Friday, 30 April 2010

Anti-Modernist

I’ve always been negative towards Modernism. And while I do not embrace the postmodern sentiment in its entirety, I do resonate with it at many levels. So yes, one would not be off the mark to label me a postmodernist.

Today I stumbled onto this quote regarding Modernism by sci-fi horror author H. P. Lovecraft on one of the blogs I follow.

It is not a true civilization, and has nothing in it to satisfy a mature and fully developed human mind. It is attuned to the mentality of the galley-slave and the moron, and crushes relentlessly with disapproval, ridicule, and economic annihilation any sign of actually independent thought and civilised feeling which chances to rise above its sodden level. It is a treadmill, squirrel-trap culture – drugged and frenzied with the hashish of industrial servitude and material luxury. It is wholly a material body-culture, and its symbol is the tiled bathroom and steam radiator rather than the Doric portico and the temple of philosophy. Its denizens do not live or know how to live.
Lovecraft’s observation of Modernism is spot-on and much of it is still in effect today. After all, Postmodernism is not “post-“ Modernism, but “para-“ Modernism, as (I think) Brian McHale explains the current zeitgeist.

To Accept a (Sincere) Gift

Last night something strange—uncomfortable—happened. My instructor paid me.

When I joined the ITF Taekwon-Do school in Seoul in 2008 I introduced myself to my instructor, sharing with him my Taekwon-Do history. When he heard that I have my own Taekwon-Do dojang in South Africa, and furthermore, that I am on the board of directors for the national governing body of Taekwon-Do in South Africa, he adamantly refused that I pay class fees. I tried to pay, but he would not accept my money.

So I decided to be an active member of the gym, “paying” through my service. I would occasionally teach a class and act as an assistant instructor. In the meantime I’ve become a regular instructor teaching a designated class once a week (focusing on self-defence). Sometimes I’m also approached to help with a little translation work and editing of material in English. I have also been appointed International Liaison Officer (the Korean title is: "International Cultural Exchange Officer") for ITF-Korea; basically, I help with correspondences that require a high degree of fluency in English on behalf of ITF-Korea. All of this I’ve done gladly; considering it my way of compensating for the luxury of getting quality instruction and training at the gym. These exertions have always been a small price to pay. Some might argue that I ought to at least get paid for the regular class I teach. After all, there are other outside instructors at the gym who teach grappling classes and whom are paid for their services by the gym, why shouldn’t I get paid? Well, while these outside instructors teach at the gym, they do not also train at the gym like me. Since I train there, I ought also to pay the approximate $100 per month, but I don’t. I train for free. Teaching, I’ve always believed, is my way of paying. In any case, I’m very passionate about teaching martial arts and would probably have begged him to teach a class in any case. Actually, if my normal workload was not so heavy, I would probably have insisted on teaching two weekly classes, instead of just one. (I've been teaching martial arts for over a decade. It has become such a part of my identity, that not to teach would just feel bizarre.) Besides, acting as an assistant instructor is the normal duty of any active black belt. In most martial arts it is expected of all senior ranks to willingly share their knowledge with lower ranks when training together.

Last night on our way home my instructor handed me an envelope. I peeked inside and saw that it contained money. I was shocked and refused to take it, explaining to him that since I do not pay class fees it is not necessary for me to be paid anything. He insisted and refused to take it back. Eventually I reluctantly conceded.

Sometimes, even if it makes you uncomfortable, one needs to accept gifts that are given sincerely. Not so much for your own sake, but for the sake of the other person who wishes to express their gratitude. By refusing the gift you are actually robbing them of the genuine joy of giving. The money still makes me feel unfomfortable and I haven't even checked how much is in the envelope. Yet I understand that my instructor wished to show his appreciation, and my heart is warmed by it.

I wonder . . .

. . . what is the significance of the different modes of suicide by the female characters in Shakespeare's tragedies.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Vampire Slayer

Tonight on the subway back home I saw something most interesting. I think I saw a Korean vampire-slayer. Seriously. This guy came rushing pass me and the other commuters, dashing from the one train carriage to the next. In one hand he held a big wooden crucifix, probably about half a meter in length. On his lapels, as well, there were crucifix pins. He was dressed in very comfortable average looking clothing—sneakers, sweatpants, and the like. Not the typical Hollywood—think Wesley Snipes in Blade—type of attire; rather practical clothing. The type of clothing one could fight in. He definitely did not look like some kind of evangelist or missionary, which in Korea are usually dressed quite formally. The way he passed us was particularly fascinating. He moved through the line of people as if he had a very specific and serious purpose; paying little attention to us “ignorant ones.” He was on a mission; a mission to slay a vampire.

Monday, 26 April 2010

xkcd

One of my favourite comicstrips is xkcd. I could spend hours browsing through comic after comic. Here are just a couple to give you an idea of xkcd's humour.

Self-Portraits: Quickly




A friend of mine has two tripods, so he offered to lend me one. This will make life much easier as far as my self-portraits are concerned. In the past I balanced my camera on a pile of books, stacked on my ironing board. Now I actually have an adjustable tripod to use. These two "quick" photos are the happy result of the tripod.

'n Moeilike ding: skerm & kritiek ('n Koreaanse gevallestudie)

Verlede week het ek 'n moeilike ding gedoen. Ek het gedwonge gevoel om aan my instrukteur te noem dat ek nie heeltemal oortuig is dat een van sy assistente afrigters bekwaan is om 'n sekere klas afterig nie. "He gets hurt easily," het ek as motivering bygevoeg.

