Wednesday, February 28, 2007

wut i eat

I thought I'd give you a look at some of what I have been and will be defecating.

First up-- these four pictures are from two days ago. They show one of the four cups of Nigella's chocolate mousse I had made.

That mousse was damn good, too.

The next eleven pics show you, step by step, the pasta I made this evening. It was essentially a fettuccine alfredo with andouille sausage and spiced shrimp. Vaguely Outback Steakhouse-ish in concept, though not quite as good in execution. Could've used a bit more oomph-- some garlic, some salt, some fresh parsley, or something. Luckily, the spices in the andouille and on the shrimp made up for the general blandness of tonight's alfredo, and if nothing else, the ensemble looked and smelled pretty good.

Of course, if you really want to drool over some food photos, go visit this post at the Nomad's place and open up that PowerPoint presentation. And if you're Korean, I don't ever want to hear that stale old line, "Americans love fried food," again. As you see in that slideshow, it's not just Americans: GERMANS LOVE IT, TOO!! I still can't get over the size of that hamburger.


foodblogging to commence shortly

The shrimp and sauce ingredients have been purchased and cooking will begin momentarily. Pics will, of course, be up sometime after the meal.


Ave, Robert!

Robert writes an excellent little post pooping on Prof. Rhie Won-bok (Lee Weon-bok) of Meonnara, Iunnara fame. My own posts on the subject are here and here. Be sure to check the links to the other blogs I've mentioned; they've been covering this far better than I have, and Dr. Hodges has even received a threat for his coverage of the issue. I wouldn't worry, though; the threatening party appears to be a mental midget. Undeterred, Jeff has more coverage here.

As I've said before... Korea's in the grip of two paradoxical urges: the urge to remain a hermit kingdom or frog in a well, and the urge to be a global player. Something's gotta give, and in my opinion, that something is the eremitic impulse. Korea won't be able to shut the voices out for much longer.


stay tuned

Later this evening, I hope to foodblog my shrimp-and-andouille pasta. Don't touch that dial.

UPDATE: I say "my" as if the preparation were my own, but this dinner will be based on a recipe I found online. No points for originality.


One Free Korea finally gets its sidebar image


holy bloody, chunky, fucking shit

I think I ruptured my intestines reading these two paragraphs by Skippy, in a post about the scrotum-explodingly beautiful Angelina Jolie and her UN aspirations:

Obviously, the need to be taken seriously is problematic for Ms. Jolie. As you know, she does have a reputation for being serious-- seriously fucking crazy. Doing things like tongue kissing your brother at awards shows, wearing a [vial] of someone else's blood around your neck and marrying Billy Bob Thorton are not activities that you and your neighbours regularly engage in.

To be fair, though, there really aren't many people left that Billy Bob Thorton hasn't been married to, so we shouldn't hold that against Angelina. It was just her turn. Like the cold void of death, it appears that we'll all face that fate someday. And like death, Billy Bob awaits each of us. And we'll have to face him alone.

Go read this magnificent post for yourself. I gotta go rent "Bad Santa."


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ave, Malcolm!

Malcolm offers an interesting short on why Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is "catnip for postmodernists." Postmodernists believe that Kuhn, in talking about paradigm shifts in science, was arguing against objectivity. This delights the PoMo camp.

Kuhn himself seems to have bought into this notion. By way of rebuttal, Malcolm links to this article by Steven Weinberg, which critiques Kuhn's position and concludes this way:

Kuhn's view of scientific progress would leave us with a mystery: Why does anyone bother? If one scientific theory is only better than another in its ability to solve the problems that happen to be on our minds today, then why not save ourselves a lot of trouble by putting these problems out of our minds? We don't study elementary particles because they are intrinsically interesting, like people. They are not--if you have seen one electron, you've seen them all. What drives us onward in the work of science is precisely the sense that there are truths out there to be discovered, truths that once discovered will form a permanent part of human knowledge.

I couldn't help noticing the difference between Weinberg's contention and the philosophical project, in which insights do not so much build on one another as coexist in a state of jumbled incommensurability. As I noted a while back, the basic philosophical problems remain unresolved. Does no one else find this disturbing?

I'll make an assertion: there is an objective reality. I don't deny that we approach this reality from different perspectives, with different interpretive filters, but there is nevertheless only one such reality. Even if we were to posit the existence of multiple universes, our awareness of such universes indicates that they all reside within an even larger, singular metacontext-- i.e., one reality, just as many eggs are boxed in a single carton. No matter how many universes you posit, there is always an overarching metacontext in which they exist.

One particular school of thought, called critical realism in the West, matches how I view the world. The basic contention is much as I laid out in the previous paragraph: there is an objective reality, but we approach it from our own perspective.


cream dream

I had a dream in which I was fighting Drew Barrymore's chin. The chin was winning. It had me pinned to the ground and I couldn't breathe. The rest of Barrymore's heavy-jawed face stared down at me, yellow teeth grinding, crusty nostrils flaring, eyes bloodshot and demonic. Her enormous tongue launched itself out of her mouth, punched my eyes, and then started licking my hair. Her forehead transformed into a breast and vibrated madly, whirring like a food processor. I screamed myself awake and, God help me, had an orgasm at the same time.


Monday, February 26, 2007


Here's something new for Kevin in 2007: nosebleeds! My dad has been living with this problem for years; I need to ask him when he started having them. I had a pretty interesting flow going yesterday evening-- my very own nasal menstruation. Chunky, too. Mmmmmmm.


Ave, Joe!

Joe of Joe Seoul Man offers a comprehensive taxonomy of drivers.

Despite his excellent explanation of the creatures you're likely to meet, I'd still never drive in Seoul, though.


the announcement before the announcement

Lo and behold-- I got an email from CafePress that my PDF was finally ready. I just spent the last hour getting the book set up on the CafePress site, and have ordered myself a copy, which will arrive at my dorm in, oh, about 7 to 10 days-- maybe more.

The link to my product is here, but I'd advise you not to order the book until I've had the chance to check out its quality for myself.


Jeff: back in action

Jeff of Ruminations in Korea writes that he has put down his cane and is walking without assistance. Congrats, man. It's been a long haul.

Jeff also has a review of/rant about "Ghostrider" here. He notes that a lot of critics don't get the fact that the movie isn't taking itself seriously.


scenes from a slaughter
(and a surprise at the end)

I'm still getting used to my new/old camera and its features, so I apologize for the general crappiness of the following images. These pics were taken at Charles's abode on Saturday.

First up, we've got the fondue. On the left you see a metal bowl holding tiny cubes of Gruyère and Emmenthaler cheese, tossed with cornstarch. On the right, sitting on its burner, is the Korean earthenware crock serving as a caquelon. The Korean crocks are actually better, in my opinion, than the Swiss caquelons.

Next up, we have a snapshot of the prep for the choucroute alsacienne. The kitchen seems strangely devoid of human life, Captain. Perhaps the sausages rose up and ate their masters?

The completed, messy choucroute appears below:

In the following picture, we see the awful massacre of the choucroute in progress. I'm going to win a Pulitzer for this. I can feel it.

Finally, there's this image:

Uh... I neglected to tell my public that I did a short run of my book, Water from a Skull, at the local printer's, and it's well-made stuff. The CafePress PDF issues still have not been resolved, but if you are impatient to own a copy of my book, please do one of the following:

1. If you're in Korea, please email me your request plus your mailing address, and I'll bill you W20,000 plus shipping, which you can send via account-to-account wire transaction, or via PayPal, though I might charge you a wee bit extra if you elect to use PayPal, because PayPal, as you know, sneakily nibbles off a few percent from every transaction. By "wee bit extra," I mean I'll charge no more than a dollar.

2. If you're outside of Korea, please email me your request plus your mailing address, and I'll bill you $21.95 plus shipping and PayPal.

In both cases, I won't bill you until after I know the exact amount I'll be paying to ship the book to you. I need to find out whether Korea has the equivalent of "media mail," a classification that can be applied to books. Shipping something "media mail" is much cheaper than posting it the normal way, but the delivery time is correspondingly longer. We use the "media mail" designation in America, but is it used on the peninsula?

So, no: the book hasn't made its official debut yet. There will be much fanfare on that day, and readers in America will pay much less to have the CafePress book shipped to them. This Korea-printed edition might best be considered "advance copies."

Now, if only I could earn as much from this book as JK Rowling is bound to earn from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows...


Sunday, February 25, 2007

no lamb, no cumin!

The idea that college is where you expand your mind is rooted in naïveté. College isn't where you expand your mind; it's where you confirm all your prejudices.

