Thursday, 28 June 2012

Trilogies & so on

Finished with grading papers, I only have a few more administrative things to do, but am practically on vacation. Phew! As I have some more time on my hands, I'm thinking of watching some epics again. It was a ritual of mine when I was in school to take one day out of my school vacation and watch the original Star Wars-trilogy. It has been a long time since I've watched them and feel quite excited about watching all six from start to finish. I also haven't watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy in a very long time, so that sounds like fun too. And truth be told, I never really saw the second and third Matrix films after I saw them in the theatre way back when . . . So it could be good to give them a go too. I've also never actual watched all the Godfather movies. Terminator II had always been one of my favourite sci-fi films, so I wouldn't mind doing a Terminator marathon either. And then I'm thinking of doing a Harry Potter marathon. Nothing like good fantasy to take one on a flight of the imagination and so inaugurate a vacation mood. 

If you had the time, what movie marathon would you consider?

Saturday, 23 June 2012


Bobby Andonov
In a post from 2008 I mentioned the song "Hallelujah" written by Leonard Cohen, and as evocatively performed by the unfortunately early deceased Jeff Buckley.

I just listened on YouTube to another version by an Australian lad Bobby Andonov. He performed it on Australia's Got Talent 2010 -- he was 15 at the time and ended up as one of four finalists.

Bobby is likely to pursue a career in the mainstream music genre, so I doubt I will follow his career that closely, but with his good looks and great vocal interpretations I'm sure he'll be quite successful, not only in Australia, but globally.

Also from a reality show comes the following rendition of "Hallelujah" by Alexandra Burke.

She performed it on The X Factor in 2008. There's no doubt about Alexandra's success; she has already been nominated for numerous awards and won a couple, including the 2011 BRIT Award for Best British Single -- "All Night Long". Her career in the mainstream music industry also causes me not to really follow her career; it is just not the type of music I usually listen to. Nonetheless, her version of "Hallelujah" convinced me of her talent.

There is little fault to by found in Bon Jovi's cover:

I can comfortably mention k. d. lang's cover which she sang at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. According to one YouTube commentator she even had some Brits and Russians in tears with this song.

I've mentioned k. d. lang on this blog before, when I shared cover's of the song "Don't Smoke in Bed".

Velvet Underground veteran John Cale, who is probably the first person to have covered Leonard Cohen's song, has a beautiful rendition with classical instrument accompaniment. In its overall feel, Cale's version is very close to the original, I think.

I think it is worth mentioning Karise Eden's version as well because of the uniqueness she brings to the song -- a strange jazzy Janis Joplin gone Goth-opera!

I just adore the sensitivity with which Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge / Creed approaches the song. Unquestionably one of my favourites, right up there with Jeff Buckley's and young Bobby Andonov's.

Finally, I have to also include this one by Pain of Salvation:

Friday, 22 June 2012

A Modest Proposal (in Korea)

This semester I taught a class called Anglo-American Essays in which we read and discussed some of the great essays in the English literary tradition. One such an essay is Jonathan Swift's satirical "A Modest Proposal", in which he suggest the consuming of babies' flesh as a way to improve the living standards of poor Irish people. After reading the essay I tasked my student to write their own modest proposal for Korea.

South Korea is an "aging" society, with the elderly quickly outnumbering the youth, putting much stress on the younger generations that need to look after their elders. So one student proposed that people over sixty that are sickly or disabled should be euthanised as it will reduce taxes because it will basically eliminate the elderly wellfare system and the need for state pension. Retirement homes, known as the "silver industry", will be replaced with a much more profitable euthanasia industry. "Neglected elderly" and "elder abuse" are phrases that will completely disappear. The student's last point was that a society based on energetic young people will develop much quicker and also reduce the generation gap, so that generations are more in step with each other, which will increase technological advances. For a well argued satirical essay, I gave her 10/10. Another student wrote a similar essay, saying that the money wasted on old people could be put to effect on infertility treatment. Putting old people "to sleep" will also reduce medical insurance premiums. She added that since her family can support her grandmother and are willing to undergo the financial burden, her family will not benefit from this proposal as will other people, so she is clearly not making this proposal for personal benefit. I liked that.

The theme of artifical beauty recurred a number of times. One student suggested that since Korea is already famous for plastic surgery all women should be forced to undergo plastic surgery in order to make Korea famous for its artificially beautiful people. Another student suggested that because "lookism" is so prevalent in Korea fetuses should undergo facial reconstruction while in the womb, so that all Koreans are born to look the same and thereby eliminating lookism, which will result in Koreans henceforth being judged, not on how they look, but on their "inner" beauty. Another student also promoted government sponsored beautification because it is a statistical fact that beautiful people are more successful. He continued to argue that the government should prevent the copulation of ugly people with beautiful people and so prevent "ugly" genes from propagating. His conclusion was that ugly people are useless to make Korea strong and that ugly Koreans ought to be rounded up and isolated from the rest of society.

One student adressed the problem of smoking and non-smoking areas in public spaces. The main issue is that smokers are complaining that they feel treated like criminals. The student's proposal is to split Korea into two provinces, one for smokers and one for non-smokers. Obviously smokers that want to move to the non-smoking province need to quit before they are allowed to enter and of course non-smokers that move into the smoking province have to take up smoking. She adds this peculiar twist to her plan: smokers that want to move into the non-smoking province have to undergo a health check. If they are ill from any smoke-related illness, they are denied entrance so as not to burden the non-smoking province with smoking caused sick people.

