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.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Dying boy's last wish: to feed the homeless

Taekwon-Do Year-End Function

A photo of everyone sitting on the floor (Korean style) and dining together. It was a candid photo, so almost everyone is chewing away, oblivious to my paparazzi-activity.

Thursday evening our ITF Taekwon-Do dojang here in Seoul had a farewell and year-end function. It happened to also coincide with Thanks Giving.

We gathered at the home of a medical doctor and his wife who started with Taekwon-Do a while ago. The hostess prepared a lovely Korean dinner for us and we had a great time eating and socializing in English, Korean and some other languages. It was quite a cultural extravaganza – attending the dinner were five nationalities: Korean, British, Brazilian, Swedish and South African. Even odder was the way we communicated. It turns out that one of the other guests lived in the Netherlands for three years and so the two of us started speaking Dutch to each other. Well actually, he was speaking broken Dutch and I was speaking Afrikaans with a Dutch accent; but we had a grand time communicating in a third language, a European one, and that in an Oriental country, of all places!

The farewell was for the Brazilian family and Swedish lady who will be leaving Korea sometime in December.

It was a splendid evening, but I got home rather late and to bed even later than usual. As a result, today felt very long and I feel quite pooped at the moment. I might even get to fall asleep earlier tonight!

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

'n Skuldige gewete beloon

Gister het ek ’n vreemde ervaring gehad. Deur die loop van die dag het dit aansienlik kouer geraak, soveel so dat die klere wat ek aangehad het nie meer gehelp het nie. Gevolglik, toe my laaste klas om 16:00 eindig toe haas ek huistoe net om weer te ontdooi. ’n Halfuur later bel die akademiese dekaan my by my huis en vra dat ek hom onmiddelik moet kom sien by sy kantoor.

Dadelik begin ek stres en wonder wat ek verkeerd gedoen het. Die feit dat hy my by die huis bel, beteken dat hy eerstens my by my kantoor moes gaan soek het. My afwesigheid daar lei hom toe om my by die huis te soek. Soos ek moontlik al genoem het, is ek teoreties veronderstel om op kantoor te wees tussen 9:00 en 17:00, maar dis baie ontspanne met niemand wat oor ’n mens se skouer loer nie, so om bietjie vroeër huistoe te gaan is nie ’n kwelling nie. Nietemin, toe die akademiese dekaan my bel met só ’n dringende versoek toe wonder ek of ek nie dalk in die verknorsing is hieroor nie.

Oppad na sy kantoor probeer ek dink wat ek moontlik verkeerd gedoen het. ’n Ander moontlikheid behels die Internet. Buiten dat Suid-Korea sekere webbladsye blokkeer, blokkeer die kampus se Internetbediener ook sekere webbladsy. Nou, ek rebelleer onmiddelik wanneer dit by dinge soos sensorskap kom, en daarom wil ek júís die inligting bekom wat van my weerhou word. Gevolglik gebruik ek maniere om die blokkasies te omseil. Niks onwettigs nie, maar tog berade. Oppad na die akademiese hoof toe wonder ek of hulle nie dalk my Internetaktiwiteite dophou nie en sien dat ek hulle inligtingshindernisse systap. Ek verbeel my hoedat hy vir my gaan sê dat ek droogmaak en dat hulle my in die pad steek.

By sy kantoor kom ek aan en hy groet my heel vriendelik en maak my sit. Hy begin die gesprek deur te noem dat dit die eerste keer is wat ek en hy amptelik gesels (ons het al vinnig ontmoet, maar my direkte hoof is die Engelse departementshoof, so ek het selde met die akademiese- / administratiewe kantoor te doen). Hy vra my uit oor my werksomstandighede, hoeveel klasse ek aanbied, my ure, of ek gelukkig is. Al die tyd klop my hart vinnig en wag ek vir een of ander obskure gebeurlikheid, ’n mistrap wat ek gemaak het, ’n oortreding (willens-en-wetens óf onkundig), wat die rede is dat die akademiese hoof my so dringend wil sien.

Dan begin hy gesels oor die ekonomiese krisis in die wêreld en hoedat uitlanders veral daardeur geaffekteer word. Omdat die Koreaanse geldeenheid verswak het teenoor die (reeds verswakte) Amerikaanse Dollar, verduidelik hy, kry ons uitlanderpersoneel moontlik swaar wanneer ons geldwissel en terug stuur na ons tuislande. En toe haal hy ’n koevertjie uit. Die rektor het voorgestel dat ons uitlanderpersoneel ’n bonusvergoedingtjie moet kry as ’n teken van die universiteit se waardeuring van ons. Die geskenk val ook te same met Thanks Giving Day (die Amerikaanse vakansie dag wat gister plaasgevind het), om sodoende dubbel spesiaal te wees. Hy handig aan my die koevert met 500 000 Won. Dis omtrent US$337 en sowat R3400 teen die huidige wisselkoerse.

En so word my skuldige gewete beloon.

Ek dink toe aan Adam nadat hy gesondig het. God roep hom, maar Adam wil vlug uit vrees vir God. God kom, en in plaas daarvan om Adam die doodstraf toe te ken, gee God aan Adam die Goeie Nuus – ja, jy gaan sterwe want dis die natuurlike gevolg van keuses wat in disharmonie met die Bron van Lewe is, maar Ek gaan ’n manier voorberei om jou weer tot My te versoen. Ons sondig en weet dit, tog kom God en in plaas van straf, beloon God ons. Nie vir ons sondes of goeie werke nie, maar bloot omdat God God is.

Ns. In ’n vorige inskrywing het ek genoem hoedat my werk baie goedgunstig met geskenke teenoor ons personeel is.

Nns. Hierdie ervaring spreek luidkeels uit teenoor die sogenaamde The Secret-fenomeen wat die wêreldoorspoel het en beweer dat ons kry die dinge wat ons verwag om te kry. Nou ja, ek was oortuig dat ek in die moeilikheid is vir iets, maar in plaas van moeilikheid, is ek beloon met geld en waardering vir my werk. So much for The Secret.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Organizing the Impromptu Speech

The speech-bubble is a Creative Commons image from Flickr.

Good impromptu speakers know many different ways to organize their thoughts even before they know their topic. They quickly mentally review possible organizational patterns when they know they must speak in a few moments. Being familiar with such patterns will enable you to choose the best method of organizing ideas for your particular topic. It will make it easier for you to think of things to say and examples to present. You will be able to choose an organizational pattern and start developing it mentally or on paper in the few moments you have before getting up to speak.

Use:
  • Past-Present-Future to describe how something once was, how it has changed, and how it will be in the future.
  • Time to describe chronological events or processes in sequential order.
  • Problem-Solution to describe a problem and ways to solve it.
  • Location to divide a topic into different geographical settings.
  • Cause-Effect to describe a situation and its effects.
  • Effect-Cause to describe a situation and its causes.
  • Related Subtopics to divide a topic into different parts.
  • Advantage-Disadvantage to describe positive and negative aspects of a topic.
From: Paulette Dale & James C. Wolf. 2006. Speech Communication Made Simple. 3rd Ed. Pearson-Longman.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Sonde

sy flankeer met my,
lek haar kraakblou lippe af met ’n skilfer tong
en flankeer met my
haar koue linkerhand krewel my broek af
haar benerige regterhand speel met my hare
haar asem, lou soos die dood, walm vanuit ’n diep kasme
in my nek – die tyd vir vrek het aangebreuk
my siel slaan in sweet uit soos na seks
bevlek met onne:
onheil
ongeregtigheid
onbarmhartigheid
só flankeer sy met my,
en ek weet – nou’s dit tyd om te sterf,
af te sterf en die wêreld ’n reiner plek agter te laat,
’n bietjie purer: daar’s een sondaar minder
en daarvoor sterf ek gewillig

South Africa's HIV/AIDS Legacy


The legacy of our previous president, Mr. Thabo Mbeki, will not only include his premature (forced) resignation, but also his stance on HIV/AIDS. Recently the New York Times wrote a candid article, focusing on conclusions provided by Havard researchers, on the whole debacle.

