Caveat: Passive-Aggression In Blog Form

I felt annoyed yesterday. My boss asked me if I was doing OK, lately. I'm sure the fact that I'm not very happy with work or with life isn't entirely hidden – I do pretty well at keeping a positive face in the classroom, but I'm not so good at staying positive in the staffroom.

I told the truth – I generally do to such direct questions. But his reaction wasn't to ask what's wrong. He said something to the effect of "well, you can't be happy unless you try to be happy." I'm paraphrasing – I can't recall his exact words. Coming from a friend, this would be OK. Especially since it's a life-philosophy that I've probably bounced out to those around me, too. Not to mention certain things I've said or observed in This Here Blog Thingy.

But coming from my boss, it was a bit annoying. Why? Because it seems like as a boss (as opposed to as a friend), he should take in interest in the possible work-related causes of my unhappiness. Which is to say, although there are other causes for my current unhappiness, work is nevertheless contributing its fair share, and I would expect my boss to wonder what those causes might be. Hmm.

This is a very passive-aggressive rant, and I'm not sure if I'll be glad if someone from work reads this, or mortified. But I'll just write it and see, I guess. Heh.

Caveat: 가지 많은 나무 바람 잘 날 없다


가지    많은                나무  바람  잘           날  없다

branch have-many-PASTPART tree wind calm-FUTPART day doesn't-exist
A tree with many branches can't have a calm day [if there is] wind.

"Too many pots on the stove," maybe. "Too many irons in the fire," is another possibility. Or there's some Chinese proverb about mothers with large broods never having a peaceful time.

Caveat: The Drama Of The White Down Feather

This is a completely true story.

Imagine there is a classroom full of eighth-graders – Korean eighth-graders, attending a typical Korean evening English class. There is a girl, who is named Shy But Intelligent Girl, giving an interminably long, well-written but painfully-delivered speech.

Meanwhile, there is boy sitting in the front row who is named Oblivious Boy. He already gave his speech, so he is relaxed: he is on the verge of dozing off, even. Oblivious Boy is pretty handsome, in a KPop sort of way, and the girls seem a little bit intimidated by him, which in 14-year-olds tends to come off more as a dismissiveness, in their mannerisms.

Unfortunately, Oblivious Boy is wearing a black sweater, and attached to the middle of his back, in the midst of the clean black sweater, is a large white down feather – the kind of white down feather that sometimes sneaks out between the seams of popular North Face brand down winter jackets. The white feather is protruding well over a centimeter from the back of his sweater, as he sits motionless in the front row, gazing up, absent-mindedly, at Shy But Intelligent Girl who is giving her interminable but well-written speech.

This white down feather is too noticeable. It's an affront to fashion. Who better to decide this than the girl seated two rows behind him? Her name is Fashionable Girl, of course. She is seated with her friend, Confident And Sociable Girl. They are giggling because of the protruding white down feather on Oblivious Boy's black-sweatered back.

Washed_white_goose_feather Greenscissors_imagesThis distraction demands a solution. Fashionable Girl quietly extracts a pair of green-handled scissors from her bag. Straining across the intervening desk, she clearly intends to remove, or decapitate, the offending white down feather. But she hasn't quite reached Oblivious Boy's black-sweatered back with her snipping scissors when her friend, Confident And Sociable Girl, realizes what Fashionable Girl intends,  and so she whispers for her to stop. Stop! She makes a mime to her friend which – as anyone fluent in Korean teenager gesture-language could recognize – means, "omigod what if he notices?"
Fashionable Girl pouts, and then she has an idea.

She tears off a square of paper from her notebook, about the same size as the offending white down feather. She whispers something in Confident And Sociable Girl's ear, and the latter turns and leans forward. Fashionable Girl the places the square of paper in the same position as the offending white down feather, and then she proceeds to use the green-handled scissors to pluck the square of paper off of her friend's back.

Confident And Sociable Girl turns around and gives a jubilant thumbs up. Their experiment was clearly a stunning success – the offending piece of paper was successfully removed with the green-handled scissors, without being detectable!

Meanwhile, Shy But Intelligent Girl's interminable speech continues apace – if, well… rather interminably.
Having conducted their successful experiment, Fashionable Girl resumes leaning across the intervening desk in her effort to assault the offending white down feather on Oblivious Boy's black-sweatered back.

Snip, snip, snip. She can't. Quite. Reach.

