Caveat: And so begins a fifth year

At the risk of boring everyone with a third blog post in less than 24 hours, I feel compelled to observe that today is the fourth anniversary of my arrival in Korea.  On September 1st, 2007, I landed at Incheon and made my way to Ilsan, where I was met by my new employer, Danny, of the eventually-defunct Tomorrow School, to begin my new teaching career.

I have spent all of the last four years in Korea, with the exception of a three-month, unemployed hiatus back in the US in the fall of 2009, and several shorter vacation trips – two to Australia to visit my mother (with side-junkets to Hong Kong and New Zealand), and one to Japan to resolve a visa issue.

I like Korea.  I'm not really a Koreanophile, though.  Although my linguistico-aesthetic infatuation with the Korean language refuses to go away, I'm actually only lukewarm when it comes to Korean culture in more general terms.  It has a lot of shortcomings, and I'm not always happy with it.  But… I will attach two caveats to that statement:  1) I think the Korean polity is less dysfunctional that the US polity, and that's a notable achievement (the current state of the US polity is so depressing as to leave me feeling embarrassed to claim US citizenship); 2) I reached a level of alienated "comfort" with life in Korea that is at least equal to the perpetual alienation I have always felt within my own country and culture.

The consequence of these preceding observations is that, as things stand, I have no interest in (and no current plans for) returning to the US – except perhaps for brief visits.  For better or for worse, for now, Korea is my home.  If, for whatever reason in the future, my life in Korea has to end, I will seek to continue my expat life elsewhere.

I have changed a great deal in the last four years.  I have acquired some confidence as a teacher; I have built some good habits; most notably, I have embraced a sort of meditative buddhist zen (선) atheism that works well for me.  Although I'm hardly content – often lonely, often aimless in a philosophical or "spiritual" sense (as much as I dislike the concept of spirituality) – in fact I have found a kind of inner peace that my life prior to this most recent phase utterly lacked.

So, there you have it.  And so begins a fifth year…

I took the picture below on a long hike in October 2007.  It shows some scarecrows in a field of cut rice, across the highway from the former Camp Edwards, in Geumchon, Paju-si (about 7 km northwest of where I live), which incidentally is where I was stationed in 1991, during my time in the US Army as a mechanic and tow truck driver. Thus, you see, my "roots" in Northwest Gyeonggi Province go "way back."

200710_IlsanKR_P1000826

Caveat: Self-determination

Self_html_57d6b418 Debate Proposition: "All people have a right to self-determination." This video is of the month-final debate test for our debate class with the TP1 cohort (7th graders), which I recorded on Monday. We worked on this topic for about 6 classes (2 weeks).

This class is my strongest class, intellectually. I realize they don't always make perfect sense, and sometimes in this video they're hard even to hear clearly… but I think considering they're non-native-speakers, navigating a very grown-up, complex topic, they really are doing quite well.

Caveat: 85) 부처님 . 저는 화내지 않기를 발원하며 절합니다

“Buddha. I bow and pray not to get angry.”

This is #85 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

83. 항상 스님의 가르침을 따르기를 발원하며 절합니다.
        “I bow and pray to follow always the teachings of the monks.”

84. 부처님. 저는 욕심을 내지 않기를 발원하며 절합니다.
        “Buddha. I bow and pray not to be greedy.”

85. 부처님 . 저는 화내지 않기를 발원하며 절합니다.

I would read this eighty-fifth affirmation as: “Buddha. I bow and pray not to get angry.”

Today, I thought of getting angry but really there was no point.  There was no copy machine.  Which is also the main printer (so there was no printer except for the slow slow color one).  I asked, “what happened to the copy machine?”

I was told we didn’t have one today.  Maybe it’s being serviced?  My boss pointed at the whiteboard that serves as a bulletin board in the office.  “Didn’t you see?  I wrote it, right there.”

Here is what was written on the white board:

Readthis 001

“Ah,” I said.  “That should’ve been obvious, then.”  I guess I was being a little bit sarcastic.

Because, no, I didn’t read the notice on the bulletin board.  I didn’t even try.