The article quotes the UN, which estimates that 900 people die per day in South Africa from HIV/AIDS related causes and almost one in every five people in South Africa are infected.

One has to wonder why Mr Mbeki, a very intelligent man, took the stance he did? He basically said that HIV is not the only cause of AIDS. Can there be a little truth to this? Maybe one of the reasons why drug addicts and poverty stricken people are more prone to AIDS is because their immune systems are already broken down by their lifestyle.

Photo by Joao Silva, for The New York Times.

Americans: 8 Hours of TV per Day

A week ago I posted about my movie watching habits, and guessed that the typical person watch about 10+ hours of television per week. My guess, at least as far as the USA goes, was much too conservative. According to a CNN report I just watched, the typical American watch 8 hours of combined television per day. That is 57 hours of television per week! I wonder how South Africans would compare?

So can we assume that the typical American is unhappy? Well according to this article, sent to me buy a friend, people that watch less TV are happier than people that watch more TV.

The photo is a Creative Commons image by Aaron Escobar - Flickr.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Dairy Mail

The Dairy Mail het al weer die PICA-toekenning gekry as die beste besigheid-tot-besigheid-tydskrif in Suid-Afrika. The Dairy Mail wen nou al jare lank PICA-toekennings. Die grafiese ontwerper in my hou nogal daarvan dat iets soos 'n suiweltydskrif (van alle dinge!) so 'n hoë gehalte media produk kan lewer. Wys jou net wat 'n bietjie kreatiwiteit en professionaliteit kan verrig.

Movies and I

Whenever people ask me what my favourite movie is I cringe. The reason is it is just impossible for me to single out one movie. Therefore, I decided to start making a list of those movies that had a big impact on me. For this purpose I started a new blog and will add to my list every so often.

A Tom Cruise Fan?

Photo from Sidereel.Com.

Am I a Tom Cruise fan? There is no doubt that I’m a Brad Pitt fan. As a teenager a number of Brad Pitt films had tremendous impact on me – I’m quickly thinking of Legends of the Fall, A River Runs Through It, Interview with a Vampire, Se7en, Kalifornia, 12 Monkeys. So I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m a Brad Pitt fan. But a Tom Cruise fan?!

I just looked at Cruise’s filmography and ever since the first movie he played the leading role, Risky Business (1983), until Lions for Lambs (2007), I’ve seen all but four movies; that is, 26 out of 30 movies.

Oddly, the two mentioned movies happen to be two which I am yet to see. I hope to see the former sometime. Postmodern identity (of which Generation X is a part) is one of my academic interests and Risky Business is considered a Generation X classic. I usually avoid teenage comedies, but I’ll give this one the benefit of the doubt. One critic writes: “[Risky Business is] one of the key films of the 1980s, and proof that a teen sex comedy could merit serious consideration”. I’ve also been wanting to see Lions for Lambs, solely because Meryll Streep acts in it. (Streep is probably my favourite actress.)

So, am I a Cruise fan? Honestly, I cannot say. I don’t think I will go watch a movie purely because Tom Cruise acts in it and I doubt I'll ever convert to Scientology.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Sunday's Photo Shoot

The past Sunday my friend Young and his fiancé, Angelina, had their wedding photos taken. Unlike where I am from, in Korea people have their wedding photos taken before the wedding at a professional photo studio. Young invited me to come with and take some candid photos while the professional photographer is busy with the quality photos.

Since I was visiting with friends (Brian and Maike - fellow South Africans) in Ilsan this weekend, I invited them as well to party crash the occasion, as they also know Young and Angelina and are also avid amateur photographers like myself. We had a ball of a time and the pro-photographer was very gracious, allowing us "visitors" to go crazy and make full use of his studio. I posted some of the photos of Angelina and Young & Angelina already.

The above photo was taken by Cornelius another acquaintance that tagged along. Bryan and Maike is standing on the far right. I'm standing next to Young and Angelina (fitted with the boxing gloves). The other people are friends of Young and Angelina whom we only met on the day.

Below is a photo of (happy) Young in his pink Hanbok. He's such a character!

And me.

It was a really nice weekend, although I was sick. I got a cold last week and felt quite terrible, especially onon Friday and Saturday. I've been feeling a little better, but still under it. And my bad habbit of staying up late is not helping. I doubt I will go to training this week either, although I'm itching to do something physical again.

I'm aching to do some Parkour!

Young & Angelina



The photos in this post are not Creative Commons images.

Angelina

The photos in this post are not Creative Commons images.

Akris




Three dresses by Akris (part of the Spring 2009 Collection), which I thought lovely.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Christmas Tree

This "natural" Christmas Tree occurred not too far from my house. The beautiful red leaves from a higher tree dropped onto this little pine and caused this natural Christmas Tree scene.

Liggies

Hobby Horse

Friday, 21 November 2008

Net nie liefdesgedigte nie

Ek wil so graag ’n gedig skryf, maar ek het geen inspirasie nie. Ek kan altyd oor die liefde skryf – liefdesgedigte gebeur maklik vir my.

Liefdesgedigte is soos bloedgieting. Dit neem nie baie nie. / Die ligste prik en die siel anus oop, en uit ontkiem die liefdesgedig. / Selfs ’n kind, gehok aan ’n tekort aan woorde, / kan met dié bietjie tot haar beskikking ’n liefdesgedig teel / vir haar ma, of haar pa, of haar kys. Ja, selfs die Rugby-jock, kan vir sy gryp sê: / Ek dig jou soos my tokse!

Om oor die vrou te dig: die lyn van haar lippe te beskryf as hoë wenkbroue; /
haar olieklam mond as ’n vaginarooi arbei; / haar tong wat soos ’n hand van my hart ’n troeteldier kan maak dit kan liefkoos / te beskryf as ’n lemmetjie wat genadeloos my polse sny; / haar tepels: geniepsige Braille wat roep om gelees te word; / haar gul heupe: ’n vibrerende cello; is maklik om te dig.

Om oor die passie – stellig nee! die wellus – te dig, neem min sweet;
/ inteendeel dis in die sweet (óns sweet, wat aan mekaar plak soos tweespalkwoorde, / byvoorbeeld hart[s]-tog, hart[s]-verlange, hart[e]-dief) / dat die wellustigste gedigte lê en prut.

Dit vat nie veel om oor die liefde te dig nie. Daarom wens ek, ek kan ’n gedig skryf. Ek is bronstig om ’n gedig te skryf. Net nie ’n liefdesgedig nie. Maar buiten die liefde is daar geen inspirasie nie.

Teleology

How does this work? Remember in a previous post I mentioned that various serendipitous circumstances caused me to see the film Across the Universe. Well, here is another example of such strange “chance” – often quite small and insignificant – happenings that I notice in (my) life.

Up until this morning I had no idea what “Appalachia” is – didn’t even know it is a place. While preparing for one of the classes I teach, this word was in the textbook, so I had to look it up. It turns out to be a mountain range in America crossing several states.

Now come tonight; I was reading up on a Christian scholar and philosopher, Clifford Goldstein, and in an interview he says that he likes reading Wallace Stevens poetry. So I thought: let’s read some Stevens. Randomly opening up poems by Stevens, the second poem I read is “Bantams in Pinewood”; it has the following line: “Bristles, and points their Appalachian tangs”. Had I not, purely accidently, looked up what Appalachia is earlier today, I would have had no way of understanding “Appalachian tangs” in this poem – now, a couple of hours later.

