Now the king told the boogie men You have to let that raga drop The oil down the desert way Has been shakin' to the top The Sheik he drove his Cadillac He went a' cruisin' down the ville The muezzin was a' standing On the radiator grille
[Chorus:] The Shareef don't like it Rock the Casbah Rock the Casbah The Shareef don't like it Rock the Casbah Rock the Casbah
By order of the prophet We ban that boogie sound Degenerate the faithful With that craazy Casbah sound But the Bedouin they brought out The electric camel drum The local guitar picker Got his guitar picking thumb As soon as the Shareef Had cleared the square They began to wail
Now over at the temple Oh! They really pack 'em in The in crowd say it's cool To dig this chanting thing But as the wind changed direction The temple band took five The crowd caught a wiff Of that crazy Casbah jive
The king called up his jet fighters He said you better earn your pay Drop your bombs between the minarets Down the Casbah way
As soon as the Shareef was Chauffeured outta there The jet pilots tuned to The cockpit radio blare
As soon as the Shareef was Outta their hair The jet pilots wailed
He thinks it's not kosher Fundamentally he can't take it. You know he really hates it. Really really hates it!
We were having a debate in my HS classes, on the topic of "restoring the Korean monarchy."
This may seem like a quixotic topic, and it is, a little bit, but it is a sort of leitmotif in Korean media, sometimes – there was a popular TV drama a while back set in a vaguely alternate universe where South Korea was a monarchy. Historically, for most of its long history, Korea has been one or more monarchies in the Sinospheric tradition of "conceptually tributary but de facto independent" kingdoms under the suzerainty of the Chinese emperors.
Anyway, to make the debate more interesting and less of a fairy tale, I focused on the aspect of an implied transition from a presidential system to a parliamentary system of government, since that is generally how monarhies operate in the modern world. We talked about separation of powers, about the seeming higher incidence of authoritarianism and corruption in presidential systems, South Korea's own problematic history of authoritarian presidents and how a parliamentary system might have moderated that or how it might prevent future tendencies in that direction.
In that vein, the students vented their annoyance with the incompetencies of our current dynastic president, Park Geun-hye, the daughter of the 1970s dictator. I made a throwaway line about the methods by which we might choose the new monarch, aside from simply annoiting some descendant of the Yi family that ruled Joseun prior to the Japanese takeover in 1910. In this vein, I mentioned both the Park family of the current president and the Kim family that has been ruling our neighbor to the north for the last 75 years. This was really meant as a joke.
However, one student, Seungyeop, decided to run with it. Seungyeop is one of those types of students that abound in my high level middle-school debate classes: pretty good at English, quite brilliant academically, but not really interested in doing homework. In fact, Seungyeop never does homework, but he can often get away with it in my class, where the main score is based on the quality of one's speeches.
He gave a speech yesterday where he explained, more-or-less cogently, the advantages of making Kim Jeong-eun, North Korea's current dictator, the king of Korea as a part of resotring the monarchy. He said that since he seems mostly interested in the trappings of power, he would be happy for such a figurehead position, but since it would be implemented as a constitutional monarchy, he would be essentially powerless. Thus, this type of restoration could bring about Korean reunification.
His speech is the first in the series of five speeches in the video I posted for the class blog (embedded below).
It's a little bit hard to hear, and as always, keep in mind that these are just middle-schoolers learning English, so I hold them to a fairly low standard on some axes of evaluation. But overall I thought it was a clever argument and it holds together especially well considering he slapped it together in the five minutes before speaking.
I have been sleeping badly lately. I can't quite figure out why. Maybe it's the summer heat and humidity, the intermittent rain and steamy nights. Maybe it's worrying too much about things I can't control very well – my imperfect health, my overall existential situation, work.
Whatever the reason, I will wake up far too early in the morning, often before dawn, and struggle to continue with my night's sleep. I will gaze out the window at the pinkening eastern sky, and anti-nostalgically remember distant dawns witnessed while standing in formation in basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I suspect the humidity and heat cause this inevitable mental train to depart the station.
Then I will wake up fully, end up reading something or trying to write something, and then attempt to take a nap. Some mornings, the naps work, other mornings, they don't.
This morning, as thunderstorms brewed, I successfully napped. I had strange dreams.