Another student concerned himself with the often heard slogan: "Children are our future." Children are precious and, argues this student, ought never be punished; they should especially not endure physical punishment. In fact, it is the adults that need to undergo physical abuse by children. It is a necessary evil, he says, because adults ought to undergo pain to ensure the success of children. "By beating grown ups, [children] may learn that they should protest against the authorities..." Also, by "being a bully . . . a child can learn the way of being a powerful role in society . . ." On the other hand, those that are bullied "learn to obey the higher" classes.

One student looked at the problem of Korea's over-education and people not wanting to be blue collar workers. His proposal is to genetically engineer slaves to do all the blue collar work.

I'm glad that they really got satire. Satire is not historically part of the Korean tradition, partially I think because of the Confucian stoicism and probably also because of the Korean language that is already an abstract language, so that further ambiguity tends to be avoided. Things are changing, however. More and more Koreans are taking up satire for social commentary. The most famous Korean podcast at the moment is a satirical mockery of the current president.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Classes Next Semester

I've at last received my list of classes that I'm expected to teach next semester, including my timetable.

  • Creative Writing
  • British & American Literary Criticism II
  • 19th & 20th Century American Poetry
  • English Presentation (Public Speaking)
  • Intermediate Listening & Conversation II

Receiving this list has special significance because at the end of this semester my current contract will come to an end. Getting the list of classes and a timetable is an indication that the university has decided to renew my contract. The list of modules I'll be teaching also seem to be tailored around my strengths, so it is clear that the English Department has made plans with me in mind (at least for this coming semester). 

Of particular significance is the Creative Writing class. This is the first time that this class will be offered and since my master's degree is in Creative Writing I'm of course the obvious person in our department to teach it. I'm quite looking forward to this class. One thing I've often felt while working as an academic is that while I love my job, it is missing something. I have been wondering if that "something" might not be an artistic component. My lecturing focus is literature and I prefer that above linguistics. However, I've often thought that my specialization in Creative Writing is going to waste. So this coming semester I will have the opportunity to teach Creative Writing and feel if this is indeed the case. Is the missing ingredient teaching something creative? 

I'll also be teaching a new subject, British & American Literary Criticism II. There is already a Literary Criticism I, that is taught by a Korean professor and which focusses on the established literary theories and critiques. About a year and a half ago I suggested to the department that we need a course, which I called "Literary Theory & Contemporary Ideas", in which we can introduce our fourth year students to some of the newer literary developments and cultural phenomena, such as liminality, intermediality, memes, and so on. This new module was created with this in mind, and with me in mind to teach it. 

It is going to be an exciting challenge to develop these two new courses.

Luckily the three other classes I'll be teaching I have taught before and apart from the poetry class, they are pretty straight forward with my resource material and preparation already done. 

Another cool thing about next semester is that I will for the first time of working here (four years now, and eight semesters later) have an off day, which I can employ for research or other purposes. 

In the meantime, this current semester is not yet completely finished. I still have lots of exams to grade and work to do before Sunday night at midnight. 

Hacked . . . uhm, no cracked . . . and back online

One of my websites got hacked recently.

It is not a particularly damaging hack; it merely replaced the entry page with the hacker's signature page. There are two things I find peculiar about this. The first is that this hacker (which in my opinion is merely an amateur cracker) should decide to graffiti this particular website. The vandalized webpage is the long term project I'm working on, Literary Terminology, which is an open encyclopaedia dedicated to literary terms and theories. The project is in its first phase which is in Afrikaans, but will eventually be expanded to Dutch and English. The reason I find this attack strange is because hackers (real ones, not amateur crackers) live by an ethical code, known as the Hacker's Ethic -- one I also subscribe to.

Part of the Hacker's Ethic is the free and open dissemination of information. This is exactly what LiteraryTerminology.Com is about -- providing free quality information. I therefore see this attack as a childish one by a cracker, not a hacker. This "hacker" is definitely not one, I believe, worthy of using the Guy Fawkes mask that is used by Anonymous supporters, which he so proudly pasted on my front page.

The quasi-anarchist in me is quite in favour of the Anonymous when for challenging the world's corrupt and dictatorial governmental regimes and for fighting for Internet freedom. The hacktivist group known as Anonymous act within the Hacker's Ethic. They wouldn't attack a site like mine. First of all, LiteraryTerminology.Com does not really present anything offensive to their sensibility -- nothing for them to became activistic about, and secondly, this website is not connected to any government organization. Basically, we are too small a fish for them to bother with. And we are in fact standing for exactly what Anonymous propagates, the free access to information. Even though LiteraryTerminology.Com has still not officially launched and is still in it's first phase of construction (there is not even a logo yet!), students in South Africa have already started to use it as an Afrikaans source of information on literary terms and theories -- and it is probably the only such dedicated source on all of the internet!

So in short, I believe this "hacker" is only a wannabe Anonymous-member. Interestingly enough, I know that the hacker is probably a 21 year old kid from Saudi Arabia. (Do Saudis have something against Literary Theory in Afrikaans?) I know his probable nationality because he is so proud of hacking into my little website, that he posted it on YouTube to show off his awesome hacking ability and his YouTube profile states his age and country of origin.

At around 0:50 you can see him google for LiteraryTerminology.Com, click on the link, and then show his audience the hacked page with his signature and even email address. Of course I emailed him, just to question his clear misunderstanding of the Hacker's Ethic.

Being in the middle of grading exam papers and simultaneously working on the page layout for a magazine I really don't have the time to try and figure out how to fix the page, so I made a temporary "under construction page" and then thankfully a friend of mine quickly stepped in and easily fixed the problem by replacing some files. (Thanks Franco!)

