Tuesday, 28 July 2009


Alas, my money was released and I can pay my bills. It sounds like this will happen every time I send money to South Africa due to some new laws that requires beneficiaries to agree to receiving money from abroad. The beneficiary, in this case is me; but since I’m not in South Africa at the time the money is send abroad, the bank cannot contact me to get my permission, hence all the hassle. To get things right I have to do all kinds of paperwork and probably go to the South African embassy. Sorry, America, for accusing you of stealing my money because of your economic crisis.

My stalking taxi driver is still calling me pretty much every day. You may wonder why I answer the phone. The thing is, the phone I have does not have Caller-ID, so I do not know who is phoning until I answer. The second thing you might wonder is why don’t I just curse the guy and tell him to leave me the *&^$@# alone. Firstly, I don’t like cussing; and secondly, he is a friendly old man and might not have peculiar intentions – in which case, I don’t want to insult him unnecessarily. Luckily, I will be getting a new phone in a couple of weeks and I plan to change my number too. No, I’m not getting the new phone just because of him; actually, a friend gave me the phone a while back, but I’ll only be able to start a new contract when I get my updated Visa in a couple of days. Another reason for changing my number is that some students got hold of it, which makes me uncomfortable as they don’t respect working versus non-working hours.

I’ve been grumpy for a number of days now. Part of it has to do with my disillusionment with my work and the cultural clash between my goals and the goals of my students. In short, my goal is to help them with language assimilation and, more importantly, to teach them skills. Their goal is to quickly memorize something for a test, get a good grade, and then forget that which they memorized. Or, to get a high grade, without having done the work that such a grade represents; and to blame me if they did not get the mark they wanted. All of this made me question my function here. If I give in to the Korean way of doing things (i.e. giving them a list of facts to memorize, rather than nurturing in them skills), I’d be unfaithful to myself. If I continue my own way, I’d be very unpopular and continue this cycle of tremendous amounts of complaints every semester from disillusioned students that thinks their grades reflects whether I like them or not. (Yes, I’m still trying to get my head around that one! I actually had students that received low grades ask me why I don’t like them!)

I can either comply and give them the type of teaching style they wish for, or I can continue as I’m doing and actually inspire a small number of them to grow. If I go with the first method, there will be many more happy students, I’d have less work (because it requires less preparation), and I’d get far less complaints at the end of each semester. However, I will get little job satisfaction and feel myself dishonest to my calling; which is to nurture growth, not merely puking facts and have them puke facts back at me, no thinking required. On the other hand, if I continue with the second teaching style, I will have to endure their griping all the time, but at least I will be in harmony with my integrity. There will be less outward peace, but more inward peace. I’ll be in line with my conscience. And hopefully, in the process, I will inspire a handful of students that actually do want to learn something.

So, after almost a month of re-evaluating my purpose in life (or at least, my purpose as a lecturer at a university here in Korea), I’ve come to terms with what I can expect of myself and of the future. It is possible that if enough students complain I might get sacked. Be that as it may, I cannot compromise my integrity and conscience as a teacher. This is a university, and I will therefore require of my students to think, whether they like it or not.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Weird French Advertising

I'm sorry, but French advertising just doesn't make sense. I'm assuming these are ads for dairy and fruit juice, respectively; but the synaptic leaps has me scratching my head in wonder: Skeleton babies worshipping a cow, and wild animals in some strange orgy?! Those French -- they're weird?!

Movie Reviews: Some Asian Movies

Below are some Asian movies I've watched over the last couple of months.

Kuri-Obi (2007)

Kuro-Obi (English Title: “Black Belt”) is a great martial art movie about Karate. In fact, it is one of the greatest martial art movies I’ve seen, period. It potently reflects the martial art dilemma: a martial artist trains for years, with the intention of never using his skill. This is so contrary to any other kind of skill. We practise the piano, so that we can play do a public recital. We practise painting so that our painting can be hung up in a gallery for people to view. But true martial artists train how to kill; however, the highest goal is not to kill. Kuro-Obi and The Legend of Ip-Man has something in common, although the martial arts (Karate and Wing-Chun) depicted are stylistically very different. The commonality is in theme -- when is it to appropriate to use ones martial art skill? Furthermore, both movies have militant Japan during the turn of the previous century as backdrop.

