Friday, 29 May 2009

A Nervous Korea

This morning we prayed for peace between North and South Korea.

The Korean War, named thus because it is/was the war between North and South Korea, is technically still in continuance. In 1953 a cease fire treaty was agreed, but the war is still in act. And now even more so than ever, since North Korea renounced the cease fire treaty earlier this week. North Korea is playing a terrible game of poker – one which it cannot win. Earlier this week North Korea tested a nuclear weapon, and also tested some missiles. The clear signal it sent was that it has nuclear warheads, and it has the missiles to shoot those nuclear weapons at other countries; South Korea and Japan being prime targets.

In response South Korea officially joined the United States in its anti-proliferation program. The intention of the program is to stop and inspect ships suspected of transporting nuclear technology. To this North Korea declared the end of the cease fire, saying that any attempt to inspect North Korean ships will evoke serious retaliation.

I work at a Christian university, so short Biblical messages and prayers during our bi-weekly faculty meetings are not strange. But the email came through last night that Friday morning’s faculty meeting will not occur at the regular meeting place in the academic office. Instead we were to meet at the church on campus. This was the first time in the time I’ve worked here that the faculty of, I’m guessing, a 150 people met at the church. The sermon was from Psalm 17, if I remember correctly, about calling to God in times of desperation. Then we had to form small groups and pray. One thing was for peace in South Korea. Today was the funeral of the late President Roh, who committed suicide a week ago. President Roh has very strong support and the fear was that angry people would retaliate, believing that Roh’s suicide was spurred on by the opposition party’s accusations of fraud against the former president. President Roh known for his 'Sunshine Policy' with North Korea, was seemingly even liked by the North Korean dictator. Kim Jong Il sent a message of condolences to Roh's family. And of course, the other thing we had to pray for was peace between North and South Korea.

As a foreigner I’m often quite oblivious to the local tensions and anxieties. This morning’s call to have a prayer meeting, instead of the regular faculty meeting, demonstrates that the South Korean’s are nervous.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

An Embarressing Blunder

Have you ever said a “word”, quite confident of its existence, only to find out (quite embarrassingly) that it doesn’t exist?

This week we read and discussed famous speeches in my essay reading class (British and American Essays). We looked at Abraham Lincoln’s “The Gettysburg Address”, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” and the recent “Yes We Can!” speech by Barack Obama.

Talking about different rhetorical techniques used by orators I mentioned the term “intuation” – even writing it on the board. The blank faces of my students caused me to explain the concept as “the upward and downward tone of the voice while speaking” and I even gave some practical examples. One student asked hesitantly if it is similar to “intonation”. I blushed. Where I got “intuation” from I have no idea. The closest real word to it is “intubation” which means the insertion of a tube into a hollow organ, to catheterize!

Some Theatrics

Image from Daily Mail Online.

The third year students in my department put on a play. There were two performances, one last night and one tonight. I went to see tonight’s showing. “Ile” by Eugene O’Neill was the 35th play performed by the university’s English Department. Other past plays included a number of Shakespeare plays, of course; as well as some other famous plays, such as Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”, Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” and Peter Shaffer’s “Amadeus”.

“Ile”, which is colloquial for “oil”, referring to whale blubber, is a one act play about a stubborn captain that refuses to turn his ship back until he has filled his quota of “oil”. They have been out to sea for over two years and the crew is on the verge of mutiny. Also on the ship is the skipper’s wife who was adamant to come along with her husband, but is slowly going insane from the "prison" of the Arctic Ocean.

In all, the play was quite well performed and the students clearly spent a lot of time and energy preparing for it. (Many of them have been skipping my classes, to my chagrin!) While their English pronunciation wasn’t too bad, they did, however, struggle with natural intonation, stressing some words and leaving others unstressed at peculiar place, which sounded a bit odd to the native ear. Otherwise, mostly well acted.

Image from New Yorkology.

Speaking of plays, there is a play that I’ve been wanting to see, but unfortunately the rendition currently performed in Korea is not in English. “Spring Awakening” is a 2006 (rock) musical that won eight Tony Awards. It is based on the controversial 1891 play of the same title by Frank Wedekind. The play is set in the late 1800s and is about teenagers’ “awakening” to their sexuality and touches on such taboos as suicide, abortion and masturbation.