Setting aside that fact that I tune out Korean in these contexts to some extent, the handwriting is exceptionally messy, too.  I just didn’t see the point in trying to decipher it.  Obviously, I made a mistake. 

Looking at it, now, I can see it says something about the copier, and about copying beforehand.  I still can’t figure out the last verb – but yes. I can get the drift.

I’ve learned a small lesson.  It’s one I’ve learned, repeatedly, before:  the “Korean communication taboo” isn’t as all-encompassing as it appears to foreigners.  But overcoming it does require one to put the effort into understanding the language and paying attention to the appropriate channels of communication.

Caveat: Progress in Idleness

Life is kind of boring, these days, and I guess I'm OK with that.  I've spent the summer in a kind of workaholic hibernation – while working, I've been working hard and pretty focused, but I'm not actually working that much, at least relative to the kind of hours I used to put in as a database programmer.  So, never exceeding 50 hours per week, certainly, whereas there was the spring of 2006 when I easily put in well over 80 per week.

You'd think, then, that I have lots of free time, still, to do various things.  … pursue various hobbies.  What are my hobbies and pasttimes?  I claim several.  Here is a progress report on my hobbies and pasttimes – I assign points on the basis of how I feel I'm doing in these pursuits relative to how I wish I could be doing, ideally.

1) I blog.  Evidently – you're looking at it.  Progress: seven out of ten points.

2) I write.  Not this blog, I mean, but my novels and stories.  Progress:  one of out ten points.

3) I study Korean.  I really do… not as well or as dedicatedly as could be hoped, though.  Progress:  four out of ten points.

4) I hike (both rural / mountain hiking and "urban" hiking, which is really just exploring-on-foot).  Progress:  two out of ten points.

5) I read.  Books.  Stories.  Texts.  Progress:  six out of ten points.

6) I jog.  I was jogging really well at the first part of summer.  3 or 4 times a week, 3 to 5 km each time.  Then it got rainy.  Then it got hot.  And I got lazy, or something.  Actually, I hate jogging.  But I really need the exercise.  Really, really, really.  Progress:  one out of ten points.

7) I cook.  I like cooking for myself, I like messing around with food in my underequipped "kitchen."  But I don't do it much, even though whenever I do I'm satisfied and pleased with having done so.  Progress:  two out of ten points.

8) I meditate and do "buddhist"-type things.  In an entirely atheistic way, of course.  I have a semi-lapsed zen practice, of sorts.  Progress:  two out of ten points.

So much for progress.

Caveat: una forma de tratar a mi propia vacuidad creativa

Marti07a Sueño despierto

Yo sueño con los ojos
Abiertos, y de día
Y noche siempre sueño.
Y sobre las espumas
Del ancho mar revuelto,
Y por entre las crespas
Arenas del desierto
Y del león pujante,
Monarca de mi pecho,
Montado alegremente
Sobre el sumiso cuello,
Un niño que me llama
Flotando siempre veo!

– José Martí, en Ismaelillo (Nueva York, 1882)

A veces llevo la misma impresión que me ofrece ese poema: la de existir en una clase de sueño despierto por las rutinas de la vida diaria.  Anoche leía a Coleridge, y hoy en la mañana a Martí.

Son cuerpos de obra poética algo relacionados por lo temático onírico.  Pero aunque me encantan los rítmos de e.g. "Cristabel" de Coleridge, su contenido proto-romántico – digamos místico – me es difícil.  Prefiero el contendio martiano, tal vez igualmente místico pero ya plenamente proto-modernista.  Además, los poemas de Ismaelillo, por su fundación en la vida real del poeta – inspirados por su hijo – celebran algo del mundo real.  Es un onirismo cotidiano y realista – una vida de padre amoroso inmigrante en Brooklyn – en lugar de un onirismo evasivo y anti-realista, opiático.

Hace mucho tiempo que me dedico a leer tanta poesía como en estos días.  Tal vez es una forma de tratar a mi propia vacuidad creativa.

Caveat: Implicit Association Tests

I found a website (named "Project Implicit," by something called IAT Corp, hosted at Harvard) that makes some claim to evaluate the kind of unconscious mental associations between categories like race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., and other semantic fields (like good vs. bad, American vs. not-American, etc.).

