Caveat: ɇ

The other day, we were starting book three in the Smart Phonics series in my Alpha1 cohort (elementary 1st and 2nd graders). This is where the kids first meet the obscure and confusing "silent e."

This always makes me think back to PBS's Electric Company show, circa 1970s. 

What I'm listening to right now. 

Tom Lehrer, "Silent E."

I think I will try to show this to my students.


Who can turn a can into a cane?
Who can turn a pan into a pane?
It's not too hard to see
It's silent e

Who can turn a cub into a cube?
Who can turn a tub into a tube?
It's elementary
For silent e

He took a pin and turned it into pine
He took a twin and turned him into twine

Who can turn a cap into a cape?
Who can turn a tap into a tape?
A little glob becomes a globe instantly
If you just add silent e

He turned a dam – alikazam! – into a dame
But my friend sam stayed just the same

Who can turn a man into a mane?
Who can turn a van into a vane?
A little hug becomes huge instantly
Don't add w, don't add x, and don't add y or z,
Just add silent e

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: just to drown out in the city of lakes

What I'm listening to right now.

Sims, "Tape Deck."


(Baby I'm all… Minneapolis, in the midwest)

Welcome to the tired generation of pliered patience
we're the tossed pennies, the Reaganomical waste kids
but look at me, broken link off every socialites token blink
thinking I'ma change shit
I don't want your nomination
my name is Sims, freedom fighter writer trapped in cat's cradle
Doomtree that's phat the label (Yeah)
so hang from your halo, but I spit mud on your Dockers
not trying to graduate to a Craftmatic adjustable office
turn your brain waves on and off like water faucets
I'm astonished stomping through the modern process
so I rally around stone throwers
my bones colder than icebergs
titanic havoc wrecking shop with Christ slurs
twice burned for advice learned before I met hesitation
open visitation for a dead generation
so wake the fuck up, I'm running out of patience
wake the fuck up, you're sleep walking
wake the fuck up

(Come on man, listen to this shit)
(Wake up)

We were born agitated seeds but grew into apathy
half of me wishes out of this modern catastrophe
but I've got my nine millimeter mouth to blasphemy
twelve steps to being a better self but the ladder collapsed on me
casually humanity becomes a casualty of
graphic mastery, a mental masterpiece
but the pieces spit out my mouth like faulty orthodontics
unorthodox phonics and chronic smoke choke on autopilot
a fleet of Palm Pilots disperse from universities
what's worse meaning isn't surfacing, time to face
how can y'all take the days straight without a purpose to chase?
there's more to life than grades, work, then graves

Put the tape in the tape deck
Yo put the tape in the tape deck
(My life, my life, my life's a fucking mess.

Next year I might be 25 light beams ahead of myself
(might) be 25 cents richer depending on my shelf life
ain't what it seems but I've got one to bleed
so save up a fuck for the agitated seeds
smashing piggy bank dreams
saturated breed, soaked in fat and granite
planted on this planet next to the blaze that we didn't raise
we saw the flames and fanned it
now I'm annexed to vexed manic panic status, I got next
ante up your war machine mechanics and pension checks
they're out their right mind
I threw a left cause just to stop the motive
duly noted as I throw my clear thoughts in their gearbox
it's like there's one typewriter and a million fucking Xerox
so save those peer props about beer gogs and gear rocked
cause you got steered lost

Put the tape in the tape deck (I crank the mix tape and wait for the break)
Yo put the tape in the tape deck (I crank the mix tape and wait for the break)
I just don't think you're good that's all (I crank the mix tape and wait for the break)

I crank the mixtape and wait for the break
just to drown out in the city of lakes
I crank the mixtape and wait for the break
just to drown out in the city of lakes
I crank the mixtape and wait for the break
just to drown out in the city of lakes
I crank the mixtape and wait for the break
just to drown out in the city of lakes
I don't wanna be a part of your workforce
I don't wanna be a part of you problem
I don't wanna be a part of your workforce
so I guess I'll be that thorn in your side

(I have to start all over again.
Ain't that the damnedest thing?
Did ya know that loneliness will kill you deader than a .357 Magnum?
Did ya know that?)

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: 내것 잃고 인심 잃는다

About a month ago, I misplaced my book of proverbs. I don’t quite know how this happened – I was straightening things up and put it somewhere I thought was logical at the moment, and then couldn’t for the life of me find it again later.

This was annoying. I actually looked quite actively for it a few times.

Yesterday, I finally ran across it, under a vast pile of papers I had intended to sort out at one point. How it got there I can’t quite fathom, as the pile of papers precedes, archeologically speaking, the loss of the book. 

Anyway, I am glad to have found it again. Here is a proverb.

내것 잃고 인심 잃는다
nae.geot ilh.go in.sim ilh.neun.da
my-thing lose-CONJ hearts-of-people lose-PRES
“I lose my things, and I lose the hearts of the people.”

