Thursday, January 31, 2008

coming soon

The bazaar is over and I've got a couple photos to slap up. We made W62,000, which is actually better than most of my other bazaars, so I suppose it wasn't a bad way to finish off my career.* We sold out of the andouille and bratwurst, and while I still had leftover whipped potatoes, they got rave reviews (though one student gasped in horror when I told her what made them taste so good; I've promised to share the recipe with my Intensive 2s).

I also sold a book (Water from a Skull, not Scary Spasms), which wasn't something I had seriously expected to do. We didn't sell out of the Costco cheesecake (apparently an acquired taste for many Asians; today's bazaar hosted students from Korea, China, Japan, Mongolia, and elsewhere), but my students were hungry so I bought the final eight pieces for them to down. We raffled off the mammoth Hershey's chocolate bar (twenty tickets sold); one of my former students won it. My buddy and colleague Tom stirred up a roaring trade in cups of individually wrapped Mentos candies, glazed duck meat (excellent), ddeok-bokki, and sundry beverages (our group hawked a host of potables as well).

After the cleanup, my students and I hung out for a while in Room 303, which is our normal classroom. We slapped some art on the wall, talked about nothing in particular, and then spent way too much time taking silly pictures, many of which will, unfortunately, end up on the girls' CyWorld homepages. I say "unfortunately" because I was asked to adopt poses that made me look like a disciple of my nemesis, Hello Kitty.

So that was my afternoon. I'll slap the pics up soon, but you'll forgive me if I take some time to wind down: I'm running on only two hours' sleep.

More later. And yes, I'll blog about my colossal failure the other night.

*I'm still here until the end of April, but the next bazaar happens in June, which is why this bazaar is my last one.


damn the Irish! damn them to HELL!

I'd normally file this post as a "postal scrotum" (newbies: that's Kevinese for "mail bag"), but I had to title the post as violently as possible to express my hatred of all things Irish-- an animus acquired only minutes ago thanks to an email from reader Paul C., who sent a link to an article about an Irishman who plans to walk from Bristol, UK* to the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi in Porbandar, India. To make matters worse for yours truly, the man, whose name is Mark Boyle, plans to do his walk in an even more extreme form than I plan to do mine: he won't touch any money. That's right, folks: he's relying entirely on the kindness of others. For everything. Puts me to shame.

And where did he announce his intentions? On his blog, of course.

A man is planning to walk to India without using money, relying on the goodwill of people along the way or working for bed and board, he said Wednesday.

Former dotcom businessman Mark Boyle, from Bristol, aims to end up at Mahatma Gandhi's birthplace after the 9,000-mile trek, which he reckons will take him about two and a half years.

"I've got some sunscreen, a good knife, a spoon, a bandage... no Visa card, no travellers' cheques, no bank accounts, zero. I won't actually touch money along the way," the 28-year-old told BBC radio.

Walking between 15 and 45 miles a day, he plans to work his way down through France, Italy, eastern Europe, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan before reaching Gandhi's birthplace of Porbandar on India's west coast.

On his blog, Boyle said he was setting off Wednesday.

"I will start writing a new chapter in my life. From this point on I endeavour to never touch money again," he wrote on the blog, at Just for the Love of It.

Describing the trip as a "pilgrimage", he told the BBC he aims to demonstrate what he calls a "harvest philosophy" in which people can live by sharing skills rather than using cash.

Damn the Irish and their legendary pluck!

On a more serious note, I wish this gentleman Godspeed. I think he's engaging in a far more dangerous undertaking than I am. What I'm doing is probably a close cousin of stage diving: I'll be in my home country the entire time, restricting myself to religious facilities, and I'll be borne across the country on the arms of friendly strangers. I expect a soft landing almost everywhere; what does this guy have coming to him? I shudder to think of it.

(I could be wrong, of course; if I'm directed to a house of worship deep in gangland territory, I might be in for interesting times as well.)

Anyway-- good luck to you, Mr. Boyle. I don't really want God to damn the Irish to hell. But I wouldn't mind if God twisted your ankle so that we may all know you by your limp.

*Will he be swimming the Channel to France, or walking through the Chunnel (if that's possible for a normal citizen)?


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

estrogen-induced idiocy

We do it all the time, but as the philosophers tell us, psychologizing* is a sloppy way to formulate an argument. People who engage in this practice usually try to impute motives to their interlocutor or adversary without actually checking the truth of their own assertions.

Apparently the New York branch of the National Organization for Women (NOW) saw the Kennedy family's endorsement of the bepenised Barack Obama as a betrayal of feminism, or some such nonsense. This article quotes part of the angry NY-NOW statement. You can almost hear the sound of millions of furious labia minora and majora smacking threateningly, breathing puffs of yeasty flame:

"We are repaid with his [Kennedy's] abandonment!" the statement said. "He's picked the new guy over us. He's joined the list of progressive white men who can't or won't handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton."

Readers of this blog know that I worship at the altar of Camille Paglia, which doesn't exactly burnish my feminist credentials but does make me a better feminist, I think, than the puckered-sphincter masses who blindly follow the paleofeminist bloviations of Gloria Steinem and her frigid ilk. I mention this to drive home the point that, while I might not know what "real" feminism is, I can safely say that the above-quoted statement is an example of what feminism shouldn't be. Shrill (got that exclamation point!?), irrational (did they confirm that Kennedy's motives are indeed as sinister as they claim?), and stinking of victimization (Ted Kennedy has joined an evil fraternity of misogynistic white men!)-- the statement is exactly the sort of text that confirms the worst suspicions of male chauvinists: women can't put their thoughts in print because, as we can see here, they are unable to formulate even simple arguments without being brain-locked by their own ovaries.

Is that really the message the NY-NOW wants to broadcast? Too late-- the damage is done. The above-linked article goes on to note that NOW headquarters, which is manned (cough) by cooler heads, has essentially disavowed the NY-NOW statement:

Shortly after the local chapter reacted to Kennedy's endorsement, the national office of NOW in Washington, D.C., which has endorsed Clinton, released its own statement.

"The National Organization for Women has enormous respect and admiration for Senator Edward Kennedy," NOW President Kim Gandy wrote. "For decades Senator Kennedy has been a friend of NOW, and a leader and fighter for women's civil and reproductive rights, and his record shows that."

Gandy said her group respects Kennedy's decision to back Obama.

"We continue to encourage women everywhere to express their opinions and exercise their right to vote," she said.

Look, I'm never going to argue that men are a superior life form. As Michael Caine observed long ago, a naked woman is a work of art while a naked man is just silly (or something like that). I think women possess their own special, ancient wisdom, not to mention a form of rationality that actually runs deeper than the often more apodictic and linear (you clitty in!) male rationality. The male founders of the great religious traditions achieved greatness by tapping into that feminine wisdom, I think. Sophia is as vital as Logos; no yang can be tugged without a yin doing the tugging.

All of this is to make clear that I don't subscribe to the male chauvinist's stereotype, but that I think the New York chapter of NOW does.

*From to make psychological investigations or speculations, esp. those that are naive or uninformed.


psychologize. Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: January 30, 2008).


210 tickets

You know why you're coming to the Smoo Lingua bazaar tomorrow?

Because I printed out 210 raffle tickets for that five-pound Hershey's chocolate bar, and will be selling those tickets for a mere W500/pc, and you know you want a crack at eating that chocolate bar, feeling the high that accompanies a massive lactocacaoic overdose, and shitting black toothpaste for a fucking week.

That bar is huge. It's one of the most powerful symbols of American excess I've ever seen, and tomorrow, Koreans will be fighting over it.

Unless you, Expat Blog Reader, enter the fray and show these folks the meaning of desperate capitalism. Hey, if you swoop in and buy all 210 tickets, you're guaranteed the bar. And as I said, once you eat that fucker, you'll be passing the bar all week.

Think about it. And get your ass over to Smoo tomorrow.


Ave, Malcolm!

Malcolm, always profound, riffs off the recent study on happiness and offers his wisdom on what life really serves us in place of our storybook fantasies.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

visit our bazaar!

Our bazaar will be happening this coming Thursday on Smoo campus, in the lobby of the Social Education Building, from 1:30PM to about 4:30PM. We're very likely to end early, so try to make it before 3PM if you'd like to grab a drink, get a bite to eat, or just participate in the general merriment.

I'll be selling copies of both of my books at very reduced prices.* I'll also be selling my usual raft of bad art (see here), and we'll be raffling off a five-pound bar of Hershey's chocolate (you can buy these monsters at Costco for fairly cheap). Along with all that, we'll be serving various hot drinks, offering a board game session to paying customers, selling cheesecake by the slice (with raspberry and blueberry topping options), and selling something I'm calling a "German cup." The latter sounds vaguely obscene, but it's simply a cup of my now-famous whipped potatoes plus a big ol' twice-cooked sausage jammed into it, topped with the customer's choice of sauce.

My buddy Tom's group will have comestibles and other items on offer as well... and dwarfing the English students' activities will be the huge contingent of Korean language students-- foreigners learning Korean and managed by their teachers. Our building's lobby promises to have more of a polyglot ambience than the Mos Eisley cantina.

