Caveat: Ouroboros

Recently there's been some media hype about Peter Jackson's upcoming first installment of his Hobbit movies, to follow up on the Lord of the Rings series. And it got me to thinking about the books. The Hobbit had a major influence on me as a preteen. I remember my dad reading it to me and and my sister, in chapters when we were only maybe 6 or 7 years old.

OuroborosI attempted to read the Lord of the Rings series in junior high and it bored me – in the field of fantasy literature, I was much more interested in Herbert's Dune, on the one hand, or LeGuin's Earthsea books, on the other. But returning to it a few years later, I genuinely appreciated Tolkien, and moved on to consume the Silmarilion voraciously and repeatedly. That's my favorite of them – I'm into mythopoeia, obviously.

But thinking about the Lord of the Rings, though, lead me to recall the work in the genre that is most impressive to me, despite it's deeply flawed mythopoesis: E.R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros. The text is available online. So I began reading it, again. There's a strange tonal and linguistic authenticity – a lack of anachronism, perhaps, vis-a-vis the fantastic, high-medieval material – though in fact, the material is almost pre-medieval, but rather classical or Homeric. Regardless, it works. But it's not an easy book – a novel written in the 1920's that is in almost flawless 17th century English.     

Caveat: Dissolving



I'm feeling pretty frustrated and even angry, the last few days. I guess hoesik (business dinner) brings it out, slightly. But it's not like you would think. What's got me frustrated and angry? My inability to understand what the heck is going on around me. That's the language issue.

It's not even a cultural problem – less and less am I of the opinion that the alleged Korean "communication taboo" that I've ranted about before is a real thing – it really boils down to certain naive conceptions of how language works, especially in communities of mixed-ability adults with multiple native languages (by this I mean e.g. there are native Korean speakers with lousy English. native Korean speakers with good English, native English speakers with lousy Korean, and native English speakers with good Korean, in an ideal mixed-ability community). In a work environment, an immense amount of communication takes place that is not explicit: people know what's going on not because they are directly told, but because they "overhear" what's going on. It enters their background consciousness. But with my limited and lousy Korean, I miss out on that channel. And then it feels like I'm being singled out for "noncommunication" because I don't know what's going on. It's an artefact of my situation.

The solution is to get better at Korean. Argh. No comment. I'm trying. Really. But obviously, not with a great deal of success. I think my coworkers are deceived that I am better than I am, because I sometimes pick up on things quite easily. But other times, I have literally zero idea. It's a limitation of adequate vocabulary, more than anything else.

So there. I get frustrated in social situations, which make them stressful for me.

I get frustrated at work, because I have no idea what's going on, and no one will tell me when I ask – they are too busy, or they don't know themselves.

I'm frustrated when I try to study, because I feel stupid and inadequate. I guess on the bright side, I have a lot of sympathy for my most boneheaded students – I'm one of them.

But I'm so depressed with this whole situation, lately, that I'm on the verge of tears.



I came home in the cold and made a big bowl of "Spanish rice" with my leftover rice. It's not really Spanish. It's just rice with a vaguely Italian-style vegetable and tomato-based sauce added to it.

What I'm listening to right now.

Massive Attack, "Dissolved Girl."