Caveat: speech created hatred

300px-Sumerian_26th_c_AdabIt's a little-known fact that I once took a graduate course in the Ancient Sumerian language. It was all part of my general interest in obscure and difficult languages, which continues unabated to this day.

I had to memorize archaic hieroglyphs, cuneiform logographs and vocabulary meanings, not to mention the bizarre Sumerian grammar (the agglutinative nature of which I am sometimes reminded of when I look at Korean).

I don't remember much of it – Sumerian is just not something one has much occasion to use.

Somehow I ran across a proverb that was allegedly Sumerian, the other day, and I wanted to find out if it was just an empty attribution or if it was really from Ancient Sumer. So I researched it a little bit. Apparently it's the real deal. I really wanted to find an image of the cuneiform inscription, but my googling skills have proven inadequate to that task. So here is the proverb and the transcription I found (at this website):

A heart never created hatred; speech created hatred.

Segment A: 1.105
71. šag4-ge šag4 ḫul gig nu-ub-tu-ud
72. dug4-ge šag4 ḫul gig ib2-tu-ud

Above right is an image of the archaic style (c. 3000 BC) I mostly focused on in my class but it's utterly unrelated to the quoted proverb. Below, likewise unrelated, is an image of the later, more refined style of the civilization at its height (c. 2000 BC – and note that the refined style below is just as likely to be Akkadian as Sumerian – the civilization was bilingual and used the same writing system for both languages, which were linguistically unrelated – actually, that's similar to the situation between Korean and Chinese in the pre-modern era).

Cuneiform

Caveat: the last and greatest of human dreams

It's a few days late, but I just now ran across it.

Warning: if you are unfamiliar with Burroughs, be forewarned – you might want to reconsider listening to his "prayer" (which is not a musical track, either, by the way – this is poetry being read by the author).

Burroughs was a great American writer in my humble opinion – one of the greatest – but he was undeniably deeply profane and gallingly liberal (or perhaps more correctly he was a type of libertarian – he was pro-drug but also radically pro-gun, for example, and though he despised "lawmen" he didn't seem to have much of a problem with big government in principle).

His iconoclasm comes across plenty clearly in this short bit.

William S. Burroughs, "A Thanksgiving Prayer."

Text:

For John Dillinger, in hope he is still alive.
Thanksgiving Day, November 28th, 1986.

Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts.
Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison.
Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger.
Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin leaving the carcasses to rot.
Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.
Thanks for the American dream,
To vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through.
Thanks for the KKK.
For nigger-killin' lawmen, feelin' their notches.
For decent church-goin' women, with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.

Thanks for "Kill a Queer for Christ" stickers.
Thanks for laboratory AIDS.
Thanks for Prohibition and the war against drugs.
Thanks for a country where nobody is allowed to mind his own business.
Thanks for a nation of finks.
Yes, thanks for all the memories – all right let's see your arms!
You always were a headache and you always were a bore.
Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.

Burroughs, as a writer, was perhaps one of the single most influential in my life, though you wouldn't know that by looking at my lifestyle or my other tastes and interests. I am the junkie-that-never-was.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: A tweegret so unbearable… I have become a twit

My feelings of tweegret have overcome me, despite my long, strong efforts to resist it.

So I have become a twit – which is by far the best noun coined for those who tweet, using twitter.

But rather than give in to a phenomenon that seems so banal and narcissistic as to render even facebookland a veritable utopia of social altruism, I have decided to "double down." 

Here is my twitter manifesto, #sayitin14 – dedicated to minimalizing further the already minimalist tendencies in twitter:

I will only post tweets 14 characters in length or fewer. Note that this does not include links or hashtags.

Originally, I thought to make my rule a limit of posts to one word. But I decided that to better double down on the original 140 character limit, a 14 character limit was more elegant.

I would like to observe that in a unicoded, character-per-syllable language with essentially optional spacing between words, like Korean, 14 characters is still quite sufficient to post entire sentences.

English, with its relatively low information density (on a per character basis), is more limited, and the restriction will lead to a certain absurdism. I hope.

