: cheese fondue -- Swiss
main meal: beef burgundy with whipped potatoes -- French/American
salad: caprese -- Italian
dessert: fruit + chocolate/confection -- Korean/European
I'm doing a very small fondue because I don't think my friends can take too much cheese.
Tuesday promises to be interesting, because I'm not really sure the university will be open.* It almost certainly won't be heated, which means I'll need to bring up some of the electric space heaters from the main office to make sure Room 303 isn't an icebox when the ladies arrive.
I'm not sure whether I'll be taking photos of today's meal; we'll see. If I do get some pics, I'll be sure to slap them up on Ye Olde Blogge.
UPDATE: Check out the foodblogging at EFL Geek's place. I wish I had an oven.
*Not a big problem. The security guards all know me because I stay at school so late; I've got some pull with them. Unlocking classrooms and turning off certain security sensors won't be a big deal. Damn, that sounds sinister.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
I noticed that a few of my "Facebook friends" were able to write updates without being imprisoned by that damnable "is," so I did a bit of experimenting with my own delete key... and sure enough, the "is" is no longer mandatory! A Great Leap Forward for Facebook.
Now I need to ask those friends why they didn't tell me of this rather major change... grrrrrr...
It appears I have plans on Christmas Day: I and a group of former students will sit down and enjoy a meal together. I had wondered when, exactly, we would be having this get-together, and the text message arrived last night suggesting either the 24th or the 25th. I have plans for the 24th, so by process of elimination...
We still need to settle-- and quickly-- the question of what we'll be doing. I had suggested that I would be willing to cook for the group (4-6 students, I think), but we haven't decided on whether to make this a sit-down meal at school or a restaurant affair. I'm hoping to have this question settled by tonight.
Whatever we do, I'm looking forward to it, and I might even have some pictures of the festivities later.
Friday, December 21, 2007
According to this article, there is currently a 1 in 75 chance that a recently discovered asteroid will slam into our next-door neighbor Mars on January 30. I love how the article ends:
In 1994, fragments of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 smacked into Jupiter, creating a series of overlapping fireballs in space. Astronomers have yet to witness an asteroid impact with another planet.
"Unlike an Earth impact, we're not afraid, but we're excited," [astronomer Steve] Chesley said.
Meanwhile, the Martians are going, "Fuckin' FEMA. Knew they'd never get here in time."
My question is: if we live in an age where we can pick out distant planets and even gauge their approximate size and composition, how is it that we can't get a more accurate read on this very nearby chunk of rock? Related question: why was it only recently discovered? You'd think we'd have computers tracking literally billions of asteroids by now, and not just the ones close to us.
The Archbishop of Canterbury-- what a party pooper.
ARCHBISHOP SAYS NATIVITY 'A LEGEND'
By Sophie Borland
The Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday that the Christmas story of the Three Wise Men was nothing but a 'legend'.
Dr Rowan Williams has claimed there was little evidence that the Magi even existed and there was certainly nothing to prove there were three of them or that they were kings.
He said the only reference to the wise men from the East was in Matthew's gospel and the details were very vague.
Dr Williams said: "Matthew's gospel says they are astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire, that's all we're really told. It works quite well as legend."
The Archbishop went on to dispel other details of the Christmas story, adding that there were probably no asses or oxen in the stable.
He argued that Christmas cards which showed the Virgin Mary cradling the baby Jesus, flanked by shepherds and wise men, were misleading. As for the scenes that depicted snow falling in Bethlehem, the Archbishop said the chance of this was "very unlikely".
In a final blow to the traditional nativity story, Dr Williams concluded that Jesus was probably not born in December at all. He said: "Christmas was when it was because it fitted well with the winter festival."
[Did you catch the British punctuation errors? The Telegraph seems unable to decide whether it's a British or an American rag. Or maybe Sophie Borland is an American journalist...?]
None of the above is particularly new or surprising: it's pretty much standard fare for students in both religious studies and theology. It is, in fact, the sort of information that I wish clergy regularly divulged to the laity-- if not from the pulpit, then during whatever activities count as "Christian education." I suspect, though, that many clergymen (and -women) fear revealing these rather pedestrian truths because they worry over how demoralizing they might be. It's a shame, because what the laity loses is a chance to learn some valuable lessons about the nature of true faith, which should never be rooted in black-and-white propositions and magical thinking. As Tom Robbins, that happy druggie, wrote in his book Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, "Don't confuse stability with rigidity." The balance of the surfer on the wave is what true faith is, not the stiffness of a statue that's easily overturned.