Kuro-Obi also clearly depicts other values of Karate, for instance that only one technique ought to be enough. Although it has a somewhat stereotypical martial art storyline, it is well executed, with beautiful cinematography that does not rely on Hollywood special effects, nor acrobatic choreography so typical of the Chinese / Hong Kong influenced martial art films. The power of this movie lies in its simplicity.

I definitely encourage any martial artist to see Kuro-Obi.

Blood: The Last Vampire (2000)

Blood: The Last Vampire is an anime film done in the realistic style of the great Ghost in the Machine (it is in fact by the same animators). The film tells the tale of a vampire girl that works for a cohort government agency that hunts demons. A good, albeit too short film (just under 50 minutes). A good film to see for anime fans.

Apparently a non-anime, full length movie version came out earlier this year. In fact, it showed in South Korea during June, but since I hadn’t seen the anime by that time yet, I assumed that the posters I saw was for a typical horror movie, which are so common during Korean summers. I’m not into horrors that much, but I am disappointed at not having seen Blood – the movie. I’ll have to find it on DVD now.

Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid (2005)

The last Japanese movie on this list is also anime, but is actually not a movie – rather a TV series. Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid (2005) continues on Full Metal Panic (2000) and the lives of Sousuke Sagara (the boy soldier) assigned to protect Kaname Chidori, a feisty girl with special technological insights that should not fall into evil hands. While I enjoyed the series, it did not really have me hooked, and is not necessarily something I’ll recommend watching.

IMDb suggest that a movie version is coming out in 2011.

Full Metal Panic is not to be confused with Full Metal Alchemist which is a anime series I definitely recommend.

Silmido (2003)

Moving onto Korean films. Silmido (실미도) is loosely based on true events during the 1970s. Apparently it was the first film to attract more than 10 million views at the Korean box office. The name "Silmido" is in fact the name of a small island off the North Western coast of South Korea and merely 50 km from the North Korean border. Silmido is a harrowing tale of convicts turned commandos in order to go and assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Il Song. The film reflects on the common practise of dehumanization in the military, and considering human lives as disposable commodities.

A good, enraging, rather violent and bloody, and typically sad film.

Gangster High (2006)

Ganster High (폭력써클), is a film about school violence, which is actually quite common according to some Koreans I’ve spoken too. It tells the story of a group of high school boys whose soccer club ("The Tigers") is forced to become a fighting gang in order to protect themselves against the highschool delinquents. If you like violent movies, then watch this. If not, give it a skip. Another typically sad Korean movie, but quite good.

The Art of Fighting (2009)

The Art of Fighting (싸움의 기술), also about school violence, is about a bullied boy that pleads with an old street fighter to teach him how to fight. The movie debunks many of the typical martial art stereotypes, and shows street fights for what they really are – dirty and brutal. A good movie, well worth seeing. And, as is customary of a Korean film, sad. (Read a full review here.)

Haeundae (2009)

"Haeundae" (해운대) is the name of a famous beach in Busan, on the South Eastern Coast of Korea. The movie is about a number of people and how their lives are dramatically changed by the sea. There is firstly the major plot of a “mega tsunami” that hits Busan, but also a subplot of a death on a fishing boat that happened years before. What I like about the great Korean disaster/action movies like Haeundae and The Host, is that Korean film defies Hollywood’s action hero. The great action hero so typical of Hollywood is awkwardly absent, leaving one with common people that is much easier to associate with. Although Haeundae’s special effects and computer graphics are at times dodgy, the tsunami is mostly believable.

I found myself cringing on numerous occasions – as I have a peculiar fear of tsunamis. I call it peculiar because I didn’t grow up close to the sea, but have been afraid of tsunamis since I was a child. So this movie forced me to confront my own fear a bit.

Haeundae is currently (July '09) showing in Korea with English subtitles at the CGV cinemas in Myeongdong and Gangnam.


HanCinema is a nice website to search for information on Korean movies. I'm also a fan of Koreanfilm.Org, and often search Koreanfilm for good Korean movies, before I decide to watch them or not.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Pink: My Favourite Pop Diva

(Image Source)
I have an extensive music collection covering a vast array of genres, ranging from classical and opera to rock and blues, from British and American to African and Asian, from jazz and cabaret to . . . However, I must admit there are some genres I just do not have a taste for – Boeremusiek, for example. And also, generally, I do not like pop music.

