Wednesday, 31 December 2008

A Year in Retrospect

Wow, 2008 is one of those bookmark-years for me. Lots of changes and interesting experiences. Following are just a few of the highlights.

January

I spent time in KwaZulu Natal (Richardsbay, Mtunzini, Durban) with some of my closest friends and (adopted) family. It was my habit to spend New Year in Richardsbay or Mtunzini. My visit with Joa was especially emotionally nourishing. We have a very therapeutic effect on each other and tend to dissect each other’s brains. Such emotional nakedness can only happen when there is absolute mutual trust. I don’t like to “grade” friends, but there is little doubt in my mind – Joa is my closest friend.

At the beginning of January I made the curious comment that I wondered what 2008 will entail on the political front, both locally (South Africa) and internationally. I just had a gut feeling that 2008 would be an eventful year. Who could have guessed the things that would happen?!

February

I was challenged to a fight, but my years of martial art training helped me to keep my cool. For the good, or the bad, my calm response and assertive attitude dissuaded the would be attacker.

I fell in love.

Came to the conclusion that intelligent people are cursed to see the “real issues” and are incapable of being truly happy in the sick world we are living.

Started teaching the TEFL-course at university again.

March

Was best man for a friend’s wedding.

Realized that while true love is always selfless (unselfish), human love is usually tainted with self. Only God, who is completely self-fulfilled, can love selflessly. We on the other hand love, mostly for what we get from loving, even if it is just the “feeling” of giving or receiving love. Only God loves purely.

Turned 30.

Started to include eggs and cream in my diet to help extract heavy metals (e.g. mercury), which are only fat-soluble, and cannot be removed via a normal fruit and vegetable detox, or a purely vegan diet. Also include occasional animal products. This is however the exception to the rule.

April

Saw the movie Juno. The second best movie I saw for 2008, and one of my favourite films.

After much deliberation I accepted the job offer from the university in Korea.

Preached at the church in Potchefstroom on Freedom of Choice, the prerequisite for Love.

May

The girl and I got really serious.

Attended "Chicago" and introducing my partner to my closest friends.

Established that I like Greek yoghurt the best.

Registered for PhD.

June

Attended the wedding of two friends. One got married to the son of a South African Minister.

Got a great compliment: I kiss better than a woman.

Received a scholarship.

July

A friend passed away after slipping while caving.

I started to say farewell to friends and family in preparation for leaving Korea.

Saw Atonement. The third best movie I saw for 2008.

Saw Batman: The Dark Knight for the first time. Undoubtedly the best movie I saw in 2008, and a definite favourite.

Had some roller-coaster periods in my love-life, which led to some great poetry.

We broke up.

Submitted an anthology of poetry with a publisher.

August

God provided me the airfare to fly to Korea. Arrived in Korea on the 21st.

September

Started my new job as university lecturer in Korea.

Started with Hapkido again and took up Taekkyeon.

Met with old friends.

October

Settled into my new job and the Korean autumn.

November

Lost a tooth filling and had it fixed.

Attended "Evil Dead: The Musical".

Joined the ITF Taekwon-Do Dojang in Seoul.

I saw Across the Universe. It left a lasting impact.

December

Finished my first semester at the new job with a feeling of satisfaction and looking forward to my job the next year.

Was a the "host" (Korean equivalent of best man) at a friend's wedding and did the Korean "Ham"-ceremony the night before.

Went to Japan as part of the Korean Delegation for ITF Taekwon-Do and umpired at the annual Tokyo Regional Championships.

###

Of course such highlights do not honestly reflect a year's living, but at least it is testimony that I was busy with different things. And that, for me, is a life well lived; not stagnated in the same routine month in and month out, year in and year out.

I am thankful to God for a good year.

Dolce & Gabbana 2009 Spring Collection






I like Dolce & Gabbana’s 2009 Spring Collection. I prefer comfort over fashion. This collection seems very comfortable. I also like their use of blues and browns. These are clothes I'd feel at home in. I especially like the brown leather jackets.

Christmas Deconstructed

Illustration by Rob Sheridan.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

'n Rede vir trou?

Die rede hoekom ek met haar getrou het, sê ’n vriend vir my, is omdat sy altyd met iets nuuts vorendag kom. Dis sy opmerking na aanleiding van ’n smaaklike drankie wat sy vrou vir ons gemaak het met vars suurlemoenskywe en heuning. Ek kan nie help om te wonder wat gaan gebeur die dag as sy vrou se idees opraak nie.

Japan: The Second Day, Part 4 – The Dinner

An ITF Taekwon-Do instructor from Daegu (right) receives a bottle of expensive Japanese liqueur from a member of the Japanese ITF delegation (left); I received the same.

On Monday evening we went to the formal dinner where the Korean and Japanese delegation for ITF Taekwon-Do met. I sat at a table, mostly with the important people from Korea; however, some high ranking Japanese instructors were at my table as well.

One of them included Master Hwang Su Il. He is probably one of the most famous Taekwon-Doin in the world. The videogame character, Hwoarang, from the Tekken-series was based on motion-captures of him doing the various techniques one can see in the games. I was impressed for two reasons.

First, while sitting at the table, he sat way on the opposite end of the table from me; yet, he was quick to notice that I did not have any alcohol in my glass and swiftly deducted that I’m a teetotaller. He indicated to me to pour beer in a glass purely for show for the toasts, so that I do not offend anybody. Then he immediately ordered me something non-alcoholic to drink. I appreciated his perceptiveness and concern.

Second, the next day I worked with him at the Tokyo Championships, about which I’ll post in more detail. He was always humble; sometimes he even let other umpires who are lower than him in rank take prominent umpire positions, like centre refereeing. This ever humble attitude impressed me a lot.

The dinner seemed to be a strange occasion of mutual gift exchanging between the Korean and Japanese delegations. I’ve never seen such extravagance in mutual flattery. They gave speeches in each other’s honours, exchanged plaques and various other gifts and poured drinks for each other. I also received a “Welcome to Japan”-gift: a bottle of liqueur with gold flakes in it. (I am not too sure what I’m going to do with it; as I said, I’m a teetotaller – but I do very much appreciate the gesture.) I’ve heard that in Asia, especially in Japan, gifts are important for business transactions. Since I’m in the education field, not commerce, I’ve never experienced these situations before. It was very interesting. I think that in my ignorance I’ve missed a lot of the non-verbal communication that took place during the formalities.

The dinner was held in a Chinese restaurant, which was fascinating, I thought. Here I was in Japan, with Koreans, eating in a Chinese restaurant. The food was quite good.

We finished around 23:00, but that was not the end. Next I had to go with the many of the delegates to a gentlemen’s “noraebang”. Literally translated, “noraebang” means singing room; i.e. a Karaoke-bar. What an experience that was – but more about that in a later post.

Monday, 29 December 2008

"Scaling" Grades

We are required to curve our grades. No more than 30% of the class is allowed to get an A, and at least 20% of the class have to get C+ or below.

I don’t give to many A-grades, so that’s not a problem; but I feel it a bit unfair to demote B-grade students to C-grades, just because I need to fill the 20% bracket.

So this afternoon, even after I’ve made the grades known to the students, I was called up by the office to tell me that I have to adapt the grades. So in at least three of the five modules I teach, I had to force the grades of some students down. It’s not difficult – I merely reduced the lowest B-grade students’ grades to fill the 20% C and below bracket. Still, it feels a bit strange to have to change grades just to make the “profile” look pretty. Of course there might be other reasons, which I don’t understand. I often need to remind myself that I’m a guest in a foreign country and my ways are not their ways.