Tweegret

My username is @waejeorae (which is based on my joke "Korean Name" 왜저래 [waejeorae = what the…? , what's up?] – because the pronunciation resembles that of my true name in Korean order: Way Jared). If you follow me, I promise to be disappointing.

As this late adoption of the now ubiquitous twitter platform shows, I am not really an "early adopter." I certainly have been an early adopter in some realms: I wrote all my papers in high school on computer (1979~1983), I programmed my first spreadsheet app in 1986, I bought my first laptop PC in 1992, I published my first website (that people – namely, my students – actually visited) in 1995 (on geocities – remember that?), and this here blog thingy was started well ahead of the technology adoption curve in 2004. But I've been quite late in other areas: I only bought my first cell phone in 2004, and only got my first smartphone last year. And here I am joining twitter only past their IPO (which is a well-established signal of outright decline in the technology world). So whether I adopt some technology or not is largely connected with my perception of its usefulness, rather than some desire or interest in adopting new technologies for the sheer sake of being at the vanguard.

Caveat: What Happens When Antibiotics Stop Working

In my opinion, an across-the-board failure of antibiotics is much scarier than global warming. I was struck by the observation that if antibiotics stop working, things like my cancer surgery become nearly impossible, too – consider that without antibiotics, my post-surgery infection would have possibly been fatal. So when we sit and worry about the future of the world, let's worry about this rather than global warming, which seems much more "survivable" to my perception.

 

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 노년의 내모습도 처음으로 궁금해졌네

My mother’s visit to me here in Korea ended about a month ago. Yesterday in one of my rare visits to facebookland, I stumbled across a post by one of my co-workers, who wrote about my mother’s visit and her having met my mother when we went to Ganghwa Island. Reading (err, trying to read) a language via a dictionary can be fraught with a sort of poesic impressionism that is probably absent in the actual language, but her facebook post seemed vaguely poetic to me.

Since many people in my life don’t use facebook (including my mother), I decided to share her post here in blogland.  She had written the post to accompany a pair of photos. I then make an effort on my part to translate. If there are errors or awkwardnesses of meaning, they are mine, not the author’s, so please forgive…

호주에서 오셨던 노부인이 보내주신 캘린더와 손글씨가 정겨웠던 카드..
짧은 만남이었지만, 오래된 사찰을 바라보시던 눈빛이 아직도 가끔 기억난다.
주름 가득했지만, 인자한 미소와 자기성찰의 시간이 가득한 평안한 눈빛에 나도 편안해지고…
노년의 내모습도 처음으로 궁금해졌네.

The old woman who came from Australia, the calendar she sent with a handwritten note..
A brief encounter, but I still sometimes recall the sparkle of her eyes gazing upon the old temples.
Full of wrinkles, but in her kind smile and relaxed eyes full of the time of self-reflection made me feel relaxed, too…
As if wondering at the form of my own old age for the first time.

Fb_html_m69d62080

Caveat: Jepi San Guivin

América

I.

Although Tía Miriam boasted she discovered
at least half-a-dozen uses for peanut butter–
topping for guava shells in syrup,
butter substitute for Cuban toast,
hair conditioner and relaxer–
Mamà never knew what to make
of the monthly five-pound jars
handed out by the immigration department
until my friend, Jeff, mentioned jelly.

II.

There was always pork though,
for every birthday and wedding,
whole ones on Christmas and New Year’s Eves,
even on Thanksgiving Day–pork,
fried, broiled or crispy skin roasted–
as well as cauldrons of black beans,
fried plantain chips and yuca con mojito.
These items required a special visit
to Antonio’s Mercado on the corner of 8th street
where men in guayaberas stood in senate
blaming Kennedy for everything–”Ese hijo de puta!”
the bile of Cuban coffee and cigar residue
filling the creases of their wrinkled lips;
clinging to one another’s lies of lost wealth,
ashamed and empty as hollow trees.

III.