You do these rapid response categorization tests and then the test tells you how you tend to lean in your alleged "automatic preferences."  I harbor all kinds of skepticism about this sort of test, on multiple counts.  I might discuss some of these skepticisms later, but for now, I'll present my personal results on two of the tests (in the spirit of disclosure and for those curious).

The first test I took was with regard to the African-American category (Black) vis-a-vis the European-American category (White).  Impressionistically, the alternation between labelling as Black vs. African-American on the one hand and White vs. European-American on the other hand struck me as inconsistent or random, although I can't say for sure that wasn't a designed inconsistency (e.g. something intentionally random as a built-in part of the test's brain-probe, so to speak).

Below is the interpretation of your IAT performance, followed by questions about what you think it means. The next page explains the task and has more information such as a summary of what most people show on this IAT.

Your Result

Your data suggest a slight automatic preference for African American compared to European American.

The interpretation is described as 'automatic preference for European American' if you responded faster when European American faces and Good words were classified with the same key than when African American faces and Good words were classified with the same key. Depending on the magnitude of your result, your automatic preference may be described as 'slight', 'moderate', 'strong', or 'little to no preference'. Alternatively, you may have received feedback that 'there were too many errors to determine a result'.

I quickly felt that I was aware of "how" the test worked – it's hard to explain so I suggest you just try it for yourself.  I admit that from the start, I felt wary (on gaurd, so to speak) with regard to my own possible prejudice, and once I felt I understood how the test worked, I perhaps attempted to compensate.  Assuming that the underlying prejudice I presumed myself to be battling (as a White American raised in a 90%+ white community) was one of preference toward European-Americans, it appears (and I can only say "appears" as I hardly know what all was operating, both in the test and in my own brain) I compensated successfully.

I found the first test unpleasant.  The business of matching Whites with "Good" words and Blacks with "Bad" words (and then subsequently vice-versa) left a bad taste in my mouth.  It was like the underlying message was:  "everyone's a racist, we just want to see what kind you are."  It was an exercise in reinforcing stereotypes, whether positive ones or bad ones.

The second test wasn't really unpleasant so much as downright ridiculous.  It was supposed to look at the European-American/Native-American contrast vis-a-vis the American/un-American (Foreign) contrast.  The visual images drew on stereotypes even worse than the first test (see screenshot below).  Of course, stereotypes are the point, and therefore it's utterly conceivable that they're intentional.  Still, it's awkward for someone who tries to be analytical about these things.

The whole business of what words were "American" vs. "Foreign" struck me as silly – they were all place names – essentially, European place names versus American place-names of Native American etymology. What is this contrast supposed to show?  That Americans know the names of American cities?  What about the allegedly atrocious geographical knowledge of average Americans?  Is this test trying to link bad geographical knowledge with some type of racial (or racist) stereotype or another?  Or is it assuming good geographical knowledge?  They're aware that Miami is in Latin America, right?  And that Seattle is in Canada?  And Moscow is "Foreign" – but what about the guy sitting in Moscow, Idaho, taking the test?  I've been there.  It's near the Nez Perce Reservation.  Did they take that into account?

What does this test really mean?  What is it looking at?  What does it have to do with nativism, white-supremicism, pro- vs. anti-immigration stances, etc.?  It's obviously complex, but I felt immediately that the test designers had at least as much ideological baggage as I personally brought to the table, and they didn't even do much work to conceal it.  I certainly doubt they had made much effort to evaluate their own prejudices, in the design of the test (especially in light of the apparent socio-linguistic naivety on display in the onomastics).

I felt a strong impulse to try my best to "game" the test.  I have no idea whether my effort to game the test worked, but it appears to have, since I got the result I intended: I got myself to show up as a nativist, roughly.  But of course, the test designers could argue that I was merely "aiming for" the "automatic preference" I was already ideologically inclined toward.  Here is my result.

Below is the interpretation of your IAT performance, followed by questions about what you think it means. The next page explains the task and has more information such as a summary of what most people show on this IAT.