This will be, sadly, my final bazaar, so help me out by showing up and chatting in English with my students.

Pics of previous bazaars are here and here.

*Today, my Intensive 2 students were treated to a reading of one of the poems in my book Scary Spasms in Hairy Chasms. The poem is titled "Blasting Shotgun Diarrhea." I read it, reviewed the vocabulary, and explained the imagery (the poem itself actually has nothing to do with diarrhea). I blogged this particular poem once; you can read it here.



Never saw this coming, did we? To be honest, I'm surprised the FTA process got along as far as it did.


the risky compliment

I realize I'm going to get my ass kicked for saying this, but Elisson's daughters are both hot. One daughter is on the cover of a magazine. Go see.

How does one go about converting to Judaism?



I have bad news about my scampi.

But I can't... I can't bring myself to say it.

And I'm honestly wondering whether I should blog the photos of this most debacular of debacles.


Monday, January 28, 2008

hold your whoreses

I didn't get around to scampi'ing yesterday, but will be doing so today. Promise.


safe zone

My preliminary evals are back (the eval sheets were given out to the students after the first two weeks of class), and I've slipped a percentage point or so: this time around, it's a solid 95.0%. Not bad in the cosmic scheme of things, but still something of a disappointment.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

geekery and more geekery

The new teaser for the upcoming Star Trek movie is out. Hard to tell what's up (it's a teaser, so there's no hint about the plot), though I've heard it'll be at least partly about the past. Leonard Nimoy (whose dusky voice greets us toward the end of the trailer in a ghostly echo of his "Star Trek II" closing narration) is in the film... but the credits show no sign of Shatner. Will the Shat be a surprise guest? Nimoy himself went uncredited as an actor in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" (Nimoy did get credit as director), so it's at least possible that Shatner might go the same route.

Ah: an entire Wikipedia entry on the film is here.

For a more refined level of geekery, be sure to read Charles's commentary on the third season of "Lost," a show I'll get around to watching someday. I noted that Charles's attitude toward the series, as it stands, isn't far removed from my own attitude toward "Battlestar Galactica." Both of us are pissed off and wondering what the hell the writers are up to (well, striking, obviously!). This excerpt was especially interesting:

What I really want to comment on is the string of mysteries we are faced with on the island. I enjoy these mysteries, and I enjoy the tension they create, but the problem with dramatic tension is that it only works if we eventually experience some sort of release or resolution of that tension. You can only string people along so far before the tension becomes too much or before it becomes apparent that no possible pay-off could be worth it. The writers try to work around this by giving partial resolution and introducing new mysteries and new tension, but after a while it all seems to run together.

That's exactly how I feel about what's happened to the storyline for BSG. I now find myself in an adversarial relationship with the writers, thinking that they'd better bring this off properly-- or else.


what's cooking

Tonight, I'll be cooking a shrimp and scallop scampi on fettuccine. About the only substantive change I'll be making to the recipe I extracted (more on the word "extracted" in a moment) is that I'll be using green (spinach?) fettuccine, not the usual kind.

I say I extracted the recipe because I pulled it off a video of someone who goes by the handle "Chef Jean-Pierre." Once you get past the over-ebullient presentation and reconcile yourself to the fact that the video offers no amounts for the ingredients, the video's actually pretty good. Jean-Pierre lies, though, when he suggests the cooking takes only three minutes. By my reckoning, it's closer to twice that time, and when you add the prep time for the rest of the veggies (tomates concassées, the sliced shallots, etc.) and other ingredients, you're looking at around 20-25 minutes, I think. Still-- dinner ought to be ready within an hour.

The recipe, as far as I can tell, is this (again, it's listed without amounts, but by watching the video you can easily eyeball it):



green onion
cream sherry or chardonnay
olive oil



1. Get your fettuccine going before you start the rest of this recipe.

2. Put some olive oil in HOT pan. Make sure oil is hot before next step.

3. Put in scallops. Add salt and pepper immediately. Sauté a few seconds.

4. Add chopped shallots. Scallops should be approaching golden-brown state.

5. Add shrimp. Sauté with salt and pepper.

6. Add garlic and finely chopped fresh tomatoes (boiled, skinned, chopped-- tomates concassées). Stir a second or two.

7. Add diagonally chopped green onion and a bit of parsley.

8. Add cream sherry or chardonnay.

9. Cook the whole thing for three minutes, moving elements around (esp. shrimp).

Watch the video here.

Watch for photos either tonight or tomorrow. I've got to iron some clothes, go shopping for some missing ingredients (what's "shallots" in Korean?) and hit the office. Once I'm back home, the madness begins.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

postal scrotum: la bouche qui pue

The Maven sends me this life-affirming email:

Since I know you've experienced expectorating a tonsillolith and dared to mash it and then take a sniff, and thought to yourself, "Nothing else could smell that bad"...

Have you ever discovered you had a hunk of a rubbery bivalve, which was formerly garlicky and delicious atop a supple mound of linguine, ensconced 'tween your molars and gumline?

Horrified whilst in the restroom, doing a tooth & tartar check, to discover this, I raced back to my cubicle where I promptly flossed it out and into oblivion--I'm still waiting to see if the stench of the liberated, befouled bivalve has carried itself over to the next cubicle over.

I've got my dignity and a can of Glade air freshener on standby.

It's not often that I stop to smell the things caught in my teeth, but I have done so on occasion, and the results aren't pretty. One particularly bad night, before I had my upper left wisdom tooth removed, I flossed the molars close to that wisdom tooth and decided to sniff the quivering fragments on my floss.


If taste and smell are as connected as is often claimed, I feel sorry for the woman whose tongue can reach back far enough to lick my molars-- she'd be tasting zombies back there. Just a reminder that I should floss more.


Ave, Elisson!

Elisson's rant on useless inventions makes for a hilarious read. Especially that final paragraph.


life is digital

My brother sends me a link to a WaPo article about a team of scientists in Maryland who are on the cusp of creating artificial life.

This is the future. It boots nothing to say we are "playing God" or "opening a Pandora's box." Religious language merely adds unnecessary drama; it instills fear and kills genuine debate. More than anything, we need to be able and willing to talk openly about these developments, to speculate coolly together on where they may lead, to palpate and push at the ethical boundaries and decide if there exist any lines we should not cross-- and why. And we need to do this again and again.

DNA is a program, and we're beginning to learn how to read and manipulate it. Life is digital, if I may use a computing metaphor: it is composed of parts that can be rearranged, reconfigured, and reassembled, thereby producing visible, tangible results. The discovery of the existence and manipulability of DNA provides us the ultimate evidence that humanity shares, at an intimate level, a historical continuity with the rest of the biotic world: what can be done to the "lower" animals can be done to us. More than the fossil record, our genetic makeup drives home the point that we are the products of evolution. Moreover, we are reaching a long-anticipated point in human history: the ability to take the reins and guide our own evolution from here on in.

How anyone can remain a creationist in the face of such evidence is beyond me. The same goes for a belief in humanity's "special" or "chosen" status. At the same time, the fact that our fundamental parts are both similar to and interchangeable with parts found in other beings is evidence in favor of those processual worldviews that teach us that we are all fundamentally interconnected, that all is constant change (and exchange).

Where do we go from here?


the helmet and its implications

We might be looking at an amazing revolution. It starts with a device-- a helmet-- that emits infrared light directed at the wearer's brain. The result, according to initial trials, appears to be the stimulation of cell growth in patients afflicted with Alzheimer's, and a concomitant lessening of Alzheimer's symptoms. I was fascinated by this line in the article I just read:

"But what if there was a technology that told the cells to repair themselves and that technology was something as simple as a specific wavelength of light?"

Think of the possibilities: a vest that helps repair the damaged and dying tissue of someone's heart, a girdle that pumps up atrophied kidneys...

...a jock strap that puts the fortitude back in your testicles?

I look forward to a host of techno-comforts in my old age. This infrared therapy had better be one of them.

UPDATE: A bit of a tangent, but since the subject of Alzheimer's touches on philosophy of mind, readers might be interested in this article about a chimp that has beaten a human world champion at a memory test. The human champ in question can memorize the order of the cards in a shuffled deck within 30 seconds. That ought to give you some idea of what the chimp was capable of.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Wright and Albacete

I've been back over at, watching more interviews. Of possible interest to those who'd like a Catholic perspective on interreligious dialogue is Robert Wright's interview (clocking in at around 80 minutes) of Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, who speaks a language I recognize from my days at Catholic University. It's toward the end of the interview that Wright tries to pin Albacete down on the question of Jesus' uniqueness and normativity, and how the Catholic stance affects interreligious dialogue. You'll notice that Albacete's replies include the claim that, however "liberal" he might sound, he is saying nothing out of synch with Roman doctrine. Priests, at least in public, usually make such CYA* claims, though what they might or might not say in private is another matter.**

Albacete offers interesting advice to non-Catholics: "Be faithful to your atheism," he tells atheists. To a Jewish woman: "Be the best Jew you can be." I found this remarkably similar to the advice given by a Polish monk at Hwagye-sa; I think it was Oh-jin sunim who, back in 2000, responded to my question about what advice he'd give a Christian. Oh-jin sunim's answer was: "If you're a Christian, be a good Christian. Muslims should be good Muslims." Albacete bases his view on the idea that a person who authentically follows his desires, coupled with reason, will be led to what he calls "the Mystery." He never insists that non-Catholics are "in error"; at one point, he even laughingly remarks that most Buddhists and atheists can probably achieve salvation faster than he can. At the same time, Albacete makes clear that, as a faithful Catholic, he sees Jesus Christ as the ultimate manifestation of Godhood in the world: Jesus is not merely a teacher but the savior-- the savior-- of humankind.