By seven I had grown suspicious–we were still here.
Overheard conversations about returning
had grown wistful and less frequent.
I spoke English; my parents didn’t.
We didn’t live in a two story house
with a maid or a wood panel station wagon
nor vacation camping in Colorado.
None of the girls had hair of gold;
none of my brothers or cousins
were named Greg, Peter, or Marsha;
we were not the Brady Bunch.
None of the black and white characters
on Donna Reed or on Dick Van Dyke Show
were named Guadalupe, Lázaro, or Mercedes.
Patty Duke’s family wasn’t like us either–
they didn’t have pork on Thanksgiving,
they ate turkey with cranberry sauce;
they didn’t have yuca, they had yams
like the dittos of Pilgrims I colored in class.

IV.

A week before Thanksgiving
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain’s majesty,
“one if by land, two if by sea”
the cherry tree, the tea party,
the amber waves of grain,
the “masses yearning to be free”
liberty and justice for all, until
finally they agreed:
this Thanksgiving we would have turkey,
as well as pork.

V.

Abuelita prepared the poor fowl
as if committing an act of treason,
faking her enthusiasm for my sake.
Mamà set a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven
and prepared candied yams following instructions
I translated from the marshmallow bag.
The table was arrayed with gladiolus,
the plattered turkey loomed at the center
on plastic silver from Woolworths.
Everyone sat in green velvet chairs
we had upholstered with clear vinyl,
except Tío Carlos and Toti, seated
in the folding chairs from the Salvation Army.
I uttered a bilingual blessing
and the turkey was passed around
like a game of Russian Roulette.
“DRY”, Tío Berto complained, and proceeded
to drown the lean slices with pork fat drippings
and cranberry jelly–”esa mierda roja,” he called it.
Faces fell when Mamá presented her ochre pie–
pumpkin was a home remedy for ulcers, not a dessert.
Tía María made three rounds of Cuban coffee
then abuelo and Pepe cleared the living room furniture,
put on a Celia Cruz LP and the entire family
began to merengue over the linoleum of our apartment,
sweating rum and coffee until they remembered–
it was 1970 and 46 degrees–
in América.
After repositioning the furniture,
an appropriate darkness filled the room.
Tío Berto was the last to leave.

Richard Blanco

I like this poem much better than the blandly abominable poem Blanco wrote for Obama's second inaugural.


What I'm listening to right now.

Celia Cruz, "Oye Como Va."

Thanksgiving-turkey-cartoon

[daily log: walking 5 km]

Caveat: Education Malpractice

This article is why, although I love teaching and at this point consider it my career, I probably will never be a classroom teacher in my home country. That's not to say I don't face these kinds of issues in Korea, but being a "foreign" teacher here insulates us from some of the administrative "BS" regular teachers face, and, undeniably, it insulates us, too, from some of the (poorly targeted) responsibility that gets heaped on the typical homeroom (i.e. locally-native-speaking) teacher.

I like the term "Education Malpractice" as used in the article. I don't claim it isn't a problem, here in South Korea, as well, but here, unlike when I was teaching in the US, I get to sit in my privileged position as a foreigner and look the other way with respect to a great deal of it.

Caveat: Sunk Love

Our hagwon lost two students between Monday and today that impacted me more than most of our recent losses. They were both "high maintenance" students, but in both cases I'd had personally put such a great deal of time and energy into them. Really, a "high-maintenance" student, in this context, means a high-maintenance parent (i.e. the paying customer). Both of them had very difficult, demanding moms. 

So in a sense, in both cases, we (meaning not me but the home-teacher involved) essentially said, "ok, enough is enough," and let the students move on. At one level, this is exactly what I advocate for in my IIRTHW essays – not all customers have the same value, and sometimes it's best to decide a customer isn't worth the trouble (and thus isn't worth the expense in staff members' time and special efforts) to retain. 

So I feel slightly hypocritical to be upset now that we've bid them good riddance. Except… well, except in these cases I was the one who invested so much of that time and special effort, and I'm suffering what the business school people call the "fallacy of sunk costs" – the almost unresistable desire to throw "good money after bad," or, in this case, to throw more personalized attention and love after already invested personalized attention and love.