After some detective work I was able to find an on-line version of it. After watching it on my computer I’m now even keener to see it live, but I’m still not sure if I want to see it performed in Korean.

A queer little serendipitous coincidence is that the original "Spring Awakening" musical is currently playing at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York. Yip, the same Eugene O'Neill that wrote "Ile", the play I watched tonight. As I mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I often experience such synchronicity in my life (or maybe I'm just good at seeing peculiar links between things -- a type of unintended lateral thinking).

The YouTube-video below is of a short performance at the 2007 Tony Awards.

My Life in a Wallet

Image from Westpac.

Today (or last night) I lost my wallet. This is almost a tragedy of sorts, as it contains two debit cards, as well as a credit card, plus my two South African bank cards and numerous other loyalty cards, business cards and my ID card. So I spent most of the afternoon phoning banks with the help of a Korean friend getting them to cancel my cards. Especially troublesome is the missing ID card. To replace this I have to go to the Immigration Office and wait in terribly long lines; this is especially cumbersome because I do not really have time during the day to go there – it takes about an hour and a half to go there. After going through all the rigmarole to get my cards cancelled (and some replaced already), I came home just now, psyching myself up to go to the Immigration Office tomorrow. And as the irony of fate would have it, sitting here at my desk, while writing this post I got a phone call from someone at the campus administration’s office. They have found my wallet. Somebody handed it in at Lost-and-Found. Actually, I did go to Lost-and-Found earlier today, but at that time they did not have any wallets in safe keeping. It would seem that my simple silent prayers I did during the day did work. Replacing the old cards with new ones was probably not a bad thing either. I’m still quite thankful for getting my wallet back, though. It is also a lesson well learned – I probably should not keep all my cards in one place. I hope the money I had in my wallet is still there . . .

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Noord-Korea soek (alweer) aandag...

Noord-Korea is soos ’n kind wat alewig aandag soek – al is dit negatiewe aandag. Oor die naweek het hulle ’n atoombomtoets uitgevoer, en toe, net om dit in te vryf, het hulle vuurpyltoetse gedoen. Die wêreld se aandag was die afgelope ruk op allerande ander plekke, gevolglik voel Noord-Korea afgeskeep en daarom dan hierdie (negatiewe) aandagsoekery. Dit is tipies van Noord-Korea. Hulle gebruik sulke metodes om finansiële of ander hulp te onderhandel. “Gee ons geld, kos, hulp,” sê Noord-Korea, “en ons sal ophou met ons atoomontwikkeling”. Nes ’n stoutkind wat afgeskeep voel.

Monday, 25 May 2009

En nog ’n naweek . . .

En nog ’n naweek. Daar is duidelik ’n bespeurbare trand: baie bloginskrywings = baie tyd; min bloginskrywings = baie besig. Verlede week het ek een ordentlike inskrywing gehad wat basies die vorige naweek bespreek het, en toe vir die hele week slegs ’n enkele videotjie, en gisteraand darem nog enetjie. Die trand is akkuraat. Ek is baie besig en voel effens oorweldig met alles. Maar eintlik is die werklike probleem nie die kwantiteit dinge wat gedoen moet word, alhoewel daar nogals baie is, maar eerder my energievlakke. Ek voel nogals tam deesdae en vermoed dis ’n tipe seisoenale affektiewe disfunksie (“seasonal affective disorder”), wat my gewoonlik in die lente beetpak.

Saterdag deur die dag het ek vir ’n Suid-Afrikaanse vriendin gaan kuier in Bundang, ’n buurstand van Seoul. Die vriendin is een van my niggies se beste vriendinne, sowel as die verloofde van ’n mede student uit my voltydse studiejare. Sy werk tans in Korea, tot later vanjaar wanneer sy haar verloofde in Engeland gaan ontmoet. Dit was ’n lekker uitstappie, en aangenaam om bietjie Afrikaans te kan praat. Ek kry selde daardie geleentheid.