I guess this has a pretty self-evident meaning, although it’s not clear to me if the loss of the things leads to the loss of people’s hearts, or if it’s more about how bad luck comes along all at once, losing this and then that.

Anyway, this is why I was sad to have lost my aphorism book – because I knew that subsequently, I would be losing the hearts of my readers. 

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: to teach reason reason


Who could believe an ant in theory?
a giraffe in blueprint?
Ten thousand doctors of what's possible
could reason half the jungle out of being.
I speak of love, and something more,
to say we are the thing that proves itself
not against reason, but impossibly true,
and therefore to teach reason reason.
– John Ciardi (American poet, 1916-1986)

What I'm listening to right now.

Krzysztof Penderecki, "Symphony No. 7."

[daily log: walking, an inch]

Caveat: Vigilant Disregard

On my work blog's admin page, hosted on the website, which is Korean, they will put up these little "prompts" to suggest blog topics, in Korean.

Yesterday, on June 25th, appropriately, they had the question:

6.25전쟁과 같은 전쟁이 다시 일어나지 않으려면, 어떻게 해야 할까요?

Roughly, it asks, "How can we avoid another war like the 6-25 war?" ("6-25 war" is what South Koreans call the Korean war, since it started with the  North's surprise attack on June 25th, 1950). 

The answer that popped into my mind immediately was: "Just keep doing the same thing that's been done."

Why such a flippant answer? Well, it's worked for 60 years, right? 

I would characterize the South's approach to the North with the oxymoronic phrase "vigilant disregard." Vigilant because the Korean military is large, well-trained (relatively speaking), and well-supported (e.g. financially, by the U.S. alliance, etc.). Disregard, because, despite this vigilance, there is little coherence or intentionality to be found in the broader policy portfolio. It is mostly reactive, but tempered by a strong conservative tendency to hove to the status quo and avoid provocation. I've always said that South Korea seems to mostly see the North the way a Korean family would regard a mentally ill elderly relative. Something to be embarassed by, to try to ignore, but also to be controlled as best possible. 

Anyway, I answered that naver blog question here on this here blog thingy. 

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Cervantes’ Bones

BonesThey’ve gone and found his bones, finally. He was known to be buried in the Convento de las Monjas Trinitarias Descalzas, but the precise gravesite had been lost to time.

A short editorial in the New Yorker observes that this business of finding the old satirist’s remains is tied in with a creeping commercialization, i.e. the emergence of a “Cervantes tourism industry.” I’m not inclined to condemn this out of hand – it strikes me that Cervantes wouldn’t have been offended by someone making a buck off his remains – indeed, it’s the sort of scheme he’d have been on board with.

I suppose I have a special relationship with Cervantes – his work is, after all, the topic of my never-quite-written PhD dissertation. If I ever make it to Madrid, I’ll feel compelled to visit this newly-created bit of history, I reckon.

Meanwhile, just last weekend I read 5 pages of a certain book that, in theory, supports that never-quite-written dissertation. Not that I’m going to write it, but sometimes I think about it.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: This debate is boring

This is crossposted from my work blog.

We did a "humorous" debate on a topic the students selected from a list of suggestions. 

Proposition: "This debate is boring."

The debate was special because my relatives were visiting, and my niece Sarah and nephew James participated. It was a rare chance for American students to participate in Korean hagwon life. And although they'd never done this type of debate style before, they held their own as native speakers, with excellently reasoned if somewhat short speeches.

Here are the speeches.

Homework: none.

I'll post additional pictures of James and Sarah's visit to the hagwon later.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: holographic principle

"The holographic principle states that the entropy of ordinary mass (not just black holes) is also proportional to surface area and not volume; that volume itself is illusory and the universe is really a hologram which is isomorphic to the information "inscribed" on the surface of its boundary." – from wikipedia.

This blew my mind – my layman's brain can't understand all the mathematics or physics, but I sort of understand the principles involved, and this is really amazing to think about. 

My stepmother Wendy and sister Brenda with her two kids James and Sarah have come out to Ilsan today. I'll post about it tomorrow.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]


Caveat: Singing About Meatloaf

What I'm listening to right now.

Tiny Cowboy (AKA Oasis), "Meatloaf."

This song is embedded in an episode of the the almost Cervantine cartoon Phineas and Ferb. The group "Tiny Cowboy" seems to be a fictionalization of the real brit alt rock group Oasis. 

The sophisticated and multi-layered writing on this Disney children's cartoon, which I mentioned before, continues to amaze me as I occasionally sample episodes during my free time. Either that, or my senility is advancing too rapidly, and I'm perfectly content to just sit and watch cartoons.

