Caveat: better than mercy

Big_sur_fireFire On The Hills

The deer were bounding like blown leaves
Under the smoke in front the roaring wave of the brush-fire;
I thought of the smaller lives that were caught.
Beauty is not always lovely; the fire was beautiful, the terror
Of the deer was beautiful; and when I returned
Down the back slopes after the fire had gone by, an eagle
Was perched on the jag of a burnt pine,
Insolent and gorged, cloaked in the folded storms of his shoulders
He had come from far off for the good hunting
With fire for his beater to drive the game; the sky was merciless
Blue, and the hills merciless black,
The sombre-feathered great bird sleepily merciless between them.
I thought, painfully, but the whole mind,
The destruction that brings an eagle from heaven is better than mercy.

– Robinson Jeffers (American poet, 1887-1962)

[daily log: walking some unknown distance]

Caveat: nice enough

Vaya con Dios

You seem like
a nice enough deity,
but I’m not supposed
to talk to you anymore.

– Elaine Equi (American poet, b. 1953)

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: Harder than the speech test

Babyalligator

My student who goes by Ken had found in the classroom one of my little square pieces of paper that I call my "baby alligators" (picture at right). I use them as points to give to my younger cohorts, which they then exchange for my alligator dollars. I added the extra step because with the younger students, I feel like I get better results by giving smaller-valued points more frequently. So they collect baby alligators during each class, and then exchange them for dollars at the end of the class for the actual dollars, at a rate of 5 baby alligators per dollar. 

Ken found the baby alligator and asked about it. I explained this procedure, and he was clever enough to immediately comment that that meant a baby alligator was worth 20 cents. I was pleased with this observation.

"If I give a dollar I get five baby alligators?" he asked, as confirmation.

"Yes," I agreed.

He fished around in his pencil case, and drew out his current collected savings. "Thirty-eight dollars is one hundred ninety baby alligators please." 

"Really?" I asked, surprised at this turn of events. "What will you do with them?"

He shrugged. "I don't know."

"Are you sure you want them?"

He nodded.

I opened my laptop and opened the page of baby alligators. I print them in sheets of 49 (7 x 7) baby alligators. I printed 4 sheets to the color printer, and ran out of the classroom to collect them. I brought them back, with a pair of scissors. 

We were having some free time at the end of class, since he had finished his monthly speech test, so I cut six alligators out of one of the sheets and gave them to him. "That's one hundred and ninety."

Ken took the scissors and began cutting them up into their little squares.  I pestered him about what his plans for them were. He said he had no idea. 

"Well, anyway, I guess you're having fun," I commented.

"No." he said, shortly.

2016-07-28_babyalligatorprocessingI laughed. "Then why are you doing this?" I asked.

He shrugged. After a while cutting up baby alligators, he said, of his own initiative, "This is harder than the speech test."

"Oh really?" I asked, surprised. I think he was joking. 

Anyway, he cut up all the baby alligators into little squares (picture at right). I folded an envelope out of a sheet of paper, tacked together with some tape, and gave it to him for storing his baby alligators.

The bell rang and class was over.

I have no idea what he intended to do with his collection.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: The Personalities of Various Squares in Jeolla Dialect

I was working with a student the other day on trying to clarify that the pronunciation of the words "square" and "scare" are different. This is not, normally, something Koreans seem to have difficulty with, but for whatever reason, perhaps sheer obstinacy, Giha was unable to make the distinction.

Actually, there is, in fact, a possible, plausible cause for this. In some dialects of contemporary Korean – notably, the southwest (Jeolla), where I lived in 2010-11, and where Giha's family is apparently from – there is a strong tendency to merge [w]-onset diphthongs with their corresponding simple vowels. That is, [wa] and [a] are the same, [wɛ] and [ɛ] are the same, etc. In layman's terms, you might call it "w-dropping." I first noticed this in Yeonggwang, where I lived, because the locals seemed to inevitably pronounce the name of their town "Yeonggang" (i.e. dropping the [w]), and the regional capital's name, Gwangju, became "Gangju." 

