Monday, 30 November 2009

Possible Classes Next Semester

I received the list of subjects that I am likely teach next semester; they are:
  • Intermediate English Listening and Speaking
  • Essay Writing
  • Research Methodology
  • 19th Century British Poetry (Romantics)
  • British and American Essays
  • Literature and Visual Arts
They are all three credit classes (i.e. three hours per week), with the exception of Research Methodology which is a one credit class (i.e. one hour per week); in all, sixteen teaching hours per week. This will be the most hours I taught so far since I started my job here. This semester I taught fifteen hours, and last semester I taught thirteen. Contractually I need only teach twelve hours per week, but the contract does state that the department can ask me to teach more, for which I would, of course, be paid overtime. While sixteen hours a week may be a little tough, the overtime pay is, naturally, not to be smirked at. I got between $300 and $400 per month extra this semester because I taught an extra three credits. If the proposed schedule does not change, then I will be teaching four credits over my contractual requirement, which will possible increase my pay with over $400.

A positive thing about the schedule is that I taught five of the six classes last semester, which means that I have much of the material already prepared; therefore, I will not need that much preparation time. I can now focus more on fine tuning the class, rather than developing syllabi and teaching material. I'm also looking forward to teaching Romantic Poetry again, as well as British and American Essays.

The only new class on the list is Literature and Visual Arts. I haven’t had time to speak with the department head, so I have no idea what the class is about, but it sounds tremendously interesting. However, I really hope that it will not take too much preparation time. I’m optimistic to spend some time on my own academic pursuits next year; particularly, I hope to write some articles and work on my PhD.

On another note, my department head told me that I do not have to worry about the renewal of my contract. In other words, they are likely to renew my contract after it expires at the end of next semester (July 2010). This means that if I wish to continue working here after my current contract expires, I can. In a world suffering from economic concerns and job shortages, I guess that is good news.

In the meantime there are only two weeks of classes remaining before the final exam. And after the final exam, another two weeks for me of administrative work (e.g. grading papers). Five weeks in all before my long holiday commences and I can go visit my loved ones in South Africa again. I can hardly wait!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Getting More Visitors With Keywords Such as "Korea" and "Sex"

A couple of months ago the daily visits to this blog doubled. It used to be around ten, now it is over 20 unique visits a day. Not bad for a blog that doesn’t have any specific niche or goal in mind. It is merely a place where I share things that I may be thinking about, stumble upon, or experienced recently. It is not focused at all. This is basically a notepad and sometimes a diary. Still, I couldn’t help wonder why the number in visits doubled. Then I thought, maybe it has something to do with sex. After all, sex sells.

A while back, about the same time I noticed the increase in numbers (around September), I wrote a post on sex in Korea. The title of that post is “A Sexual Korea,” and was about the dichotomy I noticed between the supposedly prudish Korea that Koreans like to present to the world on the one hand and a very overtly sexually charged Korea on the other hand. My hypothesis is that Internet surfers searching for things related to sex in Korea are probably ending up at my blog, which is boosting the visitor numbers. Now if my theory is true, then the visits to this blog should increase even more after this post, since the word “sex” is repeated quite a number of times in the same context as “Korea.” I recently heard that searches for giraffes mating are also quite popular, so in theory if I write more about the sexual escapades of Giraffa camelopardalis, aka giraffes, I should get more visits too. I don’t know what is so cool about giraffes mating. Furniture porn is probably much more interesting in my opinion.

Now I’m not planning to turn this blog into a blog about sex. There are enough porn sites on the Internet, so that I don’t see the point, even if I wanted to. Albeit, I do not think that there are many Korean porn sites, since XXX is illegal in Korea. Unless the porn sites are of “Koreans,” but hosted in another country, and most likely featuring other Asians porn actors pretending to be Korean, and since most of the world cannot differentiate by looks alone between, say, Japanese and Koreans, I guess the fake Korean porn websites will be relatively equally effective than authentic Korean porn websites providing Asian porn movies and pictures. I don’t know if you noticed, but the previous sentence was deliberately long, with many words related to sex and Korea. Let's see if this experiment works and if Google will index these keywords and direct more visitors here (only to find a South African's musings about Life, the Universe, and Everything, and Korea).

Now what I find interesting from the increase in daily unique visitors to my blog is that not only did the daily new visitors increase, but also the regular visitors increased too. I guess people came to find posts related to Korean sex, but found something different, yet still interesting enough to come back.

Whatever way all you new regular visitors came to visit this blog, I hope you feel at home and I’ll try to keep things interesting. Well, at least it is interesting to me.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Thursday, 26 November 2009

51 Things I'm Thankful For

1. Häagen-Dazs Ice-Cream, particularly the Green Tea flavour (only available in Korea and Japan) and their Belgium Chocolate flavour.
2. Internet, especially fast Internet.
3. Hot water in large quantities and all the luxuries that go with it – a hot shower, a hot bathtub. Bliss.
4. A good job.
5. Autumn. Just imagine how awful it would have been if we did not have that gradual transition into winter. I’m also thankful for the autumn colours which make the dreary greys of winter more bearable.
6. The Ozone layer. I have sensitive skin.
7. I’m really thankful for the fact that my first cat, Tai-Chi, was a cool cat. Just imagine if my first cat was one of those crazy cats, then I might have turned into a dog-person and I don’t think I could live with myself if I were to be a dog-person.
8. Glasses. I like seeing. My glasses make seeing so much better.
9. Great transportation systems – at least here in Korea.
10. Open Source Software.
11. Mozilla Firefox, with all its snazzy add-ons.
12. Digital cameras.
13. Innovative people.
14. Orgasms.
15. YouTube.
16. Independent news is a great blessing in a world where the mass media news have become gatekeepers of the news, rather than dispensers of the news.
17. C. S. Lewis. Yes for the Narnia books, but especially for all those other books that changed my life.
18. Friends. Not to be confused with acquaintances.
19. Coffee shops. Not American style take-away coffee shops, but real European style coffee shops where you can sit down and relax and take your time to enjoy your order, your company, and the atmosphere.

20. Martial Arts. It is neat that people can defend themselves, and it made the action movie genre so much more fun.
21. Synchronicity.
22. God. (At least the God as I understand God to be – not that “other” one.)
23. Common interests are such a nice thing. Some things are more fun when shared.
24. Berries.
25. Fantasy and Sci-Fi.
26. Things related to dental care: Toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, dentists…
27. PlagiarismChecker.Com makes my life as a teacher so much easier.