Ons krygskunsskool begin vanaand met 'n nuwe klas (elke Maandag-, Woensdag-, en Vrydagaand). Dit is 'n klas in staande skerm ("stand-up fighting"), gebasseer op skopboks, Muay Thai, Taekwon-Do, en boks. Die klasse gaan dis fokus op skerm ("sparring"). Die probleem is egter dat ek nie heeltemal seker is dat die bepaalde afrigter wat hierdie klasse gaan aanbied die hardheid het wat daarvoor nodig is nie. Met "hardheid" bedoel ek, dat hy hard getref kan word, dit van hom kan afskud en met 'n koelkop, sonder om sy humeur te verloor, kan aangaan om sy studente af te rig nie. Wanneer jy, as instrukteur, studente afrig gebeur dit dat die student soms met 'n goeie skoot deurkom en jou onverwags, en baie hard, tref. (Beginners het min selfbeheursing, so hulle kan nie altyd die krag van hulle tegnieke tem nie.)

Ek maak hierdie aantuiging teen die afrigter omdat ek al twee keer met hom geskerm het en hom seer gemaak het. Nie aspris nie; dit was bloot tegnieke wat in die hitte van 'n dinamiese skerm goed geland het. Een van die kere was meer spesifiek sy eie fout waartydens hy in my tegniek in gehardloop het. Elke keer, in my opinie, het sy reaksie getuig dat hy nie hard genoeg is nie. Om meer spesifiek te wees, hy kon omtrent nie met die klas verder aangaan nie. Nou wel, as jy 'n klas in skerm gaan afrig moet jy die kastyding kan verwerk en aangaan. Ek onthou eenkeer toe ek aan 'n toernooi deelgeneem het, het my opponent my in die keel geskop. Dit was skokkend en ek wou vir 'n wyle stop net om asem te skep. My eie afrigter was op daardie oomblik die skeidsregter. Hy het eenvoudig vir my gevra: "Is jy dood?" Toe ek "nee" sê, was sy reaksie, ". . . dan gaan aan," en het hy onmiddelik die geveg voortgesit. Hierdie ervaring was vir my 'n waardevolle les. 'n Les wat nodig is vir enige afrigter was skerm wil afrig.

Die rede hoekom dit vir my moeilik was om vir my instrukteur te sê dat ek nie seker is of die afrigter in staat is om daardie klas aan te bied nie, is tweedelig. Eerstens omdat dit in die Koreaanse kultuur 'n belediging kan wees teenoor die instrukteur. Dit is sy topstudent, wat hyself afgerig het, wie se kwalifikasie ek in twyfel trek. By implikasie betwyfel ek nie net die student nie, maar ook sy afrigter; naamlik, my instrukteur. Tweedens, betwyfel ek my afrigter se oordeel. In Korea is "saving face" baie belangrik en daarom sê 'n mens nie sommer vir iemand in hulle gesig dat hulle verkeerd is nie -- veral nie iemand wat jou senior is nie.

My instrukteur het dit gelukkig nie persoonlik opgeneem nie, en toe ek vir hom byvoeg dat die afrigter "gets hurt easily" het hy bloot begin lag, en gesê dat hy besig is om met hom te werk, en hom kweek vir daardie rol. Ek is bly dat ek en hy so 'n oop verhouding kan hê. Alhoewel hy tienjaar ouer is as ek en my instrukteur is, en ek al die nodige respekvorme teenoor hom handhaaf, stel hy my steeds aan mense voor as sy 친구 (gelyke vriend). In Korea kan iemand slegs jou 친구 wees indien die persoon van jou eie portuur is, menende jou eie ouderdom (let wel, nie ouderdomsgroep nie, maar in dieselfde jaar as jy gebore) en gewoonlik ook sosiale vlak.

Die skermklasse begin vanaand. Ek gaan slegs na hierdie krygskunsskool op Dinsdag- en Donderdagaande, so ek sal dit nie kan bywoon nie.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

A Shoe on a Step at a Pedestrian Crossing Bridge Late at Night Somewhere in Seoul

Self-Portraits: "White Glove"





I stumbled upon these self-portraits on my computer just now, which I had taken at the beginning of 2009. Maybe I was too shy to post them back then, but since all personal blogs are, in part, exhibitionist, here they are in all their jocund silliness.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Lente bloeisels / Cherry Blossoms

"Conspiracy Interview Room"

Today I saw this direction board in the Student Affairs Building at a university in Seoul. Notice all the interesting rooms available.



Look specifically at Room 108. Here it is zoomed in for your convenience:



Now at first I thought it is merely an example of bad translation from Korean into English. Curious as to what such a "Conspiracy Interview Room" might look like, I went off in search of Room 108. I found Room 107, the "Spiritual Education Counseling Office" with its big friendly non-suspicious looking glass doors quite easily.


But for the life of me I could not find Room 108. There is just not a Room 108 on the floor (nor on the second floor or in the basement -- I really went searching for it), nor any sign to indicate where the "Conspiracy Interview Room" ought to be. What I did find however, is the following door, where one would expect Room 108 to be.


It was, of course, locked. A door like this could give rise to conspiracies . . .

