Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Some Movies and Series

Since being back in Korea (just over a month now), I've watched some nice films and series.

The Fighter (2010)

A film with absolutely excellent acting. You need not be a fan of boxing to enjoy this based-on-true-events drama, starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. I'm not really familiar with director David O. Russell's other work, except for the war drama Three Kings (1999) also starring Wahlberg. The Fighter has some of the best performances you'll see in a long time. Don't miss it.

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

It is seldom that I watch a romantic film that affects me as this action-romance did. The Adjustment Bureau stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt and their characters have to fight fate and providence to ensure their love for each other. The film touched me on two levels. Firstly, this is the type of story I wish I had written because it is a topic -- "free will" -- that I am so passionate about. It's a great story that considers a big philosophical / theological issue. (Read Greg Boyd's discussion of the issue in this film here.) Secondly, I completely fell in love with Emily Blunt's character. This has happened only once before where I could feel myself falling in love with leading actress in a film. The other time was with Claire Forlani in Boys and Girls (2000). Judging from these two characters, I can clearly see a pattern to what personality type would make me fall head-over-heels in love.

Black Swan (2010)

Okay, technically I saw this while still in South Africa, but I thought it deserves mentioning as it is one of the best cinematographically appealing films I have seen in a very long time. A psychological drama that will definitely be enjoyed by any one that enjoys this genre, and anyone with a love for fine cinema. Director Darren Aronofsky also directed two of my other favourite films: Requiem for a Dream (2000) and The Wrestler (2008). Natalie Portman does an excellent job.

Tangled (2010)

I saw this on the plane on my way back to Korea. Tangled is Disney's version of the Rapunzel fairy tale. Not the best Disney film ever, but not bad.

The Way Back (2010)

The Way Back is very loosely based on possible events. This is very unfortunate, for if it was firmly based on actual events it would have been one of the most inspiring films I have ever seen. Peter Weir, the director, is known for such films as Dead Poet's Society (1989), Green Card (1990), and The Truman Show (1998).

I Am Number Four (2010)

I heard it compared to the Twilight series, but this is a ridiculous comparison. I Am Number Four does not piggyback on a vampire or other Gothic premise (and perverts the whole genre in the process as the Twilight series does). Instead it is a sci-fi in the likes of X-Men or Superman. Yes, the chief audience probably still teenagers; nevertheless, I found it to be a quite enjoyable film with enough action and well crafted special effects to make up for the teen-romance and new-kid-in-school stereotypes.

Hua Mulan (2009)

I watched this Chinese war drama on DVD in two sittings last night and the night before. It is the story of Mulan, the woman who pretended to be a man so that she could enlist in the army in the place of her ailing father, and then continues to become one of China's legendary warriors. Generally a good story.

Chuno (aka The Slave Hunter) (2010)

I started watching this Korean series set in the Joseon Dynasty (I think) about the slave trade and star-crossed lovers last year, but only finished it recently. Apart from its (stereo-) typical overflow of "han", the Korean emotion of despair, I enjoyed Chuno for it's moments of martial art scenes and interesting cultural exposure of the time. Unfortunately, like most Korean action-dramas, the "han" gets too much for me. There is not a single episode in which a number of characters are not crying. It becomes to irritating to bear at times.

The Adventures of Merlin -- Season Three

BBC's Merlin series is getting better with each season. There is something quirky about the series, in an almost Doctor Who silliness. Season three ended quite suspenseful. I'm rather looking forward to season four.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Sweet Sticky Rice with Cranberries

I cooked some basmati rice yesterday, but then didn't know what to make with it, so I decided to attempt making sticky rice. Here's how I did it:

I made the rice following a typical method for cooking basmati rice. Once cooked I poured one tin of sweetened cream of coconut and an equal amount (about one tin's worth) of rice into a pot. (Note that sweetened cream of coconut is different from plain cream of coconut and also different from regular coconut milk.) Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat and cook over a low heat for about half an hour. The result is extremely sweet and tasty sticky rice. Because it is so sweet I opted for frozen cranberries instead of the mango pieces which is usually served with sticky rice. The slightly bitter taste of cranberries contrasts nicely with the sweet sticky rice. I also added a few leaves of lemon verbena herb to compliment the flavours.

A very delicious, but very sweet desert which I would not recommend to people with low blood sugar, diabetics or ADHD children!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

"Comfort Women"

Yesterday I went to a screening of the documentary 63 Years On: The Story of the Comfort Women, by Kim Dong-won who received an award for the film in 2008. The documentary tells the horrific experiences of five women who were abducted by the Japanese military during World War II, to function as "comfort women" -- sex slaves, who were numerous times per day by Japanese soldiers over a number or years. According to some estimates there were about 200 000 such victims, of which a large percentage were Korean women.

