Thursday, 26 December 2013


“You're saying that humans need fantasies to make life bearable?”
“No, humans need fantasies to be human.”
-- From The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Saturday, 21 December 2013

This is Halloween

"This is Halloween" by Danny Elfman (from Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas")

This is Halloween
Boys and girls of every age
wouldn't you like to see something strange
Come with us and you will see,
this our town of Halloween
This is Halloween, this is Halloween,
pumpkins scream in the dead of night
This is Halloween, everybody make a scene,
trick or treat till the neighbours come and die of fright
It's our town, everybody scream,
in this town of Halloween
I am the one hiding under your bed,
teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red
I am the one hiding under your stairs,
fingers like snakes and spiders in my hair
This is Halloween, this is Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween
In this town we call home,
everyone hail to the pumpkin song
In this town, don't we love it now,
everybody's waiting for the next surprise
Round that corner, then,
hiding in the trash cans,
something's waiting now to pounce and how you'll..
Scream, this is Halloween,
red and black and slimy green,
Aren't you scared?
Well, that's just fine,
say it once, say it twice,
take a chance and roll the dice,
ride with the moon in the dead of night
Everybody scream, everybody scream,
in our town or Halloween
I am the clown with the tear-away face,
here in a flash and gone without a trace
I am the who when you call "Who's there?",
I am the wind blowing through your hair
I am the shadow on the moon at night,
filling your dreams to the brim with fright
This is Halloween, this is Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween
Tender lumplings everywhere,
life's no fun without a good scare,
that's our job but we're not mean
in our town of Halloween
In this town, don't we love it now,
everyone's waiting for the next surprise
Skeleton Jack might catch you in the back
and scream like a banshee,
make you jump out of your skin!
This is Halloween, everybody scream,
won't you please make way for a very special guy
Our man Jack is king of the pumpkin patch,
everyone hail to the pumpkin king
Now, this is Halloween, this is Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween
In this town we call home everyone hail to the pumpkin song
La la la la la, etc, etc…

A cover by Marilyn Manson:

A great punk-rock cover by Patty Walters (vlogger):

Wednesday, 27 November 2013


"Man is asleep, dreaming that he is awake." -- Unknown

"Personal Jesus"

Depeche Mode was one of the first bands I listened to as a kid, so I'm very familiar with their "Personal Jesus". Hearing Johnny Cash's version (above) of this Depeche Mode's classic for the first time today shocked me. I accidentally heard it while watching part of a documentary, when suddenly Johnny Cash's velvety voice hummed in the background. I recognized both immediately, Johnny Cash's voice and Depeche Mode's song. My first reactions was that I didn't realize "Personal Jesus" is actually a Johnny Cash song, covered by Depeche Mode. Then when I searched online I saw that it was the other way around. It was indeed a Depeche Mode song covered by the legend, Cash.

Johnny Cash's cover is as of today my favourite rendition of this song. However, there are some other noteworthy covers, like that of the experimental French band, Shaka Ponk:

Sammy Hagar (previously from Van Halen, now part of Chickenfoot) also did a nice rock version, and one cannot forget Marilyn Manson's cover.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Common Book Themes

So you are thinking of writing a book, but don't know what about? How about starting with choosing one or two primary themes. I like this list of 101 Common Book Themes by About.Com. Actually, I came upon this list recently while preparing one of my freshmen classes; I imagine our topic for the day was something like themes and archetypes.

  • Beauty of simplicity
  • Capitalism – effect on the individual
  • Change of power - necessity
  • Change versus tradition
  • Chaos and order
  • Character – destruction, building up
  • Circle of life
  • Coming of age
  • Communication – verbal and nonverbal
  • Companionship as salvation
  • Convention and rebellion
  • Dangers of ignorance
  • Darkness and light
  • Death – inevitable or tragedy
  • Desire to escape
  • Destruction of beauty
  • Disillusionment and dreams
  • Displacement
  • Empowerment
  • Emptiness of attaining false dream
  • Everlasting love
  • Evils of racism
  • Facing darkness
  • Facing reality
  • Fading beauty
  • Faith versus doubt
  • Family – blessing or curse
  • Fate and free will
  • Fear of failure
  • Female roles
  • Fulfillment
  • Good versus bad
  • Greed as downfall
  • Growing up – pain or pleasure
  • Hazards of passing judgment
  • Heartbreak of betrayal
  • Heroism – real and perceived
  • Hierarchy in nature
  • Identity crisis
  • Illusion of power
  • Immortality
  • Individual versus society
  • Inner versus outer strength
  • Injustice
  • Isolation
  • Isolationism - hazards
  • Knowledge versus ignorance
  • Loneliness as destructive force
  • Losing hope
  • Loss of innocence
  • Lost honor
  • Lost love
  • Love and sacrifice
  • Man against nature
  • Manipulation
  • Materialism as downfall
  • Motherhood
  • Names – power and significance
  • Nationalism – complications
  • Nature as beauty
  • Necessity of work
  • Oppression of women
  • Optimism – power or folly
  • Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice
  • Patriotism – positive side or complications
  • Power and corruption
  • Power of silence
  • Power of tradition
  • Power of wealth
  • Power of words
  • Pride and downfall
  • Progress – real or illusion
  • Quest for discovery
  • Quest for power
  • Rebirth
  • Reunion
  • Role of men
  • Role of Religion – virtue or hypocrisy
  • Role of women
  • Self – inner and outer
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-preservation
  • Self-reliance
  • Social mobility
  • Technology in society – good or bad
  • Temporary nature of physical beauty
  • Temptation and destruction
  • Totalitarianism
  • Vanity as downfall
  • Vulnerability of the meek
  • Vulnerability of the strong
  • War – glory, necessity, pain, tragedy
  • Will to survive
  • Wisdom of experience
  • Working class struggles
  • Youth and beauty
  • Monday, 25 November 2013