During my trip to South Africa at the beginning of this year I got to hear Pink's Funhouse (2008) album on the airplane. I liked it so much that I later got the album. It's been nearly six months since I heard it the first time and it is still growing on me. Although I listen to various albums all the time, it is quite probably that Funhouse is the album I've returned to the most over the last couple of months. I'm thinking it is the nice blend of funky songs with exquisite, heartfelt ballads. The album was mostly inspired by Pink's separation from her husband; her honest emotions seem to seep through these songs. (I read somewhere that they are trying to work things out again, which would be nice).

My favourite ballads from this album are "I Don't Believe You", "Please Don't Leave Me", "Crystal Ball", and "Glitter in the Air".

Friday, 24 July 2009

Ninja Assassin Trailer

Here is the first trailer for Ninja Assassin, the movie staring the Korean actor and singer Rain. I can't wait for it; unfortunately it is only premièring in Korea in November! I'm not expecting the greatest story, but I am very much looking forward to seeing some really cool martial arts.

Internet for the Masses

(Image Source)

My younger brother has been keeping me up to date with Seacom, the new high capacity broadband cable that will revolutionise the Internet for Africa, and South Africa in particular. A couple of years back I lived in Mtunzini, a small coastal town of the East Coast of South Africa. Apparently Mtunzini's beach is the most geographically stable beach on the East Coast and is the perfect spot to port the massive broadband cable linking South Africa with Europe. And after years in the making, the cable stretching down the East African coast line is complete, and the Seacom-system went live yesterday.

This means that South Africa will, at last, have "high capacity bandwith". The implication is much faster, and much cheaper Internet. This is great news for South Africa's technological development. We have the skills; now we'll have the means.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Solar Eclipse Over Asia

The YouTube-video below shows the solar eclipse that occurred yesterday over Asia. It happened in the late morning. I missed it, however, as I was still asleep at that time since I only went to bed after 5 AM.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Book Review: The Old Man and the Sea

(Image from Life)
Okay, this is not really a book review, but it is about a book. Or is it about me? Probably more of the latter than the former, but that's how it goes when you substitute keeping a diary for keeping a blog.

After two or three days of feeling miserable for reasons some might find ridiculous meditations (why worry about things you have no control over?), I came home tonight and put myself to bed with a book -- Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. I haven’t read it before, but knew about the bleak ending. What a fitting book to read, I was thinking earlier today when I went to a bookshop to order for another book, but also in search of this one. A book with a bleak ending to match my current state of cheerlessness. There might be a lesson to learn from it, I thought, and maybe gain some hope in a hopeless world. And if no hope is to gained, at least I had the fellowship of another suicidal writer. (No, I have not been contemplating suicide; however, I was still awake at 5 AM the previous morning contemplating the purpose of life -- not the meaning of life; I think I've worked that one out already.)

I read it. Learned more than one lesson. And although the ending is as I knew it would be, I gained some hope.

My view of the world is not less miserable after reading The Old Man and the Sea; but I did become a little more convinced that the battles, the lonesome battles, the personal battles, even the losing battles, are worth fighting.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Louis Vuitton's Tambour Mysterieuse

Unlike my neighbour who calls himself "brand loyal", and only buys brand name products, I'm not one for brand names. I either like something, or I don't like it, and in fact would usually not buy something, specifically because it is a brand name product; it makes me feel predefined and therefore I often avoid them. Don't get me wrong; it is not that I don't like fashion; I do. It is just that I hate to be defined, or rather, confined, by it.

(Image Source)

I must admit, however, that Louis Vuitton's new Tambour Mysterieuse line of watches are beautiful pieces and I wouldn't mind owning one. That was before I saw the price. I don't consider myself stingy, although I am frugal. Apart from being frugal, I consider myself also quite pragmatic, which means that paying $260 000 for a watch is anything but practical. In Korea I can buy 30 000 fairly decent watches for the same price. With $260 000 one can probably feed a small African village for a number of years.

Sorry, Louis Vuitton. A very nice watch, but not something anybody with a consciounce, will buy.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Some Random Notes on South Africa and Korea

South Africa

The sad state of the South African Broadcasting Company is hardly worth talking about. But what did get me upset is that the award winning program 50/50, the longest running program of its kind in the world, is off-air and who knows when it will be back.