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

My droom

Die gesatureerde rooi ligtoring het ek in 2006 in Oido, Korea, afgeneem. Dit voel na 'n leeftyd gelede!

Toe ek jonger was het ek baie gefantaseer dat ek eendag ’n ligtoringoperateer sal wees. Dit is natuurlik bloot ’n verskoning om self in die ligtoring te bly. Dit klink vir my na ’n ideale werkspaket. Jy het gratis verblyf by die see met jou eie besonderse uitsig en al wat jy hoef te doen is om twee keer per dag die lig te gaan aan of af sit. Daar is sekerlik ander instandhoudingswerk wat met ligtorings gepaard gaan, maar oor die algemeen is jy vry met baie tyd om ander dinge te doen. My persoonlik voorkeur sal wees om tydens al my vrye tyd voltyds te skryf, te skilder, en ander kunsgedrewe projekte aan te pak.

Elke keer wat ek ’n ligtoring sien kom my ou herinneringe opnuut by my op. Ek wens ek kan in ’n ligtoring bly. Ek en my kat.Ek wens ek het ’n kat. Ek wens ek het ’n werk as 'n ligtoringoperateer en ’n kat.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

ZANews: "The Dark Continent" and other news



In less humurous news, President Jacob Zuma has let Julius "Malema of the Hook," dropping all disciplinary charges against the ANC Youth League leader whom accosts journalists, performs hate speech, and asks Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe for advice on how to ruin a country go about land reform.

Zuma's spinelessness makes two points clear.

First, Zuma's own immoral behaviour makes it impossible for him to be a moral guiding light to anybody in this country. How could Zuma reprimand Malema when he has no personal moral currency left? His adulterous behaviour has made him (and South Africa) the laughing stock of the political world. Are we really to expect Malema to accept a "do as I say, not as I do" admonition?

Second, it really does seem that Malema has some kind of control over Zuma, and it would seem to be something other than just the support of the Youth League. Almost like he knows a dirty secret about the president, which he is using as his trump card ("get out of jail card").

KOREA

In much more interesting news, South Korea has detained two North Korean spies that were on an assassination mission.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Lekker hedonisme

Word jy soms wakker met 'n deuntjie in jou kop?

Gisteroggend het ek wakker geword met Black Eyed Peas se "I've Got a Feeling" wat in my sluimergedagtes maal. Dat 'n liedjie my so vroeg in die oggend beset is nie vreemd nie; ek is gaande oor musiek en om met 'n deuntjie in my kop wakker te word gebeur elke af en toe. Wat wel vreemd is, is hierdie spesifieke liedjie. Ek luister selde na popmusiek en besit nie eens 'n Black Eyed Peas-album nie. Boonop dink ek dat ek die song nog net twee keer gehoor het; waarvan eenkeer onlangs was tydens die Jamie Cullum-konsert. Hy het "I've Got a Feeling" op 'n kreatiewe wyse in een van sy eie songs ingevleg.

Wat ek gewoonlik doen wanneer ek wakker word met 'n deuntjie in my kop is om die liedjie dan te gaan luister. Omdat ek redelik gesond lewe glo ek dat my honger na iets gewoonlik op 'n te kort in my diëet dui; byvoorbeeld, as ek lus raak vir spinasie het ek dalk 'n yster te kort, of 'n hunkering na sjokelade is moontlik 'n serotonien tekort. Dalk is daar iets aan die "I've Got a Feeling" wat my psige kort.

"I've Got a Feeling" het nogals 'n vrolike deuntjie en die hoek is ook heel optimisties: "I've got a feeling that tonight's gonna be a good night." Maar buiten die optimisme loop die lirieke oor van hedonisme: "Tonight's the night / Let's live it up / I got my money / Let's spend it up" en " know that we'll have a ball / If we get down / And go out / And just lose it all / I feel stressed out / I wanna let it go / Let's go way out spaced out / And losing all control."

Die musiekvideo drup ook van hedonisme met mooi langbeen vroue in stywe swart onderklere, met blossende lippe, en bonsende loslywe op die dansvloer.



Hopenlik is die rede dat my psige so hunker na "I've Got a Feeling" die optimisme wat die song vergestaldt, eerder as die hedonisme.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

My New (Parkour) Shoes

Last night I went to buy myself some running shoes. My close friends and family may know that I actually hate running. I do, however, love parkour, which involves running, jumping, climbing, and the like. I forgot my previous parkour shoes in South Africa (a pair of New Balance), which is unfortunate since I trusted that pair of shoes a lot.

Since it is starting to warm up again, I my want to go for some parkour runs in the not too distant future, so I needed some shoes. Choosing shoes that are appropriate for parkour is not easy. It must have the comfort of a running shoe, but with really good cushioning to act as buffers when you jump off of high things. It should also have excellent grip as many of the parkour movements entail precision jumps. Slipping could cause serious injury. There should also be a fare amount of flexibility as different movements require you to place your weight on the balls of your feet, or in the centre of the sole. If you cannot comfortably pull your toes back, you may not be able to land precisely on the balls of your feet, which again could result in injury.

