Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A New Way to Tell Direction



Have you ever seen how dogs spin around before they poop? Well it turns out that part of this ritual is to orient themselves North-South. Keep that in mind when you and your dog get lost in the wilderness and you need to figure out which direction to go. Now what I didn't get from this video clip is whether the dogs specifically orient themselves so that their heads point north and their tails point south, or do they sometimes squat in an inverted direction looking south and pointing their tails north? Maybe its better to just keep a compass with you when you go for hikes in the wilderness.


Monday, 11 August 2014

Mmm...

"Pornography tells lies about women. But pornography tells the truth about men." -- John Stoltenberg

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Some things I did in July

July has been a strange month. Although I have been on holiday, I haven't done half as much interesting things as I usually do during my working-months. I guess part of the reason is that I'm burning the candle at both ends so often, that when vacation time comes I just want to stay at home and relax.

I've done many of the normal things, such as regular martial arts training and teaching though. Some international visitors came to our martial arts gym (Russia, Netherlands, and America), so I tailored my teaching a bit to their needs. I also taught a private class on Taekwon-Do philosophy, which was quite interesting. Apart from my own normal training, I also attended two Tai Chi Chuan lessons--one Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan session, and one workshop on Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan.






My second cousin from Australia visited Japan and Korea. We had the opportunity to meet one afternoon, had Thai food and went to the National Museum of Korea. It was nice meeting a relative for the first time, and in Korea of all places. 




I went on a short trip to with a Korean friend to his family's hometown Daecheon, and spent one day exploring the neighboring historic city Buyeo, which is the site of the capital Sabi of the Baekje Kingdom. Of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, most people are familiar with Goguryeo, since it was the largest, and Shilla because of its rich cultural heritage. However, Baekje was culturally actual one of the most influential little kingdoms in East Asia. The palace in Buyeo is probably the biggest I have seen in all of Korea, and the on site temple pagoda is the tallest I've seen in Korea so far. I enjoyed spending some time with my friend's family -- mostly farmers. It reminded me to a bit of my own past, having grown up on a farm.







One highlight for July was visiting the Weta Workshop Fantasy Exhibition currently displaying in Seoul. Weta Workshop is known for its special effects work in such notable fantasy films such as The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. There were some truly brilliant statues, including some characters from The Hobbit, as well as other fantasy and sci-fi characters and even a collection of mythological busts. I think I want to visit it again one more time before the exhibit comes to an end in the middle of August. Below is a random selection.

























Last week, on the last day of July, I went to do my driving learner's test in Korea. It was a little tricky as although I could do the test in English, the textbook was in Korean, so I couldn't properly study for it. My score was around 85%, which is well above passing, but I was still slightly disappointed. I plan to go do play in some driving simulators which they have at many of Seoul's driving test centers, just to get used to driving on the right side of the road, and then hopefully before the end of August I want to try getting my Korean driver's license.


One reason I may have been less active in July was because I came down with a really bad cold. My fan broke, it July is terribly hot, so I used my air conditioner for a few hours one evening -- I usually don't. Well, the next day I had a terribly sore throat and other cold symptoms. It took me a couple of days to recover. At least it resulted in two good things. The first was that I dismantled my air conditioner and cleaned it out properly. I'm thinking that it was not merely the cold air that made me sick, but also dust and mold in the air conditioning unit. At least it is clean now, so that if I do feel the need to use it again, it will at least not be that much of a health hazard. The other thing I did was to go and by myself a new little fan. I'm very much in love with it.





And of course I did some Seoul exploring -- one nice discovery was the gorgeous view of downtown Seoul from the observation deck at the Seoul Mayor's old office.


My personal life has been quite -- how shall I put it? -- surreal. Strange drama with an ex and family members has made the past month one of the weirdest inter-relational experiences of my life. Relationship dynamics have shifted dramatically, so much so that I think my future visits to South Africa will be most unusual. What I found quite interesting is how modern technology has brought issues from multiple thousands of kilometers right into the palm of my hand here in Korea, via my mobile phone. We live in a world where time and space are increasingly less important...a family member's actions on one part of the world can affect you almost directly continents away. Indeed, fascinating.

Also, I made some new friends, enjoyed good food, and did other fun things.

