Sunday, 28 February 2010

Radiohead's “Creep”

This is probably the most beautiful song by Radiohead.

Here’s a cover by Moby. I guess he thought that his cussing would add to the feeling of the song, but I think it deducted from the song, to be honest.

The Pretenders’ version is quite good. When Chrissie Hynde curses in the song, it's more believable than when Moby does it.

My favourite cover is by Damien Rice. He truly has the ability to give an emotional interpretation to a song that few other vocalists can match.

In 2008 I embedded a YouTube-video on Skryfblok of Jeff Buckley singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. I just now stumbled upon another cover of this song by Damien Rice, which is also pretty good, although Buckley’s cover is still the best, in my opinion.

Klanknabootsing in Afrikaans en Koreaans

In Afrikaans maak honde “woef-woef!” Nie in Korea nie. Hier maak honde “mong-mong!” Bye zoem nie “Bzzz” in Korea nie. Nee, hier “E-nyeng-nyeng-nyeng” bye. Koeie mag dalk “moe” in beide Afrikaans en Engels, maar in Koreaans “Emmê, emmê” hulle. Terwyl varke snork in Afrikaans en “oink!” in Engels, “ghing-ghing” hulle in Korea. Paddas kwaak nie in Korea nie, hulle “gheghol”. Muise en kuikens “piep!” nie hier nie, hulle “tiek!” of “kokihol!” Ook maak henne “kôkôkôkô” hier, terwyl hulle op ’n Suid-Afrika plaas “kiep-kiep!” Koreaanse katte sê nie die [m] nie, want hier “yeao” hulle, hulle “miao” nie. ’n Huilende uil “hoe-hoe” nie hier nie; hulle “buwang-buwang.” Motortoeters mag dalk “toet!” in Afrikaans, of “beep!” in Engels, maar in Koreaans “pang-pang!” hulle.

My aanvanklike fasinasie met die diere-klanke in Korea het begin ’n paar jaar terug toe ek vir die eerste keer gehoor het dat honde nie hier woef nie, maar mong. Glo is “mong-mong” hoe dit klink as ’n mens ’n hond in die verte hoor blaf. So wanneer jy weer ’n hond in die verte hoor blaf, luister aandagtig of dit nie dalk ’n Koreaanse hond is nie!

’n Oulike webbladsy wat die verskillende klanknabootsingswoorde in verskeie tale vergelyk is Bzzzpeek.Com.

Moview Review: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Last night I went to see Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, based on the fantasy adventure series “Percy Jackson & the Olympians” by Rick Riordan.

I think I expected too much. I hoped for something of the same quality as the Harry Potter series. This first movie, based on the first story in the Percy Jackson book-series, was not nearly as engaging as the first Harry Potter movie. Neither was the acting very convincing. While watching the film I did, however, come to the conclusion that if I was a ten year old such factors as “acting” would not have matter much to me and that I would probably have enjoyed the movie with its mythological creatures and nice special effects immensely. It’s a pity I’m not ten any more.

The director is Chris Columbus. He also directed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), as well as other the classic kid’s movie Home Alone (1990). Columbus was also the writer of Gremlins (1984) and The Goonies (1985)!

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Morphed Me II

Okay, so a commenter (Christine) said that if my Dad was Korean I'd have black hair. I also thought when seeing the result of me morphed into an Asian that it would have looked better if my hair was darker. So I dusted off my Graphic Design degree and spent ten minutes on Photoshop to give myself darker hair. So maybe I would have looked something like this . . .

I've often wondered how I would look with dark hair and a golden tan. Not too bad. However, when I do decide to "go Korean" I'll have to dye my hair black and dye my eye brows as well, and put on eye liner. I'll also have to shave alot -- Koreans are generally not very hairy. Another problem is that when I tan I never turn a lovely golden brown -- just redder and more freckly. To get a Matthew McConaughy tan, I'd probably need to get the tan artificially sprayed on. It all sounds like just too much of an effort and have therefor given up any attempts to look Korean. Although I would not have minded to look like Byung-Hun Lee from Isis and G. I. Joe fame.

Maybe I should just work on my six pack again and get me a pair of funky swords. You can never go wrong with a six pack and some swords!

Morphed Me

So I was browsing through another Expat-in-Korea's blog and stumbled upon this university website that morphs your face into different ethnicities and ages.

Take how I look now:

Apparently this is how I looked as a baby, child and as a teenager:

That's a scary lookin' baby! I'm sure I was cute looking, not like some Alien-mix.

Apparently this is how I'm going to look twenty years hence:
Funky hair-do for an old guy.

Or as a woman with hormone problems:

I don't think I would have dated myself...

This is me if I was a little more pigmented and with some silicone jelly squirted into my lips:

If my Dad was Korean:

Or a Chimp:

Or an Anime-character:

Go change yourself here and remember to share your looks with me.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Self-Portrait: Regtig?

Shakespeare, Marriage, Fatherhood, and my X

"Saturday Morning" or "The Cottager's Merchandise" by W. R. Bigg.

What is it with this Shakespeare dude? He insists that I should marry and have children, and he knows fully well how I feel about it. But not for a moment does he stop his whining.

Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy:
Why lov'st thou that which thou receiv'st not gladly,
Or else receiv'st with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear:
Mark how one string sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering;
Resembling sire, and child, and happy mother,
Who all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
Whose speechless song being many, seeming one,
Sings this to thee, 'Thou single wilt prove none'.