Your Result

Your data suggest a moderate association of White Am. with Foreign and Native Am. with American compared to Native Am. with Foreign and White Am. with American.

The interpretation is described as 'automatic association between White Am. and American' if you responded faster when White Am. images and American were classified with the same key than when White Am. images and Foreign were classified with the same key. Depending on the magnitude of your result, your automatic association may be described as 'slight', 'moderate', 'strong', or 'little to no preference'. Alternatively, you may have received feedback that 'there were too many errors to determine a result'.

So what does it all mean?  I'm not sure.  I might take some more tests and report back – they're nothing if not interesting.

Iat_html_682d53cc

 

Caveat: 84) 부처님. 저는 욕심을 내지 않기를 발원하며 절합니다

“Buddha. I bow and pray not to be greedy.”

This is #84 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

82. 항상 부처님의 법속에서 살기를 발원하며 절합니다.
        “I bow and pray to live always in the heart of Buddha’s dharma.”

83. 항상 스님의 가르침을 따르기를 발원하며 절합니다.
        “I bow and pray to follow always the teachings of the monks.”

84. 부처님. 저는 욕심을 내지 않기를 발원하며 절합니다.

I would read this eighty-fourth affirmation as: “Buddha. I bow and pray not to be greedy.”

Caveat: fuzzy spam

Today marks a new milestone on my blog:  I have received my first bit of "targetted" spam in my blog comments.  Up to this point, all the spam received in the comments sections on my blog have been what you might call "widecast" – just throwing out advertising for cheap internet shoes or jewelry or other products, willy-nilly, showing zero awareness of my blog's content, potential audience, etc. 

But today I received a spam comment from someone (something) named Jenny, in not-bad Konglish, advertising some kind of cultural event (or coupon club – I can't quite figure it out).  I'm not going to do her (he? it?) the favor or reproducing the comment's web address, but I felt some reluctance simply to delete it from the record without observing its passing.

It feels like a milestone, because, instead of being utterly random spam, it's spam-with-a-target – it obviously was placed by someone (or some program) that had a minimal awareness of my blog's "location" and audience.  We can call it contextualized spam, as oxymoronic as that sounds.

Here is the text of the spam comment, with the original business name cleverly disguised and with the website address expurgated (because I don't want to reward the spammer).

Come and visit SejongBlahblah on Sunday of the last week of the month. You can find many different artist and singers' performances that are free to anyone! Also, SejongBlahblah is currently having 1+1 ticket event for foreigners. You can purchase one package from ten different packages and get one free ticket with your purchase! If you are interested and want to find out more about this event, you can come out website: https://??? SejongBlahblah is a combination of about 30 culture & art organizations including performance halls, museums and art museums located in the walking distance centering around Sejong-no, where Gwanghwamun Square is located.

This is almost relevant.  More so than regular spam, anyway.  It got me to reflecting on the possibility that the boundary between spam and not-spam might be somewhat fluid… somewhat fuzzy.  Which, of course, makes me think of spam sitting too long in a refrigerator:  fuzzy spam.  That reminds me of the Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) gift I received from my boss at LBridge a few years ago.  A gift set of spam.  Chuseok is fast approaching.

Caveat: Looking in the wrong place, maybe

Tripolibad
Gawker had a screenshot from CNN the other day, showing CNN making a horrible geographical mistake.  They were indicating the wrong Tripoli, on the map.  Instead of Tripoli, Libya, they were apparently reporting on the Libyan insurrection from Tripoli, Lebanon.  Which might explain why no one could find Qaddafi, come to think of it.

That's really a pretty gross geographical error.  It makes me wonder if maybe they'll throw up a map of Iowa, next – after all, there's a town in Iowa called Tripoli, too.  It would be funny if they found Qaddafi there – after all, I recently heard he was declaring as a Republican candidate – Tripoli, Iowa, is a very logical place to do this, one would think.

Caveat: Hangoogledoodle Ranting

<rant>

Yesterday when I landed on the google homepage, I was interested in the googledoodle ("google doodle," the customized, constantly changing logo-artwork around the word "google"), because it was obscure and artistic in a style that caught my attention.  So I went to hover the cursor over the googledoodle, which will give a short explanation of what it's about. 