I'm still digesting the Albacete interview. I invite you to watch it and to leave some comments here. The main thing I hope you get from the interview, especially if you're not Catholic, is that the Catholic view of other religions is more nuanced than the Church's detractors often make it out to be. Many Catholics still seem not to realize this, but as Albacete's remarks make perfectly clear, the Roman Church's official position has been inclusivistic for quite a while (Albacete doesn't say this, but the switch occurred at the Second Vatican Council, 1962-65). The idea that the Church still subscribes to extra ecclesiam, nulla salus (no salvation outside the Church) simply isn't true, at least at the doctrinal level. It may, however, be true among certain Catholics as a matter of practice.

Ah, yes, one last thing: Albacete says that truth and love are two sides of the same coin. This echoes an earlier exchange on this blog regarding mindfulness and compassion. Mindfulness leads automatically to compassion: it's the awareness of things as they are (i.e., truth, suchness), and that awareness channels us to behave in a compassionate way (and there's certainly an overlap between the concepts of love and compassion). While truth, love, mindfulness, and compassion probably shouldn't be lumped together and declared absolutely synonymous, it's worth noting that the thematic parallels between Albacete's formulation and what I take to be the Buddhist stance offer us a bridge across which constructive dialogue may occur.

I await your comments.

*Cover Your Ass.

**To be fair, some priests remain consistent in public and in private.


the hunt was good; the gods are pleased

I'm back from Costco with fatass shrimp and jumbo scallops. Foodblogging can't be far behind. Expect something (that I hope will be) worth looking at this weekend.


"Clerks 2": a quick review

I watched "Clerks 2" the other night and found it to be a satisfying meditation on, among other things, friendship and love. The flick was, in many respects, simply a bigger-budget version of the first movie, treating many of the same existential themes, featuring many of the same preachy monologues (Kevin Smith is a great scriptwriter, but he does lack subtlety) and the requisite cumload of sexual humor.

Highlights: Rosario Dawson's luminous presence. The donkey. The "going ass to mouth" discussion.

Freudian symbolism: the image of an unnaturally large clitoris, representing a masculine impulse toward possession, control, and quite possibly the destruction of one of the main characters.

Geek highlights: a running battle of Star Wars versus Lord of the Rings partisans.

The movie gets sappy toward the end, but those familiar with Kevin Smith's films know that he usually drops the vulgarity and cynicism to reveal the sentimental heart of the story he's telling. If you haven't seen "Clerks 2" yet, go rent it, download it, or steal it.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ave, Pooper!

The Pooper blows out another fine post on the lamer aspects of Korean pop culture. Watch the fan hit the shit.

Also not to be missed: the Pooper brings together a few Star Wars Gangsta Rap YouTube vids. For my money, the vid in the middle is the best, and should probably be the one you watch first.


the beginning of the end

The crepuscular Rudy.


ghoulish tribute

This is an impressive poster, though I suppose it's false advertising given what the Joker will actually look like:

It almost looks as though they used Bruce Spence, doesn't it? Compare:

(The "Batman: Dark Knight" poster comes from here; the Normal Bruce image comes from here; the Mouth of Sauron was found here.)


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

reality impinges

I've begun drafting my official "goodbye" email to my bosses here at Smoo. I don't plan to send it until the end of this month, right before our Lunar New Year break. The office probably knows about my impending late-April departure by now; I've made no secret of it in the staff room, and have spoken of my Kevin's Walk plans with various students (who may, in their turn, have let slip something while filling out forms in our main office).

Leaving Smoo promises to be bittersweet; all in all, despite the administrative madness we go through every semester, it's been a great ride, and even though the pay isn't ideal, I'd seriously consider coming back here after the walk (unless, of course, I find a far sweeter offer at a place with an equally good ambience): some things are more important than money. My sanity, for instance.

Simply typing the draft email this evening has brought home the reality that a Major Transition is in the works for ol' Kevin. As Keanu would say: "Whoa."


réaction oscillante

Watch this little bit of chemical freakiness: the oscillating reaction.



Heath Ledger has shuffled off this mortal coil, his young life mostly unlived. A heartfelt tribute to Ledger can be found over at Elisson's blog.

(Thanks to Jelly for alerting me to the news.)


all hail Rambo!

60-year-old Sly Stallone's new actioner, "Rambo," is coming out. A preview:


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

good words from the Chosun Ilbo

Expats in particular might appreciate the following Chosun Ilbo article, reprinted here in its entirety because it just seems wrong to let it fade away:


The North Korean defector Shin Dong-hyuk has published a memoir. Shin was imprisoned in a concentration camp for political prisoners in South Pyongan Province, which has a reputation for being the worst in North Korea. He escaped the communist country last year.

Shin, who was born in the province, had no idea who Kim Jong-il was until he was 24. That's how cut off the camp was from the outside world. Shin's mother was hanged and his older brother was shot dead right in front of Shin's eyes after they were caught trying to escape. Even when he watched his father cry in pain after his leg was broken during torture, Shin said he was strangely unable to shed any tears. Shin, who was 14 at that time, was burned as punishment and was finally able to move again two months later. In the prison camps, people must do something worthy of a reward to get the chance to marry. Children are taught until they can just add or subtract numbers and then sent off to perform slave labor. Depending on the type of labor, families are split up to work in farms or factories inside the prison camp or to coal mines.

But the horrific stories coming out of North Korea have become "old news": few South Koreans like to hear about the pains and fears faced by North Koreans, since they're stories they have been told many times before. When he visited North Korea, President Roh Moo-hyun coolly signed a visitor's notes at the the Mansudae Assembly Hall saying it was the place whence "the happiness of the people flows." Roh said North Korean leader Kim Jong-il firmly believed in his system and thought he was a true leader. He added the North Koreans were full of national passion.

Elie Wiesel's memoir "Night," which depicts the horrors of Auschwitz, describes how he saw his own father beaten to death and his mother and younger sister die in the gas chambers. Later on in life, in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, Wiesel said, "Many Europeans knew about the holocaust when it was taking place. But nobody did anything about it. The Nazis are not the only ones responsible for the holocaust. To be silent is to side with the killers." He added that when human lives and dignity are threatened, people should transcend borders and throw away their passive attitudes. In October last year, Wiesel, along with former Czech President Vaclav Havel and ex-Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, published human rights report on North Korea and called on the UN to adopt a resolution to pressure the communist country to improve its track record in that area.

By all means talk with Kim Jong-il; negotiate with him. But don't insult the people who live like animals in his country, enduring torture and getting slaughtered, by flattering its regime with words like "happiness" and "passion."

There are only two pieces of literature that are guaranteed to make me weep upon reading them. One is Margaret Edson's play W;t (pronounced "wit"); the other is Wiesel's Night, mentioned above. I'm glad to see the above essay; such things need to be written every now and again to remind us of who we are, of who we're supposed to be.


the white stuff

Snow is falling on Seoul like cocaine from God's heavenly table after He's sneezed. God sneezed the coke yesterday, too, but it didn't stick. Perhaps, today, it will.


Monday, January 21, 2008

where's the Metro?

So, as one of my commenters wondered, where's the Metropolitician? I tried his blog from home and from work-- no dice. Has he been banned? Has he been incarcerated ever since that ugly incident involving the drunk Korean dude (I can no longer link to those blog entries because Metro's blog doesn't appear to be there anymore)?

No Metro? Half-Koreans should be concerned. I do hope all's OK.

For what it's worth, Mike Hurt's other blog, Feet Man Seoul, is still up and running.

UPDATE: Richardson, who's in the US, says the Metro's site is still up. I just did a Unipeak, and sure enough-- I see Mike's site through the proxy. So... is his blog being blocked?

UPDATE 2: A reader named Mark writes in:

Hi Kevin:

[As far as I can tell], all blogs are being blocked at the moment. I have been unable to read my hometown newspaper blog for about a week now.

I almost suspect it is a going away "present" from the MIC... one last "screw you" before dissolving into the great nothing.

- Mark

Well, good fucking riddance to the MIC.



It appears the office is sticking with the twice-a-term scheme: evaluation sheets were passed out to the students today; we'll be evaluated again at the end of the winter term. We teachers had complained, last semester, about the evals having been distributed after only the first week (much too early); I think doing it after the second week is better, as the students have a clearer impression of how the class is run. As always, I'll be curious to see what my students have to say.