How does this happen? Is it purely chance? If so, how often can “chance” happen before it becomes more than coincidence? I am asking this, because such “chance” and “coincidence” happen to me all the time. All the time!

Apart from it happening, my real question is: How does it work? Is it God? If so—to what purpose? It is not as if “Bantams in Pinewood” is a life-changing poem to me.

Image by ThunderChild tm (on Flickr): Creative Commons Image.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

RSG en ander klanke

Ek wens RSG het beter musiek gespeel.

Ek geniet om na RSG se programme te luister. Dis gewoonlik baie informatief en aktueel. Hulle kry gereeld vakkundiges in om aan programme deel te neem. Verder is dit ook wel bekend dat RSG se nuusprogramme baie objektief is.

Maar, o wee, daai musiek! Sulke soetsappige ligte Afrikaanse resepmatige goed. En hoeveel jare gaan dit nog neem voordat ons genoeg van "Neem my op vlerke" gehoor het?! Dis tragies. Moet my nie verkeerd verstaan nie, RSG het 'n hele paar uitmuntende musiekprogramme, byvoorbeeld: Dis Opera, Dis Klassiek, Laatnag Latino, Vers en Klank, Al Daai Jazz. Hierdie is eerste klas programme, met wonderlike musiek. Maar daardie goeters wat as vullers gebruik word tussen die ordentlike programme maak my lam. Dit irriteer my so dat ek die kanaal eenvoudig afsit.

Ek wens iemand wil 'n alternatiewe nasionale Afrikaanse radiostasie begin -- een wat uit beginsel uit nie dieselfde musiek speel as wat daar op VCR (Vaal Community Radio) gespeel word nie. Dalk kan MK, MNET se musiekkanaal op DSTV, MK-radio stig. Net na hierdie gedagte by my op kom dink ek: Wag 'n bietjie, miskien het MK 'n radiostasie. Tot my groot opgewondenheid vind ek MK-radio sowaar op die Internet. Dis nie heeltemal 'n alternatief op RSG nie, want dit bied nie dieselfde aktuele programme nie, maar ten minste kan ek langer na die musiek luister.

Eerste sneeu

Dit het begin om liggies te sneeu. Die vlokkies bitterklein en smelt met kontak. Nietemin, dit is sneeu en veroorsaak 'n subtiele opgewondenheid in my. Ek hou van sneeu. Dis die kraakvarsheid daarvan, vermoed ek. Of die blote andersheid. Ek het allermins in die Transvaal groot geword en het net een of twee keer as kind sneeu beleef.

Vanoggend toe ek die woonstel verlaat was dit -4° C. Tans sê Yahoo! se weerkanaal dat dit 4° C is en dat dit môre weer gaan warmer word.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Movie Review: Aachi & Ssipak

Aachi & Ssipak (2006) is officially the weirdest anime-movie I have ever seen. This Korean movie, by director Jo Beom-jin, is a dystopian sci-fi where human feces have become I major energy source and in order to encourage defecation people are awarded a “juicy bar” in turn for every dump they take. To keep the system going, all babies are implanted with an ID-ring in their anuses upon birth. For every passing of bowl movement the ID-ring send an electronic message to the governmental headquarters who duly award the defecator with his or her juicy bar.

The addictive juicy bars also spawn an underground drug syndicate, with various groups fighting for control over the juicy bar trade.

Enters the two main characters, Aachi and Ssipak… two lowlife gangsters that hijack people’s juicy bars shortly after they go to the toilet. And then there is the girl, Beautiful, who is violated by the leader of the Diper Gang, and inserted with a hacked anus ID-ring. The result is that every time Beautiful defecates her hacked ID-ring causes the main frame to pay out hundreds of juicy bars. Now everyone is after Beautiful and her lucrative dumps!

For a more detailed review read this one by Adam Hartzell.

As I said, this is probably the weirdest anime I’ve seen. The plot is strange, the characters are creepy and the style is peculiar, not ugly but, odd. It is definitely for an adult audience with lots of foul language, blood and sexual innuendo. Genitalia are blurred, which I thought an interesting technique to use for anime. (With anime the animators can easily censor things by merely not drawing it. Blurring the genetalia is therefor done on purpose as a stylistic motif.)

Would I recommend this movie? Only to die-heart anime fans that want to stay abreast with the weird and wonderful world of anime. I think that Aachi & Ssipak has created a unique Korean flavour to the anime scene, clearly different from Japanese idealism. If Aachi & Ssipak was made in Hollywood as a real movie, instead of an anime movie, I think it would be in league with such cult movies as Pulp Fiction.

En kouer...

Vandag was tot so koud as -7°C! Ek sit in my koue kantoor. Die verhittingstelsel in die gebou is net aan vir 'n paar uur in die oggend. Van môre af behoort dit weer bietjie warmer te wees vir 'n paar dae. Die weërvoorspellers sê dat die dagtemperatuur teen Saterdag by 'n warm 11°C kan draai.

Dit lyk darem of my vyf plantjies in my kantoor dit nog oorleef. Die plante buite was almal stokstyf gefries vanoggend.

My keelseer was weg vanoggend, maar dis stadig besig om weer terug te kom.

Ek gaan nou gou oppak en dan na die Engelse Departement toe gaan om fotostate te maak van 'n vraestel (my "Presentation Class" skryf eksamen môre), en daarna gaan ek huistoe. Ek dink ek sal 'n verwarmer vir my kantoor moet koop...

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Too Frank on the Web?

"How do you enjoy full and frank discussions on the Internet without compromising your future?" This is the question asked by Kim Bielenberg.

Apparently so much as one in five employers check up on job applicants by searching social networking sites such as Facebook. So those pictures of yourself drunk at a party, or those half nude (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) pictures, could just be spotted by a future employer and discredit you as a potential employee. Foul mouthing your boss or gossipping about co-workers are also not good ideas.

However, the Internet can be a good marketing tool and a method of projecting a positive Internet-persona. "So you should make sure that what is out there is positive. If they see that you are expressing yourself well they will be impressed'', according to Rohan Manahan.

Byna bibberbewend koud (was dit nie vir ondervloerse verhitting nie)

Vandag is tussen 1°C en -4°C in Seoul. More lyk nie veel beter nie en teen Donderdag mag dit moontlik al 'n bietjie sneeu.

My broeke is almal dun en geensins opgewasse teen die Koreaanse koue nie. Boonop het ek 'n verkoue opgedoen. Sedert gistermiddag het ek 'n keelseer en laasnag het dit so erg geraak dat ek êrens in die middernagtelike ure 'n groot pot water op die stoof gaan sit het met bloekomolie daarin om my woonstel te stoom. Gelukkig het ek vandag eers om 12:00 klas gehad, gevolglik kon ek laat slaap. Ek hoop vannag gaan beter gaan.

Ek het besluit om nie vanaand na my krygskunsklasse te gaan nie. Dalk kry ek dit reg om vroeër aan die slaap te raak.

Where do I get the time to watch so many movies?

The answer is easy. I don't watch TV. In fact, I don't own a TV.

So while most people spend hours watching soap operas and the like, I'm much more stingy on the visual media I consume. I very specifically search for movies I want to see. I don't just watch any movie, and I don't invest time in just any TV-series. For instance, I recently started to watch the first season of Rome, but after it turned into nothing more than a sexed up soap opera I quit watching it. A slow storyline interspersed with soft porn is not enough to have me, even with my perverted sensibilities, invest that many hours in it.

Also, it just seems like I'm watching an awful lot of movies. I don't really; usually one movie a week (i.e. approximately 2 hours). Compare that to the amount of hours most people spend a week watching TV (approximately 10+ hours)!