Most of the shoes I tried out had terrible cushioning and half of them did not have good grip. Also, most of them were horribly hard. I at last settled for a pair of Reeboks. I’ve tried a couple of Nike’s already, but wasn’t too impressed. Then my friend who went with me tried on these Nike Dual Fusion running shoes and spoke highly of them. Although I’ve already settled on the Reeboks I decided just to test the Dual Fusions. They turned out to be very comfortable. The grip is good and the shoe is quite flexible. The base is also quite soft. I’m not too sure how its shock absorption is and will in any case add a shock absorption layer as I usually do with my parkour shoes.

Surprisingly the shoe was actually quite inexpensive.

This afternoon I took a dash to the gym. (Usually when I go to the gym I would run there as part of my warm up.) The shoes were really comfortable and wonderfully light. I look forward to trying them out during parkour session.

Other shoes that are really good for parkour are the Merrel Slams. Unfortunately I didn't see any.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Some Thoughts on Hamlet

Currently in my Literature and Visual Arts class we are watching a film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I haven’t read the play in a while so watching the movie—especially this excellent adaptation by Kenneth Branagh—just rekindles my wonder of it. What struck me this time, more so than before, is how similar the questions and ideas are to the 20th century paradigm of Existentialism. It is not merely the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy that conjures up existentialist ideas; but especially Act 5, Scene 1 in the graveyard where Hamlet considers the fate of such greats as Alexander and Julius Caesar:

To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may
not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander,
till he find it stopping a bung-hole?

He continues:

Alexander died, Alexander was buried,
Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of
earth we make loam; and why of that loam, whereto he
was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel?
Imperious Caesar, dead and turn'd to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away:
O, that that earth, which kept the world in awe,
Should patch a wall to expel the winter flaw

We all, even history’s giants, die and “returneth into dust,” which in turn becomes clay that “Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.”

The existentialist seeks personal meaning in his life. Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, reflects on Alexander the Great, the once Prince of Greece. Few, if any, princes achieved what Alexander achieved, so it makes sense that Hamlet would look up to Alexander. The Grecian Prince models all that a young prince should be: brave, decisive, determined. Qualities Hamlet struggles with. But even with these princely virtues, the Great Alexander still died. What’s the ultimate meaning Alexander achieved, if all that his remains are good for is to “stop a beer-barrel?”

I’m considering writing an essay on “an existentialist reading of Hamlet”; probably for pyp online. I’m also curious about the references to Protestantism, in what seems to be a setting coloured mostly by Catholicism. Is the reason for Hamlet’s pensive disposition the fact that he attended university in Wittenburg – the university where Martin Luther was a doctor?

Should we read something from this allusion to Protestantism? Is Hamlet in his sphere paralleling Luther in his? As Luther was a reluctant protester against the corrupt Church, so Hamlet is a reluctant protester against the corrupt Danish monarchy. In both cases events and circumstances push these protagonists to action.

Just before Hamlet agrees to the dual with Laertes, he states this haunting phrase: “There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow.” Haunting, yes, but it also reveals a certain trust—an acceptance of his fate, be it ill or fortunate. This sparrow reference is an allusion to the words of Jesus: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God . . . Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Luke 5:6, 7). That a prince should compare himself to sparrows, and yet find comfort in it!

I’m anew roused to the mastery of Shakespeare—and of this play. Here I am in the year 2010, and I stand at awe before something written 400 years ago, long before antibiotics, cars, the microchip, aeroplanes, typewriters or keyboards, or any of the things we think so crucial to our lives. Yet this play has the ability to resonate with me in ways that little of these current necessities have the capability of doing.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Zog's World

The following is part a vocabulary quiz I made up for one of my classes.

(a) moribund (b) morose (c) miniscule (d) microcosm

Zog is very small; infact, he is (1)_______. His world is a (2)_______ of ours. In Zog’s world everyone is (3)_______ and sad because everything in Zog’s world is (4) _______.

(a) mollified (b) munificently (c) misanthropists (d) mundane

Some people in Zog’s world think that their world is dying because everything is so (5)_______; everybody is bored to death. Nothing exciting ever happens. Nobody ever gets hurt because everything is (6)_______. There are also no needs. Everyday lots of food just fall (7)_______ out of the sky. Everyone gets along just fine. In Zog’s world there are no (8)_______.

Go ahead, test your vocabulary! I'll post the answers as a comment in a couple of days.

I'm so intrigued by little Zog in his microscopic world that I may just continue this little fantasy in future quizzes.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

"Sexual advances" is nie 'n rede vir pangamoord nie

Ek het vir eers probeer om nie hieroor te skryf nie. Ten minste nie op my blog nie. Ek het wel met my familie en vriende vir wie ek sporadies ’n lang brief skryf om oor my doen en late te vertel bietjie oor die ET-moord en geassosieerde politiek gesels.

Buiten dat ek genoem het dat “[Eugene Terblanche’s] death is certainly disconcerting as it is loaded with symbolic significance,” het ek nie veel gehad om by die diskoers te voeg nie. Wat is daar te sê? Ek is nog nie oortuig dat hy vermoor is direk as gevolg van Malema se uitsprake nie. Sy moord lyk nie juis verskillend van al die ander wrede plaasmoordaanvalle nie.