A deconstruction of Star Wars:

[daily log: walking, 6 km]


Caveat: A Rainy Saturday

Yesterday was a rainy Saturday. I went into Seoul and met my stepmother Wendy. We shopped a bit around Insadong, had lunch of jeon [전] and donkaseu [돈카스], and stopped off at the Jogye temple.

2015-06-20 15.34.58

I came home and ended up going to bed early.

Today has been supremely lazy. 

[daily log: walking, down the stairs and up again]

Caveat: old earth’s groping toward the steep heaven


NOT of all my eyes see, wandering on the world,
Is anything a milk to the mind so, so sighs deep
Poetry to it, as a tree whose boughs break in the sky.
Say it is ashboughs: whether on a December day and furled
Fast ór they in clammyish lashtender combs creep
Apart wide and new-nestle at heaven most high.
They touch heaven, tabour on it; how their talons sweep
The smouldering enormous winter welkin! May
Mells blue and snowwhite through them, a fringe and fray
Of greenery: it is old earth’s groping towards the steep
            Heaven whom she childs us by.
– Gerard Manley Hopkins (English poets, 1844-1889)

[daily log: walking toward the sky]


Caveat: Sow and Reap


Karma is what you do and what you reap as a result. If you stand tall and straight in the sunshine, then your shadow will be tall and straight. If you slouch, then your shadow will slouch. If you create noble karma, then you will have a noble life but if you create twisted karma, you'll lead a twisted life.
– ven. Song Choi (Korean Chogye zen practitioner, trans. by Brian Berry)

I don't know that I completely like the emphasis of this quote – it trends toward the "purity narratives" that I detest in religious discourse. However, it is a simple definition of "karma," which is always on my mind, because of my eponymously-named place of employment. Read creatively, we don't necessarily have to imagine that "twisted" is a negative – I could see it as a kind of synonym for "interesting" or "baroque" or something similar.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: MERSland

Am I worried about MERS? Not particularly. On the one hand, I suppose if it gets bad, that would be, well, bad. And my own weak immune system would not be helpful, either, if it started spreading around Ilsan. 

It is true the Korean health authorities have somewhat mismanaged the outbreak, too. 

If I was in America, it's worth noting that authorities there were mismanaging Ebola, not that long ago. So far, so much the same anywhere you choose to be. 

In any event, I think 90% of the current MERS situation in South Korea is hypochondria and media-driven public panic. The fact is that if you stay away from hospitals, you're fine. 

Authorities are trying to correct their earlier mis-steps. I got a MERS-oriented public health flier the other day at my apartment. 


I guess I view it as one of those incipient, unpredictable but inevitable calamities, like earthquakes or typhoons or North Korean aggression. They happen if they happen, and meanwhile, the smartest course is to not worry and try to live life as normal.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: An American Kid In the Hagwon

My niece Sarah visited yesterday at Karma. 

It was interesting to see how the kids reacted – they don't get much chance to actually meet "foreigners" (i.e. like me), much less "foreign children." 

I wish I (or someone) had taken more pictures. Here are two that my stepmom (Sarah's grandmother) took. 



I was actually very impressed with Sarah's equanimity and patience with the situation – I can imagine it feeling pretty overwhelming to be immersed with a bunch of rambunctious aliens (in many senses of that word – alien language and alien culture, but still just kids for all that). She got along really well with my lower level (and younger) class, but I think she felt a bit uncomfortable and overwhelmed with the older and more advanced kids. 

[daily log: still just walking]

Caveat: L’insensibilité de l’azur et des pierres

Tristesse d'Été

Le soleil, sur le sable, ô lutteuse endormie,
En l'or de tes cheveux chauffe un bain langoureux,
Et consumant l'encens sur ta joue ennemie,
Il mêle avec les pleurs un breuvage amoureux.

De ce blanc flamboiement l'immuable accalmie
T'a fait dire, attristée, ô mes baisers peureux,
"Nous ne serons jamais une seule momie
Sous l'antique désert et les palmiers heureux !"

Mais ta chevelure est une rivière tiède,
Où noyer sans frissons l'âme qui nous obsède
Et trouver ce Néant que tu ne connais pas !

Je goûterai le fard pleuré par tes paupières,
Pour voir s'il sait donner au cœur que tu frappas
L'insensibilité de l'azur et des pierres.
– Stéphane Mallarmé (French poet, 1842-1898)

It has felt very summery lately. 

I was going to post about Wendy and Sarah's visit to Karma yesterday, but I'll save that post for another time as I didn't set aside time this morning to write about it. I will only say I slept in a bit more than usual this morning and had a really bad dream about losing several students (really losing them, as in unable to find them), and everyone laughing at me for my inability to find my students. I think that symbolically reflects stress over the quality of my teaching.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Why Are Jumping Cats Offensive to the Dead?

Etfok_contentThere's a book I have, entitled Eerie Tales from Old Korea. It doesn't have an author, but is "compiled by" Brother Anthony of Taizé, a quite well-known Catholic monk who teaches at the main Catholic University in Seoul (called Sogang University) and who is a prolific translator and populizer of Korean poetry and literature.

