Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Outsider's Perspective: Self-Censorship

Below is the first entry to my new column in the quarterly academic magazine, P~YP!, published by the languages department at my Alma Mater.


Welcome to my column, Outsider’s Perspective. The name refers firstly to my current “outsider”-status as an expatriate. At present, I’m living in Korea and working at an English department of a university in Seoul. The column title is also a little tongue in cheek allusion to my artistic disposition. Once in a conversation with Ms Marinda Moodie I commented that those artistically inclined, like myself, often feel as if they are being treated differently. Her apt response was: “That’s because you are different.” Enough about that.

I’m starting this column with the rather strange notion of self-censorship. I had an essay prepared for this issue of P~YP! about Jacob Zuma as an iconic intertextual figure. Because of recent unrest on the Potchefstroom campus I decided to recall the essay, just in case it is misunderstood and provokes protest. Was this a good or a bad decision?

South Africa’s current enjoyment of freedom of expression was not always the case. We’ve experienced our fare share of governmental censorship. Out of that censorship grew a rich history of protest literature. In a free society, as we live in now, protest literature is mostly substituted with social comment. This is a sign of a healthy democracy, where one would expect the least amount of censorship by government or other institutions of authority.

But what about self-censorship?

THE GOOD

We are continuously busy with self-censorship. When you choose not to gossip, that is self-censorship. When you decide not to upload a rather unflattering picture of a friend on Facebook, that is self-censorship. So in a sense, self-censorship is sometimes merely considered behaviour. Good manners, if you like.

The news website SAGoodNews.Com deliberately focuses on more favourable South African news. This attempt at actively counteracting the avalanche of ill-news that is so prevalent in South African media, by deliberately not reporting on it, can also be seen as self-censorship.

It is my understanding that when people silence themselves it can be either intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated. SAGoodNews.Com is intrinsically motivated to give a positive perspective on South Africa. In doing so they make an editorial decision to censor out negative news about South Africa. It is a self-motivated initiative on their part; nobody forced them. Another example of intrinsically motivated self-censorship may be a journalist deciding to omit certain details, such as the names of their sources, in order to ensure the safety of these individuals. Some journalists have had to endure legal prosecution for their vow of silence. This is a form of self-censorship which is highly admired in the journalistic community.

So in short, one may be intrinsically motivated to self-censorship, if one thinks that speaking out could do more harm than good.

THE BAD

A negative form of self-censorship is when the reason for keeping quiet is not personally motivated, but externally motivated; for instance, when one is intimidated into silence. There might be no direct active censorship per se, but the socio-political atmosphere makes it difficult to speak up. Take for example the threats directed at South Africa’s foremost political cartoonist, Zapiro. His commentary against politicians has resulted in all kinds of threats, both legally and against his person. In reaction to the Zapiro cartoons that depict Jacob Zuma “about to rape the justice system”, the Mpumalanga branch of the South Africa National Civics Organization (SASCO) called for the reintroduction of media censorship.

Should Zapiro have been more careful (i.e. considerate) in his political comment? Is political correctness a good reason for self-censorship?

THE UGLY

Another cartoon-incident concerned a Danish newspaper, Jyllans-Posten. The newspaper published some cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad on 30 September 2005. Some proponents of Islam considered the cartoons blasphemous and a series of protests resulted in Denmark and around the globe, including attacks on Danish and other European embassies. According to UK’s TimesOnline, Danish Prime Minister Ander Fogh Rasmussen called the controversy the “worst international relations incident since the Second World War”. Interestingly the cartoons were part of a larger discourse about self-censorship. BBC’s documentary, Bloody Cartoons (2007), about this cartoon controversy ends with the rather sombre conclusion that since this storm has died down Danish newspapers have started to employ self-censorship out of apprehension for future uprisings. Is their self-censorship good or bad? Is it an intrinsically motivated decision for a more peaceful Denmark, or is it an extrinsically motivated decision based on intimidation by protestors?

Earlier this year Random House publisher announced that they will not publish the historical novel, Jewel of Medina, anymore. The novel, by Sherry Jones, is a fictional autobiography of Aisha, the beloved wife of Muhammad. The publisher feared Islamic reprisals to the book. Their fear was not unfounded. Another publisher, Gibson Square, who opted to publish Jewel of Medina had their offices in London firebombed a few weeks ago. Will they continue their planned publishing of the book, or will they make an editorial decision to retract the book? How much literature will be lost if publishers are intimidated into publishing only religiously correct-books?

Feminist social commentator, Naomi Wolf, describes in her book The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot (2007) how governments turn into fascist states. One step in this direction is through the intimidation or incarceration of certain key-figures, specifically social commentators and journalists who speak up against the government. After such arrests, many people that were once outspoken start to employ self-censorship out of fear of a similar fate. Soon no one is brave enough to take up the pen, lest they too become martyrs. According to Wolf, America is already leaning in that direction. I wonder what would become of works like George Orwell’s 1984?

Three days before the previous President Thabo Mbeki was requested to resign, his senior bodyguard was murdered in his sleep. His wife, who was sleeping next to him, was unharmed. Nothing was stolen. Mr Mbeki stepped down without so much as a whimper. Is there a link between the bodyguard’s assassination and Mbeki’s “silent” obedience? We don’t know. We don’t know because it seems that the media (and the country) have decided to take the route of self-censorship. Is it an intrinsically motivated silence, like SAGoodNews.Com, or is it extrinsically motivated, possibly like that of the Danish media?

Studente, darem!

Ek het myself vererg vir my vorige klas, en die klas vroeër verdaag. "Teacher, your face is red", het een student opgemerk. "Yes," het ek geantwoord, "it is because I am a little angry and that's why I'm leaving now before I lose my temper." En toe stap ek uit.