Fuckin' Monday.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Charles in a nutshell

My buddy Charles was interviewed for a site called Expat Interviews. If you've ever wanted to know more about the dude who runs the excellent Liminality, this exchange provides you with a decent glimpse of the man, the myth, the muthafucka.

(I appreciate the shout-out, by the way, Charles.)

UPDATE: I see that Stafford was interviewed for the same site! And what's this? Stafford is actually Aussie by birth? What the hell? This is like finding out my mother is actually a man!


the paradox (or is it one?) of murder

Most religions teach that life is sacred. Many, if not all, religions teach that harming or killing life is in some way sinful. Many religions, especially in their later forms, also make a distinction between body and spirit, localizing the essence of a person in something that cannot be touched, because incorporeal.

If we roll with this view of things for a moment-- the view that one's essence is untouchable and perhaps eternal-- what problem is there with killing a living body? The thing we destroy, after all, isn't the essence of that living being, correct? If anything, we might be said to be liberating the essence from its shell, but in no way can we be said to be harming that thing's essence.

Given that something like this body/spirit dualism dominates human thinking in the present day (whether scripturally/traditionally justified or not), why, then, do we have a concept of murder at all? Americans, for example, are largely Christian; most of these Christians, if you asked them, would affirm that we have souls, and that those souls are inviolable by mortal means.* Yet these same Americans would bay for blood if someone killed one of their family members. Why the disconnect?

(In case you're wondering whether I've lost my marbles, no: I don't seriously question the wrongness of murder. I do, however, think the disconnect is real: many people are convinced that we possess some inviolable essence of which our bodies are merely the housing or a shallow physical manifestation. These same people wail and gnash their teeth when a loved one dies. Why, if they're absolutely convinced we have souls/atman/etc.?)

*Pop culture reference: Hermione, in the seventh Harry Potter book, tells Ron that running a sword through someone would do that person's soul no harm.


sexual morality among the chicas

I had an interesting exchange with my Intensive 2s this past Friday; they led the class in student-centered presentations and discussions, all of which used movies as points of departure. One topic that popped up, so to speak, was sex before marriage. The question was rather baldly put by one of the students to her classmates: "What's your feeling on sex before marriage? Is it OK, or should you preserve your virginity until after marriage?"

Of my six students, how many do you think advocated virginity-preservation?


The rest of the girls said that, if they truly loved their partner, then sex before marriage would be OK-- it would be a sign of commitment and a further expression of love. What all the girls agreed on was that sex without love was absolutely verboten. (Just FYI: I happen to think sex before marriage is perfectly OK.)

I told the girls that I was routinely surprised at how easily Korean women admitted they were virgins. In the West, you'd have a hard time finding college girls (and, it goes without saying, college guys) who would gladly admit to their status-- virgin or not-- in public. I failed to tell my girls that many American college campuses sport a large boulder near their main entrance, and usually have some version of the following legend: "The legend says that, if a female virgin ever graduates from our school, that boulder will rise up and float away." I first heard this legend from Dr. Steve many years ago, but have since heard similar versions of it.

Interesting side note: the English word "version" has entered the Korean lexicon, where it is pronounced something like "virgin."*

*It's actually sounds a bit more like "burgeon," but that would spoil the joke.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

say it ten times fast

Your tongue twister for today:

Edith edited it.

(My variant on the slightly easier "Ed edited it.")


summing up the world

When famous Harvard psychology prof Steven Pinker found himself on the Colbert Report, he was asked to sum up the nature of his field in five words or less.* Quick-thinking genius that he is, Pinker paused for only a second or two, then said, counting the words out on his fingers:

"Brain cells fire in patterns."

Everyone in the audience was appropriately wowed by this intellectual feat, as was I.

I'm reading two books filled with quotables right now-- Tom Robbins's Another Roadside Attraction and Huston Smith's Why Religion Matters, a book that might be taken as a reply to "the New Atheism," as some are calling the current phenomenon (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Pinker, et al.). On page 232 of Why Religion Matters, Smith says something that is both brief and, to me, almost as striking as Pinker's five-word utterance:

"Worldviews are unprovable."

Something to ponder. Something to give a man pause during his morning shit.

*Why not "five words or fewer?" you ask. Good question. Even though "word" is a countable noun, I suspect that, in this context, "five words" is treated as a solid block of language.

Think about it: do you say "Ten days is a long time" or "Ten days are a long time"? I'm sure you say the former, which is correct. Of course, these sorts of rationales-- "Sometimes the grammatically countable is grammatically uncountable"-- simply reinforce, in learners' minds, the impression that English is one frothing, unhinged bitch of a language.


all hail Tom Cruise!

Tom Cruise gets his face in the papers yet again thanks to the unauthorized release of another video of him going nuts while talking about your favorite religion and mine, Scientology.

Craig Ferguson's video parody is here.

Another, far more hilarious, Cruise tribute is here. (To be honest, it probably wasn't intended as a Cruise tribute.)

And if you've never read the prose stylings of Cintra Wilson, what better way to introduce you to her wacky world than to dig up one of her old pieces mentioning the Cruiser himself? An excerpt from her essay on the 2002 Oscars:

I must warn the world about Tom Cruise. I feel he is an utterly terrifying Superior Life Form, with the power to melt heads and braid spines. His eyes are as hard, shiny and brutally penetrating as diamond drill-bits. The new braces on his teeth suggest that he is erasing all that remained of his tiny imperfections, and he is now metamorphosing into Ultra Super Perfection Man 3000. I fear his intense, mind-beating politeness, his titanium imperviousness to human weakness, his barking power-laugh.

"Movies make a little bit of magic touch our lives," he commanded us to acknowledge, with steely resolve and Mach-5 mega-humorlessness.

People in the audience started laughing, until they realized that Tom was Not Being Funny At All. He was chosen to frankly address the post-Sept. 11 whither-the-Oscars conundrum head-on. "Should we celebrate the magic the movies bring? Now?" Tom asked, his eyes boring into the eyes of the TV multitudes and implanting rays of total domination. "Dare I say it?" He flashed a smirk with his robotically flawless teeth. "More than EVER," he hissed, laying on his most Extreme Scientological Unction. He had been commanded by the Elders to Obi-Wan-Kenobi-ize the audience into rebelieving in the importance of the obscenely superfluous Oscars. Tom Cruise is becoming the Scary Flaming Eye from "The Lord of the Rings," and I fear that nobody can stop him.

Ha ha! I love Cintra Wilson, and will one day mate with her. Our children will be skull-beating morons and we'll collect their drool and sell it to Koreans, claiming it's a soup additive that increases sexual stamina.



I've finally put up an intro/FAQ post over at Kevin's Walk. Expect it to change as the situation changes. The blog won't really gather steam until May, when Kevin's Walk actually begins.


Friday, January 18, 2008

"BSG: Razor" and "24: Day 3"

I saw "Battlestar Galactica: Razor" a little while back, which now puts me up to date with the show. It was a decent episode, I felt, as it fleshed out some of the peripheral events in Season 2 involving the Battlestar Pegasus, commanded by Admiral Helena Cain. We learn that Cain has two dirty little secrets, one from her past and one from her "present" (the episode is a series of nestled flashbacks; "present" time, from the point of view of that episode, is somewhere in Season 2): first, she had abandoned her kid sister to the Cylons over forty years earlier during the first Cylon war; second, she was the Cylon Gina Inviere's lesbian lover-- without knowing, of course, that Inviere was a Cylon. For my money, though, the best parts of "BSG: Razor" were the flashbacks to a young Bill Adama, hotdog pilot during his first-- and apparently only-- combat mission during the first Cylon war. The special effects during those scenes were first rate (except for the awkward moment when an obviously CGI Adama leaps out of his Viper's ejection seat-- the way that jump was animated left a bad taste in my mouth), and the chance to see Adama go at it full tilt was a refreshing change from the crusty old Adama we've come to know and love.

"BSG: Razor" also offers us a glimpse of a prototype Hybrid-- an old man whose pronouncements are, unlike current Hybrids, both lucid and prophetic. This Hybrid's revelation about Starbuck, given at the end of the episode, is for the viewer's eyes only, as the only human to hear it dies soon after, unable to transmit the news to the rest of the fleet.

Over the past few days, I've been watching Season 3 of "24," the only season I haven't watched thus far. One startling point in this season-- half of which I've seen-- is that there appears to be far less torture than in the other five seasons. Thus far, one crime boss has been roughed up a bit, and only two good guys-- Chase Edmunds and Gael Ortega-- have undergone actual, prolonged torture (Ortega's interrogation is mostly off-camera). I have to admit that I do find the prevalence of torture in "24" a bit disturbing, so Season 3 comes as something of a relief.

Alas, I already know, thanks to my divine foreknowledge, how Season 3 will turn out, but in the meantime I'm fascinated by this season's focus on the art of being a double agent. Infiltrators and other betrayers are a regular feature of "24," but it's not often we get to see Jack Bauer and other good guys mount such elaborate operations to snare their quarry. That, too, is a refreshing change from the usual fare.