Needless to say, I expect some students to come and complain to me now that their grades have suddenly dropped. Luckily I have the “system” to blame as the scapegoat.

In the meantime I've come down with something. I have a fever and am coughing. I think the rain episode eventually caught up with me.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

One-Sided Affections

Mike: I’d like to talk with you. I mean, I’d like to… I’d like to really talk with you. We’re talking right now, but you know. I don’t know. I, I don’t feel like I can be… I don’t feel like I can be close to you… We’re close. Right now we’re close, but I mean… you know…
Scott: Uh… How close? I mean?
Mike: Ah, I don’t know. Whatever…
Scott: What?
Mike: What do I mean to you?
Scott: What do you mean to me? Mike, you’re my best friend.
Mike: I know man. I know, I know I’m your friend. We’re good friends and it’s good to be… you know, good friends. That’s a good thing.
Scott: So?
Mike: So I just…
This is a dialogue from My Own Private Idaho. Do you recognize this conversation? Not necessarily the same words, but the gist of it. And not necessarily with someone of the same sex; often its with the opposite sex. But in general... have you ever been in this situation?

I’ve had this conversation a couple of times in my life. Sometimes I was Mike. Sometimes I was Scott. Either way it’s uncomfortable. That curious condition when one party wants more than the other party is willing to give; or when one party feels more than the other one feels.

I’ve just recently experienced it again. This time (lucky for me?) I was Scott. I care for the friend, but just not as much or in the same way. It’s a difficult situation to be in since you don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings, but you also don’t want to encourage their hopes. Such hope is futile – things won’t change. I don’t know if there is any convenient solution to the problem. In the end, the Mikes usually get hurt.

I have sympathy... I too have been the victim of unrequited love in my life. But even so, I cannot create what is not there, nor will I fool anyone by pretending.

Movie Review: My Own Private Idaho

My Own Private Idaho (1991) is a tragically beautiful tale. It’s been a long time coming for me to watch this movie. Many years back I took note of it, but never had the opportunity (or “guts”, as my dad would've put it) to see it. As a teenager I was afraid to see it, lest anybody think me gay. Ah, the fragile sensibilities of the insecure youngster! In the mean time I’m too old (relatively speaking, of course!) to care about other people’s prejudices as far as my sexuality is concerned. I’ve learned that other people’s views of me isn’t half as import as my personal conceptions about myself; and since my own views are enough to keep me awake at night, I don’t spent too much time worrying about other people's ideas about me.

The English Department where I work had the movie in their media library, so I decided that since the opportunity arose, now is as good a time as any to see it.

My Own Private Idaho recounts a period in the life of a young man, a male prostitute, that suffers from narcolepsy, in search of his mother. The story is loosely based on Shakespeare’s William IV. It’s a sad story. Since it ends without complete resolution, I would like to say that it leaves one empty. But that is not true, unless one equates melancholy with emptiness, or empathy with emptiness.

Had I seen this movie earlier it would probably have been one of those films that would have contributed much to my world view. It might still have that effect; I’ll have to wait and see.

I can understand why this movie turned River Phoenix (playing the lead role alongside Keanu Reeves) into the James Dean of his generation. Although My Own Private Idaho has been hijacked by the gay community as their cult film, I think it can have universal appeal as well, separate from the sexual politics surrounding it. To me it is more about a lost kid (a symbol of the Lost Generation), than about sexual issues. It also addresses topics of community, family and friendship; all issues that transcend the homosexual motif in the film. In my opinion the movie has a greater resonance with all of us that feel part of that generation (Generation X, if you will), who somehow feel misplaced in this world.

Cinematographically it is a beautiful film and although the pace is often slow, especially towards the end, it is a well constructed film. The director, Gus Van Sant, who has won many prestigious awards for this and other movies, is probably better known for such films as Good Will Hunting (1997), Finding Foresster (2000), Elephant (2003) and this year’s much talked about Milk (2008). I still hope to see Elephant.

Boekresensie (Deel 2): Die Nihilisme

Hierdie resensie oor Die Nihilisme: Notas oor ons tyd (2007), deur Danie Goosen, volg op deel een.

Ek het besluit om vir eers my lees van Die Nihilisme te staak. Aanvanklik het ek gedink ek sal deur die boek swoeg, dalk raak dit beter. Wel my hoop is op. Ek is twee-derdes deur die boek, en daar is steeds bitter min gesê oor “ons tyd”. Goosen kerm steeds net voort oor die “dramaturgie” en die “dramaturgiese gemeenskap”. Ek dink wat my die meeste frustreer van die boek is die misleidende titel. ’n Baie meer gepaste titel sou “Die Dramaturgiese Gemeenskap: Notas van toeka tot nou” gewees het.

Moet my nie verkeerd verstaan nie, Die Nihilisme het sy oomblikke en ek het ’n paar paragrawe in my kopie met potlood onderstreep. Nietemin, daar is vir my net te veel wat my dwars in die krop steek, dat ek nie lus het om verder te lees nie. Dis soos om koffie te drink en bewus te raak dat die melk suur is. Hoe langer jy daaraan drink hoe slegte raak die koffie.

Die grootste hindernis vir my omtrent die boek is Goosen se keuse van die dramturgie as geskikste metafoor om oor die huidige tydsgees te praat. Ek dink nie die dramaturgie is die beste keuse nie. Daarom frustreer die lees van die boek my. Ons stem oor die basiese aannames nie saam nie, so ’n verdere diskoers is feitlik onmoontlik.

Goosen vind, byvoorbeeld, ’n kohesie tussen die filosofiese dramatologie (waaroor hy gaande is) en die hoë Middeleeue; en sê dan dat die “dramatologie het ook ’n sin vir kontinuïteit met die verlede...” Dit bring hy in kontras met die “modernistiese en postmoderne atomisme” (159). Selfs ’n beginner in die Postmodernisme behoort te kan uitwys dat Goosen hier iets mis het. Die Postmodernisme bied in sy essensie kontinuïteit met die verlede weens sy inherente inklusiewe aard. Goosen noem die Middeleeue ’n “gemeenskap van gemeenskappe”, mynsinsiens ’n baie akkurate beskrywing van die Postmodernisme – iets wat Goosen óf ignoreer óf onkundig oor is.
“Die modernistiese dualisme”, sê Goosen, “slaan om in ’n postmodernistiese monisme...” Ondanks sy retoriek is ek geensins oortuig dat die Postmodernisme ’n “monisme” tot gevolg het nie. Hy skryf verder dat “...die postmodernistiese inploffing van gemeenskap in ’n indifferente eenselwigheid...” ontaard. ’n Ondersoek na die Postdmodernisme, soos te sien in die hedendaagse mense, toon mynsinsiens glad nie “’n indifferente eenselwigheid” nie.

Goosen het ook ’n hinderlike manier om stellings te maak, dan ’n vraag te vra, en dan homself te antwoord. Elke af en toe kry ’n mens hierdie hangende vraagsnedes, soos “Waarom?”. Aan wie vra hy die vraag? Aan homself? Aan my? Ek weet nie of die bedoeling is om die leser meer betrokke te kry nie, maar ek voel effens beledig dat die outeur gedurig vrae namens my vra – soos televisie komedies met ingeboude lagsnitte, wat my wil voorsê wanneer ek iets snaaks moet vind.