'n Klomp van die studente het nie hulle handboeke klas toe gebring nie. Die teks wat ons gebruik is 'n werkboek met vrae, oefeninge en werksopdragte wat baie keer in die werkboed voltooi moet word. Daarsonder kan hulle nie deelneem in die klas nie. Toe ek van hierdie studente vra waar hulle werkboek is, is die antwoord "O, in my locker". Maw, die studente het nie hulle boeke by die huisvergeet nie -- hulle was net bloot te lui om na hulle locker, wat in die gebou is, te stap en die boek te kry. Ander studente het weer eenvoudig ander werk gesit en doen. En 'n klomp ander het gesit en gesels.

Daar was nog sowat tien of vyftien minute van die klas oor, en ek wou met 'n volgende deel van die werk begin, maar kon eenvoudig nie die studente se aandag kry nie. (Okay, dis nie heeltemal waar nie; daar is 'n hele groep wat wel aktief deelneem aan die klas en wie se aandag by die werk was.) En dis toe dat ek besluit ek gaan nou gaan.

Ek vermoed my geduld was veel minder omdat ek honger was. Soos 'n vriendin al opgelet het, ek raak nukkerig as ek honger is. Dit het eintlik al vanoggend begin. Ek het nie 'n goeie oggendete gehad nie, so my bloedsuiker was vermoedelik nie stabiel nie en hierdie week is die klasskedules aangepas weens aktiwiteit op kampus, gevolglik is my middagetes later as gewoonlik. So dit is heel moontlik dat ek 'n laer tolleransie vir disrespekvolle studente gehad het.

Die jammerte van die hele insident is dat die goeie studente kollaterale skade raak weens 'n vrotkol. As gevolg van hierdie vrotkol is ek nou negatief gesind teenoor die klas.

Monday, 27 October 2008

1000+

Skryfblok has passed the 1000 views mark. Thank you to all my regular visitors.

At least a 100+ of those views were my own, as I've made just over 90 posts since I started with this blog two months ago.

Björk gesels oor TVs en jokkende digters

Björk sê jy moenie dat digters vir jou jok nie, en sy weet van sulke dinge. Sy is net so aangrypend, sommer so, as wanneer sy sing. Sy inspireer my.

Ben Harper's "Glory & Consequence"

I'm really identifying with the lyrics of this song by Ben Harper. Take for instance this line: "I'm not as scared of dying as I am of growing old." So apt to my current disposition.

"Glory & Consequence" -- Ben Harper

I'm more afraid of living
than I am scared to die
I'm more afraid of falling
than I am of flying high

Every moral has a story
every story has an end
every battle has its glory
and its consequence

I'm more afraid of loving
than I am of being scorned
but I will keep on trying
though I have been forewarned

Every moral has a story
every story has an end
every battle has its glory
and its consequence

I would rather me be lonely
and you have someone to hold
I'm not as scared of dying
as I am of growing old.

Every moral has a story
every story has an end
every battle has its glory
and its consequence

You can watch a YouTube video of Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals performing it live, here.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Book Review: Finding Flow

Today I finished reading my latest subway-novel, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life (1997). Finding Flow is Csikszentmihalyi’s follow up to his very successful book, Flow; it is supposed to be the practical application of Csikszentmihalyi’s research.



“Flow” is that emotional/psychological state when you are so engaged in an activity, with undivided attention, that you you lose yourself in it -- lose all concept of time. Surprisingly, Csikszentmihalyi’s research does not show that people that engage in lots of flow-activities are necessarily happier. He does assert (although the research is lacking) that people who engage in many flow-activities have a better quality of life.

I will accept Csikszentmihalyi’s assertion that people that have “engaged” lives are more likely to have a better quality of life.

Unfortunately Finding Flow is not really a practical DIY-guide. I found it to be out of sync with its target market. There is some valuable information in it, but you have to read through all kinds of statistics and anecdotes to get to it. And even when you find it, it is not clearly highlighted for ease of use.

Here is the gist. The following are mostly paraphrased quotations.

  • Get into the habit of doing everything with concentrated effort; with skill rather than inertia. (Even if it is doing the dishes.)
  • Make an effort to spend some time everyday in doing or learning new things; or doing those things which you enjoy doing but don’t find the time to do.
  • If you are interested in something you will focus on it, and if you focus attention on anything, it is likely that you will become interested in it.
  • The important thing is to enjoy activities for their own sake, rather than doing activities for their end goals. (E.g. Run, because it is nice to run, not because you want to get to the goal line.)
  • Goals are important, not in order to achieve them, but to help you in not getting distracted.
  • Thinking too much about on yourself and your issues will make you depressed. Focus your attention outside of yourself.
  • Quality of life is improved if we learn to love those things that we have to do. (E.g. Learn to love doing the dishes.)
  • Avoid things that contribute to entropy. Participate in things that combat entropy.
I was disappointed with this book. Maybe my expectations were off-track, or the book’s marketing, as a type of psychological self-help book, was misleading. I’m keen to think the latter. What really irritated me about Finding Flow is that it turned into an evolutionistic-New Age propaganda attempt, sugar-coated with some statistics and extrapolations. I also got the idea that Csikszentmihalyi had so little new to say on the topic that he had to fluff-up this book with unnecessary blah-blah.



...ooOoo...

My next subway book is Die Nihilisme: Notas oor ons tyd ("Nihilism: notes on our zeitgeist") by Danie Goosen.

'n Naweekverslag

Nog ’n naweek agter die blad.

Vrydagaand vir Sabbatsluiting het ek na Kangnamgu Cheon gegaan, waar ek met my vorige verblyf in Korea gebly het, om my ou kerkie te besoek. Hulle het ’n spesiale musiek program gehad. ’n Groep genaamd Golden Angels het daar opgetree. Hulle tree reg oor Asië op, en daarom sing hulle baie liedere in Engels. Hulle het ook ’n paar liedjies in Japanees gesing. Die groep bestaan uit Koreane, Mongoliërs en Japanese. Dit was ’n lekker rustige manier om die Sabbat mee te begin.

Young en Angelina aan die kook in my kombuis/sitkamer.