Die moord word onnodig gepolitiseerd, maar dit is seker onvermydelik weens wie ET was. Maar nou is daar die nuwe neiging om ET se moord te regverdig deur hom “homoseksueel” te etiketeer. Goeie genugtig! Watse boodskap probeer die media stuur? Dis okay om iemand brutaal te vermoor as hulle homoseksuele rasiste is? Of gay-boere kan maar met pangas opgekap word? Ek weet nie of een van hierdie aantuigings waar is nie. Dat ET vroeër ’n rassis was, weet ons gewis; maar na sy tronkstraf waartydens hy tot bekering gekom het is daar, sover ek bewus is, geen duidelike rasistiese uitlatings deur ET in die media gemaak nie. Dat sy bekering opreg was het ek geen twyfel nie. Mense wat baie na aan my is en wat skakels het met die persoon wie vir ET Bybelstudies in die tronk aangebied het, het vir ET en sy vrou op hulle plaas gaan besoek, en my daaromtrent vertel. Sy bekering in die tronk was opreg. Wat ná die tyd gebeur het kan ek nie sê nie, en durf ook geen oordeel uit spreek oor enige iemand se saligheid nie.

Ek weet dit is moeilik om te glo dat iemand wat eens ’n erge rasis was kan verander, maar dit is geensins onmoontlik nie. Ek praat uit eie ondervinding. Ek was as kind ’n rasis. Ek het selfs eenkeer ’n AWB-vergadering gaan by woon en na ’n ET-toespraak geluister! Gelukkig het ek tot beter insigte gekom en het die Heilige Gees my sienswyse verander. (Ja daar was ’n proses tot my ontwakening, maar op die ou einde is dit slegs God wat sulke haat soos wat ek gehad het, en steeds veronderstel is om te hê na wat met ons plaas en my pa gebeur het, te kan wegneem.)

News24 berig dat ET se moord moontlik gevolg het nadat hy “a sexual advance” tot een van sy moordernaars gemaak het. “Two South African farm workers accused of murdering supremacist Eugene Terre'Blanche are to argue they acted in self defence after he made homosexual advances, a report said on Sunday,” so berig ’n ander artikel. Selfs al het hy so iets gedoen—dit moet nog bevestig word—is dit geen rede om hom met ’n panga dood te kap nie. Moet my nie verkeerd verstaan nie, daar is min goed wat my so ontstoke kan maak as die molestering van kinders (die een aanvaller is 15 jaar oud). Daar is geen twyfel dat molesteerders straf verdien nie; maar om met pangas opgekap te word is nie ’n straf wat die misdaad regverdig nie. ’n Aanklag by die polisie en verdere tronkstraf indien skuldig bevind is die tipiese proses in ’n beskaafde samelewing. Volgens Suid-Afrikaanse Wet moet die selfverdedigingsreaksie die aanvaller se vlak van geweld dienooreenkomstig pas. As iemand jou stamp, mag jy nie sommer sy knieg met ’n pyp afslaan nie. As iemand jou eenmalig met die vuisslaan, mag jy nie jou geweer uitpluk en hom skiet nie. Om iemand dood te maak vir selfverdediging moet jou eie lewe in duidelike gevaar wees. Weereens, “a sexual advance,” nog ’n loongeskil, regverdig moord.Enige moord. Selfs die moord van ’n hipotetiese verregse homoseksueel wat sexual advances tot ’n tiener seun maak. So ’n persoon behoort gestraf te word ja, maar nie vermoor te word nie; nog minder brutaal gemartel en vermoor te word nie.

Boer in Ballingskap het ’n peinsende repliek geskryf op Max du Preez se stuk waarin hy sy reaksie teenoor die nuwe opvlamming van rasisme onder witmense uitspreek. Indien ek tyd het sal ek dalk later ook my vyfsent in die koffer hieroor wil gooi.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Jamie Cullum Concert

The Jamie Cullum concert on Saturday night was excellent. Cullum is a master at the piano. Although his forte is jazz, he also showed off his ability at classical pieces and other genres; flowing from one to the other with absolute ease. He is also a great jazz singer; and also a great performer. The other band members are all experts at their respective instruments as well, making for an all round riveting performance.

I was planning to go see Bob Dylan at the end of last month, but things didn’t work out. Although I missed out on seeing this legend, I do think that I still would have enjoyed Jamie Cullum’s show better. While I do have a best of album of Dylan, I tend to listen to it far less than my two Cullum albums. (Actually, Cullum has three albums; I’m missing the second one.)

An interesting thing about the Cullum concert is that it actually started on time, at 7 pm. So by 9 pm it was finished, and after two encores, we were out of there by 9:30 pm. The concert itself was jam packed with Jamie Cullum’s entertaining antics, which included different mash ups of old and new songs, standing on the piano, playing sections with his butt and feet, jumping off of the piano, making impromptu songs with a sampling-machine, and generally just creating excellent music. I’ll definitely go see him again if ever I have the opportunity.

Throughout the show Jamie mispronounced “thank you” in Korean, saying “gamsahanida” 가사하니다 instead of “gamsahamnida” 감사합니다. Nonetheless the Korean crowd cheered him on for his efforts. That is one thing I do love about Korean culture – how they can cheer an individual on. That is a thing about a group-orientated culture that is quite impressive to experience; especially for me that is so very individually-minded.



The song "Twentysomething" used to be a theme song for me. It starts with the words: "After years of expensive education / A car full of books and anticipation / I'm an expert on Shakespeare and that's a hell of a lot / But the world don't need scholars as much as I thought."

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Essays on Gender Issues

[Image Source: Mister V]
In my essay reading class, we have been reading essays focusing on gender issues the last couple of weeks.