Onthou jy die definisie van Goosen vir die Modernisme wat ek in die vorige deel aangehaal het? Wel ek het intussen op ’n beter definisie van die Modernisme deur Goosen afgekom:
“Die moderniteit is in ’n gewisse sin van die woord niks anders as die isoleringsakte waarvolgens die wil uit sy samehang met die rede geabstraheer en tot ’n selfstaande werklikheid verabsoluteer is nie.”
Dis nog steeds nie geskik vir ’n verklarende woordeboek nie, maar ek dink dis die beste beskrywing in die boek te vind. Indien jy hierdie definisie moeilik vind om te herkou; wel, dus hoe die hele boek tot dusver is.

Dis sekerlik moontlik dat die trefkrag van die teks juis in daardie laaste derde lê waarmee ek moed op gegee het; soos N T Wright, die Biskop van Durham, op ’n keer gesê het: ’n boek is soos ’n boom, die wortels moet stewig gelê wees voordat die boom ordentlik kan staan, waarop sy pa gereageer het: Ek het nog altyd meer van die boonste blare gehou. Nietemin, ek gaan nou vereers my lees van Die Nihilisme staak. Ek kan nie sien dat die oorblywende derde van die teks my behoefte gaan vervul nie en waar ek in die verlede uitgesien het na my moltreinlees, sien ek deesdae op daarna. Dalk sal ek tog eendag die res lees. Ek hou nie daarvan om dinge onafgehandel te laat nie.

Wat ek geniet het van die boek is die goeie gebruik van Afrikaans as wetenskapstaal. Goosen verdien ’n pluimpie daarvoor. Dit is ook sekerlik ’n baie goeie boek vir enige iemand wat belangstelling in die filosofiese dramaturgiese tradisie het. Volgens die uitgewer, Praag, heers daar "ongekende belangstelling in Die nihilisme wat as ’n filosofiese kragtoer bestempel word, asook een van die die grootste intellektuele publikasies tot nogtoe in Afrikaans". Ek haal my hoed af vir beide Goosen en Praag om so ’n projek in Afrikaans te geonderneem het.

Intussen het ek vir my ’n C. S. Lewis-omnibus gekry wat The Abolition of Man insluit wat ek reeds begin lees het. The Abolition of Man sal waarskynlik my nuwe leesteks vir my moltreinritte wees.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Japan: The Second Day, Part 3 - Harajuku

A hat I tried on in one of the shops in Takeshita Street.

For our afternoon sightseeing we went to Harajuku – more specifically Takeshita Street. The latter is a pedestrian street in the style of a typical Asian market area. Takeshita Street has lots of food kiosks, coffee shops and restaurants, but it is the clothing and accessory stores which are the main attraction. Harajuku is internationally known for its very experimental youth fashions, inspired by eclectic postmodernism and anime.

Harajuku is where the postmodern freaks (meant very affectionately) come to buy their gear, from French-maid outfits adorned with extra ribbons and lace, to studded neckbands, colourful hairpieces and plastic wigs, corsets, petticoats, skull-and-bones rings, purple cat-eye contact lenses, piercing accessories, hats, boots and furs. Fake fur, of course. You won’t catch a postmodern vegetarian wearing real fur. (They might wear real leather, but don't tell anybody...)




And while standing there, looking at these characters that stepped out of Japanese manga into real life, I suddenly felt very at home. It is one of those sad realizations one gets, when unexpectedly you know that these are your kind of people. These weirdos, with their inked faces and collaged fashions, culturally worlds apart from me, are in an enigmatic sense the culture I best understand.

I recognize that part of the reason I did my master’s degree research in Postmodern Identity was because I hungered, not so much to understand other people, but to understand myself. There I stood, hugging myself from the cold, staring at the freaks, and thinking – I could stay here for hours, for days. Who cares if I’m freezing?! These weirdo’s, these Gothic Lolitas, these Visual Kei, these Steam Punk Vampires are an outward manifestation of my zeitgeist. In this surreal space where the fantastic meets the mundane, this is where my mind is most at ease. At this collision point, at this overlapping of worlds, this is where my mind relishes.

I was disappointed to leave, but I had to get back to the motel to don my suit for the Gala Dinner later. It was shortly after my Harajuku visit that the running in the rain episode happened.

If ever I return to Japan, visiting Harajuku again will be a priority.

spoorsnyer

heelnag lank loop ek in jou spore,
vul ek jou kontoere versigtig
soos water wat oog in die kom maar nie spil nie;
jy’s windop en ruik na vars gekneusde appelkose
en jy ruik na adrenalien; jy huig, jou longe brand soos seks
weens die naglug; daar is sweet, silwer soos ’n spieël in die maan,
op jou voorkop, jou neus, jou lippe, jou nek, jou skouers,
jou wulpse borste stoom soos hingste;
soms staan jy stil en luister,
dan hou ek my asem ’n leeftyd op en word ’n roerlose boom
tot jy weer die voetpad windop vat met kameelperd tree;

heelnag lank pluk ek jou spore uit die grond,
maak hulle in pare bymekaar en bêre in my rugsak
sodat geen predator jou spoor kan sny nie.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Japan: Japanese Grafitti?

Japan: The Second Day, Part 2 – Running in the Rain

After visiting a Buddhist temple (Day 2, Part 1) our troupe set out for lunch. Now, I had had breakfast at 10am, and wasn’t really up for lunch a mere four hours later, but not wanting to offend I joined in. While deciding what to do next we got a phone call, notifying us that Jeong Gumin and I have to don in formal attire for the evening dinner.

So while the rest of the company, accompanied by another Japanese-Korean, Yeong-Ran, who had joined us, continued on to the next tourist attractions, Instructors Jeong, Hwang and myself returned to the motel so Jeong Gumin and I could get dressed in our suits so long. Unfortunately the motel was locked up when we arrived and the message indicated that it would stay closed until 4pm! A little irritated at our useless journey we decided to return to the rest of the group, now in Harajuku. I will write about Harajuku in a following post.

In the late afternoon it started to pour down. While the previous day and even this particular morning were pleasantly warm, it became quite cold. Time was running out, it was around 6pm and we had to be at the Gala Dinner at 7pm. Jeong Gumin and I was still not dressed for the occasion. Returning from Harajuku and arriving at the subway station again we decided to make a run for it. There’s no reason to have the whole group get soaking wet, so we told them to stay in the subway station while the two of us, and one other brave team member, started our dash through the rain. I’m guessing it was a proper 10 minute run, shouting “excuse me” in Japanese all the way as we bolted round corners, sidestepped other pedestrians and splashed our way to the motel.

We quickly changed. This proved a short moral dilemma for me. I only had one suit and one dress shirt – which was what I wore the previous day for Young’s wedding. (Will give a thorough account of that later). Having no other choice, I put on the same clothes I wore the day before, only with fresh underwear and a new tie, and hoped for the best. Luckily the motel had umbrellas for us to use, so we did not need to run in the rain again.

To my chagrin I did find out that my formal black shoes are not waterproof. Walking back to the subway my right shoe started to sponge up water. My right shoe and sock squished the whole evening. But luckily nobody noticed and I looked formal enough for meeting the "important people" of the Japanese ITF Taekwon-Do national governing body.

Queen Elizabeth II's 2008 Christmas Message

The media is full of hype over the Queen of England’s sombre Christmas Message. She uses the word “sombre” early in the message, and I think the media just grabbed at it to distort her message for their skewed benefit.