Friday, 4 July 2014

My run in with a Snotkop fangirl

Two days ago I had my first run in with a fan girl. No, not of mine. This particular fan girl really dislikes me in fact. Actually she is a fan of the Afrikaans pop singer Fracois Henning aka Snotkop. (The name “Snotkop” is his stage name and literally translates as “snot-head,” but may loosely be translated as “punk.” I actually like the name, since it is an interesting play on words on the punk-pop genre he sometimes make Afrikaans covers of.) My run in with a die-hard Snotkop fan girl went like this:

A new person suddenly followed me on Twitter. I'm not particularly active on Twitter, so I'm not really sure why people I don't know would start to follow me. The more unusual thing was that miss “CALL ME CRAZY!! @ Mignon_Devitt” sent me a message, asking that I please follow her back. I didn't recognise any Mignon Devitt, and at first though it is a spammer; nevertheless, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and obliged. Almost immediately after I accepted her invitation she tweeted the following on her account:



@SankoL skryfblok.blogspot.com/2010/02/lack-o… how could you write this about someone you don't know shit about? @Snotkop_Henning

She tagged me, then listed a link to a post I wrote on my blog in February 2010, adding “how could you write this about someone you don't know shit about?”, and finally tagged her idol @Snotkop_Henning.

So how did I upset poor miss Mignon Devitt so terribly? Well it turns out that in a post I wrote four years ago I criticised the lack of originality in the Afrikaans music industry, and I used Snotkop as an example. I pointed out that his hit song “Kry jouself by die werk” (“Get Yourself to Work”) at the time (early 2010) is a cover of The Offspring's “Why Don't You Get a Job?” and how the beginning of his song “Shut up en soen my” unabashedly borrows from Suzanne Vega's “Tom's Diner.” My point was that I was disappointed with popular Afrikaans music, because it wasn't very original. O, and I also may have mentioned that I'm not very impressed with Snotkop's voice either and think that a lot of his and similar mainstream Afrikaans music is superficial.

Now don't get me completely wrong. I'm happy that Afrikaans music is active, even in the genres that I do not really listen to. The survival of the Afrikaans language depends on it being a thriving cultural commodity, and if pop artists like Snotkop make it seem cool among young Afrikaans speakers, that is wonderful, as it would cultivate a sense of pride in the language. It is just that I'm saddened by the unoriginal, superficial quality of mainstream Afrikaans music.

After “CALL ME CRAZY!! @Mignon_Devitt” made her tweet in which she tagged me, her idol, and my blog link, she started to send me a series of private messages on Twitter:

HI! I have seen one of your blog posts about afrikaans music and you using snotkop as an axample and what you wrote was just plain tasteless
01:20 AM - 03 Jul 14

yes so maybe he has directly translated some songs! so be it! he is one hell of an artist! we as afrikaans people would prefer him
01:22 AM - 03 Jul 14

over many international artist! he knows what he is doing! he has thousands of fans and I will defend him! he is a great artist!
01:23 AM - 03 Jul 14

And she finished with a Snotkop quote in which he acknowledges that:

"I take songs and translate them into Afrikaans and try and bring them closer to Afrikaans culture so people can better connect with them."
01:29 AM - 03 Jul 14

None of this, of course, takes away from my argument that mainstream Afrikaans music tends to be unoriginal and/or superficial—and my lament on my blog post that:

“The truly unfortunate thing is there are many talented artists performing in Afrikaans so that we need not be satisfied with such low quality music. As long as people are satisfied with fast food, quality cuisine will not become the standard; it is similar with music. While people are drunk on cheap pop music, there is no room for quality original music, which need not be the case in Afrikaans music, as we do not suffer from a lack of original artists.”

So Snotkop has thousands of fans? Good on him. And I really do mean that. I'm happy that an Afrikaans artist can make a success in such a small market. But having many fans does not a great artist make. Justin Bieber has legions more.





Turning my attention away from the South African music industry to the term “fan,” which is probably derived from the word “fanatic”, I must say that I'm intrigued by @Mignon_Devitt and the need she felt to defend her idol Snotkop from what she considered my terrible attack on him—in a post I wrote four years ago. She went through a lot of trouble, first by searching for a way to contact me, finding me on Twitter, following me on Twitter, asking me to follow her on Twitter, and then writing her tweet in which she linked to my—apparently—offending blog post, and tagged both myself and her idol @Snotkop_Henning, and then afterwards sending me a series of messages.


By tagging her idol @Snotkop_Henning in her tweet, I'm assuming she hopes that he will read it, that her intention is to impress him, to prove to him her devotion and loyalty, and how she's got his back—protecting his honour against this random blogger that wrote something about him in 2010.

I wonder if she did impress him. Or if he is oblivious to her. If he is such a hot shot artist with thousands of fans, he might be too busy—i.e. actually have a life—to read every little tweet about him. I'm pondering whether this is a case of a parasocial relationship, in which the fan has an imagined belief that they have a special bond with their idol, but it is actually a one-sided crush that may lead to Celebrity Worship Syndrome.

