29 October 2008

Sonnets from the Aragonese

Thomas Friedman, how do I hate thee?  Let me count the ways.
I hate thee to the depth and breadth and height,
Your column does reach, when read in sight
For the end of what your brand-sponsor says.
I hate thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet irritation, by book and light.

And so on.  I'm not sure he's ever offered more than an ounce of insight, the lousy crumbum.  Harrumph.

27 October 2008

My Address, again (slightly refined for ease of postage)

Alexander Davis
Ssangbong Elementary School
Hakdong-gil 238
Yeosu City, Jeollanam-do 555-809
Republic of Korea

22 October 2008


I happened to see this show called "여사부일체" on television recently. It's about three "schoolgirls" (in the Melrose Place near-thirty sense) who solve mysteries.  Or maybe they just fight crime.  Well, to be honest I cannot understand a goddamn word, but it is the funniest thing there has ever been. I wish I could find it subbed online somewhere, but alas. I guess I have to wait for it to be over.

I also picked up a few albums by some new artists recommended to me:
  • Rodriguez - Amazing and good.
  • Joss Stone - Useless pop.
  • Guns and Roses - Classic for good reason.
  • Frank Sinatra - Not as good as I imagined.
  • Dominic Frasca - Plays a six-stringed guitar with a custom-made drum insert-thing, and produces an absolutely unique but brilliant sound. Liked this one so much I bought it.
  • Jacqueline Stem - A very light sound, good to have in the background.
My reading has slowed down, since I have been knee-deep in a History of the Korean People, a very laborious and thick textbook that covers 3000 B.C. all the way to 1991 A.D.  It is not a light read, but it's truly fascinating.

I'm trying to keep distracted and busy.

20 October 2008

A Narrow Place

Written by an anonymous thirteenth-century poet in the Korean traditional style of shijo. Translation by Andrew Nahm.
I go to the Turkish shop, buy a bun.
An old Turk grasps me by the hand.
If this story is spread abroad,
You alone are to blame, little doll on the shelf.
I will go, yes, to his bower;
A narrow place, sultry and dark.

I go to the Samjang Temple, light the lantern.
A chief priest grasps me by the hand.
If this story is spread abaord,
You alone are to blame, little altar boy;
I will go, yes, to his bower;
A narrow place, sultry and dark.

I go to the tavern, buy the wine.
An innkeeper grasps me by the hand.
If this story is spread abroad,
You alone are to blame, O wine jug.
I will go, yes, to his bower;
A narrow place, sultry and dark.

16 October 2008

Not Over Yet

Okay, so Obama won the independent sector of all three debates, and Biden won the independent sector of his debate.  It's not over yet!

Okay, so Obama is in double-digit leads in the popular vote in a dozen different polls.  It's not over yet!

Okay, so a bipartisan committee's investigator found that Palin acted unethically, somewhat undermining her image as an reformer.  It's not over yet!

Okay, so RCP and 538 have Obama with a projected landslide in electoral votes.  It's not over yet!

Okay, so McCain is running 100% negative ads.  It's not over yet!

Okay, so McCain has only a couple of weeks left in which to dramatically change the entire political landscape to a degree that has never been accomplished, not even when Reagan swept into power.  It's not over yet!

Even as dedicated a politics junkie as I am can be grateful that very soon, it will be over.

14 October 2008


The unofficial mascot for my lessons has become the fishcake.

Orginally, I was teaching food names to the third grade.  We had learned chicken and pizza and hamburger and so on, as well as fish and cake.  Generally speaking, I like to keep things interesting, so halfway through the lesson I took the cherry from on top of the cake and drew it on the previous fish I already had up there.  So now this fish-with-a-cherry is known as a fishcake.  It proved wildly popular, with the kids bursting into hysterics at the very idea.

The next class, someone shouted out fishcake while I was drawing the items on the board, so I put it up there too.  Now in almost every class, someone urges me to draw the fishcake.  The teachers have come to me asking what it means, and I was unable to explain it to them.  So I just told them it was a fish in a cake.  They are puzzled about American cuisine at the moment.

Columbus Was Stupid

That is all.