But wherefore do not you a mightier way
Make war upon this bloody tyrant Time?
And fortify your self in your decay
With means more blessed than my barren rhyme?
Now stand you on the top of happy hours,
And many maiden gardens yet unset,
With virtuous wish would bear you living flowers,
Much liker than your painted counterfeit:
So should the lines of life that life repair
Which this (Time's pencil) or my pupil pen
Neither in inward worth nor outward fair
Can make you live your self in eyes of men.
To give away your self, keeps your self still,
And you must live drawn by your own sweet skill.

Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest,
Now is the time that face should form another,
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose uneared womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb,
Of his self-love to stop posterity?
Thou art thy mother's glass and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime,
So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time.
But if thou live remembered not to be,
Die single and thine image dies with thee.

Lo in the orient when the gracious light
Lifts up his burning head, each under eye
Doth homage to his new-appearing sight,
Serving with looks his sacred majesty,
And having climbed the steep-up heavenly hill,
Resembling strong youth in his middle age,
Yet mortal looks adore his beauty still,
Attending on his golden pilgrimage:
But when from highmost pitch with weary car,
Like feeble age he reeleth from the day,
The eyes (fore duteous) now converted are
From his low tract and look another way:
So thou, thy self out-going in thy noon:
Unlooked on diest unless thou get a son.

A few weeks ago I saw X again, and also her son – the boy I was ready to adopt and become a father to. In the end, things did not work out between X and I; a big part of it was my decision to take up the lecturing position in Korea. Before we started dating the plan was already set. Knowing that I was going to go to Korea I had no intentions on starting a relationship. She, however, was quite nimble at breaking down my well fortified barriers. “I’ll wait for you,” she said.

I did not know that time could heal wounds so easily, that the mind is so quick to suppress bad memories. When I saw her again recently my heart jumped. “How long will you still stay in Korea?” she asked. “There’s six months remaining on my contract,” I answered, and added: “I’ll probably renew my contract for another two years thereafter; unless... unless there is something for me to come back to?” She only smiled, but gave no reply. Then later, “When you come by again, let’s have tea.”

Clearly I still have a soft spot for her and the boy. But to Shakespeare it seems being a stepfather is not good enough, for he admonishes that my “face should form another” lest my “image dies with [me],” suggesting that my offspring (“living flowers”) will resemble me closer than my self-portraits (“painted-counterfeit”). I’m not sure that I agree. I don’t resemble my father. And why am I considering Shakespeare a trustworthy sage regarding having or adopting children in the first place? Did he even have children?

“Die single and thine image dies with thee,” he says. Surely having children is not the only method to ensure “posterity.” And what is this nonsense about me “unbless[ing] some mother” because I do not intent to “husbandry” her “womb.” There must be women that feel that they are more than just “maiden gardens yet unset,” to whom life is more than just the “virtuous wish” to “bear . . . living flowers” to some man so that he can be remembered and his image not die with him.

“Thou single wilt prove none,” Shakespeare says. I have to disagree. A single person need not be incomplete. In fact, I feel quite complete now and would rather continue to be single than be in a relationship where my completion is dependent on the other person. I’ve gone that route once before and can confidently say that emotional dependence is extremely unhealthy. I do not want to be in a relationship where we complete each other [yuck!]; I want to be in a relationship where we complement each other. The distinction is substantial.

In jest I proposed (via email) to an equally independent friend of mine recently. She declined, saying that we both know that my heart will always belong to Monica Bellucci.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Koreaanse uitgawes

Die dis in die foto hierbo is nie my eie nie, maar dit is tipies iets wat ek
vir myself sal maak. Sien die resep vir hierdie Fusilli-pastaslaai by VideoJug.

Ek was beide gister en vandag uit om inkopies te doen -- hoofsaaklik kos. Kos is my grootste noodsaaklike uitgawe in Korea. My verblyf, water-en-elektrisiteit, Internet, en lokale telefoonoproepe word deur my werkgewer voorsien. Verder bly ek baie naby aan my werk sodat ek nie 'n kar nodig het nie, en gevolglik ook nie daardie ander uitgawes wat met karre saamgaan nie, soos brandstof en versekering. Daar is ander dinge waaraan ek geld uitgee, soos boeke, krygskunsklasse, flieks, en publieke vervoer, maar hierdie dinge is nie noodwendig noodsaaklikhede nie. Dis meer psigologiese gesondheids-inplekhouers.

Maar kos . . . kos in Korea kan nogals duur wees. Ek kan goedkoper leef indien ek bloot elke dag na die kampuskafeteria gaan en Koreaanse kos eet. Die probleem is egter dat ek geniet eet en is gek oor lekker kos. Gewoonlik wanneer ek by die kafeteria eet voel ek nie daardie deurskemerings van euforie wat ek ervaar wanneer ek my eie kos eet nie. Dis waarskynlik kultuurgebonde. Dis moontlik dat die Koreane opgewonde raak oor hulle eie kos, net soos wat ek opgewonde raak oor my eie kos. Die jammerte is egter dat ek raak nie so opgewonde oor hulle kos soos oor my eie kos nie. Gevolglik moet ek maar vir myself kos maak. Gelukkig is dit glad nie moeite nie. Ek eet redelik eenvoudig en geniet kos maak (dis die opwas na die tyd wat ek nie geniet nie).