At this particular moment, it occurs to Confident And Sociable Girl to take a moment to look around the room. Much to her alarm, several sets of eyes have drifted away from Shy But Intelligent Girl's interminable but well-written speech, and are instead following the drama of the white down feather avidly. It's not just several students either, but The Teacher, too. He's standing at the back of the room, and he watching curiously.

Omigod!

Confident And Sociable slaps her friend's green-handled scissors-wielding hand down in panic, and immediately, both girls collapse into giggles, face down on their respective desks.

Shy But Intelligent Girl pauses in mid-delivery of her interminable but well-written speech, with a combination of annoyance and mortification on her face. "Why are these other girls interrupting my speech?" her expression demands.

Oblivious Boy, however, remains oblivious.

The Teacher returns his attention to the interminable but well-written but now-interrupted speech, and prompts Shy But Intelligent Girl to continue. The Teacher makes a "cut it out" face at the two giggling girls. Minutes later, the speech has resumed, and the green-handled scissors have reappeared, and have resumed their snipping adventures, shakily snaking across the gap between the two grinning girls and the boy at the front.

But they just can't. Quite. Reach.

Unfortunately, at this moment, Shy But Intelligent Girl's interminable speech suddenly terminates.

The Teacher says, quite unexpectedly, "Yudam. Put the scissors away, please."

"Yes." Fashionable Girl sits back and gives a look of pure innocence, and she looks around the room as if it was some other kid in trouble. Confident And Sociable Girl giggles again, and whispers to her friend.

Oblivious Boy, however, remains oblivious.

Another speech begins, and this chapter comes to a close.

Caveat: Narcissism With An Existential Crisis Right At The End

Students pass notes, as I've observed before. And then teachers – at least, curious and somewhat authoritarian teachers such as myself – confiscate notes, not to punish but more as a study in adolescent anthropology. But this student's note (I'm not sure if he wrote it, or his friend, and I'm not sure it matters who wrote it) is quite incomprehensible.

Note 002

Without stating the boy's name, I will only point out -  for those not familiar with Korean handwriting – that the boy's name is the only writing in the note. It's repeated between equals signs, except for the final not-equals sign. So you might say the content of the note, roughly, is as follows:

To Joe
Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe = Joe ≠ Joe
From Joe

As the title says, this seems like narcissism, with an existential crisis right at the end.

Caveat: Pronunciation Guy Is Very Afraid

Bbang 002This picture at left is "Pronunciation Guy." I have a few visual "mascots" that I use in teaching. The alligator is the most well-known, both in his toy version and his artistically rendered version. But "Pronunciation Guy" was created with his large mouth, seen from the side, for a specific reason. Sometimes I apply my knowledge of articulatory phonetics to try to help students sort out some of the mysteries of English pronunciation. Mostly L vs R, but also things like labiodental fricatives or schwas. I'm careful not to get too carried away, but Pronunciation Guy can be handy, because I can move his tongue and lips around in different drawings.

Work is so absorbing these days, I do very little else. A coworker asked me what I do in the mornings (since hagwon work is afternoon and evening work). I shrugged, and made something up, because lately, it seems like I just wake up and putter around and suddenly several hours have passed and I have to head off to work. I'm puzzled at my failure to use my own time effectively. More than puzzled – I'm distressed.

 

What I'm listening to right now.

The Black Keys, "Psychotic Girl."

Caveat: I am a drunk cellist

I was trying to explain the word "cherish" to a class. One student, Jinu, stood up from his seat and began a bizarre mime, swinging one arm in and out and swaying his hips strangely.

"What are you doing?" I asked, although such outbursts of randomness were common from Jinu, who is entering the 5th grade next month.

"I am a drunk cellist," he explained. I realized he'd misunderstood "cherish" as "cellist." Still, I'm not sure that explains the need to be a drunk one, though there was a running joke in the class a while back that his handwriting resembled that of a drunk octopus.

The same Jinu has some unusual talents. He writes very convincing Korean in Roman characters – he's better at ad-hoc romanization than many adult Koreans I've met. Here are two samples from a recent quiz.

The first, "mor~ra yo!" is 몰라요 [mol-la-yo = I don't know]. The second, "bbang Jum ee ye yo" is 빵점이에요 [ppang-jeom-i-e-yo = that's zero points].

Bbang 001

Needless to say, despite his romanization talents, it was, indeed, zero points.