In one dream, I remembered a story that once made a huge impression on me. The strange thing (or the inevitable thing) was that the story I remembered, in the dream, was a story by Borges about dreaming. A man dreams another man, who grows to become real. In the end, the dreaming man is revealed to have been dreamed by another, ad infinitum. This is the "Ruinas circulares," a quite famous Borges story.
I awoke and found a link to the story text online. I re-read it, as I have done many times.
I made a resolution, which seemed to emerge from that groggy post-dream space, that this should be my epitaph:
My students did a roleplay called "The Wedding Mice," which seems to be an adaptation of a traditional story of some kind of Asian provenence (maybe Japanese? I can't figure it out). Some of the songs are traditional Western "kid songs," however – "Hokey Pokey," "If You're Happy and You Know It." It's a typical cultural mish-mash.
I think they actually sing pretty well – the video (cross-posted from my work blog) shows them singing along to melody only – there's no "assist" from recorded voices here.
Nosequién y los Nosecuantos, "Pacha." No entiendo esta canción muy bien, pero me imagino que el eslang tiene un sentido que no debo elaborar demasiado aquí.
Sé que el vocablo "vohue" es una alteración de "huevo," utilizando el juego de palabras "vesre." "Hacer la sapa" es probablemente un lundardismo. Respecto el título, "pacharaca" es una mujer ligera: ""Originalmente 'pacharaca', despectivo para muchacha de vida ligera o de entrega sexual sin mayores complicaciones, pero de bajo nivel social y mestiza." – según una definición encontrada en línea.
Ya no recuerdas quien soy, yo te hice plan en la playa tu te enfrentabas al sol y yo me acerque por la espalda pasado el susto inicial, vencida tu descofianza buscamos de lo que hablar y cruzamos las miradas, me fui con tu direccion y tu numero en la agenda, y en la mente un vision mezcla de hembrita y pantera, deje q pasen los dias y a tu numero marque, y cuando por ti pregunte, me dijeron q no vivias, Ja Ja Ja . . . ni siquiera te conocian
Tu no estas obligada a satisfacerme, por eso no debes mentirme si no te apetece verme, trata de no ser falsa busca ser sincera siempre, quiza antes de recibir lo que puedes ofrecerme lastima que con tu gracia y con esa linda facha te quieres hacer la sapa y actues como una pacha
Pacha . . . Pacharaca Pacha . . . Pacharaca
Tu no estas obligada a satisfacerme, por eso no debes mentirme si no te apetece verme.
Pacha . . . Pacharaca Pacha . . . Pacharaca
Lastima que con tu linda gracia y esa linda facha te quieres hacer la sapa y actues como una pacha
Pacha . . . Pacharaca Pacha . . . Pacharaca(x2)
No te veo de nuevo, no quiero verte otra vez, me he dado cuenta de que contigo, solo he recibido un revez no te veo de nuevo en la playa, no te veo para que te ahogues me he dado cuenta de que simplemente eres una calienta vohue
Franz Ferdinand, "Right Action." Um… this song seems weird. Is it a reference to steps 2, 3 and 4 of the Buddhist eightfold path? Or just a coincidence?
Come home practically all is nearly forgiven Right thoughts, right words, right action Almost everything could be forgotten Right thoughts, right words, right action
[Chorus:] But how can we leave you To a Saturday night or a Sunday morning Good morning
Sometimes I wish you were here, weather permitting Right thoughts, right words, right action This time, same as before, I'll love you forever Right thoughts, right words, right action
11 South Court Gardens England’s Lane past end to London
[Outro:] Sometimes I wish you were here, weather permitting Right thoughts, right words, right action Right thoughts, right words, right action Right thoughts, right words, right action Right thoughts, right words, right action…
The monsoon has finally come. The last week has been pretty continuously rainy and grey.
I like this kind of weather. I can feel my mood improving, as contrasted to how I feel when it is hot and sunny, which always just feels oppressive to me.
I'm working hard. My TEPS-M cohort middleschoolers, who normally annoy me greatly, made me laugh yesterday. Somehow we got on the topic of politics. They said we should have a debate about politics. I am actually a bit wary of having debates about politics – the kids are either apathetic or bear the same irreconcilable "culture-war" views as their parents no doubt have, i.e. the evangelicals are Saenuri-dang (Korean Republican analogues) and the rest are Minju-dang (Korean Democrat analogues). Mostly I prefer to focus the debates on specific policies or lifestyle choices.