Sabbatoggend het ek saam met die groepie studente van my department, oorwie ek as ’n tipe selgroepleier aangestel, is tydspandeer. Daarna is ek na die International Church. Young het my daar ontmoet en agterna het sy verloofde bygekom. Haar Engelse naam is Angelina. Sy was toevallig ook 'n lid van Golden Angels, maar is tans 'n laerskool onderwyseres. Haar vakgebied is Engels.

Nie een van drie ons was lus vir Udong (’n tipe Koreaanse noedelgereg), wat hulle by die kafeteria bedien op Saterdagmiddae, nie. So toe nooi ek hulle maar na my plek toe. Nie dat ek enige ordentlike bestandele gehad het vir enige spesifieke disse nie. Ons roerbraai toe maar eiers met geblikte tuna, braai tjips en bak nog aartappels in die oond met basiliekruidpesto en knoffel. Hierby saam, geroosterde brood, ongegeurde jogurt en achar. Ek weet, dit klink na ’n verskriklike kombinasie – en eerlik waar dit was! – maar ons het heerlik geëet.

Ek en Young het agterna ’n diep gesprek gehad oor die effek van taal op ’n mens se denke en hoedat verskillende tale (en ook jou woordeskat) jou denke beïnvloed. Asook sy ervaring om Engels te leer (hy sê dit het hom fisies naargemaak), en my ervaring om Koreaans (nie) aan te leer.

Teen namiddag was daar ’n besoekende spreker wat by die universiteit kom gesels het oor Noord-Korea. Dr. Stephen Linton verteenwoordig die Eugene Bell Foundation wat help om siektes, veral tuberkulose, in Noord-Korea te bestry deur medisinale, asook mediese toerusting, te skenk. Die hospitale in Noord-Korea is in ’n haglike toestand. Wanneer jy die fotos sien is dit soos iets uit die Twilight Zone. Die meeste hospitale het nie elektrisiteit nie. Die toerusting is erg verouderd – asof die tyd in 1950 opgehou tel het. Selfs die operasie messe is stomp. Dokters neem die lemme huistoe om dit daar te gaan skerp maak. Daar is nie eens behoorlike narkose nie. Baie van die operasiebeddens is toegerus met gespes om die pasiënte se lede mate vas te maak, sodat hulle nie te erg rondruk weens die pyn tydens operasies nie. Selfs eenvoudige dinge soos watte is daar ’n te kort aan. Op een foto, wys Dr Linton ons hoedat een doktor katoen buite die hospitaal plant sodat hy die katoen kan oes vir watte om in die hospitaal te gebruik. Druptoerusting word van ou glasbottels (soos bierbottels) en pype gemaak.
Iets wat my tot trane gedryf het was die onselfsugtigheid van die dokters in Noord-Korea. Ondanks die haglike omstandighede doen hulle wat hulle kan om die ellende te bestry. Die X-straal masjienerie is so kaplaks, dat dokters hulleself bestraal elke keer wat hulle die pasiënte bestraal. (’n Mens neem X-straalfotos van die borskas om te bepaal of die persoon TB het.) Dr Linton vertel hoedat hy aan die dokters sê dat hierdie langdurige blootstelling aan X-strale hulleself gaan laat siek word. “Ons weet dit,” sê die dokters, “maar ons het die dokterseed afgelê, dat ons ons pasiënte sal help”.

My hart breek vir die arme mense van Noord-Korea.

Saterdagaand het ek gewerk aan die bladuitleg van die akademiese lettere- en taalkunde bladjie waarby ek betrokke is, aan die Noordwes-Universiteit. Die bladjie heet P~YP! en is ’n kwartaalikse publikasie. Dit behoort binne die volgende dag of twee klaar te wees en behoort dan teen die einde van die week gedruk te word. Daar word 1000 kopieë gedruk wat dan hoofsaaklik op die Potchefstroomkampus uitgedeel word. ’n Paar word ook aangestuur na die Mafikeng- en Vaaldriehoekkampusse.

Vandag (Sondag) is ek na Apgujeong. Ek en Lindiwe was na Pizza Hut toe vir middagete. Ons het ook ’n uur of twee daar spandeer en semestertoetsvraestelle nagesien. Ek is nog steeds nie klaar nie. Vanaand het ek ’n uurlank Taekkyeon gaan oefen.

Dit is basies die volsom van my naweek.

O ja, ek het na 'n preek van Morris Venden geluister. Die boodskap was vir my 'n hoogte punt oor die naweek. Ek het ook begin luister na die musiek van Howie Day. Dis goed, maar ek gaan vinnig moeg raak daarvoor.

The photo is this post is not a Creative-Commons image.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Passion Red


This is a flower growing here on campus. I don't know the name of this plant. That is its actual colour - no editing.

Green Urn

Young

The photo in this post is not a Creative Commons image.

Self-Portrait: As I was Saying



Self-Portrait: Bad Boy


Red Tears

Self-Portrait Poll Results

I had this poll going for the last week with regard to my self-portraits on this blog.

The verdict is out. Thirteen percent really likes the photos, 33% likes the photos and 22% admitted that some of the pictures make them uncomfortable. The remaining 33% doesn’t seem to mind either way. Nobody thought the photos to be disgusting.

It is especially the more abstract pictures depicting cropped sections of my anatomy that was of concern. Admittedly these images are a type of aesthetic exhibitionism, but I believe it is somewhat in line with many of the posts on this blog that are quite personal and candidly honest.

Since there are no serious complaints, and seeing as 45% liked the photos, versus 22% that felt uncomfortable about them, I will continue with my artistic honesty as I’ve been doing thus far.

Thank you to all that participated in this exercise.

Moview Review: Wild Strawberries

I just saw the 1957 Swedish film Wild Strawberries (“Smultronstället”), by director Ingmar Bergman. Bergman is considered one of the most influential directors of modern cinema.