I also tend to think that the clergy's fear is groundless. Many congregations are composed of educated people who will, unprompted, go read about these matters for themselves. Many of them will come away from their explorations with profoundly changed views of their own traditions... and they will go to church all the same. To fear the disenchantment of the laity is, in effect, to be condescending: the clergy should put more faith in those they claim to care for.
As mentioned long ago, I'll very likely be back in Korea-- background-checked and drug-tested-- after Kevin's Walk is finished (probably sometime in 2009). I've been thinking about the nettlesome question of what to do with my mortal possessions in the meantime. Taking everything back to the States, only to haul it all back to Korea in a year or so, seems a mite silly, wouldn't you agree?
I can't ask my relatives to help me by storing my possessions at their respective residences-- that option is pretty much right out. Any suggestions? I'm just thinking out loud... feel free to chime in.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Some good, thoughtful posts to read on the significance of the South Korean presidential election can be found at Liminality, An Other Tongue, and DPRK Studies.* My admittedly unreflective opinion: whatever makes NK unhappy is good. Unreflective, yes, but on the whole congruent with common sense.
UPDATE: And of course, there's Robert's excellent commentary, which I only just stumbled upon.
*Actually, this was written before the election, but the commentary is still valid as educated speculation.
Last batch of pictures.
To catch us up:
Landed in Paris on the afternoon of the 4th; reached Nantes/Carquefou in time for a late dinner.
Stayed in Nantes until the 6th, then took a train to Switzerland. Based myself in Interlaken, where I spent most of my time except for a quick dodge to Fribourg.
Left Interlaken the morning of the 8th, taking a EuroCity train from Interlaken to Colmar, France. The train ride was a bit weird at first: not many people got on until we had reached Basel (Bâle). We stopped in Basel for around 30 minutes or so; the train emptied itself out after stopping, then rumbled forward a few meters and stopped again. At first, I was confused and wondered whether I needed to get off the train. Then I saw an older gentleman farther down my car, so I went over and asked him if we were supposed to get off. "No," he said, "the train will be leaving in a few minutes." In other words, what I had been told in Interlaken was indeed the case. Living in Korea makes one paranoid about sudden changes, so this was a relief.
The train ended up arriving in Colmar about four minutes late. Dominique had been out looking for me, but he was on the other side of the station. We eventually found each other and headed off. Dominique's lovely wife Véronique was in the car; we chatted and caught up a bit. Our first stop was to pick up Dominique's son Augustin, who was finishing up a soccer game. We rode over to the field with two of Domi's kids, his daughter Héloïse (third in line to the throne) and his son Timothé.
Here are some photos of us en route to the soccer field:
Here's a quick vid of the very end of the soccer game; Auguste is #5.
One of the things we did as a family was to find a Christmas tree and have the kids decorate it. The process was pretty wacky, as the kids are all quite young (except Joséphine, who's ancient, being all of eleven years old), but it was fun to watch them go at it. I went out with Domi and Héloïse to get the tree; Hélo was the one who selected it, a power that had been promised her. She chose well, I think.
The tree needed some help staying upright; the stand Domi had was heavy, but not heavy enough: the tree kept tipping over at the slightest touch. The stand's hole was also too large for the tree's trunk to fit in, so Domi broke out a hammer and chisel while Auguste and I held the tree down, rotating it whenever Domi said to. Eventually, Domi chiseled the stump down to a manageable size, and it fit perfectly into the tree stand's hole. All the same, the tree needed some mooring to help it out, so Domi tied two lines that connected the tree to a knickknack shelf and a window sill, thereby stabilizing it.
Below, some shots of the decoration process.
Héloïse, Domi told me a few years back, was supposed to be my goddaughter, but the family decided against it because I don't visit Europe often enough. A shame, but I understand and accept their reasoning. I already have one goddaughter whom I see only rarely because I'm in Korea and she's in the States, and that causes some guilty pangs. On the bright side, I'm happy to have a goddaughter at all!