Dus spandeer ek nogals baie geld aan kos. My eerste keer in Korea het ek geweier om so duur vir kos te betaal. Ek kon nie glo dat 'n trossie piesangs my R30 kos nie, of twee verpiepte mangotjies oor die R100 nie. Dit het niks sin gemaak om R20 te betaal vir 'n kwart van 'n broccolli nie. My gesondheid het begin om daar onder te lei. Toe ek besluit om weer Korea toe te kom, het ek voogeneem dat ek gaan myself nie van goeie kos ontsê nie en volg toe die raad van 'n tannie wat eens gesê het: "Money spend on nutritious food is never wasted."

So nou koop ek maar kos en probeer baie hard om nie die geldwaarde om te skakel na Rande toe en sodoende die pryse hier in Korea met die pryse in Suid-Afrika te vergelyk nie. Ek's nie onnodig spandabelrig nie, maar ek maak seker dat ek dinge het wat my gelukkig maak: basiliekruid-pesto, fetakaas, ongegeurde jogurt, gevriesde mango-stukke, bessies, grane, sade en neute, kerriepoeier en vars gemmer, en so meer. Aan die begin van die jaar, soos nou, koop ek gewoonlik meer om weer my kaste vol te kry. Voor ek op vakansie was het ek omtrent niks gekoop nie en my kaste leeg gemaak van bederflike dinge. Gevolglik het ek nou nogals meer geld uitgegee aan kos as wat ek tipies maandeliks daaraan sal uitgee. Ondanks my besluit om nie te skroom vir geld uitgee op goeie kos nie, kan ek nie help as om bietjie skuldig te voel oor geld uitgee nie. Die skuldgevoelens is moontlik 'n remnant uit my armjare op universiteit. Daar was tye dat ek so min geld gehad het dat ek bottels moes ingee vir kleingeld om brood mee te koop.

Het ek genoem dat ek 'n sak sjokkelade ook gekoop het?

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Hong Kong: Chinese Martial Art Demonstration




The Lack of Originality in the Afrikaans Music Industry: The Snotkop Case Study

Read about my recent (July 2014) run in with Snotkop fan girl "CALL ME CRAZY!! @Mignon_Devitt

Since this post is primarily about Afrikaans music it would be logical for it to be in Afrikaans. However, since I’ve been critical of Korea’s copying-culture on numerous occasions on my blogs and wrote about it in English, I think it only fair to write this post in English as well. In a previous post I commented on how the Korean bands like G-Dragon copied – i.e. plagiarized – the music of established Western artists. One blogger referred to it as Korea’s “culture theft” habit.

Well, I’m sad to say that the Afrikaans music industry has taken up the same ill practice. While in South Africa, I heard this new Afrikaans artist, Snotkop, perform his song “Kry jouself by die werk” (“Get Yourself to Work”). Unlike the Korean bands that seem to use American songs and build and improvise on them, Snotkop’s “Kry jouself by die werk” is practically a direct translation of The Offspring’s “Why Don’t You Get A Job?” One could argue that it is a cover of The Offspring’s song, in which case it is terribly bad cover.

Listen to another of Snotkop’s songs, “Shutup en soen my” (“Shutup and Kiss Me”):

Now compare the beginning of “Shutup en soen my” with Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner”:

Embarrassingly similar, isn’t it?

It is sad that all Snotkop’s “better” songs seem to be bad copies of other well established artists. For instance the song “Ek wens” (“I Wish”) sounds very similar to something by Evanescence. Unfortunately the use of Auto-Tuning does not cover the fact that he doesn’t have much of a voice.

The rest of his music, like “Parappa” and “Katrien” is that kind of pop music that betrays superficiality of culture and taste. Boer-in-Ballingskap made a true, but very disconcerting, comment: “Die ligte Afrikaanse pop, is ook maar ‘n refleksie van die volk se smaak” – Freely translated: “The light Afrikaans pop music is in essence a reflection of their taste.” Sadly this seems true as it is this kind of tawdriness that is void of any originality that seems to be selling the best within the Afrikaans community.

The truly unfortunate thing is there are many talented artists performing in Afrikaans so that we need not be satisfied with such low quality music. As long as people are satisfied with fast food, quality cuisine will not become the standard; it is similar with music. While people are drunk on cheap pop music, there is no room for quality original music, which need not be the case in Afrikaans music as we do not suffer from a lack of original artists.

Take for example Riku Lätti:

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Chocolate Sets & Songs

Image from Oprah.Com

Oprah’s studio set for the show yesterday (22 February) was made of chocolate. I didn’t see the show, but I wonder if the audience got to chow down on it afterwards – or take pieces of it home as a souvenir? Or is the Queen of Talk Shows going to have it all for herself? The chocolate set was made as part of the “That’s Incredible!” show that featured the tallest girl alive, the tallest dog, the fastest fiddle player, and other “incredibles”.

While on the topic of chocolate, below are two chocolate songs:

My favourite chocolate is dark chocolate.

Monday, 22 February 2010

To Have Guts

On a blog I follow (Sociological Images) the author recently looked at some stereotypes of masculinity in some funny, but also thought provoking, advertisements about hygiene / beauty products for men, depicting different ideas of what it means to be masculine. This reminded me of a previous post I wrote ("When Does Manhood Happen?") about my journey towards adulthood and manhood (since I’m male the two seem somewhat interchangeable). I recently had another experience that helped me on that journey.