12 October 2008

Brave New India

If you are even a little interested in India and her politics, there's a great piece on ZNet by Arundhati Roy. She's written a lot about other cultural influences on her country, and her discussion of the current situation is saddening but spot-on (at least as far as I can see.)
There was recently a man called Bant Singh, who is a Sikh Dalit. Even in India people would jump at the idea of there being such a thing as a Sikh Dalit. But, actually, 30 percent of Sikhs are Dalits and about 90 percent of them are landless. Because they are landless, obviously they work as labor on other people's farms. Their women are very vulnerable. Upper castes all over India think that they have the right to pick up a Dalit woman and have sex with her or rape her. Bant Singh's young daughter was raped by the upper-caste people in his village. Bant Singh was a member of the CPI (ML), which is the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), known as Naxalites, and he filed a case in court. They warned him. They said, "If you don't drop the case, we will kill you." He didn't drop the case, so they caught him and they cut off his arms and his legs.

He was in the hospital in Delhi. I went to see him there. It was a lesson to me about how being a political person saved him. He said, "Do you think I don't have arms and legs? I do. Because all my comrades are my arms and legs." He's a singer, so he sang a song about a young girl's father getting her dowry ready for her just before her marriage, her trousseau. And she says to him, "I don't want this sari and these jewels. What will I do with them? Just give me a gun." Unfortunately, more and more, because of, I think, what happened with the Narmada movement and the fact that that nonviolent movement, where people fought for fifteen years and were just flicked aside like chaff, that has resulted in a lot of people saying, "I don't want the bangles, I don't want Gandhi. Just give me a gun."
Check it out.

11 October 2008

From Les Mis

All held their peace, and Enjolras bowed his head. Silence always produces somewhat the effect of acquiescence, of the enemy being driven to the wall. Marius continued with increased enthusiasm, and almost without pausing for breath:—

"Let us be just, my friends! What a splendid destiny for a nation to be the Empire of such an Emperor, when that nation is France and when it adds its own genius to the genius of that man! To appear and to reign, to march and to triumph, to have for halting-places all capitals, to take his grenadiers and to make kings of them, to decree the falls of dynasties, and to transfigure Europe at the pace of a charge; to make you feel that when you threaten you lay your hand on the hilt of the sword of God; to follow in a single man, Hannibal, Caesar, Charlemagne; to be the people of some one who mingles with your dawns the startling announcement of a battle won, to have the cannon of the Invalides to rouse you in the morning, to hurl into abysses of light prodigious words which flame forever, Marengo, Arcola, Austerlitz, Jena, Wagram! To cause constellations of victories to flash forth at each instant from the zenith of the centuries, to make the French Empire a pendant to the Roman Empire, to be the great nation and to give birth to the grand army, to make its legions fly forth over all the earth, as a mountain sends out its eagles on all sides to conquer, to dominate, to strike with lightning, to be in Europe a sort of nation gilded through glory, to sound athwart the centuries a trumpet-blast of Titans, to conquer the world twice, by conquest and by dazzling, that is sublime; and what greater thing is there?"

"To be free," said Combeferre.

Palin found to have abused power

Ouch. My speculation some weeks ago that McCain must know the future outcome of the investigation into Palin proved to be way too optimistic. Today the report came out from the Alaska legislature, and it has concluded that Palin "unlawfully abused her authority."

The McCain campaign has made several statements and is flying a team back up to Alaska to challenge the report and spin it locally. The Obama campaign has sent out a single email with no text in it, and only the subject line, "Palin 'unlawfully abused her authority.'"

If McCain's choice of VP and their handling of it doesn't call his judgment into question, what does?

09 October 2008

State of Mind

I am fairly sure that my co-teacher at 상암 is chronically unhappy. And it is damn sad to see.

She picks me up before work and drops me off after work in her car, a service for which the school pays her a small amount. She gets here in the morning an hour or half hour early as a matter of course, and I always find her sitting in the car.  The car is turned off, her hands are in her lap, and she is staring ahead in the silence, gazing at nothing with a blank expression.

During the ride and sometime during the day, she often asks what I plan on doing that evening. Regardless of what I answer (lately, variations on "moping"), when I ask her the same thing she smiles painfully and replies that she will clean, cook and finally sleep. She gives the all-too-familiar Korean cover-up laugh, the small chuckle and frozen grin supplied during discomfort, and then changes the subject. When she speaks of her family, she says wistfully that her marriage was an arranged one. But any criticism of her husband is immediately and conscientiously followed by a shallow compliment.