28. Vampire movies with sexy and scary vampires.
29. The idea of Truth.
30. Talents. I’ve got a couple and I’m very thankful for them even though I sometimes take them for granted.
31. Good Afrikaans music which cancel out, at least a little, all those other terrible Afrikaans music.
32. Kimbab.
33. Flowers; especially the aromatic ones, like lilies and magnolias and roses.
34. Photoshop with which I can make my average photos look great and even turn myself into a model.
35. The blow that Postmodernism gave that self-righteous arrogant conceited Modernism.
36. Negative ions during thunderstorms. The smell of rain.
37. The contribution of Blues music.
38. The Gospel. Anyone that truly understand the Gospel, in its purest form, must stand in admiration of it, even if you don’t believe in it.
39. That improvisation that Jazz brought to the music scene.
40. Podcasts and podcast downloaders other than iTunes.
41. The Teacher and lecturers that entertained my non-conformity and inspired me to make something of my life.
42. Alternative music.
43. The Sabbath. It is just the greatest thing. You can be how stressed, but come Sabbath all those issues are put aside and all work deadlines suspended for 24 hours.
44. Aesthetics. Not merely beautiful things, but the ability to appreciate things for their aesthetic quality in that moment, in that context.This can make even a ruin, or a dirty downtown alley, or a piece of rotten wood look "beautiful."
45. Thai Curry.
46. Alternatives.

47. Things that create ambiance: candles, incense, soulful music.
48. An imagination.
49. Cutlery.
50. People that have cared for me through the years.
51. That I was able to attain my goal (a New Year’s Resolution) of getting my 4th degree black belt before the end of this year.

Image Credits: 
Green Tea Ice Cream -- Yaokui
YouTube logo -- YouTube
Dracula -- Goth Girl of the Week
"Strummin' Blues" -- All Posters
"Creating Ambience" -- Chitra Karma Design

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The Latest News on Twitter: Muppets Perform Bohemian Rhapsody

The Muppets Studio just released a rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

How do I stay abreast with the latest happenings on the Internet? No, I do not spend hours and hours surfing; I don't have the time for that. Instead, I let other people do the surfing for me, and then just skim through the highlights. I'll share with you one of my secrets here: TweetMeme.Com. This website conveniantly lists the items that people around the world are tweeting about most. It is a form of summarised "current news," produced by the masses.

The Twighlight-Saga

When I saw the first movie in the Twilight Saga I was utterly disappointed. I’m a vampire movie fan, so of course I went to see it, but I was quite disappointed at having wasted the money and time (read my short review here). If you don’t know what the Twilight-Saga is about, then read Kiss My Kimchi’s synopsis.

I recently saw the trailer for the next installment in the Twilight Saga – New Moon. Judging by the trailer it looked much more interesting, and hopefully even a little scarya. (The first one was about as scary a bubblegum-milkshake.)

Unfortunately the reviews at Rotten Tomatoes have little good to say about the movie.

The really terrible thing is that, since I’m a vampire-genre fan – and have been since childhood, I will probably end up going to the cinema when it finally starts showing in Korea next month. And I'm likely to complain about it afterwards.

What I'm really looking forward to see is Ninja Assassin!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Friends, Students, Chinese Food, and Leviticus 11

Yesterday I had lunch in the Kongdae Ibgu area at the China Factory . . . uhm, or is it Chinese Food Factory? In any case, it was a Chinese restaurant and “Factory” is part of the name.

(This photo is not a Creative Commons image.)

The occasion was to celebrate the birthday of a friend, Kim Jeong Seok. He goes by the English name of Chris. He turned 27. Chris was a student of mine last year. As a general rule I try to keep clear barriers between my students and I; I try not to blur the teacher-friend line. As my “sister” likes to say: “I’m friendly with many, but friends with few.”One way I keep the teacher-friend line distinct is by not inviting students to my apartment. Since all the foreign professors, like myself, live on campus, teachers would sometimes invite students over for lunch. I don’t do that. However, with Chris that line was somewhat blurred from the beginning. A close friend of Chris, who goes by the English name of Danny, had to enter my apartment to install my telephone. This happened when I just started with this job, two weeks before the classes started and therefore long before I’ve met any of my students. My telephone in my apartment wasn’t working so the university sent a student over to see what the problem was. That student, of course, was Danny, who was working for the university during the Summer break. The first day when I walked into the “Public Speaking”-class, there sat Danny.

Some weeks later, while it was quite cold one early evening, I saw Danny and Chris on campus and I invited them for Hot Chocolate. To return the favour they suggested we go see a movie together sometime, which we then did. This was a year ago. I don’t see Danny that much anymore, but I do meet up with Chris on occasion. He went through many life challenges recenty (he quit his studies, went to the Philippines to work, but things didn’t work out so he came back, and is now considering whether he should resume his studies or just continue job searching). A colleague of mine (Chris was also one of her students before) and I decided to support him during this difficult time. So we decided to go out for lunch on his birthday, which was yesterday – and that’s how we ended up at the China Factory.

I used to like Chinese food, but then I came to Korea. The version of Chinese food in Korea is sometimes a welcome variation to Korean food, but generally it is nothing like the Chinese food I got used to in South Africa. However, the Chinese food at the China Factory does not disappoint. It tastes like the Real McCoy.

The China Factory is quite a classy restaurant with fine decor and a relaxing ambiance. The meals are just under 25, 000 Won. You have an option of one large dish, or you can have three smaller dishes from a large selection. We all went for the latter. I had a delicious ginseng porridge, salmon, and smoked duck. I’ve had ginseng porridge in Korea before, but it was quite bland. The China Factory’s ginseng porridge is rich in flavour. Ginseng can easily taste bitter; however, this porridge was not bitter at all. The salmon was prepared with salads and a sweet dressing made of orange peel – likely a type of Chinese marmalade. It was quite good too. Finally I had smoked duck with fried mushrooms.

This is the first time in my life to eat duck. Generally I am vegetarian and never cook meat for myself. However, when I go out somewhere I may opt for something with meat, probably fish. The reason is that while I believe that a vegetarian diet is the healthiest, this is only true if you have a balanced diet with a great variety of grains, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Since I know that the variety of foods I consume is rather limited, I will select a non-vegetarian choice on occassion, to supplement any nutrients I may lack.

Generally, the foods I choose to eat are what is considered “clean” foods, based on the Torah (or Pentateuch), i.e. the first five books of the Bible – specifically the food laws outlined in Leviticus, chapter 11. I’m not fanatical about this, but I figure that since God made both us and the animals, He ought to know best what type of animals are fit for consumption and which ones are not. I also find a sensible simplicity in these laws and have developed my own paradigm for what foods I prefer. It is as follows:

The closer the food is to the sun, the better it is for consumption. Let me explain: The foods that are closest to the sun are plants, which produce their nutrition from minerals and sunlight. I call plants “first level foods.” Second in line would be the herbivores that feed on these plants. The best foods for consumption, in my opinion, are first level foods, and if supplementation is necessary, it ought to come from second level foods. Not meant for consumption are the predators—third level foods. Lastly are fourth level foods: the “cleaners,” the omnivores and scavengers that eat practically anything, including feeding on carcasses and even the faeces of other creatures, for example the bottom feeders. Bottom feeders include most seafood, like shrimp and clams, which clean the “bottom.”

