Sunday, 29 March 2009

Movie Review: The Good, the Bad, the Weird

I just saw the Korean movie The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008) by director Kim Jee-woon. It is a postmodern mix of American style Western and Oriental kung fu movie. The setting is Manchuria, sometime during the Japanese occupation of Korea. The plot involves a treasure map and a myriad of groups interested in it.

While the weaving of Western and Eastern motifs into this Oriental Western is successfully accomplished, and the movie is visually grand, the story began to bore me after a while. Lasting two hours fifteen minutes, I started to get somewhat irritable after an hour and a half.
The movie has a slight steam-punk feel to it which is quite enjoyable.

The leading actors include Jung Woo-sung who I first saw in the tragic movie A Moment to Remember (2004). If someone were to ask me what is the saddest movie I’ve ever seen, I would have to say A Moment to Remember. I’ve never cried so much in any movie. Song Kang-ho plays another leading character. As typical of him, he often plays the comedic role. I saw him before in the celebrated movie, The Host (2006); as well as in Secret Sunshine (2007). Lee Byung-heon plays the third lead. His somewhat dysfunctional character probably required the best acting of the three. I first saw Lee in the highly praised movie, Joint Secure Area (2000), which, although quite fictional, is well worth seeing. In fact, if you are interested in Korean cinema, they are all worth seeing.

And so too for The Good, the Bad, the Weird; probably one of the better movies from 2008. It is full of action, complimented by accomplished cinematography. Just a pity about the length.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

I Wonder . . .

if it is worth fighting for a (worthy, albeit) losing battle?

Size doesn't matter. Or does it? -- The essay that will never be.

I was busy with the first draft (below) for an essay that I thought I might use for my column in the quarterly (P~YP!) I’m involved with. Unfinished I sent it to a friend to read and see if it will be appropriate. He kindly suggested I find another topic. Trusting his judgment I will therefore not work on it any further. If I was to continue writing the essay, I would probably have looked for more examples of motifs that are overthrown, but in the end I would have complimented the movie a bit more.

Feeling it somewhat of a waste I decided to just post the first draft here, as is. After all, inspiration for the essay did come from a previous post I wrote.

Size doesn’t matter. Or does it? The Curious Case of Dr Manhattan’s Penis.

Did you notice Dr Manhattan’s big penis? What a silly question – if you’ve seen the movie, Watchmen, based on the graphic novel by the same name, you couldn’t help but notice the big glowing phallus. Apart from it shining in the dark, a big penis ought not be such a curious thing; however, when compared to Dr Manhattan’s penis in the graphic novel the difference is striking, and the cause for much hype.

When the director, Zack Snyder, went through painstaking efforts to make a movie rendition that matches the source material so closely, why the decision to upsize Dr Manhattan’s penis so dramatically? And does it really matter? Well, I think it does and here is why:

The graphic novel is overtly violent and doesn’t shy away from adult themes and sexual explicitness (with both rape and love scenes). However, in the graphic novel Dr Manhattan’s penis is very much downplayed. It is therefore clear that the author (Alan Moore) and artist (Dave Gibbons) did not intend to make Dr Manhattan’s nudity a sexual motif. His nudity carries themes of alienation from society, an abandonment of human customs and something something something [...find more reasons...]. Dr Manhattan’s undertoned penis in the graphic novel is also a symbol for his impotency at changing the future. Impotency is a recurring motif in the novel.

Contrary to the graphic novel, the film’s depiction of Dr Manhattan’s much larger penis is an overthrow of these motifs. The penis gains undue attention, eliciting themes opposing to the source material. Dr Manhattan has become not an impersonal symbol of science and power misused by those in control, but is now a symbol of masculinity, a symbol of penis-driven wars using phallic shaped atom bombs.

The climactic discourse by Dr Manhattan and Silk Spectre discussing the fate of the world is not a debate of logic versus emotion, but most unemphatically it became a discussion of men with big penises versus women with big breasts.

Of course, the director has the freedom to reinterpret the source material. Unfortunately on this occasion it was at cost of the main theme of the story – whether the end justifies the means. But maybe the big glowing blue penis in the film is exactly such a “means”. Did Snyder hope that full frontal male nudity will up the ticket sales of the movie? If so, Snyder has turned a pop culture classic into bad soft porn with an overly complicated plot.

A Week in Review

Just some random picture I took.