We started with the “Declaration of Rights and Sentiments” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The declaration was part of the first US women’s rights convention in 1848 and was signed by 68 women and 32 men. It is believed that the document was a pillar contribution for the women’s right movement in America. “Declaration of Rights and Sentiments” is basically a rewriting of the "American Declaration of Independence," with the uppression of the American states by the King of England’s substituted with the suppression of women by men.

Our second reading was a transcription of Sojourner Truth’s amiable and extemporaneous speech “And Aint’ I a Woman?” at a women convention in 1851, in which she refutes the claims of many previous (male) speakers. She persuasively rebuts arguments that women are by and large dependent and weak, or that women should have less rights on account of less intelligence (!) or because Jesus was a man. It is very likely that this famous speech commonly excepted as the standard version is not a direct transcription; actually it is a revised version published by Frances Gage in the 1860s. Nonetheless, every time I read it, and I’ve done so quite a number of times, I’m impressed anew by the charm and eloquence of it.

We followed these two examples of women’s rights texts from America with an article in two parts (Women in Korea 1; Women in Korea 2) written by Mathias Specht for the Korea Times daily paper. From his view as an outsider (i.e. non-Korean) who has lived in Korea as a student at one of Korea’s Ivy League universities,Yonsei University, Specht discusses what he considers the serious inequality of the sexes in Korea. Specht opens his article with an anecdote of an old Korean man accosting two young women and slapping the one for smoking in public. With this emphatic anecdote, Specht sets the tone for the rest of the article in which the injustices against Korean women is rolled out.

To transition towards a focus on men, we read Maxine Hong Kingston’s narrative “On Discovery” in which a man named Tang Ao is captured by women in the “Land of Women” where they slowly, and through torturous “care,” turns him into a woman. While the story of Tang Ao is quite short, it covers quite a number of themes related to gender issues, such as sex roles, sexism, nature vs. nurture, and questions on identity.

Our last reading on the topic of gender issues was Gretel Ehrlich’s “About Men.” The essay concerns the “cowboys” and “ranchers” of America’s West, particularly Wyoming. Ehrlich begins by contrasting these men, the real cowboys, with the romanticized icons often portrayed in the media. She then sets out to show the androgynous nature of cowboys—how they are both hard and masculine, but also tender and maternal, a dichotomy she plays out successfully throughout the essay. The essay concludes with: “…their strength is also a softness, their toughness, a rare delicacy.” Upon concluding our series on gender issues with “About Men” in which the aloofness of the hardened cowboy is deconstructed to show that they are both manly “hunters” and womanly “nurturers,” I put before my students the following question: “What makes a man?” or “How can one define masculinity?” The question is in part a personal question that I have contemplated before. (See my post: "When Does Manhood Happen?")

There is one other essay I would have liked to cover. It is an article that has been listed here on this blog under the “Web Pages I Fully Intend to Read One of These Uncertain Days”-tag, “Where Have All the Real Men Gone?” by Kathleen Parker. Well, after more than a year, maybe two, I at last got round to reading it. The essay argues that “feminism has neutered men and deprived them of their noble, protective role in society,” and is well worth reading. Unfortunately it is just a tad too long to include in my class as this coming week is the last week before the midterm exams. If I’m still here next year, I may very well adjust the syllabus and include this essay. I would've also liked to include something by African-American James Baldwin, whom was a essayist focussing on issues relating to sexual identity and race.

I must say that I take great pleasure in this class, and quite enjoyed the topic of gender issues that we’ve considered. I hope that the students enjoyed it similarly.

Next week we will take a look at Virginia Woolf’s short essay “Death of a Moth,” which will be our final essay before the midterm exams the following week.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Chicken Cravings


For three days I’ve been craving for chicken. So much so, that even this morning before I woke up I dreamed about eating fried chicken.

As most of my family and friends, and some of the readers of this blog, know, my diet is mostly vegetarian. (I give a rationale here.) There was a time that I lived vegan but I didn’t find it personally sustainable, even though I believe it to be the ideal. To live a healthy vegan lifestyle one needs a vast variety of fresh produce. Unfortunately most grocers do not cater for bachelors; produce is usually sold in bundles made up for families, not for single people. So as a bachelor I find that lots of food spoils before I can eat it. While a vegetarian diet (I’m primarily ovo-lacto vegetarian) also requires a variety of fresh foods, it is a little more sustainable for a single guy. On this diet I never crave for meat. Or rather, I almost never crave for meat. I do not keep meat in my home (apart from occasional tinned fish) and cannot remember when the last time I had cooked meat was.

It is not that I never eat meat. I’m very practical about these things. If I am to visit people that made a meal where the main dish contains meat I will oblige, and if I happen to be out in town and there happens to be no palatable vegetarian options I will not starve myself. Still, my idea of a lovely meal is not a bloody steak; rather a creamy vegetarian pasta dish or a good curry.

My sudden grave urge for chicken was quite unusual – even dreaming of eating chicken, more unusual still. At first I thought that I might be lacking protein so yesterday I prepared myself some eggs. This did nothing to quench my craving. I do not know what poultry might have that fowl eggs do not, but I can attest that consuming eggs did not make the craving subside. Since the hunger for chicken continued unswervingly I decided that there must be some nutritional element that is lacking from my current diet, and my body is telling me that I can find it in poultry.