The next movie I plan to see is a Korean animation, Aachi & Ssipak (2006), and since I have a cold and won't be going to Hapkido and Taekwon-Do training tonight I might even watch it tonight.

Movie Review: Across the Universe


Has it ever happened to you that certain things just keep crossing your path, as if the universe is trying to tell you something?

Every so often I have this experience and had it again recently with the movie Across the Universe (2007). It started a while back already and many of the serendipitous events I cannot recall now. However, let me share a recent chain of events. A week ago I listened to Porcupine Tree's song, "Epidemic". This reminded me very much of Greenday's "Wake Me Up When September Ends". (I posted on this last week.) On YouTube I went to see Greenday's music video of "Wake Me Up When September Ends". The video tells the story of a young couple in love. The video takes a serious turn when the young man enlists in the army, apparently to ensure their future, but to the frantic distress of his lover. Evan Rachel Wood, the girl in this video, also plays the leading actress in Across the Universe. Something similar happened so that I listened to Evan Rachel Wood's beautiful renditions of "It Won't Be Long" and "Blackbird" both songs from the soundtrack of the motion picture. Make sure to listen to Wood's "Blackbird"! It caused me to go searching for the soundtrack of Across the Universe and after listening to it for I week I decided that I better see this movie.

So I did last night. I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a musical. And a beautiful one at that. The movie is set mostly in America during the tumultuous 1960's and tells the tale of love and war. Protests against America's engagement in the Vietnam War is a major motif in the film. By inference, the film can possibly be interpreted as protest against the current Iraqi War.

Similar to the Beatles music, the movie is uncluttered. The scenes are skillfully constructed with rich moods and always aesthetically pleasing compositions. The visual elements seem to have been put on the canvas with economic brush strokes. The interpretations of the Beatle songs are lovely to listen to. They keep the neat melodious feel of the originals, but new flavours are brought to the old songs. Also, the script is well constructed.

In the study of Creative Writing it is often better for the writer to say less, to leave some gaps in the plot. This is contrary to what one would expect, for isn't the mark of a good writer his or her ability to describe in detail? Actually, too much detail can in fact hinder the engagement of the reader to the text. If everything is said, then the reader has nothing to imagine. It is therefore sometimes better to leave certain things unsaid, so that the reader's brain can fill the missing links and so be more actively involved in the text. The script to Across the Universe does this. Subtle plot pieces are strategically left out, keeping the viewer engaged, often relying on the lyrics to give hints towards the missing pieces. Since the plot flows mostly chronologically the viewer is never lost that filling-the-gaps happens subconsciously, so that the viewer hardly notices the jumps in the narrative.

The transition into the surrealist landscape of the musical is also a progressive one, so that the viewer is slowly taken up into the musical fantasy world – so gradual is the transition that one nearly forgets towards the end of the movie that such things cannot happen in real life.

Although over two hours in length, Across the Universe is the type of musical one can watch over and over again. It watches like a music video, weaved together with a thin thread of blood and love. It is a beautiful story and afterward I felt a warm glow as if I heard the gospel again. While Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly ends with a quasi-sermon on "God is Love", Across the Universe never preaches, but I heard the message: "Love is God".

The movie also brags with an ensemble of cameos, such as Bono and Salma Hayek.



A little more on Evan Rachel Wood: She had a relationship with Marylin Manson and inspired the song "Heart-Shaped Glasses" [Listen here or download here] on his Eat Me, Drink Me-album. She has a black belt in Taekwon-Do (which is probably why I like her so much!). She signed a deal with a record label for her debut album which I look forward to listen to.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Movie Review: Quantum of Solace


Last week I went to see the very successful new 007 movie. Quantum of Solace (2008) is the sequel to Casino Royale (2006), with Daniel Craig playing the role of James Bond.

I really liked these 007 movies with Daniel Craig in the lead. I prefer them to the previous James Bond-movies and my suspicion is that the new James Bond audience (my generation*), could not identify with the cold perfectionist James Bonds of prior years as much as they can identify with the current Bond. What makes this James Bond different is he’s vagabond determinism. And that, I think, is the core resonance my generation has with these latest two James Bond movies. We are a generation that stands critically against the laws of the powers-that-be. It is not that we are anarchists per se, but we are against the arrogance of centralized systems of power, which seem to focus more on protecting the welfare of giant corporations, rather than the common good.

There is a practicalness about this James Bond that I like. Although he is equally charming with the ladies than his predecessors, one does not think him a womaniser. After all, these last two 007 movies showed James Bond not to be a heartless chauvinist, but quite the opposite. In Casino Royale he finds the love of his life – a seriousness towards commitment that we never saw in the previous James Bond movies. This is a tough guy with emotions, not one of the British androids of the past.

The plots of these Bond-movies have consequences. Bond's decisions have serious and often negative results. The life of the spy is not sugar-coated.

I liked Casino Royale (directed by Martin Campbell) better than Quantum of Solace (directed by Marc Forster), but the latter didn’t disappoint. As far as action movie chase-scenes go, Quantum of Solace has a motor chase (cars), an aquatic chase (boats), a dog fight (airplane chase) and a foot chase. The fighting scenes seem a little clumsy at times, but that adds to their realism. There is a constant thread of action from start to finish.

Nothing about the movie bothered me, and that doesn’t happen often. If you like action movies, Quantum of Solace is a good movie in the genre. The movie left me with a feeling of contentment and isn’t that what we want from our escapisms?




The Dark Knight is still my favourite movie of the year, but as far as Quantum of Solace’s popularity is concerned, it is one of the great box office hits of the year, making headlines at most news agencies.

Uhuru?

Een van my broers deel onlangs aan my dat hy wil land uit. Hy is bang vir die toestand van Suid-Afrika en veral vir die Uhuru-legende. Volgens dié legenede, ook bekend as Operation White Eagle en Night of the Long Knives, is daar ’n plan om witmense uit te moor. Dit is veronderstel om substansieel binne een aand te gebeur en baie is dit eens dat die teken daarvoor Oud-President Nelson Mandela se afsterwe is.

Is hierdie "urban legend" waar? Eerlik waar, ek weet nie. Volgens Gustav Müller, ’n propagonis vir die Suidlanders, stuur Suid-Afrika sonder twyfel in daardie rigting af, en baie witmense is al gedreig daarmee. Maar behoort ons te glo in sulke stories, of is dit bloot die verdigsels van paranoïese verregses?

Of so iets gaan gebeur weet ek nie. Dat so iets kán gebeur het ek geen twyfel oor nie. Ek het in Sebokeng groot geword tydens die 80's toe al daardie protes optogte plaas gevind het. My familie het die protesoptogte eerstehands beleef. Ons het gesien hoedat massas mense oornag vanaf vredeliewende na woedende bloeddorstiges kan verander. Ons het beleef hoedat snelweë met klippe gesper word en karre wat daar stop met klippe gestook word. Ons het beleef hoedat mense wat nie wil deelneem aan die protesoptogte nie geslaan word; genecklace word (karbande word om hulle gesit, petrol oor hulle gegooi en dan aan die brand gesteek); hulle huise afgebrand word. Ek het self gesien hoedat iemand met pangas gekap word.

Ek word nie maklik opgesweep deur massa histerie, ketting e-posse, en groepsdruk nie, maar wat moet ek vir my broer sê? Bly in Suid-Afrika; moet nie vrees nie; “die nag van die lang messe sal nooit gebeur” nie? Selfs al is dit ’n legende kan ek nie met volkome sekerheid sê dat so iets nie sal gebeur nie. Neem Rwanda as voorbeeld... feitlik oornag het mense hulle eie familielede vermoor. Wie sou kon voorspel hoedat familielede in Rwana mekaar sou doodmaak? Die etniese verskille in Suid-Afrika is groter as die verskille tussen Hutu en Tsutsi in Rwanda.