What can I say about my week? I guess it was tiring. I prepared tests, graded assignments, got ready for classes, went to Taekwon-Do, did a Hapkido promotional test (which I passed), attended an 8:30 meeting where one colleague exploded in anger, spoiling my mood for the rest of the day, was told a“new responsibility” I have to perform that was not in my contract and which goes very much contrary to my convictions (so I’m going to ignore it and see what the future will hold), received notice about all the money I'm still in the red on my credit card because of my South African trip recently and the unexpected family crises that popped-up while I was there, causing me to use my credit card, which I'm paying off most from my March salary (hence I'll be quite poor during April and May), and the list goes on.

There were some highlights as well. I spent some time with a friend that I haven't seen in a very long time (she's not in Korea anymore and is visiting from the States for a couple of days), went to Daehangno and had great food, and enjoyed vespers (Sabbath evening, i.e. Friday night) at the church by the language institute where I used to teach. Also, this morning in my little cell group I got to share my view of God – NOT an arbitrary deity that says “You better love / obey / worship Me, or I’ll torture you in hell for all eternity”, but a God that values freedom of choice; a God that is unselfish. I hope that they find comfort in my understanding of God. I've also been listening to some good sermons this week.

Tonight I'm thinking to just stay home and watch some documentaries I've been planning to see. Tomorrow night I might have a friend or two over for dinner. And somewhere in between I need to do some grading of assignments and tests, wash laundry, do the dishes, clean my floors and go do some grocery shopping; maybe even visit a gallery.

So in all, probably a very ordinary week. One with its fare share of ups and downs.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Visual Poetry

Just something beautiful I stumbled upon on YouTube.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

I Wonder . . .

. . . if there could be anything more painful than giving birth to a litter of baby porcupines -- cute as they are.

Boekresensie: Die Mugu

Ek het gister my resente moltreinboek klaar gelees. Die Mugu (1959) van Etienne Leroux word beskou as een van die klassieke tekse binne die Afrikaanse kanon. Net voor my onlangse vertrek terug na Korea het ek my kopie gekry by ’n vriend en Afrikaanse dosent aan die Noordwes-Universiteit. Ek was aanvanklik aangeraai deur ’n professor aan die selfde departement om Die Mugu te lees, omdat sy van mening was dat ek dit interesant sal vind weens my meestersgraadnavorsing wat gehandel het oor “Die skep en voorstelling van ’n postmoderne karakteridentiteit in prosa”.

Nou ja, wat kan ek sê omtrent díe roman? Inderdaad ’n teks van sy tyd. Leroux se fyn observering van die mense teen die laat 1950s is baie goed. Buiten vir Gysbrecht Edelhart, die hoofkarakter, is daar seker twee ander karakters wat baie belangrik is weens hulle polariteit. Die een is Julius Johnson, die besigheidsman en simbool vir orde. Daarteenoor staan Juliana Doepels – die (mal?) anarchis. ’n Ander tweespalk is Gysbrecht, ’n middeljarige man, teenoor die eendsterte (rebelse jongmense).

Die Mugu gee ’n mens ’n verassende blik op Kaapstad se mense rondom daardie tyd. Natuurlik is die karaktes stereotipes, maar daar is waardevolle waarnemings te herken in stereotipes. ’n Genotvolle storie, wat teen die einde vir my bietjie begin sloer het. Nietemin ’n boek wat elke Afrikaanssprekende een of ander tyd behoort te lees.

Die karakter Juliana Doepels, met haar pruik, grootbrille, aasvoëlgedaante en apokaliptiese sentiment is mynsinsiens een van die mees interesante karakters in die Afrikaanse literatuur. Haar klimaktiese toespraak, waarvan ek hieronder seleksies weergee, is my gunsteling deel van die boek. Moontlik omdat ek self bietjie van ’n anarchistiese streep het.
Op ’n seepkissie het Juliana Doepels, omring deur die Parademengelmoes, haar toespraak begin. Die kring om haar word groter namate nuuskieriges bykom en spoedig deelneem aan die honende tussenwerpsels van goedige gejou. Sy het haar spesiaal vir die geleentheid verklee en lyk sprekend op Sister Carrie met haar outydse swart rok.

"Ek het ’n studie gemaak," skreeu sy. "Ek het die saak van al die kante bekyk en tot die slotsom gekom dat in die lig van julle teenswoordige denke julle nooit sal verander nie. Elkgeen van julle is ’n klein tronkie wat die gees gevange hou en Julius Johnson en sy soort is die bewaarders. In die aand gaan julle slaap, in die oggend staan julle op, gedurendedie dag werk julle sonder gevoel en toewyding. Julle sit in chroomkafees en sien Hollywoodmatinees op Saterdae. Party can julle drink sjerrie en dans die kwêla; die ander ooreet hulle met vleis en geelrys en bewaard die valse sedes. Julle teel soos konyne aan en siektes rooi julle nie eens meer uit nie."

