Monday, 31 October 2011

A Video for Halloween: Allison Schulnik's "Mound"

Mound by Allison Schulnik from garaco taco on Vimeo.

Lost & Found

Image Source
Last night coming back from hanging out with my writing crit-group (we watched Zombieland since it's Halloween), I had to transfer from one subway train to another. Half way to my destination on the second train I realised that I had left my backpack on the previous train. A sense of dread got hold of me. In my backpack I had my (expensive) camera, a credit card, my ID-card that is linked with my Korean visa, nearly $300 in cash, and exam papers of my students.

I began to pray fervently. Utmost in my thoughts were the two cards and the student exam papers. The camera can be replaced, but the credit card can easily be exploited long before I can cancel it and I need my ID-card to cancel it. Also, the exam papers are irreplaceable and a dreadful mistake like losing my student's exam papers could seriously affect my job.

It was already very late so I wasn't sure what to do, but I eventually decided to just turn around and go back to the station where the previous train would finally stop. I got there just before midnight, likely close to closing time. After some searching I found the Lost & Found Office. My backpack was there with nothing missing.

While sending up prayers of praise I thought about how different Korea is from South Africa. There are many bad things I can say about Korea, but Koreans are far less likely to steal than the average South African. I've lost a number or things before, and got them back four out of five times, because of the honesty of the average Korean.

My negligence didn't come cheap, however. Because it was so late I missed the last train home so I had to find a motel to sleep over at. It cost me nearly $50. Had I known the area I probably could have found a jjimjilbang (sauna) to sleep at for far cheaper, but unfortunately it was way after midnight and I had to get to bed.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Dropbox and Evernote

There are two online storage applications that I've started to use that have influenced my life for the better. Now we know that the whole world is eager to transit their data to the "cloud". I still have my reservations about this, especially considering the solar storms predicted for 2012 by a NASA study, which could wipe out our online data. So for the time being I will still have the bulk of my data backed up offline. Nevertheless, the ease of having your data online is of great benefit, especially when you are constantly moving between computers--at your work, your home, during transit--as I do. We all know the frustration when you suddenly need to access information that is on your home computer but you are finding yourself at your office. This need not be an issue since data stored in the "cloud" makes geography irrelevant.

Dropbox is a good solution. It provides you with 2 GB of free space. You can upload data to your account and it is available for you to access anywhere you have an internet connection. It is a great way to backup your most important data. For instance, I use it to backup my student's grades. You can also make certain folders within your account accessible to other people, so it is a wonderful way to share data with other people.

Evernote is equally impressive. It is basically a tool for keeping notes, but notes can be defined beyond mere text--it could include online links, parts of webpages and even photos you snapped with your smartphone. For instance, you could take a photo of somebody's business card or of a poster you saw on a lamppost or of a restaurant menu. Evernote automatically recognises the text in the photo and index it for you so when you search for something in your Evernote notes, even the text in your photos are retrievable. The great thing about Evernote is that it comfortably works on your computers and mobile device and periodically synchronises the notes on your computers and mobile device. That means that when I get an idea while sitting on the subway I can quickly enter it onto my mobile device and when I get home the information is waiting for my on my home computer.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Grappling Photo Series

While searching for some other photos in my 2009 folder I came upon these photos that I took during a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu training session. I thought them to be nice and decided to share them here.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Self-Portrait: Fighter

Kakashi and Giraffe Sex Still Skryfblok's Top Posts

A statue by Belle Brooks, inspired by the search
for "giraffe sex" on Google that has gone
viral. (Image Source)
A year ago (to the day) I wrote a post on giraffe sex. It was basically an experiment to see if it would increase page views to my blog. It actually worked. The search term “giraffe sex” is the second most popular search term that bring viewers to my blog, that is according to Blogger's statistics. Google Analytics describes it slightly differently, saying that the actual keywords “giraffe sex” is the tenth in traffic ranking and “giraffe” fifth. Be that as it may, it is obvious that people with interest in giraffes (and giraffe procreation) quite frequently land on my blog. According to Google Analytics the keyword “Kakashi” is still by far the most frequent entrance to my blog and Blogger's statistics concur that “Kakashi Hatake” is the top search term for people to land at Skryfblok.

To all the Kakashi Hatake fans, here's a naked picture of Kakashi in the shower! (Lol, this is bound to shoot up visits! Nothing like sex to boost traffic, as the giraffe post experiment proved.)

Image Source

Other favourites are “Andy Lau”, “do mermaids exist”, and “body painting.” Other posts that is a gateway to my blog are the one I did on the physical differences between Koreans and Caucasians and the post in which I announced my new (Afrikaans) blog Ingelegde Lywe that focusses on poetry, particularly “liefdesgedigte” (love poems) and “erotiese verse” (erotic verses).