Saterdagaand het ek by ’n Koreaanse vriend gaan oorslaap nadat ons eers die nuutste Terminator-fliek gaan kyk het. Sondag het ons laat opgestaan, oggendete gemis en Indiesekos vir middagete gaan geniet. Sondagmiddag en aand het ek spandeer aan opdragte merk.

Op die Koreaanse front was daar tragedie oor die naweek met die selfmoord van voormalige president Roh. Selfmoord onder Koreane, en spesifiek onder hoë profiel Koreane is ’n relatief algemene fenomeen. Arme Koreane . . .

Sunday, 24 May 2009


Image by 96dpi.

What is it about spoons that make for such beautiful poetry? Take for instance the excerpt below from T. S. Eliot's "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and below that, that beautiful song by Dave Matthews Band.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?
[You can download (3.16MB) the whole poem in audio-format for free at the Internet Archive.]

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Onderwysersdag, koorkonsert, akademiese blaadjie, doelwitte en pro-aktiewe depressie bestuur

Image from SpodZone - Flickr.

Nog ’n naweek daarmee heen. Verlede Vrydag was “Teacher’s Day” in Korea. Om 12:00 moes ons dosente in ’n vertrek bymekaar kom waar sowat ’n 100 studente vir ons gesing het – die spesiale “Teacher’s Day”-lied. In Korea is daar allerande spesiale dae, van voorvadersdag tot kinderdag, van sjokelade dag tot roosdag; en byna elke dag het ’n temalied.

Tydens Vrydag se Onderwysersdag het ons het ook presentjies gekry. In my geval Dunhill-cologne. Dit ruik aangenaam, maar bietjie seperig. Ek het ook gesondheidstee by een van my studente gekry en ook ’n plakkaat met kort briefies deur van die studente. Onder andere boodskappies soos: “Teacher, I love you” (probeer seker punte score), “Teacher, don’t shave your beard” (ek skeer een of twee maal per week, bloot weens luiheid, maar dit blyk dat sommige van die studente daarvan hou) en “Teacher, I like your 19th century poetry class” (ek ook).

Saterdag, soos my gewoonte, is ek kerk toe en agterna het ek saam met kollegas middagete geniet en lekker gesellig verkeer. Die aand was daar ’n koorkonsert. Een van my studente het my uitgenooi. Ek wou eintlik die jazz-fees in Seoul gaan by woon het, maar aangesien die studente my nou al weke van te vore genooi het na die koorkonsert toe, kon ek nie wegbly nie.

Vandag, Sondag, het ek laatgeslaap en toe die meeste van die dag spandeer om die bladuitleg vir P~YP! te doen. P~YP! is ’n blaadjie wat nagraadse studente aan die Skool vir Tale aan my Alma Mater begin het, en deur die skool se navorsingseenheid gesupsideer word. Ek is op die redaksie. Ek het ook vanaand die Duitse film Der Untergang (2004), oor die laaste paar dae van Hitler se lewe, gekyk: goed, ontstellend.

Wat ek nie gedoen het nie, maar wat ek graag wou doen, is om die hoop semestertoetsvraestelle van my 19th Century Poetry klas te merk.

Iets wat ek ook nog nie gedoen het nie, maar wat ek hoop om wel nog vannaand te doen, is om my “rolle” te identifiseer en kort-, middel- en langtermyndoelwitlyste op te stel. Dit gaan waarskynlik net raamwerklyste wees, maar ek het nodig om my gedagtes te fokus. Dis lente. En soos klokslag kom ek agter dat daar vroeë seisonale depressie simptome is. Een manier om hierdie kroniese jaarlikse demoon te beheer is om duidelike doelwitte te hê. Spesifiek wil ek vanaand ook begin om weer weeklikse doelwitte uit te klaar. (Daaglikse doelwitte is te regied en maak nie voorsiening vir die wispelturigheid van die lewe nie, en maandelikse doelwitte is nie daadwerklik genoeg.) Ander maniere om my gemoed positief te hou in “hierdie tye” is om seker te maak dat ek genoegsaam sonlig kry. Oefening is ook baie belangrik. Soos ek sê, ek is bewus van vroeë seisoenale simptome; dis nog nie ’n depressiewe episode nie en kan dus nog met eenvoudige lewenskeuses en –gewoontes in die bek geruk word.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Was I Switched at Birth?