The screening was shown by The House of Sharing, which is an organization that includes both a museum that tells the story of this tragedy and a home where some of the Korean victims reside. The House of Sharing organizes numerous events to inform people of the events that occurred, to which the Japanese Government has still not admitted responsibility or given a formal apology, and raise funds for the upkeep of the museum and provisions for the halmoni (grandmothers) that live at the centre.

One event planned by the House of Sharing for May is an art exhibit. I'm considering participating in the exhibit. Below is a pre-sketch I did this morning. I'm thinking of using the 'samurai' figure as a symbol for the ultimate Japanese warrior that completely overbears the canvas and so show the intimidation and power over the small girl, which I'll depict in the foreground.

I'm also thinking of doing some sexually explicit drawings almost in a Shunga style. I don't want to show any penetration and may actually leave the female figure out all together. I'm thinking of depicting the phallus of the man -- maybe also in Samurai outfit -- as a type of spear-like weapon. What I don't want to do is "eroticise" the drawings and so "exploit" the sexual tragedy in any way. Even the picture above, with the girl depicted nude, may need to be adapted so that the picture does not become erotic. On the other hand, the topic is "sexual crimes" after all, so while I want to stay away from romanticising the erotic, I don't necessarily want to avoid a sexual tone altogether. It will require careful planning and probably many drafts. I hope I can organise my time so that I can actually participate in the art exhibit. Paintings would be great, but they take a lot of time. I might settle for sketches in charcoal, ink, or pastel instead.

Friday, 25 March 2011

"My Old Flame"

I'm in this mood these days . . .

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Wie se name onthou ek eerste

Ek het 'n skokkende neiging ontdek in hoe ek my studente se name onthou. In volgorde:

1. Ywerige studente

Ek is geneig om die ywerige studente wat gewoonlik voor in die klas sit se name eerste te onthou.

2. Ekstroverte

Die ekstroverte studente wat gretig is om te gesels is nie noodwendig die die A+ studente nie. Nietemin, omdat hulle so sosiaal is en nie wegkruip agter Konfusiaanse aangeplakte skaamkry nie, onthou ek makliker hulle name.

3. Aantreklike studente

Ek voel glad nie trots op hierdie kategorie nie, maar dis ongetwyfeld 'n neiging wat ek opgelet het en wat ek nie kan ignoreer nie. Ek onthou beslis die aantreklike studente se name makliker. Dit laat my geweldig oppervlakkig voel.

4. Die teenoorgesteldes

Die besonderse lui, alewige laat, en onaantreklike studente is ek geneig om ook vinnig hulle name te leer. Ook erge lelike studente herken ek vinniger.

Wat oorbly is die algemene, medioker, niks-uitsonderse, skaam, stil, lui studente. Ek onthou hulle name aansienlik later as die ander. So wat is die les? Dit blyk eintlik eenvoudig te wees; as jy wil hê ek moet jou naam vinnig leer en onthou, trek my aandag. Jy kan dit op 'n positiewe manier doen soos om ywerig te wees, of op 'n negatiewe manier, soos om alewig laat te kom vir klas, maar solank jy my aandag op 'n manier trek sal ek jou naam vinnig leer ken.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

A Bit of (Creative) Writing About Yellow Dust

I wrote about Yellow Dust yesterday when I explained how radiation from Japan can reach America. The first time, however, I took up the topic of Yellow Dust was for the introduction to a novel I started in 2007. I never finished it, although much of the outline is planned already. It is a project I hope to complete one day. In any case, below is the mentioned introduction.

Image Source

Early spring. China, the Red Dragon, gruntingly wakes from its winter hibernation and starts to clear its throat. It’s been doing so for centuries. Each spring the Red Dragon burps up volumes of yellow dust into the air. Such is the quantity that satellite photos reveal the hairy bank hovering like a demon over all of the Far East. Carried by eastward winds, the bleak breath shadows great parts of China, North and South Korea and Japan. Some years the reptilian wheeze even licks at the shores of North America.
In ages past, the dust dragoon, irritable though it was, was also endured like the annoying ruffling of an older brother his kid sibling. All understood that the Red Dragon’s spawning contributed to the Korean peninsula. Obviously not noticeable in one season, but over centuries these coughs of airborne soil settled on the neck of land, adding, layer by layer, to its girth. And so, the burning eyes and scratchy throats were considered necessary growing pains.
However, the Red Dragon has been ill of late. It turned cyborg. It mechanized. It exchanged its silky scales for factory exhausts. Mixed with industrial pollutants the Red Dragon’s breath had become a nauseating miasma. The once glistening gold from the dragon’s throat had turned rancid. The precious metal powder became heavy metal laden. Now sulphur, soot and ash, carbon monoxide, asbestos, herbicides and other carcinogens cling to the dust and soaks like a deadly smog. Silent and condemning, as if the curse of displeased gods, the yellow dust contaminates the Korean earth. Caught in the foul pant, healthy people gasp asthmatic and sick people die.
Today is such a day. The Red Dragon’s fumes had settled over Seoul, Korea’s capital, like a slab of dehydrated yellow vomit. The weather bureau issued a warning and no one dares outside without masks palmed over mouth and nose.
On this day, with the sun drenched out by a suffocating cloud of mustard, he woke up.
“He” being the main character of our story.