Japan earthquake and tsunamie, March 2011
Image Source
There were two distinct spikes on my blog, one in March 2011 and the other in May 2011. The first spike was because of the earth quake and resultant tsunami in Japan in March. The pageviews jumped with nearly 2000 from January and February. I wrote two posts on the earthquake. The first an Afrikaans post in which I announced the earthquake's occurrence on the day (11 March 2011). The second a few days later in which I explained why Korea was spared from the tsunami that followed the earthquake.

Image Source
Traffic went down with about a 1000 views in April but went up again with another thousand in May. I'm not too certain about the reason for the May spike. I wrote a couple of controversial posts that month. For instance I wrote about how Google tailors our search results; I wrote (favourably and sympathetically) about Lady Gaga's song “Judas” and her struggle with sin; I wrote with disgust about the pleasure people derived from Osama bin Laden's death; I announced that Armageddon would not happen on Saturday, May 21st; I laughed at the release of Obama's Birth Certificate; and I gave a link and feedback about the talk I gave about Christianity and Romantic Poetry. Any, or maybe a combination of these posts could have caused the increase in page views.

While Blogger's statistics show a slow but steady decline in traffic since May, Google Analytics tells a different story. According to Analytics visits have nearly double from May to August. There has been a slight recession of late, but of course the month is not yet at an end so the statistics are a little fuzzy for October. In July and August I went on holiday so I posted some photos of my trip in Laos, Thailand and China. I can't think why such photos should increase views to my blog, however. There are hardly anything else I think noteworthy, apart from, maybe, my “Kukkiwon Gangster” photo, which is slightly controversial, but only to those privy to the dark secrets of Taekwon-Do history.

Image Source
The bounce rate for my blog is pretty high, around 80%. People land here hoping for a website on Kakashi or giraffe sex or mermaids, and instead find a blog with over a thousand posts on very random topics. Disappointed they leave soon afterwards. Most of these people don't stay longer than 30 seconds. For a blog with no specific purpose other than logging my life and thoughts, this is not an issue. Were I trying to sell something (a product, or myself), a high bounce rate would have been a bad thing.

Image Source
Most visitors to Skryfblok are American. The second highest geography that visit my blog is South Africa. This is heartening as one reason I started this blog was to keep my friends and family who mostly live in South Africa up to date with my life here in Korea. It seems to be working. Of all the visitors from around the world most do not return; however just under 10% return to the blog; i.e. they are likely followers of the blog. Interestingly, most of these returning visitors are from South Korea and the second highest grouping of returning visitors are from South Africa. Does that mean that my social network in South Korea has surpassed my social network in South Africa? It would be a surprising finding if it's true, for I am still under the impression that I have far more friends in my country of birth than here in my host country.

Are you a fan?
Image Source
If you have read this whole post, give yourself a pat on the back, for you must definitely be either a real friend or a true Skryfblok follower to have read through all this boring and somewhat useless statistics about a rather purposeless blog. Lots of love to you!

Holding a woman . . . uhm . . . I mean a bottle

"Black Bean Tera Tea"
Image Source
So yesterday I went to the movies to see this movie (오직그대만), and bought myself the tea advertised above. In Korea such cold unsweetened tea-drinks are readily available. In any case, while sitting in the cinema with my tea bottle in hand I suddenly became aware of the feeling of holding a shapely slim woman. That the tactile-sensory message of the bottle could communicate this with such force took me somewhat by surprise as I usually think of marketing in visual rather than kinetic terms. The tea is marketed for (Korean) women wanting to loose weight (it is high in fibre and low in kilojoules). In Korea it seems that there is a whole range of beverages marketed for women, using not only visual cues of shapely ladies, but also tactile cues in the form of shapely bottles. This particular bottle literally feels like a slim shapely woman. Now I don't know if a heterosexual woman holding this bottle in hand will get the same "feeling" as I did. In any case, for more on the topic of bottle shapes in Korean marketing you can read more at  The Grand Narrative.

My Afrikaanse speltoetser-panarie

Boer-in-Ballingskap het vir my hierdie skakel gestuur waar 'n mens 'n gratis Afrikaanse speltoetser en woordafbreker kan aflaai. Omdat dit 'n Pharos-produk kan 'n mens vertrou dat dit 'n goeie produk is.

Die enigste probleem is dat hierdie speltoetser werk in tandem met Microsoft Word. Ongelukkig gebruik ek nie Microsoft Word op my persoonlike rekenaar by my woning nie. Byna al die programme op my rekenaar is oopkode ("open source") gratis programme. Ek gebruik die Open Office-pakket as my woordverwerker. Ek het wel die Microsoft Office-pakket op my kantoorrekenaar, maar wanneer ek by die werk is, funksioneer ek eksklusief in Engels en het dus nooit behoefte aan 'n Afrikaanse speltoetser nie. So bevind ek my dan tans in 'n paradoksale-panarie. By die huis waar ek by tye 'n Afrikaanse speltoetser benodig kan ek dit nie gebruik nie, en by die werk waar ek dit kan gebruik het ek dit nie nodig nie.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Song's About the Craziness of Being In Love

The song I wanted to included first is "It's Crazy" by Sarah Vaughan, but it seems I cannot find a YouTube version of it.