    Cartier Did It Again

    The Cartier ads really know how to push my buttons -- in a good way. They did it last year with their The Odyssey campaign, and now again with their Winter Tale. I was gripped from the beginning, which reminded me of something from the magical worlds of the Harry Potter series or the Discworld series. If Cartier ever produce a full feature film, I would definitely go watch it, even if I knew it was brimming with subliminal messages to buy their expensive jewelry.

    Sunday, 24 November 2013


    "Taking jobs to build up your resume is the same as saving up sex for old age." -- Warren Buffet

    Saturday, 9 November 2013


    I've written about Miyavi a number of times on this blog. I'm not a die hard fan who follows his every step, and although I subscribed to his twitter-feed, I very seldom check Twitter. Rather, every couple of months I start wondering what he has been up to, so I do a quick search for him online and get my Miyavi-fix.

    His latest music releases are in English rather than his mother tongue, Japanese. The earliest things I heard of him that were in English were not that good. I mean, even back then his guitar playing was superb, but his English pronunciation was not good at all. This has clearly changed. He must have been studying quite hard since, for example he sang "Hit the Road Jack" in 2007. His latest two singles are, by comparison, dramatically better and very intelligible. The sound is also much more mainstream, I'm guessing to appease the Western market. I personally like his metal tracks and rock ballads better than this swing towards dance music.

    The music video for his new single "Secret" is probably one of the sexiest, most suggestive music videos I've ever seen. Don't watch it at work.

    In other Miyavi-news, he has been cast in Angelina Jolie's second feature as director, "Unbroken", which ought to come out at the end of 2014. He will play a Japanese prison guard during WWII.

    Rooideur & Patriotisme

    Ek weet nie heeltemal hoe voel ek hieroor nie. Ek het nog nooit lekker in gepas in my Afrikaanse subkultuur nie, maar weet feitlik niks van die Joods-Engelse subkultuur waaruit by pa stam nie. Ek het groot geword as 'n tipe "Third Culture Kid" met 'n groot dosis Hollywood flieks (my ma het 'n videowinkel gehad), fantasie boeke (ek het Lord of the Rings gelees toe ek nog op skool was, lank voor die flieks uitgekom het), Britse humor (Waiting on God, My Family en 'Alo 'Alo is van my gunstelinge), en my ma se liefde vir musiek: klassiek, country, Elvis, en musiekblyspele soos West Side Story. Min eg Suid-Afrikaanse kultuur. In my subkultuur is daar nie veel rugby, bier, en braaivleis nie. Die plaas . . . dis 'n deel van wie ek is. Maar dis onteien en verewig weg.

    Terug by die Rapportryerbeweging en die Rooideur-projek wat kos voorsien aan minderbevoorregte Afrikaanse kinders. Ek dink daar is waarde in so 'n projek. Arm Afrikaners is inderdaad 'n groep wat oorgesien word weens historiese redes. Wanneer mense dink aan arm, honger kinders in Afrika, is dit nie aan wit gesiggies waaraan hulle dink nie, so hierdie is seersekerlik 'n afgeskeepte gemeenskap.

    En ek was op 'n tyd self ook 'n arm wit "Afrikaner". Vir vele Suid-Afrikaners, en veral vir anderskleuriges is dit 'n anomalie. Ek onthou hoedat ek self nie geld gehad het vir kos nie, en swartmense dan by my wil geld bedel en selfs kwaad word vir my as ek nie vir hulle geld wil gee nie. Dis vir hulle ondenkbaar dat ek nie geld het nie -- in hulle gemoed is ek bloot 'n selfsugtige, wit leuenaar. Daar was een geleentheid wat 'n bedelaar my gevloek het, omdat ek nie vir hom geld wou gee nie, min wetend dat ek heel eerlik was toe ek verduidelik dat ek nie geld het om vir hom te gee nie.

    Wat my pla van die Rapportryerbeweging se Rooideur-projek is die poging om patriotisme of nasionalisme te kweek. Daar is seker niks fout daarmee in opsigself nie, maar dit voel vir my amper soos daardie sopkombuise by kerke wat vir die armes kos sal gee, mits hulle na 'n preek kom luister. Die kos is nie werklik gratis nie--jy moet met jou siel daarvoor betaal. Kinderstjies, hier is vir julle kossies, maar sing saam: "Ek sal lewe, ek sal sterwe, ek vir jou Suid-Afrika!"

    Vir my is daar niks fout met 'n trots in jou kultuur en land nie. Maar dit bly selde by net 'n onskuldige, trots. Baie vinnig slaan dit om in 'n selfvoldaanheid, 'n ons is beter as die res, mentaliteit. Patriotisme, soos nasionalisme, maak dit maklik om jou naaste--die mense wat soos jy lyk en dink--lief te hê soos jouself, maar moeilik om die wat anders as jy is lief te hê; want patriotisme is inherent eksklusief en nasionalisme is inherent aggressief.