Somehow they seemed intrigued when I said that a few years back I'd actually had a Korean "presidential debate" in one of my classes. They asked what other topics I'd done. Out of the blue, one student burst out, "Hey kids! Let's have a debate about Park Chung-hee!"
It was in a voice meant to imitate mine.
"Hey kids" is an imitation of the way I speak to them, when I first walk into a classroom. It's a kind of fakey-jokey, super upbeat tone-of-voice phrase that is meant in a vaguely ironic way, that has become part of my classroom "brand," I suppose. Most of my students seem to find it entertaining as it contrasts with my normal tone, and it's quite predictable.
The humor was in combining that cheery introduction with an immediate segue into what could conceivably be a very controversial debate topic – but of the sort of complex, elevated topic material for which I'm probably also known (and dreaded): Korea's notorious dictator, Park Chung-hee.
Anyway, it made me laugh. I hear only silence. Maybe you had to be there?
Sometimes, I will admit, what I’m listening to right now is not something I particularly like. I try to keep myself exposed to Korean culture and that includes the pop my students mention to me or that I happen across on the TV.
My students said I was old yesterday. This is true, but I still ended up preoccupied by it. So I went surfing Korean pop music.
I have been somewhat neglecting my efforts at meditation practice, probably to the detriment of my mental health. I still tell people I'm "Buddhist" in Korea when they ask me about religion (which is more common than you would think) – mostly because telling them this precludes the standard opening to Christian evangelism that annoys me so much – but in fact it's a bit of a front.
I underscored this recently for myself, with a joke with a student. In my TOEFL2 class, there was a big ugly scary bug working its way across the floor. I didn't really want to kill it, but the students were jumping around and being distracted by it: there seems a certain bug-phobia embedded in Korea's younger generations. So, hesitating only briefly, I walked over and stomped on it, on my way out of the classroom. I turned and said, "I guess I'm not a very good Buddhist, am I?"
This was what you might call a throwaway line – one of those jokes that I make that I don't really expect my students to understand but which I make because when I'm with my students, I make an effort to talk "as much as possible" on the principle of "contextualized input" – it's an actual strategy that's part of how I approach my role as a native-speaking teacher where there are very few native-speaking teachers.
I was actually quite surprised when one of my students, the quite intelligent Sihyeon, burst out laughing at this joke. On the part of the student, it takes both some actual cultural knowledge and some effort to "pay attention" to previous discussion topics for him to have gotten it.
I was led to this "document 9" (formally "Communiqué on the Current State of the Ideological Sphere") of China's party leadership by a comment thread on an entry at Tyler Cowen's Marginal Revolution blog.
A commenter basically said, "Why do we spend so much time trying to figure out the China Leadership's intentions? Why not take what they say at face value?" with a link to this document. Frankly, this is a very good point. I don't think that anyone with even a limited background in the history of Marxism, Maoism and China could fail to see that the Party leadership isn't really hiding anything here.
Whether one agrees with it or not, an exposure to Marxist thought on questions of ideology, dialectics and theories of history seems like the sine qua non as regards commenting intelligently on the China question. I think the Chinese leadership take a very long view of history, from a still unrepentantly marxian position, and their embrace of "capitalism" is merely a means to an end. The preamble to the last section of the document reads:
Historical experience has proven that failures in the economic sphere can result in major disorder, and failure in the ideological sphere can result in major disorders as well. Confronting the very real threat of Western anti-China forces and their attempt at carrying out Westernization, splitting, and “Color Revolutions,” and facing the severe challenge of today’s ideological sphere, all levels of Party and Government, especially key leaders, must pay close attention to their work in the ideological sphere and firmly seize their leadership authority and dominance.
They intend to dance with the devil and step on his toes and force him out of the dance competition.
Por ahora no estoy muriéndome. No estoy cantando ni despidiéndome de nadie ni llorando por gracias o de nada ni compartiendo el pan o el vino por ahora.
Ya sé que no tengo razón, que le pido al serrucho que haga un árbol con trozos de madera y al martillo, en silencio, que acaricie. Pero en dónde, como no sea en la sombra, puedo siquiera buscar luz o nada más buscar y encontrar, por ahora, lo que sea.