Googledoodle_호르헤 루이스 보르헤스 탄생 112주년 Lo, to my dismay, the googledoodle hovertext was hangeulized.  It was a han-googledoodle.  This struck me as annoying, but fortunately, I can read a little bit of Korean.  It said:  "호르헤 루이스 보르헤스 탄생 112주년" – [horeuhe ruiseu boreuheseu tansaeng 112 junyeon = Jorge Luis Borges' 112th birtday].  Charming.  A nice bit of googledoodling, to be sure (see picture).  And… I love JLB, of course – how could I not, given my literarophilosophical predilictions?  So, that's a given.

But I felt a sensation of annoyed, impending rantiness about the issue of the hovertext, itself.  I have been annoyed, before, because of a website's laziness (that's my perception of the site programmers affect, I mean) with respect to what I would call "language detection issues." 

Yes, it's true that I'm in Korea.  And my IP address says so.  But there's plenty of evidence available to the browser's page-rendering software that can tell the webpage in question that I would prefer presentation of information in English – after all, that's my computer's OS installation language, and that's my browser's default language.  Both pieces of information are in no way concealed from the browser, as far as I know.  Most notably, I have visited plenty of sites that recognize my language (even before I log on – and I never save cookies so that's not what's going on, either) – inlcuding, lo and behold, gmail, which presumably shares programming expertise with googledoodlers, coxisting together in the same giant chocolate-factory-by-the-bay, as they do. 

So when I see things like that – let's call it "IP-address-driven language defaulting behavior" – it just pisses me off.  It's not that I don't like the Korean – I even welcomed the brief puzzle that the hovertext presented.  But it's the fact that it seems to represent a parochial, lazy approach to solving a much more elegantly solvable web programming problem – that's what annoys me.

Hence my desire to make this little rant, here.

</rant>

And, P.S., Happy Birthday to that benevolent bonaerenese, blind prophet of postmodernism!

Caveat: 83) 항상 스님의 가르침을 따르기를 발원하며 절합니다

“I bow and pray to follow always the teachings of the monks.”

This is #83 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

81. 항상 부처님의 품 안에서 살기를 발원하며 절합니다.
        “I bow and pray to live always in the Buddha’s arms.”

82. 항상 부처님의 법속에서 살기를 발원하며 절합니다.
        “I bow and pray to live always in the heart of Buddha’s dharma.”

83. 항상 스님의 가르침을 따르기를 발원하며 절합니다.

I would read this eighty-third affirmation as: “I bow and pray to follow always the teachings of the monks.”

I’m never comfortable with vows to follow people.  I think of myself as a loyal person, but I’m not sure that I really am.  I’m loyal to my friends in my heart, but because I go off and do my “own thing” so much, I’m not really there for the people I care about.

Caveat: Debatable

Last Thursday, for my special summer debate class for the elementary kids, we staged a final debate.  I made a video of it, and I finally finished putting it together earlier today, and loaded it to youtube – not even really much edited at all.

DEBATE BRAVE001-S The debate proposition is:  "Hurting someone in self-defense is OK."  Pretty heavy topic, right?  It's because of a story we read in a well-done elementary ESL debate textbook (pictured, right), which uses Korean folktales (in English) as a jumping-off point for debate topics.  This means the kids are already familiar with the storylines, which increases comprehension and allows us to focus on the concepts and topics.

The debate was between a "Pro" team (two 6th grade girls who go by Ally and Catherine) and a "Con" team (the teacher – me).   I've come to realize that when we have debates, the kids really get a lot out of me being one of the debate speakers – it allows me to model language patterns and argument styles, and it unexpectedly causes them to focus more on the topic – I'm not sure why this works but I've noticed it.

So here is the debate video.  Ally is a really good speaker and very high ability.  Catherine has excellent English, too, but she speaks very quietly and is hard to understand in parts – sorry for the poor sound quality.

 

Caveat: City Is A Flower

Sullyblog talks about one of my pet subjects, density, and posts this amazing little video.  Too awesome not to share.

Lilium Urbanus from Joji Tsuruga on Vimeo.