Why this journey is important to me is because for a significant part of my life I did not feel like I matched up to what it means to be a man. As a child I was the odd kid. I didn’t enjoy sports, especially not sports that involve a ball (I still don’t); and, of course, in my culture that automatically labeled me as queer. That I enjoyed other activities like climbing trees, horse riding, swimming, and fooling around on obstacles, made no difference. (Back then, Parkour was not yet the recognizable X-treme sport it is today.) “O, you don’t play rugby – definitely a ‘moffie’!” My society had no alternatives – it was rugby and cricket, or you’re gay. Add to this that I am a creative soul with an appreciation for the finer things in life – books, art, music, flowers, cats (!), cooking. Again, stereotypes in my culture (?) did not, and to a greater degree still doesn’t, allow straight men the luxury of enjoying such things.

If everybody questions your sexuality, even outright label you as gay, then you start to believe them. Clearly all the masculine guys can spot the difference between “masculinity” and whatever I was. At that age I did not know that one can be masculine and gay, or feminine and straight; artistic and straight, or butch and gay. Such complexities of gender roles and sexuality were far above my understanding at the time. All I knew was that it is not okay to be what I was perceived to be – which was clearly not “manly” enough.

Furthermore, the denouncements of my father contributed to me questioning my sexuality and identity as a man. If a boy’s father, the one who should lead and initiate him into the masculine role, does not support him, does not show the way, the boy will have a very hard time discovering for himself what it means to be a man. Some will merely adopt the “alternative” role, the only other available option, pushed upon them by their society’s stereotypes. Others will resort to some form of hyper-masculinity that encourages violence and misogyny. Others, like myself, go through a large part of their life always questioning themselves.

“You don’t have any guts.”

I guess this was my dad’s attempt at motivating me. But this insult, thrown at me and my older brother on numerous occasions during our childhood, had no encouraging effect. I cannot speak for my brother; as for me, such insults were mere validation that we would never be good enough – man enough. I remember quite vividly some specific incidents where my brother and I would return after attending a Taekwon-Do tournament. Both of us brought home medals – often the highest medals. Typically my brother would have gold for sparring and silver for patterns. I would have gold for patterns and silver for sparring. Showing our prizes to our father he would mention that it’s nice, yet add: “But you don’t train enough.” I can remember only one compliment in my entire life that did not have a “not good enough” sentiment tagged to it.

“You don’t have guts.” I’ve heard these words so many times that I actually started to believe them. What’s the use of trying to do my best if it’s never going to be good enough? So instead of trying to excel, and in direct contradiction to my father’s attempt at reverse psychology, I became complacent. I guess that another child, one that is innately more stubborn or competitive, would have acted differently to my father’s verbal abuse. Another child might have made a resolution to disprove his father’s insults. I’m not competitive by nature. I think that I became even more passive because of my father’s slights. If I’m never going to be good enough, why even bother? I didn’t do terribly badly at school. Neither did I do terribly well. In hindsight I know that I could have done much better if only doing better was worth the effort. For me, at that time, it wasn’t.

As I grew older and as geographic and emotional distance between my father and I continued to grow greater, internally motivated efforts started to germinated. As adolescence waned and I became more and more self-reliant, I found personal reasons for excelling. After my father got shot and my mother died (in the same year) I was forced to support myself, and by God’s grace I finished my pre-grad studies, finished an honour’s degree, and continued to do a master’s degree; finishing the latter with distinction. And while my father’s words echoed from the past, I continued my martial art training. I now have a fourth degree black belt in Taekwon-Do, a degree in Hapkido, and also cross train in numerous other martial arts. None of these were to impress my father. They were personal ambitions grown out of personal interests.

On the last day before I departed from South Africa recently I was doing my rounds at my Alma Mater, dropping in at offices of my old professors, attending final appointments, saying bye to friends. One such a visit was with an English professor (now the head of the department). We stumbled into each other earlier that week and he asked me to make an appointment and come see him before I leave for Korea again.

This professor was one of the main lecturers during my honours year. We were only four or five students doing an honours degree that year (2001). It was a merciless ordeal. I’ve never done so much reading, and difficult reading at that, in my whole life. With this professor we had Post Critical Theory – I think that was the name of the module. In any case, it involved contemporary philosophy and critical theory. We were forced to read Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, Jean Francois Lyotard, Michael Foucault, Jean-Paul Sartre, Umberto Eco, and others. Not merely read, but understand and apply applicable theories to texts and write essays. It was undoubtedly the intellectually hardest year I’ve ever experienced – but the scholarly growth was exponential and rewarding.

Upon our meeting this professor asked me about my current work in Korea, my future goals, and my life in general. Towards the end of our meeting he said something to the following: “I’ve been keeping track of you during the years, and just want to tell you that I think you have guts.” He added some other compliments as well, saying things like he’s confident that I will continue to be successful in my life, and the like, but I can hardly remember any of it. It was those specific words – “You have guts” – that rang out like a siren. The very thing that my father denied me, this professor blessed me with.

I’m sure many a person had said things to that effect to me in the past, but never had they have the same effect on me. First, the specific choice of words – denial of having “guts” replaced with an affirmation of having “guts”. Second, this professor represents a father figure – a man I respected, looked up to, and even slightly feared. A person both objective enough, who has seen me live my life given the cards I’ve been dealt with; but also subjective, in that he knows me personally. He had the authority to affirm me in this way.