Things are back to normal over at the LiteraryTerminology.Com -- but there are still more work to be done in the first Afrikaans phase of the project. There are still more literary terms that we have that need to included, and general quality checks that need to be done, and some of the information is outdated and need to be updated. The next phase will be a simultaneous one of adding material we have from Dutch and then starting a cross-translation. The third phase would be to translate the material in English, where upon we will reassess the project. I've been busy on this project for about 3 years now, and a little hiccup like the recent one is not about to stop it. I pray that God will prevent any serious problems preventing us from finishing this useful project. 

Thursday, 14 June 2012

X skryf 'n hello-sê briefie

My X skryf vir my 'n e-pos. Dis sommer maar net 'n hello-sê briefie waarin sy vertel hoe dit gaan. Niks buitengewoons nie – niks geflirt nie. Sommer net 'n briefie. Sy sê dat sy bid vir my broer wat sonder werk is. Sy vertel dat sy luister na Brahms. Sy noem die geliefde Psalm 138, T. T. Cloete se gunsteling. Dit was ook haar oorlede oom se gunsteling. Sy vertel van Ouma wat vas oor Oupa se kanker. Oor hoe Oupa vir haar fluister dat hy haar lief het—hy kan net fluister omdat die kanker sy stembande se senuwees verlam. Sy skryf oor die duiwe wat koer in die lou wintersonnetjie.  Sy skryf oor Jesus en haar hoop dat hy gou sal kom want die wêreld is so vol leiding, maar sy prys Hom steeds want Hy is soos “doudruppeltjies in die woestyn vir ons siele.”

Ek lees X se brief en ek voel . . . ek voel 'n ou sensasie.

Gaan ek nooit oor jou kom nie? Jy is soos potpourri in die laaie van my onderbewussyn. Die skraalste steurnis en jou geure walm soet in my herinneringe op. Jy klou aan die klere van my geheue en draai ek my kop te vinnig, of beweeg ek te onverwags, dan roep my verbeelding die reuk van ons verlede in vars emosies op, asof die kruie van ons verhouding sopas onder groenvingers gekneus is.
Hoe is dit dat ek steeds, na soveel jare, steeds so maklik weer verlief op jou kan raak? Ek is nie verlief nie . . . maar ek weet dat jy die ou kole met die karigste blaas uit jou longe weer kan laat opvlam. En ek voel magteloos om dit te verhoed. Nie eens aan die anderkant van die wêreld is ek totaal van jou toorkuns veilig nie!
En ek kan nie ophou wonder hoekom ons lewenspaaie nie bymekaar kom nie? As dit dan bedoel is, hoekom sinkroniseer ons doele nie? As dit dan ons noodlot is, hoekom laat val die lot nie ons dobbelstene op dieselfde nommers nie? As dit dan ons voorland is, hoekom beland ons nie in dieselfde tyd-ruimte nie?
Ek mis jou steeds.
Ek mis ons steeds!

Bop Chapman Died

I've been following Bop Chapman, editor of the International Forecaster for a number of years. While I'm not an avid reader of financial and economic trends, I do like to stay abreast of world movements and therefore seek out critical thinkers like the late Bop Chapman. I'm not a subscriber to the International Forecaster, but I did make it a habit of finding and listening to Bop Chapman interviews.

Chapman had been in the international investment arena for many decades and were tied in with very powerful people that included presidents of countries and business tycoons. What we could "learn from Bop Chapman", as one blogger puts it is that "banks like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs and a handful of other big banks are the tip of the iceberg of an illuminist corporate cabal . . ." Another blogger states: "We have to honor those who endured making huge sacrifices, attempts on their lives, who were ridiculed and ostracized exposing the global elite and their corrupt system." Chapman was one of these . . . having had attempts at his life on more than one occasion.

SBWire summarizes Chapman's basic economic legacy as follows:

Bob Chapman, who was known for his accurate predictions recommended investors move their money to safety. Bob recommended that people allocate a third of savings into precious metals, such as silver and gold non-numismatic bullion coins. He believed that by moving money into hard assets, an investor will be able to save the purchasing power of their dollar. By holding gold and silver this will prevent the loss of assets due to the depreciating fiat currency. Fiat currencies have an inverse relationship with precious metals. As the dollar is devalued, silver and gold prices increase. No currency has ever lasted more then eighty years and all currencies eventually meet their demise.

Chapman's predictions of gold trading, along with some other trend researchers that I follow, had been motivational in me advocating investing in gold as well, and if you did so, you would have made a good profit by now. There may be a downturn in gold, but with QE3 looming, gold is sure to increase in value once more. His and the information provided by others have also been the source of some of my own decision making, for instance causing me to travel some places instead of other places in order to avoid unnecessary conflict and loss of money. If nothing else, he inspired me to live more frugally in these economically and politically unstable times.

I cannot pretend to have had any emotional attachment to Mr. Chapman -- to me he was just a wise oracle that I listened to on radio shows about once a week. I will definitely miss his sensible insights though. And while I did not know him, like anybody that have lost a dear one, I can empathize with his family and wish them well.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


Bi-sexual players were kicked out of the San Francisco Gay Soft Ball League because they were not gay enough. Read the news report here. I just have to agree with Tim, a netizen who commented below the article:

The very existence of these leagues is ridiculous. Imagine if gays were banned from the mainstream sport. There would be outcry of discrimination. Sports leagues excluding heterosexuals or bisexuals is exactly as bad as excluding gays. Why are gay people allowed to discriminate where others are not? Everybody wants to have their cake and eat it, these double-standard wielding discriminatory hypocrites should have their sports league crushed by boycott. If the gay people who support or join in had any shred of decency they wouldn't engage in it.
Bi-sexual people don't seem to fit in anywhere. They feel a bit like South Africa's coloured people who lament that under the previous regime they were not white enough, and now under the current regime they are not black enough.