On the political front some people foresee protests to peak because of poor municipal services, and apparently the fledgling party COPE, is experiencing extreme growing pains.

On a lighter South African note, it was Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday last week and it looks like his birthday is something to be remembered as a national institution. On “Mandela Day” people do good deeds in memory of Madiba’s legacy. At first I thought this only to be a local (South African) thing, but my brother in Sweden informed me that they are celebrating Mandela Day over there as well.

As for South African entertainment, Thandiswa Mazwai’s new album is out and I cannot wait to get hold of it.


On the Korean front, South Korea has accepted a lawsuit by North Korean siblings suing their South Korean family for part of an inheritance. This is an interesting case, because the South Korean constitution does not discriminate against North Koreans. In other words, North Koreans can get automatic citizenship and therefore South Korean laws apply.

Also in the news is that North Korea’s tantrums paid off – “The United States and its negotiating partners are preparing a ‘comprehensive package’ of incentives to encourage North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons…” [Read more...] Seems like the spoiled kid is going to get his way again.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Money Concerns

(Image Source)
Did bankrupt America steel my money?

About ten days ago I went to my local exchange bank in Korea and sent a good chunk of money to my bank in South Africa. A money transfer works something like this: First, I need to convert my Korean currency (Won) into US Dollars. (In effect, I have to buy US$ and, of course, lose some money in the process.) Then I transfer these dollars to my South African bank, where it's converted into South African Rand (and of course I lose some on this transaction as well). My great concern is the in-between process. Before the money is transferred from Korea to South Africa, the wiring first goes through America. (I don't know why; that's just how it works.) Now with the American economy in the state that it's in, who knows what happens to the money while it's there? The whole process usually takes around three working days. It has been nearly ten days since I transferred the money, and it's still not showing in my South African bank account. I'm starting to get anxious now. I'll wait till next week and if by then it is not yet deposited I'm going to see my bank, or phone Obama and tell him that my money is not part of his bail-out budget.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Strange Korean Facts

James Turnbull posted an excellent post at The Grand Narrative on Korean gender/sexuality, censorship and media, politics and economy, and fashion.

Some (shocking) points include:
  • Consensual sex with a 13 year old is legal!
  • Around 19% of female entertainers are forced to have sex.
  • Men still get paid substantially more than women.
  • Adultery is illegal, but swinging is not.
  • The actress Choi Jinsil was sued by the company she modelled for because she revealed that her husband physical abused her. Apparently it tarnishes the company's image.
Just to show, I keep on learning new things about Korea all the time.

Vaal Triangle: Bad Dreams; Bad Design; Bad Recollections

I don’t like to say crap (or crappy). I used to, but then it dawned on me that it has the same meaning as shit and shitty, which are words I never use. However, looking at this VCR (Vaal Community Radio)’s website, “this is a terribly crappy design” is the first thing that came to mind. The font disappears against the tiled picture of a microphone and set of earphones. Most of the text on the website is illegible. It looks like something out of 1996 during the dawn of the Internet. Undoubtedly one of the worst websites I have seen in ages; reminiscent of an awful MySpace-page. It is somewhat peculiar as their posters are actually very well designed.

Why did I visit it in the first place? Well, I had an odd dream that the Vaal Triangle is ablaze – a raging fire consuming it. I have a confession to make. Yes it is true. I grew up in the Vaal Triangle. Even though I have no intention of returning to the Vaal Triangle to settle down one day, I do have some family and friends in the region, hence my concern of an inferno raging there. I’m not too superstitious about dreams, but had to quench my subconscious. So, I first went online to a South African news site to see if there are any fires running amok in South Africa, but couldn’t find any reports to indicate so. Then I thought, I’d visit the Vaal’s local radio station’s website – maybe they’d cover such a news story. And this is how I got the graphic designer in me exposed to the design-puke splattered over my screen. I almost feel like designing them a new front page, just so that the (online) world can be a better place.

Good design, now more accessible and affordable than ever, also offers us a chance to bring pleasure, meaning, and beauty to our lives. But most important, cultivating a design sensibility can make our small planet a better place for all. –– Daniel H. Pink

Back to the dream… What could it mean? What is my subconscious revealing? Do I subconsciously want the Vaal Triangle destroyed, since it is a container for so much of my childhood pains? And let’s, for a moment, think of this dream as a premonition of some sort. My guess is that the fire would symbolise violence. The Vaal Triangle has a history of political violence; think, for instance, of the Sharpeville massacre and the 1984-85 riots. While I missed the former (I wasn’t born yet), I did experience the latter, and witnessed all kinds of dreadful violence including hackings and necklacing, all the way into the 90s.