I watched Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas Message (see below) and thought it not sombre at all. Instead, it is a beautiful message. Albeit starting with a look at the difficult current world situation, it ends with the following poignant focus on the message of Christmas.
I hope that, like me, you will be comforted by the example of Jesus of Nazareth who, often in circumstances of great adversity, managed to live an outgoing, unselfish and sacrificial life. Countless millions of people around the world continue to celebrate his birthday at Christmas, inspired by his teaching.

He makes it clear that genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving than receiving; more in serving than in being served.

We can surely be grateful that, two thousand years after the birth of Jesus, so many of us are able to draw inspiration from his life and message, and to find in him a source of strength and courage.
Watch the YouTube-video below, or read the full transcript here.



Her annual Christmas message is one of the few times the Queen can publicly voice her own opinion without the consent of the cabinet; she writes her Christmas speech herself. I respect her for choosing not to exploit this occasion as an opportunity to take a stab at parliament; but instead, focus on a message of goodwill, hope and encouragement. And as such, I can overlook the shameless PR she is doing for her son, Charles, and her grandsons, the princes William and Harry.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Japan: Geta, Zori & Tatami Sandals

Japan: Blue Dragon Bicycle

Japan: A Temple & Selected Roof Paintings



Japan: The Second Day, Part 1 -- A Temple

So I returned safe and sound from my short trip to Japan. I’ll write about it in increments; breaking it down into chunks, rather than one very long post.

Let’s start with why I went to Tokyo. The Korean ITF Taekwon-Do Team was going to attend the Annual Tokyo ITF Taekwon-Do Championships. When the Secretary General of ITF Taekwon-Do in Korea heard that I will not be working that week he asked me to join the Korean delegation. So I went with as an umpire.

They already left for Japan on the Saturday. Because of my duties at Young’s wedding I could only leave Sunday evening. Friends attending the wending were kind enough to take me to the airport. The plain departed late due to “maintenance”, which partially resulted in a series of unfortunate events.

Came Monday morning – I slept half the night in the wrong bed, and the rest of the night on a sofa. Around 10:30 the next morning Instructor Hwang Taeyong came to pick us up. The “us” here includes myself, of course, as well as the Taekwon-Do team from Daegu (a city in Korea), with whom I’d spent most of my time in Japan. Instructor Hwang happens to be the son of the president of ITF Taekwon-Do in Japan – this, of course, I only learned the last day of my stay.

Instructor Hwang first took us to Akutsa Temple. (I’m not sure if I remember the name correctly.) To get there one has to walk through a crowded market street with festive white and red decoration.


I’m not sure whether the decoration is a permanent feature, or just part of the Christmas festivities. The Daegu-instructor, Jeong Gumin, made me feel very much a part of the group. He is standing up front with the Taegeukgi (South Korean National Flag). Quite a nice fellow with a good sense of humour.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Japan: Kicked out of bed and other surprises

Around 2:30AM I was woken by the manager of the motel, who wasn't here when I arrived last night. Surprised by my presence he announced that the bed showed to me by the people when I arrived is actually booked for someone else, and I am illegally sleeping in the motel.

The motel manager requested me to pay for the inconvenience of the man whose bed I "stole", pay a penalty fee for arriving after 21:00 and if I wanted to stay on (and sleep on the couch in the lounge), pay the equivalent of an extra bed. But here is where things really got tricky. My flight last night was delayed due to unexpected maintenance at Gimpo Airport in Korea. When I arrived in the airport in Japan I just missed the Money Exchange kiosk. In other words, I currently do not have a single Japanese Yen on me, only Korean Won.

So I begged from the Taekwon-Do team some money, promising them to pay them back the next day, once I get my money exchanged into Japanese currency.

Honestly, I wouldn't have minded sleeping outside. I was surprised upon my arrival how pleasant the temperature is: a lovely 16 degrees Celcius. I also saw some people sleeping on the streets and they looked quite content. I have experienced lots of hardship in my life and have slept on the floor enough times to know that it is bearable, and have gone camping in much worse conditions. So, yes, I would have slept outside and see it as an exciting memorable moment in my first Japanese trip... but the faces of the Korean Taekwon-Do students reveeled sheer horror. I knew that to them it would be unimaginable if I had to sleep outside. So I decided to sleep on the sofa.

In all I didn't get enough hours of sleep and my back could be a little happier, but in all its been an interesting experience. I wonder what the rest of this trip will entail?!

The most I can gather of the mishap is that the two Japanese kids that picked me up at the airport brought me to the wrong place, or there was some other miscommunication. The Japanese Taekwon-Do Manager is picking us (Korean Taekwon-Do Team) up for a Tokyo-tour around 10:00; it is now 9:00. We will probably figure out where it all went wrong when he arrives.

Another surprise is how well the Japanese speak English. I've spoken with a number of Japanese since my arrival in Japan and they communicated quite well, with hardly any of the typical grammatical and pronunciation mistakes I've gotten so used to with most Koreans. They also seem much less shy to communicate (which is probably the reason why they seem to speek better). Japanese start learning English in Junior High School, the same time as Koreans; however, in my opinion, they do it better. I'm curious as to why this is so. For the Japanese I've spoken to so far, my quick assessment and adivse would be that they merely need to expand their working vocabulary.

The major issue for Koreans on the other hand, and in my opinion of course, is their listening-skill.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

First a Wedding, then Japan

I arrived at the motel in Tokyo a short while ago. It is now about 1:30 AM. This after a long day in Korea, acting as one of the hosts for the wedding of my friend Young. Not to mention the tiring day I had yesterday. And then there was last nights "ham"-ceremony. So much to tell... Unfortunately it is a bit late now, so I better get to bed. I need to be up early tomorrow for a meeting, a Tokyo tour and maybe a Taekwon-Do training session, or something.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Self-Portrait: Orange IV

Self-Portrait: Orange I

Parkour: A Series of Comics by Monty






Afrikaanse kersgedigte

’n Vriend het vroeër vandag aan my hierdie twee gepaste gedigte uit die Afrikaanse kanon gestuur. Dit was aangenaam om hulle weer te herontdek.

Maria

’n Engel het dit self gebring,
die vreugde-boodskap – en jy het
’n lofsang tot Gods eer gesing,
Maria, nooi uit Nasaret!

Maar toe Josef van jou wou skei
en bure-agterdog jou pla,
het jy kon dink eenmaal sou hý
die hele wêreldskande dra?

Toe jy soms met ’n glimlag langs
jou liggaam stryk … die stilte instaar …
wis jy met hoeveel liefde en angs
sou hý sy hellevaart aanvaar?

Die nag daar in die stal – geeneen
om in jou nood by jou te staan –
het jy geweet dat hy alléén
Getsemane sou binnegaan?

Toe vorste uit die Ooste kom
om nederig hulde te betoon,
wis jy hoe die soldate hom
tot koning van die volk sou kroon?

En toe hy in jou arms lê,
sy mondjie teen jou volle bors,
het jy geweet dat hy sou sê,
toe dit te laat was: Ek het dors!

Toe dit verby was en jy met
sy vriend Johannes huis toe gaan –
Maria, vrou van smarte, het
jy tóé die boodskap goed verstaan?

Elisabeth Eybers (1915-2007)
Uit: Belydenis in die skemering, 1936


Kersliedjie

Drie outas het in die haai Karoo
die ster gesien en die engel geglo,

hul kieries en drie bondels gevat
en aangestryk met ’n jakkalspad

al agter die ding wat skuiwend skyn
op ’n plakkie, ’n klip, ’n syferfontein,

oor die sink en die sak van Distrik Ses
waar ’n kersie brand in ’n stukkende fles,

en daar tussen esels en makriel
die krip gesien en neergekniel.