    Ja, asseblief, gee die kinders kos. En ja, leer hulle van hulle geskiedenis en kultuur. Maar wees versigtig oor jou motiewe.

    Peeping Tom and Kim Seonjil

    Last week I went to see "32 Rue, Vanderbranden", a production by the Brussel-based theater dance troup Peeping Tom. It was one of the highly anticipated shows on my calender and it did not disappoint. The dancers are magnificent and the stage production is fantastic. The production is about a small community living in some isolated, very cold place. Imagine a trailer park at the North Pole. The acting shifts back and forth between reality and the characters' subconscious until the audience is left in a surreal dreamworld where no one is certain what is real anymore.

    The Korean dancer on the troup is my favourite, and I am of the opinion that Kim Seonjil is a kinetic genius. Do check out some of his videos on his YouTube channel.

    The video below is of him "playing", as he likes to call his improvisations.

    I subscribed to his YouTube channel because as a martial artist and someone who have an appreciation of the human body in motion, I have great admiration for his bodily mastery. I can comfortably call him a "master" in the martial arts sense, for he has truly mastered his medium, his body. One can easily see why Kim Seonjil won the Grand Prix at Korea's annual National Dance Competition in 2003.

    Friday, 25 October 2013

    It's not the guns, it's the culture

    So two days ago two American policemen shot and killed a boy carrying a plastic toy gun. The policemen were probably all trigger happy because of the recent Nevada school shooting where a pupil went on a shooting spree, thinking that this boy was also on his way to do something similar.

    There is something really out of whack in America. I mentioned at the beginning of the year about America's "gun-threat": the case of a kindergarten kid getting in trouble for blowing bubbles with a toy bubble "gun", a 6-year old boy getting suspended for making a "gun gesture" with his fingers, and a fifth grader getting in trouble for having a paper "gun".

    Now I'm not trying to make light of the recent school shootings, but let's get it clear -- it is not because of guns. There are many countries in the world with lots of access to guns, yet kids don't go on shooting sprees.  Take South Africa for instance, where illegal guns are rampant, but I can't remember any case of a mass killing by a pupil. In fact, mass killings are quite uncommon in South Africa -- a country infamous for its high violent crime rate. Or think of Switzerland. Time Magazine reports:

    Switzerland trails behind only the U.S, Yemen and Serbia in the number of guns per capita; between 2.3 million and 4.5 million military and private firearms are estimated to be in circulation in a country of only 8 million people. Yet, despite the prevalence of guns, the violent-crime rate is low: government figures show about 0.5 gun homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010. By comparison, the U.S rate in the same year was about 5 firearm killings per 100,000 people, according to a 2011 U.N. report.

    These killing sprees are therefore not a gun thing. It is, it would seem, a culture thing. Something else is at play in America. Possibly a culture of violence.

    The philosopher John Kozy explains it as follows in his essay Violence: The American Way of Live:

    The United States of America was conceived and nurtured by violence.
    Americans not only engage in violence, they are entertained by it.
    Killing takes place in America at an average of 87 times each day. Going to war in Afghanistan is less dangerous than living in Chicago.
    The Romans went to the Coliseum to watch people being killed. In major cities, Americans just look out their windows. Baseball, once America’s national game, a benign, soporific sport, has been replaced by football which is so violent it destroys the brains of those who play it. Violent films, euphemized as action flicks, dominate our motion picture theatres and television sets. Our children play killing video games.
    So do you really believe that gun control will miraculously make America into a tranquil nation? Do you really believe that outlawing products and practices will make Americans peace loving? A culture cannot be changed by laws, change requires a sustained effort over several generations. Are Americans  up to the task?

    Sorry to give the spoiler to his essay, but Kozy doubts that Americans can change such a deeply ingrained culture. It just worries me, though, because the USA is a cultural trendsetter and their most prominent export is pop-culture.

    And the increased police brutality is scaring me. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?!

    Wednesday, 16 October 2013

    Some things I did over the last four weeks

    It has been almost exactly a month since my last update. I've been quite busy with various things and honestly, a bit lazy about updating my blog. One reason is that I've started using a Korean mobile phone app that works similar to Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram called Kakao Story. Since it is so much quicker to just take a photo with my phone, write a sentence or two, and post it with almost instantaneous feedback from my followers, it has admittedly given more gratification. One of the main reasons for this blog is for me to record my life, and jot down some of my thoughts about stuff - I have a bad memory and therefore I use this blog as a type of journal. I also started this blog as a way to keep my friends and families updated with my life, but I have found that they are fare more likely to follow me on other SNSs than come visit me at my blog.

    Well, these other apps are achieving these goals much better and consumes less time. What I like about the blog though is that it gives me the room to write my thoughts out better. The problem is, however, that these days I'm so busy that I don't have much time to do much writing. I guess I'll have to rethink the value of my blog versus the other SNSs that I use. It would be great if I can update all of the SNSs at the same time, rather than having to update them individually, which is clearly not working well.

    In any case, here is a selection of things I did these last couple of weeks.

    In the middle of September I went to see the Broadway musical American Idiot based on Green Day's album by the same name. It was awesome.