Anyway, Héloïse is an extroverted, expressive little tyke, and she most certainly is not camera-shy. Here are some pics of Hélo:
Domi's not a native of the Alsace region; he's from the Nantes area (i.e., the Celt-flavored Brittany/Bretagne), but he's become quite proud of the history and culture of the Alsace region. Around this time of year, two events of note occur: (1) la Fête de Saint Nicolas, a day for children, and (2) le Marché de Noël (Christmas Market), an open market that lasts from roughly late November to late December, and is held simultaneously in many cities in France. So we went a-strolling through the Market in Colmar with Héloïse in tow; toward the end, I'm not sure how much she was enjoying herself, as you'll see from her expression in the following photos:
Here's a video of part of the market. I pan across a lot of sausage, then catch up with Dominique and ask him to "Say something," then I say, "Oh, wait-- there's no audio." Obviously, that's not true. (I had thought I'd turned off the audio to save memory when recording.)
The following picture (we're still in the Christmas Market) shows a pun: "Les 100 Ciels" sounds like "L'essentiel."
Finally, a sight that excited Héloïse: Saint Nick himself! He gave out candies to the kids. Pretty cool, eh? NB: Saint Nick had a ton of demon-eye before I used Photoshop on him.
Below, you see the four kids together: Augustin is by himself; Joséphine, the eldest, is holding Timothé, and Héloïse is leaning against José. This was another shot that was, frustratingly, heavy on demon-eye. I did the best I could to rescue the kids from the malefic influence of the Dark One; you can be the judge of how well I did.
The Monday before my departure, it was BACK TO SCHOOL for the kids and BACK TO WORK for the parents, so I was dropped off in Strasbourg, where I wandered around and visited another Marché de Noël. While there, I stifled the urge to eat everything in sight and instead bought a single crepe-- crêpe au Nutella. It was as good as it sounds, and some of the photos below document the crepe's genesis.
The final four pics in this series show me at the airport. As I'd written before, I left on Tuesday morning (very, very early), arrived at Roissy with around 12 hours to spare, and wasn't allowed to check my bags until around three hours before my flight.
A quick vid of Strasbourg's easy-to-use Tram (their capitalization, not mine).
The Marché de Noël in Strasbourg...
God, that was good.
So I said my goodbyes to the kids (and to brave Véronique) on the evening of the 10th; I knew I'd be up and out of the house long before the kids were even to wake up for Tuesday classes. Domi and I then headed out into the dark countryside, driving back to Strasbourg in light traffic, and in plenty of time to catch my TGV.
The ride from Strasbourg to Roissy was uneventful; I smilingly recalled a conversation I'd had with Dominique when I'd met him on the 8th, regarding le compostage, i.e., the punching of train tickets in France. Switzerland doesn't engage in this practice, but in France, you have to get your ticket composté (machine-punched) before you can board the train. I had asked Domi why this was done in France; it seemed to me that, once you'd bought your ticket, you didn't need anything further done to it. Domi shrugged and agreed; he couldn't think of a reason for le compostage, either. Perhaps it's just a way to make you feel alive.
OK, maybe not.
VIDEO: My arrival at Roissy Station. In this vid, I've just gotten out of the train and am filming its departure. At the tail end of the vid, there's a shot of me blowing into the air; I was trying to show how cold the air was (I could see my breath), but I don't know whether the breath is visible on camera.
I waited a long, long time for my flight. I think I ended up eating lunch and dinner at the airport. Come to think of it, it's a wonder I didn't need to take a crap while on the plane. So, while waiting and out of sheer boredom, I took a shot of the geometric patterns in the sculpted concrete wall, patterns vaguely reminiscent of DC Metro station interiors.
And I took shots of my homemade bag tags...
Finally, not long before my fight, I took this shot of me in the terminal, waiting for the boarding call. I had the camera in my carry-on bag; I aimed it up at the glass ceiling and angled it toward my reflection in that ceiling. This took several tries, but I think the shot was worth it:
Not long after that shot was taken, I boarded the plane and made my way back to Korea.
I've been bedridden ever since.
And that, folks, is the story of my all-too-brief trip to Europe. Thanks for reading and watching.
While North Korea moodily contemplates the victory of a conservative president in South Korea, I thought I'd point you to a video I was alerted to: the men's a cappella group Straight No Chaser singing their hilarious version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
The Korean public seems to have declared its allegiance: conservative Lee Myeong-bak will be the South's president for the next five years. Check out these posts over at The Marmot's Hole (semi-liveblogging) and One Free Korea (post-coital commentary).