Thursday, 30 April 2009

An Accidental Encounter From a Distance with Daniel Henney


I went to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine today with a friend, Young. (I’ll probably write about the movie in more detail later – let it suffice to say that it wasn’t as good as any of the other X-Men movies.) During the closing credits of the movie the house lights suddenly went on and instead of the usual dimmed lights, they were all bright and menacing. Then a lady walked onto the “stage”, microphone in hand, and announced that Daniel Henney, the Korean American actor that plays a character in the movie is here and will say a few words. The girls cheered and some guys even shouted something which Young translated as “I adore you!”, or something to that effect, but he might have joked.

In any case, Daniel Henney, who acts as the character Agent Zero, walked onto the stage and gave a short speech about his continual effort to play in many more Hollywood and Korean movies in the future. I guess fans ought to have found it very exciting. Unfortunately I don’t know the guy's work and I’m not too much into the whole celebrity-madness.

Since I didn’t know who he is, I decided to do some quick research on him. Henney is about my age. His mother is an American Korean, his father is Caucasian and as is often the case mixed Korean offspring tend to be quite attractive as adults. Henney made his breakthrough as a commercial model only recently (2005) moved into TV and film. He appeared in a couple of advertisements with some high profile celebrities, for example the Bean Pole add with Gwennyth Paltrow. X-Men Origins is his first Hollywood film. Before that he played in two Korean productions (Seducing Mr. Perfect and My Father – I haven’t seen either).

Now one day when his name come up in a conversation I'll have something pretentious to say, like: "O, Daniel, yeah, I once saw him in person."

For those interested there are more info and photos available at the Hot Korean Men Blog. If you want something with more substance, read the article Who the Hell is Daniel Henney? And on YouTube I found this interview of Daniel Henney and Hugh Jackman that was done in Korea only a couple of weeks ago. I was more interested in another Daniel Henney YouTube video with Seong Hye Kyo. She reminds me a little of Monica Bellucci.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Book Review: Frankenstein


Last week I finished reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which was first published in1918. I’m not going to do a full review of this book. What novel thing can I say about such a well established classic? Instead I will just make a couple of comments that will probably reveal more about me, than about this Romanticist novel.

The first thing I noticed was how much my “ideas” about Frankenstein was clouded by popular culture. Most people believe that the monster is named Frankenstein. Well I knew enough about the book before hand to know that that is not the case – it is actually the name of the scientist that created the monster: Victor Frankenstein. However, reading the book I kept waiting for those scenes from an old black and white movie with a man in a white overcoat asking his side-kick called Igor to pull the levers, which starts electric sparks to jump between gigantic capacitors and then another lever is pulled, and yet another; the inanimate body of the monster, constructed from various body parts, suddenly convulsing under a bolt of electricity. And then suddenly it opens its eyes and the mad scientist starts to laugh uncontrollably shouting: “It’s alive! It’s alive!”

Well . . . that scene is not in the book. Reading Frankenstein I came to the conclusion that almost all my ideas of the story are blighted by cinematic and other pop-culture depictions.

The second thing I noticed was how delectably rich I foundthe lexis in book. I just reveled in Shelley’s language. Did people in the 19th century really speak like that? If so, I think they were much more intellectual than most people are today. I am fully convinced that language ability (vocabulary) is an indicator of intelligence, for it is mostly words from which our thoughts are build up with. These days, few people speak with the precision and finesse as that of the characters in Shelley’s book. We use clumsily formed utterances, often cluttered with meaningless fillers such as “ya’ know” and “like ’n”. Most people make use of a limited number of adjectives and adverbs, leaving their speech dry and uninspiring.

This is all I have time for now. Let me conclude by saying Frankenstein is well worth reading, if for no other reason than to check your pop-culture conceptions of Frankenstein with the original.

For all things “Frankenstein”, visit the very interesting Frankensteinia-blog.


Monday, 27 April 2009

Susan Boyle

If you haven't been swept up by this unlikely diva from Brittain's Got Talent 2009 yet, be sure to check her out and be prepared to be blown away.

We've been so conditioned by popular media to think that talent and beauty always goes hand in hand that it is almost impossible for us to conceive of this un-beautiful lady, with her rather course mannerisms, to be the vehicle of such a divine voice. It reminds me of the enigma faced by the students of Socrates: "The well-born young Athenians who gathered around Socrates found it quite paradoxical that their hero was so intelligent, so brave, so honorable, so seductive -- and so ugly", writes Susan Sontag in her great essay on beauty, "A Woman's Beaty: Put-Down or Power Source?"

What does Freedom Day mean to you?

Image from The Witness

Today (27 April) is Freedom Day in South Africa, to celebrate the end of the apartheid-regime in 1994. Listening to a South African radio news program today, one interviewee had the following to say: “[Freedom Day] means a lot to a lot of African people; but being a white person, it means nothing to me.”

This is a sad, but true report of how many white South Africans feel. I think the government, revolution leaders and supposed freedom luminaries failed at conveying the true value of giving liberty to the previously disadvantaged. The message that the new powers-that-be failed to convey to the formerly white elite is that they, too, have been liberated. While apartheid might have superficially benefited white people, it also denied them, it also oppressed them, and it also dehumanized them. Outwardly this may not be easy to see, as white people did not suffer the same physical sufferings than the other ethnicities suffered. However, unjust laws, such as legalized racism (i.e. apartheid), not only dehumanizes those that experience the brunt of such inhumane laws; the enforcers and endorsers of unjust laws are also dehumanised – their values are corrupted; their virtues traded for vices.

Freedom Day is not merely the celebration of the freedom procured by South Africa’s blacks, coloureds and Asians from their oppressors; Freedom Day is also the celebration of the release of the white man’s soul from the manacles of racism. While the previously disadvantaged celebrate their physical liberation, white people have now the opportunity to celebrate their spiritual liberation.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

’n Droom

Ek het vandag wakker geskrik uit ’n droom met intense buikwroegende emosie. Waarskynlik sou dit as ’n nagemerrie kon geld, maar daar was geen monsters of moordenaars nie; slegs ’n skielike oorweldige besef van verdrietige teenspoed.

Wyl ek baie keer gewone drome het, soos gewone mense, droom ek ook baie keer stories; narratiewe waarin ek nie ’n karakter is nie. Dit was so ’n droom wat ek vandag gehad het. Groot dele van die droom kan ek nie onthou nie en daaroor is ek baie spyt want ek onthou wel dat dit ’n goeie storie was wat ek baie graag sou wou neerskryf. Wat ek gaan vertel is die laaste deel van die droom wat ek wel onthou.