My Spinach Curry with Rye Flat Bread

A few nights ago I made a delicious spinach curry that I enjoyed with flat bread made of rye flour. Making the curry is fairly simple.


Green curry paste
Cardamom pods, 1 bay leaf, salt and fresh cream.

Cook some potatoes. Add to the water a couple green cardamom pods, a bay leaf and some salt. When the potatoes are soft, add the spinach leafs to the pot. Add a big dollop of green curry paste. Cover with a lid so that the spinach can steam until soft. Once done, remove the bay leaf. Cut the potatoes in chunks and put it, together with the steamed spinach, a little cream and some of the broth into a blender and pulse just enough to get everything mixed well. (If you don't have a blender you could use a potato masher.) Dish up while hot and garnish with a few cardamom seeds. Serve with the flat bread (roti, chapati, nan) of your choice.

Instead of regular flour I merely used rye flour making for a more rustic and wholesome bread. The Food Network supplies a nice recipe for oven baked flat bread. I made my dough in a similar fashion, but instead of oven baking I made mine on the stovetop. See how to do it here.

The secret to this spinach curry is two fold. First, using green curry paste rather than a curry powder does not overpower the natural flavour of the spinach, yet adds everything else one would expect of a curry. Second, the cardamom pods brings a distinctive Oriental taste to the plate that compliments the spinach very well.


Friday, 18 March 2011

“Are you religious?” she asked.

On Tuesday night at 'The Way' Martial Arts Academy of Seoul my lesson was focussed on self-defence. This month on every Tuesday evening the Taekwon-Do class is open and free for anyone who wants to join and my lessons are more geared at real-life practicality, rather than the other various aspects one could cover in Taekwon-Do. Two or three people made use of the free class this past Tuesday. One of whom considered joining the gym so I took her over to the roster posted on the bulletin board by the entrance where I discussed with her the different training options and times available.

Suddenly she interrupted me and asked: “Are you religious?” Her question coming out of the blue just did not make sense to me. I have just taught her an hour long class on how to physically harm someone – why on earth would she “suspect” me of being religious. Be that as it may, I answered truthfully.

“Yes, I am.”

“You can tell,” she said.

“You can?”

“It's in the way you talk.”

“The way I talk?!”

I just couldn't understand how she could tell that I am religious from the way I explained to her the different martial art training options available, or the different times she could train, or the different packages she could choose and how much each one costs. I mean, how does a non-religious person explain different packages and fee options for martial art classes? Obviously I didn't use profane language as I was speaking to her and neither can I imagine any professional non-religious person using foul language while talking to a prospective client either, so the way I “talk” must involve more than merely my choice of adjectives.

Of course this made me think of Peter, the disciple of Jesus who after Jesus was captured and put on trial by the Sanhedrin, was “outed” because of the way he talked (Mark 14:70).

What I further found curious about this incident was that she never asked what my religious convictions are. It seemingly didn't matter whether I'm Christian or Buddhist, Hindu or Moslem. And I'm still not sure if her observation was a compliment or a sly insult. After mentioning that she could tell that I am religious from the way I speak, she mentioned that she “used to be religious.” I couldn't tell whether she is an atheist and that she is now more mature – as some atheist tend to think of themselves – and that it therefore doesn't matter what religion I adhere to, because it is all a little beneath her and that she doesn't need any of these religious crutches that us weaklings need to have to have a fulfilled life. Or was her comment that she “used to be religious” a sentimental moment – that she had somehow lost her faith and became non-practising but still somehow believe in a higher reality, a greater power or teleological narrative. And if so, then her statement was a compliment of sorts, because she could somehow notice something of that which she had lost as something I still have. While I don't claim to be a good example, a model Christian, or even one that “believes” in the same sense that stereotypical Christians do or even generally the same stuff that mainstream Christianity stands for, I do believe in a higher reality, a greater power and yes, some kind of teleological concept. And yes, even though I really dislike the term and even the idea of “religion,” it cannot be ignored that I do have a sense of trust and a type of relationship with (my concept of) God.