Image from Tug.Com.

The “nature/nurture” debate, regarding sexual identity, came up in my British and American Essays class. We discussed the short story by Maxine Hong Kingston, “On Discovery”. In short this narrative essay is about a man that searches for the Gold Mountain, when he stumbles upon the Land of Women. He is captured and through various forms of torturous molding is turned into a woman. I just read this article on Yahoo! of two babies that were switched at birth. I think they could be an interesting nature/nurture case study. My mom told me that my older brother was switched shortly after birth. My mom had to seriously insist that she did not have a baby girl with red hair (even though my parents had hoped for a girl after two earlier boys), but in fact a baby boy with black hair. Luckily my brother had a little mole close to his ear which my mom identified and which eventually led the nurses to believe her. While my brother never was switched at birth, I’ve often felt like I must have been switched at birth. My personality is just so different from the rest of my siblings that I couldn’t imagine coming from the same gene pool. Was it not for my auburn hair, matching that of my mom’s, and later the tone of my voice matching those of my brothers, I would have been inclined to take the switched-at-birth hypothesis seriously.

Ne me quitte pas

Verskillende rendisies van een van my gunsteling songs, "Ne me quitte pas", oorspronklik deur Jacques Brel. Die een waarna ek die meeste luister is Nina Simone se vertolking. Ek geniet ook Sting se weergawe. Sarah Bettens doen geensins die lied oneer aan nie. 'n Ander pragtige vertolking is die van Amanda Strydom, maar ek kon ongelukkig nie 'n YouTube-video of ander aanlyn skakel daarvoor kry nie. Die song, veral Nina Simone se weergawe, breuk elke keer my hart wanneer ek daarna luister en 'n traan is nie ongewoon nie.

Arkania se rap-weergawe is 'n interesante dekonstruksie van Brel se klassieke lied.

Onlangs het ek op Regina Spektor afgekom; haar herskepping van Ne me quitte pas is nogals vrolik. Regina Spektor is 'n genotvolle byvoeging tot my musiekkolleksie.

My Literary Archetype

Apparently my literary archetype is the "Messiah" (and its inverse, the "Punisher"). I don't often do these types of online quizzes, but since we covered myths and archetypes these last two weeks in my poetry class, I thought this Quizilla-quiz might be a fun activity for the students. I'm surprised at how accurate the result is though, as I can associate with much of it. Specifically the part that says "Messiahs often preach beliefs, [. . .] is automatically opposed to the evils in life . . ." Looking at some of my other blogs, and also my monthly update letter I sent to my Global Family, I realise that I do become a bit preachy at times, and that I often bemoan the evils in life. Also, as I child I idolised Luke Skywalker -- or at least, the idea of Luke Skywalker.
Osiris and Isis: The Messiah and the Punisher

You are the best friend anyone could ever have. The Messiah is a very good archetype to have; it can encompass almost every other archetype, and is both loved and hated in life. In times of pressure, you are the one who leads people down the right path. You are a born leader, and you only feel right when you are leading. In literature, this archetype is often connected to the Divine, and is often charged with an important task. In real life, Messiahs often preach beliefs, and lead people with these beliefs. He is automatically opposed to the evils in life, and often spends his life fighting them. Leaders of resistance movements are usually classified as Messiahs, and the people under them look up to them as near-gods. Your greatest and simplest motivation is to be a big part of something bigger and more important than yourself. Messiahs are often buffeted by the amount of pressure put on them, and are sometimes opposed to accepting the responsibility; but if you are truly a Messiah, you will accept any responsibility as long as it is for the benefit of your beliefs and the followers of those beliefs.

Messiahs probably have the most trouble in romantic relationships, but you should try to pair up with "The Mystic"; not for any strong reason, but this match is the most compatible. Messiahs usually help others to grow, not the other way around.

The Negative of the Messiah is the Punisher. Of the dark archetypes, the Punisher is one of the more benign types. The Punisher is the one who will push someone down just to teack them to get back up. To make a reference to The Chronicles of Riddick, the Furians (all Punishers) may try to strangle a newborn with its own umbilical cord-- if the baby can save itself, it deserves to live. Punishers pursue the same end as Messiahs, but with less compassionate means. Punisher don't care about the emotions of their followers. In fact, they try to break people's spirits, which makes them better followers.