Die skaapvet, eiers en biltong
nederig gelê voor God se klong

en die Here gedank in gesang en gebed
vir ’n kindjie wat ook dié volk sou red …

Oor die hele affêre het uit ’n hoek
’n broeis bantam agterdogtig gekloek.

D.J. Opperman (1914-1985)
Uit: Blom en baaierd, 1956

Possible Classes and Schedule for Next Year

I just received my probable schedule for next year, including the subjects I am likely to teach; and I am quite excited. I’m likely to lecture 15 hours a week. This semester I taught 14 hours.

The modules I’m likely to be teaching are:
  • Intermediate English Listening and Conversation (I taught it this semester as well.),
  • Intermediate English Reading and Writing (I taught it this semester as well.),
  • British and American Essay,
  • English Essay Writing,
  • 19th Century British Poetry,
  • and an obscure one hour a week called "MBA"; I’m not sure what it entails and doubt it has anything to do with business.
I especially look forward to the poetry class.

My schedule also looks really great. On Mondays my last class finishes at 13:00, Tuesdays at 15:00, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 14:00 and Fridays at 11:00. Also, Mondays I only start at 11:00 -- unfortunately, we have faculty meeting every Monday morning from 8:30. And like this year, we never start before 8:30.

Although the essay and poetry modules will take more preparation than the language skills (listening, speaking, reading & writing) classes, I am looking forward to it as it is more in line with my personal interests and main field of expertise, namely Creative Writing. The bad thing about the essay classes is that it requires lots of grading -- something I very much dislike.

Nonetheless, I look forward to my job next year. And that is a great boon. When spending so much time at work everyday, it is very important that one likes ones job.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Vloekwoorde

Image from Blue Kitchen's WTF-Random blog.

Onlangs, in Irak, is President George W. Bush met ’n skoen gegooi deur ’n joernalis tydens ’n nuuskonferensie. Twee skoene om presies te wees. Die ratse president kon die projektiele koes en het ongedeurd die beledigingde aanvalle oorleef. Om jou skoen vir iemand te wys, en meer nog, om iemand met jou skoen te slaan, en erger nog, om iemand met jou skoen te gooi, is ongehoorde beledigings in die Midde Ooste. Hierdie was vieslike beledigings teenoor President Bush. Nietemin was sy reaksie teenoor die beledigings heel kalm en het hy glo geen bitter gevoelens teenoor sy aanvaller nie.

Die rede is kultureel. In die Weste dra die skoen nie dieselfde simboliese beledigende waarde as in die Midde Ooste nie.

Lank terug toe ek nog ’n klongtjie was, het ek iemand in haar moedertaal gevloek. Sy het my die guns terugbewys deur vir my op dieselfde manier te vloek, maar in my eie taal. Meteens het ek besef dit klink darem maar aansienlik viesliker in jou eie taal.

Ek ken ’n vloekwoord of twee in ander tale waarin ek nie magtig is nie. Hierdie vloekwoorde, wanneer ek hulle sê, dra geen gewig vir my nie. Ek gril nie, of frons nie. Dis blote klanke. En al weet ek wat hierdie woorde in my eie taal (tale) beteken, klink dit net nie so erg soos my eie taal (tale) se vloekwoorde. Tog, indien ek dit vir iemand sou sê in sy of haar eie taal, sal dit ’n lelike belediging wees.

My pa het nooit die woord drek gesê nie. Vir hom was dit een van die vieslikste woorde. Hy het dit eenkeer geuiter, maar dit het baie geëis. Ek kon sien dat hy duidelik ongemaklik was. Alhoewel drek vir hom ’n taboe woord was het hy geensins geskroom om kak te sê nie. Laasgenoemde is ’n term wat ek baie aanstoot in het, terwyl drek vir my niks snaaks is nie.

Oor die algemeen vermy ek die gebruik van vloekwoorde. Tog vind ek vloekwoorde baie interesant. Wat is dit wat daaraan mag gee? Hoekom is woorde wat met seks te maak het, so gereeldelik juis vloekwoorde? Wie het besluit dat iets ’n taboe-woord is?

Conservative vs Liberal - a Korean perspective

I just had an oral test with a Korean student. Upon asking her if she thinks she is conservative, moderate or liberal she said that she is moderate to liberal and explained it as follows: She used to be conservative, but then she became a Christian. After becoming a Christian she changed for the better. This caused her to appreciate change. Her conclusion is that since liberals stand for change, she must be leaning towards the liberalists.

Within a Western context Christians are usually considered conservative and non-Christians as liberals; however, her contrary explanation seems to be strangely logical.

This made me think about cultural differences again. In Korea the culture is based on very conservative Confucian rules and ideals. Christian rules and ideals must seem somewhat lax in comparison. Hence, an average Christian must seem quite liberal when compared to a conservative Confucianist.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Rain (비)

Poster for I'm a Cyborg, but it's Okay.

The YouTube-video below is of "Rain"(비), the most famous Korean entertainer, renowned not only in Asia, but in many countries around the globe. On a poll by Time Rain was listed #1, for "100 Most Influential People Who Shape the World" (for 2006) and People Magazine listed him as one of the 100 most beautiful people. Rain is such a humble celebrity, and intensely hard-working, it is difficult not to like and admire him. Long ago, when one of my students told me that "Rain's dancing is perfect", I thought, who is this guy? So I decided to look him up on the Internet. And indeed, he is an excellent dancer. This video clip is probably one of the sexiest Hip Hop dance sequences I've ever seen, and I'm not even a fan of the genre. Apart from just being a "perfect" dancer and successful Hip Hop/Pop artist, Rain is also a well known actor. His recent début Hollywood appearance was in the movie Speed Racer (2008). It was my intention to avoid Speed Racer like the plague... well that was until I heard Rain acts in it. I'm still not going to go out of my way to see it, but at least now I will watch it if I happen to be in the same room where it is showing.

The only movie I've seen of Rain is I'm a Cyborg, but that's Okay (2006). I enjoyed it; probably because of my peculiar sense of humour. Koreans didn't seem to be too impressed with the movie though.

But without further procrastination, click on the YouTube-video and see why everybody loves Rain.



For a longer YouTube-video that showcases more of Rain's dancing prowess, follow this link.

Sien die oumense

Sien die oumense.
Hulle vaal gesigte deur tyd en arbeid geërodeer;
die blossende jeug, eens wulps soos faanramme,
is afgeskilfer; in roesvlekke slaan hulle velle uit;
yl lê die donsdunhare op kuikennaakkoppe.

Verbeel jou onder al die lae klere (noodgedwonge
om die slakslymsirkulasie van stol te hoed),
daardie aardige (want aarde is jy en aarde word jy weer)
verlepte oumenslywe ..... oumensvleise tot leer gelooi
deur die lewe ..... deur die gejaag na lewe – alles tevergeefs.

Die dood kom. Daar is geen haas aan haar nie.
Haar skrede trap voetjie-vir-voetjie steeds verbete
sonder enkele misstap sonder enige swik of swenk
soos ’n getroue os op die ploegland kom die dood.

