Caveat: nuestros verdaderos conciudadanos

Hay sólo dos países: el de los sanos y el de los enfermos…

Hay sólo dos países: el de los sanos y el de los enfermos
por un tiempo se puede gozar de doble nacionalidad
pero, a la larga, eso no tiene sentido
Duele separarse, poco a poco, de los sanos a quienes
seguiremos unidos, hasta la muerte
separadamente unidos
Con los enfermos cabe una creciente complicidad
que en nada se parece a la amistad o el amor
(esas mitologías que dan sus últimos frutos a unos pasos del hacha)
Empezamos a enviar y recibir mensajes de nuestros verdaderos conciudadanos
una palabra de aliento
un folleto sobre el cáncer

– Enrique Lihn (poeta chileno, 1929-1988)

Noticias_201244_18326Me imagino que el aspecto que me atrajo a esta poema (o sea, el final) resulta obvio, dado mi propia experiencia reciente.

Feliz nuevo año. Trabajé hasta las 11 anoche, así que no tenía ni ganas ni interés en celebrar la noche. Hoy voy a hacer alguna excursión en Séul con mi amiga Mary que está visitando desde Daegu por el feriado.

Caveat: Aliens vs Monsters

In a final end-of-year debate experiment, before the cohort is split up and new classes start on the 2nd of January, I gave los crazy boys a final propositon to debate: "Aliens are better than monsters." We drew some aliens and monsters first, to be clear of the difference.

This class has a lot of the things going on in it that I consider most crucial to successful elementary-age-level foreign-language learning: engaged imaginations, peer-teaching (note that James and Mario are helping their less proficient teammates extensively), task negotiation (the students and I had an extensive, 10-minute conversation about what, exactly our topic would be).

[daily log (11 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 2013

It turned out that I had been feeling unhealthy for a reason. I was diagnosed with tongue cancer. I underwent major surgery at Korea's National Cancer Center (국립암센터), having a golf-ball-sized tumor removed. I spent 3 weeks in the hospital, missed 3 months of work, underwent a tomographic radiation treatment, and spent a major portion of my life savings. By the end of the year, the cancer was apparent beaten but I had long term impacts on quality-of-life that left me wondering why I was bothering. Nevertheless, I continued teaching in Ilsan. That was near-death experience number three.

[This entry is part of a timeline I am making using this blog. I am writing a single entry for each year of my life, which when viewed together in order will provide a sort of timeline. This entry wasn't written in 2013 – it was written in the future.]

Caveat: sometimes a mud puddle needs an extra trip

Sometimes you need to take a break tumblr_mlimzy7xa11soxvw2o1_250Normally I've been unimpressed with the proliferation of gifs – those little mini-animations – on websites, but I'll make an exception to this one, where the gif strikes me as a perfect medium for what is a very simple story: sometimes a mud puddle needs an extra trip. And the dog is very patient.


A religious belief… is not a statement about Reality, but a hint, a clue about something that is a mystery, beyond the grasp of human thought. In short, a religious belief is only a finger pointing to the moon. Some religious people never get beyond the study of the finger. Others are engaged in sucking it. Others yet use the finger to gouge their eyes out. These are the bigots whom religion has made blind. Rare indeed is the religionist who is sufficiently detached from the finger to see what it is indicating — these are those who, having gone beyond belief, are taken for blasphemers.
– Anthony de Mello

[daily log (10 pm): walking, 1 km]

Caveat: The World That I Dream Of

Below is a video of me reading a speech written by my student, Andrea.

The title for the speech is "The World That I Dream Of." She wrote the speech entirely. I made some substantial corrections to grammar and a few tweaks to vocabulary choices, but I added not a single sentence or idea, nor were her her original grammar or word choices anywhere so poor that I was unable to grasp her intended meaning (conceding that I have many years of familiarity with what you might call Korean rhetorical norms being awkwardly translated into English via a cellphone dictionary, where every sentence starts with "Then," "So," or "And").

I handed her my camera and I am reading her speech for her because she is going to be entering a speaking contest, and she struggles some with English intonation. I thought that by giving her an example of a native speaker's intonation on her words, she could practice and improve her own.