When I'm finished with Season 3, I'll be all caught up with "24." Special thanks to my buddy Tom, who provided me the DVDs for both "BSG: Razor" and all six seasons of "24" from the Philippines. Salamat!


Ave, Charles!

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Photoshop version, in this entry at Liminality.


Darth Vader: blues man

Did you know the most famous of the Sith lords was a harmonica man?


Thursday, January 17, 2008


Over at the Marmot's Hole is welcome news about Lee Myeong Bak's planned dismantling of quite a few government ministries. While I'm not totally on board with the conservative project in general, I do agree with the classical conservative principle that smaller government is better government.


Happy Birthday, Dad!

It's time once again to note a milestone as my father turns 66-- yes, the number of the Beast (sort of). May this year bring the world much pain and suffering, Dad!

My father and Harrison Ford were both born in 1942; Dad is exactly the same age as Muhammad Ali (also 17 Jan 42), and he shares his January 17 birth date (if not birth year) with that American luminary, Benjamin Franklin.

Below is one of my favorite pictures of Dad; my other favorite image comes from a videotape made one Christmas, long ago, that shows Dad and Mom dancing to an oldie tune by the fireplace. I think my brother David was doing the filming; everything about that video was just right, including the way David timed the fade to black. I'd love to get that moment on DVD (or BlueRay, or MP4, or whatever the latest and best electronic format is).

Anyway... Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Miss Stinky's conspicuous absence

I think the whole class sighed with relief when Miss Stinky turned up missing for a second time this week. The air was noticeably clearer; the class didn't seem quite as edgy; my mind and body weren't in fight-or-flight mode.

Making a stink in the bathroom is one thing; taking that stink with you wherever you go is quite another. I'm hoping Miss Stinky drifts quietly, gassily away.



I meant to blog this the other day: I shat out a turd that bore a disturbing resemblance to a railroad spike-- size, shape, color. I wouldn't be surprised if the turd also weighed the same and had roughly the same hardness and tensile strength as a spike.

I need to shit out a few more of those and start a collection.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

what substance dualists can't accept

Inspired by Malcolm's recent linkage to a Steven Pinker essay, I hereby provide you with a counter-link, if you will, to another Pinker essay titled "The Mystery of Consciousness." The section I reprint below is one that substance dualists generally find hard to swallow, and which they will attempt to dismiss as merely "missing the point" in discussing the so-called "hard problem" of consciousness:


Scientists have exorcised the ghost from the machine not because they are mechanistic killjoys but because they have amassed evidence that every aspect of consciousness can be tied to the brain. Using functional MRI, cognitive neuroscientists can almost read people's thoughts from the blood flow in their brains. They can tell, for instance, whether a person is thinking about a face or a place or whether a picture the person is looking at is of a bottle or a shoe.

And consciousness can be pushed around by physical manipulations. Electrical stimulation of the brain during surgery can cause a person to have hallucinations that are indistinguishable from reality, such as a song playing in the room or a childhood birthday party. Chemicals that affect the brain, from caffeine and alcohol to Prozac and LSD, can profoundly alter how people think, feel and see. Surgery that severs the corpus callosum, separating the two hemispheres (a treatment for epilepsy), spawns two consciousnesses within the same skull, as if the soul could be cleaved in two with a knife.

And when the physiological activity of the brain ceases, as far as anyone can tell the person's consciousness goes out of existence. Attempts to contact the souls of the dead (a pursuit of serious scientists a century ago) turned up only cheap magic tricks, and near death experiences are not the eyewitness reports of a soul parting company from the body but symptoms of oxygen starvation in the eyes and brain. In September, a team of Swiss neuroscientists reported that they could turn out-of-body experiences on and off by stimulating the part of the brain in which vision and bodily sensations converge.

I make some of the above points in my own essay on mind (which I also included in my book), though nowhere near as eloquently or as cogently as Pinker does.

For those who missed it when I published it last time, here's a link to an interview of Steven Pinker by Robert Wright (with thanks again to Sperwer for having alerted me to this very interesting website).

One problem I'd eventually like to address is the dualist's insistence on what is termed "the unity of consciousness," an idea attacked by quite diverse schools of thought ranging from neuroscience to postmodernism to Buddhism.



Félicitations à Sarko à l'occasion de son mariage secret avec Carla Bruni.

Que ça marche cette fois, bordel de merde...


Monday, January 14, 2008

foodblog: recent trip to Brasilia

Here's a quick series of photos from a recent trip to Brasilia, a chain restaurant in (and around?) Seoul that offers the ravenous carnivore unlimited steak and salad for W25,000 per person, not including the price of drinks.

I had originally thought that Brasilia was a buffet resto. Not so. The customer sits at table and the food is simply brought to him at more or less regular intervals. I got pretty much the same cut of steak almost every time. The steaks were good, to be sure, but I somehow had it in my head that Brasilia was going to be a Brazilian-themed version of Carne Station-- which, when all is said and done, I prefer to Brasilia. But Brasilia's price is still hard to beat, especially considering how expensive beef can be in South Korea.

I ended up eating six steaks; I photographed only four of them. Service was friendly; most of the staffers are Korean, but the foreign guy serving me my steaks (a Brazilian?) also spoke Korean.

Before the first steak arrives, you get the table setting, which includes a mess of vegetables in various forms-- a slaw-style salad, a bowl of chunky-style salsa ingredients (chopped onions, tomatoes, peppers, etc.), a bowl of rice mixed with vegetables, a bowl of chopped cucumbers, and another bowl filled with Korean-style potato salad. Along with this, you get a bowl of red sauce, which is only mildly spicy, but quite good on the steak.

The steaks arrived in a well-timed manner, usually as I was just finishing up the previous steak. In case you're wondering how I managed to wolf down six of these bad boys, keep in mind that each steak isn't very big.



Meatocardial infarction.

Upon exiting the resto, which sits underground, I snapped a few exterior shots:

Was it worth the trip? I suppose so. The quality of steak is quite good though not stellar; the quantity, however, leaves you with nothing to complain about. Unlike Carne Station, there's no time limit to your meal; you simply have to finish before closing time. Two problems for me were that (1) I'm not really much of a steak man (said he after eating six slabs of meat), and (2) it would have been nice to have some variety. But neither of these problems is really an indictment of Brasilia; if you're into steak and you've been looking for a place that offers a lot of red meat for a very reasonable price (by Korean standards, anyway), Brasilia's the place to go. Otherwise, if you're like me and you prefer a wide selection of meats to grill, Carne Station is by far the better bet.



hooray for HRC!


Sunday, January 13, 2008

another beautiful budae jjigae

Almost a week ago, the following was sent to me in an email from Kronag and Ariel in Hawaii:

Aloha from Hawaii,

My friend and I were inspired by your beautiful picture of Budae Chigae. We managed to find all ingredients in one grocery store (except ddeok, we substituted with Mochi). Picture attached, thanks for the inspiration.

Kronag & Ariel

And here's the pic they sent:

Makes me hungry. And damn, what a clean stove top! Puts me to shame.


Pat Condell, militant atheist

All hail Gord of Eclexys for alerting me to the existence of British stand-up comedian Pat Condell, an outspoken atheist who has been uploading video after video to YouTube, and has been garnering hundreds of thousands of visits per video (more about him here).

Condell is down on religion, especially in its fundie and/or violently militant forms; he also sees the UK as America's lapdog and is an avid Bush-hater, primarily because of Bush's born-again religiosity. Condell spends several videos dealing with charges of racism because of his very un-PC opinions about the Muslim presence in Europe. In a video scolding polite atheists, he talks about the need to be uncivil and polemical in order to undo the damage being done by religion.

His videos are smoothly executed affairs, with nary a stutter, stumble, or "um." I assume he's reading his words off a prompter, but can't be sure of this: his delivery is quite smooth, and he appears to be looking straight into the camera. Has he, perhaps, memorized his monologues?

As a nontheist and not a classical theist, I find I'm not all that bothered* by Condell's diatribes (and make no mistake: that's what they are), though I do sense he hasn't completely fleshed out his position on certain matters. On the one hand, he claims to have no problem with most religions as long as they're practiced privately and not foisted upon the public; on the other, it seems quite obvious that he does have major problems with the belief systems he derides, and not merely the fundie/militant strains of those systems.

Go watch Condell rant and rave at his YouTube page. The video that got him in some trouble is here (1); his response to Berkeleyan outrage at his video is here (2); the video that has most impressed me thus far is here (3), but the video that made me laugh the most is here (4).

*Condell actually takes time to point out that sincere religious practitioners shouldn't be so petty as to be bothered by him.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ave, Kimchi!

Over at ZenKimchi is an entry featuring a YouTube video about the, er, "Korean History Channel" from a group called JustKiddingFilms. I admit it: I laughed like a drooling idiot. But believe me, I understand why a Korean watching the same video might not see it in quite the same light.