I learned this while a freshman at Georgetown, where I met bumpkins who couldn't abide the smell of kimchi. Not that I made a habit of bringing kimchi to my dorm, of course, but I did know a girl from Alaska who had lived in Korea and had acquired a taste for the world's stinkiest cabbage. She loved kimchi, but never figured out how to store it properly, which led to complaints from others on our floor about the stench emanating from the student lounge's fridge. My mother, Korean through and through, is well aware that many Americans have trouble even coming near kimchi, which may be one reason why I rarely ate it on campus. On those occasions where I did have kimchi from home, you can bet it was well packed and eaten quickly. (Being from Alexandria, Virginia, I was close to home and could skip across the river to eat Korean food there.)

It was a shock and a disappointment to realize that people can be so closed-minded about food from other countries, but I'm older now and just deal with the mentality the best I can. Americans are damn picky sometimes; Koreans are, in some ways, even pickier.

Case in point: lamb and Mexican food. Many Koreans have convinced themselves that lamb is unpalatable, which is why gyros, when sold in Korea, tend to be made of chicken or beef. It's a real shame when the students give me that puppydog look that says, "I'm sorry, Teacher, but I just can't finish this foreign garbage you gave me." The same goes for cumin in tacos, it turns out: my girls all made faces when they smelled the spice, which admittedly smells like a rancid armpit. But cumin is what makes taco sauce taco sauce.

My English Circle girls apologized to me, this past Friday, for being largely unable to finish their taco salads (one girl was a striking exception), so I talked to them a bit about closed-mindedness and open-mindedness. I told them about how I started off hating Korean drinks like shik-hyae, an extremely sweet drink often served after dinner, but that my taste changed as I got used to the drink.

It takes a bit of courage to crawl outside of one's comfort zone and try something different, but despite whatever worldiness I've acquired by age 37, I'm still disappointed that college students-- the ones who are supposed to be so open-minded-- often end up being among the most narrow-minded people on the planet.

Lesson learned: stick with "safe" options when planning a jjong-party. I'm not throwing these parties in an attempt to pry open closed minds; I simply want the students to have a good time on their last day of class. Things might be different, though, if we do a cooking class of some sort.


eating DONE

Time to hit the mountain again.


Saturday, February 24, 2007


Many thanks to Charles and his lovely wife Hyunjin for a wonderful day spent at the fortress. I had a great time watching "Donnie Darko," prepping fondue, and helping a bit in the preparation of salad and the choucroute alsacienne, a dish that ended up as more of a choucroute allemande as we departed from the recipe, faute d'ingrédients. Hyunjin had also made a luscious chocolate cake for the occasion, and that was the perfect way to cap a most entertaining afternoon and evening.

I'm stuffed to the freakin' gills and quite unable to move. I also have to take a dump, which means I'll probably just shit in my bed after I fall asleep.

Remember this ditty from 2004?

my bed is my bedpan
I use it at night
I fill it with gusto
then turn out the light

I love the smell of kraut farts in the morning.


postal scrotum: centrist politics

Jason writes:

Hi, Kevin,

Just got done reading an excellent post by Dr. Thomas PM Barnett on the lunatic fringe of the netroots phenomenon. The post refers to yesterday's WaPo story about the Daily Kos's vendetta against "insufficiently liberal" Democrats like Rep. Ellen Tauscher.

I don't know about you, but I attended my share of NARAL rallies in high school, went to the uber-liberal experimental college for a couple of years and even had a brief flirtation with Ralph Nader in 2000. I consider myself a liberal independent, yet why do I often find Kos just as grating as anything I'd read on Michelle Malkin's site? Why am I increasingly put off by the far left as I have been by the far right? It's not like I'm mellowing with age or anything, but lately I've found myself just shaking my head at the tone that's being used on both sides. Don't be mistaken, I'm not calling for a return to some sort of mythical golden age where everyone had courtly political debates followed by bipartisan reach-arounds. Brass-knuckle politics has always been, and will always be an indispensable part of American politics. I think the difference now is that technology has flattened the playing field, and the fringe elements on both sides now have access to the same size bullhorns as the moderate voices. No retreat and no quarter spared seem to be the rules of the day.

I think Barnett has a point that emotionally we're ripe for a centrist third party, but who in the centrist camp (both left and right) would be willing to break with all that establishment PAC money to mount a full-on Bull Moose-style political insurrection?

Just a thought.


You know, Jason, one thing I've figured out is that no one likes a centrist. People like you and me are considered too spineless and unprincipled by party-liners to have anything worth saying in discussion.

I agree, though, that the time is right for a centrist party. Several times on this blog, I've chafed against the stultifying two-party system, which forces everyone to choose between parties that decidedly do not represent everyone's nuanced interests, and that also manage to squelch any real novelty and variety in political discourse.

America doesn't need to go the Korean route and have too many parties to count, but a good, solid centrist party (as opposed to an "independent" party) isn't a bad idea. Centrism, however, does come with its own problems: if a party defines itself as centrist or moderate, it is necessarily defining itself in terms of two perceived extremes. If the two parties representing the extremes should shift their positions and tone, where does this leave a centrist party? Are they obliged to find a new center?

Another question is whether centrism for centrism's sake is ultimately beneficial. While I tend to skew moderate overall, there are moments when I agree that extreme action, from the left or the right, is called for. Certain national or global crises might warrant more oomph than a centrist party is willing to give. What then?

In any case, the basic assumption in your email is a good one: polarization has reached a ridiculous degree, and it's time to ratchet down the rhetoric and bring cool, clear-headed individuals back into mainstream politics. Can this happen? Doubtful, but a man can dream.

Thanks for writing.


Friday, February 23, 2007

in a rush + bleh = bleh

I'm now officially sick. While I've had minor bouts once or twice this semester (nothing to prevent me from teaching; I haven't missed a day yet), I'm now in the grip of whatever beast I've been holding at bay for the past two months. Sore throat, stuffy nose, and fever-- that's where we're at.

I've got one last student party to do (gotta tear outta here and go shopping), and I need to visit a travel agent about a plane ticket to the States. I'm also prepping for a long Saturday out in the boonies with Charles and his jip-saram ("house person," i.e., wife-- but I think Charles says he's more of a house person than she is). Much to do, and waking up at noon hasn't helped matters.

I'm getting better at using my new/old digital camera, by the way, and I hope to have pics for you sometime this weekend or early next week. (As the blonde chick might say: I've got to wait for the film to develop.)


Ave, Geek!

Many thanks to EFL Geek for the kind words regarding blogrolling policy. I hope people understand that we're not being misanthropic. I especially like what the Geek says here:

If you have a blog and you want to be linked by other bloggers the best way to do it is by linking to them and clicking the link regularly as most bloggers regularly check where their hits are coming from. If I like the blog I'll subscribe and/or link to it. An even better way is to comment intelligently on various posts to create interest in you and your blog.

Very, very true.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ave, Kevin!

Kevin Koehler, the brother of Robert Koehler (a.k.a. The Marmot), has a fantastic review of the movie "Jesus Camp" up on his site, Pretentious Musings. Check it out.

My own review is here. Kevin and I hit many of the same points.


postal scrotum: biblical contradictions

Kerry K. writes:

Hi, Big Hominid.

I'm responding to the post about Biblical contradiction, including these comments:

While I am not a literal theist, I like to think that the best scientific attitude is one that remains open to possibilities, including metaphysical ones. I seriously doubt that the Judeo-Christian God exists, and that He exists in the form described in the Christian Bible, but I am open to the idea that reality nevertheless has an ineffable numinous aspect. Influenced as I am by my readings in Buddhism and Taoism, I'd say that this Numinous is nothing more or less than the ordinary reality we see and experience every day. That nirvana is this samsara. But all religious scriptures and traditions-- not just the Christian ones-- contain contradictions. These are to be welcomed for the work they provide, and for me, spirituality is, at bottom, work. Like Jacob, the believer needs to wrestle with the angel. Like Jacob, he's going to lose. But if wrestling leads to a moment of, as Karl Rahner might put it, self-transcendence, then it's worthwhile.

Yes, yes: scriptural literalism leads to all sorts of human stupidity, which we see on TV and read in the papers. But literalism is not the fault of scripture: it's the fault of how we approach scripture. Imagine finding an eloquent poem about plumbing, then attempting to use that poem as a guide for fixing your leaking sink. The poem is blameless; the idiot who mistakes a poem for a handyman's fix-it manual is the problem. Human stupidity resides inside the skull, not on the page.

I also disagree with literalism, but for different reasons I think. First of all, I do NOT believe that self-transcendence is spirituality. As you can see from the word, it has to do with "spirit". If you think of things that involve movement, growth, development, change etc., they are traditionally the aspects of living that people crowd around in nervous and frightened anticipation of being able to put their own pagan (read, "we did it - the change didn't come from an unknown third party") touch on it. Therefore, we read in Isaiah 44:16-20 that the carpenter makes an idol to eat his dinner (rituals are a characteristic of eating disorders as people are nervous about introducing change into their life without having complete control over it). He also says: "Ah! I see the fire. I am warm." This reminds me of the ancient Greek idea that light comes out of our eyes, rather than into them. They apparently couldn't understand why our hands look further away when our arms are outstretched. Then you get into legalistic arguments such as "it wasn't my hand that hit that guy... my hand's definitely bigger than that. I was looking at it just the other day" etc.