    I usually buy shoes whenever I go to South Africa because it is difficult to find shoes that fit me here in Korea, but since I have not been able to visit South Africa in a while I have not been able to buy any new shoes and I've been in serious need of some new shoes for work. Then the other day a new E-Mart opened very close to my house and there is a small shoe outlet with American stock. It was fantastic. I bought four pairs. I'm yet to wear the red shoes though. Obviously they were not bought for work purposes.

    Over Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) my employer gave me a box of vegetarian meets. Speaking of my employer -- the last weekend in September the freshmen students had to go on a camp and us lecturers had to join them for a few hours -- about an hour and a half trip one way.

    The South African Embassy in Korea initiated a new association for students studying in Korea. At the end of September the new South African Students in Korea (SASKOR) was founded, and I was chosen as chairperson. If you know of any South Africans studying in Korea, or if you know of anybody wanting to come and study in Korea, please get them in touch with me.  I'm standing next to the ambassador in the photo above.

    The embassy also put the new leadership for SASKOR up in a hotel for one night during our conference. I had a very pleasant evening.

    I won a one month membership to a private lounge (Roni Project) in Gangnam in Seoul, allowing me unlimited free drinks. I've been spending many hours there recently, working in various projects.

    One of the main things I've been working on has been the page layout for the second edition of the South African literature and arts magazine Guillotine. The magazine is sold at Protea bookshops in South Africa. The launch for the second edition happened last week Friday in Hatfield, Pretoria. This edition of Guillotine focused on the city Pretoria, featuring articles on architecture, art, poets and writers that are connected with the capital city.

    As always, I'm still constantly busy with martial arts training. The photo above shows some recent bruises from Taekwon-Do sparring. I also hosted and organised some martial arts workshops for my group The Seoul Martial Arts Circle. In September we had a Basic Grappling Self-Defence session that I taught, a Kicking and Counter-Kicking workshop taught by my friend Leo Snel and an Introduction to Dahn Mudo workshop. This coming Sunday I will teach a Basic Martial Arts Principles workshop. Speaking of martial arts, have I mentioned somewhere that I got my 3rd Dan in Hapkido?

    I recently went to see a production of The Tempest by the Chekhov International Theatre Festival which is a Russian theatre company directed by Declan Donnellan. Even thought the production is in Russian and French, I still thought it was brilliant. Of course, it helps being an English Literature lecturer who is familiar with many Shakespeare plays. You can see a YouTube trailer of the production here.

    Last weekend (or was it the weekend before last?) I went to the annual Seoul International Fireworks Festival at which time Korea and three other guest countries put on a fireworks display like nothing you have seen before. I try to go to it every year, but I missed it last year. Of course it is tremendously popular. The photo above shows thousands of people waiting at the subway station, trying to get onto the train to get closer to the Han River where the fireworks festival is held. I'm thinking of next year either renting a boat or hiking to a nearby mountain.

    Well, these are some of the things I did recently. They are all I can remember because I took pictures of them. Of course there are more . . . I hanged out with friends, ate good food, found a new chocolate place (see the photo), did exercise, worked, studied (PhD still going strong), and did the regular household chores that I dislike doing such as laundry, dishes, and the like. During August and September I watched all three seasons of the funny show Bored to Death. I also finished watching the sci-fi series Farscape. I just watched the last episode (a movie) today. The first season started of very slow, but once it gained momentum it was great fun. Now I'm watching the second season of the brilliant show The Newsroom and after that I plan to start watching a Korean series, probably Iris 2.

    Today I gave an exam in my Creative Writing class and tomorrow I'll give a poetry writing workshop in the same class.

    Oh, and I caught a cold.

    Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    My Aardklop wenslysie

    Dit is weer Aardklop-tyd. En as ek in Suid-Afrika was met 'n goeie dik beursie geld sou ek die volgende gaan kyk het:

    Riders from the Storm beloof om 'n warm (Suid-) Afrikaanse rock & roll jam sessie te wees. Ek bedoel met sulke Afrikaanse rock legendes soos Piet Botha, Mel Botes en Valient swart, hoe kan dit anders? En dan is daar nog Albert Frost, Nathan Smith, Ghapi en ander om die storm goed te laat donder. Soos die vertoning se etslyn sê: "die manne gaan bulder, die aarde gaan dreun"! Aai, ek wens ek was daar.

    Amanda Strydom is Suid-Afrika se voorste Afrikaanse cabaret singer en as daar iemand is wat weet hoe om 'n goeie verhoogvertoning aan mekaar te sit dan is dit sy. Ek het nog nooit 'n Amanda Strydom vertoning gemis as ek dit kon help nie en is hiper jaloers op enige iemand wat hierdie vertoning oor 'n boeremeisie wat verlief raak op 'n rooinekloots tydens die Tweede Wêreldoorlog gaan te sien kry. Ja, 'n mens kan altyd die CD na die tyd koop, maar jy kannie altyd Amanda se verhoogspel te siene kry nie. Gaan kyk dit, gaan hoor dit, gaan voel dit! Viva Amanda!