Like so many others of my generation, I am quite sceptical of “religion” and prefer the slightly less tainted word “spiritual” as a descriptive of what I am. Religion and even more so the Afrikaans word godsdiens [“god-service”] is very much something I disassociate myself with primarily on the philosophical ground that God – if we take God to be perfect; i.e. all-powerful and self-sufficient – does not need our service. On the contrary it is us, being imperfect, who need God. This then being a basic difference between the typical religious person and I, but also between the militant atheist and I. There are those atheists who pities my believe that we need God. It is a sign to them of my evolutionary immaturity and that I have yet to achieve self-actualization. Furthermore, since I'm of the opinion that there is in practise nothing we could truly do for God, seeing as a perfect God is innately in need of nothing, I am at odds with the typical Christian and practically all of the religious world as well. The typical religious person believes that there are certain things that we ought to do (or not to do) towards God in order to get God's favour; for instance, we ought to worship God or, on the other hand, not do bad things – the though shalt nots. No, if God does require certain things of us, it is definitely not because God has any need of such things, but because it would be to our benefit. Not killing each other, not stealing from each other, not coveting, and the rest, has practical advantages to us. It is that simple. The reason I choose to worship God is not because I think I have to do so to get into God's good books, but because I actually believe God to be worthy of worship; i.e. praiseworthy.  

And what was supposed to be a short description of my interesting experience on Tuesday had become a little philosophical and, yes, theological exposé. So I guess it is true, one can hear from the way I talk that I am religious . . .

Are You Prepared for Radiation?

So the nuclear plants in Japan are (partially) melting down. If you don't know how nuclear plants work or what exactly the disaster is about, this video by Hank of the Vlog Brothers (Nerd Fighters) will give you the basics.

Unlike Hank who is not too concerned, I am less optimistic. There is definitely serious radiation going on. According to Bloomberg, passengers from planes from Japan set off radiation detector alarms at American airports. The explosion at one of the nuclear plants also sent plumes of radioactive material in the air -- hundreds or radioactive spent fuel rods where shot sky high. While the Japanese (and even American) governments are playing it all down -- as one would expect of them to try and keep panic induced chaos -- independent organizations are mentioning alarming levels of radiation.

An artist's illustration of a hypothetical possibility.
If you live on the west coast of America, you may want to consider moving in land for a week or so. It's been about six days now since the explosion occurred and the jet stream that flowed over Japan at the time of the explosion should be reaching America any time now. Many people think it unlikely that radiation could reach that far, but let me remind you of the annual Yellow Dust problem we experience here in East Asia. Annually dust from the deserts in China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan are swept up by winds that gusts east, carrying dust particles over all of the Far East, covering both the Korean peninsula and Japan in a fine layer of yellow dust. What most people don't know is that it is well confirmed that the yellow dust are sometimes blown all the way across the pacific to the west coast of the United States of America. A scientific study published in 2003 reported on a dust storm in 2001 where dust particles from the Gobi Desert (the China/Mongolia desert) were carried all the way to America and even over America, coast-to-coast! Now if dust from as far as way as China can reach America, there is no reason why radio active particles Japan, which is closer, could not reach America. An article on the New Scientist website confirms that pollution from Asia can reach America.

A 2007 study showed that pollution from Japan
could reach America in about 7 days.
The good news, for me living in Korea, is that, at least for now during this time of the year, the winds generally blow east and hopefully carrying the radiation away from Korea, but that is not to say that it couldn't bite us in the proverbial behind! A British paper, the Daily Mail reported in 2009 on a Japanese study that showed the dust "completed more than one full circle around the planet in just 13 days." Of course the radiation would be much less by the time it completed such a long journey. Unfortunately radiation is a long-term problem.

An illustration indicating how the Chernobyl disaster
affected many parts of Europe thousands of kilometres
away from where the nuclear reactor meltdown took place.

As we learned from the Chernobyl disaster which likely smaller in scale to the Japan incident, the radiation could seriously affected many parts of the world for years to come. You can read more about the Chernobyl disaster and long-term after effects here. Back to Japan. They have been using (sea) water to cool down the reactors and some of this water have been leaking out -- back into the sea? Also, some of the plants continue to smoke -- definitely radio active. Even if this smoke do not go into the higher atmosphere, it will still affect the local areas. How will this radiation affect the surrounding seas? How will it affect the food supplies, not only of Japan, but of Korea? With the Chernobyl incident, certain European countries had their citizens only eat tinned food for six months, for fear that the fresh produce (and soil) might be contaminated.

A good acquaintance of mine suggested that I get an emergency backpack ready, with at least some basics, like my passport and the like, in it just in case. In the meantime I'm going to start eating seaweed like crazy. (Seaweed contains potassium iodine which fills up your thyroid with healthy iodine, making contaminated radio-active iodine less likely to be absorbed by the body.)

A Chris Isaak Mood

This whole week I have been in a sentimental Chris Izaak mood.

I only have one (or is that two?) Chris Isaak albums, but could really do with more. Anybody knows if his 2009 album Mr. Lucky is any good?