The Bible is against mythology in all its forms. Mythology differs in its meaning depending on who's willing to up the ante quicker, like a street fighter. It is big on infrastructure in the outside world to perpetuate meaning. The Bible upholds infrastructure on the inside of us. If that means that different accounts read differently, that's just a celebration of lives individually lived. I object to the Bible being turned into a formula. It isn't intended to be "the answer" any more than anything we write is intended to be "the answer" for anyone other us when we wrote it. I think it's a set of heuristics. Heuristics are creative stimuli that are replicable. The Bible is written in such a way as that we can replicate how we think the Bible characters might have been approaching the problem of writing a narrative form of their spiritual insights.


Kerry, I'm not too clear on what exactly you're saying, so you might want to leave a comment to this post to help me out. Karl Rahner's notion of self-transcendence is a pretty important component of his theology, and I'm not sure why you think there's no connection between Rahner's point of view and spirituality (I assume that's what you're saying). While I'm no Rahner expert, I do know that Rahner, consistent with other Catholic theologians, would have seen matter and spirit as nondualistically related (Protestant Christians, on the other hand, are pretty big on dualism). The scriptures aren't too clear on the matter/spirit division,* which is probably what allows for such theology.

You and I do seem to agree, though, that scripture isn't there to provide easy answers. That's an important point of agreement; it keeps us from viewing scripture the way some folks might view a tech manual.

Thanks for writing in.

*Viz. a fuzzy Pauline concept like soma pneumatikon, a "spiritual body" whose ontological status is debated by scholars and theologians.


mythology and "The Matrix"

I'll be watching "The Matrix" with my students today. Instead of Greek food, which I'm too tired to even think of making, I'll be whipping up chili cheese dogs for the ladies, who will also be bringing goodies. I'm hoping we'll be able to have a fruitful discussion about various religious tropes in the movie; the focus will be on Greco-Roman thought (the Oracle, Plato's cave, etc.), but we'll also be tackling other religions: Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism. If I can slip in a discussion of fate, that'll be cool.

After today... one more party, then I'm on break for a week or so.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

if this doesn't make your day,
you have a heart of stone

I think this YouTube clip of an incident during a Canadian Idol audition has already made the rounds in our ever-accelerating culture, but in case you haven't seen it yet, I hope you enjoy it.

NB: I had originally written "American Idol," but Jelly informed me that this incident occurred on Canadian Idol.


I tried it today

How to bait your students:

Tell them that Professor Lee's racist garbage in Meonnara, Iunnara (먼나라, 이웃나라,* the series of books, done up in comic form, that supposedly tells Korean students about foreign countries; for more info, see Jeff Hodges's articles here) is no different from the shit churned out by Japanese textbook writers who disseminate fabrications about Korean history. My talkiest student (who isn't the best student in the class, though she tries hard) was up in arms when I made my declaration, and she got me going, too, with her vehement denials. "No, Lee's case is totally different!" she insisted. I was smiling, but fuming. I think my emotions were pretty obvious, too; I'm not good at hiding anger.

You know, we could split hairs all day long about the differences between what Lee did and what the Japanese textbook writers have been doing, but at the end of the day, both cases are about scholars telling lies and twisting the minds of innocent children. This pisses me off the more I think about it.

*Far-off Countries, Neighboring Countries is a fairly literal rendition of the Korean title, though I've seen Far Countries and Close Countries as well. To my ear, the title sounds best as Countries, Far and Near. A bit 1950s, but serviceable.


"fuck liberal arts campuses"

Daehee, in an awesome (and, especially in that last paragraph, brutally honest) rant, describes his close encounter with human nature.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

taco salad taco salad

Looks as though I'll be doing taco salad twice: once tomorrow and once on Friday. My Intensive 3 girls told me today that they wanted something taco-ish tomorrow, so I went out and bought the necessaries. They're helping me by buying some of the taco ingredients, as well as fruit, drinks, plates, and utensils. I bought the olives, pork, beef, onions, green peppers, tortillas (one girls wants tacos, not taco salad), salsa, and cheese.

I have a new camera now. Actually, not so new: it's from my buddy Tom, who sold it to me. I need to learn how to use it, though; it's not like my old point-and-shoot camera at all. This new/old camera, a 5-megapixel Sony Labia, comes loaded with switches and dials and what appear to be plastic hymens of differing colors and thicknesses. Can't wait to try those out.

You'll know when I've begun to master the rudiments: photos will once again be on the blog. I doubt that I'll be able to take any photos tomorrow, though; I still don't even know how to turn the camera on. Once I find its clitoris, though, we're set.


blast from the past

Not often that you get an "I found your blog!" email from someone you knew back in elementary school. Too cool.


vive la mort!

Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.


the final lap

A week of cooking awaits me. Today (Tuesday), I'm doing one last round of student interviews and administering a final exam. On Wednesday, I have another jjong-party for my Intensive 3 class, for which I'll be cooking... something. On Thursday, I'll be cooking food for my Greco-Roman Mythology class (no lamb this time; I learned my lesson). On Friday, I'll be making two things for my final session of the English Circle: Nigella's chocolate mousse, and taco salad. The English Circle girls will be making Vietnamese spring rolls, which ought to rock. The idea is to do all of this in class, and then chow down on the food as our reward to ourselves. Then, on Saturday, I'll be hitting Charles's fortress and we'll be doing fondue moitié-moitié and choucroute alsacienne. By Sunday, assuming I'm not dead of a heart attack, I'll be the new Year of the Pig poster boy, lying bloated and helpless in my bed. YES!


Monday, February 19, 2007

fission and reabsorption

Holy shit (no, literally!):

The latest Anglican-Catholic report could hardly come at a more sensitive time. It has been drawn up by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, which is chaired by the Right Rev David Beetge, an Anglican bishop from South Africa, and the Most Rev John Bathersby, the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, Australia.

The commission was set up in 2000 by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, and Cardinal Edward Cassidy, then head of the Vatican’s Council for Christian Unity. Its aim was to find a way of moving towards unity through “common life and mission”.

The document leaked to The Times is the commission’s first statement, Growing Together in Unity and Mission. The report acknowledges the “imperfect communion” between the two churches but says that there is enough common ground to make its “call for action” about the Pope and other issues.

In one significant passage the report notes: “The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the ministry of the Bishop of Rome [the Pope] as universal primate is in accordance with Christ’s will for the Church and an essential element of maintaining it in unity and truth.” Anglicans rejected the Bishop of Rome as universal primate in the 16th century. Today, however, some Anglicans are beginning to see the potential value of a ministry of universal primacy, which would be exercised by the Bishop of Rome, as a sign and focus of unity within a reunited Church”.

Organizations tend to behave like individual organisms. They are born, they grow, they feed, they multiply, they compete for resources, and they die.

Christianity, as an institution, is not exempt from this observation. Far from there being one "body of Christ," as Christians call it, there are many bodies, many Christianities, not all of which sit in perfect harmony with each other. Here in Seoul, the cutthroat nature of the competition between and among churches (especially Protestant churches) is evident the moment you step into a subway station. There, on the steps into and out of the station, you will often be confronted by Korean ajummas handing out all manner of marketing materials for their respective churches, the most common of which is plastic packets of tissue with the church's image, a map with directions to the church, and phone/email contact information. Believe!

What some thinkers term "the protestant impulse"-- i.e., fission-- has its opposite: reabsorption or, at the very least, doctrinal reconciliation of some sort. According to an article I saw today, this is apparently a question for the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches. The Anglican Church, which I respect as a source of much theological innovation, has long suffered blows to its membership in England, not to mention relentless mockery (see these hilarious YouTube clips of Eddie Izzard, here and here). The chasm between the theologically liberal and conservative elements in the Church yawns deep.

It appears that the situation is moving to the breaking point, with certain conservative Anglicans pushing for union with the Roman Catholic Church. I imagine this might be great news for Pope Benedict XVI, but if people in the Church of England feel that union with the Catholic Church is somehow going to pump new blood into their faltering institution, I disagree. In Europe, church attendance in general is on the wane, and the reasons for this are manifold. Even Catholicism is struggling there-- just as it is in America, where the problem is an increasingly liberal laity presided over by more and more straitlaced, conservative foreign priests who have been brought in to compensate for a shortage of home-grown priests.

The article speculates on what might happen if this union goes through, and offers what is, to me, the most likely outcome: a split along liberal/conservative lines, with willing conservative Anglicans absorbed into the Roman Church, and with the remaining Anglicans left to fend for themselves. This will be a legal nightmare, if nothing else, because different countries have different laws related to the disposition of church property.