I've often experienced a discrimination similar to the ones these bi-sexuals soft ball players experienced. By nature I'm not a very competitive person with little interest in team sports like rugby. Being a white South African man with no interest in rugby can mean only one thing in my sub-culture. On top of that I am a creative soul with an artistic sensibility. As a child in South Africa these characteristics had me often ostracised by my peers. I was regularly mocked and told that I'm a "moffie" (faggot). Yet, although I have some gay friends, it is quite obvious that I'm not really one of them either. I feel equally out of place in the gay culture as I feel on the rugby field. I'm neither flamboyant enough, nor butch enough. That fact that I'm a holistic person, with an ambidexterous personality that has both the sensitivity of a poet and the toughness of a fighter seems at odds in a dualistic world.

But I'm not lamenting my condition too much. There are many "androgenous minds", as Virginia Woolf called it, whom I can associate with. Think Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Walt Whitman . . .

According to this test, the masculine/femine difference of my mind is only one point! In other words, my mind is androgynous. Other tests that calculated my mind's emphasis on the left and/or right brain hemispheres show similar results.

So how androgynous is your mind?

'n Eksamen in Korea

Ek sit in die eksamenlokaal agter 'n rekenaar en gluur na my studente wat besig is met die eindeksamen vir 19de Eeuse Britse Digkuns. Ek wag vir een spesifieke student, Ruka, om haar vraestel te bring. Ek weet daar gaan byna niks op wees nie en probeer voorspel na hoeveel minute sy gaan opstaan. Ek sien haar vir my loer, met haar hare speel, na die dak staar, na haar vraestel kyk, haar naels ondersoek . . .

Intussen drentel 'n student die klaskamer binne. Hy lyk geskok om almal aan die skryf te sien. Die twee-uur lange eksamen het om 12:00 begin en glo het hy gedink dit begin eers 13:00. Hy's vyftien minute laat. Teen 12:30 vra hy my of hy sy meisie kan bel wat op kampus in die koshuis bly. Sy is ook onder die indruk dat die eksamen eers om 13:00 begin. Genadige lektor wat ek is, gee ek toestemming en enkele minute later storm sy meisie die vertrek binne, bleek in die gesig. Ek het reeds vir haar 'n tafel met haar vraestel gereed en wys nonchalant aan haar haar sitplek uit.

So teen 12:40 bring 'n student sy antwoordstel. Ek blaai daar deur en sien dat hy darem probeer het. Hy mag moontlik net-net deur skraap indien ek nie te streng merk nie. 'n Ruk later bring nog 'n student haar antwoord stel. Dieselfde storie, maar ek twyfel of sy dit sal maak. Sy het twee vrae uitgelaat. Die een tel 9 punte en die ander 4 punte. Al wat daar staan is "Sorry, Prof." onder die een vraag en "I'm really sorry" onder die ander. Ek gee nie punte vir apologieë nie.

Die derde student wat haar vraestel bring gaan dit beslis nie maak nie. Haar antwoordstel is so te se leeg.

Die vierde student is ek verbaas het enigsins opgedaag. Deur die semester het sy gedurig uit die klas uit gesluip, so ek weet sy het eintlik nie 'n benul van wat aangaan nie omdat sy omtrent al die belangrikste lesse gemis het. Daar is byvoorbeeld nie 'n manier wat sy die vraag kon antwoord oor die verwantskap tussen Lord Alfred Tennyson se "Lady of Shalott" en Plato se allegorie van die gevangenisse in die grot nie. Tensy sy in haar vryetyd filosofie lees. Op die eerste bladsy, by die eerste vraag skryf sy: "Please look at the last page." Ek blaai deur die antwoordstel en sien groot vlaktes wit. Op die laaste bladsy waar sy 'n paragraaf moet skryf waarin sy Percy Bysshe Shelley se "England 1819" met William Wordsworth se "London, 1802" moet vergelyk is daar inderdaad 'n paragraaf geskryf. Ek herhaal woordeliks:
First of all, I say "I am sorry." This semester, I came back at the school since 2007. But my positions is not just student. Everyday, when I finish the school, I go to the work (my job). And I finish my work at am.2 (or am.3). It's not easy than I thought, so my attendence in class is not good. Also, my ability is very awful. I know that. Actually, I could not study this class, because I am really difficult this class and my life-pattern. Today I cam to tell you, "Pleasse,, this class's pass.", but when I saw this test paper, I know my foolish. I am very shame to me about that I cannot solve this test. I plan for studying English in this summer vacation, and I'll ready next semester. But, If you give my "F" . . . I can't come back next semester, because of school-loan. So, help me please . . . I promise that I'll re-study this class next year. Then I will really really study hard this subject. Have a good summer vacation.
Blessing you. From Connie.
Ek skud my kop en verwoord my repliek wat sy nooit gaan lees nie:

Liewe Connie,  
Indien jy vroeër die semester my kom sien het en jou situasie aan my verduidelik het kon ons dalk 'n plan gemaak het om jou kleiner huiswerkprojekte deur die loop van die semester te gee en miskien kon ons ekstra ontmoettings gereël het waartydens ek saam met jou die belangrikste werk kon hersien het. Al wat ek nou het, is 'n leë finale eksamen antwoordstel en 'n string nulle vir opdragte wat nie ingehandig is nie. Daar's nie veel wat ek nou vir jou kan doen nie. Sterkte. 