Question: are those two guys Korean? The dude on the left (my left) has good Korean pronunciation-- especially when shouting "ship-saekki-ya!"-- but the dude on the right is either a kyopo or completely non-Korean, based on his pronunciation.

If it turns out this video was put together by two Japanese guys... well, we'll soon see just how "peace-uh-ful" Korean people really are.

I'm still shaking my head in wonder.

ADDENDUM: If you visit the group's MySpace page, there's a link that deals with the question of the comedians' ethnicity. They don't tell you what it is (sorry to spoil the surprise), but they do mock you-- especially if you're Asian-- for not even knowing what race they are. Their deeper point is that it's better to have a sense of pan-Amerasian identity than to engage in the usual parochial squabbles. I think their message is a good one, though I found it ironic that they wrote:

Check this out, recently I've noticed the Asian American youth been leaning more toward Eurocentric ways. I mean its great that we're assimilating but the bottom line is we're not white, and we shouldn't throw away our culture completely and submit. Here's the reason why... my friend is a 6th generation Japanese American, people still ask him what country he's from, but my homie, he's a second generation Dutch American. No one asks him what country he's from, he's already a QUALIFIED AMERICAN BECAUSE HES WHITE..... and because we're not white, we cant just give everything up and act if were already white if we're NOT going to be looked upon as Americans... we need to stay true to our roots....

So the message is: don't get all Eurocentric, but it's OK to go the Ebonics route, cu' dat's stayin' true to our roots, yo.

Aside from that quibble, I think this group's heart is in the right place.

ADDENDUM 2: Upon second hearing, it's not obvious that either actually knows Korean. At one point they both start shouting what sounds, to me at least, like nonsense Korean syllables. Also: when they hold up the white styrofoam cup, the hangeul on there is obviously bullshit. This doesn't bring us much closer to solving the mystery of the guys' ethnicity, but it's worth noting. (Fluent Korean speakers are free to weigh in on whether the nonsense really is nonsense.)


Ave, Mike!

My buddy Mike at Naked Villainy has written an interesting commentary about the primaries, one that scolds the news agencies for not looking at the Big Picture.

Go and read.


obesity as lifestyle choice?

I'm fat, but I'm not into so-called "fat acceptance." For me, this isn't a matter of aesthetics: there are curvy chicks who've caught my eye. I reject fat acceptance for health reasons, and agree with those skinny folk who say that, for most of us, being fat is a simple matter of taking in more calories than we put out, and of being too lazy to get active. I'm responsible for how I look-- not "society," not the fast-food companies, not the capitalist system that makes healthy food expensive.

Now there's an article (found via Drudge) that claims that obesity is a lifestyle choice. In a literal sense, I suppose this is true: one's obesity is the direct result of how one lives one's life: the body is a ruthless calorie counter, and it will show the world just what you're doing. But beware the subtext of the claim: in saying "obesity is a lifestyle choice," the claimant is implying that obesity is simply another in a whole gamut of legitimate ways to live one's life.

Because I'm chubbalicious, I don't go around preaching to fellow fatties that they need to lose weight. Most overweight folks already realize they need to do something; they don't need the reminder. But this doesn't mean that I accept obesity as a legitimate lifestyle choice any more than I accept smoking as a lifestyle choice. I won't tell someone they should quit smoking, and if someone starts smoking in my presence, I won't tell them to put their cigarette out, but I also have my limits: I won't let people smoke inside my domicile, and I won't date a smoker.

The linked article addresses the issue of whether obesity is a choice, and seems to take sides with those who claim it isn't. But if you read the article, you'll see that the argument essentially comes down to: "Most people who are obese don't want to be." What the article doesn't do is draw the common-sense connection between a person's actions and the consequences of those actions. Very, very few people can truly claim that their obesity is the result of some glandular or genetic condition. Most obese folks eat (and sit) themselves into the state they're in.

The article highlights an argument from a book called The Fattening of America that obesity, far from being an epidemic, should be considered the natural consequence of affluence:

"Obesity is a natural extension of an advancing economy. As you become a First World economy and you get all these labor-saving devices and low-cost, easily accessible foods, people are going to eat more and exercise less," health economist Eric Finkelstein told AFP.

I'm not sure I buy this, primarily because, when you look at the rich, you see that a significant proportion of them aren't fat (movie stars, corporate bigwigs, etc.). In a country like America, where even the poor have a menu of choices,* there's no excuse for the obesity we see and experience.

This is one of those issues that doesn't require stats: 300 million people-- the American population-- is a huge demographic sample, and can be compared with other groups of similar or larger size-- say, all of Europe or all of China. Start looking at these groups, and you realize right away that obesity isn't the result of some victimizing factor. If a disproportionate number of Americans are claiming that their obesity is the result of glandular/genetic conditions, then you'd expect-- if these claims were legitimate-- a roughly equal distribution of those conditions in other populations. This isn't what we see on the global level.

Perhaps the operative word in the phrase "lifestyle choice" should be "choice," not "lifestyle." You are the sum of your decisions; you can dig yourself out of whatever hole you've gotten yourself into. If it takes you more effort and self-discipline** than it takes other people, well boo-hoo-- we've all got crosses to bear. And yeah, I'm preaching as much to myself as anyone else.

That being said, I'm not the gung-ho type who believes that change merely comes from within and that the only respectable route is to solve one's problems alone, in the spirit of rugged individualism. If you're the kind of person who could use some help and encouragement from others, then by all means go get some! But if you think you can just click over to an entirely different way of thinking and acting, then Godspeed.

The basic problem for most of us is, as the psychologist M. Scott Peck pointed out decades ago in his The Road Less Traveled, that we're all basically lazy in some way or other. For many of us, the laziness results in obesity. For others, it results in various personality problems. Breaking out of that laziness is key; maintaining the momentum of the breakout moment through self-discipline is, not to put too fine a point on it, The Answer To Our Problems. A guy who undergoes military training, then takes nothing of that training with him when he leaves the military, has gained nothing from all those years invested in self-improvement. A person who goes to a fat farm, loses weight, and then goes right back to munching once back in society hasn't learned a thing. Fighting our inherent laziness is a daily struggle, but because laziness resides inside our own individual skulls, we mustn't take the easy route of blaming others for our own personal problems.

And on that note (which I hope you find optimistic), it's time for me to go move around a bit. Then a bit more... and a bit more...

*There are spots of third world-style poverty in the States, but let's be realistic: the US isn't Bangladesh. The proportion of actual victims is vanishingly small.

**Interesting that the article never once mentions self-discipline. Beware the language of victimhood.


the Pooper's retrograde moulting

The Party Pooper announces he's back on Blogspot. His new URL:

If you're a Koreablogger and you don't update your link, then the Pooper threatens:

I'll keep this site here alive for a while until EVERYONE who currently links to this site has updated the link. Beginning next week, I will go through every single blog in K-blogosphere just to check this. For blogs that haven't updated the link, I will leave petty comments on their most recent posts. If they still do not respond, I will be forced to resort to cyber-terrorism (I picked up a few tricks from the hordes of angry 10-year-old kyopos that didn't take too kindly to my posts on their gay boybands, so don't take this threat lightly).

I've just updated my link, so I hope I can avoid an ass-kicking.


Friday, January 11, 2008

welcome to the sidebar

Lipgloss Opprobrium, which has turned out to be quite the quirky literary blog (it's actual lit, not merely about lit), joins the sidebar with the following blogroll image:

Welcome, uh, whoever you are, and thanks to the friend who originally pointed me to this new blog.


the Thurmanator

With thanks to Malcolm, whose post about a new website called "Big Think" led me to a link featuring a video of Robert Thurman, a prof who is well known in Buddhist studies circles, but who is hailed by the public as the father of Uma. Big Think offers more info on Dr. Thurman here.

Damn, that video... while watching it, I couldn't get the deep, stentorian voice of Christopher Lee-- in Saruman drag-- out of my head: "A great... eye..."


Ave, Lipgloss!

This new blog continues to be nuttier than Fat Bastard's shit. This most recent post had me guffawing. Go over and leave a comment.


judge for yourself

Political commentary...

Skippy-style, or...


Isn't there a writers' strike going on? In the name of solidarity, Roseanne, stop fucking blogging. Your prose is painful, and that's why, today, I seek relief in soothing, lambent pools of Camille Paglia.


Ms. Stinky, sex talk, and a
look back at the first week

My smelly student, the 49-year-old Ms. Stinky, confessed that she felt awkward talking about sex in class. The topic arose as we were discussing "Three's Company," the series that is the basic template for our CBI course. Fans of 3C know that each episode is positively tumescent with sexual humor, including an issue that older Koreans find discomfiting: old people having sex. The character of Mrs. Roper, the strong-willed but sex-starved landlady, can be, as my friend and colleague Tom points out, a positive feminist role model. But her frankness is, for some of my students, hard to swallow. This is especially true for Ms. Stinky, who is having a hard time digesting "Three's Company" in general. When Ms. Stinky's group got to the question, "Who, at this point, is your favorite character?", Ms. Stinky ejaculated, "Nobody is!"