The liberal/conservative split is relevant in other ways as well. As Islam continues to grow in prominence, we can expect an answering conservatism in Christendom. Boundary issues become important when religions encroach on each other's sacred territories. Both South Korea and Nigeria are examples of this, Nigeria perhaps more so than South Korea. In Nigeria, a rather pronounced Muslim/Christian conflict has made religious identity vitally important to the populace, and this awareness can be connected to an ongoing calcification of theological doctrine and religious practice. In South Korea, Christianity is still very much on the rise while Buddhism, which held sway on the peninsula for centuries, is now more of a "woman's religion," as academics like Robert Buswell have noted. Korean Buddhism remains strong, to be sure, but I see it as fighting a holding action as people continue to convert to Christianity (in many cases because conversion to Christianity allows for easier networking among businessmen).

It will be interesting to watch how the Anglican affair unfolds. The movement to unite with the Roman Church has only just begun; it is possible that it will die out long before it has the chance to bear fruit, in which case the Anglican Church will have to find other means to resolve its mounting internal tensions. What makes this fascinating for me is that reabsorption is not something we see every day. I will be following this story as I can.


Sunday, February 18, 2007


I've long been a fan of Vaclav Havel, former president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. Thanks to a link I followed from Dr. Vallicella's blog, I discovered the website of Vladimir Lifschitz, on whose front page is a link to an incredible 1991 speech by Havel regarding the temptations of power.

We would do well to read and heed Havel's words as we stand at the threshold of another peaceful transfer of power in the United States. And beyond politics, we would do well to reflect on how the temptations of power, privilege and authority can arise even outside the context of fame and fortune. Havel is saying Temet nosce, and he's right.


lest I forget

The Year of the Pig! Anno porci! (I have no idea whether the Latin is even remotely correct.)

Happy New Year to all, and to all a good year!

Wait a minute... that didn't quite come out the way I...

UPDATE: Pigs might represent good fortune and prosperity, but pigs themselves aren't so lucky. (NB: not for the squeamish.)


postal scrotum: Charles on cyber-mobs

Charles writes in response to the previous post:

Fascinating post on suicide and anti-semitism. I don't have much to add on the subject, but I will say that Korea's online mobs are evil. That's what I will call them--mobs. "Vigilante" implies, at least on some level, that there is justice being done, and these mobs are nothing about justice. Even the term "warrior" has an undertone of honor and bravery, and I refuse to ascribe these attributes to cowards who hide behind the mask of anonymity to tear down others. No, they are mobs, 폭도 [p'ok-do] plain and simple.

Or perhaps it is not so plain and simple. Mobs often form spontaneously, as people get caught up in the moment and act without considering the consequences of their actions. The Korean online mobs draw power and courage from numbers, just like any other mob, but their attacks are cruel and calculated. And they know exactly what effect they are having on their targets. They work within the Korean system of interconnectedness to achieve their goals. And what are their goals? To destroy an individual's social ego. And in a society where the social ego makes up the better part of one's identity, this is the equivalent of psychological murder. Actual physical death is no doubt an unintended side effect, but the mobs are well aware that their actions could lead to that. And still they persist.

I believe there is a special plane of Hell reserved for those who delight in destroying others without ever taking individual responsibility for their actions. There they will be stripped naked before their peers and tortured and humiliated in the most horrific ways imaginable.

I realize that the mob mentality, the internet mentality, and suicide are complex issue that are not going to be resolved in a few paragraphs. What I wrote above was more an expression of frustration and anger than a properly conceived theory. But I think we agree that these online mobs are worthy of nothing but contempt.

Hmm. Didn't expect to get so worked up about that.



of suicide and antisemitism

Two hot issues in South Korea right now are suicide and antisemitism. Suicide seems to be part of the national fabric-- there's even a "suicide season" in Korea, when clusters of students who fail college entrance exams jump from apartment balconies. Antisemitism, while part and parcel of Korean racism in general, has made the news of late thanks to the belated unearthing of a stereotype-filled comic book whose ostensible intention is to instruct students about other countries. I'd like to comment on both of these issues and draw a possible connection between them.


An ugly trend has appeared: in February of 2005, a Korean star named Lee Eun-joo committed suicide. She was in her twenties. Last month, pop singer and dancer Unee (also written "Yuni") hanged herself at the age of 26, and recently, 27-year-old star Jeong Da-bin was found dead in her boyfriend's apartment. This, too, was apparently a suicide, and as with the other two women, she had hanged herself.

I've already made my views on suicide painfully (some might say obnoxiously) clear, so I won't revisit that issue. I do want to comment, however, on the Korean public's attempt to frame these suicides as examples of victimization by a nasty group of so-called "keyboard warriors." These "warriors" are essentially online trolls who spend inordinate amounts of time harassing stars via message boards, or by leaving cruel remarks on the victim's blog or CyWorld homepage.

In Korea, notions of ego are not firmly rooted in a pervasive ethos of individualism. An American assessing the Korean suicide problem would probably observe that the victims of cyber-harassment simply need to "toughen up" or "know themselves." Such remarks betray the unspoken assumption that the human ego is somehow bordered and distinct from the rest of society, much as cells have distinct cell walls. As someone who grew up in the West, I largely share this view. Koreans, however, do not-- which is why it makes sense to them to seek an "external locus of responsibility" when considering a person's suicide. Where I might see a matter of choice, Koreans are more likely to see a helpless person pushed over the edge. The truth probably lies somewhere between these extremes.

Koreans care about what others-- especially other Koreans-- think of them. While I might find it easy to shake off and ignore the opinions of people close to me, or the opinions of a mob, Koreans often cannot do this. The willingness to shove against the crowd can bloom in the Korean heart, but it is only possible because, somewhere, other Koreans support that person in his or her defiance.* If the human ego is like a cell, then Koreans, seizing upon that analogy, would quickly note how permeable a cell wall is, how alike the neighboring cells are, and how harmoniously those cells function together as parts of a greater whole.

In other words, when a Korean TV, music, or movie star is attacked by masses of online vigilantes, the sense of rejection probably runs far deeper than would be the case for an American star.** What naturally follows for the victimized star is depression or something akin to it. In a country that already has a morbid fixation on suicide, it is not unreasonable to assume that a depressed person might be more prone to taking that final step to end the pain.

Because of how I feel about suicide, I would suggest that these stars need to look within themselves to find again the self-confidence that motivated them to take the risk to become stars in the first place. Perspective is also essential: understanding that each phase of one's career is merely that-- a phase-- is a good way to dull the pain of current rejection, to remember that one is already a success, and that future successes remain possible. While a victimized star will find no solace in a hostile public, he or she will still have a support system of friends and relatives who wish him or her well. In Korean Confucian thinking, a person is not a fenced-off monad, but a nexus of interrelationships. The very skein that causes a star pain can be relied on to provide some measure of relief.


On the subject of Korean antisemitism, there is very little I can add to an already-lively discussion on such blogs as The Marmot's Hole, Scribblings of the Metropolitician, Gypsy Scholar, and of course, Reading Monnara.**

Worthy of comment is a meta-issue: the twin Korean desires to retain a Hermit Kingdom attitude vis-à-vis the world, and simultaneously to be recognized and celebrated as a global power. The problem, of course, is that as Korea's global prominence continues to grow, more people will inevitably pay attention to who Koreans are and what they truly believe. American culture has laid itself on the dissection table for decades, whereas Korean culture has yet to learn how to handle unasked-for scrutiny. In my opinion, as Korea edges further into the spotlight, it will have no choice but to clean up its act. By the same token, Korea will never satisfy the expectations of its critics, which means that, even as Korea cleans up its act, it will have to develop a true sense of pride that springs from within and is not a matter of "face" or the avoidance of shame on the world stage.

And therein lies an important connection between the issues of star suicide and antisemitism: the sensitivity that leads stars to take harassment from unnamed assailants personally is the very same trait that will govern collective Korean behavior on the world stage. As a "face" and "shame" culture, Korea cares how it is viewed. In those instances where the country seems not to care what others think of it, we are seeing the temporary victory of the eremitic impulse over the globalization impulse.**** Which impulse will ultimately be the victor?

*A good example of this is the stereotypically pushy Korean ajumma, the loud, obnoxious, middle-aged woman who sees nothing wrong with shoving people aside to cut in line, or with shouting across a crowded hallway or square, or with being otherwise rude. Such rudeness is possible because the ajumma belongs to a subculture both recognized and heralded by the larger culture. Korean men sometimes half-jokingly refer to "ajumma power," i.e., the ability of ajummas to get things done in a blunt, direct, take-no-prisoners manner. An ajumma removed from this subculture will still act in an ajumma-like manner because she will have been too conditioned to do or think otherwise.

**There are, of course, exceptions, but by and large, I'd submit that American stars who kill themselves are dealing with their own personal demons. Such stars often embrace public vilification because they know it's free publicity. A "bad boy/girl" image can, in the long term, prove to be a helpful phase in a star's career. Look at the difference between the images of Marky Mark and Mark Wahlberg: it was hard to take the former seriously, but the latter is hailed as a talented, unpretentious actor. They are, of course, the same person.