Solank as wat politici haatspraak en bloeddorstige krete uiter, byvoorbeeld die lawwe “We will kill for Zuma”-uiting van die ANC-jeugliga, kan ’n mens slegs blinde gerustheid in ons land hê. Jy moet jouself dom-astrand hou om nie onseker te voel oor die toekoms van Suid-Afrika nie.

Sjoe, dit was nou nie juis ’n lekker inskrywing nie.

A Compliment at Work

"You look like a white person" , said someone to me this morning at the staff meeting. What does one make of a statement like that? I assumed it to be a compliment.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Movie Review: Through a Glass Darkly

I just watched another Ingmar Bergman film and I found it very unsettling. I don’t think Through a Glass Darkly (Såsom i en spegel) is as accomplished a film as Wild Strawberries, but then again, Through a Glass Darkly grapples with much more difficult motifs than Wild Strawberries.

The plot of Through A Glass Darkly (1961) centres around the slow mental decline of a woman with, most likely, schizophrenia. There are only four characters in the film: the mentally ill Karen, her younger brother Minus, her writer father, David and her doctor husband, Martin. Everyone, except Martin, live a life on the border of two worlds. Karen wafts in and out of dementia, David lives for his writing and Minus is in puberty. Only Martin lives in one world – a world in which his wife is slowly slipping away from him and he has no way of helping her.




The title of the movie comes from the Bible – 1 Corinthians 13:12 – and refers to our inability to understand perfectly, because of our own imperfection. However, one day, when the “perfect has come” then our imperfect understanding will be gone. It also implies that trying to understand God is like trying to make out an image in a hazy mirror (“glass”), but one day we will see God face to face. Among other things, the movie asks questions about God. Is God merely the delusions of our (mentally ill) minds? Is God love, as suggested by the writer? Is God unknowable as suggested by the confused teenager? Or maybe there is no God; all we have is hopeless rationality, as presented by doctor.

In one scene Karen sees God and is horrified, as God turns out to be a spider. This may be a reference to Dostoevsky’s book Crime and Punishment where one character speculate about the afterlife, asking: “But what if there are only spiders there...” In a closing scene of the film, after Karen accepts her fate, she puts on a pair of sunglasses and quite literally looks “through a glass darkly”, as if to say it is better not to see clearly; it is better not to have our questions answered, for if God exists He is terrifying. Shortly afterwards Minus asks: “show me a god” and although his father says that God is knowable as love – any type of love – the writer's words feel without substance and the viewer is left empty.

The movie was especially upsetting to me as it reminded me so much of my mother’s mental decline up and to her death. There is a moment in the film where Karen is clear-headed and says: “It’s horrible to see one’s own confusion, and to understand it!” It reminded me of one time when my mother too was once clear of mind after a long time of mental disarray. Looking at me with terrible uncertainty, she asked while crying: “When did I deteriorate so?” Dreadful is man’s ability to contemplate its own fate. There is no greater curse than our ability to reflect on our miseries.

Through a Glass Darkly won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. It is also is part of a trilogy of films by Bergman. At the moment I have no intention to watch the other two films. I don’t think I have the emotional reservoir to do so.

Friday, 14 November 2008

A long week and amalgamations

It is nearly Sabbath. I can't wait. For some reason this felt like an exceptionally long week. I'm not sure what caused it to feel so long, as I did not do much more than the prior weeks. I think I'm just tired. If at all possible I hope to go to bed a little earlier tonight.

By the way, I went to a dentist to fix the filling that came out. It cost me $70! Apparently the governmental medical aid that I have only covers amalgamation fillings and there is no way I'll have them put that poison in my mouth again. I went through much effort to get those toxic amalgamation fillings from my childhood taken out. If any of you still have amalgamation fillings I advise you to get rid of them by a biological dentist as soon as possible. Having mercury-amalgamations in your body is a time bomb -- it is just a matter of time before you get some serious illness. See this YouTube video on how amalgamation fillings leak mercury.

A highlight for me this week was to see Quantum of Solace, the latest 007 movie. I might write a review on it later.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Boekresensie (Deel 1): Die Nihilisme

Danie Goosen se filosofiese rede in Die Nihilisme: Notas oor ons tyd (2007) is nie ’n maklike lees nie. Ek is sowat ’n derde deur die boek en daar is soveel dinge waarop ek wil reaggeer dat ek besluit het om maar solank my resensie oor die boek te begin. Ek het besluit om my resensie oor Die Nihilisme in dele te doen; hierdie is Deel 1.

Soos feitlik almal bewus is, lewe ons in die sogenaamde Postmodernisme. Ek beskou myself goed vertroud met die Postmodernisme. Die titel vir my meestersgraadverhandeling is: “Die skep en voorstelling van ’n postmoderne karakteridententeit in prosa”. Vir my studie het ek baie boeke omtrent die postmodernisme gelees. Byna al die boeke wat op daardie stadium in die universiteitsbiblioteek was, wat enigsins met postmodernisme te make het, het ek onder oë gehad. Baie daarvan het ek deurgelees. Let wel, deurgelees; nie bloot gespoedlees (“scan”) nie.

Ek het groot ’n belangstelling in hierdie onderwerp en dis om hierdie rede dat die onderopskrif van Goosen se boek, “notas oor ons tyd”, my aandag getrek het. En inderdaad, Goosen maak dit vanaf die openingsmomente duidelik dat sy narratief gaan handel oor die Modernisme en Postmodernisme en hoedat hierdie tydsgeeste Nihilisme tot gevolg het.

Dit is allermins hoekom ek die boek gekoop het, en nou begin lees het.

Wel, ek het nou al oor die honderd en dertig bladsye gelees en moet getuig dat Goosen nog bitter min te sê gehad het oor ieder die Modernisme, nóg die Postmodernisme. Sover het Goosen feitlik die heeltyd gefokus op die dramaturgie as metafoor vir die wêreld. Bladsy na bladsy swoeg ek deur die ontwikkeling van die dramaturgie, die dramaturgie as filosofiese motief, die dramaturgie as geskikte metafoor vir die wêreld, en so meer.

Ek kan dit vir Goosen in drie reëls met behulp van Shakespeare opsom (uit Jacques se monoloog in die verhoogstuk, As You Like It [2/7]):
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
Ta-daa!

Kan ons nou tot die punt kom asseblief?

Nee ons kan nie. Ek begin nou eers, op bladsy 137, met hoofstuk drie: Die dramaturgiese gemeenskap.

So wanneer ons uiteindelik by die “notas oor ons tyd”, maw die Postmodernisme, gaan uitkom weet nugter alleen. Ek kan nie eers in die inhoudsopgawe soek vir die relevante hoofstukke, as doelwitte om na uit te sien nie, want daar is nie ’n inhoudsopgawe nie!

Maar kom ons kom terug na wat Goosen wel sover oor die Modernisme en die Postmodernisme te sê gehad het. Hy begin in die eerste paragraaf van die hoofstuk een met die volgende stelling:
“So het die modernisme vanaf die 1960’s en 70’s nie net die epog van die postmodernisme geword nie, maar ook die epog van die post-religieuse, die post-metafisiese, die post-historiese, die post-politieke, die post-humane, die post-etiese en die post-estetiese” (Goosen, 2007:22).
Hierdie enkele sin sê vir my dat Goosen dalk teoreties die Postmodernisme vir homself gekonkretiseer het, maar dat hy heeltemal uitvoeling is met die postmoderne mens. Al daardie “post”-samevoegings van Goosen is dalk waar vir die Modernisme, maar ek dink glad nie so geldig vir die Postmodernisme nie. Die Modernisme was inderdaad die epog waarin religie ontmag is, die wetenskap die metafiese ontsê het, en die estetiese geëindig het in witverf op ’n wit doek, of ’n leë musiekblad; in lyn met Goosen se gevolgtrekking – nihilisme.