I guess I need to phone my family and hear how it's going. And I thought that I'm not superstitious about dreams...

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Vain Loss

Something bad happened to me a moment ago.

I found a book I’ve been looking for for a while now and bought it with little hesitation even though it cost around 72US$ (that is around R600!). (It's cheaper on Amazon, but would have cost my around the same shipping included.) The book is Marc Tedeschi’s Taekwondo: Traditions, Philosophy, Technique. I already have Tedeschi’s Hapkido: Traditions, Philosophy, Technique, which is just about the best book on the subject, so I was very keen to get his Taekwon-Do edition and add it to my martial art library.

Getting of the subway train, as the doors closed behind me, the damning realization of supreme idiocy spilled over me like red wine over a white shirt during a first date. I forgot the book on the train, on the overhead ledge above my seat. Immediately I ran to the station office and asked them to call the next station, which they did, but they couldn’t find my book. If I knew it would remedy the problem I would slap myself. It won’t, but I am beaten up by the mere thought of my negligence. It is not that I’m terrible broken hearted about the book, I haven’t had it long enough to be sentimental about it; it is replaceable. I am, however, distraught over losing R600. As we say in South Africa, that kind of money is not loose change.

I gave them my phone number, my email address and a thorough description of the book, still in bubble wrap, in a paper bag with “What the Book?” printed on it. I can only hope that I get it back . . . such things actually do happen in Korea.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Recently in the Korean News

(Source: TimesOnline)

Apparently North Korean hackers attacked American websites in South Korea recently. (In 2003 Wired did an interesting article on "North Korea's Hacker School", worth reading.) I have to wonder if it really is North Korean hackers, and not just anti-American South Korean computer geeks taking a break from playing Starcraft, which has become something of a national sport. (Btw, if you are planning to learn Starcraft, remember to learn it from an authentic Korean.)

Also in recent news is that North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Il has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, according to South Korea’s YTN Television. Again, after so many unsubstantiated news reports about foreigners, I have to wonder if the report can be trusted. (I've started to follow the Korean Media Watch-blog which points out irregularities and bias in the Korean media.)

On the pop-front, Rain has gained weight, according to PopSeoul. I'm guessing that he slacked a bit after his horrific training schedule for Ninja Assassin (cant wait to see it!), and all that muscle is now turning into blubber. After all, he did say "After this film, I [will] never workout..." It still doesn't keep him from doing a Michael Jackson and grabbing his crotch during last weekend's Mud Festival concert. The late King of Pop was Rain's idol.

Speaking of rain, it has been raining on and off over the last couple of days. The Weather Channel is predicting showers and thunderstorms for Seoul for most of the week. (See Seoul's weather here.)

Afrikaans op haar be#@%$te!

Perongeluk struikel ek oor hierdie nuwe Afrikaanse treffer. Weereens is dit bevestig... die Afrikanerkultuur het my ... uhm ... ontgroei. As my ma nog gelewe het sou ek na deuse 'n ernstige gesprek met haar moes gaan hê om te verduidelik dat ek dink nie ek kan meer deel wees van my moederskultuur nie. Dis nie haar fout nie, dis ek. Ek hou nie van pap en vleis nie; en dink ek is so gebore.

As jy braaf genoeg is, indien jy die taaivel van 'n mielieboer het, mits jy die sterk psigiese weerstand van 'n rugbyspeler het, luister na Jakaranda 94.2 se "Pap en Vleis" hieronder. Wees gewaarsku, dit mag jou lewe verander.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

I want this T-shirt

(If I could find this T-shirt in Korea,) I'd definitely buy it. I seldom like clothes with prints on them, since I do not like to be [pre-]defined, but Threadless do seem to have an interesting selection of witty T-shirts.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Movie Reviews: Terminator 4, Transformers 2, and Speed Racer

Short reviews of some (sc-fi?) movies I saw in the last two or three months.