In an entirely implicit way, the video demonstrates the underlying organicity of cities.  Plus, how cool is it, to imagine a city shaped like a flower?  Samsung Engineering could build it  – probably in some oil-statelets back yard.

Caveat: Things I’m Not Doing

So anyway, after I got off work yesterday, I did a little whirlwind rare-grocery shopping tour into the city.  I took the subway to Dongdaemun, where I visited my favorite Russian bakery and bought two fresh loaves of the best dark rye bread in Seoul.  Then, having been craving lentils for a while, I decided to go to the somewhat infamous "Foreign Grocery" in Itaewon.  It mostly serves the halal needs of Seoul's muslim community, and I have a sort of love-hate relationship with Itaewon.  On the one hand, it's fascinating – it's Seoul's equivalent of New York City's Canal Street, maybe.  It's the only place I know of in all of Korea where Koreans are frequently a minority in the neighborhood.  There are Russian nightclubs, Indian and Pakistani and Argentine restaurants, a Taco Bell, US military on leave, Nigerian street-vendors.  A real mish-mash.  And as such, it's fascinating.  On the other hand, it's the only place in Korea where I instinctively transfer my wallet to my front pocket.   I'm not sure if that makes me guilty of racism – I suppose it does.  But it's not the foreigners I'm afraid of – it's the shifty Korean element that makes me nervous.  It's like the old "down-range" neighborhoods that can be found outside US military bases, but times 10.

Well, anyway.  I found my lentils.  Product of India.  And and split peas, too.  Product of Indonesia.  Then I hopped back in the subway and was home by 8:30.

I worked on my writing today.  But didnt' make much progress.  Per usual, these days, I know.  I'm allowing myself to feel a little burnt out, at the moment.  But there's work I need to get done, too.  I took a video of my debate-class kids debating, last week, and I need to edit that.  I've been watching episodes of American crime dramas – e.g. The Mentalist.  I really would rather be watching some of the Korean dramas I like, but I really prefer to have subtitles, and the website I've been using to watch the subtitled versions is too unreliable.  I'm feeling annoyed about that.

Caveat: 82) 항상 부처님의 법속에서 살기를 발원하며 절합니다

“I bow and pray to live always in the heart of Buddha’s dharma.”

This is #82 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

80. 가장 큰 힘이 사랑이라는 것을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.
        “I bow with a thankful heart and become aware that the most powerful thing is love.”

81. 항상 부처님의 품 안에서 살기를 발원하며 절합니다.
        “I bow and pray to live always in the Buddha’s arms.”

82. 항상 부처님의 법속에서 살기를 발원하며 절합니다.

I would read this eighty-second affirmation as: “I bow and pray to live always in the heart of Buddha’s dharma.”

Unrelatedly…

Flyinghouse_html_m7de8987e

What I’m listening to right now.

Röyksopp – “What Else Is There?”  [Update:  apparently this video is disabled in some parts of the world, due to copyright enforcement.  Youtube’s copyright enforcement is incomprehensible to me, but there’s nothing I can do about it.  I’ve had so many vidoes that I tried to view that were disabled in Korea, but that had been linked by people I know in the US, where there was apparently no enforcement.  This is not the first time I heard of it going other way around.  It probably boils down to who’s suing who in what country’s courts.  Sorry.  There are other versions online that might work. More update (2013-05-29): In doing some blog-maintenance work I found that the video posted here did not exist anymore. I’ve replaced it with a new version that seems roughly the same.]   The lyrics:

It was me on that road
But you couldn’t see me
Too many lights out, but nowhere near here

It was me on that road
Still you couldn’t see me
And then flashlights and explosions

Roads end getting nearer
We cover distance but not together

I am the storm I am the wonder
And the flashlights nightmares
And sudden explosions

I don’t know what more to ask for
I was given just one wish

It’s about you and the sun
A morning run
The story of my maker
What I have and what I ache for

I’ve got a golden ear
I cut and I spear
And what else is there

Roads and getting nearer
We cover distance still not together

If I am the storm if I am the wonder
Will I have a flashlights nightmares
And sudden explosions

There’s no room where I can go and
You’ve got secrets too

I don’t know what more to ask for
I was given just one wish

Caveat: 미쳤어…

 

I survived Grace’s vacation.  My coworker came back from vacation this week, after having been gone for a little over a month.  So my 35+ classes per week will end.  I put in a few long days this week getting caught up on getting my grades and student performance comments posted to the computer, and as of 9pm this evening, a new tentative schedule is published where I return to a more normal class load.