Dit is moontlik dat ek Goosen verkeerd lees, maar my verstaan van die Postmodernisme is geensins dat dit nihilisties is, soos wat Goosen “post-” beskryf nie. Terwyl die Modernisme religie ontklaar gemaak het, het religie in die Postmodernisme, mynsinsiens, weer herleef. Nie noodwendig in die vorige ortodokse strukture (maw die kerk) nie, maar as iets meer organies en natuurlik. Die meeste hedendaagse mense is nie Modernisties Ateïsties nie. Vir die meeste mense bestaan daar ’n metafisiese. Die verskil is bloot ’n verskuiwing vanaf aanmatige gestruktureerdheid, tot ’n meer natuurlike, of intuïtiewe “geestelikheid”. Vra die standaard Generarsie X’er of sy godsdienstig is, en jy sal hoor dat sy sê, nee nie godsdienstig nie (ek gaan nie kerk toe nie), maar spiritueel (“not religious, but spiritual”).

Ek het nog baie te sê oor daardie een sin van Goosen, maar laat ek aan beweeg.

Iets waarmee ek saam stem is Goosen se idee dat die postmoderne mens ’n tuisteloosheid ervaar – ’n tipe wêreldverlies. Maar dan gaan hy verder deur te beweer dat die Postmodernisme sonder gemeenskap is. Hiermee stem ek nie saam nie. Daar is beslis gemeenskappe (veeltallige gemeenskappe!) in die Postmodernisme, meerso as tydens die Modernisme. Die groot verskil is dat die Modernisme se gemeenskappe was/is geforseer (óf gereduseer) tot gedwonge sisteme. Daarinteen vorm die hedendaagse (postmoderne) mens spontane gemeenskap gebasseer op gedeelde belange en belangstellings. Die postmoderne mense is deel van verskeie subkulture. Neem myself as voorbeeld: Ek het ’n historiese kulturele gemeenskap, maar ek is ook deel van verskeie ander subkulture; belangstellingsubkulture, onder meer ’n Taekwon-Do en krygskuns subkultuur, ’n parkour-subkultuur; verskillende Internetgebasseerde gemeenskappe (byvoorbeeld die blogosfeer); ek is selfs in gemeenskap met mense via die Internet wat ek nog nooit fisies ontmoet het nie. Die Postmodernisme is geensins ontneem van gemeenskappe nie – inteendeel. Die verskil is bloot dat dié gemeenskappe nie meer lyk soos vroeër nie. Die tradisionele familiekring is van minder belang as die vriende kring. Nasionalisme maak plek vir globale interaksie met mense wat ’n gedeelde deler het. En so aan.

Wat sy verdere ontleding van die Postmodernisme betref, fokus Goosen onder andere op die linguistiese aard van die Postmodernisme, en haal Gadamer aan wat sê: “...this world is verbal in nature...” (Ibid, 72.) Baie postkritiese denkers is dit eens dat die Postmodernisme om taal spil, maar ek wonder of dit ’n genoegsaam omvattende onderskraging van die Postmodernisme is.

Eerder as taalmatig, is die Postmodernisme nie dalk visueel nie? Het die woord nie dalk plek gemaak vir die beeld nie? (Ek wens iemand wat iets te sê het oor die Postmodernisme wil bietjie iets nuuts sê.)

Verdere kritiek op Die Nihilisme, is nie Goosen se rasionaal nie, maar eerder die retoriese uiteensetting en toeganklikheid van die teks. Alhoewel Goosen uit sy pad gaan om dinge soos die dramaturgie te bespreek, los hy sekere van die ander hoofbegrippe in die teks, soos “syn”, grootliks ongedefiniëer. Wanneer daar wel definisies aangebied word, raak dit so abstrak dat dit van wynige waarde is. Neem byvoorbeeld hierdie definisie van die Modernisme: “...die modernisme [kan] beskryf word as dié kulturele geheel van dinge ingevolge waarvan daar nie net ’n abrupte breuk tussen transendensie en immanensie, eenheid en verskil in die werklikheid ingevoer word nie, maar ingevolge waarvan daar tegelyk ook ’n onvermoë bestaan om genoemde breuk tot ’n gedifferensieerde eenheid op te voer” (Ibid., 134, 135). Verbeel jou om daardie definisie vir die Modernisme in ’n woordeboek te lees! Mynsinsiens is so ’n definisie selfs vir ’n filosofiese woordeboek ongeskik.

Tensy jy ’n matige kennis van die filosofie het, twyfel ek of die gewone leser enige maklike invalshoek tot die boek kan hê. Goosen bied eenvoudig nie aan die leser ’n geleidelike oploop tot die teks nie.

Daar is meer te sê, maar ek gaan my vereers met die voorafgaande berus.

Speaking to X

Friday evening I spoke to my X on the phone. It happened quite by accident. I’m very good friends with her grandparents – I’ve kind of adopted them as my own (grand)parents as I don’t have my own any more and they graciously accepted the roles. So I phoned them, but to my surprise they were not home and I found myself speaking to X. My heart jumped at hearing her voice and we were both giggly and had lots to talk about. Among other things, she said that she and her new boyfriend (the one after me) broke up.

For a moment I was entertaining the idea of us getting together again. But such musings are, for now, mere whimsical fancies of a forgetful mind. There are reasons X and I broke up. In the first place, me living on the other side of the world is not conducive to a relationship. And secondly, there were other things as well that stood in the way; we both have “issues” – we are artists after all. Admittedly I do miss her and can become quite poetic about it.

Finding a partner is a difficult matter. I’m frequently faced with a dilemma. The people I’m mentally attracted to, I often do not find physically attractive and those I find physically attractive a lot of the time do not excite me mentally.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Greenday vs. Porcupine Tree

Is it just me, or do the tunes of "Epidemic" by Porcupine Tree and "Wake Me Up When September Ends" by Greenday sound exceptionally similar.

Below is a link to Greenday's song, from their 2004 album, "American Idot".


And here is a direct link to an mp3 of "Epidemic" from Porcupine Tree's Blackfield II album. You can download it by right-clicking and choosing "save as".

Nog 'n ou vriend...


Ek was bly om weer een van my vriende te kon sien oor die naweek. Jin was een van eerste studente in Korea, toe ek die vorige keer hier gewerk het. Ek het baie lekker met hom en sy meisie gekuier. Ek dink dit was juis die feit dat hulle twee was, wat dit gemaklik gemaak het. Baie keer het ek gevoel as ek met ’n enkel Koreaanse student kuier dat daar van my verwag word om te “entertain”. Maar Jin en sy meisie kon mekaar “entertain” – en omdat hulle met mekaar kon gesels was daar nie druk op my om as ’n tipe sosiale Engelse tutor op te tree nie. Jin het intussen ’n ander meisie vir wie ek vermoedelik nog sal ontmoet.

Met my vorige verblyf in Korea het ek en Jin verskeie kere saam gekuier, ek het selfs ’n paar keer vir hom gaan kuier in die kamertjie (1.5 x 2m!) wat hy gehuur het terwyl hy werkloos was. Koreane nooi nie sommer mense oor na hulle huise toe nie. Jin was een van die enkele Koreane wat my oor genooi het om te kom kuier. Kort voordat ek terug is Suid-Afrika toe het Jin ’n werk by ’n boukonstruksie-maatskappy as ingeneur gekry in die hitteruilerdepartement. (Ek het nogal baie ingenieursvriende wat met hitteruilers te doene het... Ek wonder wat sit daar agter?) Met sy nuwe werk kon Jin ’n beter blyplek bekostig. Ek was ook genooi daarheen op een geleentheid.