[NB: I should note that "talking about sex in class" doesn't mean that we discuss how best to flick and sweep the tongue, or what everyone's favorite thrusting rhythm is, or what positions produce the most explosive orgasms. No: in my class, what happens is this: I pause the DVD, mention that the dialogue we just heard included a sex joke, and then I explain the sex joke, which usually isn't all that nasty. We never get more personal or more detailed than that, because I'm sure the students would leave the class in droves, horrified at my salacity.]

Having older people in class can sometimes be problematic. On the one hand, the older folks often tend to be more dedicated to their studies than the young'ns. They're far less likely to skip class or to arrive unprepared. On the other hand, many of my older students are locked into a certain level of English proficiency; they have high hopes for improvement, which makes me cringe inwardly: making significant progress in a language when you're nearing or past the 50 mark is difficult work, and most of the older folks I've encountered simply aren't up to it. (For any of my older readers, I sincerely apologize if this observation sounds disrespectful, but I gotta call it as I see it.*) Some of my older students also exhibit a certain crotchetiness bespeaking a lack of openness to the new or unfamiliar, as was the case last semester with one ajumma student (like the current one, she was single), who was pleasant enough when speaking directly to me, but who had a habit of complaining to her classmates (within earshot of me) about the difference between the CBI course I was running and the typical conversation class, which places most of its emphasis on speaking.**

But despite Ms. Stinky's stinkiness, this first week of class went well. The CNN class was perky on Monday but a bit disappointing on Wednesday: one person arrived 20 minutes late; another was 40 minutes late. In such a case, I'm tempted to wonder why the student bothered coming to class at all. Despite these problems, I was nonetheless pleased with the general level of motivation. The 10:10AM CBI class has stabilized at four people, which one student proclaimed was exactly what she wanted (many students, quite understandably, hate learning English in large groups). This group also includes two returnees, which makes the hour that much more pleasant for me. The 11:20AM CBI class remains large (by our standards) at seven people, including Ms. Stinky; and my three-hour Intensive English class, which runs from 1:30PM to 4:30PM, has stabilized at five cheerful souls.

Skill levels vary, which is to be expected since the office decided to kill one level, reducing three levels to just two. This means that my classes, which were all originally Level 2, now include a sprinkling of 1s. I've been watching those 1s closely to see if they're thinking of giving up. If they are, I'm going to try to persuade them to keep on trying; if the "I+1" hypothesis*** is correct, then nothing beats a good, hard push when learning a language. My Intensive English class includes more than the usual share of gigglers this time around, which is good: it adds more levity to the ambience.

I'm hoping this will be a decent semester. At seven weeks, it promises to be short, but maybe that's not a bad thing. Soon, I'll have to notify the office of my intention to leave Smoo (they may already know; I haven't kept it a secret, but I also haven't made formal mention of my plans). One huge matter to discuss will be pension-- I've been paying into this program for three years and seven months (three contract cycles at Smoo plus seven months at EC, my old place of work) at a rate of about $100 per month. This payment is supposed to be matched by both the school and the government, which means I should have, in theory, 43 months' worth of pension coming to me, or $8600. Add to this the extra $1000 I'm to receive as the year-end bonus to my contract, and I'm looking at nearly $10,000 to kick my ass back to the States. All that money will have to go toward debt relief (I have no credit card debt, but I still have a mountain of scholastic debt that gnaws away at a rate of about $500 per month), a necessary thing if I'm to move forward with Kevin's Walk.

So that's the short- and long-range forecast for now, boys and girls. Let's hope the semester continues on an even keel. Let's further hope Ms. Stinky takes a shower and changes her clothes.

*In linguistics, Stephen Krashen's "affective filter hypothesis" partially accounts for this lack of progress by observing that one's emotional state plays a role in language learning: the more self-conscious, tense, and fearful one is while in class, the less likely one is to progress, and this holds true for any age group. One's emotional makeup is like a filter through which sense data pass, hence the term "affective filter."

Older folks, who may have grown set in their ways, therefore have trouble not so much because of dwindling intellectual flexibility as because of dwindling emotional (affective) flexibility: one acquires certain habits of emotional response to various situations, and those habits naturally come into play when one finds oneself thrust into the language classroom. I mention all this to point out that, whatever my experience in teaching older students might be, there are always exceptions. I don't want to be accused of bundling all near-50s and over-50s into a single, exceptionless category.

I should also note the obvious: older folks have lives to lead. They've got jobs, they often have families and other commitments; it's not easy to concentrate on language class when so many important things are competing for one's attention. This fact also contributes to an older student's lack of progress in a language.

**Older folks who've developed a habit of openness are far less problematic. I've had a few such students as well: they're cheerful, they're young at heart, they're unselfconscious and more than willing to let go and try something new. Such students are a pleasure to teach. There's no ego-driven tug of war.

***Krashen again. The idea is that a student of proficiency level "I" can benefit from being exposed to "I+1"-level input. The student is thereby forced to struggle both to understand and to produce the proper utterances. It's something of a sink-or-swim philosophy, but I think it has merit. My own experience in Korean class at Korea University bears this out: even though I ended up with a C in a class that was substantially over my head, my mother was shocked at how much my Korean had improved. My Korean still sucks, but the point is that I made significant progress in a short amount of time.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

shoving off

Heading off to the resto soon and hoping like hell we can just gate-crash.

Pics later.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ave, Charles!

Charles shows off the goodies I bought him and wife when I was in Europe. Sorry I took so long getting it all to you guys.


fun with glue

How far would you go to avoid going back to school?


what might kill attendance
(and the shit story)

Second day of class. I'm beginning to see the future taking shape. Today, my 10:10AM CBI English class was down by one student and the following class, 11:20AM CBI, was up by one, as a new student appeared. Actually, this new student was an old student: she was the selfsame girl who had the temerity to ask if she could stand up during class. My three-hour Intensive English class held steady today; we had five again (one girl defected yesterday in the middle of class after concluding she was in the wrong level; I'm not counting her).

So the numbers aren't unstable quite yet, though I expect the class composition to be in flux for the first two weeks of term. Thereafter, we'll see the usual steady decline.

I am, however, worried that my biggest class, the 11:20AM one, might see a rapid dropoff because of one lady, a 49-year-old, who has some amazingly nasty body odor. For my readers who aren't in Korea, let me note: in general Koreans are far less smelly than us Westerners (I'm half-Korean, but I have no choice but to lump myself in with my Western comrades on this: I produce an impressive Western funk). Sorry, but that's just a fact. A truly smelly Korean is unusual; a truly smelly Korean woman is, as the French say, inouï: unheard-of.

The odor in question is a vile combination of body musk and unwashed clothing. However much it's disturbing me, I can only imagine the havoc it's wreaking on the sensitive olfactory nerves of the younger, primmer ladies in my class, and I'm sincerely worried that I might lose students based solely on this lady's presence.

What kills me is that my noisome putrefactrix is a friendly enough soul. She's single and wears her hair in a rather manly fashion (I really need to provide you all with a picture). I think she means well. But with her blunt features, she's no beauty queen, and when you combine her dowdy looks with her offensive scent, you can see why she remains single. I, at least, shower daily-- often twice daily in the summertime, because I know how nasty I can smell.

Fuck. What to do?

I predict I'll be taking significant losses by the third week. My nightmare is that the class will dwindle until it's just me and her and her stink, and she'll be looking around, wondering where everyone else went. At that point, I'll explode and tell her what I think the reason for everyone's disappearance is... and she'll depart in a huff, leaving me with zero students.

Maybe not a bad thing, that.

In other news, I had an interesting shit earlier today. It was one of those super-solid chunks that you have to push and push in order to get out of your system. A full minute of pushing only budges such a log by a few millimeters, so you're forced to rest a bit, then try again. This is something I've done at home, with generally positive results. I push, I heave, I rest, I start over... after ten or fifteen minutes, the entire payload clears the bomb bay and I leave the bathroom with a properly empty colon.

But today, with the log sticking an estimated 1.5 centimeters out of my ass, I looked at my watch and realized I had only 90 seconds before break would be over. My three-hour class includes a ten-minute break in the middle, you see, and I had wasted the first five minutes on some errand, then hit the restroom during the final five minutes. The situation was approaching crisis levels.

So there I was, recalcitrant log peeping timidly out of my ass, and the awful choice was upon me: behead the log now and try again later, or risk being late for my class by engaging in one last, desperate, hemorrhoid-bursting push.

I chose beheading. The blade of my anus scythed through the turtle's neck; the head dropped into the bowl with a cadaverous poip.

Then it was time to wipe.

If you're like me, you dread this moment, because the log you're dealing with is obviously composed of something abnormal. Normal logs slide out like miniature sandworms from Frank Herbert's Dune, and the amount of wiping needed is minimal. But when you behead a log of the type I was trying to shit out-- that is, the type that doesn't want to come out-- what generally happens is that you wipe... and you wipe... and you wipe some more... and the amount of shit befouling your portal never seems to change. In a bizarre way, it's sort of magical, really, like when you find one of those fantastic, self-refilling chalices of legend. The ass becomes, for all intents and purposes, unwipeable, as if the material you're voiding is a close cousin of Nutella. Ever tried to wipe Nutella off a piece of bread?