It’s a slow story about a day in the life of an old man, who is on his way to be honoured for his accomplishments as a doctor for fifty years. The story is similar in tone to Charles Dickens’s 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol, with the stingy, grumpy Ebenezer Scrooge, forced to re-evaluate his life after fantastical journeys through time. In Wild Strawberries, the character Isak Borg, described as a cold and selfish person, is also faced with the meaning of his life. Unlike the mystical experiences in Dickens’ novel, Wild Strawberries is filled with memory flashbacks, surrealistic dreams and strange encounters with people on his journey. The journey forces Isak Bord, now a lonely old man, to take inventory of his life.

Although a bleak movie at first, it turned out to be a very pleasant story. It is especially the cinematography that I enjoyed. There are so few movies these days that really tell the story through images. (It sounds like a contradiction, I know.) Bergman really knows how to “show” the story with the subtlest of visual information. Wild Strawberries is a good picture by an excellent director.

I must admit, even though I had Film Theory & Critique as a minor this was the first time for me to actually watch a Bergman film. I have a suspicion it won't be the last.

Monday, 20 October 2008

'n Naweek van Naruto


’n Groot deel van die naweek het ek afgestaan aan Naruto, ’n Japanese animasie-reeks. Feitlik die hele Saterdagaand (tot omtrent 2 vm) en die meeste van Sondag, het ek episode na episode van die Naruto Shippuuden reeks verorber. Maande terug het ek laas Naruto gekyk, maar die naweek het ek vanaf episode 55 tot epidose 79 gekyk. So ek is nou weer byna op datum. Ek dink die mees resente episode is nommer 80 of 81. Ek het reeds episode 80 met Engelse onderskrifte afgelaai en sal dit seker vanaand kyk.

Naruto is sonder twyfel my gunsteling anime. Ek volg die Naruto reekse nou al jare lank, sedert Naruto ’n seuntjie was. Intussen is hy ’n tienerseun.

Wat ek regtig geniet van Naruto is hoedat ’n mens lief raak vir hierdie fiktiewe karakters. En hoedat hierdie karakters en hulle verskriklike elende jou tot trane dryf, maar ook inspireer, maak lag, laat dink. Veral Naruto, wat ondanks haglike omstandighede weier om op te gee. Sy deursettings vermoeë is inspirerend vir beide die ander karakters in die storie en vir die kyker. Een blogger beskryf Naruto as die epitoom van entoesiasme. Wat ’n raak beskrywing! Naruto het ook ’n gawe om vriendskapsbande te smee -- om vyande in vriende te verander, wat vir my ’n mooi illustrasie is van die Christelike grondslag. (Die storie is nie Christelik nie; ek verklap bloot my lees daarin.)

Die van julle wat my ken sal weet dat ek is nie groot op etikette nie. Ek besit feitlik geen name brand klere nie en vermy dinge wat my in ’n boks plaas. Maar ek is beslis ’n Naruto-fan. En as ek ’n Naruto T-hemp in die hande kon kry het ek dit graag gedra. Om die waarheid te sê, ek is aarstigtelik opsoek na ’n Naruto-rugsak.

The image is from Tekkaus-blog.

Mbeki's Bodyguard Executed; Lekota's Bodyguard Abducted

In a previous post I wrote about my admiration for how old President Thabo Mbeki graciously stepped down before the end of his term, when requested to do so by the ruling national party, the ANC.

At the time I did not know of the murder of Mr Mbeki’s bodyguard. Captain Francois Ramashile, who had served Mr Mbeki for 13 years, was shot in his sleep three days before Mr Mbeki was asked by the ANC to step down. The killing looks suspiciously like an assassination. It happened at Ramashile’s home. His wife, who was sleeping next to him, was not harmed and apparently nothing was stolen.

This looks to me very much like a message sent to Mr Mbeki. Is it possible that his gracious resignation was actually frightened compliance?

Of course, I am merely speculating. The ANC might be innocent in this whole affair. Let's hope that the ruling party is guiltless. But that is the whole problem with this event. There is no certainty and the media is distrustfully quiet about it too.

Here are two forlorn news reports:
Now what really makes the warning lights go off is that Mr Lekota’s bodyguard was recently abducted. "Terror" Lekota, a former high official ANC-member and recently resigned South African Minister of Defence, has been very critical of the ANC ever since Mr Mbeki’s resignation. Mr Lekota is the spearhead behind a possible party split. Apparently one of the abductors told the bodyguard that “this party you and Lekota want to form, you will form in heaven”.
See the News 24 report here.

Original image from Wikipedia.Org.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah

At the beginning of this year a friend introduced me to the music of Jeff Buckley (1966-1997). Specifically Buckley's cover of Leonard Cohen's song, "Hallelujah". Buckley does a riveting rendition that gives me goose bumps every time I hear it. And of course, Cohen is a master lyricist. (Read the lyric here.) I wander whether the song is more eerily beautiful because Jeff Buckley died so young -- as if the knowledge of his early death deepens the emotive quality of the song. Buckley died at the same age that I am now. He drowned.

The YouTube video below is a live recording of Jeff Buckley performing “Hallelujah” at a concert in Japan. Alternatively, download a (low audio-quality) mp3 here (from The Tape is not Sticky).



Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Self-Portrait: Sijak


Parkour in South Africa and Abroad

One of my hobbies listed in this blog is parkour. I’ve even posted some photos of it in the past. But if you are still not sure what it is, read this news article, which was posted in The South African (a newspaper for South Africans living abroad). The article features my friend Dane Grant who showed me the ropes in parkour. (Or let me rather say, he showed me the ropes in parkour and then we became friends.)

The YouTube-video below is a Virgin Softdrink TV commercial with Dane (wearing the cap) showing his stuff.


Poll for Self-Portraits

Dear family, friends and visitors.

I'd like to have your feedback. What do you think about my Self-Portraits on this blog? Do you like them? Do they make you uncomfortable? Should I continue with it? Should I cease my aesthetic exhibitionism?

Please cast your vote in the poll on the side. I will leave it up for a couple of days. You can also leave comments to this post.