I feel like I survived the past month with very little stress, comparatively.  I kind of approached it “heads-down” and just plowed through, but it helped that there were no major crises, and no serious issues.  Things went more or less smoothly.

It’s worth observing that I’ve reached the conclusion that hagwon work, in crisis mode, is equivalent to Hongnong Elementary in normal mode.  And Hongnong Elementary in crisis mode, is like… well, it’s like being on the losing side of a major combat simulation.  I’m not talking about workload – obviously, there’s no comparison:  hagwon work is WORK, Hongnong elementary wasn’t really work.  But I’m talking about atmospherics, stressors, incomprehensible dictates from on high, etc.

I felt like I really accomplished something, this week, having completed the increased class load, and getting my July grades posted, and writing out comments on all my students.  And then I came home, went on a little jog in the park at 11 pm, and came home and made some tomato and pesto pasta for a late dinner.  Yay.

What I’m listening to, right now.

손담비 – 미쳤어 [Son Dam Bi – Michyeosseo “crazy”].  The verb michida (conjugated into an informal past tense michyeosseo in this song) is generally translated as “crazy” but I don’t think that’s accurate at all.  It means “crazy” so that captures the semantics, but the pragmatics are quite different.  “Crazy” in English is quite mild, and can be used positively quite casually: e.g. “Oh, man, that was a crazy fun time.”  Etc.  But in Korean, you really can’t use the word that way – not in polite company, anyway.  It’s not as strong as “fuck,” but I’ve had Koreans react to my use of the word as an American might to an unexpected use of that word.  So I almost want to come up with some different kind of translation for the song title.  Not sure what to use, though, that would capture the lower social register of the Korean.

Here are  the lyrics.

 

Micheosseo_html_5f4649d2 yes yes, no no, which way to go,
2008 e to the r i c , let’s go

내가 미쳤어 정말 미쳤어
너무 미워서 떠나버렸어
너무 쉽게 끝난 사랑
다시 돌아오지 않는단걸 알면서도
미쳤어 내가 미쳤어
그땐 미쳐 널 잡지 못했어
나를 떠떠떠떠떠 떠나 버버버버버 버려
그 짧은 추억만을 남겨둔채로 날

후회했어 니가 가버린뒤
난 더 불행해져 네게 버려진뒤
너를 잃고 싶지않아 줄것이 더 많아 나를 떠나지마라

죽도록 사랑했어 너 하나만을
다시는 볼수없단 미친생각에
눈물만 흐르네 술에 취한밤에 오늘은 잠을 이룰수없어

내가 미쳤어 정말 미쳤어
너무 미워서 떠나버렸어
너무 쉽게 끝난 사랑
다시 돌아오지 않는단걸 알면서도
미쳤어 내가 미쳤어
그땐 미쳐 널 잡지 못했어
나를 떠떠떠떠떠 떠나 버버버버버 버려
그 짧은 추억만을 남겨둔채로 날

사랑이 벌써 식어버린건지
이제와 왜 난 후회하는건지
떠나간자리 혼자남은 난 이렇게 내 가슴은 무너지고

죽도록 사랑했어 너 하나만을
다시는 볼수없단 미친생각에
눈물만 흐르네 술에 취한밤에 오늘은 잠을 이룰수없어

내가 미쳤어 정말 미쳤어
너무 미워서 떠나버렸어
너무 쉽게 끝난 사랑 다시 돌아오지 않는단걸 알면서도
미쳤어 내가 미쳤어
그땐 미쳐 널 잡지 못했어
나를 떠떠떠떠떠 떠나 버버버버버 버려
그 짧은 추억만을 남겨둔채로 날