So if you think about the distinction, in English, between square and scare, the difference is simply the [w]-onset in the vowel of "square" which is missing in "scare": [skwɛɻ] vs [skɛɻ]. So, applying Gwangju dialectical phonotactics, you'd get the same pronunciation for both words.

I really wanted him to get the distinction, however. It was annoying me. For whatever reason, both words appeared in the same exercise we were doing. 

So I invented a tongue twister, for which I drew an accompanying illustration. The illustration is lost – I did not capture its ephermeral moment on the whiteboard, so you will have to imagine it. However, the tongue twister is memorable:

That scary square scares that scared square scarily.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Ich Bin Ein Ausländer

What I'm listening to right now.

Pop Will Eat Itself, "Ich Bin Ein 

The song is 22 years old, by the British group Pop Will Eat Itself. Yet it seems eerily contemporary, vis-a-vis recent developments like the European response to the refugee crisis, Brexit, and Trump. The zeitgeist.

Lyrics.

Listen to the victim, abused by the system
The basis is racist, you know that we must face this.
"It can't happen here". Oh yeah?
"Take a look around at the cities and the towns."

See them hunting, creeping, sneaking
Breeding fear and loathing with the lies they're speaking
The knife, the gun, broken bottle, petrol bomb
There is no future when the past soon come.

And when they come to ethnically cleanse me
Will you speak out? Will you defend me?
Or laugh through a glass eye as they rape our lives
Trampled underfoot by the right on the rise

[CHORUS}
"You call us…" …Ich Bin Ein Ausländer
"You call us…" …Ich Bin Ein Ausländer
"You call us…" …Ich Bin Ein Ausländer
"You call us…" …Ich Bin Ein Ausländer

Welcome to a state where the politics of hate
Shout loud in the crowd "Watch them beat us all down"
There's a rising tide in the rivers of blood
But if the answer isn't violence, neither is your silence

If they come to ethnically cleanse me
Will you speak out? Will you defend me?
Freedom of expression doesn't make it alright
Trampled underfoot by the rise of the right

[CHORUS]

Ich Bin Ein Ausländer.
Ich Bin Ein Ausländer.
Ich Bin Ein Ausländer.
Ich Bin Ein Ausländer.
Ich Bin Ein Ausländer.
Ich Bin Ein Ausländer.
Ich Bin Ein Ausländer.
Ich Bin Ein Ausländer.

 [daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Zen With A Red Pen, Redux

Lately I've been teaching some extra classes on TOEFL writing to my middle-schoolers, because they will be taking the "real practice test" next month (that's not really an oxymoron – it's a real test offered through the TOEFL creators, ETS, but taken as practice, i.e. the score is unofficial). 

The consequence of this, though, is that I spend two or three hours a day evaluating and correcting 300-word essays.

So. Just busy, lately. Unlike the last time I posted about "zen with a red pen," however, this time it's entirely my own fault – I made this curriculum.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: In for a Trumping

Nero_pushkinAs you may know, sometimes I read politics blogs somewhat obsessively. I generally don't feel particularly passionate about it – for me it's a strange sort of entertainment, as I just observe what is happening in the world.

The Trump thing disturbs me, as I've commented before.

Michael Moore – a political persona whom I normally abhor – makes a set of salient points to support his prediction that Trump will win in the fall. I actually believe he's on target, and will be curious to see if his idea pans out. My caveat must be, as Moore's is, that predicting a Trumping in the fall is not the same as supporting the man. He is a frightening narcissist. If America is Rome, then Trump can be her Nero. 

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Y es absurdo

LA CANCIÓN DEL PRESENTE

No sé odiar, ni amar tampoco.
Y en mi vida inconsecuente,
amo, a veces, como un loco
u odio de un modo insolente.
Pero siempre dura poco
Lo que quiero y lo que no…
¡Qué sé yo!
Ni me importa…
Alegre es la vida y corta,
Pasajera.
Y es absurdo,
y es antipático y zurdo
complicarla
con un ansia de verdad
duradera
y expectante.
¿Luego?… ¡Ya!
La verdad será cualquiera.
Lo precioso es el instante
que se va.