As I read the speech, I became aware that it's really a pretty remarkable bit of rhetoric, for a 6th grader. I wasn't close to producing this level of social thought at that age, much less in a foreign language. I think Andrea has a future as some kind of preacher or inspirational speaker (e.g. a TED-talker).

[daily log (11 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: A Dream of Cuil 5 At Least

I dreamed I was sitting in the dim living room of the "San Marino House." That's the in-family name for the house my great-grandparents, John and Isabel Way, and later grandparents, John and Alice Way, lived in in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles. The house was in the family from the 1910's until its demise in the 1990's. I had the opportunity to live in the house for about half a year in 1992.

With me in the crowded living room were some coworkers from Karma, and some other people that were allegedly in my family but that I didn't recognize. My emotional state, in the dream, was strong: I was seething with anger and frustration, but it wasn't clear what had brought this about.

The people around me were chatting about the built-in bookshelves in a kind of deprecatory way, and I finally went outside, only to find there was a giant canyon yawning where the back yard and 1920's-era swimming pool used to be. There were tour buses parked and people milling about. I was feeling claustrophobic but found I couldn't escape the crowds.

I went back inside. The dim room and the complaining people depressed me as I lay on the floor. Seeking some kind of distraction, I found a trail of ants leading into the kitchen, and followed it. My grandmother was in there, boiling silverware (she was a bit of a germophobe and always boiled her silverware). She had a collection of guns on the kitchen table (this was especially strange given she was a devout Quaker and pacifist in real life).

My grandmother spoke to me in Korean, and I stared at her, uncomprehending. Finally, I left, going out into the driveway area, where I found a handsome black horse. The horse was spooked but tethered and unable to move much. It rolled its eyes and snorted at me. I untied it and watched it run away down California Blvd toward Cal Tech.

I woke up puzzled by this dream. I don't know what it means. I would give it a cuil number of 5 or so.

The San Marino House no longer exists. Here is a scan of an ink portrait I drew of the house in 1992, from the southwest corner of the lot looking toward the front porch, with all its encompassing greenery.

Way_house_by_jaredway-d3j4d64

[daily log (11 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 판돈 일곱닢에 노름꾼은 아홉

This is one of the aphorisms from my aphorism book.

판돈      일곱닢에          노름꾼은             아홉
pan·don  il·gop·nip·e     no·reum·kkun·eun    a·hop
bet      seven-penny-ABL  gambling-man-TOPIC  nine

Nine players betting on seven pennies.

It means too many people fighting over too small a small prize.

This seems like a good summary of the current hagwon market in South Korea. I think if I were to publish a book about the hagwon business, I would make this the title.

[daily log (11 pm): walking, 6 km]

Caveat: On the subject of grace

(Poem #17 on new numbering scheme)

A Soteriology
On the subject of grace

Forty-eight years passed.
Each had a Christmas.
But they fell away.
They left a raw taste.

An empty cup waited.
There was no coffee.
Just the cream stain showed.
It made brown circles.

The dawn was coming.
So I stepped outside.
Rhythms painted my feet.
The cold earth took them.

Now, small windows burn.
The same sun returns.
Old snow reflects fire.
Later, night awaits.

Trees were desolate.
Dark gray branches forked.
Lavender clouds flew.
Magpies scolded me.

Breath took the gold sky.
The winter air curled.
The ground was frozen.
I found a brown leaf.

Someone picked it up.
We all want answers.
Nobody will say.
So give your own voice.

It's metaphysics.
Behold the universe.
Embed the subject.
The self makes the real.

Grace is an ether.
Grace is ungiven.
There is no giver.
It is yours. Take it.

- (2013-12-25).

picture

Caveat: A Merry Food Rant

Today is the six month anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. It happens to be Christmas day, too.

That makes it a good day for a rant about food.

Food is a part of the Christmas theme. My relatives ask me about how it's going with my eating. My coworkers cannot stop offering it to me. My friends invite me out to eat.

Every day, I eat three meals, and each one is a kind of torture.