Caveat: Baja del cielo en la severa noche


MartiMi poesía

Muy fiera y caprichosa es la Poesía.
A decírselo vengo al pueblo honrado…
La denuncio por fiera. Yo la sirvo
Con toda honestidad: no la maltrato;
No la llamo a deshonra, cuando duerme
Quieta, soñando, de mi amor cansada,
Pidiendo para mi fuerzas al cielo;
No la pinto de gualda y amaranto
Como aquesos poetas; no le estrujo
En un talle de hierro al franco seno;
Y el cabello dorado, suelto al aire,
Ni con cintas retóricas le aprieto:
No: no la pongo en lívidas vasijas
Que morirán; sino la vierto al mundo,
A que cree y fecunde; y ruede y crezca
Libre cual las semillas por el viento:
Eso sí: cuido mucho de que sea
Claro el aire en su entorno; musicales
Las ranas que la amparan en el sueño,
Y limpios y aromados sus vestidos.–
Cuando va a la ciudad, mi Poesía
Me vuelve herida toda; el ojo seco
Como de enajenado, las mejillas
Como hundidas, de asombro: los dos labios
Gruesos, blandos, manchados; una que otra
Gota de cieno en ambas manos puras
Como un cesto de ortigas encendidas:
Así de la ciudad me vuelve siempre:
Mas con el aire de los campos cura:
Baja del cielo en la severa noche
Un bálsamo que cierra las heridas.–
¡Arriba oh corazón: quién dijo muerte?

El corazón mismo dijo muerte.

La imagen de Martí, arriba, es una pintura por el matrimonio griego Gigas y Koyvari. 

Caveat: Filibusters Per Dollar

Blogger Michael J. Smith is, as usual, scathingly precise in his analysis of the alleged "filibuster reform" failure in recent US Senate activity. He writes,

It’s a question of supply and demand. If getting something through
the Senate takes sixty votes instead of fifty, the marginal vote becomes
that much more valuable.

Econ 101.

Thus none of the senators have an economic interest in surrendering the filibuster as currently practiced and configured.

Caveat: Sometimes The Subway Is Too Slow, Right?

Mvs_html_m6704c9afThere's a guy in Paris who decided to try something that everyone who rides a subway must have thought at one time or another… and he beats the train to the next station, on foot.

It's a stunt, obviously. But he captures it with some cameras (including two strapped to his head), and it's been posted on youtube.

I think this should be a new sport, as suggested by the Atlantic Cities post where I learned of this.

Caveat: Can You Run?

What I'm listening to right now.

The Steeldrivers, "Can You Run."

I think this song has a Civil War theme involving slaves running for freedom across the battle lines, which was a frequent occurance, but I find the song oddly resonant at a personal level – despite my own utterly different life – without really paying close attention to the lyrics.

It's just a well-done song, I guess: I really like the line "chase the taste of bondage from my tongue."

There's smoke down by the river
Hear the cannon and the drum
I've got one thing to ask you honey
Can you run?

You know I hate to ask so late
But the moment's finally come
And there won't be time to change your mind
Can you run?

(chorus)
Can you run, to the freedom line of the Lincoln soldiers?
Where the contraband can be a man
With a musket on his shoulder
I've got to stand up tall before I'm done
Wrap these hands of mine around a gun
And chase the taste of bondage from my tongue
Can you run?
Can you run?

I'm takin nothin with me
We've just got time to beat the sun
And the boys in gray are never far away
Can you run?

(repeat chorus)

There's smoke down by the river
Hear the cannon and the drum
And even if I die, I've got to try
Can you run?

(repeat chorus)

Can you run?
Can you run?

Article-2252946-169D4D49000005DC-291_964x621

Caveat: 꿈이 있다면 절대 포기하지마라


꿈이        있다면          절대      포기하지마라

dream-SUBJ have-TRANSF-IF absolute surrender-NEG-COMMAND
If [you] have a dream don't ever surrender.

"Don't ever give up your dreams." Grammatically, I don't really get the -다- particle in the first clause's verb 있다면. My grammar bible insinuates that there's something called a "transferative" marker, hence my labelling it as TRANSF above, but I don't see how it contributes any nuance of meaning to the proverb – I think 있으면 would mean exactly the same thing, with the IF ("conditional" marker) attached directly to the verb. Indeed, google translate offers no change of meaning in the two versions – not that that means anything at all.

Yea, well, I mentioned this proverb in my rant-of-despair the other day, so I decided to look at it properly. Context: giving up a dream.