"Julle word nie uitgeroei nie want julle is self ’n siekte. Julle versprei soos kieme en besmet die aarde. Lank leef die atoombom! Lank leef radioaktiwiteit! Mag julle spoedig uitbrand en die aarde in vrede laat."

"Toe julle minder was, toe daar ruimte was, het die natuur oorheers en was julle grappig, pateties, kleurryk en selfs indrukwekkend. Maar nou is julle ’n vloek, ’n onkruid wat dreig om die wêreld in te neem. Julle teer op alles -- op die hele natuur. Julle vrye wil is verstomp. Julle is slagoffers van ’n illusie en so blik soos vlermuise. Julius Johnson is die hoofvlermuis, bewaarder van die orde, die skerp kop van die doellose piramide. Vervloek is julle! Ek, Juliana Doepels, beaam die vloek wat alreeds op julle rus!"

"By elkeen van julle mag nog miskien die kiem van teenstand, die laaste flikkering van die oorspronklike trots wees. Maar krap ’n bietjie, stel die eis, en julle kollektiewe patroontjies kruip uit, gryp die liggaam en draf saam met die miljoene miere rigtingloos en vernietigend oor die moeë aarde. Lank leef julle sedes! Lank mag julle die sekes verkrag met vroom gesigte! Lank leef julle liefde sodat selfs die kinders in verset kom en met selfbespotting, selfkastyding, aangetrek soos narre, die noodlot kortpad tegemoetgaan! Lank leef die orde wat julle verander het van ’n middel vir selfbeskerming tot ’n tronk vir almal! Lank leef vryheid wat julle in ’n spotwoord omgeskep het! Lank leef die held wat julle tot julle ewebeeld afgetakel het! Lank leef die God wat julle van voor af kruisig!"


Joseph Heller’s Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man (2000) will probably be my next subway read.

Monday, 23 March 2009

SA se Staat/Kerk-komplot versterk

Jacob Zuma -- Photo from South Africa P.I.C.

In an earlier post I wrote about my fear that South African politics are turning “religious” and that this may lead to a slippery slope where Church and State becomes dangerously intimate. In that post I referred to the political party COPE’s decision to put forth Bishop Mvume Dandale forward as their presidential candidate.

In 2007 an independent charismatic church ordained Jacob Zuma as an honorary pastor.

Recently Zuma, the ANC president and likely the next South African president, has started a clear campaign amongst churches. It started with his appearance at the Rhema mega church in Randburg, South Africa, on Sunday, 15 March. Three days later Jacob Zuma was blessed by a meeting of religious and traditional leaders in Mafikeng – saying that “if God is for [the ANC] who can be against us”. Zuma called the ANC “baptized” and a “child of the church”.

This is not the first in religious rhetoric by the ANC. Earlier this year ANC leaders compared Zuma to Jesus Christ, saying: “In church they sing that they will follow Jesus wherever he goes. That’s how we should be about Jacob Zuma”.

Furthermore, what are we to make of the government's refusal to allow the Dalai Lama to enter South Africa?

Sunday, 22 March 2009

'n (Verpligte) Eerstejaarskamp

The photo above is not a Creative Commons-image.

Die afgelope naweek moes ek en die ander dosente in die Engelse departement op ’n kamp saam met ons department se eerstejaars gaan. Met ons vertrek en selfs toe ons uiteindelik laat Saterdagmiddag weer by die kampus aangekom het, het ek steeds nie geweet wat presies die doel was vir ons dosente om saam te gaan nie. Die kamp was grootliks behartig deur die departement se kapelaan (ja, elke departement by die universiteit waar ek werk het hulle eie aangestelde predikant vir studenteberading), en senior studente. Ons dosente moes sporadies insit op kleingroepies, maar dit was duidelik tot die ongemaklik van die studente.

Een van my kolegas dink ons teenwoordigheid is om empatie te toon. Die eerste jaars is verplig om op die kamp te gaan. Die dosente is ook verplig om saam te gaan. Dus kan ons meëgevoel toon aan mekaar se lot.