His words “You have guts” touched a very deep wound. I felt it the moment he uttered the words. It hurt, but in a remedial way, like a finger rubbing balm into a wound. “You have guts,” he said, and my subconscious believed it, and the healing began.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Enter the Ninja, Bobby van Jaarsveld and other South African explosions

During my recent visit in South Africa I found myself in the middle of a number of new cultural phenomena sweeping the nation. The most disturbing of these were the new band Die Antwoord ("The Answer"). This Hip Hop band is the latest greatest fad among teenagers since the somewhat more interesting, albeit more existentialist Fokofpolisiekar. (To be honest, it seems that calling Fokofpolisiekar a "fad" is a misnomer. They have some really good lyrics and have established themselves as serious social commentators.)

Back to Die Antwoord and their song "Enter the Ninja". When was the last time you saw something this disturbing? I’m still trying to figure out what disturbs me the most. Is it the terrible English pronunciation with the heavy Afrikaans accent? [I'm a lecturer in English, after all.] Or the flashes of someone with Hutchinson–Gilford progeria syndrome (“aging disease”) with his Hip-Hop culture mannerisms? The white trash exhibitionism and the lead-singer's shaven chest? The peculiar black and white drawings? Or the strange Yo-Landi Vi$$er in her school uniform singing: “Ayaya, I am your butterfly / I need your protection / so be my samurai"! 

(Ek stem saam met Boer-in-Ballingskap.)

What Die Antwoord is trying to achieve I don't know. I do know that they've identified a market and will be making lots of money spewing out hardcore white trash (or "zef") sentiments. They are clearly serious business people judging from their professional website. Sorry kiddies, this, like Marilyn Manson, is all an act. Let's hope, that like Marilyn Manson, the music quality improves with time.

Knowing that I like to stay abreast with trends, a friend suggested I look into Jack Parrow -- an Afrikaans rapper. Below is a Parrow song: "Cooler as Ekke" ("Cooler than Me").

I'm not much into Hip-Hop, and if the lyrics are lacking in substance I'm not going to waste my time listening to it. The last proper South African Hip Hop band I listened to was Brasse Vannie Kaap.

Unfortunately, after the death of Mr. Fat (Ashley Titus) and thus the end of the Brasse, I think it will be some time before we can expect intelligent Rap again.

While such "alternative" musicians like Die Antwoord and Jack Parrow are having the sub-cultures buzzing, on the magazine pages another singer is stealing the hearts of young girls and old "tannies" (aunties). This blond, green-eyed, honey tanned boy is riding the waves of popularity.

Afrikaans pop music is flourishing. I heard Gerhard Steyn's "Baby Tjoklits" a couple of times even though I did not spent time listening to the local radio stations. I must have heard it when visiting people or in stores.

I really hoped that I would get to know about a new Afrikaans band worth listening to, like last year when I discovered Wasserfall.

I wasn't so lucky.

I was, however, able to get the album "Ibokwe" by Xhoza singer Thandiswa Mazwai that I wanted.

I’m back (in Korea) – Invasion of the Weevils!

Last night I went to bed around 1am. I got out of bed today at 3pm. That’s 14 hours of sleep. While I probably needed the sleep, it clearly indicates that my biological clock is wacked. I cannot afford to get up that late at all. Tomorrow morning we start with faculty meetings at 8:30, so I need to get up around 7am.

A friend whom I asked to water my plants while I was away informed me that I have an ant infestation. When I arrived last night my whole apartment had these little black “ants” congregated everywhere. Upon closer inspection it turns out that they were not ants but rice weevils! (Rice weevils are sometimes referred to as cereal beetles. “Serial beetles” as in serial killers is probably a better term for these little critters because they are quite persistent.) So last night after taking a shower and having dinner I started the elimination of thousands of weevils. My main method of disposal is vacuuming and flushing the contents down the toilet. But even after vacuuming my whole apartment, later they’d just appear again. It was then that I discovered the source.

A Korean friend, whose father owns a rice farm, gave me a bag of brown rice. When I opened the bag it was filled with weevils whick looked something like the disturbing video below.

While I’ve removed the original source, I’m yet to completely eradicate the weevil infestation. There are still hundreds hiding away in nooks and crannies. The worrying thing is that I read online that rice weevils may also feed on cotton or other dry organic material. I’m concerned now that they may be feeding on the innards of my coaches (probably stuffed with cotton), or maybe they’re feeding on my clothes (I’ve seen some in my bedroom), or feeding on my wallpaper (Korean wallpaper is actually made of paper, not canvas), or chomping away on my books and notes. I haven’t actually seen them doing any of this, but it would explain their persistent reappearance – they must have another food source.

Speaking of which, I need to go clear my cupboards of all the pasta...

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Counting down...

There are only a couple of days, merely hours, remaining before I return to Korea. This last week have been, nonrhythmic, for lack of a better word. Some clusters of time I'm hectically busy trying to fit everything and everyone in, and then there are moments where I feel bored -- open periods with no appointments and nothing to do.

I feel guilty to admit it, but I'm looking forward to going back to Korea. It's been about six weeks now of being on the road, living out of suitcases and backpacks, traveling in uncomfortable transportation systems, sleeping in foreign beds, and eating other people's food, with little personal time. I long for my own place again, my own bed, own food, own schedule, own access to lightning fast Internet.

The sad thing is that once I'm back in Korea I will have little time to enjoy all my "owns". The moment I'm back I will have to clean my apartment, move offices, finish preparations for the coming semester, and focus on some other projects that are part of my visit here in South Africa. Nonetheless, it's better when you are at "home."