A well known Messiah is Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) from Star Wars. He doesn't know his own importance, but in the end, everyone is following him.

Monday, 11 May 2009

A Weekend in May

I had a rather full weekend, starting on Friday afternoon when I went to see the movie State of Play. It’s a very good movie, but you need not see it on the big screen – the DVD will suffice. After the movie I went to my old workplace in the Kangnam area to attend the Sabbath keeping church there for vespers. Afterwards I visited with a South African friend, Patricia. We had some good laughs. Saturday morning I shared my ideas on God as Love and the Source of Life with my little group of students again. They didn’t seem too excited about my philosophical ponderings, but they did appreciate the juice and snacks I provided. For lunch I went to a colleagues apartment. Bessie had invited over some of her students and told me that I was welcome to join. The food was great. Later Sabbath afternoon another friend came to visit me. Jin and I went for a walk to the little lake on campus. I am truly blessed to be working at such a beautiful campus. After our meandering in the woods we came back to my place – I prepared Thai Curry and spaghetti. It was then my turn to go see Jin’s place. Back in 2007 when I just met Jin, I visited him a couple of times at his apartment. At that time it was basically a tiny room, hardly 1.5 meters by 2 meters in size. Yes, that was the actual size – maybe even smaller. He had to put his chair on his desk if he wanted to sleep, which he did on the floor. Later, after finding a job at an engineering firm, he was able to afford a small apartment, which was basically a room and a kitchen and a small bathroom. In the meantime he has moved to a bigger apartment that includes a living room. I’m glad to see such obvious progression in his life. We went to see the late night movie at the theatre close to his home. Star Trek: The Beginning is a surprisingly exciting movie that keeps you on your seat – and keeps you awake even into the early hours of the morning. The movie ended around 3:30. We got to bed at 4:00. The next day we rouse around 1pm. I needed to go to Itaewon or Dongdaemun to buy call cards, for making international calls, so we decided to go to Dongdaemun and visit an Indian restaurant there that I’m fond of. A South African friend joined us. By around 5pm I started the journey back to my apartment. Although I enjoyed the time with friends, I was also very thankful to be back at my place again, and enjoy solitude once more. I’m quite fond of my “alone time”. I tried to go to bed early – which for me is around midnight.

Thursday, 7 May 2009


Image from FunHighway.Com

Dis reeds Donderdag – ek het Sondag laas iets geblog. Verlede week was uitputtend. Hierdie week is nie veel beter nie. Die vreemde ding is dat ek nie kan sê wat presies my so kaput het nie. Hierdie semester is nie veel erger as verlede semester nie, maar ek en ’n kolega het beide vandag aan mekaar bely dat ons sien uit na die vakansie.

Ek is steeds besig om semestertoetsvraestelle te merk – dis nou al twee weke later. My motivering daarvoor is nie baie hoog nie, en as ek in die middag in my kantoor sit dan raak ek so vaak dat ek begin visvang – gevolglik probeer ek nou my kantoor vermy laatmiddag. Dit is dalk omdat daar nie behoorlike ventilasie in my kantoor is nie; ook is my energievlakke nie baie hoog in die middag nie.

Gister moes ek hoor dat een van my studente ’n vergroeisel in sy brein het. Dit ontstel my eintlik baie. Hy is so jonk! Dalk 20. Hy is ook ’n baie inteligente knaap en redelik aantreklik. Toe ek hom vandag weer in my een klas sien was ek geskok oor hoe maer hy geword het. Eerlik waar weet ek nie hoe om hom te hanteer nie? Partykeer soek ’n mens simpatie, ander kere wil jy net hê mense moet jou normaal hanteer . . . ek kan nie agterkom watse benadering hy verlang nie. Glo is sy pa oorlede weens dieselfde siekte, ’n breingewas. Ek kan maar net hoop dat hy ’n vol lewe gaan hê.