Below, Chris Isaak and Jewel.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

'n Verjaarsdag

Birthday Boy

Verlede Vrydag was my verjaarsdag. Ek wou toe al daaroor geskryf het, maar die tragedie in Japan het my verjaarsdagie na so 'n onbenulligheid laat lyk. Soos een blogger dit stel:

"Ek staan weer eens verstom oor die absolute nietigheid van die mens en die irrelevansie van die daaglikse denke, obsessies en bekommernisse en ‘n kaboel ander onbelangrike kwessies waarmee ons onsself besig hou."

Ek is in stemming met sy sentament.

My broer, in 'n e-pos om my geluk te wens, het dit natuurlik anders gestel, soos net familie kan:

"Ek wens jou alle sterkte toe, en wens jou God se seen toe. Jou verjaarsdag is nou gelink aan iemand se dood die dag voor dit, en 'n natuurramp in Japan."

'n Vriendin van hom se ma is die vorige dag aan kanker dood en daarom dan is my verjaarsdag weens kronologiese nabyheid -- ten minste in sy gemoed -- nie net verbind aan die Japanese tragedie nie, maar ook aan die tannie se afsterwe.

In elektroniese korrespondensie met 'n vriend moes ek erken dat:

"Ek moet net nie te veel dink oor Alexander die Grote nie en dat hy die bekende wêreld teen 32 verower het nie."

En voeg toe sommer ewe astrant by:

"Ek's darem op een manier beter is Alex. Ek het 33 gehaal . . . hy nie."

Soos verlede jaar het ek maar gewerk op my verjaarsdag soos dit 'n volwassene betaam. Op Vrydae het ek nie 'n swaar werkslas nie. Ek gee twee redelike maklike klasse -- al te saam drie ure lank. Anders as verlede jaar was daar nie 'n verassende wit kombers oor die Koreaanse landskap net -- daar was slegs die koue. Soos twee jaar gelede moet ek bieg:

"[M]y selfbeeld is gesond, ek is emosioneel en finansiëel onafhanklik. Ja ek sukkel nog met baie van die ou sondes van toe, maar nou is ek darem vertroud met my demone."

Ek is inderdaad in 'n plek in my lewe waar ek redelik goed vertroud is met myself.  Ek weet wat is my goeie punte; ek weet veral waar is my swakplekke. Dit is 'n deel van ouer word waaroor ek dankbaar is. Nie dat hierdie kennis my enigsins help om die "ou sondes" en "demone" te oorkom nie, maar ten minste skok hulle my nie meer nie. Ek is bewus van hulle onwelkome teenwoordigheid en weet al te goed dat ek nie "al te goed" is nie. Dit bring 'n nederige eerlikheid tot gevolg. 'n Eerlikheid wat selfvoldaanheid en selfgeregtigheid vinnig in die bek ruk.

Passion 5 Bakery
Die middag van my verjaarsdag het ek besluit om 'n oulike bakery waarvan ek gehoor het, genaamd Passion 5, te gaan opspoor. (Sien hier vir Google Maps aanwysings in Koreaans.) Ek vra toe sommer twee kollegas -- een van my departement en een uit 'n ander departement (hulle is vriende) -- of hulle lus is om saam te gaan vir 'n middag van gebak-verkenning. So bederf ek myself toe met allerande lekkernye. (Ek het hulle nooit gesê dis my verjaarsdag nie -- ek was nie lus vir die onnodige aandag nie. Een van my klasse het in elk geval vir my gesing vroeër die dag. Dit was genoeg joligheid wat my konstitusie kon hanteer vir een dag.)

Die volgende dag is ek genooi vir middag ete by my "African American mom". Sy het 'n paar mense genooi en lekker kosgemaak. Gewoonlik reël ek self  'n verjaarsdagkuiertjie, maar hierdie jaar was ek nie lus om enige iets te reël nie. Die Sabbatmiddagete was baie aangenaam al was die mederheid van die mense teenwoordig nie juis vriende nie. Daardie aand het ek die heel aand 'n Koreaanse reeks wat ek verlede jaar begin kyk het op my rekenaar gekyk, totdat ek die laaste episode so net voor sonsopkoms klaar gekyk het.

So tel die jare af . . .

Monday, 14 March 2011


"We live in a society bloated with data, yet starved for wisdom." -- Elizabeth Lindsey

Why Korea Was Spared from the Tsunami on March 11

A Map of South Korea and North Korea (yellow
and green) and Japan (orange) on the right / east.
It's best to watch the video clip full screen.