Ook God sien die oumens en skud sy kop.
Nie in afkeur nie, maar in medelye...
Nee, stellig nie medelye nie! Wat weet God van oud word af?
Maar God, meer as enige toeskouer, sien altyd die tragedie raak:
Die verkrimpte pasgebore baba – asem in – snel deur nuuskurigheid,
jagsheid,verantwoordelikheid en verkrimpte oudheid – asem uit –
soos ’n blom.

Luister na die oumensstem. Die lewensvuur, wat op ’n tyd
hoog gestook was in ’n oomblik van orgastiese soetseks
het afgewaan tot klam bewende loute – kabbelend soos urinering.
Ja selfs in die pis hoor jy dit. Die blaas het geen meer ambisie nie.
Die sluise is lam en sonder waterdruk.

Die ergste is die oë: juwele wat in dowwe spoelklippe verander het.
Dis die verlange in die oë wat die ergste is; die wete, die gedwonge
erkenning dat die olie klaar is, die wik opgebrand is,
selfs die lantern bros is. Ongeag die veggees, die neerlaag,
die neerlê is onvermeidelik. Sy het gewen. Sy wen altyd.

Maar God bejammer sy verkrimpte kinders nie,
want God weet dat die lewe ’n ruspe en die dood ’n papie is.

Friday, 12 December 2008

To the Streets

It is that time of the year again in South Africa -- "16 Days of Activism against Abuse". "Imagine", writes one article, "if, for 16 days, there were no rape, no child abuse, no sexual harassment, no emotional abuse."

A social activist decided to use this 16 days to live on the streets, with the street children in Cape Town. The argument is that allowing children to sleep on the streets is equal to abuse. Good point. See the video.

Of course the story is one sided. Some street children run away from shelters because the shelters force them to go to school. But I'm sure this is also a one sided account. Who knows what other things happen at the shelters? And then there is the older children (from 16 years old) who are turned away from the shelters as they are considered too old. The shelter's excuse might be that these older children are bullying the younger children. There are so many "other sides" to South Africa's street children saga. It is not a simple situation.

Many people complain, why don't they just go home. If a child runs away from home, it must be because living on the streets is a better alternative than living at home.

Tiring weeks, and then Japan

This photo of me doing a side-kick on a roof in Seoul was taken in 2007. The sharp steeple rising up from behind my knee in the background is actually Seoul Tower (aka Namsan Tower).

What a tiring week! Apart from the many assignments (and late assignments!) that I had to grade (and I’m sad to say that I’m not finished with these), we started with the Final Exams today until next Friday. For this, of course, I have to prepare many exam papers. I copy the exam papers myself, since I don’t trust it to be done by someone else, lest the questions are leaked. Hence, lots of extra work.

But that’s not the only thing that tired me this week. I also had to go to the Japanese Embassy twice this week to prepare my visa. I plan to go with the Korean Taekwon-Do Team to Japan to attend the Tokyo Taekwon-Do Championships later this month. Even with the help of my Taekwon-Do instructor*, it still took many hours to get it done. I am happy to say that I got a visa today and will go to Japan from the 21st till the 24th. Unfortunately I need to return to the Korean Department of Home Affairs next week to make sure that my re-entry visa for Korea is in order. I wouldn’t want to get stuck in Japan!

Next week will be even more tiring I think. I’ll be doing lots of grading. I have to finish it all before the coming weekend as I’ll be busy over the weekend with Young’s wedding, and, as I mentioned, fly to Japan on Sunday evening; so all my work has to be done before I leave.
The requirements for getting the visa were far from easy. I had to get an “employment certificate” from the university I work, give proof of sufficient money in my bank account, and even had to submit a detailed inventory of my planned visit in Japan: places I’ll visit; things I’ll be doing; activities I’m going to take part in.

It feels funny to be an official member of the Korean Taekwon-Do Team. In South Africa I never had the opportunity to be part of the national team, for various reasons; however, here suddenly things worked out for me to be part of the Korean Team! It’s not certain yet if I’ll be competing (I think it’s a bit too late for me), but I will act as an umpire and get a chance to train with the Korean and Japanese teams.

*It feels so strange to be talking about “my Taekwon-Do instructor”. I’ve been without an official instructor for much of my Taekwon-Do career. Practicing on my own mostly, while myself being an instructor for students of lower rank at my dojang (Taekwon-Do school). I only occasionally visited instructors of higher rank than myself – so to call someone “my Taekwon-Do instructor” and mean it in a quasi-permanent sense, rather than a haphazard sense feels quite odd.

It’s weekend. It’s Sabbath. And I’m looking forward to some sleep.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

An e-Squibble

I just had a most interesting experience. I had a quarrel with someone via Gmail-chat. Have you ever tried arguing via chat?! It’s quite difficult! The to-and-thro doesn’t happen chronologically. The tit-for-tat sequence is constantly interrupted. While one person is still replying on one comment, the other is already making a new point. And then there’s the comments that get lost in between and later referred to and since the context has changed in the mean time you don’t know how to respond. And waiting for the other person to finish typing can be quite frustrating, because your own ideas are running ahead, so you start to type them so long, resulting in mixed messages and further misunderstandings. Eventually the argument is so fragmented and deconstructed it will give Derida a headache.

I wonder if teenagers, who are used to this method of communicating, will be more adapt to argue using chat. Good luck to them!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Me neither...

What to do with students?

For an assignment, students had to evaluate a website according to certain questions. One of the questions stated: "Do you think this website is a good source of information on your topic? Explain why or why not."

Following is one of the answers on a returned assignment I received from a student:

I need to explain for Mammamia information. So it is good for me. I should assume that everything I see or read on the Site is copyrighted unless otherwise noted, and may not be used except as provided in these Terms and Conditions without the written permission of Universal. Universal neither warrants nor represents that my use of materials displayed on the Site will not infringe rights to third parties not owned by or affiliated with Universal.

I want to weep...

Sunday, 7 December 2008

South Korea's Circumcision Phenomenon

Warning: This post talks candidly about circumcision and related topics such as penises and sex.

Every so often I learn some new peculiar thing about Korea. My latest discovery (let me assure you, it was through word-of-mouth and reading) is the strange case of South Korea’s circumcision phenomenon. In its over 4000 year history, the male Korean was never circumcised. Circumcision is not part of their historic religions, or their culture. But since the Korean War, and exposure to America soldiers, Korea started a strange circumcision craze. While very few men over 70 years in Korea are circumcised, over 95% of Korean men between the ages of 12-20 are circumcised. Recent research says that the male circumcision rate has overtook the birth rate. Unlike in America where circumcision happens mostly as a neonatal (baby) procedure, circumcision in Korea happens around the age of twelve. Now while it is a myth that baby boys feel little pain and are not traumatized by circumcision, I’m sure it is at a psychological level better to be circumcised as a baby than later in life. In a communal society like Korea, the power of group-pressure is exceptional and pre-teen Korean boys are forced into something that is unnecessary.

Let me expand on why I believe circumcision is unnecessary in general and particularly in Korea. Korean men are made to believe that circumcision is a universal occurrence and necessity. In other words, they believe that is necessary to be circumcised (for hygienic or other reasons) and that all men around the world get circumcised. This is simply not true. Many cultures do not circumcise. It is not a health requirement [see this YouTube-video].

We don’t circumcise girls to be more hygienic. We teach them the importance of personal hygiene. Shouldn’t the same go for boys? There is no reason for intact men to be “dirty”. If it is dirty, wash it, don’t cut it off! Daily hygiene routines requires brushing your teeth, not pulling them.