    As jy van klaviermusiek hou en ook van koormusiek, dan is Amazing -- Rocco de Villiers nie te mis nie. Die klavier maestro span kragte saam met die Potchefstroomse Manskoor. Ek is seker dit gaan betower. Soortgelyk is Charl du Plessis se Pimp my Piano baie belowend: 'n vlegsel van klassieke musiek met moderne pop en jazz treffers. Ek oorweeg om die CD te koop. Ek is seker dat Zaza en die KunsteNar 'n lekker vertoning gaan wees en enige iemand wat hulleself as 'n gypsie sien sal waarskynlik ingetrek en meegevoer wees met die vertoning. En vir Jazz-liefhebbers, Jazz at Aardklop bring die van beste Suid-Afrikaanse jazz musici bymekaar en gooi hulle op 'n verhoog en siedaar! Aai, hoe jaloers is ek nou!

    Ek is nie juis op hoogte met wat in Suid-Afrika se teaterbedryf aan die gang is nie, maar as ek moes kies tussen die teaterproduksies sou ek graag Die Leo'sAs ek reg onthoumacbeth.slapeloosNa-aap, 'n verweking van Franz Kafka se A Report to an Academy; en Wie's bang vir Virginia Woolf? wou sien.

    Wat die visuele kunsuitstallings betref sal ek graag Maureen Quinn se The Hunt weer wil sien. Ek het die uitsalling van bronsgegote 'n klomp jare gelede gesien en dit het my geweldig beïndruk. Haar beelde skep in my angst en verwondering -- sy is waarskynlik my gunsteling Suid-Afrikaanse beeldhouer. Die uitstalling is gratis. Gaan kyk dit en laat die beelde jou siel jaag. Ek sou ook graag Robert Hamblin se uitstalling Onder konstruk wou sien omtrent manwees. Wat beteken dit nog, in hierdie tyd waarin ons leef, om 'n man te wees? Vir 'n meer prettige uitstalling dink ek Collateral -- 'n uitstalling van ontwerpersspeelgoed -- gaan lekker speels wees met allerande oulike snoesige monstertjies en wollerige husse.  

    Ten laaste op my Aardklop wenslysie plaas ek Tussen hemel en aarde, 'n woordkunsvertoning gebasseer op T. T. Cloete ('n persoonlike gunsteling) en Carina Stander se gedigte.

    Laat die kunste jou siel voed. Soos Hy gesê het, 'n mens kan nie van brood alleen lewe nie.

    Tuesday, 10 September 2013

    Do You Eat Beaver's Butt?

    So if you lick a beaver's butt it tastes like strawberries? That's what this video suggest. I wonder if beavers like rimming. Do their farts smell of strawberries as well?

    But how can it be cheaper to hunt beavers for their anal glands than to use fresh strawberries. Those anal glands must be terribly potent!

    I wonder what platypus butts taste like. Maybe like passion fruit. And undoubtedly there is a monkey out there somewhere with anal glands that produce banana odours.

    Tuesday, 3 September 2013

    Challenges of Foreign Language English Departments

    Working in an English Department where English is a foreign language pose serious challenges. You cannot assume that your students can even write a simple grammatically correct sentence. Hence, part of our curriculum includes a module on sentence writing. In a regular English Department one takes for granted that students know how to at least formulate a sentence. This is not the case when you work with students whose mother tongue is so wholly different from English. Not only are the syntax completely different, but even some of the most common punctuation marks are different. Korean, for instance, does not have capital letters and Koreans tend not to realize that capitalization has a communicative function and that the indiscriminate inclusion or, as is usually the case, exclusion of capital letters at the beginning of sentences, for proper nouns and so on is wrong and can cause confusion.

    This semester I'm teaching a freshmen class: Basic Sentence Writing. I haven't taught freshmen in a couple of years so I've forgotten what their level tend to be like. For instance, in our first class this morning I asked them to write me a few sentences to tell me about themselves. The sole purpose for this simple exercise was to get an idea of their level. Below is what was handed in by one of the students. It is a random sample--merely the first one in the pile.

    Hello! My name is 'shim so yeon'.
    Nice to meet our classmate and professor.
    I am 20 years old. Very young age. LoL~
    My hometown is 'seoul', but now live in 'Gyung Gi Do'.
    When I was 5 years old, my family house-moving in Gyung Gi Do.
    My family is Daddy, Mommy, younger brother and my self.
    I like eating. In the world, many delicious food existence. So I love it. Also, I like to shopping.
    I wish familiar our class.
    Thank you.
    Having taught Koreans for many years now I recognize many of her mistakes as typical errors caused in part by first language transference. For example, her sentence "In the world, many delicious food existence" is a near verbatim grammar transference from Korean where one would first provide the context (In the world), then supply the object (food) and finally the verb (exists).

    The big challenge is that we need to get our students from this (or sometimes worse levels of English) to a level at which they can write proper essays by the middle of their third year, because at the latter part of the third year and for their senior year they are expected to write academic style papers. This is by no means an easy task. I wish I can say that we are always successful in getting our students at the desired level within the time frame given. Unfortunately, it is often not the case. Only the most diligent students achieve the level of proficiency we aim for. Students that do not exert themselves just do not get there. Sometimes I see senior students who still make common mistakes. I have sympathy, of course, seeing as I've been in Korea for years and am still at only a higher beginner or lower intermediate level. But then again, I've never been a full time student of Korean.

    Our goal with writing is of course inline with the other language skills (reading, listening, and speaking) as well. We expect our students to be good listeners and speakers of English who, with a little self-study, can engage comfortably in the jargon and register of the trade they hope to find careers in. And we expect them to read with comprehension, and while they may not know the meaning of all the vocabulary in a given text, they can at least infer possible meanings from the context. Again, only the most diligent students achieve this level of competence.