Terminator IV: Salvation (2009)

Not a bad movie, with some good action and a dark mood that follows smoothly from Terminator III: Rise of the Machines. In this movie we learn where the original cyborgs (cybernetic organism: robotic skeleton covered with living tissue) come from. Unfortunately, neither Terminator III nor Terminator IV could revive the thrilling magic of the first two, especially Terminator II: Judgement Day (my favourite). I think the missing ingredient is Linda Hamilton.

Transformers 2 (2009)

I just could not get into this film. It was just too humongous. The machines are so huge, the momentum so great, and the speeds so fast that it was impossible for me to suspend my disbelief. The special effects are very good, to be honest, and Megan Fox running towards you with sweat dripping over her bouncing boobs makes for nice viewing as well. Still, this movie just didn’t convince me.

Speed Racer (2008)

I wasn’t intending to see the Wachowski brother’s green screen film, but since Rain acts in it, I thought I’d give it a go. Let’s just say that I I’m very unlikely to watch this movie again. Unless you’re a pre-adolescence boy, give this one a skip.

Trivia: Rain acts in another Wachowski project coming out later this year: Ninja Assassin. Now this is something I am looking forward to see. (See Rain/Ninja Assassin photos.)

Friday, 10 July 2009


"The words of fire that from his pen
Were flung upon the fervid page,
Still move, still shake the hearts of men,
Amid a cold and coward age." -- William Cullen Bryant

Thursday, 9 July 2009

The Price Korean Women Pay for Beauty

While hitting a girl over the head with a club and dragging her off by the hair to your cave is something we expect only to happen in caveman cartoons, something with a similar (albeit less violent) tang happens in Korea.

I'm curious about two things. Firstly, if these women do not like it, why don't they slap the bastard, kick him in the shin and thrust her palm into his chin? Or is she afraid to make a scene? (Saving-face being so highly prized in the Orient.) Secondly, is she seeing this as a compliment? After all, a "bikki" only harass supposedly beautiful women.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


School is meant to be unpleasant, to prepare you for life. -- From My Family (BBC Sitcom).
I hated school.

Something smells...uhm...grapefruity

(Image Source)

Flies, quite possibly fruit flies, followed me around today.

On teachers' day earlier this year I received eau de toilette as a gift from my department. The bottle of Dunhill "Pure" cologne comes in an attractive bottle and has a powder blue hue. At first whiff it has a clear sweet floral smell. The tenor tone is lotus leaf. The base, however, although apparently white pepper, when mixed with the floral smells (lotus leaves and iris) and cardamon as the high note, causes a grapefruit after smell on my skin.

Honestly, this is not my favourite cologne. It's too florally and I don't like the grapefruity odour it has on my skin. Nevertheless, I'm not one to waste an expensive gift and will probably continue to use it every so often, regardless of the fruit flies.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Old Taxi Driver Stalker

(Image Source)
An old taxi driver is stalking me…

It all started one day after I went to Hapkido class and wanted to go Taekwon-Do class directly from there. I thought that a taxi might be faster than the subway. I was wrong, but that aside. I got in this taxi with an old seventy-some years old taxi driver and asked him to take me to the place where the Taekwon-dojang is. We started talking, me with my limited Korean and him with his limited English. After a nice little chat, the old taxi driver asked me for my mobile phone number. For the life of me, I don’t know why I gave it to him. I’m very protective of such things, but somehow found myself giving out my number. Ever since then, the old taxi driver has called me nearly every day. He wants me to come visit him for dinner sometime. The phone conversations are unusually difficult to understand – I understand maybe 30% of his mumblings and pretend to understand less. An unfortunate thing is that my mobile phone is quite old and does not have caller ID. I therefore do not know who is calling, and often find myself answering to my old taxi driver stalker.

I’m starting to get worried for at least three reasons. First, his incessant calling, nearly every day now for the last two weeks, is making me think that this guy really has an obsession. Second, a colleague told me that many of the taxi drivers are actually ex-convicts. Driving taxis is one of the few jobs they can get after getting out of jail. So for all I know, my old taxi driver stalker may be a sexual predator with a fetish for white South African men. Third, repeatedly during his calls he says something about “baby”. I cannot figure out what he is saying and whether he wants to show me his baby (grandchild?), whether he wants to convey that he adopted me as his foreign-son (and I am therefore his baby), or whether he is romantically referring to me as his “baby” (e.g. “Hey, come here Baby, I wanna show you a good time”). It is the latter thought that’s really freaking me out.