"Language Teaching Applied Linguistics Reading Pack"

For my scholarly minded language teaching friends, here's a nice little research resource lasting for the next few months, thanks to Cambridge University Press.

Language Teaching (the Cambridge University Press journal) has put together a free trial 'Survival Pack', with MA and PhD students particularly in mind, featuring a selection of Timelines, State of the Art, and Survey articles, amongst others.

This "Language Teaching Applied Linguistics Reading Pack" can be seen at:

The offer is valid until the end of May 2012. At some point, the offer may be updated with new material.

Please circulate widely.


Melissa Good
Editor, HSS Journals
Cambridge University Press

Blue House

Yesterday I visited the Blue House, the official residency of the South Korean president. I wrote a little more about the Blue House on my martial art blog: Soo Shim Kwan.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Myeongdong Fantasy Festival 2011

Today I went to the 2011 Myeongdong Fantasy Festival. Myeongdong is a trendy fashion districts in Seoul. I went to a particular item on the fantasy festival list, namely a live drawing. Here's one sketch I made.

Since it was a fantasy festival I decided to dress in steam punk for the occasion. Coincidentally this matched with the clothes of the two models so I volunteered for one sitting.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Miyavi's "Requiem"

Few artists have that mythical ability to reach inside your chest, take a hold of heart with both hands and just squeeze it till it oozes with emotion. It's a raw type of emotion evoked by a raw type of voice, like Skin from Skunk Anansie; or like Miyavi. Just listen to Miyavi in his "Requiem". Really listen. You don't even need to understand Japanese to feel the hurt, the longing.

O how I wish I could experience him live. No need for anything fancy. Just him and his guitar -- unplugged. Now that would be a memorable experience.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Gee Engels Oorsee

Baie Suid-Afrikaners gee Engels in Korea. Dis ook hoe ek die eerste keer in Korea beland het. Korea is nie die enigste land waar Suid-Afrikaners Engels kan gee nie, soos hierdie onlangse skrywe in Beeld wys. Mense met gepaste grade kan byvoorbeeld in Georgië gaan Engels skoolgee. Die geld is bitter min, slegs R2000 per maand, maar verblyf en etes is gedek, wat beteken dat jy byna geen uitgawes het nie. Natuurlik gaan jy nie juis geld maak nie en is 'n plek soos Georgië eerder gepas vir mense wat bloot nuwe ervaringe wil beleef.

Many other places, particularly in the Orient are also open to South Africans to teach English. Japan is a great destination with a relatively high salary; unfortunately, Japan is a very expensive place and saving money there is more difficult. Some South Africans I know also teach in Taiwan. Teaching in Hong Kong in the public school system is a good option, but I'm biased towards Hong Kong, although I personally would not want to teach children. I know of people teaching in Saudi Arabia and surprisingly even educators (i.e. people with degree's in Education) that are welcomed into England, Canada, New Zeland and Australia.

Hoe het dit gebeur?! Ek het glad nie besef dat ek vanaf Afrikaans oorgespring het Engels toe in die vorige paragraaf nie. Hierdie is definitief 'n gevaar wat jy in gedagte moet hou wanneer jy besluit om oorsee te gaan Engels gee: dit kom ten nadeel van die ander tale wat jy magtig is. Ek funksioneer byna uitsluitelik in Engels en vind dat my vlotheid in Afrikaans baie aangetas is.

Wanneer jy besluit om oorsee Engels te gee, stel ek voor dat jy twee dinge moet bedink. Wil jy geld maak of wil jy nuwe lewenservaringe hê en jouself in die gasheerland se kultuur verdiep? Die twee is nie noodwendig in tweestryd nie, maar die kanse is goed dat jy in plekke soos Korea of Japan by harder en langer ure gaan werk (alhoewel jy meer geld verdien), maar gevolglik minder tyd gaan hê om te verdiep in die plaaslike gemeenskap. Daarinteen, opsie wat minder geld bied, bied baie keer meer interaksie met die plaaslike gemeenskap. Neem byvoorbeeld die Beeld berig hierbo. Slegs R2000 per maand, maar jou etes is in die huise en aan die tafels van die plaaslike mense.