    The problem is mostly time and immersion. As an English Department there are quite a number of other important subjects that students should be exposed to, such as History of the English Language, Literary Theory, different literary genres (poetry, essays, short fiction, novels, plays) and so on. Time, therefore, is rather limited. A student studying for four years at a dedicated language learning institute will acquire a much better fluency and accuracy in the target language. However, a language department teaching the language as a second or foreign department has to divide its time for much more than simply language acquisition.

    Since I've been at my current job I've helped to streamline the department's curriculum, but I fear there is still room for improvement. For instance, as a foreign language department we spent classes on cultural exposure, such as modules on American and English Culture. As important as these may seem, I think Korea is exposed enough to these bastions of the English language through the media, so that we can instead use these modules to teach and practice language skills.

    So what will I have my freshmen students do when I see them again? O yes . . . capitalization exercises!

    Wednesday, 28 August 2013

    A week in the south of South Korea

    I recently went on a week long trip to the south of South Korea. My first stop was Yeosu, where the World Fair was hosted last year. My main focus here was to visit the aquarium -- the second biggest in Korea (but still rather small compared to what I'm used to from South Africa). I went to Yeosu by slow train. It cost merely $13 from Seoul all the way to the south. That was the average rate for the bus fair from one city to the next. From Yeosu I went to Yeongtong to enjoy a maritime festival there, see a live size replica of the Turtle-Battle ship and visit the shrine of Admiral Lee Shunshin (aka Choong-Moo). Then Busan, Korea's second largest metropol and famed beach hang-out. Finally, Ulsan. I came back to Seoul with an overnight bus. I stayed in motels mostly, and jjimjilbangs (overnight saunas) the last two nights. I ate two meals a day, just having a brunch and dinner and some snacks late at night. Generally it was a good trip but just too hot. I stayed indoors for most of the day and only enjoyed the beaches in the late afternoon, early evening. I went swimming only once. Met some people. Ate well. Walked a lot! The pictures below are just some random ones. Some prettier than others. All taken with my mobile phone. 

    Two lies and a truth

    Can you guess the true statement?

    1. I have kissed a/an:
    a. elephant
    b. man
    c. snake

    2. I have a degree in:
    a. History of Art
    b. Alternative Medicine
    c. Business Communication

    3. I have read:
    a. Of Mice and Men
    b. Bram Stoker's Dracula
    c. The Last Samurai

    4. I have watched the film:
    a. Saw
    b. Cabin in the Woods
    c. Paranormal Activity

    5. I believe in the existence (past or present) of:
    a. dragons
    b. pegasuses (winged horses)
    c. vampires

    6. I like:
    a. Willie Nelson's “Living in the Promisedland”
    b. Marilyn Manson's “If I Was Your Vampire”
    c. Psy's “Gangnam Style”

    7. I like to drink:
    a. horchata (mexican rice drink)
    b. Amarula liqueur (South African Amarula cream)
    c. makgeolli (Korean rice wine)

    8. I have eaten:
    a. whale
    b. shark
    c. dog

    9. I think _________ is sexy:
    a. George Clooney
    b. Matthew McConaughey
    c. Barak Obama

    10. I would love to date _________:
    a. Avril Lavigne
    b. Megan Fox
    c. Miley Cyrus

    Wednesday, 21 August 2013

    In Conversation with DiCaprio

    This morning I dreamed I was having a conversation with Leo DiCaprio and I complimented him on his vintage jacket. "Never buy English designs," replies he. "They go out of style too quickly." (I understood him to mean that French or Italian styles have his blessing. "Well, I cannot afford what you are wearing," says I. "Not yet, at least." And then I woke up with a sense to buy things that are more expensive, but quality and which will last longer and not go out of style quickly.

    Sunday, 18 August 2013


    “You see, evil always contains the seeds of its own destruction. It is ultimately negative, and therefore encompasses its downfall even at its moments of apparent triumph.”

    ― Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett in Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (Interestingly, both Gaiman and Pratchett are atheists.)

    Saturday, 17 August 2013

    Some Introvert Problems

    I spoke about introversion before and how I am too, to many people’s surprise since I’m so outgoing, somewhat of an introvert myself. Recently I saw this list of  “problems that only introverts will understand.” I thought I’ll highlight some that I strongly associate with.

    #1. The need to take breaks after socializing too long. I like hanging out with friends and often initiate get togethers. I regularly walk up to people and introduce myself. My weekends and free nights are often booked a week or two in advanced. I’m a pretty busy, social guy. On the face of it, I love being around people. And this is true—in part. But after having spend time with people there are few joys I like as much as just getting away from people and being by myself, alone, in my apartment. When I’m in such a state I would sometimes even avoid answering the phone and delay replying to emails or text messages.

    #3. When your friend wants to invite more people over, and you don’t really want to. While I like hanging with people, I really dislike large groups and parties. It feels like a waste to me. The reason I like people is because I like to take the time to get to know them—individually. The possibility of this happening decreases exponentially as the number of people increases. For me a small group, say four or five is quite enough. Just you and me alone, is probably ideal.

    #6. The fear that you will die alone. This thought has crossed my mind a couple of times. I’ve even started to slowly make peace with the possibility.