– Manuel Machado (poeta español, 1874-1947)

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: All that time wasted

So it's Saturday. I worked this morning. I am tired again.

What I'm listening to right now.

Sarah Jaffe, "Clementine."

Lyrics.

50 states
50 lines
50 crying all the time's
50 boys
50 lies
50 I'm gonna change my mind's
I changed my mind
I changed my mind
Now I'm feeling different

We were young
We were young
We were young, we didn't care
Is it gone?
Is it gone?
Is it floating in the air?
I changed my mind
I changed my mind
Now I'm feeling different

All that time wasted
I wish I was a little more delicate
I wish my
I wish my
I wish my
I wish my
I wish my name was Clementine

50 states
50 lines
50 crying all the time's
50 boys
50 lies
50 I'm gonna change my mind's
I changed my mind
I changed my mind
Now I'm feeling different

We were young
We were young
We were young, we didn't care
Is it gone?
Is it gone?
Or it's floating in the air?
I changed my mind
I changed my mind
Now I'm feeling different

All that time wasted
I wish I was a little more delicate
I wish my
I wish my
I wish my
I wish my
I wish my name was Clementine

All that time wasted
I wish I was a little more delicate
I wish my
I wish my
I wish my
I wish my
I wish my name was Clementine

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: 난 준비 되다

My youngest, lowest-level class has one 2nd-grade boy, Semin, who is quite "wild." Not always in a bad way – he is bright and engaged, but it is impossible for him to sit still, and he only has one volume setting: maximum. 

We were learning a song in the class. I had the kids sing through it a few times, but their enthusiasm was disappointing. They kind of mumbled along. So, I turned the volume down on my computer playing the song as background, and told them I wanted them to sing loud – not shyly. Because they're lowest level, I added in Korean, "큰소리해" [do loud voice], to make sure they'd understood.

Semin got a very serious look on his face, and settled into a pose with his arms crossed on his chest, like a game-show contestant.

"난 준비 되다," he intoned, in all seriousness. This means, "I am ready.

I had to laugh. Of course he was ready. And indeed, he shouted the entire song. 

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: a great puzzle to unravel

I have a friend who is starting graduate school this fall, in Asian Studies (with an emphasis, presumeably, on Korea). 

He sent me a message marking the milestone of his starting graduate school. I was deeply moved by his message, and although I'm not always comfortable "bragging" on this blog, I just feel really grateful for his gratitude (if that makes sense). He wrote, addressing me, 

I know I've said it before, it was you more than any single person I met personally, who was responsible for where I have ended up today. Life is a series of adventures and stumbling around from thing to thing, and it is a great fortune to meet good people along the way, who, some believe, are placed there for a purpose. You showed me that Korea, being in Korea, can be intellectually challenging, a great puzzle to unravel. I was quite ignorant after that first year, but have made great strides. It's all come to this.

I suppose this is the same feeling of accomplishment that I get when I feel like my teaching is successful.

In fact, I had a moment like that with one of my students yesterday, too. Grace had come into my classroom momentarily to ask me some quick question about where I'd placed a student's paper. I answered quickly, and Grace ran out and back in and said she found it, and thanks. It was a quick exchange, but entirely between native speakers, so full of the typical elisions and fast speech that I mostly have learned to avoid when speaking at work to my students or Korean coworkers. 

Anyway, one of my very long-term students, Hansaem (I've taught her for four years, now), said something to the effect of, "That was so amazing!"

I laughed, and asked her what she meant.

She said, "well, you and Grace, two foreigners, talking English. So fast. And I understood everything."

"I guess that means you have learned some English then," I observed somewhat drily.

"I guess so," she answered, looking pleased with herself.

I understand that feeling of excitement when you understand something in a language you're trying to learn. So I felt pleased, too.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

 

Caveat: to “normal” dentistry

Yesterday was a very long day. 