Caveat: Since I’m Not Ever Going To Learn Korean, Why Am I Here?

I have basically given up hope of ever really learning the Korean Language. I continue to dabble, but the idea of mastering it, the way that I did Spanish, seems beyond my potential. It's too hard, I'm too old or too stupid or too lazy or too undisciplined. It's not happening. It's not going to happen.

This is tragic, in its small, private, personal way – but not just because losing hope in some big, important life goal is tragic – it's also tragic because, beyond other things, my main reason for living and working in Korea was because of wanting to learn the language. With that goal fading into ephemerality, there is nothing keeping me here, and so the pain points and annoyances of life here become more intense and noticeable. I become dissatisfied with my job, I become annoyed with the many small cultural quirks that I used to tolerate in the name of accommodating a foreign country that I loved and was deeply interested in.

I'm hating my job. This is … not sustainable. And it's not really about the job having gotten worse – yes, it's gotten harder, lately, the teaching load has increased, the students' parents have been more assholic than usual. But that's not it, is it? It's because in the past, my reason for putting up with the stuff I didn't like about my job was part-and-parcel of wanting to stay in Korea. It was part  of having a purpose, here. I feel like I'm losing that purpose, rapidly. I have 8 months on my contract. I will stick it out. But I need to figure out what's next in my life, I guess. I'm pretty unhappy – I've lost my equanimity and perspective. So I just have one bad day after the next, in neverending succession.


Tumblr_meir09jNPf1riag1xo1_500This is a scream of despair and frustration, in blog format.

My family doesn't approve of my being here, anyway – or at best, they view it with a sort of befuddled and unsympathetic neutrality. My interest in travel and exotica has waned over the years, and my Buddhist practice is utterly lapsed. So most of the secondary reasons for staying here are also falling by the wayside.

Pues… respecto la imagen a la derecha: y, ¿si acaso he perdido el sueño? Me rindo.

 

Caveat: 야채죽

I tried making my own 야채죽 [ya-chae-juk = vegetable rice porridge] today, from scratch. I've never made it before. I've never watched it being made. I was put off by the various recipes I found for it – most required lots of soaking and cooking and blendering, etc. I figured it should be simpler than that.

I chopped up some veggies: mushroom, carrot, squash, onion. I added some pine-nuts. I stir fried these in some sesame oil with some seasoned laver (김 [gim = seaweed]) which provided enough saltiness, along with a dash of soy sauce and a dash of ginseng vinegar (I don't know why I added the last – because it was there?). I took out the veggies from the fry pan, added water to the pan, making a broth, and then added some already-cooked white rice.

I stirred the rice and broth and mashed up the grains vigorously in the pan with the boiling water on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, and it got creamy, like rice porridge (juk) should. Then I added the vegetables back in, stirred, put in a bowl, topped with garnish of some additional gim, and voila. Prep time was only about 20 minutes.

Juk 005
Juk 006

 

Juk 007
Juk 008
Juk 011

I won't say it was as good at the juk you can get at the joint downstairs. But given the fact that I made it, as an experiment, with no recipe and having never done it before, it was pretty darn good. And vegan and nutritious, too.

Speaking of vegetables…

What I'm listening to right now.

시인과 촌장 [si-in-gwa chon-jang], "가시나무 [ga-si-na-mu = thorn tree]."

가사:

내 속엔 내가 너무도 많아
당신의 쉴곳 없네
내 속엔 헛된 바램들로
당신의 편할곳 없네

내 속엔 내가 어쩔수 없는 어둠
당신의 쉴 자리를 뺏고
내 속엔 내가 이길수 없는 슬픔
무성한 가시나무 숲같네

바람만 불면 그 메마른 가지
서로 부대끼며 울어대고
쉴곳을 찾아 지쳐 날아온
어린 새들도 가시에 찔려 날아가고
바람만 불면 외롭고 또 외로워
슬픈 노래를 부르던 날이 많았는데

내 속엔 내가 너무도 많아서
당신의 쉴곳 없네

바람만 불면 그 매마른 가지
서로 부대끼며 울어대고
쉴곳을 찾아 지쳐날아온
어린 새들도 가시에 찔려 날아가고

바람만 불면 외롭고
또 괴로워
슬픈 노래를 부르던
날이 많았는데

내 속엔 내가 너무도 많아서
당신의 쉴곳 없네