Saterdagaand toe ek die musiekblyspel gaan kyk het, het Jin en Lindiwe saam gegaan. Na die tyd het ek en Jin gaan uiteet (Lindiwe moes huistoe). Dit was regtig aangenaam om hom weer te sien. Jin het herhaaldelik gesê dit voel vir hom of hy droom. Hy kan nie glo dat hy my weer sien nie. Daar was geen waarborg dat ek weer Korea toe sou kom nie en daarom geen waarborg dat ons mekaar weer sou sien nie. Hopenlik sal ons nou meer gereeld geleentheid maak om te kuier.

Daar is nog ’n hele paar kenisse/vriende hier in Korea vir wie ek nog nie gesien het sedert ek terug is nie. Nietemin, ek is bly dat ons stelselmatig weer kontak maak.

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

Charged to be an Excellent Teacher

Samuel Hall - English Department

I just had a meeting with the head of our department. He asked me last week to come see him so that he can check on how I’m adjusting to my new job.

It was a positive meeting – I think. Since there is always a big possibility of miscommunication between high context and low context cultures, it is possible that he communicated things which I did not pick up. High context cultures (like the Korean culture) are not always verbally straight forward. They will talk around an issue, give you hints towards the actual message; you are supposed to pick up these hints and encode the true message, using different clues provided by the context. The context is highly charged with meaning. Low context cultures, typical Western cultures, do not rely so much on the context to convey the message. Instead people speak their mind. The message is much more verbal and direct.

In any case, the professor told me that I will be teaching more specific classes next semester. This semester I taught very general language skills classes, but next semester I am likely to teach some literature (novel and poetry) classes.

He also told me that he expects us teachers to be more “submerged in the department”. (Should I read it as: “you are not working hard enough”?) He continued to explain that students pay W 3, 500 000, that is about $3500, per semester; that is a lot of money, therefore every minute of teaching is valuable. (Should I read it as: “don’t let classes out early”?)

Furthermore, I was warned that as I am a young bachelor I should keep the professional line very clear. I am not to invite female students over to my apartment. I believe in keeping a professional relationship with students, so I didn’t intend to invite students over to my place in any case. He continued to explain that in Korean tradition, the king, parents and teachers are at the same level. As university teachers are the highest level teachers, a high level of professionalism (and in turn evoked respect) is important. (Should I understand this as: “be more professional and more strict”; “don’t be buddy-buddy with students”?)

He continued that since we are working at a Christian university our work is not merely jobs, but vocational. As teachers we shouldn’t just care for the educational growth of our students, but also for their emotional and spiritual well-being. And this requires a high standard of commitment.
And then he finished off by warning me that at the end of the semester students always give feedback – mostly anonymous feedback – regarding the lecturers’ performance. Often, he said, such feedback is negative. I told him that I welcome the feedback as it will allow me to improve.
Lastly he concluded that I have had prior experience with Korea, and the Korean culture, and that I should keep such differences in mind when working with the students.

The meeting was fruitful. It felt like he set before me a commission – a charge to be an excellent teacher. I find it highly motivating and especially look forward to the classes next semester.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

'n Surplus hoop

In 'n tyd wat ek veronderstel was om min hoop te gehad het, kort na 'n sekwens tragedies my lewe getref het, skryf ek die onderstaande gediggie. Dit dateer uit 2000/2001 as ek reg onthou. Vreemd, gisteraand in die bus oppad terug vanaf my Evil Dead: The Musical belewenis, spring die gediggie weer in my kop. Ek het dit jare terug getoonset, en die wysie en woorde het skielik weer kom kuier. Ek was verras toe die gediggie en deuntjie vanoggend nog steeds by my is. Dit is goed om hoop te hê...


Hoop

ek het 'n surplus hoop:
kaste vol sakke hoop
wat ek as geskenk gekry het
in die ogies van 'n kind
wat met reënboë daarin
na my gekyk het
ek het berge vol van hoop
:soveel baie hoop het ek

Self-Portrait: Stripes

Evil Dead: The Musical


Last night I went to see Evil Dead: The Musical. Now if you grew up submerged in pop culture like I have (my mom owned a video store, after all), you’d be very much aware of the cult film phenomenon. What makes a cult film a cult film, is not always the great story, the special effects, the immaculate cinematography or superb acting. Sometimes it is exactly the inverse of these elements. Sometimes, it is the “badness” of a film that makes it great. Evil Dead (1983), written and directed by Sam Raimi (the guy that brought us the recent Spider-Man movies), is such a film.



Five teenagers journey into the woods to a cabin where they accidently unleash demonic forces and one by one turn into zombies. One of the five, Ash, is the last man standing and has to battle through the night to survive. In the process he saws of his possessed hand and replaces the hand with a chainsaw. Evil Dead is pure popcorn violence with lots of blood and gore, but I doubt people ever find it scary. It is too over the top to be taken seriously. And that is probably the fun. Once you see the movie you will realise how influential this film has been to pop culture. The amount of references made in other movies and in pop culture to Evil Dead is amazing.

So when I heard that Evil Dead: The Musical is playing in Seoul, I just had to see it.

The musical is a remake of the original Canadian musical. Of course the Korean version is all Korean, but having had seen the movie (probably more than once), the plot was easy to follow. It is a fun musical with lots of singing and dancing (and some references to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” [YouTube-video]), silliness, and fake blood splattering over the front rows. The audience is made up of mostly women, shrieking and cheering.

Evil Dead: The Musical is not everybody’s cup of tea, but I enjoyed it. Will I go see it again? Probably not. I’d rather go see the very fun Jump! [short video clip], the talented break dancers of The Ballerina that Fell in Love with a B-Boy [video clip] or rock-musical Line 1 again. Another Korean musical which I’d still like to see is the percussion play, Tokebi Storm. If I can afford it I plan to go see Cirque du Soleil currently performing in Seoul.

Movie Review: May 18th

As planned I went to see May 18th at the Seoul Global Village, Yeoksam, on Friday afternoon. The theatre is in the Yeoksam Cultural Centre, in Gangnam. It took me longer than expected to get there, so a missed the opening sequences of the movie, but I don’t think I missed too much.

May 18th tells the story of the student uprising against the military regime in 1980, Gwangju City, South Korea. After the assassination of army general Park Chung-hee who took control of the Korean government in a coup d’état, Chun Doo-hwon, also an army general, took office. It is widely believed that Park was assassinated because of his dictatorial rule. His successor turned out to be somewhat of an authoritarian himself. When people in Gwangju were maltreated by the military, high school and college students and later other civilians as well rose up against the military in Gwangju. President Chun Doo-hwon sanctioned the massacre of the "Communist rebels". Between 18 to 27 May 1980, hundreds of civilians were beaten or shot to death. The uprising was definitely not by Communist rebels, but rather people fighting against the "democratic" dictatorial military regime.



I cried on more than one occasion while watching the film. Such atrocities really happen – and is still happening around the world. It sickens me. What is really scary is how I see once “free” countries moving in the same direction. The reason the Gwangju incident could happen so easily was because the president had a lot of centralized power and there was a “threat” (Communism) to blame shift. At present, America is in the same boat. President Bush ensured that the president has outlandish amounts of centralized power – in direct opposition to the freedoms fought for by the Founding Fathers. Also, “terrorism” has became the great scapegoat just as “Communism” was for Korea. Unless President Obama gives up the powers entrusted by his predecessor, something like the Gwangju incident can easily happen in the United States. In fact, everything for it to happen is in place; all that is needed is a slight provocation to ignite the situation. There is even a standing army in the United States, in case of “civilian unrest”. Obama might seem like the hero of the hour, and his message of hoping is sweeping up the world into a frenzy, but unless he lifts the authoritarian laws put in place by the previous government, I don’t trust him any more than I trust any other politician.