Uiteindelik bring Ruka, die student waarvoor ek nog die heeltyd gewag het, haar antwoord stel. Sy't my verbaas. Ek het gedink sy sou lankal reeds haar antwoordstel gebring het, maar sy het sowaar 40 minute lank van niksdoen verduur. Die antwoordstel is nie absoluut leeg nie. Sy het goetertjies op die eerste bladsy geskriffel sodat dit nie te sleg lyk wanneer sy die antwoordstel op die tafel kom sit nie. Ek loer so deur die antwoorde op die voorblad en sien dat sy een punt korrek het. Die eerste bladsy verteenwoordig 13 punte. Die hele vraestel tel 78 punte. Sy het 1 uit 78, maw 1.3%. Later vandag het ek haar ook in 'n ander klas. Ek vermoed dit gaan dieselfde storie wees.

Uiteindelik bring Pauline haar antwoordstel. Ek kyk daarna met 'n sug van verligting. Sy't nie al die vrae geantwoord nie, maar dit lyk of sy darem goedgenoeg sal slaag. Dan Melissa se antwoordstel. Baie goed. Haar antwoorde omtrent Percy Bysshe Shelley se "Ozymandias" lyk deeglik. Sy het duidelik opgelet in die klas die dag toe ek die narratiewevlakke in die gedig bespreek het. Sy't die vraag omtrent "The Lady of Shalott" en Plato korrek geantwoord en haar vegelykende paragraaf lyk op die oogaf deeglik. Pauline en Melissa gee my hoop. Nie almal gaan druip nie. Daar is sowaar studente wat opgelet het deur die semester, wat iets geleer het, wat moontlik selfs 'n onderskeiding mag kry.

Met 10 minute op die horlosie oor sit byna helfde van die klas nog verwoed en skryf. Die outjie wat laat gekom het bring sy antwoordstel. Dit lyk deeglik geantwoord maar slordig. Deur die loop van die eksamen het hy van 'n swartpen na 'n bloupen toe oorgeslaan. En op die laaste bladsy toe sy antwoord te lank raak laat weet hy my met 'n rooipen om na die agterblad te blaai vir die res van die antwoord.

Ek kondig aan dat daar slegs 5 minute oor is. Daar is nog 13 studente aan die skryf, insluitende die outjie se meisie wat laat gekom het. Ek kan verstaan dat sy nog besig is omdat sy 30 minute verloor het, maar begryp nie wat die res van die studente nog hier doen nie. Waarmee is hulle besig?

Die lokaal raak ontstuimig. Bladsye ritsel en stoele skuif en sweet drup vanaf fronsende gesigte af.

"Okay, time's up! Please hand in your papers." Roep ek met 'n outoritêre stem.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

I May Join Facebook

Image Source

I'm seriously considering to join Facebook. You may not realize how difficult a decision this is for me. While I am completely for social networks, I detest what Facebook stands for. How it makes claims to one's privacy, how it misleads its users, how it's founder stated: “They 'trust me'. Dumb fucks.” I'm not a violent person, but for some reason that statement makes me want to slap him.

Okay, let me just back paddle a bit. I actually do have a Facebook account. For it I use a pseudonym and it is used exclusively for martial arts networking. I don't go on it regularly at all, and I do not share personal information. It is just that the nature of my rather prominent martial art presence in Korea and internationally seems to necessitate a Facebook account. The gym I'm a part of in Korea has also taken the unfortunate route of using Facebook as its means of dispersing announcements.

I do not, however, have a personal Facebook account with my own name and personal information.

My avoidance of Facebook has always been one of principle, not out of a fear of what “they” may find out about me, or do with my information—although what is done with our information is of serious concern. However, I have already made much of my information quite available. I have my own website detailing my work experience, expertise and interests. I am active on at least two other website projects. I have over five blogs, of which three are very active. I have a Twitter account, and stay in contact with some family and friends through mobile phone apps like WhatsApp and KakaoTalk; and I use Skype. Furthermore, I write regular long emails to my “global family”. In truth, I am exceptionally connected. I write regular essays and articles to electronic media, most of which are easily accessible online. Thus, I have a very healthy online profile which means that anyone that really wants to find information about me or wish to connect with me can do so, but I also have a healthy control over the information that is out there about me and I can control with whom I liaison.

Up until recently I have never truly felt a need for Facebook. Something changed this. I have some extended family, particularly my mother's side of the family with whom I had felt a strong connection as a child, but which I have lost contact with mostly. I basically only have contact with two cousins, and even with them it is sporadic. Then, one cousin (actually it was his lovely wife) sent me a beautiful photo of my deceased mother. She had seen the photo on Facebook, which was uploaded there by one of my aunts—my mother's sister—and knowing that I am not on Facebook thought that I would appreciate the photo.

This photo made me realise that a part of my dead mother still lives on in these people, with her siblings and their children, all connected by DNA and spirit. Earlier this year while in South Africa I went to a family gathering. It was a small gathering, hardly an eighth of the extended family, but what I experienced there was the essence of my mother. I saw her smile and her eyes and her mannerisms in so many of the people there; I heard a tone of her voice; I experienced an energy of her permeated through shared genetics, and familial culture.