These tales in this compilation, however, are not his translations, but rather translated by various early Christian missionaries in Korea. I enjoy reading these stories.

Here is a short story that makes me wonder about cats. According to Brother Anthony, it appeared in a magazine called Korea Review, published 1902-1905, probably translated by the missionary Homer B. Hulbert. The story doesn't really answer the question in my title – it merely raises it, and offers a kind of "first instance" folk-explanation. 

About two centuries and a half ago, a boy, who later became the great scholar Sa Jae, went to bed one night after a hard day's work on his Chinese. He had not been asleep long when he woke with a start. The moon was shining in at the window and dimly lighting the room. Something was moving just outside the door. He lay still and listened. The door swung of its own accord and a tall black object came gliding into the room and silently took its place in the corner. The boy mastered his fear and continued gazing into the darkness at his ominous visitor. He was a very strong-minded lad and after a while, seeing that the black ghost made no movement, he turned over and went to sleep.

The moment he awoke in the morning, he turned his eyes to the corner and there stood his visitor still. It was a great black coffin standing on end with the lid nailed on and evidently containing its intended occupant. The boy gazed at it a long while and at last a look of relief came over his face. He called in his servant and said, "Go down to the village and find out who has lost a corpse."

Soon the servant came running back with the news that the whole village was in an uproar. A funeral had been in progressbut the watchers by the coffin had fallen asleep, and when they awoke coffin and corpse had disappeared. "Go and tell the chief mourner to come here." When that excited individual appeared, the boy called him into the room and, pointing to the corner, said quietly, "What is that?" The hemp-clad mourner gazed in wonder and consternation. "That? That's my father's coffin. What have you been doing? You've stolen my father's body and disgraced me forever." The boy smiled and said, "How could I bring it here? It came of its own accord. I awoke in the night and saw it enter."

The mourner was incredulous and angry. "Now I will tell you why it came here," said the boy. "You have a cat in your house and it must be that it jumped over the coffin. This was such an offense to the dead that by some occult power, coffin, corpse, and all came here to be safe from further insult. If you don't believe it, send for your cat and we will see." The challenge was too direct to refuse, and a servant was sent for the cat. Meanwhile, the mourner tried to lay the coffin down on its side, but, with all his strength, he could not budge it an inch. The boy came up to it and gave it three stroke with his hand on the left side and a gentle push. The dead recognized the master hand, and the coffin was easily laid on its side.

When the cat arrived and was placed in the room, the coffin, of its own accord, rose on its end again, a position in which it was impossible for the cat to jump over it. The wondering mourner accepted the explanation, and that day the corpse was laid safely in the ground. But to this day, the watchers beside the dead are particularly careful to see that no cat enters the mortuary chamber lest it disturb the peace of the deceased.

[daily log: walking, some certain amount of distance]

Caveat: Dolls Yelling Like Thunder

I met my stepmother Wendy yesterday – she's back in Korea this time with my sister and niece and nephew. But those latter are staying with friends in Seoul, and so far those friends in Seoul are keeping them very busy – which is fine, since I'm rather burnt out lately. But I met Wendy yesterday, we went to a bookstore and had lunch at an Indian restaurant, and then Wendy came out to Ilsan. She says she likes Ilsan, and I'm happy to host her here.

Early this morning, around 5 am, there was a monstrous thunderstorm, and I woke up. When I went back to sleep, I had a very strange dream.

I was teaching in a very disorganized, slightly overcrowded hagwon. Hm… sounds like reality. There was a very noisy class going on next door to mine, and so I went out into the hallway to see what was going on in the other class, and I looked in and saw only dolls on shelves and toys. No students.

I went back to my classroom, and once again, there was noise coming through the thin walls. Once again, I went to look, and saw only these somewhat creepy dolls sitting on shelves. 

The dream wasn't quite a nightmare, but it was disturbing and eerie. 

I woke up and the clouds from the earlier storm had cleared, and then later I had coffee and made a short shopping trip with my stepmom, and we talked a lot.

Really, that's all we did: kind of sat around today and talked a lot. Two vaguely exhausted relatives catching up, I guess.

 [daily log: walking, 2 km]

Caveat: Spongewalter Whitepants

OK, I don't even particularly like that TV show, "Breaking Bad." 

This parody, however, is pure genius. Maybe it's just that I do happen to like Spongebob. I'm weird, right?

I had a another really difficult day yesterday. The capper: I broke my video camera – which, if you watch my work blog, you know I use a great deal in my classroom, on a daily basis. I have to buy a new camera. I guess maybe this weekend. 

I will go into Seoul today, to meet my stepmother who happens to be in Korea currently – she's been staying at Yongsan. 

[daily log: walking, 6 km]