Flavors of Entanglement

Ek is ’n fan van Alanis Morissette (en haar vervaardiger Guy Sigsworth) en besit byna al haar musiek. Vrydagmiddag het ek vir my 2008 album “Flavors of Entanglement” gekoop. Saterdagaand toe sit ek die CD in die speler en luister elke snit aandagtig terwyl ek die lirieke lees. Die album was eintlik duur – byna R170 – maar ’n fees vir my gees. Ek het mos onlangs die ysskaatsvertoning Cinderella on Ice gaan kyk teen R150. Hierdie album was duurder en aansienlik korter, maar steeds vir my ewe verrykend. (Die voordeel van ’n CD bo ’n lewendige vertoning is natuurlik dat jy die CD oor en oor kan geniet.)

Soos met elk van Alanis se albums is daar altyd aspekte waarmee ek kan vereenselwig. Die openingsnit “Citizen of the Planet” resoneer met my huidige ervaring, waar ek ook myself bevind, nie meer as ’n burger van een land nie, maar as ’n tipe veellandige burger. Alanis sing oor haar verlange na tuiswees wat verbreed is. In Korea verlang ek na Suid-Afrika, in Suid-Afrika verlang ek na Korea. “And so,” sing sy ook “the next few years are blurry, the next decade’s a flurry of smells and tastes unknown / Threads sewn straight through this fabric through fields of every color one culture to another.” Daar is nog soveel van die wêreld wat ek te siene wil kry en vreemde aromas wat ek wil ruik en vreemde geure wat ek wil proe.

Die snit “Versions of Violence” spreek ook met my, veral na my onlangse politiese oorloggies. In die lied beskryf sy hoedat geweld op verskeie ander en meer subtiele maniere gepleeg kan word as bloot die fisiese. Dit wys ook die vinger na daardie alternatiewe geweld waaraan ek ook by tye skuldig aan is, soos “Diagnosing, analysing / Unsolicited advice / Explaining and controlling.”

Die lirieke van songs soos “Straightjacket,” “Not As We” en “Giggling Again for no Reason” wat handel oor liefdesverhoudinge en hoe om weer jouself te vind na so ’n verhouding vind ook op eie soortige manier aanklank met my. Verder vind ek ook ’n aanknopingspunt in die slotlied “Incomplete” waarin sy hoop om eendag “relief” te voel, te weet dat sy “arrived” het, “at peace” is, wanneer sy God sal ken, vreesloos sal wees, en altyd outentiek sal optree.

Die snitte is almal uitmuntende verwerkings wat met kragtige harmonieë Alanis se stem met ’n weeldige verskeidenheid egte en sintetiese instrumente weef. Die titel “Flavors of Entanglement” is ’n baie gepaste naam vir die verskeidenheid klanke en emosies wat soos geure in mekaar verstrengel raak.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Vriende, Taekwon-Do, en Studies

Ek is nou al sedert Dinsdag by my Alma Mater en geniet dit om ou vriende en dosente te sien. Daar is drie redes hoekom hierdie punt in my Suid-Afrika toer belangrik is en hoekom ek byna twee weke lank hier vertoef. Eerstens, natuurlik, my geliefdes wat in die dorp woon.

Tweedens is my Taekwon-Do klub hier. Ek het Dinsdagaand die klas gaan afrig en was aangenaam verras met 'n paar nuwe gesigte. Duidelik oorleef en groei die klub steeds in my afwesigheid. Ek het die Taekwon-Do klub in 1998 begin, kort nadat ek my 1ste Dan swartgordel in 1997 verwerf het. Ek het die klub sodanig ontwikkel dat dit later moontlik was om dit te affilieer met die universiteit, sodat dit die eerste ITF Taekwon-Do klub geword het wat in Suid-Afrika erken is as 'n amptelik universiteitsport. Dit is dus geen geheim nie, dat ek baie sentimenteel is oor die klub. Dis my baba en sal altyd 'n trekpleister vir my wees om terug te kom.

Die derde hoofrede dat ek hier is, is om my PhD-studies te bespreek met die relevante rolspelers. Ek het Woensdag met die navorsingsdirekteur gaan praat en met hom my vordering bespreek. Gister het ek 'n bladsy-en-'n-half voorlegging en buitelyn vir my studies ingehandig wat dan beskou sal word deur die departement se dagbestuur, sodat hulle kan besluit op moontlike promotors vir my studie. Tot op hede het ek nog nie 'n promotor nie -- ek is slegs aanvaar tot die doktorale-program op grond van ander meriete. Hopenlik sal my studies hierdie jaar meer produktief wees.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Three Friends in Natal

I have many friends in Natal; unfortunately my stay in the province was far too short to get to see even half of them. In the end I only got to spend time with three friends.

Like with Dane, I’ve probably only spent time with Mary on three or four occasions, but it is as if we have known each other for many years. Upon my arrival there last Wednesday evening, I was able to have dinner with her and Joa. We had a lovely vegetarian salad, and spent hours speaking about our careers, relationships, and other typical trivia that friends whom haven’t seen each other in a while like to contemplate.

I also got to see Buddy B on the last day before my departure back to Gauteng. Buddy B and I studied at the same university, him being my junior a couple of years. Actually we met through Taekwon-Do; I was his instructor. In time our friendship blossomed and as with many of my friends (and Taekwon-Do students) we still keep in touch. He lives in Natal, so every time I visit the province we try to spend some time together. Our visits are quite short (usually just a couple of hours, one afternoon), but often enough to affirm our mutual appreciation of each other.