For so long have the ugliness of her long sickness and death blighted my mind and basically eradicated all good memories of her, that there is little left in memory of my once beautiful mother. Here in lies the tragedy—instead of celebrating her life, I have forgotten her. In order to celebrate her, I need to remember her, and in order to remember her, I have to be reminded of who she was, and where she came from. To do this I need to reconnect with her people. With my people. Many of my extended family are on Facebook—even the older ones, my mother's siblings.

So, I am considering opening a personal Facebook account. I have decided to keep it exclusively for family, and for those handful of closest friends that have become practical family. I don't plan to use it for other forms of networking or socializing. And I already have the Facebook deletion button ready.

In the meantime I'm trying to phrase a standard Friend Request Rejection Reply. It will go something along these lines:

Dear ___ 
Thank you for your Friend Request. Unfortunately I am using Facebook exclusively for staying in touch with family, and not for other social purposes. Please do not feel offended. I would be happy to continue our interactions via other platforms, such as emails. Be sure to also check out my blog: 

Monday, 11 June 2012

Ute Lemper

A few weeks ago with Buddha's birthday falling on a Monday it was a long weekend in Korea. At first I had the intention to make use of the opportunity and travel somewhere. Then, however, I saw some coming performances that I really wanted to see. Looking at my budget I decided it would be better if I choose either to travel, or to go to the performances. I decided on the latter. Last night I went to see the first performance I looked forward to.

I went to see the exquisite Ute Lemper -- a German artist, actress and cabaret / jazz vocalist -- perform her international-flavoured cabaret "Last Tango in Berlin". Lemper is a contralto, but let not this fool you to think that she cannot take on high notes. Her range is quite amazing.

"Last Tango in Berlin" is a cabaret style production about a chanteuse (female singer) named Jenny that travels the world (Germany, France and South America), spending her nights as an entertainer for sailors and soldiers. (Read a Huffington Post review here.) The production combines some of the great cabaret and jazz classics, from Kurt Weill, Jacques Brell, and Edith Piaf to numbers from musicals such as "Chicago". Lemper mixes English, German, French and Spanish sounds, into a multi-cultural musical extravaganza, yet the performance stays elegantly simple as there are only two accompaniments: Vana Gierig on piano and Tito Castro on bandoneón. The title "Last Tango in Berlin" is of course a play on the title of the controversial Bernardo Bertolucci film, "Last Tango in Paris".

While watching the performance I became aware of one recurring thought that visited my mind every so often: I was thinking how blessed I am to be able to experience a show of this calibre. Where I'm from I hardly ever had the opportunity to see international artists like Ute Lemper, but living here in Seoul I've seen some of extraordinary shows and attended amazing art exhibits -- things I would not have experienced in South Africa. I feel blessed to have this opportunity.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Mamma, waar kom ek vandaan?

Party kinders word vertel dat die ooievaar hulle gebring het. Ander weer dat hulle in die hospitaal gaan koop is. Ander kry die meer biologiese, alhoewel afgewaterde feite: "Pappa het jou in mamma se magie geplant," of so iets.

Ek onthou nog baie goed my moeder se antwoord op die vraag: "Jong," sê my ma, "Ek het vir 'n stappie in die berge gegaan en daar sien ek toe 'n apie! Ek het vinnig die apie gevang, sy stertjie afgekap en huistoe gebring. Dis waar jy vandaan kom."

Dit was vir my 'n baie oulike storie en ek het my ma gereeld gevra om my te vertel waar ek vandaan kom, hoe ek gelyk het, of ek gehuil het toe sy my stertjie afgekap het en of dit regtig nodig was om my stertjie af te kap! (Ek dink nou nog dit sou hiper bevange wees om 'n stert te hê!)

Richard Dawkins, die evolusionêre-bioloog sal seker so 'n storie goedkeer. Ek weet nie hoekom my ma wat nie 'n evolusie-gelowige was nie, juis hierdie storie sou kies om my van my oorsprong te vertel.

Toe ek groter was het ek ook die pappa-plant-'n-saadjie-en-jy-groei-in-mamma-se-magie-verduideliking gehoor. Toe ek later uitvind dat met geboorte die dokter die kind onderstebo aan sy voete hang en dan 'n harde klap op die bas gee, was ek heeltemal verontwaardig. Die volgende keer wat ons die familie-dokter gaan sien het, het ek hom gevra oor hierdie onverdiende pakslae en hardhandige verwelkoming in die wêreld. Dr. Scheepers het my verseker dat dit gewoonlik nie nodig is om 'n babatjie so te raps nie. Hy kon my nie sê of hy my so 'n pakslae gegee het nie, maar ek was blykbaar te vrede dat my eerste buite die baarmoeder waarskynlik nie 'n pakslae was nie.

Noudat ek veel groter is weet ek waar ek vandaan kom, maar wonder ek tog soms oor my voorgeslagte en waar my wortels nou werklik lê? Watter gene is belangriker, die van my Skots-Joodse oupa aan vaderskant of die Frans-Hollandse moedersgene? Of vat ek dit nou te ver? Moet ek terug kom na my eie geslag en besin oor my kinderdae. Is wat belangrik is waar ek groot geword het? Die plaas wat nie meer is nie? Die Vuil Driehoek waar ek hoop om nooit weer te bly nie. Of is Suid-Afrika in geheel genoegsaam om my identiteit op te berus?

Maak dit enigsins saak waar 'n mens vandaan kom? Of is al wat belangrik is, waar jy nou is of wie jy nou is?

Waar kom jy vandaan?