Estoy a la espera de señales claras, explícitas, rotundas en el tiempo, en el agua, en una nube o en los asientos del café: señales que desmientan que, hasta la fecha, nada quiere decir ni ha dicho nunca nada. – Luis Vicente de Aguinaga (poeta mexicano, b. 1971)
I had a really horrible day yesterday. Some of my students rebelled, because they felt my homework expectations were too hard and unjust. Yet I think I’m easier than the other teachers – but they see me as low priority (it is sometimes clear that this perception is possibly encouraged by the other teachers, too). Anyway, it didn’t really go well. But it passed.
This morning, I had a better set of classes.
One student sent me his essay with the subject header, “阿異 亥理te 李ding”.
Sometimes (frequently) I get subject headers from students that are pure nonsense, and normally I could have read this as an example of that. But I’m certain that in this case it was a kind of multilingual rebus – because I happened to have briefly discussed the principle of rebus with this student not that long ago.
If you read the Chinese characters (hanja) with their Korean pronunciations, you get “아이 해리(이)te 리ding.” If you transliterate the Korean spelling, you get “a-i hae-i-te ri-ding”, which, phonetically, is clearly “I hate reading.” This is a sentiment frenquently expressed by the student in question.
When I was a child, there was a kind of an earworm song called "Little Rabbit Fru Fru" which my sister and I sang with great enthusiasm, partly because it seemed to annoy our mother so much.
I thought of that song for some reason, recently – I think one of the songs in one of the role play texts I was teaching featured a similar melody.
I found an infinite number versions online, with variants like "Little Bunny Foo Foo" and others. Most of them are just as earwormy as I recall, but there were some unusual renditions too. I particularly enjoyed one slightly postmodern version, rendered on the basis of a children's book which retells the story of Fru Fru AKA Foo Foo, with excellent Scottish enunciation.
The Australian economist John Quiggin, who writes at a blog called Crooked Timber which I often peruse, had a slightly oblique discussion of a text by Thucydides (the Melian dialogue) which I very vaguely recall once reading (or attempting to read). His summary is interesting, vis-a-vis drawing an eerie (and ironic) kind of parallel between the situation in Classical Greece, with Athens as hegemon within the Delian League, and the situation in modern Europe, with Germany as hegemon within the European Union.
He concludes with the quote I have used as my title on this post, which I guess is a kind of anonymous Greek proverb which was first recorded in Sophocles' Antigone (one of my favorite classical plays, I guess, though I most prefer Jean Anouilh's modern adaption, which neverthless stays quite loyal to the thematics… and speaking of Germans behaving hegemonically).
Actually, no. Let's think this through. Where does electricity come from? Solar or hydro? Great, buy a Nissan Leaf. But most electricity comes from coal. So, in that case… burning gasoline is better for the environment.
[UPDATE (a few hours later): I had written "Prius" but it occurred to me that this is ambiguous, since a Prius is technically a hybrid, not an electric car, and thus is just a new model for burning gasoline. I have altered the title and post to reflect this – but there's no majorly iconic electric vehicle, yet. I chose the Nissan Leaf because it's one I happened to have seen recently here in Korea.]
first the streets were wet with rain and trees were swinging, wind was taking fierce liberties with scudding clouds and broken umbrellas but then the rain stopped humid air calmed cicadas crafted songs
부처님 위하여 불공하나
bu.cheo.nim wi.ha.yeo bul.gong.ha.na
Buddha benefit-INF hold-ceremony-INTERROG
Do [you] hold a ceremony for the Buddha?
The meaning, according to the book, is that people may pretend to work for their employers but in fact are only looking out for themselves. However, the literal meaning of the phrase is merely, “hold a ceremony for the Buddha” – the bad faith of those holding the ceremony is taken as a given implied by the question, which grammatically is what is called a “mild interrogative” but the -나 ending also has an “adversative” meaning, i.e. an implied “but….”
This seems to reflect the category of the old, institutionalized anti-Buddhist sentiment that was one of the ideological productions of the Choson era and which underlies, in my opinion, the success of evangelical Christianity in modern Korea.
Te invito, sombra, al aire. Sombra de veinte siglos, a la verdad del aire, del aire, aire, aire. Sombra que nunca sales de tu cueva, y al mundo no devolviste el silbo que al nacer te dio el aire, del aire, aire, aire. Sombra sin luz, minera por las profundidades de veinte tumbas, veinte siglos huecos sin aire, del aire, aire, aire. ¡Sombra, a los picos, sombra, de la verdad del aire, del aire, aire, aire! – Rafael Alberti (poeta español, 1902-1999)