Also, I'm not sure if CALL ME CRAZY!! @Mignon_Devitt's attempt to call me out on Twitter in order to protect her idol Snotkop will have the desired effect. Her tweet just caused more people to read what I wrote, and what I wrote about was the lack of originality in Afrikaans music and I pointed out how Snotkop—in his own words—“take songs and translate them into Afrikaans.” Not only does he make Afrikaans covers of international bands such as The Offspring, but he also copies melodic parts from other songs for use in his songs, such as using parts of Suzanne Vega's “Tom's Diner” in his “Shut up en soen my.” Now more people who did not know that Snotkop “take[s] songs and translate them into Afrikaans” will read about him and my opinion on mainstream Afrikaans music's lack of originality. Because the Internet gives priority to sites that have links to it, @Mignon_Devitt has now made my blog-post more popular, which means more traffic will be directed to my page when they do an Internet search for “Snotkop”.

I have sympathy for CALL ME CRAZY!! @Mignon_Devitt—I have been quite smitten with a musician many years ago too. I “met” the Afrikaans cabaret diva Amanda Strydom on two occasions. The first time, I took a CD to be signed by her after a concert and when I got to the front of the line I was so awed to be in her presence that I couldn't even say my name. The second time I saw her after a show, I gave her some of my poetry naively thinking that she would be so impressed that she would turn them into songs, and I blurted out one of the most unoriginal things one could say as a fan: “I am your biggest fan!” To this day I am embarrassed to have acted like that. Thankfully I'm sure Amanda Strydom has forgotten about my silly behaviour—purely because so many other fans have uttered those same unoriginal words.

So CALL ME CRAZY!! @Mignon_Devitt, I empathise, and I'm sure I'd be offended too if someone said that Amanda Strydom doesn't have much of a voice. (Luckily for me and other Amanda Strydom fans such an accusation is unfounded.) I do apologise if my post caused you distress, but I also have the right to my opinion, just as you have the right to say that what I wrote is “shit.” May Snotkop realises what a wonderful, devoted, loyal fan he has in you.

By the way, I have nothing against Snotkop. He looks like a cool dude. And in all honesty, I haven't heard much (hardly any) of his music since I wrote that post in 2010. Maybe his music is more original and less superficial four years later. I don't know. I'm not a fan, so I'm not following his musical evolution.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Some things I did in June

Performances

In June I saw two high quality dance performances. First, I went to the National Theatre of Korea (국립극장) to see the National Dance Company of Korea (국립무용단) perform their awesome staging of "Altar" <단(壇)>. It is among the top three dance performances I've ever seen. 









The choreographer Professor Sungsoo Ahn 안성수 교수님 is truly brilliant. I hope to see something by him again.

I also recently went to see the Kim Young-Hee's Mutdance's (김영희 무트댄스) 20th Anniversary performance. It was very good. The dancers were extremely expressive (and very beautiful), and the music was haunting, adding to the emotive choreography. http://www.mutdance.com/ 




Movies



I got to see Edge of Tomorrow and Maleficent which were both quite fun. I also watched the Korean film "No Tears for the Dead" <우는남자>. It's by Lee Jeong-beom (이전범), the same director of "The Man from Nowhere" <아저씨>, so I was obviously excited to see it. Sadly, it was quite disappointing. The best part of the movie is the poster!



Martial Arts

Apart from my regular Taekwon-Do training I also organized a Systema workshop at the beginning of the month. 




Two or three Sundays back I went to a Brazil festival in Seoul where they had Capoeira practitioners performing. The leader of the group recognized me. We are "friends" on a social network. It's nice to meet people in real life. 






And over the last weekend of the month I co-organized another Taichi session, this time focussing on the Five Animals Qigong Exercises. I'm thinking of joining the Taichi gym once a week over the next month or so, over most of my vacation. There is a class in English on Mondays that teaches Chen Style, which is the style I'm most interested in as it resonates well with ITF Taekwon-Do.

After quite some planning I got a long awaited book on Taekwon-Do history that I need for my research. The book costs $99, but getting it posted from the USA to South Korea costs about as much as the book. Finally I heard that one of my friends were coming to visit Korea so I begged her to carry the heavy article with her. Luckily she obliged. 




Speaking of things arriving... I finally got my 5th Dan certificate, which means that I can now officially call myself a fifth degree black belt. 




Excursions

Something that visitors to Seoul often do is go up Mt. Nam (Namsan) and visit the Seoul Tower. After my attendance at the National Theatre of Korea for a dance performance, my friend and I decided to hike up the mountain, seeing as the theatre is already a third up the mountain already. I haven't gone there in probably two or three years, so it was nice just to do the leisurely walk. Mountain climbing is more appropriately called mountain hiking, as there are very nice trails to get to the top. Seoul Tower is probably one of Seoul's two most prominent landmarks, and provide an exceptional vantage point from which to look at the city.







The other most prominent landmark in Seoul is the Han River which I also visited about a week ago, and went on a ferry cruise/buffet with some friends. At the moment there are the most beautiful flower patches all along the river, and some parks to relax in the late afternoon breeze.








