Caveat: Finished Novel

During all the talking while walking yesterday with my friend Peter, at one point the topic of my novel-writing came up. He said something like, "I thought you had finished one of your novels."

"I'm not really working much on anything right now.  More like, I gave up on it," I explained.

"That counts as finished," Peter said. It could be taken seriously or humorously. Or both.

 

Caveat: Camp Edwards and 법륜사

I went on a really long, multi-modal journey today. I walked to Daehwa station and met my friend Peter who works in Bucheon. We walked (yes, walked) together to Geumchon (about 15 km), to make a visit with the old demons at Camp Edwards – the US Army base in Paju where I was stationed in 1990-1991. Camp Edwards no longer exists, having been abandoned by the US Army in the late 1990s, I think. In the last year or so, the old, decrepit buildings have been torn down – the place is now just a vacant lot and in a few more years it will likely be a housing development.

After that, we caught a number 92 bus to a town called Jeokseong (적성면), which is near the northern tip of Paju (Paju being the northwesternmost city/county in South Korea, up against the DMZ at Panmunjeom. From Jeokseong we walked up a winding mountain highway to a monument to British soldiers fallen in the Korean war, where we had a picnic lunch, and then we walked a few kilometers more to 법륜사 (Beopryun temple), on the flank of Gamak mountain. We had been intending to hike up the mountain, but my legs were feeling sore already from the walk to Geumchon, and so I wimped out. We hung out at the temple for a while and then walked back down to the highway and caught a number 25 bus to Yangju, where we got on the number 1 subway line.

We went south into Seoul and in the Russian neighborhood near Dongdaemun we went to a Russian restaurant for dinner – I had borsht (which was good) and a chicken thing called “a la Moscow” that was not-so-good. But it was interesting, anyway. Then parted ways with my friend Peter, and I took the subway home. I was tired.

Here are some pictures.

Peter saw a cloud, near the Unjeong Sindosi (New City), on the way to Geumchon. He said, uncharacteristically, “That looks like an American cloud.” I laughed, as I wasn’t sure what a specifically American cloud might look like.

Chuseokday 002

A few kilometers farther on, beyond the Sindosi, we found a very run-down, rural looking area, and this very un-Korean-looking truck on a junky-looking farm. It had a rather Appalachian feel.

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A mere hundred yards from the Camp Edwards front gate, I saw this contrast of an old-style Korean house with a modern school building behind it.

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At the front gate for Camp Edwards (now unlabeled and unguarded – the military-related nature of the location has been erased by history, which keeps on happening), I mimed standing at the non-existent guard shack showing my ID to exit the base. I lived here for a year in 1991, and I have many vivid memories. But the barracks buildings and shops are torn down now.

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At the north end of Camp Edwards, I took this picture of the pastoral scene.

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After a 45 minute bus ride, this is the quaint town of Jeokseong.

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And the town has one of those unfulfilling Korean rivers in it.

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A few kilometers south of town, there is the “Gloster [Gloucester] Valley Battle Monument.” The battle was in 1951, during the Korean war. Many British soldiers died against the Chinese. There were many Koreans here having a Chuseok Sunday picnic. I don’t know why – it was a pretty good location for a picnic, I guess.

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After our own picnic lunch, we continued walking down the highway (well, up the highway, climbing higher into the mountains but southward. We saw chicken and some geese at a vacant lot. I don’t know what they were doing there – no one was around, there was no house or farm. Peter commented that it was the world’s worst petting zoo.

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We finally arrived at the temple, after a hard slog up a very steep road.

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One of my favorite aspects of the typical Korean temple is the panel paintings on the outside walls of the buildings. I took some pictures of these.

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I looked in the temple door. No one was there. The place was mostly deserted, except for a few hikers passing through. The monks had better things to be off doing on a Chuseok Sunday – Chuseok is not, per se, a Buddhist-related holiday – it’s connected, rather, with Confucian ancestor-rites and what you might call Korean native religion. I suspect Chuseok weekend is a slow one for the monks, and many of them go visit relatives or suchlike.