I don’t want to be mean to the guy. Maybe he is really just a lonely old man with no ill intend and I could brighten his dreary life with some conversation. Nonetheless, his persistent calling is starting to get on my nerves. Should I comply and visit him sometime?

If I suddenly stop blogging, inform the police that I’ve been drugged by an old taxi driver and he is probably keeping me hostage in his basement for perverted purposes or has chopped me into little pieces and is feeding me to his baby.

Monday, 6 July 2009

The Liminal Michael Jackson

[Image Source: Rasha]

I’ve avoided the Michael Jackson-saga on purpose. What is there too add? Then I started to think* about what a liminal being Michael Jackson was.

Isn’t Michael Jackson the epitome liminal being? What is Jackson’s ethnicity, what’s Jackson’s gender, what’s Jackson’s “age”? Throughout his career, Jackson seemed to transcendent such labels. Of course he is African-American, but we all have to agree that it is not that simple. Jackson did not look African-American. Imagine an alien being visiting Earth and seeing the Pop-icon for the first time. Seeing Jackson’s ethereal white complexion, silky wavy hair and chiselled-coned nose, the alien visitor would never have been able to guess Jackson’s “ethnicity”. Although politically incorrect and slightly distasteful, there is a reason why we find the following humorous: “Michael Jackson was born a poor black boy, but became a rich white woman.” Regardless of having fathered numerous children, many people still question his sexual orientation. In fact, he is has become an almost asexual being. And towards the end of his life, it would seem that he refused to age, not merely outwardly, because of the many plastic surgeries, but rather inwardly; as if he became a psychological Benjamin Button.

The great essayist James Baldwin wrote in the essay “Here Be Dragons” the following:
The Michael Jackson cacophony is fascinating in that it is not about Jackson at all. I hope he has the good sense to know it and the good fortune to snatch his life out of the jaws of a carnivorous success. He will not swiftly be forgiven for having turned so many tables, for he damn sure grabbed the brass ring, and the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo has nothing on Michael.

All that noise is about America, as the dishonest custodian of black life and wealth; the blacks, especially males, in America; and the burning, buried American guilt; and sex and sexual roles and sexual panic; money, success and despair–to all of which may now be added the bitter need to find a head on which to place the crown of Miss America.

Freaks are called freaks and are treated as they are treated–in the main, abominably–because they are human beings who cause to echo, deep within us, our most profound terrors and desires.
Indeed, Michael Jackson became a freak – a liminal being in who we projected “our most profound terrors and desires”; and that’s why we hated him so much. That’s why we loved him so much.

* My thoughts about Michael Jackson’s liminality was spurred on by an article I started writing recently on the similarities in liminal spaces in Samuel Taylor Coleridge epic poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Tales of the Black Freighter: Marooned”, the comic-within-a-comic, in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel Watchmen. [Previous posts on Watchmen here and here.]

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Some Good Looking Koreans

So who do you think are the hottest K-Pop (Korean Pop) artists under 25? If you have no idea who the hot and trendy current K-pop stars are, no worry; allkpop provides a list of the top 10 hottest female stars under 25 and the top 10 hottest male stars under 25.

I'm not much into pop-music, and therefore even less so into K-pop. Furthermore, I prefer a little more mature celebrities. Personally, I think Rain (Bio; previous post here) and Song Hye Kyo (when she's not trying to look cute), are some of the sexiest Korean stars. I think that Song Hye Kyo (when she's not trying to look cute -- I hate cute!) can easily be the Monica Bellucci of Korea.

(Song Hye Kyo -- Image Source)

(Rain/Bi -- Image Source)

Happy 4th of July!

Long Walk to Freedom

"Long Walk to Freedom" -- Cheongdam Park, Seoul

Friends at Banpo Han River Resort

Laura (not this one), a friend working on the same campus as I, had her birthday on Thursday. Since she is returning to the U.S. next week, after over two years of working in Korea, I thought it would be nice for us to go out to dinner. We went to Itaewon and had a lovely meal at a Middle Eastern restaurant. Afterwards we went to Banpo Han River Resort in Seoul where a water feature recently opened. On one side of Banpo Bridge a large number of robotic nozzles have been installed that shoots beams of lighted water, synchronised to music. It is quite a sight and reminds me of the great wings of some mythical creature. Young and Angelina met us there and later brought us home, as their own house is not too far from the campus where Laura and I work.