The inside of the foreskin is made of the same kind of skin you find on the inside of your lips and the inside of your eyelids. We all agree that these surfaces have important functions. Why should we think any less if the foreskin? These surfaces are also highly sensitive and in the case of the penis considerably adds to pleasure during sex. When erect the inside of the foreskin unfolds over the penis shaft adding substantially to the overall sensitivity of the penis structure. Another myth is that circumcised and intact men gain equal pleasure. This is just not possible. When circumcised this highly sensitive zone just isn’t there anymore. Take a pencil and lightly scratch it over the back of your hand. Now lightly scratch it over the palm of your hand. The circumcised man feels the former (back of the hand). The intact man feels the latter (palm). Actually, because circumcision leaves scar tissue, the circumcised man might even feel less! Furthermore, a primary function of the foreskin is to cover and protect the glans penis (the front “head”-part of the penis), like the eyelids that protect the eyeball. With the circumcised penis the glans penis is continually exposed, becomes calloused, dry, dull in appearance and further loses sensitivity. The foreskin is not just a “flap of skin”, it is highly artery rich, highly nerve rich, and has multiple functions.

Other reasons Koreans are encouraged to be circumcised is that it supposedly prevents premature ejaculation and improves the size of the penis. Really?! So the assumption is that most men in Denmark should suffer from premature ejaculation, as circumcision in Denmark is most uncommon. Even if this was the case for Korean men in particular (and I don't know why it should be different for Koreans and not for other men), surely a surgical procedure in which you cut off parts of the male anatomy is not the best solution to prevent premature ejaculation. And far from increasing penis size it actually decreases penis girth, as the outer covering of the penis is stripped away. It may even hamper full erection (read this guys testimony). Circumcision does not improve penis size, probably the inverse.

A different silliness is the idea that circumcision is Christian. Circumcision done for religious reasons by the “Christian” is probably one of the most unchristian things you can do. For ancient Israel the circumcision was a covenant sign of the Messiah that was to come. Christians believe that the Messiah, i.e. Jesus the Christ, did come. Christians continuing the practice of circumcision for religious reasons are in fact proclaiming that the Messiah did not come, hence St. Paul’s rebuke that if you still want to circumcise, why don’t you just go ahead and cut the whole thing off! [Galatians chapter 5 & 6.] Christianity is not against circumcision, it is just against it for religious reasons. St. Paul said that we need not circumcision of the literal penis, but of the figurative heart. The Biblical covenant sacraments for the Christian are the Baptism, the Communion and the Sabbath, not circumcision. In any case, religious circumcision in Korea is unknown, except where done so by ignorant Christians. There are practically no Koreans that participate in the Jewish or Islamic faiths.

So, getting back to peer pressure: Some parents have their sons circumcised so that they would look “like like other men”. What a strange reason if there ever was one. Imagine for a moment a country where it is customary for people to have their left eye poked out. Should parents do that to their children so that they can look the same as everyone else?

Another outrageous (supposedly scientific) claim is that circumcision reduces the infections of HIV/AIDS. What these so-called scientific studies don’t emphasize is that their case studies are given thorough education about HIV/AIDS, which obviously influence their sexual habits. This is not the case for the average “control groups”. Also, such emphasis on “circumcision will lesson your chances of getting AIDS”, may in fact increase licentiousness, causing thinking along the lines of: “I’m circumcised so now I can have lots of unprotected sex.” Circumcision is not a vaccine.

For some short rebuttals against the typical pro-circumcision arguments read the following. And if you can stomach Penn & Tiller's "Bullshit"-series, see this segment on circumcisions, on YouTube.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Spektrum

Laai die klankgedig "spektrum"-mp3 af.

’n oom het vandag my oor die reënboog uitgevra

oor die frekwensie en die spektra
en ontevrede oor sy onkunde
het hy verder aangeloop –
“ons moet uitvind”, sy honde agterna
“ons moet uitvind”, sy honde agterna

Friday, 5 December 2008

Bio: Goddelike woorde

In my vorige inskrywing wou ek eintlik “’n geweldig uitputtende week” in plaas van “’n baie uitputtende week” gesê het, maar kondisionering en ’n ligte toedoen aan die geloof dat woorde magies is, laat my dit nie toe nie. As kind was daar sekere woorde wat ons nie mag gesê het nie. Erger as vloekwoorde was woorde wat gekoppel is aan God nie geskik vir alledaagse gebruik nie. Woorde soos “magtig”, “wragtig” of “waaragtig” mag nie gesê gewees het nie omdat slegs God magtig en waaragtig is. “Bloody” en “damn” is nie ordentlik nie, want ’n mens spot nie met die bloed nie, en om te vervloek is nie ons voorreg nie. So my hele lewe lank het ek weggeskram van hierdie woorde. Nadat ek ’n Christen geword het op universiteit ontmoet ek ’n ou dame wat my vertel dat toe sy groot geword het ook woorde soos “geweldig”, “verskriklik” en “vreeslik” taboe was, omdat slegs God sulke grootshede is. Daarom is ek ook skugter om hierdie woorde te gebruik want die Naam van die Here behoort nie ydel gebruik te word nie en in Bybelse terme is ’n naam nie bloot ’n term waarmee ons iemand identifiseer nie; ’n naam verteenwoordig eienskappe en karakteristieke. God is nie net waaragtig nie, God is die Waaragtige. God is nie bloot magtig nie, God is die Almagtige. En woorde is nie net woorde nie. Dis deur die Woord dat alles tot stand gekom het.

’n Baie uitputtende week

Ek voel pootuit. Om een of ander rede was hierdie ’n baie uitputtende week. Ek is terdee bly dat dit Vrydag is. Die Sabbat kan my net goed doen.

Wat presies die rede was vir die week se uitputting is duister.

Ek het weer begin om te oefen hierdie week en was beide Dinsdagaand en Donderdagaand na Taekwon-Do, sowel as na Hapkido Donderdagaand. Ek het nog nie weer begin met gewigoptel oefeninge nie. Donderaand by Taekwon-Do het ons skerm (“sparring”) gedoen. Ek is nie gek na skerm nie, maar dit was lekker gewees. Saam met my oefen ’n groepie swartbelde (ons was vyf), gevolglik kry ek kans om teen mede swartbelde te skerm. Ek het lanklaas saam met swartbelde geoefen. In Suid-Afrika is ek gewoonlik die enigste swartbeld in my klas. Ek is bly dat my skermsessies op Donderdag nie te sleg was nie. Alhoewel ek nie gereeld skerm teen aander swartbelde nie het ek geensins sleg gevaar teen my nuwe swartbeldmaatjies nie. Inteendeel. (Onthou my dat ek later vertel van die moontlikheid dat ek Japan toe gaan gaan vir ’n Taekwon-Do kompetisie oor ’n paar weke.)

Ek het ook hierdie week vir my ’n pakklere gaan koop. My vriend Young se troue is oor twee weke en aangesien ek die gasheer is (soos ek verstaan is dit basies die seremonie meester), het ek gedink ek beter die deel lyk. En met ’n onlangse bonus het ek vir my ’n pakklere gaan soek. Young is saam met my Dinsdagmiddag om na verskillende opsies te kyk. Ek het toe vir my iets uitgekies waarvan ek hou en wat binne my begroting pas. Dis ’n suiwer swartpak (nie grysswart, blouswart of bruinswart nie) met ’n effense glans. Alhoewel die glans dit gepas maak as ’n aandpak, is die wol/sy-ratio van so aard dat ek dit ook gemaklik as ’n dagpak kan dra. Vroeër vandag het ek, Young en sy fianceé, Angelina, die pak gaan optel. Ek het dit aangepas en Angelina hou baie daarvan. Hieroor is ek gelukkig, want dit is allermins haar en Young se troue waarvoor ek die pak in die eerste plek aangeskaf het. Hierdie is die eerste pakklere wat ek koop sedert my matriekafskeid meer as ’n dekade gelede.