On good days, I just say, well, forget food! – it's a luxuriant distraction anyhow; I can find satisfaction in other things. "Gluttony is a sin," and all that.

But… food is so core to everyone's social world. It's what friends do together – they go out to eat. It's how relatives show love or concern. It's what coworkers do together. It's how the boss rewards us. It's how the parents of my students show gratitude. It's what strangers first offer….

So by having these "food issues" that I am having, I end up having social issues, too. As an introvert and someone with social issues already, it's the last thing I need or want. But I'm stuck with it.

In fact, sometimes I speculate that there is perhaps an aspect of karmic payback to this whole "food issue" that I'm suffering. To have this kind of problem, centered around food, is probably "just desserts" (haha get it?) for a man who has struggled with both anorexia and obesity in his life, at different times.

On bad days, I feel like my "deal with the devil" to stay alive and survive this cancer wasn't even worth it. Will people just leave me alone about food? Please? I'm sick of it. Sick to death of it.

Christmas-Feast-Wallpapers-1I can't eat comfortably, but I can eat to stay alive. I prefer to eat alone, because the joy I take from eating, these days, is similar on the pleasure scale to the joy I take from vomiting – as such, it's not something I want people to watch me experiencing.

I'm tired of being invited and pitied and queried and being-concerned-about. Food sucks. It may never be a fun thing for me, again. So that's life. But frankly, I'm going to go live on a mountaintop alone, and eat my soft noodles in quiet-suffering-solitude, if all you people don't stop bothering me about food.

No, I don't want to go out to eat with you. No, it is not fun for me to sit and watch you enjoy your food. No, not just a bite of that cookie or cake because surely it's not so bad as I say, thank you. No, I don't know when it will get better. No, I don't want your advice anymore about how to make things more palatable.

OK. That's the last I'm going to post anything negative about food. When people ask me about it, I'll point them to this post. If I have good news, I'll share it.

Enjoy your Christmas. Be thankful for small things, like good friends and good food and… ah. Whatever.

What I'm listening to right now.

Santa Hates You, "Raise the Devil." This is not an anti-Christmas joke. Santa Hates You is one of those German gothic-industrial groups I sometimes listen to, in my darker moods. They have a somewhat intellectual posture, within the genre.

Caveat: Also… Shit

My student Collin often gets on my nerves. He doesn't like to be prepared for class, and he manages to have a foul mouth in two languages. I realize that posting this is kind of contrary to my normal approach to simply ignore such behavior, but I just laughed so hard at this.

Normally I don't put up videos of individual students doing one of the simple 45 or 60 second unplanned practice speeches for the iBT (internet-based TOEFL), but Collin's conclusion was humorous. They're supposed to "talk to the clock" because the speech has a fixed time limit, but clearly he lost track of the time.

[daily log (11 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 간장공장 공장장은 강공장장이고…

Right before my hospitalization, I had decided to do a series of Korean tongue-twisters, in the same way I have been doing aphorisms and proverbs. I had this little cache of them, half-completed, in my blog queue, which I’m now finally getting around to working through.

간장공장 공장장은 강공장장이고 된장공장 공장장은 장공장장이다.

간장공장             공장장은             강공장장이고
gan·jang·gong·jang  gong·jang·jang·eun  gang·gong·jang·jang·i·go
soy-sauce-factory   plant-manager-SUBJ  Mr-Gang-plant-manager-is-CONJ
된장공장                공장장은             장공장장이다
doen·jang·gong·jang    gong·jang·jang·eun  jang·gong·jang·jang·i·da
soybean-paste-factory  plant-manager-SUBJ  Mr-Jang-plant-manager-IS

Mr Gang is the soy sauce factory plant manager and Mr Jang is the soybean paste factory plant manager.

간장_d0021441_4a752553cd454 된장_18This is a wonderful tongue twister.

Caveat: Psycho

Psycho.


What I'm listening to right now.

MC 900ft Jesus, "The City Sleeps." This is basically a song from the point of view of a psychopathic arsonist. I'm not endorsing that, but it's an interesting piece, from early 90's.