In celebration of my semester finally coming to an end I went with a friend to Ocean World this past Friday. Although the lines were quite long, I still got to enjoy many water rides. One of the best things about it was that I got to enjoy student's discount of over 50%!









Great Food!




This month I really experienced a variety of tasty food. There were some of the old classics, like the awesome Thai food restaurant in Noksapyeong called Taste of Thailand, or the superb Italian restaurant in Hongdae, Kitchen 485 (서울시 마포구 서교동 399-24), or Sushi Den between Konkuk University Station and Ttukseom Resort Station. But I also tried some new things.





The first wasn't exceptional, but it was nice tasting this old Seoul classic: an ice cream sandwich known as a "Monica ice cream"(모니카 아이스크림) from the famous Taegeuk-Dang bakery (태극당), one of the oldest bakeries and dessert spots in Seoul. 






Speaking of ice cream, a friend took me to a new connoisseur ice cream parlor that got me all giddy. Fell + Cole Gastronomic Ice Creams is phenomenal. There are three branches, one on Hongdae, another in Gangnam, and a third in Jongro. We went to the one in Hongdae and I had a "Roasted Caramel with Smoked Sea Salt" ice cream cone.

Another dessert place that will blow your socks of is Eclairs by Garuharu. When they gave me a small peace of their vanilla éclair it was so unexpectedly good, that I something akin to an orgasm. Seriously, this place makes the best éclairs I've ever had in my whole life. And these beautiful éclairs are definitely food for the eyes as well. That rose one is absolutely brilliant. (서울시 용산구 이태원동 247-9)





As you may know, I'm always searching for good hot chocolate. A few evenings ago a friend took me to a place that serves Spanish dark hot chocolate with churros. It is deficult to find good hot chocolate in Korea, so Chocolate Con Churros is definitely a great place to try if you are in the Seongbukdong area, about a 10 minute walk from Hansung University Station. (서울시 성북구 성북동 124-5)


I've also tried Gangnam Croquette for the first time a week ago. Apparently it is quite famous. I had the vegetable curry one. It reminded me a bit of South African curry vetkoet.




Work and Studies

The end of the semester meant, of course, a lot of work and study stress with making out exams, grading heaps of assignments and exam papers, managing problematic students, and regarding my own PhD studies, giving presentations and writing reports and essays. Luckily, after quite a number of sleepless nights I'm finished. I'm still waiting for the grade results of my PhD classes, but was happy to see this morning that at least the results of one of the classes are open, and I got an A+.

I've been working with another professor where I work on searching for and reviewing textbooks that we may want to use for classes next semester. I've also received the last of classes that I would be teaching. I'm teaching two new classes and we may be changing the syllabi for other classes, so I'll probably have to spend a number of my vacation just doing prepping for next semester. But that's okay. At least I can sleep late every morning.

Relations

My friend Chonghee came to visit her family from the States, so we also made two appointments to catch up. It was great seeing her again. On a sad note, someone I've become rather close to, Ps Clif Maberly and his wife Karen left Korea and moved to Egypt. I've enjoyed numerous moments with Clif that is very unique to the type of person he is, and the type of person I am. For instance, how many Christians do you know that would attend a Buddhist temples on Buddha's birthday, or visit a Shaman museum. Because we worked in different departments (I'm teaching English Literature, and he is a missionologist) we didn't have that many opportunities to hang out; however, the time we did spend together was always of value. I also spend good times with other friends--realizing that if there is meaning to life, then it must be something to do with relationships, with connection.

Of course there are more relational things that happened in June, but not everything need to be posted online. ^_^

Purchases

After two years of wanting a bigger computer screen--preferably a television screen that I can use as a computer monitor, I finally bought one. Someone was leaving Korea and I got to buy their 43" TV for really cheap. I simply would never have bought something like this hadn't it been that I got it for around 10% of what these types of televisions usually cost.Movies at my house, anyone?! I'm still getting used to the monster of a thing, and it is taking up most of my desk space. Seeing how big it is, I had to buy a cableless (wifi) keyboard and mouse so that I can sit on my sofa and use my computer, rather than sit right in front of the television. 

A few days ago I walked passed a musical appliances store and decided to look at their earplug earphones. The earphones I had before doesn't have particularly good sound. In fact, the cheaper ones' treble is too high, causing my ears, which are quite sensitive, to ache.  I wasn't expecting much, looking at the different earphones, knowing full well that the ones I'd like I would not be able to afford. But to my surprise the Motorhead earphones, which has an exceptional bass and mid-range was on sale. So I promptly got me a pair. Have been happy so far.

Well, these are some of the highlights from June. My orchid also started blooming and smells wonderfully sweet. I'm not exactly sure what type of orchid it is, though. I got it as a gift a year ago.