When I choose the food I feel comfortable eating I use this paradigm and augment it with Leviticus, chapter 11. Ducks, which are “clean” according to Leviticus, is a bottom feeder. They sift through the mud in pools of water, filtering the sludge for edibles. So according to my paradigm, ducks are not on my list of foods I eat, since they are partially a fourth level food. But since a friend and I had a long and heated discussion recently in which I insisted bottom-feeders are not good for food, and he insisted that since it is a “clean” food ducks are okay, I decided to give it a try.

This is how I got to eat duck for the first time in my life yesterday, and it actually was quite tasty. Smoked food is always flavoursome, but I am not too fond of red meat. Since this was my first time ever to eat duck I was actually quite surprised to see that duck is a “red” meat. I expected it to be a white meat like chicken. While this will probably be an isolated experience for me, for those of you that are meat lovers, I can definitely recommend China Factory’s smoked duck and fried mushrooms.

I look forward to a vegetarian outing next. I’ve been invited to a Thanksgiving lunch this coming Saturday, which will be a vegetarian occasion.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Taekwon-Do friends @ Berlin

Last Saturday evening I went out with some members of my Taekwon-Do club here in Korea. (The reason I'm being so specific is because I have another Taekwon-Do club in South Africa.) We went to a café-lounge called Berlin. Anna, one of our club members and a 1st Dan black belt, is co-owner of Berlin, which is a really trendy lounge in Itaewon. I was very pleasantly surprised with the whole set-up: excellent décor, great ambience, and wonderful food.

I had a vegetarian Thai green curry and afterwards a delectable pudding called “Chocolate Volcano,” or something to that effect. It is a cake-based pudding filled with a hot chocolate sauce oozing out of the centre. Anna recommended it as “Fantastic!” and I have to concur.(Read a review of Berlin by Vegetarian in Korea.)

(This is not a Creative Commons image.)

The reason for our evening out was as both a farewell to Leslie, as well as in celebration of her receiving her black belt earlier that week. Leslie started doing Taekwon-Do a couple of years ago. A year ago she came to Korea as a red belt, when she joined our club, and now a year later she qualified for her black belt – just in time. Leslie is leaving Korea this coming week after working on a one-year contract at a public school. After visiting with family and friends in America she has her aim set for South America next, probably Brazil.

This is how I looked that evening. Leslie said I remind her of Wally (from “Where is Wally?”), especially since I had a red beanie on earlier the evening.

In all it was a really pleasant evening, even though few club members were able to come out with us, and irrespective of the weather that was quite chilly. Speaking of weather, last night I saw my first snow for the winter.

Self-Portrait: Scarf

Korean Internet Users Kill Celebrities

The beautiful Korean model Daul Kim was found dead in her apartment in Paris. The probable cause of death is suicide. Hearing that yet another Korean celebrity committed suicide is not shocking anymore. A hi-jacking would be more surprising in Korea than a celebrity-suicide. Suicide has become a matter-of-fact reality for Koreans. This is, of course, a tragic reality in a country that is so safe and affluent that Korean young-adults are more likely to die of suicide than anything else.

A popular blogger concerned with social issues in Korea, the Metropolitician, wonders whether Korean Netizens (Internet-citizens; i.e. people that spend a lot of time online, writing things on forums, blogs, etc.) may be the cause for Daul Kim’s suicide. The Korean Internet community is known for their ferocious and scything remarks on forums, in which they criticize celebrities. In an Oriental country where saving face is a cultural principle, one would almost never insult someone in public to their face. However, on the Internet where your anonymity is guaranteed, Korean netizens seem to release the full fury of their pent up insults and criticizing. This, combined with Korean’s love of gossip, makes their Internet smear attacks that much more volatile.

If the netizen attacks on Daul Kim were indeed caused by inconsiderate netizens, it would not be the first time that a Korean celebrity takes his or her own life because of the extreme negative public opinion they have to endure. Remember also that in Korean society not bringing shame on your community is one of the greatest driving forces. It is considered more respectable to take one’s own life than to shame your family. So if a smear campaign is started against you, in which your family and community is shamed by the things said about you, one option to save yourself and your loved-ones from further embarrassment is to commit suicide. Also keep in mind that Korea is a communal culture, where individualism is frowned upon, and community acceptance highly valued. To be ostracized is a terrible experience for a Korean, much more so than in a individualist society.

This brings us to the (negative) power of the Internet in Korea and what to do about it. The solution, many believe, is to take away the Korean netizens’ anonymity. If they cannot hide behind their online masks, maybe they would be more considered of their words. This has already been implemented for many of the big Internet forums in Korea. The great Korean portal sites Daum and Naver require one to register with your National ID number. Also, I’ve tried leaving comments on YouTube, but I cannot because from within Korea one needs to register with your National ID number – I do have such a number (my “Alien” ID number), but I refuse to give up such information, hence I cannot post any comments on YouTube while in Korea. Someone saying really offensive things – or maybe even politically inappropriate things, like speaking favourably about Communism (illegal in South Korea)– can be identified by appropriate authorities because of their National ID number. Basically a Korean version of the proposed American “Cyber Bullying Prevention Act,” which I believe to be a Bill that has little to do with “bullying” and more to do with governmental control over the Internet and inhibiting Free Speech. Well at least in the USA’s case.

Obviously I am completely against this idea of muzzling the Internet. The Internet’s greatness lies in it being a medium for Freedom of Speech. But what to do in a country where people seemingly do not have the tact or self-control to show common decency, and where such abuse of their freedoms seemingly causes deaths within a communal culture?

Friday, 20 November 2009

Amazing Japanese Handwashing Secrets Captured on Camera

Thursday, 19 November 2009


In my post on Most Kissable People I listed Miyavi. The real reason I like Miyavi has little to do with his looks. Rather, I am intrigued by his music. Miyavi is Japanese rock artist. He is one of those international stars that has a cult following around the world, but whom few people that typically listen to American pop music know about.

The first Miyavi song I stumbled upon is “JPN Pride” (in the YouTube-video above) from his latest album “This Iz the Japanese Kabuki Rock.” I was so taken by the song that I decided to get me a Miyavi album. I got a best-of compilation with the similar title: “AZN Pride: This Iz the Japanese Kabuki Rock.” While some of the hard rock records can become too heavy for my sensibilities, there are quite a number of songs that I really enjoy.