I got up earlyish and had to go to the hospital. In some ways, it was a gratifying visit – it was, finally, the "normal" dental care appointment I've been having to put off for nearly a year due to the radiation necrosis issues in my mouth. I went to the oral oncology clinic at my beloved cancer center, but attached to that clinic is a little basic dental clinic. Somewhat to my surprise, the friendly and utterly Englishless receptionist, with whom I have a pretty good relationship now and who speaks to me in a very patient Korean, donned a mask and gloves and transmogrified into a competent dental hygienist. I had no idea.

I got a simple scaling and cleaning done, and even an annoying lecture about needing to floss more, which was somehow more bearable since it was in Korean. It was all standard dentist stuff. It was weirdly reassuring, this flight into something more normal. Mostly, it was relatively painless, too.

After that, I had to go to the store. My window fan broke, so I needed a replacement. It's hot, sticky summer – some kind of fan is a necessity for when I can't stand running the air conditioning. 

Then after that I had a long day at work. Many classes, many essays to correct. I was quite exhausted last night – more than 12 hours fully "on" is more than what I can usually handle. At least today my morning is lazy.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: 뭘 그렇게 놀래?

I caught this movie on the TV, called 나의 절친 악당들. It was funny and a bit surreal. I recommend it.

The song at the end, kind of an outro theme song, had a classic music-video style sequence, with the actors lip-syncing the lyrics. I couldn't find the clip online, but the whole movie is posted here (for now, since these things tend not to last long) so you could scroll to the end to catch the video sequence, at 1:43:00. I kind of got hooked on the song. I started trying to translate the lyrics because I couldn't find a translation online, but that effort lost steam. I thought the title, anyway, might be something like "What's your game?" or "What are you playing at?" although the subtitles in the movie posting have "Why surprised?" But I think the the verb 놀다 has an element of the meaning "to play" that "Why surprised?" fails to convey. Maybe something like "Why are you pretending to be surprised?"

So that song is…

what I'm listening to right now.

장기하와얼굴들, "뭘 그렇게 놀래."

가사.

뭘 그렇게 놀래
내가 한다면 하는 사람인 거 몰라
그렇게 동그란 눈으로
나를 쳐다보지 마
뭘 그렇게 놀래
내가 빈말 안 하는 사람인 거 몰라
뭐라도 본 듯한
표정 짓고 서 있지를 마

뭘 그렇게 놀래
내가 한다면 하는 사람인 거 몰라
그렇게 얼빠진 눈으로
나를 쳐다보지 마

잘 들어 미안하지만
니가 보고 있는 것들은 꿈이 아냐
그리고 잘 봐 낯설겠지만
니가 보고 있는 사람이 진짜 나야

나도 내가 진짜로
해낼 줄은 몰랐었어
이렇게나 멋지게
해낼 줄은 몰랐었어
너도 내가 진짜로
해낼 줄은 몰랐겠지만
더 이상 예전에 니가 알던
내가 아니야

뭘 그렇게 놀래
내가 굉장히 냉정한 사람인 거 몰라
되돌릴 수 있다는
그런 꿈꾸지도 마

잘 들어 미안하지만
니가 보고 있는 것들은
꿈이 아냐 그리고
잘 봐 못 믿겠지만
니가 보고 있는 사람이 진짜 나야

나도 내가 진짜로
해낼 줄은 몰랐었어
이렇게나 멋지게
해낼 줄은 몰랐었어
너도 내가 진짜로
해낼 줄은 몰랐겠지만
더 이상 예전에 니가 알던
내가 아니야

나도 내가 진짜로
해낼 줄은 몰랐었어
이렇게나 멋지게
해낼 줄은 몰랐었어
너도 내가 진짜로
해낼 줄은 몰랐겠지만
더 이상 예전에 니가 알던
내가 아니야

뭘 그렇게 놀래

[daily log: walking, 11km]

 

Caveat: pinching myself after stubbing my toe

So I'm still sick with this summer flu. I would say the worst has passed but I still feel lousy, and basically did nothing all weekend. The only thing positive I can say about it is that the headaches and discomfort of the flu symptoms have helped me to forget some of my other chronic discomforts. It's a bit like how if you stub your toe and then pinch yourself to distract from the pain.