Wintersbode

vannag, sag soos die dood, het sy op ons toegesak.
nie met wraak nie [wraak is so harde woord].
haar dons spooklig en lykklam weggesak ons hole in,
maar met [durf ek dit sê?] teerheid. asof sy treur
oor die verwoesting wat sy bring – steeds sag gebêre
onder haar moederlike ouvrouvlerke.
dis tussen die geluide,
daardie normale geluide
van mense en krieke en karre en honde,
dat jy haar neurie hoor – doodstil soos ’n soen,
weggesak ons holtes in. asof sy jammer is
oor die verwoesting wat sy bring – versigtig toegevou.
vannag.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Herfs in Korea - 'n Observasie

soos opvou stoele waggel geknakte tantes
onder goddelike hoë akkerbome en pluk
met lou eensame hande stowwerige akkers
– slakglad – uit die grond. geen sug of kreun
verklap die weiding nie, want die statige gode
gee; al gee hulle suinig en stadig en afsydig.

winter is oppad. sy hurk soos ’n glibberige padda
agter Rusland se berge en hou met wolfteefoë
die moeë tantes dop. haar tong lê afgerol soos
’n kadawer. haar pisnatsnoet stoom. daar is oorlog
in haar wasemde asem.

maar dis die blare wat protesteer. die vurige blare
paradeer soos gouefisanthane; vlamtrosse aap
hardnekkig aan die takke en roep soos shamane
na die son met gekreukelde, geverfde gesigte.
protes tot die dood.

korea is moeg. moeër as die tantes. moeër as die akkers.
moeër as haar verkragte oewers, tot drekklei
en strontsand getrap deur japanese, sjinese, russe,
mongoliërs, jagse amerikaners, arm suid-oos asiërs
wellustig vir die tantes se rys en akkerbredies.

Ek is berispe

God het my vandag berispe. Subtiel soos God se manier is. Altyd respekvol. Dat die Skepper van die heelal ons respekteer, dit gaan ewig my verstand te bowe.

Ek en Young is Nuwon toe om ’n fliek te gaan kyk. Ongelukkig vind ons met ons aankoms dat ons te laat is en dis te lank voordat die volgende fliek begin. Hy moet na ’n afspraak waar sy ouers en sy aanstaande skoonouers trousake gaan bespreek. Ek wil nog Hapkido toe gaan, so die later fliek pas my ook nie. So ons eet maar ietsie. Bokkembab (geroerbraaide rys) vir my en vir nagereg een of ander room en bessie pasterie.

Oppad terug na die moltrein stop ’n ou tannie, geknak onder die jare, ons. Instinktief wil ek wegskram vir die vuil hande. Gelukkig is Young daar om te vertaal. “Die tannie wil jou hand skud”, sê hy. Hand skud? Ek gee maar toe. Toe begin sy vertel dat daar ook uitlanders in haar woonstelblok bly. Sy dink hulle is baie slim en sy wil maar net my hand skud en dankie sê. Dankie vir wat is ek nie seker nie; ek neem maar aan vir die muniskule waarde wat ek toevoeg tot Korea.

Toe ons wegloop buig ek laag voor die tannie, uit respek en skaamte. Young sien onmiddelik iets geestelik aan die situasie en sê grappergewys terwyl ons aanstap, “Miskien was sy ’n engel”. Ek dink nie sy was ’n engel nie, maar God het met my gepraat deur haar. So, in ’n sin was sy tog ’n engel. Die woord engel beteken mos boodskapper.

Die eerste boodskap het ek onmiddelik gehoor. Sanko, jy het die tannie vermy omdat jy gedink het sy is ’n bedelaar. God het nie nodig om meer as dit te sê nie. Ek is skuldig.

Onlangs het ek begin negatief raak omtrent Koreane. Daar is ’n onderliggende, ligte vyandigheid teenoor uitlanders. Ek blaam graag die Amerikaners. Amerikaanse soldate wat hier gesatueer is leef soms wilde lewens hier. En baie van die ander Engelse onderwysers in Korea het ’n slegte raport. ’n Vrotkol suip snags of gebruik dwelms en hang in obskure strate rond. Die Koreane sien hierdie slegte gedrag en stereopeer dan dat alle uitlanders inherent sleg is. Ek het dit begin aanvoel en dieselfde fout begaan. Ek het begin glo dat die meeste Koreane my sien, en op my neer kyk, as net nog een van daardie vuil uitlanders wat Korea kom eksploiteer.

Maar toe kom die tweede boodskap vandag deur daardie ou vroutjie. Dankie. Laat ek jou handskud. Jy is welkom hier in Korea. Ons waardeur jou kennis.

Ek dank God vir hierdie lesse vandag. En ek buig laag voor my Majesteit. Uit respek. En uit skaamte.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Why am I an English Teacher?


Why am I an English teacher? Well it is hard to say exactly. While studying my first degree in Business Communication & Graphic Design I was forced to take a language minor as a freshmen. I chose Academic English.

I remember a specific moment when the lecturer said that here are no right or wrong answers. Any answer can be right, as long as you can motivate it. And suddenly I felt free. For the first time I was allowed to have an opinion. Not merely regurgitating what I was fed, but presenting my own ideas.

I continued with English. Took it in my second year. Took it in my third year. (Because of roster clashes I had to take evening classes.) And when I finished my Business Communication degree I did an honour’s degree in English. Then I went on to do my master’s degree in Creative Writing. I never did become a full time graphic designer. Rather, a teacher of English.

Why am I an English lecturer? I don’t know really. It just sort of happened.

Although I enjoy it, and although it has become part of my identity, it is merely one aspect of the many sides to me. I’m an English teacher yes, but I’m also a self-defence instructor, I’m also a martial artist, I’m also a writer, I’m also a philosopher, I’m also an artist, I’m also a musician (of sorts), I’m also an aspirant life coach, I’m also a theologian, I’m also a scholar, I’m also an armchair freedom of speech activist, I’m also a freelance graphic designer, I’m also a photographer, I'm also a poet, I’m also a...