Lyrics

Stealing down an alley on a cold dark night
I see a halo in the rain 'round the street light
I stop and look, and listen to the sound
As the raindrops penetrate the silence all around

Alone, I gaze into the glistening street
The distant thunder echoing my heartbeat
Urging me on to a secret goal
Away from the light from this lamp on a pole

So I turn, slip away into the rain
Drifting like a spirit through the shadows in the lane
Clutching the tools of my trade in my hand
An old box of matches and a gasoline can

Darkness envelops the scene like a shroud
A veil of emptiness hangs from the clouds
Filling up the cracks in this desolate place
Cradled by the night in an icy embrace

Moving to the town like a ghost in the rain
A dim reflection in a dark window pane
Blackness beckons from every side
Creeping all around like an incoming tide

A broken window in an empty house
I slip inside and begin to douse
The whole place with the fuel that will feed the fire
And push back the night, taking me higher

On out of the darkness in a defeaning roar
The match in my hand is the key to the door
A simple turn of the wrist will suffice
To open a passage to paradise

I pause, I think about the past and the gloom
The smell of gasoline permeates the room
Everyone has a little secret he keeps
I light the fires while the city sleeps

(Like the 4th of July)

The match makes a graceful ark to the floor
And time stands still as I turn for the door
Which expoldes in a fireball and throws me to the street
I hit the ground running with the flames at my feet

Reaching for the night which recoils from the fire
The raindrops hiss like a devilish choir
Dying in the flames with a terrible sound
Calling all the names of the sleepers all around

But then in the arms of the night, they lay
Their dreams sprout wings and fly away
Out of the houses in a gathering flock
Swarming overhead as I hurry down the block

I make my escape with the greatest of ease
And safe in the darkness, drop to my knees
And the lightless window, my hand on the latch
I reach in my pocket, and pull out a match

(Like the 4th of July)

[daily log (11 pm): walking, 5 km]]

Caveat: Cuil

Someone tried to develop a (pseudo-)scientific unit for the measurement of absurdity, or the degree of surrealism in a given situation.

In and of itself, it has a certain absurdity to it. It began, apparently, on reddit (a website dedicated to absurdity, under some analyses), but now a separate "wiki" is being built to expound the notion: cuil theory.

Moving forward, let's assume you have read some of the materials on that linked website. Then consider that the idea of cuil theory, in itself, has a cuil value greater than one.

I think cuil would be useful for classifying the content of dreams, not to meantion academic work in comparative literature, or philosophy? How about Žižek? I had intended to write more about this, but what I wrote before seemed absurd (go figure) so I deleted it, and now I'm not doing well at recapturing the tone of my original conception.

The one observation that struck me when I first ran across it: the reason why Cervantes' last work, Persiles, stands at least equal to – if not superior to – the Quijote novels, is because the Persiles has a higher cuil number. Elaborate….

[daily log: walking, 1 km]

Caveat: Dreaming Harold

As is typical these days, I ended up falling asleep into a weird, deep-sleeping nap not long after getting home from my Saturday classes, always getting discombobulated by the shift to the morning schedule on the weekend.

As is increasingly common, these days, too, I dreamed of food. My waking life's efforts at eating are still uncomfortable and unfulfilling, so my traditional love of food finds its outlet in my dreams.

Harold-and-the-purple-crayon-harold-and-the-purple-crayon-2Specifically, this evening, I dreamed of eating Harold Fried Chicken (which is advertized with an apostrophe, but I never heard it referenced in speaking except as Harold). Harold is a Chicago fast-food chain that became near and dear to my heart when I lived in Chicago in 1985. I blogged about craving Harold while doing a Buddhist meditation retreat and then getting it after it ended, here.

The name Harold always makes me think of Harold's Purple Crayon, too. That was true even in the dream, where I seemed to meet Harold of the Crayon while eating Harold Chicken.

That is a great series of books – not to mention that Harold is the emperor of epistemology for the preschool set.


What I'm listening to right now.

Niki & The Dove, "Mother's Protect (Goldroom Remix)."