Die week het ek ook baie merkwerk gedoen. Volgende week is die laaste week voordat die eksamens die daaropvolgende week begin. Daarom moet ek al my merkwerk klaar hê, sodat ek hierdie komende week die studente ’n idee kan gee van hulle gemiddelde, agterstallige toetste kan waarneem en kan voorberei op die eksamenweek waartydens ek ’n nuwe ontsteking van merkwerk gaan hê om te doen.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Idiom & Proverb Quiz

I gave one of my classes this pop quiz to do today. They had to say whether the explanation for the idiom or proverb is true or false. How well do you know your everyday English idioms?

1. “Birds of a feather flock together” means that it is easy for people of different cultures to communicate with each other.
2. “Out of the blue” refers to an unexpected occurrence.
3. To “beat around the bush” means to communicate clearly and directly.
4. “Spill the beans” means to keep a secret.
5. To be feeling “under the weather” means that the weather outside is terrible.
6. A “golden” opportunity means that circumstances are very expensive.
7. A “white lie” is a lie told by white people.
8. “Get to the point” means to come to the important part of one’s message.
9. When you “throw in the towel” you wash the dishes.
10. If one “faces the music” one accepts the consequences of one’s actions.
11. You are homosexual if you are “in the pink”.
12. When you are getting cold, you are feeling “blue”.
13. To “pull someone’s leg” is to joke about something.
14. “Seeing eye to eye” is to be in agreement.
15. A “slap in the face” is an insult.
16. When something is “out of hand”, it is missing.
17. To “hold one’s tongue” is to keep quiet.
18. To have “butterflies on one’s stomach” is to feel nauseous.
19. A “piece of cake” and “as easy as pie” has the same meaning.
20. “The cream of the crop” is the best people.
21. If something is “fishy”, it has a bad odor.
22. A “hot potato” is an angry person.
23. To “make tracks” is to walk on the beach.
24. A “lemon” is a person with a grumpy face.
25. “Not to have your heart in it” is to be not passionate about something.
26. To “cry over spilled milk” is to worry about something that has already happened
27. Someone that “puts his foot in his mouth” is very flexible.
28. To “lose your head” is to lose control.
29. “Mouth watering food” is very spicy.
30. “You can’t judge a book by its cover” means you should always wear clean clothes.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Movie Review: Let the Right One In

Earlier tonight I went to see the Swedish movie Let the Right One In (“Låt den rätte komma in”). The Korean title is 렛 미 인 (“Let me in”).

The story is about Oscar, a 12 year old boy who is bullied at school and dreams of revenge. Oscar befriends a peculiar girl, Eli. As it turns out, Eli is a vampire.

Since we are currently living in the Postmodernism, for a current story to resonate with the audience of today it requires a postmodern flavour. What I liked about this movie was that it did not use the copout so prevalent for recent mainstream horror films in general, and vampire films in particular. What one most often see are shock techniques, over the top special effects, or characters that are just way out weird.

A more subtle (although not wholly original) method of postmodern characterization is to use the “outsider” or the “other” character. The “outsider” is easy to identify. Oscar is the bullied child in school, an outsider amongst his peers. Eli, as the monster-human, lives on the periphery of society. The “other”, in postmodern terms, is stereotypically the previously disadvantaged; i.e. non-white, non-man, non-adult, etc. The main characters in this movie aren’t adults but children.

What I especially appreciated about Let the Right One In is that the story remained true to the rules of the genre; for example, vampires need to be invited in before they can enter a house, or sunlight is lethal to vampires. Such genre rules are often broken in postmodern depictions, which I think is sometimes disrespectful to the genre. The author of the original novel, John Ajvide Lindqvist, who was also responsible for the screenplay, can be complimented for writing a good story without compromise.

Not opting for Hollywood’s special effects and shock techniques, the movie is able to engage the audience better. Although this is very much a horror movie with blood and gore, the director, Tomas Alfredson, does not make a sensational spectacle out of it. Neither does he sugar coat the horror. The horror moments are short but vivid, and strongly foils against the tender relationship of Oscar and Eli.

The cinematography was also exquisitely used. The director subtly changes the focus in the scenes and so guides the audience to shift their attention to different aspects of each shot. Often the audience is made aware of the commonplace – dirty fingernails, running noses, smudged faces. The audience is confronted with the paradox in Eli: she is both innocent and ferocious. We sometimes see her with her face dirty with blood after feeding and we realise that she is just an orphan, without a mother figure to clean her face and scrub her nails.

I am not a fan of horror movies, but I decided to go see this movie because I read many good reviews about it. And I was not disappointed. Even though it was in Sweden (the similarities between Sweden and Afrikaans only goes so far) and I therefore understood very little of the dialogue, I still enjoyed this film. Don’t be fooled, however, Let the Right One In is not intended for a young or easily squeamish audience.



Trivia

It is suggested that the title of the novel and movie comes from a song by Morrissey (a British pop-singer), entitled "Let the right one slip in". The last stanza of this song goes as follow: "And when at last it does / I'd say you were within your rights to bite / The right one and say, what kept you so long? / What kept you so long?" The allusing to biting in the second line may ad support to this suggestion. Of course, the title is chiefly a reference to the rule that vampires can only enter a home if invited.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Bio: Geboorte

Ek was gebore langs ’n klip in die Karoo. Ten minste, dit is wat ek vir mense vertel het as kind, elke keer as ek gevra is waar ek gebore is. ’n Hospitaal in Vanderbijlpark is tog so alledaagse antwoord. Wie wil nou juis in Vanderbijlpark gebore wees? In die Vaaldriehoek, van alle plekke. Langs ’n klip in die Karoo.’n Klip in die Karoo is nou nie juis beter as ’n hospitaal in Vanderbijlpark, in die Vaaldriehoek, nie, maar ten minste is dit ’n storie. Langs ’n klip. Selde word mense langs ’n klip gebore. Hoekom juis ’n klip? Hoekom die Karoo? Vroeg het ek begin om stories te vertel.

Bright Lights and Promises



This is one of my favourite Janis Ian songs. I was introduced to Janis Ian by an "ex-girlfriend". I write "ex-girlfriend" in quotation marks because it was a complicated relationship. In any case, she was killed in a car accident nearly a decade ago. Still, she has left a lasting affect for the better on me and her other friends.

As for Janis Ian, I like her for a couple of reasons. Of course the sentimental link I have towards her, her beautiful melodies, but also her outspokenness. She's always been a social commentator. Among other things she is critical of the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). You can read her views here. In protest to the RIAA, Janis Ian deliberately makes some of her songs available for download in MP3-format, from her website.

Janis Ian published her autobiography this year. If my "ex-girlfriend" was still alive, I would have loved to buy "Society's Child: My Autobiography" for her. I can understand why people wish to believe that the deceased are conscious after death. It would have been a nice thought if I could believe that "she" knew about my intention to give her this gift. But, I do not believe in consciousness after death, and honestly wouldn't want that, because that would force me to also believe in people being tortured in hell at this very moment and other such things which I cannot except either.