***Reading Monnara is a blog devoted to translating a Korean tract, written in comic-book form, that, in certain volumes, introduces young Korean students to a slew of hateful, ignorant stereotypes about America, Americans, and Jews. The creator of this comic, South Korean university professor Rhie Wonbok [Lee Weon-bok], has issued what amounts to a non-apology for his work.

****One could draw parallels between this and the sinusoidal nature of American isolationism, a vogue that seems to return, periodically, to American public discourse. Pat Buchanan is probably the most famous incarnation of this particular -ism.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Dammit, is Oranckay gone?


interesting lunch

I met up with some bloggers in Itaewon (Sperwer among them) and we chowed down on Italian food. Not being the most sociable type, I probably did a lot more listening than talking, but it was a pleasant experience; I was glad to be able to put faces to some of the recurrent names I see in the expat Koreablogosphere.

We all swore the "Goodfellas" oath: "Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut." So I won't say more than that.


props to the blogrolled

Richardson's DPRK Studies is finally on the sidebar with a new image. Joshua's One Free Korea is also on the sidebar, but I'm temporarily recycling an older image from Free North Korea (a pic of my brother David, redone as a vampire-- don't ask).


vive la musique!

Courtesy of my brother David: get a load of the beatboxing flute player, Greg Patillo! In this video, he's doing a remix of the "Inspector Gadget" theme song. YouTube hosts a few other vids of him doing tunes like "Sesame Street" and "Mario Brothers." Amazing stuff. That poor flute does get a little drool-covered, though.


Friday, February 16, 2007

a fine Thor's Day

Thursday, which went nonstop for me, marked the first time I had ever cooked for back-to-back classes with two completely different meals (by the end of the second hour, the classroom smelled... interesting). For my 9:40am Freshman English class I did the American-style breakfast: bacon, sausage, eggs, cheese, and pancakes with butter and maple syrup. The girls did most of the actual cooking, and they thoroughly enjoyed the food. The 11:00am Frosh class got fettuccine alfredo with shrimp, along with food the students had brought: salad, hors d'oeuvres, and fruit.

The students were great. Both classes were very helpful about cooking; we had three burners going in the first class, and I labeled each sector of the class The Pancake Department, The Meat Department, and The Egg Department. The girls got right to work and took over the cooking; that was a load off my shoulders, as I had had to trek back to my place twice in order to bring all the necessaries-- the food, the utensils, the pots and pans, and so on. I found myself wishing that I had one of those two-wheeled, wireframe carts I associate with the beachfront homeless in America. Carrying all that crap in plastic bags (and one large travel bag) is murder on the fingers.

The girls are still high schoolers, and as with American teens, it's easy to see that development doesn't happen at the same rate for all of them. Some of the girls were rather timid in their approach to cooking. One student in particular had no idea how to remove the breakfast sausage wrapper. She had my meat scissors in one hand and the still-wrapped sausage in another (yes, this can all be read in a very Freudian way), and had no idea how best to free the sausage from its vestments. I had to go over and help.

The girls working on the pancakes were hyper-literal in following the instructions on the bag of pancake mix. The result was nearly perfect pancakes: round, firm, and well-tanned.

The 11 o'clock class didn't have as many challenges to face (I was cooking the main course, and it was the only hot dish), but they all brought an incredible amount of food. They set to work making hors d'oeuvres-- "canapés," they called them. These were essentially saltine crackers with globs of tuna or potato salad on them, topped off with half a cherry tomato. Very cute, and actually quite tasty.

The final class was devoted to movie-watching as well as eating: the students had all turned in their film projects, and each class had given me two films. We had to watch the films on my monitor in the teachers' room, which made for a rather cramped experience, but the students shrieked in delight as they watched themselves performing. Three of the four productions truly were hilarious; the students had had to learn-- on their own-- how to edit their footage, overlay it with music, and tack credits (opening and closing) on either end. They had also been asked to document their experience; some students showed this by tacking on Pixar-style "outtakes" at the ends of their films; others showed me a PowerPoint slide show. In all, I was wowed. One production was pretty lame, but I had compassion and gave that group a middling "B" for their rather poor effort. They knew it was poor, too, once they saw the magnificent job the other groups had done. Funny thing: one girl in that group had boasted, weeks ago, that she had a brother in film school who could help out with editing and all the rest. When I saw the production, I did notice that the transitions from scene to scene were quite smooth, but I couldn't see what else the mysterious brother had done.

Cleaning up the mess of two classes' worth of eating was a royal pain in the ass, but here, too, the students were great. While I organized and packed away what I could in the classroom-- various containers, gas ranges, and so forth-- the girls spirited away the dirty pots and pans and spatulas and gamely washed everything for me. Still, the process took a long time, and I had to interrupt myself to give three scheduled student interviews. By the time everything was finished, and all the sad goodbyes had been said, it was time for my 1:30pm class in Greco-Roman Mythology.

The students in that class put on a very good skit about Theseus, and even managed to involve me, much to my surprise, in their production. Theseus, as you know, is the dude who slays the minotaur, the horrifying bull-human hybrid condemned to live trapped inside a labyrinth, eating the flesh of those unlucky enough to get lost within. At one point in the skit, Theseus and the minotaur were chasing each other around the classroom when Thesus suddenly stopped beside me and boomed, "Gods! Another monster in the maze!" I cracked up.

The class went well, all things considered, and by 4:30pm I was one tired half-Korean mutt.

There's one more week of class to go, but because I no longer have to teach the freshmen, I don't have to be on Smoo premises until 1:30pm. However, I will be interviewing some students earlier on Tuesday (Monday is a day off because of the Lunar New Year), so on that day, I'll come earlier.

My final day of classes, Thursday, will be spent with the Greco-Roman group. We'll be watching "The Matrix" together and parsing it for mythological tropes. I'll probably drop in a reference to Plato's analogy of the cave, and we'll talk a bit about the Oracle. I've also asked my students to be alert for Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist tropes in the film. As we'll be snacking down on... something or other, I expect it'll be a fun, relaxed class.

My Intensive 3 Reading/Writing class will suffer through a final exam on Tuesday, then we'll have our party on Wednesday. I might bring in some games and order some food.

And then: a week-long break. Ah, bliss. This hasn't been a bad semester. Freshman English, in particular, strikes me as having been quite a success. Students were happy to be free of the shackles of a textbook, and because I had settled upon a basic philosophy-- namely, Freshman English is less about teaching English than about introducing these girls to life at Smoo-- things went fairly smoothly.

What a contrast with the awful Level 4 group from the previous FroshEng session, eh? This group was, on the whole, more competent in English than the previous group, and that helped matters. We did have a couple unmotivated duds this time, but they proved more harmful to themselves than to the overall class dynamic. This group was also much more motivated than the previous group. I have to wonder whether part of the reason was the way I had chosen to teach this class. I'm hopeful that that's true, but I'm also mindful that groups of people always evince a collective temperament. Sometimes it's just the luck of the draw that you're served a group of zeroes. This time around, fortune favored the foolish.


credit where credit is due

In the "jobs" post, I gave a link referencing handjobs. This was courtesy The Maven, who alerted me to this blog's existence when she sent me a link to a different post about shitting.


where the sun don't shine

You can thank Sperwer for this one:


In case you didn't catch it, Sperwer's submission is a reference to my previous "fucking cell phones" post.



Eye jobs.

Nose jobs.

Boob jobs.


Steve Jobs.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

with thanks to Dram_man

The idea for a poem emerged after Dram_man cleverly reworked a comment I'd made over at the Nomad's. I had written, in response to the Nomad's post on cell phone text messaging addiction, "Hence the No Fucking Cell Phones Rule in my classes."

In that same comment thread, Dram_man shot back with, "You won't let them fuck phones in class?"

And BOOM-- just like that: a few haiku crawled out of my ass.

Samsung everywhere
even in my woman's crotch
"vibrate" makes her wet

once you go Samsung
there's no going back, they say
ask my ex-lover

phoning my main squeeze
she picks up, but doesn't speak
then... a yeasty smell

"Fuck the phone!" I cry
"Excellent idea," she says
as she spreads her thighs

"So, tell me," I ask
"What's it like to fuck a phone?"
"Please hold," she replies


long dingle-dong day

A long day deserving of a long tale. More soon.


mentioned in the same breath with The Yangpa?

Behold [edited for grammar]:

Girly stuff, gossip, and other bits of gab. About beauty, fashion, and glam sensibilities. No wonder they've gotten such a hostile reception. They're writing to a group of mostly Korean or white male news/politics/cultural critics and wannabe wonks (I'm one of them), who only define "good" blogging as geo-politically weighty, [or as being] about acceptable aspects of Korean ("high") culture, or [as having] to do with history, [or as about] being a GI, or [as] otherwise [engaging] in sophomoric (but I'm not saying bad, with tip o' the hat going to Big Hominid and The Yangpa) humor – or [about engaging] in ogling of all types, whether it be "Girl Wednesday" or [as incessantly linking] to racing girls [and] porn layouts from sports newspapers with the all-enticing disclaimer "not work safe."