[daily log (1100 pm): walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: Santa is a criminal

Los crazy boys had a debate on whether Santa is a criminal, yesterday. They were being quite rambunctious – this video represents the trail end of a rather stern effort on my part to get them to not dance on the desks when not expounding their positions for the debate, so they are feeling a bit resentful. They still do passably well on each side of the propostion, if somewhat hard to understand at moments.

It was fun. Here's a group of aliens I drew on a whiteboard, climbing a holly tree (is there such a thing?) and contemplating a Christmas present.

2013-12-19 18.06.30

Anyway, happy Solstice.

Caveat: The Culture

The blogger formerly known as IOZ, who has resurrected himself at some point in the last year as Blogarach, is one of my favorite bloggers – not just because I am sympathetic to his unapologetic marxism (if I can't always agree), but because he is a brilliant stylist, as I've observed before.

In a recent blog entry, he discusses the possibility of a post-scarcity society, and concludes our current problems with poverty and inequality are ultimately little more than a "supply chain problem." This both understates and oversimplifies the problem, and yet I think he is fundamentally correct.

He quotes Buckminster Fuller, who made post-scarcity arguments way back in the 70's. Here is the quote – I think it's interesting, as does the blogarach, in part because of how long ago the argument was made.

We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

But the most intriguing thing about his essay is the title: "The Culture."

That title is the only reference, except in the tags at the foot of the blog entry, to the recently deceased author Iain M. Banks' stunningly fascinating and deeply-wrought science fiction concept of post-scarcity in his "Culture" novels, launched in 1987's Consider Phlebas. I like that kind of subtlety. Anyway, my recommendation is: read Blogarach's blog entry; read Buckminster Fuller; read Banks' novels. That is the path to understanding my core optimism for humanity's long-term future.

Even if I sometimes end up foregoing that same style of optimism vis-a-vis the narrower futures that pertain to my own existence.

[daily log (1145 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 눈 내리는 밤

눈 내리는 밤

말간 눈을 한
애인이여,
동공에 살던 은빛 비늘이여
오늘은 눈이 내린다
목에 하얀 수건을 둘러놓고 얼굴을 씻겨주던
가난한 애인이여,
외로운 천체에
성스러운 고요가 내린다
나는 눈을 감는다
손길이 나의 얼굴을 다 씻겨주는 시간을
– 문태준 (1970- )

Translation…

The Snowy Night

Oh, my lover
who had pure eyes;
oh, the silver scales
that occupied your eyes.
Tonight snow falls.
Oh, my poor lover
who wrapped my neck
with a white towel and washed my face,
a sacred quiet descends
upon the lonely planet.
I close my eyes
to remember the time
your hands washed my face.
– Moon Tae-jun (1970- )

This is from the excellent site called Korean Poetry in Translation. Part of the poem's effect in the original is due to the fact that the words "snow" and "eyes" are homonyms in Korean: 눈. So the "lover" is clearly the snow, right from the start.

Last night was a snowy night. It was beautiful.

[daily log (1130 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 설명회

Yesterday I worked almost 12 hours. Although Tuesday is my lightest teaching load, we had 설명회 [seolmyeonghoe] for parents in the morning. The term literally means "explanatory meeting" but it's what would probably be called an "open house" in a similarly styled business in the US – it's a situation where potential customers (parents) come to see information and presentations about what our programs and curricula are like.

After that was over, we had lunch together. I felt uncomfortable because I couldn't eat the mega-spicy shabushabu that had been selected, and there was a fuss over getting me a special order – these things are quite awkward for me, socially. And unlike teaching class, I find meetings with coworkers much more exhausting, even just sitting for lunch or dinner – nothing is harder than sitting and trying to make sense of long, drawn-out, involved conversations being held in Korean about topics I'm deeply interested in – i.e. my students and our curriculum.

Today, on the other hand, I have a full teaching load ahead.

I have been sleeping so restlessly. It's not that I'm not getting enough sleep – I take the time to make sure I do – but it's never "all the way through" but always broken into about two hour fragments. I have to wake up, drink water (because my mouth dries out so much), use the bathroom (because of drinking water, right), pace around my apartment. I'm not sure what the solution to this is.

[daily log (1130 pm): walking, 5 km]