I spent the most of my time in Natal with Joa. It is not easy for me to arrange my friends in order of importance. I am quite fond of all of them. However, C. S. Lewis did have a point when he mentioned how some friendships are innately closer than others. If I was forced to make a list of my top three friends, there is no doubt that Joa would be listed. I could easily call her a best friend and frequently when something significant happens in my life, she is often the first person I wish to share it with. She is likely to know me the best (both the good and the bad) – even knows most of my secrets. Her compliments are usually most appreciated; her slates the most painful. Our friendship has helped both of us grow in profound ways. Since our minds work so similarly, she has acted as an echo chamber in which I learned a tremendous lot about myself, which myopia inhibited me to learn by myself. I believe that God often brings people into my life for a purpose; with Joa I am very confident that this is the case. What is probably the greatest blessing is that her life-partner and I are friends as well, and that he does not feel threatened by the friendship Joa and I share. I can only pray that if I should meet a significant other that she would be equally understanding.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Western Cape to KwaZulu Natal

On Wednesday, a week ago, I said my goodbyes to my younger brother and departed to Durban, KwaZulu Natal.

While the Cape has its charms, it is Natal that truly warms my heart. As the plane descended over the Eastern Coast and my eyes swooped over the luscious green, my heart leaped. No other part of South Africa speaks to my soul in the same way than Natal’s subtropical scenery. The lusher, the lovelier it is for me. The Cape’s twiggy fynbos has little appeal to me. The broad leaved tropical flora of Natal, on the other hand, lifts my spirit like the Gospel.

I’m happy to say that I have a number of friends that share my passion for Natal. When I told one friend the other day how I prefer Natal over the Cape he exclaimed his relief for not being the only one and added that Table Mountain is a mere hill compared to the Drakensberg mountains. I have to concur. As a landmark, Table Mountain is an interesting phenomenon, but as far as mountains go, the Drakensberg mountain range is numinous. And to add, there is nothing as nourishing for the soul as broad strokes of green, which is in surplus in Natal. On the other hand, the mountains I saw in my Cape visit were far too dry. This is probably the key reason I enjoy Natal – it stays green all year round.

I wouldn’t mind to go settle in Durban one day, or to retire in Mtunzini when I’m old. But then again, if it is tropics I want, why not retire in Thailand? Always green, and with a meagre retirement fund one could live in Thailand like a rich man. Or at least, that is what I’ve heard; I’m yet to visit Thailand.

Speaking of Mtunzini, I visited there on Saturday with my friend Joa. Since my first visit (probably around 1999) to this little coastal town I’ve been in love with it. I’ve returned there many times and even had the opportunity to live there for a year in 2003. I rented a rondawel and taught Tai-Bo and Taekwon-Do to survive. It was a wonderful experience. I went to the beach often, experiencing kilometres of open sandy beaches, sloping dunes, and fertile groves. My stay in Mtunzini is a valuable chapter in my life and I often think back to it when I daydream of escaping from my normal routine.

Cinderella on Ice

For my last evening in the Cape I went with my brother and two of his college buddies to see the ice-skating extravaganza, Cinderella on Ice. This was one of the most visually pleasing performances I’ve seen in a very long time. The décor was superbly used, and incorporated into the performance were a variety of surprising effects, like blasts of fire on stage, lighted décor (the pumpkin carriage lighted with hundreds of LEDs), and even rain. Yes, actually dripping water falling on stage. Although I’ve seen some better displays of lighting techniques in other stage performances, it was still very effectively used as part of the story telling.

The ice-skaters – all Russian – were very skilled, with convincing performances. This is unlike a Russian ballet performances I attended two years back, of which I was terribly disappointed. Cinderella on Ice has rekindled my faith in Russian performances.

If you are in South Africa, the R150 a seat is well worth it.

Be Free

[Image Source:]

A few years back (I think it was in 2004 or 2005) I attended a course in natural health. The name of the hosting clinic is Be Free. The premise is really simple – rid the body of all toxins and then boost it with the most nutritious diet and health promoting habits. Sickness, it is believed, is the result of the body’s inability to cope with a burden of toxins and non-health promoting habits (for instance not sleeping enough). However, if you can assist the body by getting rid of the toxins that taxes the system, and then provide it with its nutritional and other needs, the body is able to heal itself of almost everything.

The success stories are remarkable. Often health style sicknesses like diabetes are reversed completely using this natural system. Be Free is also quite successful with rehabilitating drug drug abusers because it makes use of many and highly effective detoxification methods. This helps to shorten the withdrawal symptoms dramatically, making the transition from addiction to sobriety much easier.

During my visit to the Cape I was able to visit Be Free again. Although I’ve only spent a couple of weeks there for the duration of the course, the coaches still remember me well. While visiting the clinic I was thinking that when I decide to return to South Africa in a couple of years and I do not have a job lined up for me, that I might volunteer at Be Free. The pay is very little (they get no governmental funding), but one can survive (lodging is provided). I’ve always had an interest in natural health therapies and staying there for a year or so could be a good way to transition back into South Africa – doing something I enjoy, and gaining valuable experience in a field of interest.

One of my many dreams is to one day start a similar clinic that can provide affordable natural therapies and training for people in need. I’ve been to government run hospitals in South Africa a couple of times and have seen the lines and lines of people waiting hours upon hours for help. Often these people suffer from simple ailments, many of which can be treated with alternative natural remedies. Such a natural health clinic could possibly educated people in such natural remedies so that they need not clog up the hospital lines for the serious cases or emergencies.