So for lunch today I went to a take-away restaurant close to my workplace that opened recently. They specialise in fried chicken and pizza. I ordered from the set menu two of their chicken and pizza combos and, admittedly, I ravished the chicken, even though I usually prefer pizza over meat.

I’m happy to say that the craving disappeared.

I’ve been feeling a little sick lately; mostly a slight sore throat and a runny nose. A common folk remedy for colds and the flu is chicken soup. I don’t know what it is about chicken soup that helps with seasonal afflictions, but I wonder if my body, which have been feeling a little down, needed that nutritional ingredient. To find out if there is something about chicken (or chicken soup) that is remedial I did a quick Internet search. It turns out that chicken soup with its other ingredients, but also the extract of chicken alone, has an anti-inflammatory action. Apparently, at least one amino acid released from chicken during preparation is similar to actylcysteine, which is a drug prescribed for respiratory ailments. (You can view a CNN-article about it and another from a health website.)

Apart from the sore throat I’ve also increased my exercise regime lately and my muscles are somewhat tender; i.e. slightly inflamed. The craving for chicken may have been my body’s suggestion for an all round remedy, not only for an inflamed throat, but also for inflamed muscles; plus the need for extra amino acids because of the increased exercise.

Speaking of chickens, have you ever heard of Mike the Headless Chicken? Mike was a chicken that survived for 18 months after his head was chopped of. The farmer that decaputated the chicken was so impressed with his will to live, that he gave him grain and water with an eyedropper. Mike actually gained some weight during this time and according to witnesses continued to act like a normal chicken. Apparently enough of his brainstem (a part of the chicken's neck) remained for him to continue to function pretty much normally. See the YouTube video below or follow the link above to the website devoted to the life-loving Mike.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Prostitusie: 'n Paar interesante feite

Ek het via 'n ander blogskrywer (Korean Rum Diary) op 'n paar interesante statistieke afgekom rakende prostitusie regoor die wêreld. Die punte wat my natuurlik die meeste intereseer raak my gasheerland, Korea, en my tuisland, Suid-Afrika.

Glo is die gemiddelde prys vir 'n sessie met 'n prostituut in Suid-Afrika 'n skamele $1. Wat is dit, om-en-by R7? Indien die gemiddelde prys R7 is, beteken dit daar sowaar prostitute is wat vir minder as dit dienste lewer; byvoorbeeld vir R5 of R2. Hoe arm en desperaat moet 'n mens wees om seks aan te bied vir so 'n klein bedraggie geld waarmee jy skaars 'n brood kan koop?! Ek ken iemand wat as 'n sekswerker haar drie kinders deur die skool gesit het. Sy het duidelik in 'n ander inkomste klas haarself bemark.

'n Koreaanse vriend het my onlangs vertel dat Suid-Afrika is besig om prostitute in te voer na Suid-Afrika vir die sokkerwêreldbeker. Ek weet nie hoeveel waarheid daarin steek nie, maar glo het hy dit op die nuus hier verneem. Dit klink vir my of hierdie sokkerwêreldbekers maar net 'n groot verskoning is vir massa-dekadensie. Dwelms, seks, drank, en oorlog op die sportveld.

'n Ander statistiek, hierdie slag rakende Korea, is dat 1 uit 5 Koreaanse mans betaal vir seks meer as vier keer per maand! Gesiene al die "Love Motels" waaroor ek al baie geskryf het, bevestig hierdie statistiek dit wat ek al lankal vermoed het. Dit is seker een van die goed wat my die meeste irriteer van Korea -- hierdie skynheiligheid. Hulle maak asof die familie-eenheid die belangrikste ding op aarde is, en asof Koreane oor die algemeen baie preuts is, maar oral is daar motelle, die advertensiebedryf stoom van seksuele innuendo, en elke vyfde ou op straat besoek 'n sekswerker een keer per week.

Jy kan die statistieke hier groter sien.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Pretty Men and other Koreanisms

I teach a vocabulary class in which we focus on collocations – these are words that go together and sound natural to the native speaker; for instance, one makes a friend, but not a girlfriend -- you get a girlfriend; you take a photo, you don’t make a photo; he’s a handsome man, not a pretty man.

Okay, the latter doesn’t necessarily count in Korea. Korea not only boasts with handsome men, it also has many pretty men. Speaking about the topic, I only had to mention “Flower Boys” to my students and all of them understood why I said some men in Korea are not handsome, they are pretty. I was referring to the Korean drama Boys before Flowers (read more on Wikipedia). I haven’t actually seen any episodes (I don’t own a TV), but I have seen many posters and pictures, featuring the dazzling male actors to whom the word “handsome” just doesn’t apply.

This “pretty boy” phenomenon in Korea doesn’t come without its problems. One of my Korean friends once told me of such a pretty boy with whom he was in the military with. The poor guy was constantly (sexually) harassed because he looked so much like a girl. Recently in the news (via The Grand Narrative), a member of the Korean boy band D-NA, named Karam, admitted to having had frequent negative experiences with older men harassing him.

I haven’t actually seen anything by D-NA at all (I try to avoid K-Pop as much as possible), but I can only guess that some of their dancing is probably quite provocative. In Korea, like much of the world, pop idol bands are marketed on a high dose of sexual innuendo. However, in Korea these pop idol band members are often quite young, making me wonder whether or not this borders on the sexual exploitation of children. Then again, in a country where consensual sex with a thirteen year old is legal, a couple of kids performing dance moves is probably not that big a deal. That is, until old men start harassing them.