Ek weet nie of die kamp ’n sukses was nie. Party studente, soos die foto kan getuig, het nie omgegee wat om hulle aangaan nie. Waarskynlik omdat hulle die Vrydagaand tot wie-weet-watter tyd baljaar het en die geraas die res van ons wat probeer slaap het daarvan weerhou het. Anders as die studente kon ek nie op my arms lê nie – “that’s not what you get paid for”, het een professor aan my gesê toe ek agter in die saal sit tydens die Saterdagoggend preek. Glo moes ek tussen die studente gaan sit as ’n motivering vir hulle om aandag te gee. Ek het my amper vervies. Is dit waarvoor ek betaal word? Om waghond te speel vir jongvolwassenes wat slaap tydens preke?

’n Aangename ding van die naweek was dat ons dosente kon bietjie "bonding" doen. Ek het ’n kamer gedeel met een van die professors in ons departement en ek kon bietjie met hom gesels oor die akademie. Daar word nie van die buitelandse dosente verwag om navorsing te doen nie, maar nadat ek met hom gesels het klink dit of akademiese prestasie tog aangemoedig word en dat ek wel akademiese bydraes, in die vorm van byvoorbeeld artikels, kan maak -- waarvoor die universiteit my sal vergoed. Met ander woorde, my bydrae tot die departement kan volwaardig akademies van aard wees, nie net pedagogies van aard nie. Dit is goeie nuus.

Dit was ook ’n geleentheid om bietjie uit Seoul te kom, en die natuurskoon te beleef. Dit is nog winter so die wêreld is maar bleek; nietemin, dit was lekker om bietjie buite te wees.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Movie Review: The Cross and the Switchblade

I just watched the classic The Cross and the Switchblade (1970), scripted from the book by the same name (1963), based on the first five years of preacher David Wilkerson and his work with the street gangs of New York City. Ps Wilkerson co-wrote the book with John and Elizabeth Sherrill – it became a best seller and is translated into over 30 languages.

The story recounts Ps Wilkerson’s outreach to the street kids in New York City, and how, through a period of personal interaction, demonstration of unconditional love, and preaching the Good News, even the most delinquent of the gang members came to give their hearts to God.

One such a kid was Nicky Cruz, born to a “Theistic Satanist” family who was abused physically and emotionally by his parents. After his conversion Cruz returned to school and ended up an evangelist himself. (This is not in the film.)

The film is definitely not one of the best I’ve seen as far as cinematography goes, and also the acting had me clinching at times. The funky (I mean that in the most literal sense) 70s soundtrack took much getting use to. However, I have to remind myself that the film is very much in line with other movies of the same period and evaluated thus, pretty much on par. It is the story, however, that keeps you stuck to your seat (or in my case my bed). The primary goal of a film about the Gospel changing the unchangeable is not cinematographic genius. It is about telling the story of God’s redemptive power; and that The Cross and the Switchblade pulls off quite dramatically.

The Cross and the Switchblade is a movie of hope. I can always do with more of that. How about you?

Friday, 20 March 2009


Hierdie week het ek myself al tweekeer uit my woonstel uitgesluit.

Die eerste keer was vroeër vanweek en moes ek na die "Maintenance Office" gaan sodat hulle vir my kan kom oopsluit. En toe nou weer vandag.

Toe ek dit vir een van my kollegas vertel, vra sy vir my: "What's on your mind?" Ek het nie besef dat dit my so erg affekteer nie; daar is inderdaad dinge wat my bietjie hinder sedert verlede week. My kop is vol muisneste -- ek's vergeetagtig en slaap sleg. Alles tekens dat iets nie juis is nie. Tog, as jy my moet vra hoe dit gaan sal ek heel eerlik antwoord: "Goed dankie."

Dis nogals amusant hoedat 'n mens issues kan onderdruk. Ondanks jok die onbewustelike simptome nie.

Movie Review: Dragonball Z

Don't waste your time or money.

I went to see the movie with a Dragonball Z fan, and even he was disappointed. No amount of CGI and special effects can make up for a bad story and bad acting.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

South African Expat Voting Information

South African citizens that live outside of the Republic and wish to vote at next month’s national election should do the following.
  • See if you are registered. The deadline for registration has already closed; however, if you voted at the previous election it is most likely that you are automatically registered for this election. At least that is the case with me.
  • Notify the IEC that you intend to vote before 27 March 2009. You’ll need to fill out a VEC 10 form and email, post or fax it to the Chief Electorial Officer.
Email notifications to: vec10 @

Post notifications to:

P O Box 7943,
South Africa

Fax notifications to:
(012) 428 5566
(012) 428 5279
  • The Chief Electorial Officier will check that you are indeed registered and will inform the foreign mission (i.e. South African Embassy) of your intention to vote.
  • Go to the foreign mission on April 15th, and take both your bar coded ID-book, as well as your passport with you.
For more information see the IEC-website.