The video clip shows how the tsunami originated just on the east of Japan from where it swept in concentric circles throughout the North Pacific Ocean. The Japanese islands acted as an ideal buffer, shielding Korea from the tsunami. Notice in the video that the East Sea, aka the Sea of Japan (the sea between Japan and Korea), stays a bright clear blue, instead of the dark rippling blue that indicates the tsunami's turbulence. The Japanese islands that slope south-east of Korea effectively deflected the waves away from Korea. One can see the ripplings just touching the southern tip of the Korean peninsula, but with hardly any effect.

In a post I wrote last year November I explained why South Korea is actually quite safe as far as natural disasters are concerned and why Japan is so prone to get major earthquakes. You can read that post here.

The New York Times has a nice visual explanation of the earthquake and tsunami that you can see here.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Strawberries and Cream with Lavender

Strawberries and cream is a classic delicacy and it seems difficult to think how one could enhance it. Something I tried just now was to add fresh lavender. It works wonderfully. The herb brings an aromatic softness to the palate that perfectly compliments the smoothness of the cream. It is a delicateness that other stronger herbs such as mint, rosemary or even lemon verbena could not replicate. I am sure vanilla would be equally enchanting, but vanilla lacks in colour the appealing green that lavender brings to the desert. I'm sure that equally enchanting would be strawberries with a good quality vanilla ice-cream and fresh lavender. But unless you really have good quality ice-cream I would just stick to cream. Strawberries and Cream with Lavender is a lovely twist on this old time favourite.

Björk and Antony Hegarty: "Dull Flame of Desire"


Saturday, 12 March 2011

Carl, Bill and Bob

Carl Icahn, the 61st Richest Man in the World according to Forbes (on March 2011) gave investors their money back recently saying that:

"Given the rapid market run-up over the past 2 years and our ongoing concerns about the economic outlook, and recent political tensions in the Middle East, I do not wish to be responsible to limited partners through another possible market crisis."

Basically he is saying that the market is so volatile at the moment that not even he, Carl Icahn, one of the greatest investors in the world is willing to risk investing the money of his clients. Was it one lone ranger's peculiar actions I guess one could over see it, but let's not forget what Bill Gross did.

Named by Forbes in 2009 as 32nd most powerful man in the world, Bill Gross had much to say about the uncertain future of U.S. Treasury Bonds -- and apparently got rid of his recently.

Bob Chapman of the International Forecaster writes:

"The Fed’s idea is to inflate the problems away, but that can only work in general terms. How do you really inflate debt away without default? Perhaps the market is beginning to realize no matter how much money and credit is injected into the system that is not going to ultimately work. The elitists are at a dead end and they are well aware of it because they deliberately created this monstrosity. Everything is in place for economic, financial, social and political failure not only in the US, but in many other countries as well. The result will negatively impact the world for sometime to come. Materialism is coming to an end."
I'm not sure what Carl and Bill is suggesting one to do, but Bob, I know, suggests investing in gold and silver bullion.

Friday, 11 March 2011

M8.9 Aardbewing tref Japan en veroorsaak tsunami vroeër vandag

Lees meer by Aljazeera en Russia Today.

More Charlie Sheen

Okay, so momentarily I also thought of getting a bit concerned about Charlie. And then I saw this video he did. If he is kosher enough to make fun at himself and the whole craziness surrounding him in pop-culture, there is much to be said for his "winning" disposition. Go Charlie!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Charlie Sheen's 'Winning' Streek

If you don't know about Charlie Sheen's recent “winning” streak, it means one of three things. (1) You don't follow Hollywood gossip. (2) You don't follow alternative news media. (3) You don't have proper access to the Internet or do not have a good news / media aggregator. The first option applies to me. I don't really follow the latest entertainment talk. However, I do follow the alternative news media and I do have some good aggregators.

So what was Charlie Sheen's rant about that got all of the entertainment industry so excited and convinced every one that he is having some kind of meltdown? Basically, Sheen is p#$@d off because there are some serious issues in the world, yet the mass media has its focus on him. He is an extremely successful actor, undeniably, and he is finally at a stage in his life where he is okay with admitting it to himself; not insecure about himself, nor hiding behind some false modesty.

What the media still fails to focus on is that Sheen's crazy interview had a specific purpose – it was an interview with Alex Jones, the Infowars radio host. Sheen approached Jones about a year or two back to join in a project: “20 Questions to the President.” The questions relate problems with the official 9/11 Report.

Charlie Sheen's interesting recent interview with Jones was against this backdrop of secret organizations, government cover-ups and the powers-that-be trying to control the common people. Against their assumption of control, Sheen declared that we are in a war against them, an information war, and that we will win, in fact, we are “winning!” Who exactly "we" are, is a little more difficult to define. Sheen doesn't pull punches and starts his interview by calling the U. S. president a "coward in a cheap suit" because he refuses to answer the troubling questions about 9/11.