I ended up being a minute late to class, but the students didn't seem to mind. The important thing was that I managed to rid myself of the foulness and tracked none of it back with me to class. The Intensive English students don't deserve to be exposed to stinkiness any more than do my poor 11:20s.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Ave, Hellboy!

This preview for "Hellboy 2" sure looks like fun to me. "Speed Racer," which is a Wachowski Brothers effort, looks as though it's geared almost entirely to kids.


Day 2

I'm up after a nice twelve-hour nap. I hadn't had any sleep the night before (I rarely sleep well, if at all, the day before the new semester begins), and I was exhausted after yesterday's six-hour marathon. Today, I have no CNN class, which means I don't begin the day until 10:10AM.

The classes seem all right, though I have only five people for intensive English. That group seems friendly enough, but it, too, fails to match the dynamism of the CNN class. One thing I've learned, though, is that first impressions rarely indicate how a semester will turn out; quite often, a given class will surprise me with its level of dedication.

And now-- shit, shave, shower, and shove off. Class awaits.

Meantime, enjoy this wonderful budae-jjigae post by a lady out in London.


Monday, January 07, 2008

first day... halfway through

I've done my first three hours of a six-hour day. The classes were all right, with 9AM CNN English-- my first class of the day on Mondays and Wednesdays-- being the liveliest. The next two classes (intermediate CBI English) went well, but had nowhere near the pep of the first class. I'm glad the day will start off energetically, at least.

I now have a 70-minute lunch break, followed by three hours of intensive English with only five students. Oy.

In any case, it's good to be back at work. It'll take my mind of this still-persistent nosebleed, which has now been with me since about the middle of the fall semester last year. The bleed's not a geyser or anything so dramatic; it's just that the insides of my nostrils have been coated and crusted with blood clots (usually in the form of bloody boogers). When I twist a wad of toilet paper inside a nostril, it always comes out red. Again, not soaked with blood, but definitely covered with it. I should show you a picture one of these days.

I suspect the pressure of last semester-- the hours I was putting in, the amount of work I was doing, the fact that I was doing 7-day weeks for most of the term-- probably led to the present predicament. Getting nastily sick after my return from Europe didn't help, I'm sure.

Right-- enough moaning and groaning. I'm expecting some lunch in a few minutes and I've got some last-minute prep to do for the three-hour class.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Hillary's Ségolène moment?

You may recall that, last year during the French presidential election campaign, there was supposedly a moment when Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal flew off the handle during a debate with then-candidate Nicolas Sarkozy. I watched the video that captured Royal's putative moment of weakness... and was unimpressed. She seemed a bit upset, but to my eyes she hadn't truly lost her cool.

Now along comes this new video from the Saturday night Democratic debate. It purportedly shows Hillary Clinton revealing, in a moment of weakness, her angry side. The release of the video seems to be aimed at feeding the current meme that Hillary can't handle pressure, that she won't be cool under fire. I'm not sure why this charge is being aimed at her (though if I were to guess, I'd ascribe it to sexism); her husband was notorious for his often-towering temper behind closed doors, the Watergate transcripts reveal a Nixon who had no trouble spewing foul-mouthed invective, Harry Truman was famous for his blistering, caustic character... the list goes on. Since when did preternatural calm become a criterion by which to judge a candidate's presidential demeanor?

So I watched the Hillary video expecting bulging eyes, taut neck cords, reddened cheeks, and a big, fat vein pulsing in the middle of the forehead. I saw none of that. In fact, I couldn't help noticing that, in that supposedly "heated" moment, Hillary had strung together an impressively long sentence whose grammar was, at least on initial hearing, impeccable. I doubt I could do that under pressure. I'd be sputtering and half out of my seat, asking my interlocutor if he'd like to step outside.

I'm no fan of Hillary, but come on-- sometimes people make mountains out of molehills.


postal scrotum: Kermit's reaction

My buddy Tom sends me a link to Kermit the Frog's reaction to that Internet sensation, Two Girls, One Cup (do not click the second link unless you have an extremely strong stomach).

There's also video of Kermit bringing the dog Rowlf over to watch 2G1C. Rowlf's reaction, alas, involves a punchline you can see coming from a mile away, but it's still sort of funny.

I admit I wasn't able to finish watching 2G1C the first time I saw it (all credit to the Maven, whose site introduced me to the vid). Then it became a matter of pride to see it through to the end, which I managed to do on the second try. 2G1C was, for me, one of the two most disturbing sights of 2007, the other being the tree-root guy (again, do not click unless you are prepared to see a grossly altered human body). Together, these two images left me rather scarred by the end of the year.

Ladies, I hope you never, ever do the things I saw in that 2G1C video. Good Christ.



I'm very, very disappointed in the new preview trailer for "The Dark Knight." Heath Ledger's version of the Joker just... just doesn't cut it. That's no slam on Ledger himself; I think he's a fine, talented actor. But I don't like how he's chosen to play the Joker in this case, and I don't like director Christopher Nolan's take on who and what the Joker is. As you'll see when you watch the trailer, the Joker is simply a nutty, nameless guy who paints his face. Is he a genius with chemicals? We'll see. He does seem, in this version of the story, to have a bizarre love of heavy-duty firearms.

Ledger's line delivery is also annoying. He strives for a bizarre cadence ("Co...missioner!") and adopts an exaggerated American nasality; this latter problem bugs me because Ledger, an Aussie who has lived in the States, can affect a perfect American accent without shifting into caricature. When I close my eyes, I don't hear Heath Ledger: I hear Paul Giamatti (listen to Giamatti in the trailer for Shoot 'Em Up"... by the way, Roger Ebert's review of this movie makes me want to see it).

I'm hoping the actual Batman film is an order of magnitude better than this preview. And I'm beginning to wonder if the Euro and Aussie thespian usurpation of American comic icons* is sullying our red-meat, graphic-novel purity. Too many speakers of British English spoil the American icon.

Does my "purity" talk make me sound too Korean?

*Batman is played by Christian Bale, a Welshman. The Joker is played by Heath Ledger, an Australian. Commissioner Gordon is played by Gary Oldman, an Englishman. Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred is played by Michael Caine, also an Englishman (though this last is, I suppose, only proper).


what YouTube has taught me

I've learned that, whenever I'm down, the best way to cure my blues is to visit YouTube, type "face plant" in the search window, and just start watching.


Saturday, January 05, 2008

when captions attack

What's wrong with this picture?


hit me, baby, one more time

I've never been a fan of Britney Spears's singing. She simply lacks talent as a vocalist, though she has, in the past, been a fine dancer and world-class lip-syncher.

One thing I do have to admit, though, is that no matter what she does, Britney is a consummate entertainer.

All hail the Brit!


that unpalatable menu

The GOP's problem in a nutshell:

Great appeal to white evangelicals, but how electable is he, really? And then there's the "GOP's Jimmy Carter" accusation (did I get that line from Skippy? probably...).

Skews way too liberal on Iraq. Big minus.

Skews too liberal on abortion, gun control, and other domestic matters. Plain weird on immigration.

How often I've heard Republicans say: I'll never forgive him for McCain-Feingold. It's become something of a zombie-like mantra.

Already quoted as saying he doesn't "particularly want" to be president. Can't seem to shake his image as sleepy and unmotivated despite an awesome, YouTube-driven beginning.

I think McCain and Giuliani are the GOP's two best bets. Hardcore Republicans don't like thinking about the advantages of cross-party appeal, but McCain and Giuliani both come off looking, overall, like foreign policy hawks and social moderates without the Santorum stink about them. Both candidates are willing to work with members across the aisle. True, both are arrogant and temperamental in their own ways, but both are also gifted with good senses of humor. They're electable.

This is the political climate we live in, folks. I think most of the country would like to see a president who is (1) fiscally conservative, (2) socially moderate/liberal, and (3) hawkish in foreign policy. McCain and Giuliani, on the GOP side, come closest to this.

On the Dem side... well, I'd say that former Dem Joe Lieberman came closest to that ideal; he was and remains a foreign policy hawk. Hillary has the hawkishness down pat, but she's also (rightly, I think) been pegged as a big-time nanny-stater, which has little appeal for the right-skewing half (or more than half) of the country.

But for the Dems, the menu's no longer unpalatable. I suspect that Obama's got the charm to make people believe in him. He's certainly got the momentum to carry New Hampshire now. Americans like a winner.

Then again, Americans also like the underdog. It's one of those quirky contradictions in our national character, I think: we love the #1 dude, but we also root for the #10 guy who fights his way up the charts. There's room in our hearts for both types of people-- those who seem born to win, and those with the tenacity to win. Grace and grit. For the Dems, it's a choice between dynastic Hillary and earnest Obama. For the Republicans, it's... who, exactly?