    #9. Too many social obligations + no time alone = total grump. Oh yes. Under normal circumstances I can endure my active social life, since I live alone and so can escape into my “time for myself” space. However, every time I visit South Africa and try to see as many friends and family as possible in a very short amount of time, also staying with people often in their living rooms, makes me feel utterly exhausted and drained emotionally. I sometimes go take an extra bath just to have some private time in the bathroom.

    #10 When you’re asked to do a group project, and know you are going to hate every minute of it. I can work in groups and also make a good group leader. But to be honest, I think I can get the work done much quicker if I do it by myself rather than working in a group. Groups usually have too much politics that interfere in the productivity, that’s my opinion. So let’s just orchestrate who does what, go our separate ways and bring it all together again at an appointed time. And then I’ll probably end up redoing much of your half-assed work in any case, or at least make it all presentable because you couldn’t have been bothered to be even consistent in your font use and the colour scheme you chose sucks.

    #13 When you hear “Why are you so quiet?” for the umpteenth time. Because we are in a group where there is no opportunity for any real, heart-to-heart discussion that is of value, and I’d rather not waste my breath talking about this shallow list of superficial topics that contributes very little to the greater scheme of things.

    #21 When someone calls you out for day dreaming too much. My thoughts are much more interesting than reality.

    #22 When you take a book to a public place so no one will bug you, but other people take that as a conversation starter. Seriously, when I’m reading an interesting book on the subway, I really do not want to chat with you about your religion. Yes I know Jesus. Yes I plan to go to Heaven, but I doubt we will live in the same neighborhood when we get there.

    #23 When people make you feel weird for doing things by yourself. Seriously, it is not so terrible to go to the movies or to a restaurant or on a trip by yourself. You don’t have to feel pity for me. I’m not a lost puppy. If I want company I can find someone on Craigslist.

    There were some other numbers in the list that only partially applied, but there were also some that I could not resonate with. I don’t get irrationally angry when someone interrupts my thoughts (#24), I don’t get an anxiety attack when someone asks me to hang out (#12), nor am I scared that I might be turning into a hermit (#5), well not yet, in any case.

    Thursday, 8 August 2013

    Chocolate Drinks (my three favourite one's in Seoul)

    Finding good hot chocolate is surprisingly difficult. A good hot chocolate should not be too weak (as it often the case in South Africa), nor too sweet (as it usually is in Korea). A simple hot chocolate drink can be made from two heaped teaspoons of quality cacao powder and two teaspoons of sugar with milk. The best hot chocolate is made from scratch with real cacao powder, melted dark chocolate mixed with fresh cream and diluted with the right amount of milk or water and sweetened appropriately. Extra flavorings such as orange zest, almond essence or vanilla pod, cinnamon, or chilly can cause orgasmic magic to happen in your mouth if added cautiously.

    There is a place in Durban that used to sell an amazing dark chocolate drink, but they stopped importing the ingredients from Italy. Another place in Potchefstroom used to make a drink called Chocolate la Passion, but with the change of management the quality of the drink deteriorated. To date my favorite hot chocolate drink I had was once in a five star hotel in Hong Kong. I have gone back for it a second time.

    Since I'm living in South Korea now, I'm always on the lookout for good hot chocolate. Most of the time I'm very disappointed. I have, however found three places that make fantastic hot chocolate.

    In Itaewon there is a chocolatier with a strange name like "108", which I presume is the number of the shop. In any case, they sell dark chocolate drinks that will make you think that all is well with life. You get it in a little tea pot and pour about three or four times into your little teacup. I sometimes get a piece the chocolate pie with it. (Directions: Take Exit 3 at Itaewon Station and walk towards Hangangjin. It is close by Rocky Mountain Tavern.)

    Half coffee shop, half design studio Alea Playground in Apgujeong makes a really enjoyable hot chocolate topped with a creamy marshmallow. Alea Playground also sells authentic Dutch coffee. A very nice open place to hangout with friends or do some work on your laptop. I like the vibe and love the hot chocolate here. (Google Maps: 강남구 신사동 642-20)

    Opposite from Alea Playground is Pas de deux Chocolatier. Not as nice a vibe as Alea Playground, but definitely exquisite quality chocolates and there iced chocolate drink with essence of orange is definitely worth the trip in my books. (Google Maps: 강남구 신사동 644-20)

    Friday, 2 August 2013

    I Dreamed About a Chicken

    I have had my fare share of weird dreams, but the one I had this morning must be considered one of the most surreal dreams to date. It wasn't particularly long, just unusually odd.

    Image Source

    I dreamed that I was sleeping in my bed here in Korea (this is significant because I've only recently started dreaming of being Korea), and I woke up to see that there is a rooster in my bedroom. Not a particularly large rooster. A handsome little rooster trotting about in my bedroom, of the colourful South-East Asian bantam variety. Later it made itself comfortable on the little bedside (bookcase) beside my bed, standing their as if on attention. And then, it started to speak to me. It wasn't verbal communication, but rather, I'm guessing, a form of telepathy. I just understood it, as if it's thoughts just manifested within my head. It impressed upon me that I don't have to worry, it will be my bodyguard.

    That's the dream.

    Now usually, for a gestalt therapeutic approach to dream interpretation, you would ask yourself (or the therapist would ask you): if the object in the dream could speak (in this case the chicken), what would it say to you? Lucky for me, the object in my dream did speak: it bravely announced that it will be my bodyguard. The question is, however, what will it guard me from? When I ask this question, the answer I get is that it will guard me from what I fear. Which is what exactly? I'm not sure.