I really don't want to overuse this here blog thingy as a forum for complaint.

We had a hweshik (business dinner event) Friday night, bidding goodbye to a long-term colleague who is moving on from Karma. Although she is in many respects a very traditional Korean style teacher, she is one of Karma's "old-timers," and I have always respected her professionalism and dedication hugely. It is sad to see her go. 

I was a zombie at the dinner, interacting even less than my normally reticent self due to cold medicine and exhaustion.

The weather has been pleasant all weekend – overcast monsoon clouds, with a little bit of rain Saturday. Less hot, anyway. My class at work was cancelled Saturday, but I was already walking there, so I got to take a bit of a walk.

Today is going to be a very long day at work.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: el duro choque del cincel

DEIDAD

Como duerme la chispa en el guijarro
y la estatua en el barro,
en ti duerme la divinidad.
Tan sólo en un dolor constante y fuerte
al choque, brota de la piedra inerte
el relámpago de la deidad.

No te quejes, por tanto, del destino,
pues lo que en tu interior hay de divino
sólo surge merced a él.
Soporta, si es posible, sonriendo,
la vida que el artista va esculpiendo,
el duro choque del cincel.

¿Qué importan para ti las horas malas,
si cada hora en tus nacientes alas
pone una pluma bella más?
Ya verás al cóndor en plena altura,
ya verás concluida la escultura,
ya verás, alma, ya verás…

– Amado Nervo (poeta mexicano, 1870-1919)

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: Have you been in a house so big

What I'm listening to right now.

Albert Hammond Jr., "Caught By My Shadow."

Lyrics.

You and I got burned in paradise
High heels on our knees
One by one that's what we do for fun
Playing hide and seek

High rise living side by side
How thirsty can you be?
Cold as hell laughter could do you well
Fighting in the street

Have you been in a house so big
Where rooms don't exist
Where some rooms don't exist?

Two wrongs don't make a right
Three rights make a left
Sing to me, livin' in fantasy
Find a place to rest

Saw her eyes blue as the naked skies
You were on TV
Who where you what could I make you do
What was left to see

Have you been in a house so big
Where rooms don't exist
Where some rooms don't exist?

High rise living side by side
How thirsty can you be?
Cold as hell laughter could do you well
Fighting in the street

Saw her eyes blue as the naked skies
You were on TV
Who were you what could I make you do
Fighting industry
Fighting in the street

[daily log: walking, 4km]

Caveat: beans

I wrote another nonnet. My friend Bob commented that I seem to have a "knack" for them. I don't know about that, but I enjoy doing them – they are constrained like haiku, and the constraints are syllabic rather than metric (a type of constraint I find more difficult to "do in my head"). The haiku form, nowadways, has a bit of a cliche feel in English, which these nonnets avoid. 

Consciousness

Speculating about my own mind:
moments of consciousness might be
like little fragments of light;
but no, that's wrong. Instead,
like so many beans,
we toss them up;
they begin
to fall
down.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: 전우치

movie posterSince I'm so sick with this flu, I have been lying around in an even more profoundly layabout manner than usual, when not at work. Yesterday, I slept over 11 hours. When  I turned on the television, I watched a Korean movie about a time-travelling medieval Taoist wizard and his adventures in modern Seoul, with some difficult-to-understand detours to the period of the Japanese occupation of Korea (1930's). It was called 전우치 (romanized as Jeon Woo-chi: The Taoist Wizard.)

It seemed like a pretty entertaining movie, to the extent I understood it. 

Then I went to work. I'm in a bit of a fog, lately.

Off to work again today.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: peace comes dropping slow

The Lake Isle Of Innisfree

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
– William Butler Yeats (Irish poet, 1865-1939)

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]