’n Jong seun gaan saam met sy pa en ma hospitaal toe. Daar’s niks nuuts daaraan nie. Sy ma is kronies siek en hierdie hospitaalbesoeke het ’n gereelde gebeurtenis geword. Sy pa is ’n motorwerktuigkundige met geweldige trots op sy werk. Hy’s ’n perfeksionis wat nooit iets ongedaan laat nie. Elke boutjie is vas gedraai, nooit is ’n skroefie vermis nie. By die hospitaal word die seun die kar se sleutel gegee om iets in die motor te gaan doen. Ek vermoed dit was om die motorligte af te skakel. Die seun maak die bestuurdersdeur oop en sien dat die binne paneel van die motordeur nie op is nie. Sy pa het aan die deur gewerk, dalk aan die venster meganisme gewerk, maar nooit die die paneel terug gesit, die boudjies vas gemaak, die skroewe in plek gedraai nie. Op daardie oomblik oorval skokkende insig hom. Sy pa, die alewige perfeksionis, het moed op gegee. En hy besef, sy ma se situasie is hopeloos. Sy gaan sterf.

Die skokkende insig tref my met sulke geweld dat ek wakker skrik uit my droom met ’n konvulsie. Die ontbrekende paneel wat as simbool dien vir sy pa se oorgee aan die onvermeidelike komende sterwe van sy ma tref my met sulke intensiteit dat ek selfs nou, in terugskoue, die emosie in my lyf voel.

Hoekom hierdie erge impak op my? Duidelik het die droom – die storie van ’n seun wat sy ma verloor – met my te make. Die paralelle is opsigtelik. My ma was vir baie jare kronies siek en het uiteindelik aan haar siekte ontkom. My pa was as ambagsman ’n motorwerktuigkundige, alhoewel hy in beroep ’n besigheidsman was. Was daar so ’n oomblik wat my pa moed op gegee het, geen hoop meer gehad het nie, en my ma se sterwe as simbool in sy dade sigbaar was? Ek kan nie so gebeurtenis onthou nie. (Dalk is dit onderdruk.) Wat is die betekenisvolheid van hierdie besef wat my so ontstel het?

Enige lesers wat lus het om my droom te analiseer / interpreteer? Ek weet daar is ’n sielkundige wat hierdie blog lees en ook ander met baie insig.

The Newest South Africa

As expected, the ANC won the South African election. I'm happy, at least, that this election was mostly open, with no serious violence or intimidation and that the ANC did not get a two-thirds majority this time round.

I read a nice article at The Times, exploring the ANC's brilliant election campaign. If only they put in the same amount of effort in running the country as they did in running their election campaign, South Africa will have a bright future. But then again, who am I kidding? Nonetheless, I pray the best for Jacob Zuma, presumably South Africa's next president.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Tips to Avoid Being Assaulted in Korea

The following is from the Metropolotician, a blogger-expat in Seoul whom has lived in Korea for many years now. When it comes to a foreigner's experiences in Korea, this blogger has been here long enough to know what he's talking about.

Although I haven't suffered any violence on my person in Korea, I have experienced some negative stares. I've also experienced some non-verbal ostracization which is hard to explain; I've also experienced some rude Koreans and am at loss to the cause, unless I conclude it is a form of racist anger, maybe against Americans (and US-GI's in particular).

Image from USinKorea.Org

I've come to accept that I'll always be the "whoigukin" ("the foreigner") and since I'm cocasion will usually be mistaken as a "migukin" ("American"). My only hope is to gain some brownie-points by learning the language. Luckily I do have some really good Korean friends who has helped me feel accepted and kept me from forming too strong generalised ideas about Koreans.

A friend of mine's daughter has been attacked once -- the (Korean) man followed her to her apartment and violently forced himself into her apartment just as she opened the door. She was luckily able to escape. So although Korea is in general a very safe place, foreigners should not be ignorant -- violence do occur and foreigners are occassionally the target.

Tips to Avoid Being Assaulted in Korea

To help those new to Korea, especially non-Korean Americans, I've compiled a list of little things to do to help reduce your chance of being attacked.

Because the police will likely not help you, since you are a foreigner, and might even arrest YOU if any Korean simply accuses you of being the instigator, even if you were the victim. And also included are some tips to avoid sexual harrassment and attacks on foreign women as well, at least from what I have seen and heard as a man.

There will necessarily be generalizations made here, not so much about people, but about probabilities that things will happen. But I think it's like wearing a seatbelt: it only helps if you do it consistently, not once-in-a-while. So, in order to prevent bad things from occurring, you have to just avoid doing certain things, or condition yourself to behave in slightly different ways in certain situations.

"HIGH-RISK" FOR BEING HARASSED OR ASSAULTED
--- Foreign men, specifically men who do not look like they may be migrant or factory workers. Those people are generally socially invisible, which is another problem and issue, but not what we're discussing here.
--- If you are or look like an American GI.
--- If you are part of a foreign male/Korean female couple. If you and/or your female companion would be considered more attractive than usual by Korean standards, you have an even higher likelihood of being harrassed.
--- If you are in a group of foreigners, especially speaking English loudly.
--- In certain areas, just being foreign.

AVOID DRUNK MEN, ESPECIALLY IN GROUPS.
If you are a foreigner, you stand out more, and are a magnet for trouble, much more than the average Korean, who also probably avoids these people. But as a foreigner, you bring up some person's anti-American sentiment, or their negative experience from the past, or whatever irrational reason to dislike you there may be. And even if they appear friendly at first, AVOID THEM. Many times, the drunk ajussi appears harmless or even friendly at first, before becoming demanding, abusive, and even violent. Rule of thumb: Drunk ajussis = trouble. Don't look, talk, or interact with them. If you are on a subway, move to the other side or change cars. Avoid all contact, and most of the chances of having a bad encounter will go away.

IF YOU ARE WITH A KOREAN WOMAN (AS A MAN), AVOID PLACES FILLED WITH STUDENTS OR THOSE FROM THE LOWER-CLASS.
Sounds harsh, but true. Almost all of my troubles are with university-age students or drunk older men who are in places such as Yeongdeungpo or on the #1 line. That is why Shinchon is also asking for trouble, or bars around Kangnam Station. Personally, I've cut out most potential for altercations by not taking the #1 line at all. In fact, I don't take the subway at all, which leads me to my next point...

SUBWAYS ARE THE MOST LIKELY PLACES TO GET INTO ALTERCATIONS. IF YOU ARE "HIGH-RISK", TRY TO AVOID.
You can take the bus. If you must take the subway, know that the more working-class the subway gets, the higher the likelihood for drunken verbal assaults. I never, ever take the #1 line at night or on the weekend, and the #2 line is sometimes just as bad. I never really had much trouble on the other lines. But since you are in an enclosed space, if trouble starts, it's often hard to get out. And for some reason, no one's really ever started trouble with me on the bus. Perhaps it's because it feels more "public" and less enclosed? Who knows? Taking the bus is a great way to learn the city geography, anyway.