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The view down the valley from the temple was pretty spectacular.

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We walked down to the main road, partly along a little stream.

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After the bus ride to Yangju, the train ride into Seoul at sunset induced me to take a few blurry pictures from the train.

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Borsht!

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Caveat: A Day for a Wandering Foreigner

Today is Chuseok, the Korean harvestmoon "Thanksgiving." It's one of the biggest holidays of the year, here, and, just as in the US, there's a feeling that you're being "cheated" out of a holiday having a major holiday like this fall on a Sunday.

Most Koreans travel to their ancestral home-town (고향) for Chuseok. It's the kind of day when there are a lot of foreigners wandering around the country, with nothing to do. I'm going to go be a wandering foreigner.

Caveat: Not really an octopus, a Wax Tailor Octopus

Quad_html_m27d9ebbb

It only has four legs. It's a quadropus. Maybe. It's kind of cute, though. Cool video.

What I'm listening to right now.

Wax Tailor (aka Jean-Christophe Le Saoût), "Time to Go (feat. Aloe Blacc)."

Also, by the same artist, this amazing track:

Wax Tailor, "We Be (feat. Ursula Rucker)."

Lyrics:

Watts Prophets :
I look at the moon so full and so bright
And then at the fireplace with it flickering light
And realised why this world would never be right
Then I through another lump on the fire

Ursula Rucker :
We be, uh huh
We be, hmm hmm

We be
Travelling down the highway of the enemy
We be
Joining the endless convoy of cultural hegemony
We be
Missing the forest for the trees 'cause
We can't see the evils that men do on TV
In the movies, overseas and right here on our streets
We be
Opting for vain glory over humility
We need, we need to break the convoy line
Get the hell off the highway
Take the road less travelled
'Cause that moral fiber you thought was so tightly woven
It's unravelling, it's unravelled
I hate to tell y'all, it's unravelled

Watts Prophets :
Why do you insist on keeping us caged
You know all that does intensified rage
The world know this is the time
And all power to the people
Power to the people

Ursula Rucker :
We be
Say, I'm standing on my soapbox again
Say, I'm one of those conscious artist
Talking that "change the world" shit again
Say, I might be just a bit too dramatic
Slash overzealous about what I see
As the human spirit's dive into uncertainty
Say what you like, say what you like
'Cause I'll be all those things you say
All night and all day
Before I allow myself and soul
To wither away into, indistinctness
Live a half-life of blissfull ignorance
Never take another chance, another chance
Do the latest dance with the devil
And lose my dreams for all we could be
Lose my dreams for all we could be
We be

Watts Prophets :
Why do you insist on keeping us caged
You know all that does intensified rage
The world know this is the time
And all power to the people
Power to the people

Ursula Rucker :
We be
Many, so many
Many, like the number of death threats
That now come used to get

We be
Many, oh so many
Many, like the multitude of souls lost in the wars of men
Over gold, over power, over die and hate

We be
Many, so so many
Many, like the lies of pell the truth
The coward lies of profits and power bungers
Told to a cryer faith
To steal land to oppressed people
We be, the oppressed peoples

We be
We be
Why can't we be
More peaceful
Why can't we be
Nicer to one another
Why can't we be
We be
What we were meant to be
Love

Watts Prophets :
Why do you insist on keeping us caged
You know all that does intensified rage
The world know this is the time
And all power to the people
Power to the people

Ursula Rucker :
We be
We be, uh huh, hmm, hmm

Caveat: karma ledger Dream

It's the beginning of Chuseok [Korean Thanksgiving] weekend. I received the following text message from my boss last night on my phone.