Watse kwalifikasies het 'n mens nodig om oorsee Engels te gaan gee? Gewoonlik moet jy 'n vier-jaargraad hê. Daarby saam is dit verkieslik dat indien jou graad nie in 'n gepaste veld soos Engelse taal- en letterkunde of Onderwyskunde is nie, dat jy 'n sertifikaat in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) of TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) beskik. Nie alle lande vereis so 'n sertifikaat nie, maar dit sal jou aansienlik meer bemagtig en meer deure oopmaak indien jy wel oor so 'n sertifikaat beskik. Twee ander kwaliteite wat jy benodig is geduld en aanpasbaarheid. Ek het gevind dat Suid-Afrikaners inderdaad oor die algemeen oor meer geduld en aanpasbaarheid beskik as baie mense uit ander lande. Ek vermoed dat Suid-Afrika se multi-kulturele atmosfeer nogals daarmee help.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Rain Cast as Buddha

On Sunday I went to the concert venue for Rain's performance. Unfortunately I came down with a bad cold / flu a few days before and while waiting there for the concert to start I just felt increasingly awful. Eventually the prospect of all that loud noise and bright lights and many people got the better of me. These are not things you want to experience while feeling under the weather. In the end I decided to go back home. A friend of mine did go and she said it was a great concert; it's a pity that I missed it.

Now what's this about Rain and the Buddha, you may ask?

Have you noticed how much Rain looks like depictions of the Buddha? The same serene smile, the pleasant narrow eyes, the slight pudgy nose, even similar big ears. Rain has really big ears! I'm of course referring to the younger slimmer (Indian) Buddha, not the older fat (Chinese) Buddha. 

It's not that far fetched an idea that a Korean entertainer should depict the Buddha. After all, the Buddha have been depicted in many films before, including a Korean film from 1964 on the Seokgamoni Buddha (the Buddha at the moment of enlightenment).

Seokgamoni 석가모니 (1964)

Let us not forget that even Keanu Reeves played the Buddha once. In the 1993 film Little Buddha, directed by Bernardo Bertulucci, Reeves was casted as Siddhārtha Gautama, who became the Buddha -- the "Enlightened One".  

Keanu Reeves in "Little Buddha",
in the role of Gautama Buddha.
Surely an Asian actor would look more like the Buddha than an Hawaiian, albeit racially mixed, actor like Reeves.

If you had to put Reeves and Rain next to each other and compare their characteristics, including acting abilities, they would probably come to a tie. They have even both acted in Wachowski Brothers' movies: Reeves in The Matrix films and Rain in Ninja Assassin. However, Rain will definitely get bonus points for being Asian, his bigger ears, and more serene Buddha-like smile.

If ever I had the opportunity to make a film about the Buddha, I'd cast Rain in the leading role. 

Friday, 7 October 2011

A Male Collection -- 2011 Gangnam Fashion Festival

I shot this at the 2011 Gangnam Fashion Festival on 2 October 2011.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

See Rain for Free

Do you love K-pop? Would you like to see Korean superstar Rain 비 for free?

Question one doesn't really appeal to me, but as for the second question, yes I would. I don't like K-pop, to be honest, but I do like Rain. I've written about him a couple of times before on this blog (see for instance here and here), and would love to see his dance moves in action, and if I do not have to pay for it, even more so.

Well, this coming Sunday, October 9, Rain will be performing as part of the 2011 Gangnam Fashion Festival's "Korean Wave" concert. The concert will be held in front of the east gate of COEX Mall at Samseong Station, Subway Line 2. It starts at 7pm and continues until 9pm. Better be early if you hope to get a good spot. It is free, after all.

"Sagi Musume"

Kabuki, Japanese traditional "art of singing and dancing" started in the 1600s. Back then the performers were women who played both male and female roles. Unfortunately, with time, the all female ensamble started to supplement their income with prostitution. This resulted in the shogunate banning actresses from performing in these performances. The roles of men were taken over by adult men and female roles were replaced by young male actors. Unfortunately, again, the boys also became involved in prostitution, so finally all roles were replaced by adult males. This seemed to have reduced the instances of prostitution associated with Kabuki performances, although it did not completely eradicated it. However, the lack of feminine characters suddenly required the adult males to acquire tremendous subtlety and grace in order to depict female characters. This resulted in properly the most beautiful, tasteful, and graceful "drag performance".

I hope to have the opportunity to see a live kabuki performance one day. I'm particularly interested in the depiction of "animals" in these performance. As an example, look at the beautiful "Heron Maiden" dance in the video's below, in which the actor depicts the spirit of a young woman who was reborn as a heron because of bad karma. Instead of merely acting like an animal, these animal performances requires the most subtle gestures to enact the animal's character--the slightest twitch of a foot, or cocking of the head evokes the essence of a heron.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Modern Hanboks @ 2011 Gangnam Fashion Festival

I saw this beautiful collection of modern female hanboks (traditional Korean dress) at the 2011 Gangnam Fashion Festival on Monday.