Op ’n ander noot, ek het hierdie week weer begin met Hapkido. Verlede maand het ek net glad nie kans gehad om Hapkido te gaan oefen nie. Hopenlik gaan hierdie maand beter wees.

So waarom is ek so moeg? Eintlik is dit niks nuut nie. My kop sluit nie af nie – ek slaap te min.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Movie Reviews

Following are some movies I’ve seen over the last couple of months but did not have time to write proper reviews for. I hope this will suffice:

Sweeny Todd (2007)

A great creepy horror-musical in Tim Burton’s trademark gothic style, starring, Jonny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter . A must-see for any Tim Burton or Jonny Depp fan.

Yes Man (2008)

Jim Carrey plays in this cheerful movie about a man that has to say “yes” to everything. Not the best movie ever, but it is a charming feel good movie with just enough magic to lift the spirits.

The Legend of Ip Man (2009)

An excellent kung-fu movie and a must see for anyone that likes the genre. Although I saw it in Chinese with Korean subtitles and might have missed a little of the plot, it is undoubtedly one of the better martial art films I’ve seen in a long time. It is a semi-biographical account of Yip Man, the Wing Chun instructor of Bruce Lee. Donnie Yen, acting as the legendary Yip Man, does not disappoint. Over all a exceptionally crafted film.

13th District: Ultimatum (2009)

The sequel to 13th District, this French movie is an action packed movie, tailor-made to my adrenaline sensibilities, featuring extraordinary parkour and martial arts. Any parkour or martial art enthusiast will enjoy this movie, as well as anyone that likes the action movie genre.

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (2006)

An action packed Japanese anime. This is a classic movie in the genre with a good plot, with the Little Red Riding Hood story weaved into it.

No Regret (후회하지 않아) (2006)

Another movie exploring homosexuality in Korea. A sad tale with some surprising twists in the plot. The film did not go the stereotypical route when portraying homosexuality. One theme in the movie is the fate of male and female orphans in Korea that are released from orphanages at the age of 18; with no money to continue further studies in the highly competitive Korean society, many of them turn to prostitution to earn a living. A sad reality.

200 Pounds Beauty (미녀는 괴로워) (2006)

A parody of the extreme plastic surgery culture in Korea. As part of the recent cultural subconscious, I think it is a must-see for anyone living in Korea.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

One of the best films I have seen. A great story, great acting, great cinematography, great musical score and eight Oscars wins! I definitely recommend this movie. I will forgive it for pushing Dark Knight aside a bit, the latter still being my favourite movie from 2008.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Much awaited, starring Hugh Jackman and Korean-American Daniel Henney of whom I blogged about a couple of days ago. Honestly I was disappointed. There are too many plot faults and the computer graphics and special effects were not on par with the other X-Men movies. Of course, all X-Men fans will see it; it's just a pity that it did not live up to expectations. If you are not a fan of X-Men, or of action movies, I suggest you give this one a skip.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 1

In preparation of the fourth Terminator movie coming out later this year, I started to watch the Sarah Connor Chronicles series. I didn’t expect much, which was a good thing since it left room to be surprised. Not the greatest series ever, but not bad either. Lena Headey is not Linda Hamilton, but she’s quite a tough lady nonetheless (remember the queen in 3oo?). An enjoyable series, especially for fans of the Terminator meme.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Protect Me from What I Want

This whole morning, practically since I woke up, the song "Protege Moi", by Placebo, has been haunting me. The rendition in the video below gets a bit "busy" towards the end, but it stays a mesmerizing song.

Here are the English lyrics for "Protect Me from What I Want"

"Protect Me From What I Want"

It's the disease of the age
It's the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

Corporate America wakes
Coffee republic and cakes
We open the latch on the gate
Of the hole that we call our home

Protect me from what I want...
Protect me protect me

Maybe we're victims of fate
Remember when we'd celebrate
We'd drink and get high until late
And now we're all alone

Wedding bells ain't gonna chime
With both of us guilty of crime
And both of us sentenced to time
And now we're all alone

Protect me from what I want...
Protect me protect me
Protect me from what I want...
Protect me protect me

Protect me from what I want...
Protect me protect me
Protect me from what I want...
Protect me protect me