넉넉하고 풍요로운 마음으로 카르마 가족 모두에게 감사의 인사를 드립니다. 짧은 연휴지만 소중하고 사랑스런 가족 친지들과 즐겁고 행복함만 가득한 한가위 되시기를 진심으로 기원합니다  카르마원장 드림

I more or less understood it, but this morning I sat down to decipher it in detail. I plugged it into googletranslate and got this:

Karma family to say a special thank you to all generous and prosperous mind. A short holiday, but a dear and loving family and friends filled with happy and joyful Chuseok become is my sincere hope that karma ledger Dream

Which is somewhat approximate, but the conclusion, "Karma ledger dream," is a bit of a howler.

Here is my own effort at a slightly more systematic translation. First, a word-for-word breakdown.


넉넉하고       풍요로운           마음으로          카르마  가족

generous-AND abundant-be-PART heart-THROUGH Karma Family
모두에게      감사의     인사를          드립니다.
everyone-TO thank-GEN salutation-OBJ give-FORMAL
짧은        연휴지만
brief-PART holiday-BUT
소중하고        사랑스런       가족    친지들과

important-AND beloved-PART family acquaintance-PLURAL-WITH
즐겁고      행복함만         가득한     한가위

joyful-AND happiness-ONLY full-PART harvestmoon
되시기를                        진심으로            기원합니다

become-DEFERENTIAL-GERUND-OBJ sincerity-THROUGH wish-FORMAL
카르마원장       드림
Karma-director give-SUBST

ImagesAnd finally, a roughly idiomatic translation, with an effort to reflect the idiosyncratic phone-text-based lack-of-punctuation of the original.

We give a salutation of thanks to everyone in the Karma family with a generous and abundant heart. Though it is but a brief holiday, we sincerely wish you a harvestmoon [Chuseok] filled with only joyful and happy beloved family and friends from Karma's Director

Caveat: Rain from the West

Rain in Korea almost always seems to from the South. It comes as part of tropical storm systems rising up the east coast of Asia, similar to the way the Eastern US gets hurricanes and hurricane-related lesser weather systems in the summer. Today, though, the rain came as a kind of blurry, non-cyclonic blob from the northwest. This is interesting – it's rain on a cold front instead of on a warm front, for one thing – so the weather actually cooled as the rain arrived, whereas normally here the weather gets warmer when the rain arrives. This cool, northwestern-origin rain felt like midwestern or Pacific northwest rain in the US. Refreshing.

Caveat: The library is answer key

Sally's essay.

Essay 002

Hansaem's paean to the book is pretty typical of the students in Korea that I've interacted with. It's clearly part of the Korean cultural value system, and it's one of the reasons I feel deeply optimistic about Korean culture and society, despite its dysfunctions.

Lucy's essay.

Essay 004

I was deeply touched by her message at the bottom – that's the main reason I'm putting it here. Is it conceited of me to post it? Keep in mind that this blog has ended up functioning as a kind of "scrapbook" for my own memories over the years of teaching, too, in an unexpected way.

Caveat: Голубая тетрадь

Голубая тетрадь

Жил один рыжий человек,
у которого не было глаз и ушей. У него
не было и волос, так что рыжим его называли
условно.
Говорить он не мог, так как у
него не было рта. Носа тоже у него не
было.
У него не было даже рук и ног. И
живота у него не было, и спины у него не
было, и хребта у него не было, и никаких
внутренностей у него не было. Ничего не
было! Так что непонятно, о ком идет
речь.
Уж лучше мы о нем не будем больше
говорить.

Даниил Иванович Хармс
(1937)


Blue
Notebook

Once there lived a red-haired man who lacked eyes and
ears.
Ha was also lacking all hair, so he was called red-haired
only with a large degree of
generalization.
He couldn't speak,
as he was lacking a mouth. The same with his nose.
Even arms and
legs, he just didn't have any. Nor stomach, nor backside, nor
spine.
And no intestine. He didn't have anything! Therefore it is
totally
unclear who is being discussed.
In fact, let's not talk
about him anymore. 

– Daniil Khams (translation
unattributed but link provided)

My Russian is so rusty that I really can't read it. But it's entertaining to try.

What I'm listening to right now.

Trentemøller, "Miss You."