As for the movie, it is not a very good film. I think the use of stereotypical “funny characters” to lighten the mood of the macabre events depicted, spoiled the seriousness of the movie. Unlike the makers of the fabulous 2004 movie, Taegukgi (Brotherhood at War), May 18th just didn’t do justice to the historical events.

For those interested in the Gwangju Democratization Movement, I suggest you visit Gwangju itself, and the memorial park in particular. A lot of effort was done and I felt that the art (monuments, statues, etc.) somehow captured some of the emotion of the event - much better than the film, May 18th.

For an excellent film on recent Korean history rather watch Kang Je-gyu's Taegukgi (Brotherhood at War) about the Korean War.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Carpet

Green-Crimson

Colourful Theology

These photos are views of the autumn foliage and the Theology Building on campus where I work. The first photo shows the Theology Building from the side front, and the second photo shows the building from the side back.

A Room With A View

This is the view from my bedroom window. Everyday the colours change. I'm ecstatic with all the autumn colours.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

A Yam for a Tooth

This morning I took sweet potatoes (yams), which I cooked last night, and cut them into pieces. Then I fried the chunks in a little oil, seasoning it with cinnamon and cloves. Lastly I stirred in golden syrup to caramelise everything. It tasted lovely! Unfortunately the decadent toffee pulled out a filling from one of my teeth. Today after work I tried to find a dentist, but they were all closed. I don't think I will have time to get to one tomorrow either. I hope that the integrity of the tooth is not compromised too much, and that it will stay intact until I can get to a dentist, hopefully over the weekend, and if not over the weekend at least on Tuesday...

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

'n Oog vir 'n oog

An oil painting by Carl Hammoud.


Ek neem al hoe meer gereeld werk huistoe. In 'n vorige inskrywing, toe ek vir die eerste keer werk huistoe geneem het, het ek gekla dat ek dit nie wil doen nie. Intussen het ek my opinie daaroor verander.

Dit is bloot regverdig, dink ek. Ek is tegnies veronderstel om vanaf 9vm tot 5nm op kantoor te wees. Maar Woensdagoggende neem ek sowat 'n uur en half af om Taekkyeon te gaan oefen en Dinsdag- en Donderdagmiddae vertrek ek 'n uur vroeër, sodat ek die Hapkido-sessie om 5nm kan bywoon. So in geheel neem ek omtrent drie tot vier ure 'n week af. Hipoteties gesproke behoort ek dan drie tot vier ure terug te werk. Daar is niemand wat oor my skouer loer of my dwing om op kantoor te sit nie. Nietemin, ek gaan nie meer kla as ek werk huistoe neem nie.

Up for a free movie?

Do you wanna watch a free movie on Friday afternoon?

Coming Friday (November 7th) I plan to go see a movie at the Seoul Global Village in Yeoksam, Seoul. [Find the map here.] The Global Village has a Movie Day, the first Friday of every month. This month they are showing May 18 ("Hwaryeohan hyuga"). The film is about the Democratization Movement and the massacre that happened in Gwanju in the 80s when students revolted against the militarized government.

I plan to go to the 3pm viewing. If you're interested, please email me at sankolewis at gmail dot com, so that we can make arrangements.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Autumn Colours

Next subwaybook

I've just decided what my next subway read will be -- C. S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man. I'm already looking forward to it. There are two problems though. (1) The book I'm currently reading, Danie Goosen's Die Nihilisme is a slow read, so it will be long before I'll start with my next subway book. (2) I don't have The Abolition of Man.

On the other hand, it might not be a good decision to read two philosophical texts one after the other. Maybe I should read a short novel before I start The Abolition of Man. I may even consider a Shakespeare play. It's been over a year since I last read any Shakespeare.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

November Kicks-Off with an International Flair

The first weekend of November was rather jam packed. Friday afternoon I went for a Hapkido test. It was one of those quick tests, where I’ve learned some of the techniques only the day before and was tested on them the next day. Luckily the kwanjangnim (chief instructor) seemed pleased with my performance – so I passed. I’m a 1st Dan in Hapkido at present. Before I can go for my 2nd Dan test I need to do about 10 of these intermediate tests along the way. I actually appreciate these short-term goals, which conveniently breaks down the bigger syllabus in bite-sized chunks.

Saturday morning the previous student cell-group I’m responsible for was replaced with a new one. After the cell-group I went to church. Young attended there as well. Afterwards we went to the apartment of one of my colleagues. Bessie invited a couple of teachers and students over for lunch at her place. The meeting included some Americans, English, South Africans and Koreans.
Next, I went with Young to a church in Kangnam where a missionary Oriental doctor treats people for free. Young has been experiencing some sinus-problems and has been treated by this doctor a couple of times. Since the treatment is free, there was a queue of people so we had to wait quite some time. It was worth the wait to see the doctor pressing an inch long needle into my friends face!

I rushed back home to come get my wallet, as I planned to meet Lindiwe in the city for some shopping. I seriously need some more warm clothes. But once I got home I just couldn’t bear the idea of travelling an hour back to the city hub. So I decided to stay in Saturday night. I stayed up late watching Japanese anime and surfing the Net.

John doing a Hapkido technique on Simon.

Sunday morning I slept in and the dashed off to meet John (my Hapkido friend). John wrote an Hapkido article and needed some photos to go with it, so he asked me to take them while he and Simon (another Hapkido friend) demonstrated the techniques. It was quite nice to see Simon again. We used to train together often during my previous stay in Korea.

John pointed out the nice international vibe we’ve got going as we were walking towards the spot where we took the photos. We were five nationalities strolling through a suburb in Seoul. John is American; his wife, Yoshiko, is Japanese. Simon is English, his girlfriend, Jennifer, is Canadian; and of course, I’m South African. Then there was also little Mika – John and Yoshiko’s daughter (Japanese-American-Born-In-Korea).

Towards the end of our visit I noticed that I started to get a little irritable. I’m blaming it on blood sugar levels, and being hungry. As I’m usually very much a go-with-the-flow kind of guy people are often taken aback when I suddenly assert myself. This happened this afternoon with John as well. We were doing some Hapkido techniques when I brought up my dismay over the terminology of a certain technique. The problem is, Hapkido techniques are not properly “named” – not even in Korean. So trying to come to grips with techniques we often borrow terminology from other grappling styles, or just invent our own. The dilemma is that things don't always make sense (to me at least).

But actually, the real issue is that I’m a wordsmith. Not in the “always grammatically correct”-kind of way... rather in the “words have specific meanings”-kind of way. John pointed out that we argued over semantics and I was thinking – exactly! That is the point.

My quandary with semantics is not isolated to Hapkido only. I have a similar issue with how Taekwon-Do terms are translated from Korean into English as well.

Words are not merely words to me. Words are thoughts. Words are weapons. Words can heal. Words can create. After all, the Word created everything. (See John 1:1-3.)

After the visit at John’s I went to Itaewon where I met Lindiwe for dinner, after which we rushed to my campus for a gospel performance. The music group is called the Golden Angels. They are currently in their fifth ensemble. The current group consists of Korean, Japanese and Mongolian members. Next year a Malasian lady is joining the group. The music isn’t really my style of music, although there were some good songs. I wasn’t really in the mood to go, but Young’s fiancé, Angelina, was performing. Angelina did a delightful solo. She isn't a current member of the Golden Angels anymore, more but for this special concert they invited all the previous members join the show.

And now I’m doing laundry and preparing for tomorrows classes.

The photos in this post is are not Creative Commons images.