I am happy to be among the good-- in scare quotes-- bloggers, but I'd much rather be known as one of the evil-- in scare quotes-- bloggers.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ave, Jelly!

Love hurts like a muthafucka'. The best Valentine's Day post is over at Jelly's.


welcome aboard!

Daehee's blog, itMilk, finally joins the sidebar. It didn't take long to think up the sidebar image. If you look at the image of Gates and the udder and think, "Gates sucks," well... you'd be on the right track.

There are a few other blogs needing blogrolling. I can't say when I'll get to them, but thanks in advance for everyone's patience.


look upon my lats, ye mighty, and despair

The problem with cameras in the classroom is that they always catch the teacher at exactly the wrong moment.

The blue Starbucks cup, a gift from my parents when they were last in Korea (they purchased it at a Starbucks near Ehwa University), tastefully hides my gluteal cleft, which I thought was a nice touch. Also nice is the way Blood Bunny appears to be leaping at my head. Batman, the actual target of Blood Bunny, is forming below.

(Google lists over 1400 references to Blood Bunny, effectively dashing any illusions I might have had that I was being original. It's also sad to see that I've been reduced to seeking validation through Google searches.)

NB: Special thanks to my Frosh student, YJ, who took the pic.


the end is nigh

Tomorrow is the final day of Freshman English. The intensive class continues next week, but I'm throwing two jjong-parties tomorrow. The first class will feature an American breakfast (eggs, sausage, bacon, pancakes, milk, juice, fruit), and the second will be all about fettuccine alfredo with shrimp (plus salad and fruit).

It's going to be hectic, because we're also supposed to be viewing the film projects. Students have driven themselves crazy trying to meet tomorrow's deadline; in fact, I'm still waiting to receive films from two of the four groups. I imagine they'll be emailed to me sometime around midnight.

This weekend, we celebrate the Lunar New Year, so Seoul will empty itself out as people trundle toward their hometowns. We have Monday off; I'll probably just collapse this weekend, except during my much-anticipated lunch appointment with that force of nature otherwise known as Sperwer.

The week after that, I'm anticipating an Alsatian-style luncheon with Charles and his Missus. By "Alsatian-style," I don't mean that we'll be slaughtering and eating an Alsatian (though that wouldn't bother me a bit). No: we'll be munching on choucroute alsacienne, which we'll make on site based on a recipe from my French buddy Dominique. It's going to be an all-day affair, this. Charles is currently snowed under with work, so it's very kind of him to allow my hairy self on his premises despite his full-to-bursting schedule.

And now... time to go shopping for some damn FOOD.


Come grab ewe elation!

Congratulations to the Gypsy Scholar, Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges, on securing a new position at Kyunghee University after having spent several pleasant years at Korea University. His contract will be for two years.

Be careful not to blog provocatively about Dokdo, Jeff. We know what happens to people with an opinion.

Trivia: Jeff's post shows the Kyunghee U. logo. If I'm not mistaken, the logo shows two Chinese characters, rendered in rather abstract style, which appear to be (from top to bottom) dae and hak. Dae hak can mean "college," or, in a literary context, it can mean The Great Learning. I'm going to assume that, for the logo's purposes, dae hak is being used in the former sense.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ave, Malcolm!

Malcolm Pollack points out what has to be one of the most egregious examples of doublethink I've ever encountered. Imagine, if you will, a guy who gets his doctorate in the field of paleontology... but who is, at the same time, a young-earth creationist.

You primed? You curious? Go read Malcolm's essay and find out more.

(If I'm not mistaken, the title of Malcolm's essay refers to a rather frightening passage in Ezekiel about a valley of dry bones. The bones undergo a very "Raiders of the Lost Ark"-style transformation, but in reverse: the flesh flies onto the bones, and you end up with a valley of the living.)


meanwhile, back at the firing range...

Looks like mass murder is still a recurrent trope in my home country (via Drudge, here and here).

Could an armed citizen have stopped either of these massacres? I'd be interested in comments from people on both sides of the aisle regarding gun control. For a good philosophical framing of the gun control issue, see Dr. Vallicella's excellent-- though by no means balanced-- post here.


the survey question

I've been conducting the final exams for my freshman girls as brief interviews, and have been slipping in a question that has produced some interesting answers. The question? "Compare the types of projects you've done in this class to what you usually do in high school." (NB: Keep in mind that these girls aren't college freshmen quite yet-- they're early-acceptance high school seniors.)

Out of thirty students, only three have said that they have done anything similar to the group activities that dominated my curriculum. The rest have given some version of the following answer:

We don't usually do this sort of project. Our teachers think that, when we work in groups, it's hard to know who is doing what amount of work. So we usually do individual projects, and they're not "active." Projects, for us, usually mean doing a lot of research by ourselves on the internet. Maybe we discuss our projects a bit in class, but not much. Mostly we just have to listen to the teacher, take notes, and that's all.

The above isn't exactly news to expat teachers, but it's still somewhat disconcerting to encounter student after student saying the same thing. It's even more disheartening when you realize that these girls all come from different high schools, and are therefore independently confirming the sorry state of high school education in Korea. On the plus side, it's great to be part of a team that is introducing these students to a very different way of approaching learning. Whether they truly develop a love of learning will, of course, be up to them.


and just how fine is Ralph?

This article bears repeating in its entirety because it's just too damn funny:

A flight attendant accused of having sex in an aircraft toilet with actor Ralph Fiennes was in hiding last night after being grounded without pay.

Other crew members claimed Lisa Robertson had a seven-mile-high fling in business class with The English Patient star.

But she insists he followed her into the small cubicle where, with the door locked, she repelled his advances.

Qantas has taken suggestions of a liaison seriously and has stood her down while it investigates.

She will be sacked if it finds sex did take place.

Miss Robertson, 38, admits chatting to 44-year-old Mr Fiennes on a flight from Darwin, Australia, to Mumbai on January 24 but says that when she told him she needed to go to the toilet he followed her in and became "amorous".

Two crew members who saw her talking to Mr Fiennes waited outside and caught the pair leaving. They reported the incident to a senior crew member.

Miss Robertson was forced to explain two breaches of corporate and cabincrew policies - letting Mr Fiennes sit in a crew seat as they chatted in her rest break and being in the toilet with him.

In her statement to bosses, which was leaked to a Sydney newspaper, she said: "While conversing with Mr Fiennes during my break, I expressed a need to go to the toilet. I entered it, he followed me and entered the same toilet.

"I explained to him that this was inappropriate and asked him to leave.

"Mr Fiennes became amorous towards me and, after a short period of time, I convinced him to leave the toilet. I left a short time later. At no time did any crew member come to my assistance.

"At no time were any other customers aware of this incident. At no time did I put the Qantas name or reputation in jeopardy."

Miss Robertson, from Sydney, admitted that the actor had visited her in the crew rest area during her break to chat.

But she said she was simply doing her job, adding: "This is common practice on long flights to build a rapport with passengers."

Miss Robertson, who was a police officer for 14 years, claims she has been commended several times for her services as a flight attendant.

Qantas said: "A flight attendant has been stood down as a result of an incident on a flight."

Mr Fiennes, who is dating Belfast-born interior designer Sirin Lewenden, was flying to India as a Unicef ambassador to promote awareness of HIV and safe sex at the time.

The star of Schindler’s List had been in Sydney to perform in a one-man show.

He will appear in the summer as evil wizard Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix.

Mr Fiennes gained a reputation as a womaniser after leaving his wife Alex Kingston for Francesca Annis, who is 18 years his senior. He has also been linked to actresses Gina Gershon, Jennifer Lopez and Ellen Barkin.

His agent could not be contacted for comment last night.

One link associated with the article says, "Stewardess faces sack."

Just how many women have faced Lord Voldemort's sack while miles in the air? Who can experience the Odor of the Penis and remain unchanged?


Ave, Charles and Skippy!

A rare double-whammy here as I acknowledge the Iron Chef-like prowess of Charles, who just pulled off the daring Operation Stromboli, one of the tastiest-looking Liminality entries I've seen.

Skippy tackles a different operation: the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, which may be rosy right now, but which is likely to run up against reality soon. (Similar rumblings about Giuliani, from what I read.)

Both articles are must-reads.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Sulky Princess

There's a Sulky Princess in my class-- she's in three of my classes, actually-- and her charm is starting to wear thin. Today saw her in a truly bitchy state as she attempted to derail part of the lesson I was teaching. I had nabbed a poem from a teacher's guide; the poem, cheerfully whimsical in tone, was written from the perspective of someone narrating a visit by an alien who takes our cars to be the dominant species on the planet. The poem offers interesting context clues that allow perceptive readers to see that the alien is observing cars and not living organisms.