    According to different cultural traditions chickens have different symbolic meanings. For instance, a chicken could suggest that “one is chicken”; i.e. cowardly, fearing something in your life; not brave enough to get something you want.

    Roosters, because of their colourful plumage, may be boastful or flamboyant—this is a characteristic associated with people born in the year of the Rooster, in accordance with the Chinese Zodiac. According to Chinese tradition a chicken symbolises both pride and enlightenment. It is the chicken's pride that makes it crow the first in the morning, before any other creature. It therefore suggests bragging or showing-off, particularly roosters crowing would suggest this. (The rooster in my dream wasn't very noisy.)

    However, it's crow comes with the start of day, with the first light, and therefore denotes enlightenment. The Greeks also made this connection with the sun, and for them the rooster was a symbol of the sun, and victory overthe night, and therefore associated with Apollo. On the other hand, the rooster was associated with danger and the underworld in Nordic and Celtic traditions, where it acted as a messenger of the underworld, and called out warnings.

    In Christian symbolism the rooster may symbolise Peter as he had denied Christ before the rooster crowed three times. It later became a symbol for Peter's repentance and also as a warning for religious vigilance, reminding us not to deny the Lord as Peter did. Weathercocks on churches act as symbolic reminders of such vigilance and may also suggest that the rooster not only calls us to wake up, but calls us to prayer first thing in the morning.

    As a time-keeper, the rooster may be symbolic of a “wake-up call”. Not merely waking us up from our literal sleep, but waking us up to specific issues in our lives.

    In a Freudian sense, a rooster is obviously a phallic image—the archetypal cock. As such it is a symbol of manliness, or “cockiness”, and possibly also pride.

    So what does my dream mean? I'm still left with the same question, why do I need a bodyguard? What is the rooster keeping me safe from? And why a rooster, and not something else more fierce such as a tiger? What is it that a rooster is better at protecting one against than any other creature? Or is that a wrong question? Maybe I should not assume that a chicken has any special significance in its roll as bodyguard; it might just have been the only “available” or “willing” bodyguard to keep me safe. I can't remember how I felt when the chicken announced it's assurance towards my well-being—I can't say that I felt unsafe before I noticed the chicken, but I do think I felt slightly more assured after it's brave announcement.

    Of course, it may all just be a strange dream induced by indigestion because of the fruit & veggie juice I drank and bag of cherries I ate just before bedtime.

    Some sources:

    Tuesday, 30 July 2013

    The South African National Anthem

    Below is the South African National Anthem, with translations of the non-English parts in parenthesis.

    It is a combination of two anthems, and combines five languages, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English.

    The first part (the first two stanzas) is the "Nkosi' sikelel' iAfrika" section, and is a hymn that was composed in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga who worked as a Methodist mission school teacher. Later more verses were added in isiXhosa by the poet Samuel Mqhayi, and Moses Mphahlele translated it into Sesotho in 1941. The hymn was later adopted as an anthem for political meetings during the struggle years.

    The second part of the anthem (the third and fourth stanza), is based on the poem "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" by die Afrikaans poet C J Langenhoven in 1918. It was put to music in 1928 by Reverend ML de Villiers. In 1952 it was translated into English as "The Call to South Africa" and in 1957 it was adopted as the anthem of South Africa. Between 1994 and 1997 both "Nkosi' sikelel' iAfrika" and "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" were sung. The new combined National Anthem was adopted in 1997.

    Nkosi' sikelel' iAfrika
    (God Bless Africa)
    Maluphakanyisw' uphondo lwayo,
    (Raise high Her glory)
    Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
    (Hear our Prayers)
    Nkosi sikelela, thina lysapho lwayo.
    (God bless us, we her children)

    Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
    (God protect our children)
    O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho,
    (End all wars and tribulations)
    O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,
    (Protect us, protect our nation)
    Sethaba sa South Afrika -- South Afrika
    (Our nation South Afrika -- South Afrika)

    Uit die blou van onse hemel,
    (From out the blue of our heavens)
    Uit die diepte van ons see,
    (From the depths of our seas)
    Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
    (Over our everlasting mountains)
    Waar die kranse antwoord gee
    (Where the cliffs echoes an answer)

    Sounds the call to come together,
    And united we shall stand,
    Let us live and strive for freedom,
    in South Africa our land.

    Sunday, 28 July 2013

    Olympic Training Village

    About three weekends ago I had the opportunity to visit the Korean National Olympic Training Center 태릉선수촌. A rare privilege, as the center is not open to the general public. I happen to know someone working at the center who, after a year of begging, sneaked me in for a private tour one Sunday afternoon.

    Here are some photos. A glimpse into where South Korea's national athletes prepare for international competitions. The photos are of course selective of my interest in martial arts. The climbing ropes are used by the wrestling and judo athletes to strengthen their arms and grip. The treadmill has connected to it targets for kicking used by the Taekwondo athletes. They basically run and kick at the same time. I merely posed on it. The following photo with the punching bags are also part of the Taekwondo gym. Below that is the general weight-training gym, the weightlifting stage and the gymnastics hall. The last photo was of my lunch meal there. The athletes have a buffet style meal and consumes roughly 5000 calories a day.