Miyavi is considered the best guitarist in Japan at the moment. When Miyavi uses the guitar, the whole instrument is used, not merely the strings. Under his dexterous hands the guitar becomes both a string instruments and a percussion instrument. Watch this video of him performing “Selfish Love,” to see what I mean.

But it is his song “Itoshii Hito” (it means “my beloved” or “my lover”) that really made me become a fan. This exquisite love song becomes better with every hearing. Even if you don’t understand the words, you can still understand the emotional honesty from the vocals. It is such a beautiful composition—carrying the emotions from the beginning of the song, right through to the end. Nothing is wasted. Then, once you’ve read the words, the song becomes doubly beautiful, and as I said, it continuous to grow on you.

To be honest, I cannot decide which version I like the best. The recorded one, with the beautiful orchestration of piano, violin, and guitar…

…or the live version with Miyavi’s guitar playing carrying the song over some sampled background noise.

The emotional strength of the song is equally strong in both versions.

So, you may be wondering, why is he dressed up as a woman? To understand it, you need to know what Visual Kei is. Remember in the 80s when male Hard Rock and Heavy Metal artists dressed up and put on make-up? Did you think them gay for their Halloween-antics? Of course not. Well, dressing up and putting on make up never ceased in Japanese rock. In Japan, the visual impression given by the artist can be just as important as the sound of the music. While Western Heavy Metal celebrates masculinity and machismo, in the Far East an androgynous presentation (think “yin-yang”) is emphasized. This dressing up as part of the musical act is known as Visual Kei in Japan. In South Africa we had our own type of Visual Kei act in the, now disbanded, band Boo!, which had Chris Chameleon as the lead vocalist.

While Miyavi may at times look rather feminine (the correct description is “androgynous”), this says nothing about his sexual orientation. Miyavi is a happily married young man, and him and his wife has a baby girl.

Below is another beautiful song. The title is “Thanx Givin’ Day,” and is a child-like “thank you”-song for his parents.

It is songs like “Thanx Givin’ Day” and “Itoshii Hito” intersperse between the heavy metal records that makes Miyavi’s music palatable to me. However, it is also his splendid blend of different styles that makes his music so interesting. Listen, for instance, to Kabuki Danshi (below), in which Hip Hop is blend with Jazz, Punk Rock and touches of Blues Rock.

It is always his live unplugged performances that impress me the most. Listen to the example below. All the sounds are produced by Miyavi – even the cymbals you hear is actually a tambourine attached to his foot!

I really hope to see this talented young man live one day.

Following are some Miyavi related links:

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Die moltrein in Korea

As mense my vra wat is my gunsteling ding omtrent Korea is my onmiddelike antwoord gewoonlik die uitstekende vervoerstelsel, en in besonder die moltreinstelsel. Dis vinnig, gerieflik, veilig, en relatief goedkoop. Ek spandeer baie ure op die publieke vervoer en ook baie geld vir my (amper) daaglikse ritte. Ondanks dink ek dit is steeds minder as wat dit sou gewees het indien ek 'n kar moes koop, assuransie moes betaal, jaarlikse lisensie gelde uitgee, en nie eens te praat van die brandstof nie. Verder is die verkeersknope in Korea soms iets wat jou nagmerries kan gee. Daarenteen is die moltreinstelsel feitlik ongeaffekteer van die motorverkeer.Verder is die publieke vervoer stelsel redelik maklik om te navigeer. Indien ek verdwaal raak in Seoul probeer ek net ondergronds kom en eens daar kan ek myself baie maklik op die moltreinkaart orienteer.

Daar is natuurlik negatiewe aspekte omtrent die pulbieke vervoerstelsel ook. Die vervoerstelsel kan jou feitlik enige plek kry, maar nie heeltemal enige plek nie. Daar is sekere natuurbesigtighede wat ek nog in Korea wil gaan besoek, maar waarby jy net kan uitkom as jy jou eie motor het. Verder is die publieke vervoer nie 24 uur nie. Op 'n Saterdagaand as ek uitgaan êrens heen moet ek altyd seker maak ek is soos Aspoestertjie terug by die treinstasie voor middernag. Dit is geensins ideaal nie, en dus moes ek al vele kere oorbly in 'n motel of by 'n vriend oorslaap na 'n laat kuier in die stad.

Ondanks dit is Korea se publieke vervoerstelsel steeds dekades voor Suid-Afrika.

Die YouTube-video hieronder is vanaf Arirang TV, 'n TV-stasie omtrent Koreaanse dinge in Engels, of met Engelse onderskrifte. Dis basies 'n grootskaalse "public relations" kanaal vir Korea. Ek kyk nie TV nie, maar my YouTube-rekening is geregistreer aan Arirang TV, gevolglik kan ek kort snitte sien omtrent dinge wat vir my interesant lyk.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Een vrot appel en . . .

Ek het myself vir ’n student vererg vandag. Teen die einde van een van my klasse sê ek aan my klas dat hulle asseblief hoofstuk 12 van die handboek moet lees vir die volgende klas (komende Donderdag) en dat hulle dalk ’n klein toetsie (“quiz”) kan verwag. Een student begin onmiddelik kerm en kla. “We cannot do it because you gave us an essay which is due on Thursday.” Die opdrag het ek verlede Donderdag reeds gegee. Dit beteken dat die studente ’n week kans het om die essay te voltooi – geensins ’n moeilike opdrag nie. Ek verduidelik dit ook so aan die student. “That’s too much. Your class is not the only class in which we get assignments.” Dit is toe dat ek my vererg, alhoewel ek (ekstern) kalm gebly het en net eenvoudig herhaal het dat hulle hoofstuk 12 moet lees vir die volgende klas.

Die student was van die begin van die semester af negatief en bombasties. Sy eerste uitbarsting was reg in die begin van die semester toe hy verneem dat ek nie die gedigte in absolute detail met hulle gaan behandel nie, maar eerder hulle met die nodige instrumente wil toerus sodat hulleself die gedigte kan ontleed. Hierdie student het geensins van die idee gehou nie. Sy weerstand teen onafhanklike denke het my ongelooflik verbaas. Kan om-vir-jouself-te-dink so ’n ongemaklike ding wees? Ek weet binne sy kultuur is groepsdenke baie belangrik en dat individuele denke gevolglik onderspeel word, maar sulke intense weerstand is vir my, om die minste te sê, vreemd.