Why am I an English teacher? Who says I’m an English teacher?

The image is from NNDB.Com.

Movie Review: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

So I saw the movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof a while ago. It was directed by Richard Brooks and released in 1958. The leading actors are the late Paul Newman*, Elizabeth Taylor and Burl Ives. Although it was nominated for six Oscars, it didn’t win any. The film is based on Tennessee Williams’ play of the same name. The play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1955.

The plot is about Maggie trying to win back the love of her estranged (gay?) husband, Brick. And about everyone trying to get the fortune of Big Daddy who is dying of a tumor. The main theme is probably "mendacity".

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
is carried by a myriad of interweaving motifs such as male camaraderie vs. homosexuality, mendacity (lies), the father-son relationship, the cat on edge, the defendants (wives and children), exotic lands, and so on. In the movie, unlike the play, the homosexuality theme is downplayed.

It is the dialogue that makes Cat on a Hot Tin Roof so beguiling. Take for instance these four excerpts:

Big Daddy: What's that smell in this room? Didn't you notice it, Brick? Didn't you notice the powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room?

Maggie: I'll win, alright.
Brick: Win what? What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?
Maggie: Just staying on it, I guess. As long as she can.

Maggie: I'm not living with you! We occupy the same cage, that's all.

Big Daddy: Why do you drink so much?
Brick: Gimme another drink and I'll tell you.

I really enjoyed the acting in the movie. Paul Newman isn’t just a pretty face. In this film he uses great subtlety and comic timing to portray his character. The same goes for Liz Taylor.

These old classics has something that I miss from many contemporary movies, and that is a good story. Not merely a suspenseful story, or a story with some twist at the end, or a fantastical story, but a good story. A story that does not require special effects or gross humour to drive it.

* Scott Raab wrote a nice narrative on Paul Newman (with lots of foul language - so be warned) for Esquire in the May 2000 issue. They recently published it again. Read it here.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Dark Knight - Toy Story Spoof

For a Dark Knight fan like myself, the following spoof was just hilarious.

Of course, we can expect the media conglomerates to force YouTube to take this video off from YouTube because of infringement of copyright. But let me not get into that argument, lest I never stop moaning. For anyone interested, download the free audio book "Free Culture", by Prof Lawrence Lessig. (Just search for "Free Culture Audio" in Google.) You will never look at copyright the same afterwards. "Free Culture" popup audiobook.

But without further ado, The Dark Knight Toy Story:

A Weekend of Conversations

My friend Young and I spent some time together over the weekend. On Friday evening he picked me up to attend Vespers at a church not too far from my place. I guess it will take about 30 minutes by public transport to get there. However, it took us longer by car, because of the Friday night traffic in Seoul. Car is still more convenient; and conducive to good conversation. I've always enjoyed spending time in car with friends, enjoying deep conversations.

Saturday morning I decided to go to the Sabbath keeping church in Ilsan again, there to spent some time with fellow South African friends, Brian and Maike. Ilsan is known as a satellite city of Seoul and it takes about two hours to get there by public transport. Walking towards the bus stop I bumped into Young. He was on his way to campus, but on the spur of the moment decided to do the two hour trek with me.

After lunch the four of us (Brian, Maike, Young and I) had delightful discussions. We spoke about relationships mostly. Young is getting married towards the end of the year so Maike and Brian shared some valuable and candid information about marriage, problems newlywed couples face, money matters, love-life and the like. We also spoke about sin and temptation, partly as an offshoot from the sermon that was about Justification, Sanctification and Glorification. And had some strange confessions about our respective families.

On our way back Young and I went by the Jazz-café I posted about before, where my other South African friend Lindiwe met us later.

Although I was home by 23:00 it must have been an exhausting day, because I slept until 11:00 this morning (Sunday)! Of course, it doesn’t take much to get me to sleep in. For the most of the day I procrastinated at home. I did go for Taekkyeon training in the evening and did some preparation for classes tomorrow.

That was my weekend.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow is just one of those old time classics. This song was originally sung by the The Shirelles. I've heard it performed by many different artists and it just stays good. I especially like this rendition by Amy Winehouse.

Amy Winehouse - Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

Friday, 10 October 2008

Self-Portrait: Wool

Eendag is ek 'n buffel

Gister het ek gaan gym. Vandag voel ek soos 'n bees met brose seenings. Soos ek van te vore genoem het (moontlik in my "update letter"), gaan ek waarskynlik net twee keer 'n week na die gym toe gaan. Ek wil dit nie oordoen nie. Dis die probleem met die meeste mense wat met 'n nuwe oefenprogram begin. Hulle ooreis hulleself aan die begin en moet dan ophou weens beserings of uitputting.

My spiere is lekker gevoellig. Vanoggend het ek feitlik geen pyn gehad nie, maar soos die dag aan stap raak my bewegings al hoe stadiger. Ek dink ek sal vanmiddag of vanaand 'n lekker warm stort neem en dan strek oefeninge doen. Ek wil beslis een van daai lomp stywe ouens word wat nie hulle skoenveters kan vas maak nie!

Ek het ook verdere goeie nuus by die gym ontvang. Daar is 'n lokaal met die die oulike naam "Moo Do Kwan", wat basies krygskunshuis beteken. Dis 'n oefenlokaal vir krygskuns, maar word ook gebruik vir ander oefeningsessies soos pilatus, aerobiese oefeninge, ballet, ens. 'n Ruk terug het ek aansoek gedoen om die lokaal te mag gebruik om Taekwon-Do te oefen op Sondagoggende saam met my vriend John. Aanvanklik het hulle gesê dat ons nie mag nie. Maar met my onlangse besoek aan die gym het hulle gesê dat ons wel die lokaal kan gebruik mits niemand anders daar oefen nie. Dus sal ek en John seker binnekort ons Sondagoggendsessies hier kom doen. Ongelukkig is John vas vir die volgende paar naweke omdat sy ma uit die VSA kom kuier het.