Caveat: My dog house has a TV room

Two boys, Hongseop and Jeongyeol in my G2 cohort, wrote about their "dream houses" and drew illustrations.

 

House 001
This is my dream house my dream house has living room, golf room, bathroom, dining room, gun room, smoke room, pc room, my award room, bedroom, dog house, money room. And living room has a TV, couch, rollercoaster. And pc room hac a computer. And bank room has a money. And gun room has a gun. And poolr room has a water. Thank you.

 

 

House 002
This is my dream house has a big dining room next to a bathroom. And it has twenty bedrooms one bee house. And it has pc room and academy game room and cellphone museum and aquarium. My dream yard has rollercoaster and biking and dog house. My dog house has bathroom and TV room and bedroom. I hope my dream house.

 

Caveat: when Icarus fell it was spring

Landscape With The Fall of Icarus

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling
near

the edge of the sea
concerned
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax

unsignificantly
off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

 - William Carlos Williams

Caveat: People Skills

Work has been kind of unpleasant lately. It's not because of the kids – mostly, I enjoy my time in the classroom, as always. But the staff room has been awkward and tense ever since the merger – the disparate "company cultures" of Karma and Woongjin trying to come together. But my boss's shocking lack of "people skills" (an admittedly Western concept that may or may not even be relevant in Korean culture) seems to create more tension than is strictly called for. The native Korean staff just buckle down and deal with it (which is why I say it may not be relevant in Korea), but for me, and perhaps even more so for the various gyopo (Korean returnees – ethnic Koreans born and raised in other countries, including Canada and Australia in the case of the current staff at Karma)… well, it's hard to have to listen to the boss's various rants and complaints and carrying-ons.

Yesterday was really bad. I don't like going in the staff room.

Caveat: Cluck and Drug

I thought it would be a short-lived joke, when I landed on the recent xkcd cartoon and it said, in the pop-up text, "click and drag."

I cluck and drug. And cluck and drug. And 30 minutes later I was still clicking and dragging. Very entertaining. Follow the link – it doesn't embed very well.

My favorite gem: after scrolling down and down and down and down there were these people trapped in a hole. They were hoping someone would friend them on facebook or twitter.

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Caveat: Image going down, down, down

Tiktok image21Tiktok is the clockwork man of Oz. I read all the Oz stories when I was younger – actually mostly as an adolescent rather than as a child – and they influenced me profoundly.

Recently, having finished Wind in the Willows in my story-reading section too quickly (relative to the assigned syllabus), I was forced to find some short text to function as filler for the class. I settled on something from Oz. Most of the Oz books are available online, even with original illustrations: there's a collection of shorter Oz stories at the Project Gutenberg website.

So we're reading "Tiktok and the Nome King," a story of about 10 pages when you print out the HTML. The language in these original, un-bowdlerized versions is pretty challenging for a group of 5th and 6th grade Korean ESL kids, but they seem to find the story compelling enough, especially given the pictures, to plow through it. Tiktok was always one of my favorite Oz characters, and there's something especially fascinating by this thoroughly futuristic clockwork man having been conceptualized 100 years ago (I believe this particular story is exactly 100 years old this year).

I have been trying to teach the kids how to write a coherent summary. Sort of approaching it as a paraphrasing exercise with subsequent condensing and shrinking. I think that paraphrasing is, in some ways, the single most important writing skill a teacher can impart, and goes to the core of what competency in a foreign language represents, too. Well, actually, not just in a foreign language – in fact, I've reached the conclusion that it's actually easier to teach paraphrasing in ESL than in native-language language-arts classes – because the students have the ability to sort of do a "round trip translation" in their heads – they can translate from English to their native language and back again, retaining the sense or meaning of it. This is a mental processing tool not available to monolinguals. I'll have more to say about this, later, sometime. It's been on my mind a lot, lately.

What I'm listening to right now.

[Update 2017-06-02: Link rot repaired.]

America, "Tin Man." It matches the above theme, and also fits in with the nostalgia kick that this weekend has been – old music and reading history books all weekend, as I battle this really annoying flu-like-thing that attacked me last week.