Omdat hy duidelik nie van my manier van klasgee hou nie is ek te verwagte dat hy slegte dinge aan die einde van die semester tydens die klasevaluering (wat aanlyn gebeur) gaan kwytraak. Dit noodsaak my nou om met die departementshoof oor hierdie student te gaan praat voor die knaap met sy swartsmeerveldtog begin. Studente in Korea is bekend daarvoor dat hulle baie negatiewe evaluerings skryf van dosente wie moeilike klasse aanbied.

Wat verder jammer is, is dat een student se negatiewe houding die hele atmosfeer van die klas besoedel. Dit blyk duidelik belangrik dat ek ’n stokkie voor sy mannewalis gaan moet steek, en hoe gouer hoe beter. Intussen oorweeg ek dat die “quiz” wat baie klein sou gewees het, dalk nadese in ’n ordentlike toets moet ontaard. Hierdie student is die enigste een wat die vorige klastoets gedruip het.

Aai, studente darem. Ondanks sulke negatiewe oomblikke geniet ek steeds my werk.

Van die os op die jas: ek het vandag drie boeke wat ek vanaf Amazon bestel het ontvang. Die boeke is leeswerk vir my PhD navorsing en handel oor die "geskiedenis van die boek," met titels soos An Introduction to Book History, The Book History Reader, en A Companion to the History of the Book. Ek is tans besig om Flatland te lees en sal seker oor ’n dag of twee daarmee klaar wees, waarna ek met die inleidende boek sal begin. Of dalk sal ek eers Robert McKee se Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting lees, wat ek ook onlangs bestel het en wat ek nou al vir jare na uitsien om te lees, maar eers onlangs in die hande kon kry.

Behind Blue Eyes

Every time I hear the sinisterly beautiful song “Behind Blue Eyes,” it puts me in a contemplative mood without fail; especially Limp Bizkit’s version.

Most (younger) people knows Limp Bizket’s rendition of “Behind Blue Eyes.” However, theirs is in fact not the original version. This is actually a song from the early 70s, by The Who and was written by Pete Townshend. To be honest, I did not hear the original before I heard Limp Bizket’s version. It was only after I heard the cover by Sheryl Crow that I eventually heard the original by The Who.

Below is the original as well as Sheryl Crow's cover.

Which of the three do you prefer?

Monday, 16 November 2009

Poison & Wine

My brother sent me the link to this YouTube-video of The Civil Wars performing their song "Poison & Wine," guessing that I would like it. I haven't heard of The Civil Wars before, and this is the first time hearing the song. My brother was correct; it is a beautiful song. It reminds me a little of my last relationship -- that love and hurt are often bed partners.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Bottega Veneta Spring 2010 Collection

Some highlights from Bottega Veneta's 2010 Spring Collection. If this is what the 80's influence has install for the coming fashion year then I'm quite looking forward to it.

Although Dolce & Gabbana uses more handsome models to show off their 2010 Spring collection, I must say that I prefer their 2009 Spring Collection by far.

Subway Books -- Bookreviews: Lord of the Flies; Spud

I spend roughly around 10+ hours a week on public transport in Korea. That is about two hours for every work day, and occasionally over weekends. To kill this useless commuting time, where one stand or sits for long extended periods, I read. I actually look forward to this reading time, as I seldom have the time to read in my “normal” time during the day or even evenings, as I’m usually busy preparing for classes. I call these books my “subway books,” for that is where I do most of the reading.

I like to write little "reviews" of these books, mostly for my own benefit so that I can come back to my reviews in the future and be reminded of the attitudes and impressions I had of the book at the time I read it. Unfortunately, since this semester started (in August) I haven’t written one review, as I just haven’t had the time. The last review I wrote was in July on The Old Man and the Sea. I’ve probably read ten books since then.

Allow me to catch up on a couple of books:

Lord of the Flies

William Golding’s novel about a group of school boys getting stranded on a deserted island during a World War have always been on my reading list. As a literature major there are many classics that one have come in contact with on so many numerous times that one actually “knows” the story, but without ever having read it. Nonetheless, I was determined to read it eventually and get acquainted with the primary material.

The story records the inevitable moral decay of a society where law and authority is absent. Slowly the innocence of the children, especially the older ones, starts to crumble and our (humanity’s) inherent selfishness (i.e. sinfulness) comes to the front. It is the choir boys, those typically associated with the high arts and religious settings, who become most barbaric. And it is especially when they start to paint their faces—while hidden behind masks—that they perform the worst atrocities.
That Golding should highlight this issue of “hiding behind masks,” I thought, was especially insightful. It reminds me of Philip Zimbardo's “How ordinary people become monsters . . . or heroes”:

Does it make a difference if warriors go to battle changing their appearance or not? Does it make a difference if they're anonymous in how they treat their victims? We know in some cultures they go to war, they don't change their appearance. In other cultures they paint themselves like "Lord of the Flies." In some they wear masks. In many, soldiers are anonymous in uniform. So this anthropologist, John Watson, found 23 cultures that had two bits of data. Do they change their appearance? 15. Do they kill, torture, mutilate? 13. If they don't change their appearance only one of eight kills, tortures or mutilates. The key is in the red zone. If they change their appearance, 12 of 13 -- that's 90 percent -- kill, torture, mutilate. And that's the power of anonymity.
It is well worth watching Philip Zimbardo discussion of Evil on TED.

(AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma -- Source)

The shocking thing to me about this is how recent events at the G20 meeting in Pittsburg (USA) again proved these findings: the militia brutalized civilians while hidden behind their Storm Trooper outfits. In the anonymity of their “masks” they performed unthinkable acts in the name of the law; things they would be ashamed to do “in the nude,” so to speak.

While I didn’t find the writing to be particularly good, it is the message—communicated clearly—that makes this classics one of the great and ever apt books, from the 20th century.


Another book about children is by the South African author John van de Ruit. "Spud" is the nickname for a South African boy named John Milton, who, like his name sake, has a knack for writing. Spud gets a scholarship to go to a high-class school, where he stays in the dormitory with a weird, but interesting, collection of boys. This bildungsroman is written as a diary, in which Spud share the numerous crazy events through his first year at high school. This was one of the funniest novels I have read in a very long time and I’m looking forward to reading the next two novels in the series. It also brings out some of the strange (but nevertheless true) oddities in South African culture. "Spud" is a great book for South Africans that want to laugh at themselves, as well as for non-South Africans that want to get to know a little of the culture seldom seen from the outside.

In many ways I could associate with the main character, which of course made the book ever more enticing to read. We would have been around the same age, judging by the socio-political events occuring in the novel, and Spud and I read most of the same books.

Apparently Spud is being made into a movie; I hope it will be as enduring as the novel.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Hemel op aarde

Ek kon nie help om te lag nie...