AVOID SMALL BARS.
Often, you being animated, laughing, and speaking loudly in a bar will irritate the other customers. It doesn't matter if they are speaking as loudly, screaming, or carrying on more than you. If you are a group of foreigners doing this in another language, people will get annoyed, especially a group of men. Choosing a wide-open, large bar is preferable to a small, cozy "hof" in most cases.

AVOID SPEAKING ENGLISH IN CONFINED SPACES.
It's not fair, but you talking on your cellphone in English is far more irritating to Koreans than another Korean doing the same thing. Even you talking with your friend in English annoys many Koreans. I have had so many friends simply slapped by older men, I can't recount. It sounds far-fetched, but you can choose to believe me or not. Doesn't matter to me, but I've known several people (all women) who were slapped by older men on intercity buses for talking in English. At the very least, know that speaking English in Korea is not a neutral thing to do, since it is associated with intelligence, money, and arrogance. Sort of like having a haughty British accent in America, but squared. Just know many people will find it "rude" or presumptuous of you to speak it. Just know that and be aware.

BE CAREFUL IN THE NEIGHBORHOODS OF HONGDAE, SHINCHON, AND KANGNAM STATION.
Most attacks on foreigners I've ever heard of happened in those places, as they seem to be where the problematic demographics mentioned above tend to cluster. In general, the higher the number of 20-somethings, of men, of the working-class, and of foreigners means more possibility for altercations. And if you are in a place with mostly DRUNK 20-something men who are looking for a scapegoat and someone fitting some stereotype, the more you're asking for trouble to start. Doesn't mean you have to avoid them altogether, but don't walk around with your iPod blaring, humming happily in places where there are groups of drunk Korean men stumbling around, looking for trouble.

BE CAREFUL OF "COLLATERAL DAMAGE" TO YOUR COMPANIONS.
Generally, the woman is attacked first by a Korean for being with a foreign guy. But how many silent sneers are made that you never notice? If you're sharing a taxi with your girlfriend, don't jump out and let her go on home in the same taxi. I've heard a couple stories of bad things happening in terms of some ajussi wanting to "teach a lesson" to some Korean girl with a foreign guy; at the very least, girlfriends of mine were given the verbal third-degree as soon as I stepped out of the car. Don't play craps with your female companion's safety. Remember - she doesn't even have to be your girlfriend to be placed in that position. I have had my apartment building's ajussi spread lies about me to a visiting girlfriend, the bootleg DVD guy telling her to remember her Korean pride and stop dating foreigners, you name it. Think about these things in terms of personal safety and you shouldn't have any problem. What's lost by switching to a new taxi?

IF YOU ARE A MODERATELY ATTRACTIVE FOREIGN WOMAN, BE MORE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS.
Sounds crude, but so is the sexual harassment. If you have large breasts, or blonde hair, or are thin and wear short skirts – basically, have some point of sexual attractiveness as many Korean men would see it, be careful. Not reported very much in the Korean media are cases of foreign women being raped, and just the few specific cases I could name right off the top of my head outnumber the cases the Korean media likes to blow up to the level of national scandal. So be careful. Partially enabling this is the fact that reporting of sexual harrassment or assault is difficult to begin with, and a lot of victim-blaming occurs.

-----------

That was the original post. Now, let me add some tips to stay out of fights if you do run into some trouble:

WALK AWAY
Don't say anything -- just get out of the situation. Walk away from the (usually drunk) harasser and avoid him or you losing control. If a fight occurs, as a foreigner, it's almost always going to be your fault. Your testimony will not be weighed as much as a Korean's. A Korean police officer was frank and told me that straight up when I was arrested. He said I shouldn't have called the police because my testimony means almost squat when it comes to a foreigner's word versus a Korean's. I think the only reason I was eventually let off (the case was dismissed) was because a Korean testified on my behalf (even though technically, she was IN our party and one might think her testimony worthy of doubt). The best thing to do is avoid the hours you'll spend in the police station even if you're RIGHT. And if the Korean decides to lie and say you hit him...you're screwed.

RECORD
How large is a digital camera these days? Do you know almost all compact models have a video function? And audio as well? I know ExpatJane's patented technique -- she has a compact video camera she carries with her everywhere she goes, and whenever anything starts (like someone acting a fool), she doesn't say anything and just flips it out and starts recording. Usually ends the issue right there, and if anything happens, just keep filming.

YELL LOUDLY IN KOREAN
If you're going to yell or even curse, do it in KOREAN. The psychology of the drunk ajussi assumes that 1) you won't fight back, and 2) you can't speak Korean. If you say something like, "Stop it! Don't talk to me!" in Korean, very loudly, say as in the top of your lungs, it's a bit embarrassing, but it's doubly embarrassing for the harasser. If you speak Korean, you automatically boost your street cred as a "good" foreigner who bothered to learn Korean, and psychologically, it forces the harasser to see you as more of a "real" human (i.e. Korean) since you are speaking his language, and not some foreign body that is a function of his racist hangups. Trust me, on the few times I've done this in the "lone drunk ajussi" situation, it worked like a charm. Key is to do this in a crowd, in a situation where it's very clear that the harasser is in the wrong. In that kind of situation, Koreans may even lift a finger to come to your aid -- but don't count on it. Generally, they also want to avoid trouble with the police, since it means sitting in some station for hours. This is best used on public transportation. If you don't know how to say "Stop it! Don't talk to me!" in angry-but-polite-form Korean, learn to do so right now. It may be the most helpful Korean you ever learn. Caveat: If you yell loudly in English, you're just THAT foreign asshole. Don't let the crowd push you into your own stereotype by behaving according to it. Yell in Korean.

DON'T HIT
In Korea, it doesn't matter who started it, who struck first. And if you're a foreigner, it doesn't matter if you're defending yourself -- if you even TOUCH a Korean attacker, the moaning and complaining of whiplash and permanent injury and LUCRATIVE BLOOD MONEY that they might demand at the police station in agreement for not pressing charges is what they are waiting for. You don't want to even go there. Don't even push the guy on the shoulder. Don't touch him. And even if nothing happened, try to get a witness -- a Korean, since your foreign friend's testimony is meaningless -- to simply say that nothing happened. Because the Korean will more likely than not say you hit him, even if you actually didn't. And if you guys think that's just me being negative, it's not -- it's the ADVICE THE COP GAVE ME when I myself was arrested.

IF YOU PRESS CHARGES FOR BEING ASSAULTED/ATTACKED
Expect that the Korean will countersue and said you harrassed/hit HIM. It's standard procedure. And if you have Koreans standing around who saw the whole incident (or non-incident), many will lie on behalf of the Korean. I've seen it happen several times, so don't take me at my word if you like. Basically, if the crowd doesn't like you, if you've loud and angry and rude as well -- but importantly, you didn't throw a punch -- they're going to defend the Korean. Unless you some innocent Erkel lying bleeding on the ground surrounded by your library books and lunch money, with 4 Korean thugs spitting on you like a scene out of a bad movie, YOU hit the guy, too. Expect that countersuit unless you have photographic evidence that ACTIVELY proves you did NOT hit back, or a lot of sympathetic Korean witnesses. For those Korean witnesses, I don't think it matters what actually HAPPENED, but what they think the outcome SHOULD be. If you fit the stereotype of the detested foreigner with the low-class Korean girlfriend, even if you were assaulted by a couple of drunk university kids who thought you shouldn't be holding hands with a Korean girl -- it's the desired outcome, not the trivial ethical matter of whether you actually hit or not -- that decides it. Get that camera out.

DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO
But if you feel like you are in real danger, I always say it's better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6 (or have your wife raped by thugs in a noraebang). And even though it won't be a jury that'll judge you, and you'll probably be blamed for it, having someone physically attack my wife or attempt to stab me in the chest with a broken bottle isn't something you need tips to react to. You need to do what you have to do, even if the Korean system is going to blame you for simply defending yourself. But...

TRY NOT TO USE WEAPONS
Bottles, knives, poles -- all carry huge additional penalties if they are used. Don't even pick up a soju bottle just for show, or to act out the scene in that cool movie you remember. You become the foreigner-who-tried-to-kill-me-with-a-dangerous-weapon. And the weight of the entire ethnocentric legal system, combined with a racist news media that has built foreigners up into drug-doping, kid groping, Korean virgin-poking monsters, is all against you. Don't pick up that bottle.

About North-Korean Defecters and Such

I have a real burden for the people of North Korea. My heart breaks when I think of the sufferings they endure, how they are brain washed by the North Korean Communist regime, how some of the most basic of human rights are violated.

I watched this short documentary video recently about North Korean child defectors trying to adjust in South Korea, and admittedly I cried. I wrote once about meeting a North Korean defector and his trials. Coming to South Korea is not the end of their hardship. Here they feel completely inept for the fast pace, highly technological lifestyle. Simple things like taking the subway or a bus are completely new and foreign to them. In South Korea where computer literacy is among the highest in the world, defectors are often completely computer illiterate. Also, it is very difficult to make close friendships in Korea, since culturally, the closest friendships are formed while in school. There is also some social discrimination against North Koreans which makes it very difficult for them to find partners.

I've had this burden for the plight of the North Korean people for many years now -- even before I came to Korea. It might be my connection with Korean history through ITF Taekwon-Do. In ITF Taekwon-Do one is continually exposed to many aspects of Korea's long and often tragic history.

In the video I referred to earlier, the girl cries, wondering if reunification between North and South Korea will ever occur, so that she can see her parents again. I share her angst. The chances of reunification happening any time soon is very minute. North Korea has a lot of mineral resources and a large labour force, while South Korea excel in technology. If the two should unite the combined Korea would be extremely strong. Of course this is a serious concern for Japan; therefore, Japan is not in favour of Korea's reunification. Also, North Korea creates a buffer between the American forces in South Korea and China. For this reason China doesn't want reunification for fear of a closer presence of American forces to China. Thus for political and economic reasons, Korea's closest neighbours, China and Japan, are not making reunification an easy task. Not to mention the internal strifling between the two Koreas themselves.

It is just a sad sad tale, and at present I can only anguish with that girl and all those children that are weeping for their families. I really don't know what the solution is. I can only hope for some miraculous solution, 'cause all the man-made options seem without positive effect. What will open up North Korea but war? And how much further suffering will such a war bring and at what cost? Then again, how much is the freedom of these poor people worth? Isn't it worth a relatively short war, versus the long time suffering they are exposed to at present? But can war ever be condoned, apart from national defence? There are just so many questions and in the meantime the suffering continues. The worst part is that some of those poor people are too brainwashed to realise the extremity of their plight or see the real cause of their suffering. Many of them really think that they are suffering the way they do because of "Evil America"; instead of their real enemy their "Dear Leader", the dictator Kim Jong-Il.

What we see here is the human plight within the Great Controversy. The character of God has been so blighted that we often accuse God of the misery in the world, instead of seeing the true source of evil.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Die voetewassing van (die intertekstuele) Jacob Zuma

Hierdie is ’n essay wat ek lank terug (verlede jaar) vir P~YP! geskryf het. Onwetend aan my kant van die wêreld was daar op dieselfde tyd politieke onrus op kampus, en was die redaksie effens skrikkerig oor die reaksie wat my essay kan ontlok. Ek het toe besluit om nie die essay te plaas nie, maar het toe ’n ander essay geskryf oor "self-censorship" wat ek dink goed afgegaan het.

Wel, met die onlangse verkiesing en die (religieuse) Zuma se naam op almal se lippe het ek gedink dis nou dalk ’n goeie tyd om dit weer af te stof. Nes die "Size doesn't matter, or does it?"-essay kry "Voetewassing" nou maar ’n plekkie hier.

Die voetewassing van (die intertekstuele) Jacob Zuma


Vroeër vanjaar het ek ’n bybelstudie groep gefassiliteer. Die onderwerp: die buitengewoonheid van Jesus se leer. Dié oggend gesels ons oor van Jesus se mees radikale stellings – “Julle moet jul vyande liefhê; seën die wat vir julle vervloek, doen goed aan die wat vir julle haat, en bid vir die wat julle beledig en julle vervolg...” Ek gaan met die ry af en vra: “Wie is jou vyand?” Nie een kan aan ’n vyand dink nie. Ek besluit om dit maar vanuit ’n ander (en minder vyandige) hoek te benader. “Goed dan, van wie hou jy regtig nie?” Dit gaan veel makliker. Twee name kom op, Jacob Zuma en Robert Mugabe. En toe laatval ek die bom: “As ons Jesus reg verstaan, dan sê Hy hier dat ons vir Jacob Zuma en Robert Mugabe moet lief hê.”

Later begin die kunstenaar in my wonder oor hoe om hierdie radikale leer van Jesus visueel te illustreer? Een van Jesus se vyande was seker Judas wat hom verraai het. Hoe het Jesus vir Judas hanteer? Hy het sy voete gewas en hom laat deel hê aan die nagmaal – simbole van sy vergifnis. En so ontstaan die skets Die voetewassing van Jacob Zuma . Ouderling Pretorius is ontsteld en sê vir my dis godslasterlik. Hy’s opgeblaas en rooi in die gesig. Ek ignoreer hom. Ouderling Klopper is minder emosioneel, maar is die skets ook teengekant. “Jacob Zuma is lankal nie meer ’n mens nie,” sê hy vir my. “Zuma is ’n ikoon vir ’n politieke ideologie.” En na Ouderling Klopper luister ek. “Jy is besig met ’n politiese stelling, nie ’n religieuse stelling nie.”