Thursday, 7 June 2012

How I Became a Victim of the Korean Media

I recently found myself misrepresented by SBS, a Korean television company, but before I speak about my particular case, a more recent incident of Koren media misrepresentation occurred by another Korean television company, MBC, has foreigners in Korea fuming.

An MBC insert that aired very recently presented a bigoted xenophobic image of foreigners in Korea. The social networks are quite aflame and my reporting on it here on my blog is actually a little late, but nonetheless.

This is not the first time for the Korean media to depict foreign men as ravagers and abusers of innocent Korean women, or as foreigners as sex-crazed paedophiles. There are some issues I would like to comment on.

The first is not how this insert depicts foreign men, but how it depicts Korean women that should dare to be seen with foreign men. I know quite a number of interracial married couples in Korea and it is well known that Korean women in interracial relationships are often seriously frowned upon. They are sometimes shouted and cussed at, and the dirty looks they get abound. An insert like this one by MBC just adds fuel to fire and seem to validate the unfounded discrimination not merely to foreigners, but to Korean's that should dare to have relations with foreigners.

A second thing that really irked me about this video is the implied suggestions that foreigners are the main source of HIV / AIDS in Korea. What this one sided video does not mention is that most foreigners working in Korea (in the education industry) have to get annual health check-ups, which includes an HIV / AIDS test, in order to get their visas. If a foreigner in this bracket is HIV+, they cannot get a visa to work in Korea. So the question is, if one of these foreigners are HIV+, where did he get it from? A likely assumption would be from a Korean. A blanket suggestion that foreigners are the source of HIV / AIDS transmission in Korea is as silly as my statement that all foreigners that get infected with HIV are infected by Koreans.

Another ridiculous suggestion made by the insert is that foreigners get Korean girls pregnant and then disappear. I'm not saying that a foreign guy has never stood up a Korean girl and fled his paternal responsibilities -- I'm sure there are such cases; however, the insert makes it sound like this is a common, and particularly foreigner-related, issue. The insert conveniently ignores the very high numbers of abortions that occur in Korea, apparently around 1.5 million annually! While a handful of these unwanted pregnancies may have been fathered by foreigners, for all practical purposes these unwanted pregnancies are by and large all-Korean, and it is very reasonable to infer that a significant number of these abortions were motivated by Korean fathers that did not want to accept their responsibility. I'm confident that the cases of foreigners responsible for unwanted pregnancies are ridiculously smaller than is the case for Koreans. (There is that whole condom issue . . . Korean women are known to lament how Korean guys do not like to where condoms.)

A fourth issue I had with this insert, and this is related to my incident with SBS, is how the insert manipulates the material. In one part of the video, crew from MBC calls a woman that had apparently been victimized by foreigners -- see 3:05-3:30. When the woman denies that she was "the victim of a foreigner", the programs narrator accuses her of lying. In short, because she denied being victimized by a foreigner she clearly must be lying as it is obviously impossible for a foreigner-Korean relationship not to involve some form of victimization of the innocent, helpless Korean girl by the barbaric warmongering foreign guy.

This type of editing and narration to spin the story regardless of the facts is quite common in the Korean media and happened to me recently too. My incident is a very trivial incident really and to say that I was a "victim of the Korean media" is of course an overstatement, but the incident nonetheless poignantly highlights how the Korean media manipulates the truth.

Yes, that's me in the happy yellow shirt, on an SBS TV-program.
SBS-television has a program in which it shows Korean people with various skills. This particular program had among the skills showcased someone that made a Ham. No, this is not a type of pork, but a special type of Korean gift box that the groom takes to the bride's parents shortly before the wedding day (often the night before). The ham-ceremony is actually quite interesting and I discussed my own experience of the ceremony in much detail here. But I digress.

So some weeks back some friends and I were walking through Myeongdong, a trendy fashion district in Seoul. We were on our way to a Taekwon-Do demonstration. As we walked I saw a ham on a low stand and also a television crew shooting something. I didn't heed it or them much because there are always some television crew busy in Myeongdong and since I have actual experience with a ham before, it wasn't anything too out of the ordinary for me. (I did wonder why they had placed a ham on a stand in the middle of Myeongdong, but at least I recognised it for what it was, and there is always some peculiar thing happening in Seoul.) As we were walking one of our group members, Lynne, disappeared among the throng of people. That's when I and another friend, Leo standing in front of me in the picture above, turned around and looked back to see where Lynne had disappeared to. Lynne is rather short, so it was quite fun trying to spot her amongst the crowds of people, hence the smirks on our faces.

According to the SBS program, foreigners (referring to me in the screenshot) are very curious about the ham. The truth is, in this instance I wasn't even looking at the ham which was on a low stand on the ground. Notice how Leo and I are looking up ahead, not down at something. They were outright lying when they suggested that I was looking at the box. The funny thing about the video is that they interviewed young people and asked them what the box was, and the young people did not know what it was. (The ham-ceremony is not too common any more.) They then asked older people, who of course knew that it was ham.  What is ironic about this is that I actually knew what it was, yet they used me in to depict a foreigner in baffled intrigue over the "unidentifiable curious box".

You can see the segment with me in it from around 39:43 in the video at the following link.