Bling Flea Market @ Platoon Kunsthalle

Last Saturday night I went with some of my Taekwon-Do friends to the Bling Flea Market in Apgujeong / Cheongdam, Seoul. We wanted to support one of our members, Bia, who was the DJ for the first part of the evening. Already you should be wondering why would a flea market require a DJ, why is it held at night time, and why is there a flea market in Apgujeong, one of the richest areas in Seoul? Well, the monthly Bling Flea Market is no ordinary flee market, and it is held at no arbitrary place, but at Seoul’s Platoon Kunsthalle.

“Platoon Kunsthalle is build of 28 iso cargo containers” which are “stacked” to “form a unique construction that can be rebuilt anywhere else any time,” and its purpose is to function as a “space [for] subculture in Asia,” focused on those “cultural movements” that occur “beneath the radar,” “like street art, graphic design, fashion, video art, programming, music, club culture, political activism, etc.” [Edited from About Platoon.]

The Bling Flea Market, organized by The Bling Magazine, is mostly a place where new and second hand clothing, often of a vintage variety, and other odd stuff are available at very affordable prices. Many of the vendors are in the fashion industry themselves, like models and young designers. I bought a scarf and a tie which I’ll show case in some self-portraits some time.

Speaking of portraits, look what I found on the Net. Yes, that is me, caught on camera by The Xoxo Kids at the Bling Flea Market. Definitely not one of the best portraits of me, especially not while wearing that 80s cap. Chad, who took the picture, is a model, working in Seoul, and is responsible for capturing fashion trends in Korea on film for his blog.

Well, I also did some capturing. Here are two vendors at the flea market that posed for photos:

Apparently the white teddy bear above is a panda bear, like the one on her jersey. I'm assuming it is an albino panda. Cuddly, nevertheless. And below is me camoflaged as a scarecrow:

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Little 1 Minute North vs South Korean Navel War Recently

Apparently there was a short exchange of fire between a North Korean naval ship and a South Korean naval ship in the West Sea, three days ago. Read more...

This is just to remind us all that North Korea and South Korea are still at war. Something one so easily forget when living in South Korea's (relative) peace and affluance.

Die goewerment maak my onrustig

(Image Source: Digital Journal)

Daar is al hoe meer en meer dinge omtrent Suid-Afrika, spesifieke die goewerment, want my onrustig maak.

Ek het in Augustus my mening gegee oor die nuwe Orwelliaanse wet rakende selfone wat geregistreer moet word. Intussen het iemand vir my ’n artikel aangestuur omtrent TV-lisensies wat moontlik gaan verval en met belasting verruil gaan word. Een persent inkomste belasting sal voortaan die gekose manier wees – ondanks die feit dat sommige mense, soos ek, nie ’n televisie het nie, ook nie ’n radio aanhou nie. Ek luister na my eie musiek, en kyk flieks op my rekenaar, lees boeke, en het allerande ander media, soos die Internet, wat buite die spektrum van TV-lisensies val. Waarom moet ek 1% ekstra inkomste belangsting betaal vir iets waaruit ek geen voordeel as belangstingbetaler gaan trek nie?

My broer stuur vroeër vandag aan my ’n ander nuusartikel waarin Edna Mamonyane woordvoerder vir Johannesburg se metro polisie sê dat “Citizens should not be surprised to see the army in downtown Johannesburg. We need them for protection and to keep us and the people safe.” ’n Staande weermag hoort nie aktief te wees in die land tensy vir nasionale krisisse nie. Probeer hulle ons mak maak aan die idee van die weermag in ons strate? Die gevaar van die weermag in ons strake moet binne die konteks gesien word van onlangse oproeringe en protes binne die weermag, en sprake van unies in die weermag. Ek is jammer, maar die idee van die weermag so aktief binne die land herinner my aan daardie Afrikalande waar die weermag staatsgrepe uitvoer. En ’n mens durf nie vergeet van wat in Amerika aan die gang is nie, met weermag en polisie wat saam die publiek onderdruk – G20, Pittsburg, any one?!

Maar wie moet ons meer vrees, die weermag of die polisie? Volgens ’n ander artikel (ook onder my aandag gebring deur my patriotiese jonger broer) gaan die polisie nou vrye teuels hê om te skiet soos nodig. Nou ja, ek weet nie van jou nie, maar ek is geensins gerus met die polisie nie. Dit het begin reeds toe ek op skool was, moontlik standard ses of sewe, en ons elkeen ’n toespraak moes lewer in die Afrikaanse klas. Die onderwerp: Wat is jou toekomstige vokasie? Tot my skok het feitlik elkeen van die boelies in die standard, al die “jocks” met min tussen die ore, en ’n honger vir mag en manipulering, ewe trots aangekondig dat hulle polisiemanne gaan word. En op daardie oomblik het ek geweet dat as hierdie karakters wat so graag ander afknou, wat self nie eens die skool reëls onderhou nie, eendag die polisiemanne in die gaan wees, dan is daar bitter min hoop vir ’n regverdige geregtigheid nastrewende polisie. Nou verbeel jou daardie boelies van ouds, met gewere en die toestemming om te skiet soos hulle lus het. Ek sidder... Nietemin verstaan ek dat die polisie die swaard dra, en gereg moet laat geskiet, veral in ’n land waar met een van die hoogste geweldmisdaadsyfers in die wêreld. Dit maak steeds nie dat my idee van die polisie ’n positiewe een is nie.My idee omtrent die polisie is natuurlik stereotiep en onregverdig, en om die waarheid te sê ek ken ’n handjie vol polisiepersoneel en hulle is glad nie die boelies van my skooljare nie. Maar my versigtigheid teenoor die polisie is ook nie ongegrond nie. Elke af en toe hoor ’n mens ’n nuusstorie wat jou hare laat regop staan.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

One Test to Determine the Rest of Your Life

(Image Source: Zimbio)
This coming Thursday morning (November 12th) most of Korea’s commerce is suspended until 10am – including the university where I work. The reason for such freezing of Korea is the dreaded annual SAT (School Admission Test / Scholastic Aptitude Test), aka as the College Scholastic Ability Test, where Korean high school students’ futures will be determined. The SAT exam is probably one of the biggest life-determining events in the life of a Korean, as this single exam has the power to fate the university you are allowed to attend; and in Korea the university you attend can establish whether you will work for a great company, or a mediocre one. If you work for a great company you can become a huge success. If you don’t, you’ll just be average the rest of your life. Or, at least, that is the general theory; and the reason why Korean children are primed from kindergarten age in preparation of the SAT.