In my skets het ek Jesus se liefdesbeginsel probeer illustreer, maar my illustrasie faal omdat dit onmoontlik geword het om vir Jacob Zuma (en slegs Jacob Zuma) te teken. Jacob Zuma het ’n nes geword vir verskeie idees. Teken jy Jacob Zuma, teken jy óók alles wat met hom geassosieer word: hofsake oor korrupsie, verkragtingsaantuigings, VIGS, storte, veelwywery, die struggle, die ANC, die ANC-jeugliga en hulle moorduitsprake, en selfs ’n toekomstige (distopiese?) Suid-Afrika met Zuma as moontlike president. In ’n aanlynaplikasie wat metatekstuele verbande opspoor tik ek “Jacob Zuma” in om te sien hoe hy op die kuberruimte met ander ikone skakel. Sy naam spring op in Houstan; Tokyo; Uganda. Dit is onvermydelik – Zuma het ’n intertekstuele nodus geword.

Maar ek verbeel my ek is ’n martelaar en herroep nie die skets nie. Jesus kan ook die sondes van die korruptes en regverdiges, die verkragters en liefdadiges, die siekes en gesondes, die vuiles en skones, die getroues en ontroues, die opstandiges en gehoorsames, die aktiviste en pasifiste, die ANC-jeugliga en die toekomstige presidente van Suid-Afrika weg was. So bly die uitdaging staan: Julle moet jul vyande liefhê. En dit, sou ek sê, is menslik onmoontlik. Daarom is die Christelike geloof nie ’n menslike religie nie, maar ’n goddelike een: “By mense is dit onmoontlik, maar by God is alle dinge moontlik.”

...ooOoo...

’n Ander kunstenaar (Lars Justinen) het ’n paar jaar gelede ’n
portret geskilder waar Christus die voete van Osama Bin Laden en ander wêreldleiers was.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Mmm

If I ever saw an amputee getting hanged, I’d probably just start calling out letters. -- Demetri Martin

Moontlike kuberkrakers op kampus

Image from Hacking-blog.

Dit blyk dat daar kuberkrakers op kampus is. Van sowat ’n week of twee voor die semestertoetse begin het, het klomp van my kollegas se rekenaars dramaties stadiger geraak. Party het selfs flitsboodskappe gekry dat iemand toegang tot hulle sisteem probeer kry, of, sowaar, toegang het!

Gister het een kollega by die departementele kantoor ’n kopie van twee van die vraestelle wat ek opgestel het by die fotostaatmasjien ontdek. Dit is moontlik dat ek dalk die een kopie daar kon vergeet het, maar die tweede kopie was definitief nie my oorspronklike nie, aangesien ek my oorspronklike een by my gehad het. Ons is vyf mense wat hierdie betrokke vak aanbied, so dit kon dalk een van hulle gewees het wat ’n duplikaat daar vergeet het; óf dit kon, inderdaad, kuberkrakers wees wat die dokument in die hande gekry het. Hulle sou dit nie vanaf my sisteem kon kry nie omdat ek nie sulke data op my kantoorrekenaar los nie, maar slegs op my datastafie stoor. Ek het aanvanklik nie die vraestel aan my kollegas geë-pos nie, juis uit vrees dat die vraestel op een-of-ander obskure manier kon lek. Daarom het ek dit vir hulle as hardekopie voorsien. Maar hulle wou toe later veranderinge aangebring hê, en het gevra dat ek dit e-pos.

In ’n land soos Korea, met sy hiper-vinnige Internet, en tegnologiese-savvy mense, is kuberkrakers ’n groter bedreiging as wat ek in Suid-Afrika beleef het. Gelukkig is ek nie te veel hieroor bekommerd nie omdat ek redelik versigtig is met hoe ek die Internet gebruik, en omdat ek ook ’n verskeidenheid voorsorgmaatreëls in plek het, soos vuurmure, virusprogrammatuur, ensomeer.

Waaroor ek wel bekommerd is, is dat mense in my kantoor kan inbreek. Die meeste kantore het dubbelslotte, waarvan een ’n skuifslot is, maar my kantoor het slegs ’n gewone slot. Ek is nie seker tot watter uiterstes studente sal gaan om in kantore in te breek nie opsoek na vraestelle nie.

Book Review: The Abolition of Man


Two weeks ago during my trip to Gyeongpo I took up my reading of C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man again and have finished it in the meantime some time back. The Abolition of Man is a much heavier philosophical treatise that Lewis’ other philosophical texts, e.g. Mere Christianity, but it retains his clear logical and practical examples.

I really need to reread The Abolition of Man again before I’ll truly come to terms with the depth of Lewis' argument. However, as is always the case when reading C. S. Lewis, one walks away with a sense of deeper understanding of Life, the Universe and Everything.

What especially struck me about The Abolition of Man had probably more to do with synchronicity than with the text itself. For some time now I’ve been contemplating a couple of ideas. One is about this massive undercurrent in the world, of global powers trying to push people into certain directions, which I’ve been noticing. Part Three of The Abolition of Man talks about such forces (“The Conditioners”) and the threat they are to individual freedom: “[w]e shall in fact be the slaves and puppets…”

Another idea I’ve been contemplating was that of the Tao, and how such a concept fits within the Christian theological framework. Unbeknownst to me, Lewis also saw a connection and uses the Tao to describe the “Natural Law”, i.e. those universal moral laws, such as ‘It is not right to steal’, which is found in practically every society. My interest in the possible connection between Tao and Christianity comes from Jesus’ exhortation that “[He] is the Way, the Truth, and the Life…” Some translations of the Tao is “Way” and “Truth”. If Jesus was speaking to a Far Eastern audience He would probably have uttered: “I am the Tao”.

The Abolition of Man is a good text to read for anyone interested in philosophy, morality or pedagogy.

Self-Portrait: Red Tie





Han River Cruise






On Sunday the university took the foreign faculty and their families out on a ferry cruise on the Han River. The Han River is a humongous river that slices through the centre of Seoul. The cruise was well attended and included a buffet dinner that was quite good, but included some obscurities which my tender sensibilities caused me to avoid. The ferry only departed the harbour after our meals were finished, and then meandered up and down the banks of the cityscape. It was a nice evening, the weather was good, and it was good to spend some time with colleagues and not speak about work (most of the time).

Although the ferry vibrated, I was able to take a couple of photos; unless you zoom in really close, in which case you will notice that they are actually very blurry.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Movie Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button



It’s been a long time coming, and much over due, but here then my (quick) review of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). I saw this movie nearly two months ago, but just haven’t gotten round to write about it. The primary reason for my avoidance is that I feel it such a great movie, it deserves a proper review. However, as time passes I’m realizing that it will be unlikely for me to have enough time to really do such an in depth review as I would have hoped.

Therefore, in the short window that I have allowed myself now, I wish to do a quick perusal of an excellent film.

Let’s start with the director: David Fincher has long been one of my favourite Hollywood directors. David Fincher directed two of my favourite movies, Se7en (1995) and Fight Club (1999), both casting Brad Pitt in the lead, as well as Panic Room (2002) starring Jodie Foster, which was also excellently directed. Fincher really knows how to tell a story using the visual medium. He uses every scene economically, every scene adding to the atmosphere or current of the plot. And with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, again starring Brad Pitt, Fincher does not disappoint.