Even acknowledging this error in my thinking, however, I have another thing that bothers me: although I know that the moms are (and have been) terribly difficult customers, I fundementally liked the students themselves immensely. I'm going to miss them terribly. Both of them were always bright spots in the days when I had them.

Caveat: 어느 구름에서 비가 올지

This is an aphorism from my aphorism book.

어느     구름에서        비가        올지
eo·neu  gu·reum·e·seo  bi·ga      ol·ji
which   cloud-FROM     rain-SUBJ  come-FUTSPEC
[One doesn’t know] from which cloud the rain will come.

This wasn’t hard to understand, but I think there is something missing to make this an actual sentence. My grammar “bible” tells me that an ending such as “-ㄹ지” should come in a context such as “V-ㄹ지 모르다” [one doesn’t know V will happen]. I think the “doesn’t know” is missing but implied here. I didn’t know what to call the ending, so I labeled a “future speculative” – I have often struggled with what the “지” really is – it’s a kind of a “pre-negative” or subjunctive marker, in my linguistically semi-informed but Koreanically semi-ignorant view.

Caveat: Farewell Friend

My friend Peter, who was so generous to me with his time over the summer – even down to spending time with me overnight during my hospital stay in July – is down to his last 24 hours in Korea. I took the 1001 bus over to Bucheon to have an early lunch with him before he rushes off to take care of last minute things and get packed. We had some udon at a Japanese place which is one thing that goes pretty well for me, being bland and soft.

I'm on the bus back to Ilsan now and will go to work a bit early.

I wish Peter safe travels and good luck on his next endeavor, whatever it may turn out to be.

Caveat: The Watercolor Replicant

Blade Runner is a remarkable movie, and struck me as such the first time I saw it, which is was probably near when it first came out when I was still in high school.

Now, someone with far too much time on his hands has created a tribute to that movie: by painting a frame-by-frame recreation of about 30 minutes of the movie using watercolors, he's then run it together using stop-motion animation and matched it to the original soundtrack.

Although I really like this creation, and I really like Blade Runner, my question is this: why couldn't he have applied such prodigious talent to something original?

[daily log: walking, 4.5 km]

Caveat: el tema de la lluvia

Llueve
sobre la arena, sobre el techo
el tema
de la lluvia:
las largas eles de la lluvia lenta
caen sobre las páginas
de mi amor sempiterno,
la sal de cada día:
regresa lluvia a tu nido anterior,
vuelve con tus agujas al pasado:
hoy quiero el espacio blanco,
el tiempo de papel para una rama
de rosal verde y de rosas doradas:
algo de la infinita primavera
que hoy esperaba, con el cielo abierto
y el papel esperaba,
cuando volvió la lluvia
a tocar tristemente
la ventana,
luego a bailar con furia desmedida
sobre mi corazón y sobre el techo,
reclamando
su sitio,
pidiéndome una copa
para llenarla una vez más de agujas,
de tiempo transparente,
de lágrimas.
– Pablo Neruda

Caveat: Coffeewash

When I got home from work  after my Saturday morning classes, I was eating something and had made coffee to drink. I knocked over the coffee cup by accident, and poured an entire cup of coffee on my keyboard, my mouse, my cellphone, and other gadgets.

So I took it as a sign. I unplugged everything, turned everything off, cleaned everything, and decided to go low-tech for the rest of the day.

I think my keyboard is dry now.

Good night.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: this revolver’s breath

OK, I had a rather unpleasant epiphany the other day: what if I need to take my doctor's remarks of a month ago – that it may be 3 to 5 years for things to get back to normal – more seriously? What if, in fact, that's how long he meant even for me to be able to eat normally? That this frustrating, unpleasant eating experience is, in fact, a new normal? Maybe I should shop for some of those disgusting protein shakes that manic dieters consume, and be done with "eating" as a habit altogether. Or something.


What I'm listening to right now.