I mention this incident because it is a fun thing to put on my blog -- I had my fifteen seconds . . . uhm, I mean two seconds of fame of me on Korean TV. But more importantly, it illustrates how manipulative the Korean media is. They wanted to show a "curious foreigner" looking at the strange box and they manipulated the footage and narration in such a way to make me the curious ignorant foreigner, whether this was the actual truth or not. They had an agenda, and they didn't care about the facts. When Koreans (my students and martial arts friends) told me that they saw me on television and that I looked a bit like an over-curious monkey, I must say, I did feel somewhat victimized by SBS's fraudulent depiction of me. I've been in Korean long enough not to consider myself an ignorant tourist and do not appreciate being considered a buffoonish foreigner that knows nothing about Korean culture. I'm long over it now, of course, but at the time my students told me about my face on TV,  I did feel misrepresent, I did feel somehow violated.

This is pretty much what MBC did too, but at a much greater and much more malignant scale. They had an agenda to tell their "The Shocking Reality About Relationships With Foreigners"-story regardless of ethical, factual journalism. They pushed their xenophobic agenda and in so doing sanctioned the stereotype of Korean women with foreign men as sleazy and without proper morals, and of foreigner men as diseased carrying womanisers. Alas, this is of course part of a bigger cultural problem.

The expat community in Korea has taken such offence to the insert that they have launched a petition demanding an apology from MBC. If you would like to sign the petition, please do so at Avaaz.Com. Obviously, I did.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

US & ROK Soldiers Parachuted into North Korea?

Image Source
So there are two articles out there. The one news report says that the commander of US special forces in South Korea, Army Brigadier General Neil Tolley, admitted to sending in a combined team of US special forces and South Korean special forces into North Korea to gather intelligence about underground military installations. In another news report, Colonel Jonathan Withington from the US Forces Korea' public affairs office denied this, saying that "No US or ROK (Republic of Korea) forces have parachuted into North Korea" and that Brigadier General Tolley had been quoted out of context.

Which is it?

Monday, 4 June 2012

Things I Didn't Tell You About

This blog is supposed to function for me as a type of diary but there are so many things I haven't told you about. For instance:

I discovered a quaint little jazz club which I went to last week. Because of it's small size it has a very intimate feel to it and the music is too loud as is often the case in the bigger clubs. It has a cute French name: "La Cle", which means "The [Musical] Key".

The week before I went to another jazz bar that I had once seen while passing in a bus called Tokyo Jazz. Unfortunately the live performance started rather late (21:30) and I had already bought a movie ticket for later. I'll definitely have to go back there some day and get a feeling for their live performances.

Image Source

Yesterday I went to a jiu-jitsu tournament. It was surprisingly boring. Maybe the action and technical expertise improved later in the day, but by around 15:30 I left to meet up with my Taekwon-Do instructor.

There was this one guy standing in the back somewhere without his shirt on and at one time he did this Michaelangelo's David-pose that I just had to get a picture of.

One thing about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it gives you nice abs.

Last Monday was Buddha's Birthday, a national holiday ion Korea. I decided this year to use this period to get to know more about Korean Buddhism, so the week before I went to a seminar on the benefits of Seon Meditaion. "Seon" is the Korean word for "Zen".

And on Buddha's Birthday I went on a tour of some of the major Buddhist temples and sights in Seoul.

There were many great photo opportunities and I also got to take some videos of some dance performances done by some of the Buddhist monks (and nuns) in their celebrations.

Two weeks ago two students, Jen and Taewon, from the ITF dojang where I am involved tested for their first degree black belts. I've been very involved with especially Taewon's training and do feel a sense of pride in their accomplishments.

About three weeks ago I visited a Korean friend of mine in her hometown, in Heongseong. She, her husband, and I went on an easy, yet beautiful mountain hike in the area. We also got to catch up a bit. It had been about a year since we had spend any time together.

It was nice to see the farm we she grew up again. The picture above is of the house she lived in as a child. Her parents still live on the farm, but they had build themselves a more modern country house in the meantime.

Two Fridays ago I went to a Taekkyeon demonstration. The photo above shows some of the traditional ("farm") musicians getting ready. Taekkyeon is a traditional Korean folk martial art that is usually accompanied with traditional folk music. I miss Taekkyeon. I've suspended my Taekkyeon training a year ago because of time constraints and in order to save money for familial matters.

In April I hosted a Jeet Kune Do workshop. The guest instructor was Dr. Zee, somewhat of a self-made Jeet Kune Do celebrity and also an accomplished Oriental Medicine doctor.

I also travelled to Chuncheon with a friend visiting from Egypt in April. It was memorable.

Also in April I went to a theatre production of a friend of mine. She was both the writer and director of the play called "The Bag". She used different bags (backpacks, handbags, briefcases, etc.) to symbolize the emotional things people carry with them: their past, their burdens, their hopes and dreams. Although the play was completely in Korean and I could therefore only understand it in part, I still enjoyed it a lot. The lighting and choreography was brilliant and the acting very engaging.

This past weekend I had to go to our department's freshmen camp. The freshmen departed for the camp on Thursday already and stayed until Sunday -- us faculty only had to go for Friday evening until Saturday afternoon. Usually I have to share a room with another faculty member, but this time we all had our own rooms, and what a room it was! A big bed, with a widescreen TV and a bathroom with a jacuzzi!

There are probably many other things I've done which I cannot remember now, such as movies I had watched. Mirror Mirror is not worth wasting your money on. Snow White and the Huntsman is. Julia Robberts' rendition of a disturbed wicked stepmother / witch sucks; Charlize Theron's is exquisite.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Ek dink ek mis die plaas

Sommer net rowwe sketse wat ek nou net in 'n koffiewinkel gemaak net. Duidelik is daar 'n plaastema en vermoedelik het my onderbewuste 'n verlange na 'n plek wat eens op 'n tyd baie ver hier vandaan bestaan het.

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