His rant, of course, was quickly lampooned and have become something of a mass media phenomenon. The mass media, of course, is trying to skew it as the rhetoric of a madman – and true, out of context, Sheen's interview doesn't make sense. However, if you have followed Sheen's involvement with exposing the questions regarding 9/11, you see this incident as part of a bigger picture. He is sending a very strong message to the powers-that-be. Hashed and edited, Sheen's interview does make for interesting reinterpretations, like the Call of Duty: Black Ops gameplay below with a voice-over of Sheen.

In a follow-up interview on Good Morning America Sheen discussed his current "winning" mind-set, spoke candidly about his history of drug-use, declared that he is not using any drugs at present, and explained that that part of his life is past; the future, it seems, is a more radical, albeit drug-free, one. Of course, it wasn't long before even this interview got its own lampooning, in the form of a song by Songify This:

As a poetry teacher, as a philsopher, as a quasi pop-culture analyst, I'm ecstatic with the random poetry, philosophy, memes he spews out. You can read some of his Sheenisms here (click on his head) or listen to some here (click on his brain).

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Eminent Future

Image Source

The unrest in the Middle East (and especially the possible "Day of Rage") will cause oil prices to increase dramatically world-wide. This will cause the U.S. Dollar to drop in value. As the Dollar drops, the price of gold and silver will increase even more dramatically. (Buy gold now, before it's too expensive.)

Some more guesses for South Africa:

The weakened U.S. Dollar will strengthen the South African Rand, but at the same time the price of fuel in South Africa is bound to go up. Riots in South Africa will commence in March, particularly driven by unions, and will increase in the following months. The politicians will try and appease the unions with all kinds of promises, especially with the coming elections. The question is whether the unions will believe such promises.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Geldloos; foonloos

Vandag is ek bank toe om te sien wat in my rekening aangaan. Tot my groot skok het ek 0 Won in my bankrekening. Nadat my kredietkaardrekening afgegaan het aan die begin van die maand is daar sowaar niks van my salaris oor nie. Ek's nie verbaas dat 'n groot deel van my salaris onttrek is nie, maar ek is geskok dat alles getrek is. Ek weet ek het / moes  my kredietkaard baie gebruik het terwyl ek in Suid-Afrika was, ek het net nie besef dat ek dit soveel gebruik het nie. Ek het darem die meeste kwitansies gehou, so ek kan darem sien waar al my uitgawes heen gegaan het.

Die probleem was natuurlik dat ek baie onverwagse uitgawes beleef het. Die motorongeluk het sy eis gehad, familie krisisse, en wie weet wat nog meer. Te veel dinge wat nie binne my begroting wou bly nie.

Ek is, vir alle praktiese doeleindes, op die oomblik geldloos.

Ek het 'n pot halfvol munte. En natuurlik het ek my kredietkaard indien dit moet. Gelukkig is daar darem kos in my yskas en kruidenierskas. Ongelukkig gaan ek paar van my maandelikse aktiwiteite moet prysgee. Ek gaan byvoorbeeld nie hierdie maan Taekkyeon kan oefen nie.

Maar dis nie al -loos wat ek op die oomblik is nie. Ek is ook selfoonloos. Ek het vandag toe ek by die OTM was om my geldsake te bestudeer my selfoon daar vergeet. Dis nogals 'n semi-krises. Korea is 'n redelike tegemoedkomende plek en 'n mens kry verbasend genoeg nogals dinge terug wat jy verloor het. Ek het bevoorbeeld al my beursie verloor en weer terug gekry. Die probleem met my foon is dat dit nie sommer net nog 'n foon is nie -- dis allermins 'n Galaxy Tab, wat selfs by Koreaanse standaarde iets spesiaal is.

Ek sal more by die Lost-and-Found op kampus gaan hoor of iemand dit nie dalk daar ingehandig het nie. Intussen bid ek maar. Hierdie is nie iets wat ek net kan vervang nie. Ek het die foon op 'n twee jaar kontrak waarvan ek nog vier maande gebruik het; maw daar is nog 20 maande op die kontrak oor! En omdat ek hieraan betaal, het ek nie regtig in my begroting ruimte om nog so 'n kontrak te open nie. Bid asseblief saam met my.

Ek was so ontsteld toe ek besef het dat ek my foon verlê het, dat ek nie verder kon konsentreer nie en het huistoe gekom voordat ek klaar vir al more se klasse voorberei het. Hoe ookal, 'n onderwyser moet altyd voorbereid wees, so dis nou terug werk toe . . .

Opdatering -- 8 Maart, 10vm.