Lyrics:

Sometimes late when things are real and people share the gift of gab between themselves
Some are quick to take the bait and catch the perfect prize that waits among the shelves

But Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man
That he didn't, didn't already have
And Cause never was the reason for the evening
Or the tropic of Sir Galahad
So please believe in me

When I say I'm spinning round, round, round, round
Smoke glass stain bright color
Image going down, down, down, down
Soapsuds green like bubbles

Oh, Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man
That he didn't, didn't already have
And Cause never was the reason for the evening
Or the tropic of Sir Galahad

So please believe in me
When I say I'm spinning round, round, round, round
Smoke glass stain bright color
Image going down, down, down, down
Soapsuds green like bubbles

No, Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man
That he didn't, didn't already have
And Cause never was the reason for the evening
Or the tropic of Sir Galahad

So please believe in me

Caveat: “Hard To Say I’m Sorry”

Lately I've been feeling my age. This is especially hard when I spent most of my days in the company of junior high and elementary students. Nothing hammers home to me how long I've been around as hearing some kind of retrospective on the radio and realizing that a song that was number one on the billboard charts 30 years ago is part of my mental soundtrack – yes, I listened to a lot of pop radio in high school. And I had bought this album – it was part of my record collection that I later abandoned in my apartment in… Chicago – when I moved to Mexico City in 1986.

What I'm listening to right now.

Chicago, "Hard To Say I'm Sorry."

Lyrics:

Everybody needs a little time away
I heard her say, from each other
Even lovers need a holiday
Far away from each other

Hold me now
It's hard for me
To say I'm sorry
I just want you to stay

After all that
We've been through
I will make it up to you
I promise to

And after all that's
Been said and done
You're just the part of me
I can't let go

Couldn't stand to be kept away
Just for the day, from your body
Wouldn't wanna be swept away
Far away from the one that I love

Hold me now
It's hard for me
To say I'm sorry
I just want you to know

Hold me now
I really want to
Tell you I'm sorry
I could never let you go

After all that
We've been through
I will make it up to you
I promise to

And after all that's
Been said and done
You're just the part of me
I can't let go

After all that
We've been through
I will make it up to you
I promise to

You're gonna be the lucky one

[This below is the part that was always cut off on the radio-play – a bit dissonant with the rest]

When we get there
Gonna jump in the air
No one'll see us
Cause there's nobody there

After all, you know
We really don't care
Hold on, I'm gonna take you there

 

Caveat: 전설의 고향

I’ve been in a strange mental place, lately. A little bit aimless, for one thing. And I think I’ve got some kind of fall flu, or maybe it’s an allergy of some kind.

I spent a lot of time today doing something I almost never do. I was watching TV. I have the ability to watch a slightly fuzzy version of Korean basic cable – I have a cable plugged into my computer from the wall. I don’t pay for cable, but for whatever reason, I can get low-resolution basic cable from my wall socket in my building. This has been true in every building I’ve lived in (except in Hongnong). But mostly, in recent years, I never watch TV.

But today I did.

I watched low-quality stuff, too: re-runs of iCarly, Lego cartoons, Korean historical dramas that I don’t even know the name of – some guy with an evil laugh and a funny hat. And then I watched several episodes of something called 전설의 고향 (literally ‘home of legends,’ but translated as “Korean Ghost Stories), which appears to be a cross between a Korean historical drama and the Twilight Zone, but with cheesier production quality. I love the sound effects, especially. Here’s a trailer for one of the seasons that I found on youtube.

Caveat: History Before Dawn

I woke up at 4 am and couldn't get back to sleep.

2_copyI read about 100 pages of the 2nd volume of my Korean History survey (I mentioned the first volume here), which I recently acquired.

I was struck by how technocratic the Joseon state seems, as described. I suspect that is as much an ideological phantom of the present era from which the author is looking back on it, as it is a genuine characteristic of the medieval Korean state. But nevertheless, it's interesting.