Omtrent ouer word

“Hoe voel dit om een-en-dertig te wees?”, vra ’n vriendin. Sonder skroom reaggeer ek – “Beter as een-en-twintig!” Op een-en-twintig was ek nog erg depressief met ’n slegte selfbeeld, emosioneel afhanklik van ander, so arm dat ek bottels moet inruil vir kleingeld om ’n brood mee te koop en vriende vir my moet instaan om my huur te kan bekostig.

Tien jaar later – depressie is onder beheer, my selfbeeld is gesond, ek is emosioneel en finansiëel onafhanklik. Ja ek sukkel nog met baie van die ou sondes van toe, maar nou is ek darem vertroud met my demone.

Een vriend skryf: “31 is nou nie naastenby so spectacular soos 30 nie, maar van nou af dink ek moet ons nie meer verjaar nie, eerder net herdenk.” ’n Ander vriendin (in haar sestigs) skryf vir my, “It is even better at 40”.

Bio: Dis goed

Dis 1998 of 1999. Ek het ’n klomp gekleurde karton in die hande gekry. Dis snipperye van profesionele monteringsborde vir die raamwerk van skilderye. Ek hou veral van die donker kleure – maroen, vlootblou, diep oker – en eksperimenteer met my poeierpastelle. Ek “skilder” wilde diere: bokke en katte en voëls.

Ek wys vir my Pa een prent. Dis ’n roofdier – ’n arend of jagluiperd. Ek kan nie meer onthou nie en dit maak nie regtig saak nie. Pa sê, dis goed. Dis al wat hy sê. Nie dis goed, maar jy oefen nie genoeg nie; nie dis goed, maar jou nefie het meer talent nie; nie dis goed, maar dit lyk nog nie eg genoeg nie; nie dis goed, maar. . . Net dis goed. En ek dink dit was die eerste keer in my lewe dat dit nét goed was.

Ek stap kombuis toe. My ouer broer is daar, sien die trane in my oë en vra wat is fout. Niks nie. Ek huil want ek’s gelukkig.

Grace Jones

Whatever happened to the iconic Grace Jones? Do you remember her as the Amazon named Zula in Conan the Destroyer (1984), or as May Day in the James Bond movie A View to Kill (1985). I didn't think her to be too active anymore, but according to Wikipedia she's been quite busy recently. I also stumbled onto this interview with her.

Apart from being an actress and model, Grace Jones is also an accomplished vocalist (contralto). Listen to the song below she performs with Pavarotti and contrast that with her performance of "La Vie En Rose" in the next video, and then with the almost surreal "Corporate Cannibal".

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Book & Movie Review: The Watchmen

A big shiny blue penis. That’s definitely not what the movie is about, but it sure is the topic of much hype – Dr Manhattan’s big blue glowing penis. So here’s a picture of it.

Get used to it and then when you watch the movie it won’t bother you that much. That aside…

Having finished the graphic novel, written by Allan Moore who also authored The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and V for Vendetta, both of which were adapted to film, I finally went to see The Watchmen-movie. With the graphic novel still fresh in my memory I was impressed with how close the movie adaptation was to the source material. In this lies probably the Catch-22 of the film. Had it been any less true to the original, a very cultic fan base would have cussed it. The fans are happy. After all, it claims to be a movie made by fans for the fans. But, those viewers (whom are the majority) not familiar with The Watchmen-comics (uhm…sorry, graphic novel series) were probably very much at a loss, hence the numerous accounts of walkouts. The superheroes in The Watchmen are not your typical superheroes. Apart from Dr Manhattan and his glowing blue penis, they do not have any super powers. They are merely vigilantes – and mostly retired vigilantes at that. Not knowing this and expecting Superman or Spider-Man is sure to be a let down. “Watchmen isn't a superhero movie,” complains one reviewer, “it's a pretentious turkey that thinks it's better than the genre.” I’m certain he did not read the graphic novel.

Another problem was probably the R-rating of the film had in the United States. Many viewers were just not prepared for the amount of blood and violence, nudity and sex, in this film. In Korea, where I saw the film, it is rated 18.

The graphic novel is an excellent example of postmodern fiction. The main story happens in an alternate history, with U.S. president Nixon still in reign and where masked crime fighters are common celebrities in society. There are many plots; narratives, narrative levels and narrative jumps; intertextual references; ontological and epistemological issues and moral dilemmas.