God is goed. My gebede is beantwoord. Ek het vroeg vanoggend die departmentsekretaresse gevra om rond te bel en te hoor of iemand nie dalk my selfoon êrens ingehandig het nie. Na my eerste klasvanoggend is ek gou terug na die departementele kantoor toe om te hoor of daar enige nuus is, en sowaar! Binne sy Voorsienigheid het iemand dit inderdaad by die Lost and Found gaan inhandig en die sekretaresse dit reeds in 'n oulike geskenkpakkie vir my reg gehad. Dit was inderdaad 'n (wonderbaarlike) geskenk!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Nude Image on Seoul National University Website

A friend from South Africa just now stumbled upon a nude picture on the Chemical and Biological Engineering website of Seoul National University, and sent me the link by Skype. I went and look, clicked on the post and up popped a giant photo of a girl -- whom, according to the headline is a "만난 녀입니다"; i.e. a "complete whore", if my Korean translation is not too off the mark.

Smaller and censored
My friend, of course, was completely confused about what type of chemical and biological engineering is going on at Seoul National University. Having lived in Korea for some time now, I realised what this is merely another one of those infamous cyber bullying that occurs all the time in Korea; the type that leads to suicide. The post was probably posted by her ex-boyfriend or a jealous classmate. The post actually mentions something of her being a dancer (dance instructor?) and that has something to do with her figure. My Korean is not good enough to make out the details. The picture and write-up about this girl will probably be removed by tomorrow, but by then hundreds may have seen the photo and her name boldly displayed in the title of the post.

I wrote before about how "Korean Internet Users Kill Celebrities," but naturally the problem of cyber bullying is not reserved only to celebrities. Anyone can fall victim. A quick search for "cyberbullying in korea" will reveal many news reports like this one: "Cyber Bullies Reign in South Korea."

Saturday, 5 March 2011

My Broccoli and Black Pepper Soup

I just enjoyed this tasty Broccoli and Black Pepper Soup that I put together on the spur of the moment. It is really easy to make; here's how I did it:


Four medium sized potatoes
Half a head of broccoli
Some salt, fresh black pepper, lemon thyme and cream

Cook the potatoes until soft. Add the broccoli and cook for about five minutes with the potatoes. Put the potatoes (you may need to cut it into smaller pieces), broccoli and about a cup of the broth in a blender and blend until smooth. Add lots of freshly ground black pepper, fresh lemon thyme, and salt to taste. (If you do not have lemon thyme you can use regular thyme and add a little lemon zest instead.) Dish into bowls. Stir in a little cream and garnish with black pepper and fresh thyme. (If you want to make it healthier, you can omit the cream and drizzle a little olive oil -- about a teaspoon per bowl -- instead.)

It can be a tasty appetiser for about four to six people, or a light dinner for two if served with good bread, like baguette (French loaf) and garlic butter.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Home-Made Tahini

For dinner I had tahini on wavers with strawberries. I made the tahini myself, following the instructions by Dede's Mediterranean Kitchen -- see the YouTube video below.

I had tahini for the first time last month when I visited my friend Jaco in Polokwane. He came back from Israel recently and brought some tahini with him, which he gave me a taste of. I very much liked the taste and was adament that once I'm back at my place (i.e. back in Korea), I'm going to try and make it, since sesame seed (the main ingredient) is so easily accessible here. 

Seeing as I don't own a food processor I made it in my blender. It took much longer and didn't come out as runny as the tahini in the video, but is still pretty smooth. The Israeli tahini that I tasted was much sweeter. I'm not sure how they sweeten it. I decided to add a little honey to mine.

It's a pretty good spread (similar to peanut butter) which I put on water wafers and topped with fresh strawberries. A delicious, and surprisingly filling, snack!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

To Copy or Not to Copy

Is it wrong to copy? The video below asserts that copying is not wrong because it differs from stealing. With stealing I'm taking something away. With copying I'm multiplying something.

I've complained about the problem of plagiarism amongst my students before on this blog and am obviously against plagiarism. However, as an artist I'm fully aware of the fact that art is cumulative -- building on the ideas of what came before; that creativity is about using some already existing thing and presenting it in a new or novel way. The video below illustrates this wonderfully:

Artworks do not have lists of references and technically speaking often commit "plagiarism." Such "copying" in artwork is not considered plagiarism, but instead a type of iconic referencing and is sometimes even considered a compliment towards the original artist.

Probably the person that have considered this dilemma the most thoroughly is Professor Lawrence Lessig, author of Free Culture. It is an excellent book, well worth reading, and best of all, it is free and legal to copy it from the Internet. You can also listen to it as an audio book.

I teach a class on Shakespeare Film. Imagine my surprise when some of the films I want to show my students are not available in Korea on DVD. One would think it quite easy -- I just order it online from a country where it is available. It sounds great in theory, until you realise that the only DVDs you can get of this particular film is not in a DVD region that's compatible with local DVD-players. The solution? Download the film (illegally) from the Internet, convert it into a compatible format, and then show it.

Or . . . don't show the film and so deprive my students of one of the best Shakespeare films ever made.

What would you do?