[Ek wil nie regtig soos 'n buffel lyk nie. 'n Atletiese bou staan my beter aan.]

Image from Boston.Com.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

The freedom (or not) of having a (working) PC

A couple of days ago I bemoaned my computer troubles.

I haven't been able to get the Boot CD I needed, but I did something else which seemed to have done the trick. I vacuumed my PC and fidgeted with all the wires, making sure that everything is plugged in properly. And lo and behold! It is working fine again!

I am experiencing some other issues though. I am blocked to many websites -- especially American websites -- from my home computer. On another blog I post all kinds of critique of the US government, so maybe I've been targeted as some kind of anti-America propagandist. Which I am definitely not. I believe that America was blessed by God because of the freedoms they secured in their constitution. And I get really disturbed when I see how those freedoms are eroded away. What I find most upsetting is probably the blase attitude of people. Their freedoms are taken away and they don't even notice it.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Sportsdag

Gister en vandag is sportsdag by die universiteit waar ek werk, en dus is daar geen klasse nie. Al hoewel dit oor twee dae strek word die gebeurtenis steeds sportsdag genoem. Vir sportsdag kompeteer departemente teen mekaar in verskeie sportsaktiwiteite; byvoorbeeld aflos, sokker, basketbal, toutrek, ensomeer.

Die departemente het ook cheerleader-groepe wat uit mans en dames bestaan. Weke lank al oefen hulle ooral op kampus elke middag tot in die nagtelike ure in aan hulle roetines. Die foto hier onder is van die Engelse Departement.

Die roetines is 'n mengsel van trompoppiebewegings, aerobiese passies, moderne dans en iets uit Bollywood. Nogals oulik.

Die twee kleurvolle perde hieronder (Henry links en Jay regs) in hulle mariachi-uitrustings is beide in van my klasse. Hulle is eerste jaarstudente.

The photos in this post are not Creative Commons images.

Monday, 6 October 2008

X: Selective "missings"

My X. I miss her. I miss the smell of her hair, sweet like peaches. I miss her words – soft metaphors of autumn; of dancing in the sun; of exploring the contours of my lips like a continent. I miss my hand on her thigh, her hand on my arm, my hand on her waist, her hand on my abdomen, my hand in the nape of her neck, her hand in my hair, our lips. I miss her early morning visits when I’m still in my pajamas, my hair a mess. I miss our quick half-hour lunches. I miss her singing behind me in church. I miss our late night chats about possible futures. I miss what could have been. I’m missing only the good stuff.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Computer trouble

So my new (second hand) computer was working just fine, when suddenly, out of the blue (pun intended), I got the "Blue Screen of Death". This happened two days ago. At first my PC didn't want to boot up. Eventually after Sabbath I desperately tried something and eventually got it to boot again. But now it is ever so slow. It will be working perfectly fine, but then, say after every 15 seconds, everything will stall -- no mouse movement, no sound, nothing -- and then again after a couple of seconds it will continue again as if nothing is the matter.

When I open the Task Manager, I cannot identify anything suspicious that is eating up my resources during those moments of zombie-like non-performance.

Is it a virus or other malware? Seriously, I do not know. It is even possible for it to be hardware malfunction. I did travel with the PC by subway and bus, so it is possible that it got a knock on the way and the hard drive or something might have been damaged. But why did it only start acting up days afterwards?

Tomorrow I'll get a boot disk and reinstall a backed-up image of the hard drive just after it was formatted. If it is still showing these symptoms after that then I'll know it is hardware malfunction.

Currently it is not broken to such a degree that I cannot work; it is just broken enough to irritate. I better not get so frustrated that perform percussion maintenance on it, by kicking and punching it into obedience or collapse.

Luckily I still have my office PC...

The picture is from Franklarosa.Com.

Boekresensie: 'n Ander Tongval

Ek het vroeër vanweek Antjie Krog se ’n Ander Tongval klaar gelees. Wat ’n goeie boek!

’n Ander Tongval is ’n outobiografiese vertelling van Krog se lewe, maar dit verval nie tot daardie tipiese selfgesentreerdheid wat outobiografieë kenmerk nie. In plaas hiervan kontekstualiseer Krog haar lewe binne verskye gemeenskappe wat van klein na groot uitkring. Krog is nie los van die plaas waar sy groot geword het nie, nie los van Kroonstad waar sy skoolgegaan en ook skoolgehou het nie, nie los van die Vrystaat waar sy skouer teen skouer, swart en wit, gemarch het teen die ou regime nie, nie los van Suid-Afrika se nuwe-wording nie. Nie los van die ander skrywers in Afrika nie. Selfs nie los van haar toekoms as Afrikaan nie of haar voorgeslagte in Nederland nie.

Met die lees van ’n Ander Tongval lees ons nie bloot die storie van een van Suid-Afrika se bekroonste skrywers nie; want ’n skrywer skryf nooit alleen nie en so ontvou die reis om verkenning na die imbongi’s, Suid-Afrika se prysdigters, die storievertellers van die Kalahari, die griots in Timboektoe.

’n Ander Tongval is gelyktydig ’n soeke na persoonlike identiteit van ’n witmens in ’n donker Afrika, maar ook ’n soeke na Suid-Afrika se identiteit na 1994. Wyl Country of My Skull (2002) ’n meer objektiewe kreatiewe verslaggewing was van Suid-Afrika se identiteitsverandering, is ’n Ander Tongval ’n subjektiewe vertelling van Krog se identiteitsverandering en op ’n veeltolkige manier kry sy dit reg om die leser ook te lei deur sy of haar eie vertolking van so ’n identiteitsverandering.



Die boek het gesorg dat ek ’n klompkeer hardop lag op die moltrein sodat die Koreane rondom my alle selfbeheersing moet gebruik om nie te gluur nie. Dis ’n boek met insig, wat jou diep laat dink oor ons land en ons mense. Dis ’n boek wat jou dwing om te vra: waar staan jy?, wie is jou gemeenskappe?, wie is jou mense? Dis ’n boek wat maak dat jy wonder oor jou (en ook ander mense) se toiletmaniere.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Why all the self-portraits

"You should see the nice self-portrait I took." She started laughing, saying: "I've never heard of anybody praising themselves like that." "I'm not praising myself," I replied, "I'm praising the photo". "Yes," she said, "but it is a photo of you in it".