The film is much more streamlined with many of the narratives left out, making it easier to follow, I would say, than the graphic novel; however, the graphic novel has much more time for character development and I think the reader has much more invested in the characters than is the case of the viewers towards the movie characters. In any case, the casting was well done, I thought. Dr Manhattan is played by Billy Crudop, who played the leading role in one of my all time favourite movies, Jesus’ Son (1999). Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach is also an excellent choice.

I loved the soundtrack, which included Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable”, Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’”, Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”, Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee”, Billie Holliday’s “You’re My Thrill”, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, Nina Simone’s “Pirate Jenny” and “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix, and some more.

It is a good film, but can probably only truly be appreciated once you’ve read the graphic novel. Although, when I went to see it I did so with two friends who had not read the graphic novel, yet they still enjoyed it, even though they had read many reviews complaining how boring the two hour fourty minute movie is. Of the two friends one said it was a bit long (even though he enjoyed it), while the other raved about.

Movie Review: The Wrestler

Three movies I’ve been looking forward to see since last year were The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons, The Watchmen and The Wrestler. Having seen all three now, I can say that I wasn’t disappointed by any of them. In this post I’d like to speak a bit about The Wrestler.

It was in 2007 that I stood in line at a fuel station tuck shop when my I caught the photo of someone on a People magazine. I was sure I knew this guy, but just couldn’t think who it was. So I browsed through the magazine to the appropriate article – it was about Mickey Rourke and he looked monstrous; too much plastic surgery gone wrong.

How sad, I thought. Too many bad choices and this is what he had become. I really thought his movie career had forever come to an end. And I probably lamented his decay, like I bemoaned all our decaying (aging).

Then, sometime last year, I read a great review of the movie The Wrestler; about a down and out wrestler trying in vain to retain his former glory. The reviewer wrote passionately about Mickey Rourke and how The Wrestler was an apt parable for Rourke’s own life; how only Rourke, the has-been, could really play this role of a has-been wrestler.

The Wrestler tells an authentic story; depicting life as it is – fairy tales don’t last. Things don’t always work out for the better. The joyride comes to an end.

The movie is very well directed by Darren Aronofsky whom also directed Requiem for a Dream (2002) and Pi (1998), Rourke acted fabulously (winning Golden Globe, BAFTA and other awards), the script is engagingly written, and the cinematography pulls the audience into the character’s world; in all, a splendid film well worth watching. A cathartic watch that’s not escapism.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Watchmen

I finished reading the acclaimed graphic novel series The Watchmen today. It was written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons and coloured by John Higgins; and now also released as a film by Zack Snyder.

It is a rich multi-layered text and a prime example of postmodern literature. Two narratives are interwoven, with multiple plotlines running in tandem. There’re also a myriad of inter-textual references, many of which are allusions to apocalyptic Biblical texts. I was told by a friend that it requires at least five readings before one can fully understand it. I don’t believe that to be the case. It is a complex text, true; but it is not that complex – at least not for a literature major or an avid reader.

I plan to watch the movie tomorrow and will probably do a combined review of both the graphic novel and the film in one go when I have time.

Self-Portrait: Emo

Greatest Compliment for a Teacher

A Creative Commons image by Candinski

Today I received the greatest compliment a university lecturer can ask for. A student came up to me after a class to talk to me about some of the poetry we have discussed. (It’s a class on 19th Century British Poetry, and currently covering William Blake.)

“In Korea the teachers give the interpretations to the students. They tell us what the meanings are. But you don’t do that. You teach us to think for ourselves. I think your way is better.” she said.

Can there be any sweeter words for a teacher to hear?! – “You teach us to think for ourselves.”

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


Ek het nie ’n lekker verjaarsdag gehad nie. Dis nie dat ek juis ’n spesiale dag verwag het nie – ek dink glad nie dat my verjaarsdag juis anders as enige ander dag hoef te wees nie. Sulke kinderlike betowering is lankal reeds ontnugter deur die gryse werklikheid.

Tog, vandag was ’n besonderse slegte dag. Dit het reeds gisteraand begin nadat ek ’n e-pos van een van my broers ontvang het. Die e-pos was ’n verontskuldiging. Ek stem nie saam nie en het dit ook so gesê in ’n repliek. Sedert gisteraand, en die hele dag lank vandag, pla ons diskoers my. Ek is verbaas hoedat dit my ontstel het. Ek dink dit het ’n blik wurms oopgemaak en opgekropte gevoelens ontketel wat ek nou al vir ’n lang ruk onderdruk.