She never wants to go home.

It is very sad, and I wish I could do something for her.


In case you're unaware, comedian Al Franken is running for the Senate in Minnesota. And thank God he is... he's never been funny. I agree with him on almost every political issue and hate Ann Coulter too, but he's just never been a lick of funny.

He's running against Norm Coleman, and this video provides a great example of why Franken is currently pulling ahead. This is Coleman's spokesperson "responding" to questions about allegations that Coleman accepted an improper gift of expensive suits.

08 October 2008

Still the Man in Black

Johnny Cash does "Hurt."

Adapted from Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling

"And God tempted Abraham and said unto him, Take Isaac, Mine only son, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon the mountain which I will show thee."

It was early in the morning, Abraham arose betimes, he had the asses saddled, left his tent, and Isaac with him, but Sarah looked out of the window after them until they had passed down the valley and she could see them no more. They rode in silence for three days. On the morning of the fourth day Abraham said never a word, but he lifted up his eyes and saw Mount Moriah afar off. He left the young men behind and went on alone with Isaac beside him up to the mountain. But Abraham said to himself, "I will not conceal from Isaac whither this course leads him."

He stood still, he laid his hand upon the head of Isaac in benediction, and Isaac bowed to receive the blessing. And Abraham’s face was fatherliness, his look was mild, his speech encouraging. But Isaac was unable to understand him, his soul could not be exalted; he embraced Abraham’s knees, he fell at his feet imploringly, he begged for his young life, for the fair hope of his future, he called to mind the joy in Abraham’s house, he called to mind the sorrow and loneliness. Then Abraham lifted up the boy, he walked with him by his side, and his talk was full of comfort and exhortation. But Isaac could not understand him. He climbed Mount Moriah, but Isaac understood him not. Then for an instant he turned away from him, and when Isaac again saw Abraham’s face it was changed, his glance was wild, his form was horror. He seized Isaac by the throat, threw him to the ground, and said, "Stupid boy, dost thou then suppose that I am thy father? I am an idolater. Dost thou suppose that this is God’s bidding? No, it is my desire." Then Isaac trembled and cried out in his terror, "O God in heaven, have compassion upon me. God of Abraham, have compassion upon me. If I have no father upon earth, be Thou my father!" But Abraham in a low voice said to himself, "O Lord in heaven, I thank Thee. After all it is better for him to believe that I am a monster, rather than that he should lose faith in Thee."

No, rather...

It was early in the morning, Abraham arose betimes, he embraced Sarah, the bride of his old age, and Sarah kissed Isaac, who had taken away her reproach, who was her pride, her hope for all time. So they rode on in silence along the way, and Abraham’s glance was fixed upon the ground until the fourth day when he lifted up his eyes and saw afar off Mount Moriah, but his glance turned again to the ground. Silently he laid the wood in order, he bound Isaac, in silence he drew the knife -- then he saw the ram which God had prepared. Then he offered that and returned home. . . . From that time on Abraham became old, he could not forget that God had required this of him. Isaac throve as before, but Abraham’s eyes were darkened, and he knew joy no more.

No, rather...

It was early in the morning, Abraham arose betimes, he kissed Sarah, the young mother, and Sarah kissed Isaac, her delight, her joy at all times. And Abraham rode pensively along the way, he thought of Hagar and of the son whom he drove out into the wilderness, he climbed Mount Moriah, he drew the knife.

It was a quiet evening when Abraham rode out alone, and he rode to Mount Moriah; he threw himself upon his face, he prayed God to forgive him his sin, that he had been willing to offer Isaac, that the father had forgotten his duty toward the son. Often he rode his lonely way, but he found no rest. He could not comprehend that it was a sin to be willing to offer to God the best thing he possessed, that for which he would many times have given his life; and if it was a sin, if he had not loved Isaac as he did, then he could not understand that it might be forgiven. For what sin could be more dreadful?

No, rather...

It was early in the morning, everything was prepared for the journey in Abraham’s house. He bade Sarah farewell, and Eleazar, the faithful servant, followed him along the way, until he turned back. They rode together in harmony, Abraham and Isaac, until they came to Mount Moriah. But Abraham prepared everything for the sacrifice, calmly and quietly; but when he turned and drew the knife, Isaac saw that his left hand was clenched in despair, that a tremor passed through his body -- but Abraham drew the knife.