The tradition of taking such a test which will determine your future is a Korean tradition that stretches back for centuries. Only the smartest people, getting the highest scores on the appropriate tests, were able to work in the king’s court. To this day the traditional heroes of Korea’s long history are often associated with scholastic achievement. Take for example, the scholars Joong Gun, Twe Gye, Ahn Do San, Yi Sun Shin, and so on. Every Korean child knows who these people are, and know how smart they were. It is believed that the Yi Dynasty which lost against the Japanese during the early 1900s to become a Japanese colony, lost because they over emphasized learning over battle-readiness; intellectual pursuits over training soldiers for self-defence.

In recent times the so-called SKY-universities are everyone’s dream – Seoul National University, Konguk University, and Yongsei University. Those that make it to these universities, it is said, have a smooth sail ahead. Others should at least try to get into a university in Seoul, for it is believed that universities in the capital are better than universities outside of the capital. Failing at that, you are pretty much doomed to being average and you are likely to become a labour worker.

Of course, in reality life is not so black-and-white, but for many Koreans this is their reality. And for the poor Korean high school students, this coming exam is a pivotal moment. It is the reason why they haven’t slept properly for days, haven’t eaten a decent meal in weeks, haven’t hanged out with their friends for months. Or at least, that is what I am led to believe.

One thing is sure, I am glad I did not grow up in Korea. The pressures are unbelievably high, the expectations even more so, and the competition even worse than that. I am not very competitive, neither am I one to go with the flow or blindly succumb under peer / culture pressure. I don’t think I would have made it if I were to grow up in such a funnelled society.

Good luck to all the SAT-candidates! May their efforts, and their parents’ inhumane pressure, pay off.

Umm Kulthum

(Source: Picasa: Hans)

Umm Kulthum (1904-1975) was one of the greatest singers in the Arabic tradition. You may have heard her sing before without knowing it. This Egyptian singer is tremendously famous and still considered one of the greatest. Unfortunately it is difficult to find good quality recordings. One reason is her amazingly strong voice which caused the microphones to distort. During performances she had to stand a meter or two back from the microphone. The YouTube-video below showcases a collection of her live performances.

I wish I could find a good quality recording of some of her work.

Monday, 9 November 2009

North Korean TV Ads Take a Step in the Wrong Direction

Apparently, this North Korean beer TV-ad got the "TV Boss Sacked," because it is too capitalistic. While the beer ads seemed to have been working (as demand for beer increased during the time of the airing), Dictator-President Kim Jong-il did not approve.

How do you like those special effects?

Cheers to "North East Asia Matters: The Korean Peninsula," who blogged on this earlier.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Koreaanse muskiete

Ek verlustig my in die dood van muskiete. Veral deesdae wanneer ek 'n muskiet dood geklap kry, roep ek 'n kreet van blydskap uit: "Lekker!" in Afrikaans, of "Yes!" in Engels, of "Asa!" in Koreaans. Vir wat is daar nog muskiete om my te teister? Dit is allermins al byna winter? Genugtig!, die winkels het al die wintersklere uit, en die kersfeesversierings op. Elke ding het 'n tyd; elke insek sy seisoen.

Buiten vir die gewone muskiete, is daar glo twee ander tipes, en volgens oorlewering GROOT muskiete, in Korea. Die eerste een word bergmuskiete genoem: "sanmogi." Aangesien ek aan die voet van 'n berg bly, is hierdie waarskynlik die muskiete wat my so buite-seisoenaal irriteer. Die tweede tipe muskiet is selfs vreesaanjaender en word "jeontoomogi" genoem -- en beteken iets soos "oorlogsmuskiete" en kan glo jou bloed selfs deur die dikleer van weermagstewels suig!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

When I Die...

When I die I wish not to buried in an exquisite coffin, varnished and glossed, carved with decorative lines, adorned with gold-plated handgrips and gemmed studs, padded with silk and lace, and me spread out in an expensive Italian suit as if I’m going to a wedding. If a coffin is needed, let it be a cheap box of pine or some other inexpensive wood, preferably a type of wood that will deteriorate quickly and expose my decomposing body to Mother Nature’s womb in a proper, timely manner. And dress me, if dress is needed, in an old thin garb fit for a child of the streets. Honestly, I’d prefer not a coffin at all, if that is possible; and naked I entered, why not naked depart? And why should the corpse be lowered so deep – nearly to Hyades itself – where no plant could reach the nourishment of my cadaver? Ideally, if your sentiments require covering then wrap my corpse in a sheet of cotton, drop it in a shallow hole, and plant a tree on top of it: a sturdy tree; preferably one that bears fruit, or one known for its comforting flowers – a Mulberry or a Magnolia. But before bagging me, cut out all that can be used. Excavate the internal organs: heart, lungs, liver, kidneys; pluck out the eyes – astigmatism and all; peel the skin and hair; suck out the bone marrow; and whatever else can be of use to some poor soul in need of something. Then let the remains be food for that tree.

While, at this moment, I’m fond of my body and relish all the sensuous perceptions it allows me – the sweet and the bitter, food and hunger, the vast array of polyphony, the great spectrum of colours, all kinds of textures under my touch, the explosion of orgasms, the sting of snow against my face, the sweat on my brow in summer, the aroma of lilies, the great comfort of deep sleep – I will not miss such things in death for “the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward.”

Thus, it is with Knut Hamsun that I pray:

“Oh Lord, I pray thee do not let me die
In a bed with sheets and blankets piled upon
And with dripping noses about me.
Nay, smite me someday without warning,
That headlong I fall into the forest some place
Where no one will come around nosing.
I well know the forest, I am its son,
It will not deny my humble request
To die on its cranberry bog.
Thus will I give back without word of complaint
My mighty cadaver to its creatures all,
To the crows, the rats and the flies.”

Friday, 6 November 2009


“This is our purpose: to make as meaningful as possible this life that has been bestowed upon us; to live in such a way that we may be proud of ourselves; to act in such a way that some part of us lives on.” -- Oswald Spengler

I wonder . . .

. . . why I do not have bigger eyes? For clearly I'm nocturnal.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Jim Reeves sing in Afrikaans?!

Dis 'n stukkie van die Afrikaanse geskiedenis wat ek heeltemal van onbewus was. In my voorbereiding vir my klas "Poetry in Music" (ons behandel tans "Country Music"), het ek op hierdie Afrikaanse liedjie deur Jim Reeves, afgekom. Ek weet dat Jim Reeves was 'n gunsteling onder die ouer garde (my ma het graag na hom geluister), en ek het self 'n album, maar ek het nooit geweet dat hy sy tone in Afrikaanse-waters gesteek het nie. Luister gerus na "In die skadu van ou Tafelberg."