En toe boonop vanaand in Taekwon-Do het ek iemand seer gemaak. Dit was nie heeltemal my skuld nie maar ek voel nietemin sleg daaroor. Ons het geskerm (“spar”) – ek het ingekom met ’n skop, gelyktydig het my opponent ook ingekom, en op ’n manier toe tref ek hom met die knieg teen die kop (vermoedelik tel ek my knieë nogal hoog op). Onderstebo is die knaap toe. En dit is nadat die instrukteur my reeds gewaarsku het dat my verdediging te sterk is. Verbeel jou dit! ’n Verdiging is te sterk?! Die probleem is dat ek al vir ’n dekade en ’n half oefen aan my verdediging; dis kern tot my manier van veg; dis karakteristiek tot my tegniek. Voordat ek my studente enige iets leer van skerm, leer ek hulle hoe om ’n sterk verdediging te hê. Maar, sê die instrukteur, ek gaan my oefenmaats beseer weens my harde blokke. Ek veg nie normaalweg baie hard teen my oefenmaats nie, grootliks omdat hulle veel laer is as ek in rang. Maar vanaand het ek teen ’n mede 3de Dan geveg. Hy is aansienlik ratser as ek en daarom het ek nie soveel terug gehou as gewoonlik nie. Tog het ek ook nie volheid gegaan nie. Die slegte ding is dat dit nie die eerste keer is wat ek hom uithaal nie. Op ’n vorige skerm geleentheid het ek ’n spinskop gedoen en hom vol teen die kop getref – dankie tog vir die kopskerm wat hy gedra het. Hierdie voorvalle laat dit klink asof ek nie beheer het nie, en dit is geensins die geval nie. Dis bloot dat op ons vlak die gevegspoed aansienlik vinniger is en, mynsinsiens, my opponent in my tegnieke in beweeg. En dit is nie asof ek nie ook ’n bietjie deur sy tegnieke getref is nie.

Is ek besig om myself te probeer verontskuldig soos my broer? Net die gedagte ontstel my verder.

Dit was nie ’n lekker dag nie.

A Gift from a Friend

I received a link to this video from a friend and thought it quite nice.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Self-Portrait: Paparazzi

Birthday Bunnychows

This photo is NOT a Creative Commons-image.

Last night I had some friends over for bunnychows. The latter is a South African dish: a bread, cut in halves (thirds or quarters), hollowed out and then filled with Indian curry. The idea of having bunnychows I kinda stole from my friend Joa, who did it for her birthday last year. Actually, I planned to make Thai Curry, but then Young told me that he often makes Thai Curry for himself, how about I make something South African. (So Joa, I didn't purposely steal your idea...)

Since my apartment is not really equipped for hosting lots of guests I only invited six people: two South Africans (Brian & Maike), two Koreans (Young & Angelina), and two Americans (Bessie & Corrie). Bessie and I work together in the English Department. Corrie also works on campus, but we are not in the same department; however, we live in the same building. This was the most people I have had in my apartment so far.

It was a quite pleasant evening. The curry was a success. For dessert I made a blueberry sauce to enjoy with yoghurt. It, too, came out quite well.

The reason for the occasion is actually a pre-emptive celebration of my birthday later this week. Unfortunately on the day of my birthday I will be too busy to celebrate it. I do, however, intend to spoil myself somehow – albeit a little later. I might go to the theatre this coming weekend.

Sunday, 8 March 2009


"Some folks seem to think I only got one problem
I can't find nobody as crazy as me" -- Alison Krauss

Wednesday, 4 March 2009


What a day! I’m completely exhausted.

It started with a meeting at 8:30. At 9:00 I had the 19th Century Poetry class that I teach this semester. I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt like a fish in water (sorry for the clichéd idiom). I facilitated the class in drafting a definition for “poetry”, and discussed the three types of poetry (lyrical, epic and dramatic). Afterwards (10:00) I had a Language Skills class (Listening & Conversation). At 13:00 I taught British and American Essays. We also looked at the definition of “essays” – the term comes from the old French word “essaise”, which means “attempt”. And then I quickly introduced five types of essays that we will cover this term: descriptive, analytical, expository, persuasive and narrative.

From 14:00 to 17:30 I prepared for tomorrows poetry class. In order to contextualize 19th Century British Poetry (Romanticism), I’m going to give an overview of Western Art from the Classical Greek Period up until the Romantic Period (mid 19th Century). I think it is important for the students to have such an overview, to truly appreciate the Romantic Period and Romantic Poetry.