Then they returned again home, and Sarah hastened to meet them, but Isaac had lost his faith. No word of this had ever been spoken in the world, and Isaac never talked to anyone about what he had seen, and Abraham did not suspect that anyone had seen it.

07 October 2008

Thaneless, excerpted from Beowulf

In Old English:
Þā wæs gesȳne, þæt se sīð ne þāh
þām þe unrihte inne gehȳdde
wrǣte under wealle. Ƿeard ǣr ofslōh
fēara sumne; þā sīo fǣhð gewearð
gewrecen wrāðlīce. Ƿundur hwār, þonne
eorl ellen‐rōf ende gefēre
līf‐gesceafta, þonne leng ne mæg
mon mid his māgum medu‐seld būan.
Swā wæs Bīowulfe, þā hē biorges weard
sōhte, searo‐nīðas: seolfa ne cūðe,
þurh hwæt his worulde gedāl weorðan sceolde;
swā hit oð dōmes dæg dīope benemdon
þēodnas mǣre, þā þæt þǣr dydon,
þæt se secg wǣre synnum scildig,
hergum geheaðerod, hell‐bendum fæst,
wommum gewītnad, sē þone wong strāde.
Næs hē gold‐hwæt: gearwor hæfde
āgendes ēst ǣr gescēawod.
Ƿīglāf maðelode, Ƿīhstānes sunu:
"Oft sceall eorl monig ānes willan
wrǣc ādrēogan, swā ūs geworden is.
Ne meahton wē gelǣran lēofne þēoden,
rīces hyrde rǣd ǣnigne,
þæt hē ne grētte gold‐weard þone,
lēte hyne licgean, þǣr hē longe wæs,
wīcum wunian oð woruld‐ende.
Gummere trans.:
A perilous path, it proved, he trod who heinously hid,
that hall within, wealth under wall!
Its watcher had killed one of a few,
and the feud was avenged in woful fashion. 
Wondrous seems it,
what manner a man of might and valor oft ends his life,
when the earl no longer in mead-hall
may live with loving friends.
So Beowulf, when that barrow’s warden he sought,
and the struggle; himself knew not
in what wise he should wend from the world at last.
For princes potent, who placed the gold,
with a curse to doomsday covered it deep,
so that marked with sin the man should be,
hedged with horrors, in hell-bonds fast,
racked with plagues, who should rob their hoard.
Yet no greed for gold, but the grace of heaven,
ever the king had kept in view.
Wiglaf spake, the son of Weohstan:
“At the mandate of one,
oft warriors many sorrow must suffer;
and so must we.
The people’s-shepherd showed not
aught of care for our counsel, king beloved!
That guardian of gold he should grapple not,
urged we, but let him lie
where he long had been in his earth-hall
waiting the end of the world,
the hest of heaven.

06 October 2008


I was a bit distracted lately, but I finally got around to watching the VP debate.  Palin performed as expected.

Really caustic but interesting Rolling Stone article about "McCain, the Make-Believe Maverick" here.

That is all for now.

03 October 2008

Not a Great Weekend, I Suspect

So this is not shaping up to be the best of weekends.

Ruri broke up with me. We had been on a break kind of thing while I am here - still in a relationship, but not wholly committed. And for various private reasons, now we're not in any kind of relationship. It was wholly and completely surprising and not a little upsetting, considering how I was calling her to say that I wanted to wholly commit and get out of the "break" thing. The way the conversation went was a little jarring, to put it mildly.

I am very much irritated with being reasonable. I wanted to yell at her at the top of my lungs or something similarly irrational and hurtful. This whole "rational approach" to life doesn't seem to be working too well, so I'm going to try something different for a while. I don't know what, since nothing else seems to make any sense.

Oh, and look at this swell deal with my elbow.  The entire thing is black and bruised badly from slipping an falling on it the other day; the joint popped right out of place.  I can't move it to either extreme or pick up anything heavier than a book.

So things are just peachy.

I guess I couldn't expect anything from Ruri, really. She has every right to move on if she thinks she can be happier that way. I'm not even mad. I want to be mad. I feel like I should be mad. But I just want her to be happy.  Just thinking about the whole situation makes me nauseous.

Bad things come in threes, say the superstitious.  But what the fuck else can happen?