The story itself is embedded within an allegory introduced at the beginning of the film. Once there was a blind clockmaker who was commissioned to make a clock for a train station. On the day the clock was revealed to the public and set in motion for the first time, everyone was surprised to see that it ran backwards. The clockmaker announced that he did this intentionally, for his son had died in war and he wished that he could turn back time and bring back his lost son. The clock was to serve as a reminder for all people that had suffered in the past. This then becomes an analogy for Benjamin Button, the man who would live his life in reverse – growing backwards.

The premise is simple. A baby boy is born old, and while growing up he actually grows younger. And somewhere in the mix he falls in love. The classic Cate Blanchett plays Daisy, the beloved of Benjamin who is also the narrator of the story. Both Blanchett and Pitt gives lovely performances – and while both are beautiful, their beauty does not weaken the film as is often the case with Hollywood films that are based more on pretty faces than good filmmaking; rather, the beauty of the two characters is foiled against the tragedies in the story. While Benjamin grows from old (ugly) to young and beautiful, so Daisy grows from young and beautiful to old and ugly; and somewhere in the middle they meet for a short moment as mature equals.

I wish I had time to write in more detail about the themes in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

To conclude, let me quickly mention the good cinematography (as is always the case in Fincher-films). It is a splendidly shot film and the cinematographer, Claudio Miranda, won numerous awards for the cinematography in this film. Also, the special effects are brilliantly accomplished. When Brad Pitt is depicted as a teenager I was astounded. Having followed Pitt’s career over the decades, and having seen many photos of him as a young man, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how they got to turn him into that 16 year old boy again. He looked exactly as he looked 30 years ago (he is 46 this year). The film won an Oscar for visual effects as well as an Oscar for make-up.

Although a tragic story, it is one of the most beautiful love stories I have seen. This Fantasy-Drama is definitely worth seeing. It is a movie that forces you to suspend your disbelieve, and leaves you with a strange melancholy and a curious glow. Fincher uttered about the film: “You hope it will leave people feeling hopeful about certain things, and sad about certain things.” That it does.

Blanchett and Pitt played opposite each other in a previous movie, the Golden Globe-winning 2006-film, Babel. Vanity Fair did a nice article on Cate Blanchett worth reading.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Book Review: Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man


A week ago I completed Joseph Heller’s Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man. What a treat it was! Of course Catch-22, which is Heller’s break through novel that also made that phrase, "Catch-22", part of the common English vernacular, is one of my all-time favourite books. I haven’t read anything else by Heller except for Catch-22. The latter I have read, I think, at least three times. So when I picked up Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man, it was with much anticipation. I wasn’t disappointed.

Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man is nothing like Catch-22. Thematically it is much different, although, I guess, the theme of discontentment may be shared. Both books are postmodern, but they go about being postmodern in very different ways. Catch-22 reveals fragmented plots within one narrative framework. In other words, there are different stories, all told within the same context (i.e. a world war), and if I remember correctly, by the same narrator. Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man, on the other hand, is also fragmented, but the fragmentation is more diverse. Different stories (narratives) and there are frequent jumps in narrative levels. In other words, the narrator may at times be the overarching narrator (the implied author), at other times it is the main character which just happens to be an author as well, and at other times it is a character invented by the main character. Often jumps occur up and down these narrative levels within in any given passage.

As a scholar of Postmodernism I really enjoyed this well executed postmodern text. While I won’t suggest everyone to read Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man (it’s not everyone’s cup of tea), I will definitely recommend it to other writers, whom will most likely find much resonance with the “author”, those interested in creative writing, as well as to people that enjoy good postmodern craftsmanship.

Trivia: The title clearly refers to James Joyce's book: Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. Heller's novel is also somewhat biographical as it depicts his own frustrations as an author whom is never quite able to set the same standard with his later novels as he did with his first. Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man is Heller's final novel. It was published posthumously.





...ooOoo...

My current subway read is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which fits nicely in with the British Romantic Poetry I'm currently teaching.

Actions of an Unbeliever


I consider myself a political atheist. I have been such for a couple of years. I distrust politicians, the political system and governments as a whole. Regardless, I have voted at elections before and did so again yesterday. (Yesterday, South Africans that are abroad could vote under certain conditions. The actual election day in South Africa is only next week.) Is there an inconsistency in my self-proclaimed political atheism, and my voting at an election? Maybe I am not a political atheist, but rather a political agnostic . . .

I really distrust governments. I mean, I REALLY distrust them; almost to a level of paranoia. Was it not for the very clear examples of governmental corruption and outright mistreatment of their own citizens all over the world I would have thought myself paranoid. The same goes for politicians. Even among the greatest politicians are the biggest con artists, lying deceivers you can imagine. And this is among the more noble ones. Maybe it is inevitable for them to fall. They are constantly exposed to all kinds of temptations, from power to money to who knows what else.

So why did I vote? Maybe its hope – like an atheist that attends church, not because he believes in God, but because he hopes . . . hopes that God exists; hopes that there is something more than the nihilism of materialism and evolution. I guess that is what I do, when I go to vote.

South Africa does not have a functioning democracy. It is a democracy in theory, yes; but in practise it is not. There is one ruling party with an unhealthy strong majority and for a democracy to function properly it should present a variety of opinions, represent a variety of nuanced voices. This, South Africa does not really have. I’m hoping that the coming election will alter this political landscape a bit.

Why should I hope thus, if I don’t believe in governments and the political system? Probably because I hope that a better democracy will slow down, hinder, partially prevent, the decay of the government. If you cannot stop them, at least you should not make it a walk in the park for them.

I don't expect any miracles.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Roles (Other People See Us) Play

Teacher, I came by your office at 6:30 PM, but you were not here.


Thus reads the message on my office door this morning. I cannot help but wonder what these students think of us lecturers. Do they really expect us to sit in our offices until midnight waiting for them to deliver their late assignments?

I guess that is how we all are. We see people within specific roles and we pigeonhole them in our minds -- forgetting that a life is seldom a single role, but instead a kaleidoscope of many roles.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Gyeongpo: Vinyl House

Just one of many "vinyl houses" (aka greenhouses) one can see at Gyeonpo, and all over Korea for that matter. The Konglish term "vinyl house" refers to the plastic (i.e. vinyl) exterior used for these agricultural tunnels. It is likely that the Koreans use this more literal description, instead of "greenhouse", because the latter might be confused with the Blue House, which is the presidential residence, similar to USA's White House or South Africa's Tuynhuys ("Garden House"). The common term is the same for blue and green in Korean, and therefore the possibility that greenhouse could be mistaken for Blue House.