And then I understood a fundamental difference between us. To her, a photo is not a photo unless there is a person in it. The photo is about the person, not about the aesthetics. I've been distressed more than once while taking a picture of something, such as a beautiful scene or an interesting building, and suddenly this friend jumps into the frame! See, for her my picture is incomplete because in her mind there is no real subject if the subject is not a person. In my mind people often clutter the picture, especially when my subject is something else.

Lest my self-portraits, which I post here on this blog, seem like gross vanity allow me to explain. I like taking artistic photos. And although I mentioned that people sometimes irritate me when they're in the photo this is only because they were not the thing I wanted to picture at the time. In actual fact, I like taking photos of people too and enjoy doing portraits and artistic renditions of the human body. Unfortunately most people feel shy about being the subject for photography and since I'm not a fulltime photographer I'm not planning to hire a model anytime soon. Hence, I take photos of the only willing human subject I have easy access to -- myself.

To me it is all about an artistic play with light and shadow, colour and composition. And as an artist, I like to walk that tightrope of provocation: the semi-nude photography that hint at something, but never reveals anything. I especially like interesting compositions, strange croppings focussing on unusual parts of the anatomy.

And I feel it is complimentary to this blog. I try to be really honest and frank about myself. I'm practising the art of self-revealing; it is not always easy, but if I want to be a true artist, I believe that is what is required of me. But of course, there is only so much my audience can learn about me. Art, be it in word or in image, is always just a representation of the real, it is never the real itself. And the representer always influences how he or she wants to represent the real. Art is always a filterered representation. Filtered first by the artist’s rendition and filtered secondly by the viewer’s own preconceptions, expectations and subjectivity.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Self-Portrait: White


Kyk hoe verlep ons

'n Ruk gelede sien ek 'n foto van Paul Newman en die eerste ding wat in my gedagtes opkom is Steve Hofmeyer se woorde: "Ouderdom is 'n bliksem!" Die foto is van 'n bejaarde Newman, gryskop, vaal gesig, verlepte vel. Die man, eens die toonbeeld van manlike aantreklikheid nou verweer deur tyd tot net nog 'n outoppie. Niks meer van sy eertydse glorie is oor nie.

Dit pla my want dis ook my lot. Dis ons elkeen se lot. Die tyd stuur voort en hy sleep met hom saam ons spartelende fleur en vitaliteit.

Toevallig, 'n paar dae terug (27 September) en dus 'n paar weke na my bepeinsing van Paul Newman se oudword, en ons elkeen se oudword, lees ek dat hierdie legendariese ster oorlede is op 83 jarige ouderdom aan longkanker.

Ek is seker ek het al 'n fliek of twee van hom gesien, maar ek moes baie klein gewees het. Daarom het ek besluit om 'n Paul Newman fliek te kyk. Ek het Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, met Elisabeth Taylor as die mede-hoofrolspeler, by my departementsbiblioteek uitgeneem. As ek onthou en tyd het sal ek 'n resensie daaroor skryf.

Photos from Business Week and Awards Daily.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Movie Review: Batman - The Dark Knight


I have seen Batman: The Dark Knight twice already, but something within me urged me to go see it again before it disappears from the big screen. It was a desperate kind of nagging, as if my life will always be slightly incomplete if I do not savoir this great movie at least one more time. And watching it on DVD would just not be the same.

Since I missed out on the play I wanted to see to celebrate my first pay check at the new job, I decided that I will treat myself to a visit to the Imax-theatre, there to watch The Dark Knight again. It was well worth the hour-and-some travel .

This is my ode to The Dark Knight...

It is such a difficult thing to say, but this is probably one of the best films I have ever seen. As far as storytelling goes the script is magnificent. Nothing is wasted. Every element introduced has a purpose. The writers (Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer) should get an award, and the screenplay adaptation (by brothers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan) were superb. I just cannot get over the neatness of the plot. It is extremely well thought through. Not only is the story greatly constructed, but the themes are ever serious and worth contemplation. Unlike the superficial attempts of many other Superhero plot, the moral dilemmas in The Dark Knight engages the audience, and force us to question our own moral standpoints.

The cinematography is emotive and adds to the narrative. The editing is great. Only at my third watch did I see the smallest of possible continuity error(s), but it is so inconspicuous that it isn’t worth mentioning. The lighting is used with great skill, highlighting the themes of light versus darkness, and foiling the grey in-between world of the vigilante – the one that has to crossover from the realm of light to the realm of darkness, in order to fight evil in its own backyard.

The sound is nerve-wracking. Every so often there is this strange hum, sometimes it is a single violin note, other times an eerie mechanical drone that increases in frequency. The hum usually accompanies the Joker-character (played by the late Heath Ledger), which just makes all the hairs on your body stand on end – the effect is more powerful than any of the screeching gimmicks I’ve experienced in typical suspense-horror movies. It never tries to shock the audience. Instead it starts softly and increases in volume as the suspense increases.

And the acting is superb. Heath Ledger’s performance as Joker is really good. His unfortunate death does not need to add any sentimental hype to his acting – his performance stands as a testimony unto itself. Christian Bale is well known for his indulgence in the characters he portrays, and it shows. Not the mention the ever great Gary Oldman, who plays his role so well that it is only with great effort that one see Oldman, behind the persona he gestalts.
This is probably the best superhero movie ever made.

The director, Christopher Nolen, has established himself as a splendid director who knows how to keep the audience in suspense. He has become without a doubt one of my most favorite directors.

What Batman: The Dark Knight is not, is a feel good movie. Neither is it perfectly in step with the comic books, which might disgruntle some "purist", to quote a Batman-friend of mine.