MC 900 Ft Jesus, "But If You Go."

Lyrics:

remember on the day we met
you asked me for a cigarette
distracted, i acted without thought
and ignored you
and then you got upset
and left me there without a word
but not alone
for now a third would rule the room that afternoon
the loudest silence ever heard
my best imaginary friend
he and i made excellent bookends
brothers, not to others tied
but each the shadow of his twin
and me, i knew myself so well
a scarecrow on a carousel
a spinning world just out of reach
a blur, i saw but couldnt tell you how i found myself alone
i crossed a bridge on my way home
and threw my soul into the depths, for you

but if you go
away from me
our house will fall
on us both you see
and then we'll share
this revolver's breath
tomorrow finds us together in death

but if you go
away from me
our house will fall
on us both you see
and then we'll share
this revolver's breath
tomorrow finds us together in death

my love for you is like a rose
that follows where the sunset goes
and finding velvet fields of stars
its petals so that it shows
my heart there for all to look
a beating page torn from a book
and cradled in its bed red bloom
offered to the one who took it from me
hope to hear you say its yours
forever and a day
or longer
love gets stronger
till it burns the space between away
this flower holds the key to me
its secrets guarded jealousy
but opens up in trusting not betrayed

but if you go
away from me
our house will fall
on us both you see
and then we'll share
this revolver's breath
tomorrow finds us together in death

Caveat: Whiteboard Drawings

With the start of November, I've been starting a new habit in some elementary classes. When I write their names on the board (which is a long-standing habit of mine, as I have found that keeping track of how students are doing "publicly" is a great motivator and encourages students to pay attention), I now accompany their names with a "character." This is mostly for entertainment value, but sometimes we have little conversations about them too. I have big plans for these characters, eventually, but for now they're just in a sort of beta. But they're cute and fun to draw, and it doesn't really take that long – I do it when the kids are doing a vocab quiz or digging out their homework at the beginning of class.

2013-11-18 19.23.14 2013-11-21 18.08.36

 

 

 

 

2013-11-22 19.20.30

2013-11-22 20.46.42[daily log: walking, 5 km]

 

Caveat: 대가리 잡다가 꽁지를 잡았다

This is an aphorism from my aphorism book.

대가리       잡다가         꽁지를          잡았다.
dae·ga·ri  jap·da·ga     kkong·ji·reul  jap·ass·da
head       seize-TRANSF  tail-OBJ       seize-PAST
Seizing for the head and instead catching the tail.

According to the book, this means something like “big ambition, small success.”

I feel like this could be a title for my autobiography.

Caveat: Time Is Powerful

The topic is hair.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I had a lot of CC classes with the elementary kids. We play pop songs and the kids try to understand the lyrics and sing along – there's software that's pretty well designed to support this. Of course, the hardware resources (laptops and projectors) at the hagwon are always half-broken and still make this kind of technology-oriented class a challenge for us. But, well… it works out.

Mostly the pop songs are pretty recent: Adele or Katy Perry or whatever. But sometimes it seems like these really old ones appear. I was confronted with trying to present the Bee Gees "How Deep Is Your Love" to a group of 4th and 5th graders.

Students screamed and wailed in horrified protest. It was qualified immediately as "Old!"

Also, "느끼!" [neukki = greasy, sleazy, cheesy].

And finally, "Teacher! Too much hair!"

Indeed.

What I'm listening to right now.

Bee Gees, "How Deep Is Your Love."

Speaking of too much hair, I got a similar comment from a middle school student who goes by Pablo last week, when I happened to show him a very, very old photo of me that my brother had sent to me in my little care package.

Here is the picture.

Scan0001 - 복사본 (2)

I'm pretty sure that is me and my brother near Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis in the early 90's – I'm almost positive that's when it was.

Pablo gazed at the picture, and said, "Is that you?" Then he said, "Wow. Teacher, you had so much hair!"

"Yes," I agreed.

And then Pablo said, reflectively, looking me up and down now, "Time is powerful."

Indeed.

[daily log: walking 5 km]