When I was asking the students to give their impressions of what the poem was about, Sulky Princess, who's actually quite sharp but extremely lazy, figured out that the poem was about cars. Then she pouted, "Actually I thought this poem was ridiculous. The alien is too human! And the poem sounds like it was written by a child."

I'm always happy to entertain disagreement in my classes, and wasn't all that perturbed at the princess's observation. But I could also see that she was just fucking with me because today was Designated Bitch Day, so I said, "You know, you're on to something, there. People usually aren't that imaginative when they write about aliens. So let's try this: I'm going to give you all five minutes to write a paragraph describing a sense an alien might possess-- one that isn't like our five senses. Describe that sense in a paragraph, then we'll discuss what you've written."

As predicted, Sulky Princess simply sulked and did nothing while her tablemate wrote furiously. I called time and decided to start with the princess, who I knew had written not a single word.

"Princess?" I asked. [uh, just FYI, that's not her real name]

She shrugged, unashamed of having spent five minutes doing jack shit.

"Why didn't you write anything?" I asked with a predatory smile.

"I think aliens would be just like us, don't you? So there's no reason to write anything," she said.

My smile widened, exposing more of my fangs. "But weren't you the one who said that the alien in the poem was too human?" Laughter from the rest of the class. Sulky Princess returned to her sulking.

A small, small-minded victory. Long live me.

On a serious note, though: it burns me when I encounter people who are basically a waste of my time. "Oxygen thieves," that's what my coworker calls such people: they waste your oxygen by sitting there, breathing, doing nothing constructive. This girl is pampered beyond belief; that much is obvious. Good luck to her. I hope one day she discovers that life is more worthwhile when we actually make an effort at something, but somehow I doubt the lesson will sink in. Meanwhile, all praise to the other girls in my class; they actually give a damn.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

chili cheese fries

Quite possibly better than yesterday's meal was today's: I cooked up the remainder of my chili, added more fresh gochu to it, boiled three hot dogs, snipped them into chunks with the food scissors, fried up a mound of French fries, and grated half a block of Gruyère into a fine, hairy mess.

I then salted my fries, plopped them on a plate, tossed the cheese onto the fries, tossed the chili on top of the cheese, and added an evil spiral of sriracha sauce to the top. Most excellent.


Dog Poop Girl: harbinger of the future

An interesting article I found over at talks about how sites like YouTube can help wronged parties get their revenge by slapping incriminating footage up on the Net for all to see. Cyber-vigilantism appears to be on the rise.

It should be remembered, though, that another bellwether of cultural evolution, the daytime talk show, has taught us that lack of privacy is no deterrent for the vulgarly shameless and the shamelessly vulgar. When a man proudly admits, in front of millions, that he banged his sister twelve years ago and is now a grandfather, you can bet that YouTube won't curb all the naughtiness that's out there.



Go visit the Gypsy Scholar, who has blogged a frightening revelation related to that horror movie he told me about, "Black Sheep."


postal scrotum: more nightmare scenarios

Reader ML sends in another possible disaster scenario. Seems as though many of us are, as Bill might say, in "prophet" mode.


Ave, Bill!

A very, very, very disturbing piece by Bill Keezer. Depending on where you are on the political spectrum, you might view his essay as right on the money, far too alarmist, or perhaps too timid in its predictions. No matter your politics, I hope you'll visit Bill's fine blog and give his essay a respectful reading. If you are inclined to comment, I'll ask you to leave your comment with Bill.

By the way-- while you're there, you should take some time to read his other essays as well. Mr. Keezer is a deep and thoughtful gentleman, both a scientist and a man of faith. He leans unabashedly rightward, but as he says, he's not opposed to civil discussion with people of different points of view. In that sense, people like Bill and the more left-leaning Maven both shame me, because I don't exactly roll out the welcome mat at this blog. Both of them welcome anyone to their cyber-doorstep, and give everyone they meet the benefit of the doubt. True, Bill's and the Maven's blogs are like night and day in terms of style, subject matter, and tone, but more hospitable blogs are hard to find.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

the greatest chili dogs ever

You missed them, and now they're gone.

I had some gyro meat (marjoram-spiced beef and pork) left over, so I doused it with some of my home-made taco sauce, piled on even more paprika and chili powder, added a bit of water, and started cooking. A minute or so later, I took out the cooking scissors and cut me up some fresh green gochu. Into the mix it went. On top of that I added a nasty glob of my sriracha sauce. I wasn't seriously planning to eat twelve-alarm chili, though: I deliberately over-spiced the mix because of what I was going to do next-- namely, add a can of pork & beans and a can of (extremely bland) Hormel chili. The result was middle-of-the-road perfection: well on the spicy side, but with added volume thanks to the Bland Canned. Perfect for a nasty, low-rent chili dog.

Having only pita for bread wasn't about to stop me; I used up my remaining tzatziki on the pita rounds, sprinkled the remaining feta on them as well, slapped fat hot dogs on top of the sauceandcheese, then poured on the chili.


And that, ladies and gents, is how to get rid of leftovers.


"violence of the lambs"??

The Gypsy Scholar alerts me to this movie preview (is it seriously a movie, or just a comedy short?*): "Black Sheep," a mutant sheep horror-comedy from New Zealand with special effects by Weta Workshop, the group that did Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The movie simply reinforces the wisdom of sheephumpers everywhere: always approach quietly from behind.

Mmmmmmmmm, sexy. T'ain't nuttin' like ruttin' with the mutton.

I'm just trying to figure out what manner of surfing the Gypsy Scholar was engaged in that he should "happen upon" this trailer. Heh.

*It's a movie. The IMdB entry on "Black Sheep" is here. Also of note is a comment by one viewer of the trailer, who references Samuel Jackson's classic line from a recent film: "I don't know about you, but personally.... I have HAD it with these MOTHER****ING SHEEP on these MOTHER****ING PLAINS!!!"



I want nanolotion. Self-administered surgery in a bottle. Itty-bitty nanites, smaller than cells, held in suspension inside a viscous substance I can smear on a given part of my body to effect microscopic (and perhaps even macroscopic) repairs: that's what I want.

There would be different lotions for different problems. Look! This pink bottle contains nanites that unclog arteries while you sleep! This red bottle deals exclusively with liver problems! This green bottle hunts down and destroys colon polyps! This blue bottle destroys excess fat! This grey bottle goes after cancerous metastases!

Or perhaps in the future we will need only one such bottle-- One Bottle to Rule Them All, a single container of super-smart nanites.

In all cases, the nanolotion would be topically applied, but the nanites would be programmed to handle mistakes such as oral ingestion by toddlers. The nanites would find their way into the body through the skin, leaving not a single mark as they exploited our natural porosity.

The nanites would work in concert to perform their mission-- killing an army of cold viruses, shattering cancer cells, obliterating and flushing out the remains of a cataract. Then, they would either shuffle to the intestines to be excreted and flushed away, or would move en masse back to their point of entry and reappear on the skin as lotion again, ready to be scraped back into the bottle. Nanites would need a power source, so I imagine the bottle would have to be placed back in its recharger stand.

I suppose I'd wait a few "versions" before trying nanolotion for myself. The potential for tragedy is high, at least in the early stages of development and distribution. Imagine your nanites going nuts while working on your spine as you slept. Imagine them taking a perfectly normal brain and turning it schizophrenic. Hell, imagine them working on your reproductive plumbing and making some foolish mistake! I'm not ready to wake up one morning and discover I now have five dicks sprouting from various parts of my body. No: I'd definitely wait until the lotion was guaranteed to be effective.

But I think nanolotion is an idea whose time has come. Don't you?

The important question, though, is what sort of brand name we could concoct for our invention...

TRIVIA: A quick Google search of "nanolotion" shows the term is already very much in use, but alas, not in the way suggested above.


Ave, Skippy!

Skippy has two must-reads: his compassionate-- even touching-- take on the late Anna Nicole Smith, and his most recent post, which takes journalist Ellen Goodman to task for heedless moral equivalence in saying that global warming deniers are like Holocaust deniers.


Ave, Maven!

This had me rolling:

...some folks have all of the allure of a papercut on one's taint.


Friday, February 09, 2007

divorce: the escape hatch of choice

"Divorce!" my students yelled during a recent exercise.

If you're an EFL teacher, you've doubtless done some form of this exercise before. Mine was tailored to meet the needs of a reading/writing class. The exercise in question involves taking questions and answers from an advice column (preferably brief questions and brief answers), separating the questions from the answers, then getting the students to match the "Q"s and "A"s. That in itself isn't hard for Korean students to do: they've spent most of their lives learning to read English, and can often pick up context and lexical clues quite quickly.

My variation on the exercise (a fairly standard one, I admit) was to get the students to discuss the questions before they ever saw the advice columnist's answers. As we had spent the week talking about issues related to homosexuality and marriage, I gave the ladies some questions from an online advice column. The questions were along these lines:

1. I'm marrying a man who has a 10-year-old daughter. Is it all right for her to be a junior bridesmaid?

2. My wife has been lashing out at both me and my daughter. While some of this anger is work-related, there's simply too much anger there, and I don't know what to do.