At 18:00 I left for Taekwon-Do (arrived just after 19:00). Then I trained until 20:30, where after I taught for another hour. Tonight was the first night that I taught at the dojang – I now have an official coaching time slot from 20:30 to 21:30 every Monday and Wednesday. I started out tonight with three high school students (16 year old twins, and a 15 year old).

And now I’m home and pooped. I only arrived home at 23:00. Unfortunately I cannot go to bed just yet. Since I spent most of the afternoon prepping for the Poetry Class, I didn’t prepare for the two other classes (British & American Essays and Research Methodology) that I’m teaching tomorrow. Luckily, tomorrow’s Research Methodology class is our first meeting, so we won’t be doing much; apart from a general overview of the course. Another fortunate thing is that my first class only start at 11:00 tomorrow, so I have plenty of time to prepare in the morning.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Self-Portrait: I'm Back

A photo I took shortly after my arrival back in Korea.

Oggend Sneeu

Dis hoe dit gelyk het vanoggend toe ek wakker word. Die foto is uit my kamervenster geneem.

Proactive (Self-) Gossip

You're not going to say anything about me that I'm not going to say about myself. There's so many things that I think about myself; if someone really wanted to get at me, they could say this and this and this. So I'm going to say it before they can. It's the best policy for me. – EMINEM
And I concur. I guess that is in part what blogging is for me.

Monday, 2 March 2009


Vandag het klasse begin. Gelukkig word daar nie veel tydens die eerste ontmoetings gedoen nie: ek kondig bloot die handboeke aan wat gekoop moet word, verduidelik hoe die punte uiteengesit is, handig die beplanning vir die leereenhede uit, vra of daar enige vrae is (daar is gewoonlik nie), en verdaag die klas. Gelukkig het ek Maandae ook net twee klasse. Dit is gelukkig, want vandag is ek pootuit! Ek vermoed dis nog die reperkussies van jet-lag. Alhoewel ek gisteraand teen middernag in die bed was, het ek nie genoeg ure se slaap in gekry nie. Rondom 3:30 vanoggend was ek wawyd wakker. Uiteindelik het ek maar opgestaan, water gaan drink, bietjie gebid en mediteer en toe, na wie-weet-hoe-lank?, weer die bed probeer. Ek's nie seker watter tyd ek uiteindelik aan die slaap geraak het nie. Teen 7:00 het my wekker afgegaan.

Ek beplan 'n kort middagslapie. Daar's geen manier wat ek vanaand se Hapkido en Taekwon-Do klasse sal kan maak as ek voel soos ek nou voel nie.

Ek begin eers Woensdag regtig om klasse aan te bied. Ek glo (of ten minste, ek hoop) dat ek teen dan weer in roetine sal wees, met energie en lewenslus. Ek eet deesdae weer gesond, drink aanvullers en geniet baie water.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Movie Review: Revolutionary Road

Earlier this year I went to see Revolutionary Road (2009), starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. It is based on the novel, with the same title, by Richard Yates. The novel starts like this:
It is a suburban town populated with people with good intentions. But as we all know, the road to hell was paved with the acts of this kind of folks. Among those good acts is a play. It was supposed to be something simple, nice and sweet. A group of amateur actors join to produce a play called “The Petrified Forest”. But everything goes terrible wrong. Actually, embarrassingly wrong.

A week later someone asked me if I saw the movie. No, I said. I don’t think so. Then she started to describe the movie to me and suddenly the full weight of that film came crashing back. I found Revolutionary Road so disturbing, that I literally suppressed seeing it.

Revolutionary Road is one of those films: One of my favourite movies that I never want to see again (like Dancer in the Dark). It is distressing; too close for comfort; a bitterly honest portrayal of life. The movie practically opens with a couple arguing, and continues on like this for most of the flick. The issues are real – the type of issues many marriages are confronted with. The types of authentic issues that causes a play, a marriage, or a life, to go terrible wrong. Actually, embarrassingly wrong.

It is a great movie, and shares a bit with The Secret Lives of Dentists (2002). Revolutionary Road depicts probably some of the best acting you will see this year (Kate Winslet deserves her Golden Globe); however, unless you have emotional energy to spare, don’t watch it. If you do have the heart for it, it is a splendid film.

The director is Sam Mendes, who also directed Jarhead (2005) and American Beauty (1999), did a splendid job.