Rap by Eric:
너 의 memories 이런 delete it 매일밤 부르는건 your name 들리니? 몹시 아팠나봐 이젠 시작이란 말조차 난겁나 open up a chapter man i’m afaid of that 전화기를들어 확인해 니 messages, 떠나줬으면 좋겠어, catch me if you can but i’m out of here

내가 미쳤어 정말 미쳤어
너무 미워서 떠나버렸어
너무 쉽게 끝난 사랑 다시 돌아오지 않는단걸 알면서도
미쳤어 내가 미쳤어
그땐 미쳐 널 잡지 못했어
나를 떠떠떠떠떠 떠나 버버버버버 버려
그 짧은 추억만을 남겨둔채로 날

Caveat: when Sejong made Hangle

Koreans often make hyperbolic statements extolling the virtues of one or another of Korea's historical accomplishments, and, like nationalist narratives anywhere, they are often rather implausible, or at the least, fudge the truth. 

But one thing that I completely agree with (and speaking as a linguist) is that their writing system, hangeul (or hangul or "Hangle" as my student spelled it in an essay the other day) is utterly remarkable – by far the most logical writing system in general use by any people on planet Earth.  Arguably, it was the first time a writing system was made "scientifically" – by a committee of scholars put together by King Sejong the Great in the 15th century, after getting fed up with the difficulty of promoting literacy in a language written using ideographs borrowed from an unrelated language (i.e. Chinese characters – which is, for example, how the Japanese still write their language, today).

Hangulimages If I were tasked with developing a writing system for some newly discovered human language from scratch, I would almost undoubtedly start with hangeul as a base, and then develop whatever new jamo were needed to cover whatever sounds that might exist in that new language but that don't exist in Korean, and build from there. 

Hangeul uniquely captures at least two aspects of human phonation that most writing systems fail at (including, most notably, the IPA – the Internation Phonetic Alphabet – which is supposed to be the be-all and end-all of writing systems):  1) it's at least partially featural (there are progressive graphic relationships between related sounds); 2) it transparently indicates syllabicity.

I particularly fantasize that this last element of hangeul could be incorporated into the English writing system.  Despite the fact that the syllable (or, alternately, the mora, depending on the language – there are some technical differences in the two concepts) is central to the way spoken languages work, no other writing system so transparently shows syllable divisions.  So while American schoolchildren struggle with the concept of syllable (and syllabification) well into high school, explaining the idea of "syllable" to a literate Korean first-grader is trivial. 

Even the supposed inconsistencies of hangeul, from a phonetic standpoint, end up reflecting morpho-phonological characteristics of the Korean language when viewed from higher up the "generative" chain, so to speak.

So, while there are many points on which I would challenge the Korea-centric narratives put forth in the media here, or in public education, I have no quibbles with the notion that "when Sejong made Hangle" was one of the greatest moments in world cultural history.

Caveat: The Force Is Crowdsourced

The best remake of Star Wars, imaginable.  It's called Star Wars, Uncut.  The conceit is that they chopped the entire movie into 15 second chunks, and then "crowdsourced" youtube-like remakes of each individual clip.  Then it's all strung together back into the movie, again.  Phenomenal:  funny, insightful, satiric, intelligent, banal.  I can't embed it, but go to the website, and check it out.  A screenshot.

Uncut_html_30c8ea46

Caveat: 81) 항상 부처님의 품 안에서 살기를 발원하며 절합니다

 

“I bow and pray to live always in the Buddha’s arms.”

This is #81 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

79. 가장 큰 재앙이 미움, 원망이라는 것을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.
“I bow with a thankful heart and become aware that the greatest misfortune is hatred [and] resentment.”

80. 가장 큰 힘이 사랑이라는 것을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.
“I bow with a thankful heart and become aware that the most powerful thing is love.”

81. 항상 부처님의 품 안에서 살기를 발원하며 절합니다.

I would read this eighty-first affirmation as: “I bow and pray to live always in the Buddha’s arms.”

The pattern changes now – the biggest shift in the main clause since the start.  Fortunately, the ending -며 [myeo] isn’t very challenging:  it just means something like “and” or “while” – hence, “I bow and pray…” or “I bow, [while] praying…”   It’s a concatenator (which abound in Korean).