Gyeongpo: Top of a Stele

Gyeongpo: Poeun


In my first post about Gyeongpo, I mentioned the shrine I visited, dedicated to Jeong Mongju (aka Poeun). Below is the shrine, including a frontal view of the gate to the shrine. Apparently the shrine contains a portrait of Jeong Mongju; unforunately, the gate was locked. I went back on Sunday in the hope that it might be open, but alas, it was not. The portrait might be the one below, which I retrieved from Wikipedia.Org.

As I mentioned in the other post, one of ITF Taekwon-Do's patterns is named after Poeun; hence my interest in him, apart for him being a poet. Ironically, I find the pattern Poeun to be unusually difficult to perform. The pattern is not that difficulty, really; I just have a strange mental block to it. It started a couple of years ago, I think in 2005 at the National ITF Taekwon-Do Championships, in Pretoria. It was the last time I participated in a Taekwon-Do tournament as a competitor. (I've retired from Taekwon-Do tournaments for two reasons, the one mostly to do with the fact that they are usually on Sabbaths.) The night before the competition I was quite sick. I had a serious fever, shivering the whole night. The next day I had to perform the customary two patterns. One, a chosen pattern. I chose Juche. The other, the assigned pattern. The umpires assigned my competitor and I Poeun. Somewhere during the performance of Poeun I got stuck, and ever since then I always get stuck doing it. I lost against Ricky Dias, who I must say, did a splendid performance at these patterns. Recently I have been practicising Poeun again, and if ever it should happen that I come out of retirement from Taekwon-Do competitions, and I perform in the pattern category again, and I'm assigned to do Poeun, I hope to do a much better job at it. Those are many ifs.

Gyeongpo: Blossoms


Gyeongpo: Pavilion


The Gyeongpo Pavilion ("Gyeongpodae").

Gyeongpo: Heo Nanseolheon

This is a statue of, I think, Heo Nanseolheon - Korea's great female poet of the Joseon Dynasty.
A Love Song

On the calm autumn pond, jade-blue ripples glitter;
She moors her boat where lotus flowers bloom.
Seeing her love across the water, she throws a lotus seed,
And blushes for half a day, worrying that others may have seen.

- from "The Moonlit Pond"
This is just an exquisite poem.



It is believed that Heo Nanseonheon commited suicide at age 27 after suffering from depression due to the early deaths of both her children. She reminds me of a South African female poet, Ingrid Jonker, who also commited suicide at a fairly young age (31), and let us not forget of Sylvia Plath, yet another poetic genius to commit suicide. I'd like to write something, maybe an essay, still, on poets and depression.

Gyeongpo: A Sketch -- "Gate and Blossoms"

The sketch above I drew Saturday evening while having dinner in a restaurant at Gyeongpo's beach front. The sketch is loosely based on, but definitely inspired by, a scene I saw earlier the day. Being home now, I was able to download the photo from my camera. As I said, loosely based. . .

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Gyeongpo

I took the weekend off and came to the sea -- Korea's East Coast.

This is the first weekend I took off since the semester started. As part of my work contract I have to facilitate a cell group every Saturday morning. However, I can take leave once a month. On the spur of the moment I decided to do so Thursday evening -- knowing that the coming two weekends will be too busy to go anywhere -- and Friday afternoon I took the bus from Seoul to Gangneung City, a two and a half hour trip. From Gangneum I took a taxi (about 10 minutes) to the Gyeongpo.

I arrived around 8 pm and booked into a motel with a bathtub. The latter was a serious consideration to which motel I'd choose to stay in. Since my own apartment only has a shower, I've been longing to soak in a tub for some time now; that's exactly what I did last night. This morning I slept in. Aparantly Gyeongpo is famous for its beautiful sunrises, but that's something I will have to take on faith. I might see it tomorrow morning, but that is also unlikely as I am not a morning person.

It is my custom to go to church on Saturday. I seldom miss it. Unfortunately my impulsive decision to come hear on such short notice did not allow me enough time to search for a Sabbath-keeping church before hand. Nonetheless, going to church is not the only way to keep Sabbath. These holy ours are not only a reminder of God's salvation, but also a reminder of God's creative power. So today I spent most of my day outside enjoying the beautiful blue and green retina hues of the East Sea; the pink and white blossoms like pixies perched on the trees in swarms; the merriment of fellow (albeit, native) tourists spending this day with their families and friends.

A local attraction is the Gyeongpodae (Gyeongpo Pavilion), a temple-like structure build specifically to provide an excellent vantage point from which to look over the beautiful Gyeonpo lake. I sat for a long time at the Gyeongpodae, taking in the view, breathing the fresh air, enjoying the wind on my face. In the picture above the roof of the Gyeongpodae is visible, with the scenic lake in clear view and the cherryblossoms in full bloom.

I also saw a little shrine dedicated to Mong Ju Chung, the scholar-poet, pennamed Poeun. One of the patterns in ITF Taekwon-Do is named Poeun, after Mong Ju Chung. Many Koreans are familiar with one of his poems:

Even if, I may die, die a hundred times,
Even if my skeleton may become dust and dirt,
And whether my spirit may be there or not,
My single-hearted loyalty to the lord will not change.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Fidility by Regina Spektor

I just now stumbled onto this cute little song called "Fidility", by Regina Spektor. I can't remember having heard of her before, although she did contribute to the Narnia: Prince Caspian soundtrack (second YouTube video).





Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Deconstructing South Africa

A nice ad parodying the historic roles in South Africa.

Applications I Cannot Go Without

There are some applications that I just have to have on my computer. I will list some here, as my gift to you. The best thing about these programs is that they are all free!

InternetFor my Internet browser, I cannot go with Firefox. Not only is Firefox safer to use than IE, but the many add-ons make it so customizable that you can have it set up, tailor-made to your surfing needs.

Certain add-ons are a must for me.

Firstly, TrackMeNot – a simple little add-on that camouflages your surfing trail from all the “sneaky ones”. It’s not high-tech, but it will blur your trail by spewing out all kinds of fake searches on your behalf. Just install it and forget about it. No hassles.

Secondly, DownThemAll! is a very functional download manager that actually increases the download spead. When you want to download something, just right-click and save with DownThemAll. Multiple downloads are possible at the same time and definitely faster than Firefox’s build in download function.

Thirdly, Video Download Helper. This add-on can download media files, including embedded videos from most video directories, such as YouTube. Yes, with this you can download YouTube videos for later viewing. An absolute must in your surfing-arsenal.

Then, Cooliris. This plug in is a image viewer that displays images in a fully zoomable 3D wall. Use it when doing image searches in Google to quickly navigate to the images you’re looking for. It also has a slideshow function. I use Cooliris all the time.


A recent find, and something that I will probably use all the time from now on is the Split Browser add-on. With this nifty little gadget you can split your browser in two or more frames. I use it to keep my email account in plain view all the time while I do my normal surfing in the other browser. I also use it when watching online TV/video programs.