Who is to say what the future will hold? After a couple of years in Korea I might just go to Greece!

Waterfront and Other Sites

I went to the Cape Town Waterfront two Sundays ago with my brother and one of his friends. We spent a couple of hours walking around and looking at all the touristy stuff. I, of course, had my camera with me and had opportunity to take a couple nice photos.

There was a Haägen Dasz ice-cream shop so I got to treat my brother and his friend to one of my great loves – excellent ice-cream.

My brother wanted to show me some sites since I have had very limited exposure to the Cape, so after our Waterfront walkabout we drove past the new Soccer Stadium which was recently finished in anticipation of the World Cup to be hosted in South Africa later in the year. (From close up the stadium looks quite boring. I’ve seen bird’s eye view shots that look much more impressive.) We also journeyed along the coast, allowing me to get some more photos.

A Little Cuba in the Cape and other Excursions

Two Saturday evenings ago I went with my brother Nethan and some of his friends to a Cuban restaurant just outside of Somerset-West. The vibe was quite jovial, with Cuban music setting an upbeat pace.

This was my first exposure to Cuban food so I wasn’t too sure what to expect. It turns out that Cuban food does not differ dramatically from Mexican food. I had a burrito stuffed with fresh vegetables and flavoursome cheese.

Great food, great music, and enjoyable company!

Earlier that day I met up with other “church family” (the Smits), whom I knew from my days in Potchefstroom. They invited my brother and I for lunch. The food – all vegetarian – was delectable and made me feel very much at home. When I’m on my own I live mostly vegetarian. Having had the opportunity to eat vegetarian amongst other vegetarians without it being an “issue” was a treat.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Consider This: Christianity vs Secularism.

My brother Nethan produced a youth talk show called "Consider This" -- it's now in post-editing. Most of the recording happened over two days, last Thursday and Friday. It is a Christian themed show that discusses various topics which may be of concern to Christian youth. The first program was on "Secularism vs. Christianity." Since my master's degree research is in Postmodern Identity and seeing as I teach secular texts (i.e. literature), my brother asked me to be a guest speaker for this episode.

The series is recorded for Hope TV and will probably air around April this year. Every so often I watch Hope TV, especially over weekends, so I have a relatively good idea about the type of content featured on this channel. Hope TV is a global Christian channel, focussed on traditional Christian values and world wide evangelism. Because of its focus on traditional values I didn't want to be a guest on the program because I think I'm a little too liberal. While many people would consider my Christian views to be quite conservative, I'm one of those odd fellows whom are difficult to be put in a box, especially as far as religious views go.

They couldn't get anybody else to fill the slot so I conceded. I basically said that it is possible for a Christian to identify "good" in secular media and that it is possible to enjoy things from the secular world, without becoming part of the secular world. I used the movie Batman: Dark Knight as an example, which I believe hints at the Gospel, especially towards the end where Batman decides to become the Dark Knight and accept the responsibility of wrongs done by Harvey Dent who used to be Gotham City's White Knight. In so doing, Batman becomes the scapegoat, symbolically taking on Dent's sins, so that Dent can be presented blameless.

I also suggested four points on how a Christian can live in a secular world.

1. Know what you believe and why you believe it. If you are secure in what you believe, and why you believe it, you will not be swayed by every alternative theory spewed out by the secular media.

2. Be active, rather than passive, participants. Whenever listening to a political speech, reading a book, watching a movie, participating in a cultural event, do not merely accept everything held up. Question it. Ask yourself what are the messages, values, controlling ideas, promoted. And do you agree or disagree? What's your interpretation?

3. Eat the meat, but spit out the bones. Take what is spiritually valuable, but discard the rest. We live in an imperfect world where even the good things are blighted with the bad. It is therefore imperative that we learn how to take out the good, and get rid of the bad. We need to become connoisseurs of the good.

4. See the world through Christian (i.e. Christ-like) eyes. Focus on the good things. Be careful to judge. Give the benefit of the doubt. Be more gracious, merciful, forgiving, loving. However, do not be easily fooled. Be "innocent as doves, but wise as serpents."

I think I concluded with the idea that we can be "in the world," without becoming "of the world."

I only hope that my views are sound... The spiritual journey is precarious one.

From Limpopo to the Western Cape

I arrived at the Cape Town International Airport on Wednesday evening last week. The journey itself was quite interesting. I had to take a seven hour bus trip from Tzaneen to Johannesburg. There my brother T picked me up at the Central Station from where we headed off to Johannesburg International Airport during high traffic. It cost me less to pay my brother to come from his home town (about 100 km away) to come pick me up at the bus station and take me to the airport, than to make use of a shuttle or a taxi. A shuttle -- which you have to book a day or two in advance -- costs around R300 from the Central Station to the Airport. It cost me about R100-R150 for my brother to take me.

What ought to be a 30-45 minute drive from the Station to the Airport ended up being a two hour drive due to the heavy traffic and all the activity on the roads as South Africa is busy preparing its transportation infrastructure for the coming Soccer World Cup later this year.

As one cannot rely on the cross-country busses to be on time (I have lots of experience in this), I decided not to buy an airplane ticket in advance. So when I eventually arrived at the airport I had to search for an available seat. It cost me around R1300 from Johannesburg to Cape Town. The flight with South African Airlines was quite pleasant, unlike my previous flight with the airlines from Hong Kong to South Africa. There also seemed to be an unusual amount of beautiful people on the plane.