3. My husband, who's been going through AA and has managed to stop drinking, has become more insulting and judgmental around the house. Whenever I try to talk about some serious issue with him, he chuckles, shakes his head, and walks off. He also makes pronouncements about different aspects of our marriage. It's driving me nuts.

4. I've been married to my husband for barely a year, and I'm worried because he's an outdoorsman who likes extreme sports. He's planning on going on an expedition soon, and this one looks as though it'll tax him. He might not even make it back home. We've discussed kids, and he's promised to stop adventuring when we have kids, but I'm worried about this upcoming trip. What can I do to stop him?

5. I'm a writer and artist, and my husband is a computer software engineer. We're poles apart in how we approach the world, and now we're fighting all the time. What can we do?

I was surprised at the number of times my students suggested "Divorce!" as the immediate solution for some-- nay, most-- of the above scenarios. I wonder whether this indicates that social attitudes toward divorce are rapidly changing in Korea, or if it's simply a function of undergraduate immaturity. Even now, divorce is something of a stigma in Korea, especially for female divorcees, who do not feel free to talk too openly about their marital status. I feel that this shouldn't be the case, but like it or not, such is the reality on the peninsula.

I don't think divorce should be one's first choice when it comes to marital conflict, but I have no problem with keeping it in reserve if the situation should prove unsalvageable. American divorce statistics remain high compared to years past: somewhere around 50% (a freighterful of US divorce stats here and here). An interesting question to ask is whether the data should be interpreted positively or negatively. While some folks lament the increase in the US divorce rate (and I imagine the same lament occurs, at some level of public discourse, in Korea as well), others view the stats as a sign that spouses, women in particular, are standing up and saying "no" to rotten relationships.

As long as people are aware of the dangers of using divorce as a too-easy escape hatch, I would say that it remains a perfectly legitimate option for unhappy couples of any nationality. But in the meantime, my first instinct would be to ask a given couple to work through their problems before resorting to drastic measures. Divorce is a significant rupture in one's existence; no one enters the procedure lightly. It is especially problematic when children are involved, particularly when those children are minors who cannot fully understand the situation. Tread carefully, O Couples.

And to my students I say: don't reach so quickly for the escape hatch. You might be depressurizing a perfectly flyable plane.

POST SCRIPTUM: One student, one of the meekest and mildest in the class, said something that struck me regarding scenario #4 above, the scenario about the wife who wants to stop her daredevil husband from taking his next hazardous trip. When I asked my students what they, as the wife, would say, this girl declared to her imaginary husband, "If you love me, you won't go!"


I managed to stretch this out for comedy for about three or so minutes, because the other students were also wowed by this brazen pronouncement. Using emotion-based threats to cajole and manipulate people is always low, and I think this girl realized that as soon as she heard her classmates' gasps and my chortling. But we all had fun, and some of the other students' answers to different questions were, arguably, crazier.


Ave, Justin!

The ultimate spoo story can be found at Cosmic Buddha.


postal scrotum: Charles on gaydar,
fights, and "Minority Report"

Charles, now in ultra-efficient mode, writes:

I think it's going to take me a little while to get used to the idea of commenting on your site again. So until that happens, a few brief comments on recent entries:

1) Gaydar: My gaydar sucks as well, just like everyone else's. In my experience, even gay people have crappy gaydar. I have no idea how to tell if someone is gay, other than asking them.

Maven's suggestion (that the "friend" had used the "sorry. I'm gay" excuse as a way to let her down easy) did cross my mind, but I just as quickly crossed it out again. While something like that might fly in the West, I can't imagine it working here. I think there are probably a hundred different excuses a Korean guy would use before resorting to that.

2) Pitt/Bana: As a former martial artist myself, I can tell you that it's harder to avoid hurting someone on defense than it is on offense. At times during our karate classes I would be paired up with a girl for kumite. She would wear all the protection (including what we affectionately referred to as "the titty shield"), but that meant very little. My style (Kyokushin) is a very aggressive style, and blocking is considered a form of attacking. So you don't just slap someone's fist away when they try to punch you--you swing your arm in and really nail them. When I had to fight guys lower in rank (and thus experience) than myself, I would often beat them without ever throwing a punch, simply by blocking really hard (I didn't do this to intentionally humiliate them--when fighting someone lower in rank we were often told to stay on the defensive). You bruise someone enough, eventually they lose the will to fight. It was a different story when I had to fight girls, though. I hated that. My sensei would say, "only defense," and that was pretty much my cue to start running around the dojo with this girl chasing me and trying to kick me in the balls. There's just no way you can avoid hurting them unless you avoid them entirely. One time I was a bit slow and one of the girls did manage to graze my nuts (I was wearing a cup, but still). I did eventually get up and the fight continued, and my sensei didn't say anything when I threw a punch as hard as I could and hit her right in the titty shield, knocking her flat on her back. Only time I ever hit a girl in anger (you know, as opposed to during kinky sex).

In the case of Pitt/Bana, yeah they were stunt fighting and not trying to hit each other, but that's a lot harder to do than one might think--it's harder to get a punch close without connecting than it is to connect. And since it is only natural to defend yourself, I find it pretty impressive that Bana didn't have to pay Pitt a dime.

3) Minority Report is a great movie--have you seen it? We have it on DVD. I was a bit disappointed that the article described it as being directed by Steven Spielberg. I mean, it was directed by Spielberg, of course, but the important thing is that it was based on a story by P.K. Dick, no?


"Only time I ever hit a girl in anger (you know, as opposed to during kinky sex)."

I think my commenter's going to come back and accuse you of thinking that hitting girls is funny.

Yes, I've seen "Minority Report." I don't think Tom Cruise hit any women, which is probably why that movie sucked.

No, seriously, I enjoyed the movie despite the lack of abuse.


another blow for substance dualism

Scientists have developed a new mind-mapping technology that purports to allow researchers to see intentions forming before a person acts on them.

The team used high-resolution brain scans to identify patterns of activity before translating them into meaningful thoughts, revealing what a person planned to do in the near future. It is the first time scientists have succeeded in reading intentions in this way.

"Using the scanner, we could look around the brain for this information and read out something that from the outside there's no way you could possibly tell is in there. It's like shining a torch around, looking for writing on a wall," said John-Dylan Haynes at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany, who led the study with colleagues at University College London and Oxford University.
The research builds on a series of recent studies in which brain imaging has been used to identify tell-tale activity linked to lying, violent behaviour and racial prejudice.

The latest work reveals the dramatic pace at which neuroscience is progressing, prompting the researchers to call for an urgent debate into the ethical issues surrounding future uses for the technology. If brain-reading can be refined, it could quickly be adopted to assist interrogations of criminals and terrorists, and even usher in a "Minority Report" era (as portrayed in the Steven Spielberg science fiction film of that name), where judgments are handed down before the law is broken on the strength of an incriminating brain scan.

"These techniques are emerging and we need an ethical debate about the implications, so that one day we're not surprised and overwhelmed and caught on the wrong foot by what they can do. These things are going to come to us in the next few years and we should really be prepared," Professor Haynes told the Guardian.

The use of brain scanners to judge whether people are likely to commit crimes is a contentious issue that society should tackle now, according to Prof Haynes. "We see the danger that this might become compulsory one day, but we have to be aware that if we prohibit it, we are also denying people who aren't going to commit any crime the possibility of proving their innocence."

During the study, the researchers asked volunteers to decide whether to add or subtract two numbers they were later shown on a screen.

Before the numbers flashed up, they were given a brain scan using a technique called functional magnetic imaging resonance. The researchers then used a software that had been designed to spot subtle differences in brain activity to predict the person's intentions with 70% accuracy.

The study revealed signatures of activity in a marble-sized part of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex that changed when a person intended to add the numbers or subtract them.

Because brains differ so much, the scientists need a good idea of what a person's brain activity looks like when they are thinking something to be able to spot it in a scan, but researchers are already devising ways of deducing what patterns are associated with different thoughts.

A substance dualist maintains that the mind is substantially different from the body. Different dualists have somewhat different views on what, exactly, this means. Some, for example, see the mind/body difference in terms of a "ghost in the machine," wherein mind is truly independent from the material body. This belief gives rise to the "interaction problem," because if mind has no physical location, it becomes hard to explain how a given mind is in any way linked to a given body. Other dualists have taken a more subtle, refined stance that is not as susceptible to critique, and many dualists respond to physicalist critiques by saying that scientsts presume that causality must only be physical.

Science, in the meantime, makes progress by proceeding according to physicalist assumptions about mind. I have yet to hear a good explanation from a substance dualist as to how or why this continued success is possible. Now here we are, about to breach the fortress walls of intentionality, and substance dualists are still singing the same tune.