Security

Standard on all my computers is AVG’s free virus protection. I’ve always been quite happy with it. Recently I’ve replaced AVG on my home computer with AVIRA AntiVir Personal.

Another must on your computer is a good firewall. I used to use Zone Alarm, but recently changed over to COMODO.

I also have Spybot Search & Destroy to handle spyware. I furthermore make use of PeerGuardian 2 to keep me safe from the “sneaky ones”, especially when doing P2P-sharing.

Media

I use Foobar2000 as my default audio player. It is an extremely simple player that takes very little system resources; however, it can play practically any audio format out there. It also allows multiple playlists, which is ideal for me, as I usually have a couple of genres of music I like to listen to interchangeably and often also have a playlist open for the spiritual (sermons, seminars, audio Bible, etc.) stuff I’m listening to, as well as an audio book, or philosophical lectures of some sort.

For video files I usually use Korea’s Gom Player; a great product that plays basically all typical video formats. A nifty thing about Gom Player is that it downloads its own codecs. Gom Player is also my player of choice to watch .flv-files – those YouTube videos I downloaded with Video Download Helper.

Where Gom Player doesn’t work, I fall back to VLC Player. Between these two players I can usually play any video file I stumble across.

For downloading Internet TV programming I use Miro. You can subscribe to “channels” and Miro will download you the latest episodes in that channel as it becomes available. It works pretty much like a podcast downloader, just for videos. With so much media to consume, I never watch regular TV. (In fact, I don’t even own a TV.) I especially like to watch the alternative news programming, using Miro. I’m also subscribed to some tutorial channels and nature related programming.

My podcast downloader of choice is Juice. Unlike Apple’s iTunes, Juice is free of ads and giant corporate agendas.

Torrents

For torrents I use uTorrent. It’s simple and effective.

File Manager

I recently found Q-Dir again. This was a little program I used back in the MS-DOS days. It’s made a comeback as a Windows friendly application and allows you to easily manage files across directories and drives. You can have multiple frames open and drag and drop between them. It’s much faster and convenient than opening multiple windows.


SyncToy 2.0 is a great application to synchronise folders on different drives (e.g. your hard disk and a memory stick). Something useful from Microsoft.

Launcher

Launchy is a neat little application that opens with an easy hot-key short cut (ALT+Spacebar). You simply type in the first letters of any program you wish to launch and Launchy intuitively guesses the program, and shows you a list which you can easily choose and quickly open. It can also automatically do Internet searches and an arsenal of other things, such as mathematical calculations. Very useful.

Office Applications

Open Office is an alternative to Microsoft's Office Suite, and it totally free, fully functioning office suite, which include applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and databases.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Hugh Masakela

The affable South African jazz legend, Hugh Masakela, turned 70 two days ago (4 April). Here's to many more years of great South African jazz!

Gustav Klimt Exhibition

Yesterday I went to the Gustav Klimt exhibition at the Seoul Art Centre.

The exhibition was well worth it. Considering the works presented, there is unlikely to be another Klimt exhibition of this sort in Asia. Many of the works are from private collection.

Klimt (1862-1918) was an Austrian artist. He was a Symbolist painter. Symbolist art is basically Romanticist art, just darker -- more gothic and spiritual.

I was extremely impressed by Klimt's skill. What was most striking for me is how he has completely mastered the use of negative space. In his work the negative space is just as provocatively and effectively employed, as the application of any line or paint. Speaking of line, Klimt really had sketching down to perfection. Not for a moment does that imply that his painting skills were less worthy. On the contrary, while much of his later work tended to lean towards two dimentional abstraction, Klimt was a master at life-like portraits. In some of the portraits the jewelry of the sitters are so lucid one can almost take them off of the canvases.

Part of the exhibition is the Beethoven Friese, a fresco covering three walls. It is truly a majestic piece of art, full of allegorical symbolism and again, Klimt's amazing use of negative space. Typical of Klimt's ouvre is his use of gold. This is especially effectively used in the Beethoven Friese.

The exhibition also included many of his studies for some of his famous painting, as well as a whole section devoted to his surprisingly explisit erotic studies of the female nude. In many of the erotic studies the vagina is the focal point. The female is a paradoxical symbol for Klimt. She is both the femme fatale, but also the life bearer.

Going to such quality exhibitions is probably one of the best things I enjoy about Korea. I cannot imagine attending an exhibition of this size, of a master like Klimt, in in South Africa. Even if such an exhibition were to come to South Africa it would probably be hosted somewhere that is not easily accessible from where I live. For this reason I really try to make the most of my current opportunities.

Sports Day(s)


Last week we had Sports Day at the university I work. It ought to be called Sports Days, as it occurred over two days, but such semantics are not too important in Korea. During Sports Day the different departments compete against each other in various events, such as soccer, basketball, marathon, relay, tug-of-war, foot volleyball, and probably a couple of other events I did not see. The students from sport science department do not compete, as they have an obvious advantage; instead they act as the umpires and referees.

Another aspect of Sports Day is the competing "Cheerleaders" from the different departments. They dress up in these matador-type costumes, and perform difficult choreographed routines for which they have been training since the semester began. Here in Korea cheerleading is done by both men and women. I was surprised at the high level of sexual innuendo seeping through in the routines; not to mention the very short skirts.

Lecturers are expected to support their departments, so I spent some time sitting with my students, looking at all the dancing and other events. The one afternoon, however, I told my third year class I'll be in my office to review their second drafts of essays they had to hand in by the end of the week. I sat in my office the whole afternoon, but only four students made use of the opportunity. They will, of course, benefit.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Good Times with Laura

Last week I mentioned visiting with a friend whom I haven't seen in some time. Laura shared with me some of the photos she took of her visit and gave me permission to post them here.

This picture was taken outside Hoegi-station. When new stores open in Korea they often have a "Grand Open" (i.e. grand opening), which include clowns, dancers or other attention grabbing gimmicks to draw customers to the new shop.

I'm supposed to be in this picture too, but the giant pushed me aside.

Laura, some friends of hers and I went to a lovely little traditional restaurant at Daehangno, Hyehwa, which serves around 20 side dishes at a very reasonable price. Apart from the fish, which is quite good, the meal is great for vegetarians.



We also went to Minto afterwards, since I've never had the Minto experience. Minto, short for Mindollaeyeongto, is a coffee-shop franchise where you pay a set price (I think 5000 Won) and then get a variety of unlimited soft drinks and teas, as well as a limited number of hot drinks and snacks. You can stay as long as you wish (it is usually frowned upon at other establishments to stay too long), and there are a some entertainment options available, such as free magazines, books and even a little movie theatre.

It was nice seeing Laura again. She was part of the orientation staff when I came to Korea the first time. We also worked together at the same language school in Kangnam for a while. I have some really good memories of my last couple of months in Korea at that time with Laura, another South African teacher, Patricia, my friend Young, and one of my roommates and I.