The video below features Karam:

Zimbabwe Mail: ANC Youth leader urges South African white farmers to leave

HARARE - Controversial South African youth leader for the African National Congress has said ANC will follow the example of Zimbabwe's Zanu PF and start to take over white-owned farms by the end of the year.

The comments were made by Julius Malema at a mine 160 kilometers outside Harare in Zimbabwe.

ANC Youth Wing Leader: Julius Malema -- Zimbabwe Mail
The ANC Youth Wing leader, enthused by rented Zanu PF crowd, said Zimbabwe had led the way in fighting over land and promised to unleash Zimbabwean tactics on South African white farmers.

Read more at The Zimbabwe Mail.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Robert Coates' New Album Released

Yes, this is the right eye of Robert Coates. (I hope he forgives me for posting it... I only have one photo of him that I took a couple of years back while we were still working together but since I don't have his permission to post it, I'll just show you an eye. In any case, one would hardly recognise him from the photo I have. He has grown his hair long.)

My friend Robert Coates realesed his new album W Beestrum yesterday. It is downloadable from his website. (Please consider making a donation.) Robert is an excellent guitarist. This latest album is also exceptionally well done with a wonderful (typically Robertian) variety of sounds. (I'm not saying this because he's my friend -- it's just a fact.) You will hear flavours of Blues, Folk, Jazz, Southern rhythms and even some African vibes -- at least, I think they are African. Definitely an album with an alluring array of grooves. Robert writes thoughtful lyrics; seemlessly weaving a deep sensibility and even spirituality into everyday topics.

Robert is currently finishing his doctor's degree in Jazz guitar from the University of Southern California.

Seriously, go listen to his songs here: CoatesMusic.Com You can even get to hear his previous (2007) album Dragonfly.

On a more personal note, I met Robert the first time I came to Korea; we worked at the same branch of a famous Language Academy. To me, he felt like the only other "normal" person at our job. Of course, to everybody else, both Robert and I probably seemed somewhat odd. We had some very interesting conversations after work at night, standing on the roof of the building where we worked, looking out over the night lights of Kangnam.These are some of my fondest recollections of my first couple of months in Korea.

In my years in Korea I have very seldom met people with whom I could have deep conversations. Most people I meet seem somewhat superficial -- and I say it in the kindest way. This leaves me often with a feeling of loneliness, even while surrounded with people. Robert was one of the few people that I could talk to and not feel like I could just as well have left my brain at home. It was not really a matter of our conversation being about unusually intellectual topics; rather it was the types of topics that determined the quality of the conversation. The topics themselves had a measure of weightiness about them -- at least in my opinioin. Other people may find sports a very weighty matter.

I still hope to work with Robert one day in some collaborative project -- him writing the music, and I writing the ... uhm ... I'm not sure yet what I'll write. Nevertheless, I look forward to it.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Jamie Cullum


Jazz pianist / singer / songwriter Jamie Cullum is performing in Seoul this weekend. I think I'm going.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

South Africa



I really hope that this is not South Africa's only future.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Shades of Green

Huge Mosquitoes

Apparently in Korea there are these humongous mosquitoes, known as “jontoo mokgi,” which can be translated as “Commando Mosquitoes,” so called because they can suck your blood right through an army boot. At least that is what I’ve heard from some young Korean men who, they say, have experienced these bloodsucking monstrosities first hand.

I’m yet to see such a brawny bug myself; however, I have seen some rather huge mosquitoes in South Africa. The one in the photo is from KwaZulu Natal – an “Impi Mozzie.”

Friday, 2 April 2010

Do You Like the New Look?

It's all thanks to Blogger’s new Blogger Template Designer, one of the latest new toys in the “sandbox” of Blogger in Draft. Blogger in Draft is Blogger’s laboratory where they test out new features before releasing it to everyone.

Blogger Template Designer is the best thing to happen to Blogger, since … uhm … ever! Just look how much more interesting I was able to make my blog, and it hardly took me 30 minutes! The interface is ridiculously easy and there is enough variety to cover most people’s tastes.

It has been a well known fact that Wordpress outdo Blogger hands down. The only reason I started a blog on Blogger is because I used a Gmail-account and I found it convenient that when I’m logged into my email account I’m automatically logged into my blog as well. (I used to have a Yahoo! 360-blog when I used my Yahoo! email address as my primary email address; however, when I made my Gmail account my primary email I switched blogging sites as well.) Blogger has definitely stepped up the ladder with the Blogger Template Designer initiative.

I’ve been thinking of moving my blog onto a personal server (rather than Blogger) but there is something about the serendipitous nature of Blogger that I like. At the top of every Blogger-blog is that nifty little “Next Blog” link. By clicking on it I’ve discovered some really interesting blogs, some of which I still return to every so often and which are listed in my “Other Blogs I Frequent”-blogroll. And now with Blogger Template Designer making designing options so much easier, I don’t see the need for hosting the blog myself. Apart from the convenience of it being free, it also takes away the need to do actual web design. One of my degrees is in Graphic Design, so designing a new blog is not that much of a challenge, but I must say that I’m quite happy with the new look; so why reinvent the wheel? In any case, my project pyp-online is keeping me busy enough with web design and other stuff.