Admittedly, I am going to miss Laura; she is returning to America to commence aPhD in Old Testament studies.

Directions to Banpo Han River Resort:

At Express Bus Terminal Subway Station (Line 3), take exit 8-1 or 8-2 and cross the main street. Just continue to walk through the suburb until you see the Han River ahead. It’s about a 600m walk.

Ask for directions: “Banpo Hangang Gongwon odi-eyo?”
Or take a taxi: “Banpo Hangang Gongwon ga-juseyo.”

The water feature is only active for a certain time in the evening -- I think from around 20:00 to 21:00.

Sabbath Trip Down Memory Lane

Today, I reluctantly got out of bed. I really felt like sleeping in, but I got this consistent impression (Holy Spirit?) that I need to go to church. It is not my custom to skip church – it is one way in which I keep the Sabbath. So I eventually got up, took a quick shower, gulped down two glasses of water and a banana and dashed off to the Sabbath-keeping church close by. While the sermon itself did not speak to me that much, it was still a blessing because I saw some old friends.

I worked with both Robert (American) and Sharon (Korean) a couple of years ago at the language institute where I worked the first time I came to Korea. In fact, Robert and I were room mates. At that time he and Sharon started dating and sometime after I returned to South Africa they got married. Today was the first time for me to see them again since then. They both have a pleasant glow about them, which is nice to see.

After church we sat together during potluck and had a great time catching up. It turns out that Robert taught at the same university and the same department, where I’m teaching now. Actually, he was professor to the current chairperson of my department – Division of English Studies – back in the 80s.

It was superb talking to Sharon as well. Sharon, Kay (a friend from Italy), and I often hang out together talking about such varied topics as being single and our concepts of heaven. Of the three of us, Sharon is the only one to have gotten hitched in the meantime. Although both Kay and I were respectively in serious relationships since then, we are both single again. While romance and relationships were occasional topics of discussion, it was especially the topic of heaven that intrigued us the most. We’d spent hours contemplating what it would be like, the things we’d do and see, and the fun we’re going to have. All three of us believe in a post-resurrection heaven, with physical, albeit glorified, bodies. Whenever I think of Sharon or Kay, I tend to think back to those times and our cheerful meditations.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

University is not the Gospel

“So could you give me [a] second chance to rewrite the paper? I don't think you want your student […] not to be able to graduate because of this class.” So wrote a student of mine in an email I received last night. I gave her 0% for her research paper in my Research Methodology class because she plagiarized the paper in its entirety from the Internet. Apparently failing this class will keep her from graduating.

Her assumption “I don't think you want your student […] not to be able to graduate because of this class” really bothers me. It bothers me, not because she won’t be able to graduate; it bothers me because she is shifting responsibility – as if it is my fault that she won’t be able to graduate. She is not the only student to have approached me with similar sentiment. The underlying premise is that it is I that failed them; not that their failure is a result of their own doing. One student emailed me, saying that because he got an F in one of my classes he won’t be able to stay in the dormitory next semester and hopes that I will change his grade. Another student requested me to raise her grade because she wishes to become a teacher and a C-symbol will reflect badly on her transcript. So too, yet another student complained that he has never received a C, even when he didn't study. And so the list goes on. The majority of them has this attitude that I can merely swing my magic wand and change their lives, they don’t have to deserve it, they only have to beg persistently enough.

I’m sorry, but that is not how it works. Actually, I’m not sorry. I feel indifferent, to be honest. They had opportunity to come see me throughout the semester. There were extra credit assignments. I gave them hints for the exam. You get what you deserve. University is not the Gospel.

Nail Art

A friend sent me a link to "Nail Art", by photographer Vlad Artazov. It's amazing how much can be suggested in this minimalist medium. "Loneliness" seems to be one central theme in Artazov's work. I like how his photography seems to tell stories.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Impulsive Deletion

Image from Microsoft.Com
Just now, I took a bold step and indiscriminately deleted all the emails in my Inbox. There were about 430 emails that needed to be read, sorted or deleted. And I knew that the likelihood of me working through them all is most unlikely – in any case, they just keep on adding. So, in a moment of impulsive delirium, I selected them all and pressed delete.

Unfortunately this will not solve my problem. This was just one email account. I have several.