Die son verrys oor die baai
waar die suid-oostewind waai -
'n Tafelkleed hang oor Ou Tafelberg.
Ek sien in my drome
die silwerblaarbome
in die skadu van Ou Tafelberg.
Daar is 'n traan in my oog,
wat my verlange verhoog,
terug na die skadu van Tafelberg.
Ek hoop om vir altyd
te bly sonder afskeid
in die skadu van Ou Tafelberg.
Ek hoop om vir altyd
te bly sonder afskeid
in die skadu van Ou Tafelberg.

To Autumn

So many other bloggers (particularly South African bloggers living in Korea) are showing their appreciation of the awe inspiringly beautiful autumn foliage. The colours are so striking that one would believe them artificial, as one blogger suggested: “Die kleure is net doodeenvoudig ongelooflik en lyk soms onnatuurlik, so asof iemand oral plastiekblare ‘geplant’ het” [The colours are so unquestionably astounding and looks at times unnatural, as if somebody ‘planted’ plastic leafs everywhere]. Indeed, it looks like a staged scene for a fairytale. Pasted are some “fairytale” pictures I took on the campus where I live.

Autumn is definitely my favourite season, not only in Korea, but in South Africa as well. It might have something to do with the fact that I was born in autumn. Another South African blogger calls autumn a “halfweghuis” [halfway house], a place of recuperation after the summer and a time for preparation before the coming cold. I thought that a beautiful image.

A colleague recently, while both of us were admiring the beautiful colours, told me that she learned from autumn that death need not be ugly. In fact, death can be beautiful, as autumn is beautiful – the leaves are dying, but in their death they are changing into such inspiring colours. Quite a beautiful image too.

Yet another South African blogger, rather appropriately, started quoting poetry. Who better that the poets, and of all the poets the Romantics, to evoke the most striking autumn-images? My favourite is John Keats’ “To Autumn”:

To Autumn
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Here are some links to autumn-themed photos I took last year:

Monday, 2 November 2009

The Dangers of Commuting in Korea during the Winter Season

Me getting cold -- Korean Winter 2006

The thing I probably dislike most about Korean winters is not the cold itself. It is the extreme artificial heating one experience on the public transportation system. Imagine being cocooned in layers of insulating garb: a vest, a shirt, a cardigan or sweater, a jacket, all covered with a down-feather jumper, and add to this a scarf, earmuffs, and a beanie. The description seems excessive only to those that have not been outside on Korea’s coldest days, easily dropping to below -10° Celsius. Picture yourself nuzzled in such apparel, safely protected from the bone cutting coldness outside, and then boarding a bus or subway train that is heated far above what would even be considered moderate summer temperatures. The contrast from the outside is immediately noticeable; it is like stepping into a sauna. But what would be a lifesaving haven for the scantily dressed frostbitten fashion slave that doesn’t know how to dress warmly during the cold season, or for the unfortunate poor that cannot afford clothing, such heated "comfort" becomes a hell, in an almost literal sense, for those that are already dressed warmly.

Lest you become a barbecued chicken—for that is the feeling one gets, steaming away in your layers of clothing—undress is your only salvation. But taking off ones clothes in the confines of a moving vehicle is a task that is in the worst case a dangerous endeavour, and in the least case disturbing for oneself and ones neighbour. Dangerous, because it requires the dexterity and balance of a gymnast to contort oneself out of your cocoon in a vehicle which is continually accelerating and decelerating. Unless you are seated—and in Korean public transport a seat is not guaranteed—undressing while in perpetual motion one can easily become unbalanced and fall, hurting oneself or an innocent fellow commuter. And disturbing, as such stripping often entails flaying limbs which, although accidently, tend to poke and hit those around you—all squeezed together in a confined, incessantly rocking carriage. Apart from the dangers of being cooked alive, there exists also a secondary risk of catching a cold because of the extremes of temperature experienced when coming in and out of the piping hot transportation vehicle.While the Korean transportation system is in one sense one of my favourite things about the country, in another sense it is the context for one of my greatest irritations.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Papiere en rooipenmerke

Ek het ’n hele klomp ure vandag afgestaan aan die nasien van vraestelle, opstelle, opdragte, en toetse. Ek en ’n vriendin het in ’n koffiewinkel gaan sit en merkwerk doen. Alhoewel ek baie gevorder het, is ek nog steeds nie waar ek wil wees nie en het nog steeds stapels wat lê en wag vir my. Al ding wat ek werklik nie van my werk hou nie is die hoeveelheid merkwerk wat dit behels. (Ek het ’n studente-assistent, maar universiteitsregulasies laat nie toe dat assistente met merkwerk help nie. Gevolglik vee sy my kantoor een maal per week uit en maak fotostate, maar nie van toetste en vraestelle nie.) Natuurlik besef ek dat dit 'n integrale deel van my beroep is, maar anders as silabusontwikkeling, klasvoorbereiding, klasgee, en fasilitering, is merkwerk die deel waarvan ek die minste hou. Dit herinner my aan skottelgoed was en klere struik -- ook items baie laag op my lys van hedonistiese plesiere. Dit vereis die intellektuele kapasiteit van 'n XT-rekenaar, en gee my 'n vae idee van hoe Marvin, die depresiewe robot in die Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-reeks, moet voel: "I've been ordered to take you down to the bridge. Here I am, brain the size of a planet and they ask me to take you down to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction? 'Cos I don't." My brein is nie die grote van 'n planeet nie, maar dit is aansienlik groter as 'n XT-rekenaar.

Doctor Who

I do not watch TV. I do not own a TV. I don’t want a TV. Who has time? I have too much media to consume as it is. I do however occasionally get myself a specific TV-series (usually British) which I’d watch on my computer every so often. Currently I have My Family and Doctor Who. Of My Family I have seasons 1-8 and of Doctor Who I own seasons 1-5.

Last night it was initially my intention to go somewhere for Halloween, but it started to rain and since I lost my big umbrella I was not in the mood to go out. Instead I stayed in and started watching episodes of Doctor Who. I finished season 4, and only went to bed at around 6am.

Season 1 of Doctor Who was okayish, and at times even amateurish. Nothing to write home (or on my blog) about. But with each consecutive season the special effects just keeps improving and so do the storylines. It’s a wholly fun adventure about a “Timelord” (a time traveler) and his companions travelling through space and time, and fighting aliens both locally and afar.

For anyone with the ability to suspend their disbelief (i.e. fantasy and sci-fi lovers) I definitely recommend Doctor Who.It is good clean fun, and dare I say it, reveals some truths about the state of the world with its staged "national emergencies," terror attacks, and all the other attempts at fear mongering by the powers-that-be. But I'm probably just reading more into it than I should.