Caveat: vox veneranda sacris

De Luscinia

Quae te dextra mihi rapuit, luscinia, ruscis,
illa meae fuerat invida laetitiae.
Tu mea dulcisonis implesti pectora musis,
atque animum moestum carmine mellifluo.
Qua propter veniant volucrum simul undique coetus
carmine te mecum plangere Pierio.
Spreta colore tamen fueras non spreta canendo.
Lata sub angusto gutture vox sonuit,
dulce melos iterans vario modulamine Musae,
atque creatorem semper in ore canens.
Noctibus in furvis nusquam cessavit ab odis,
vox veneranda sacris, o decus atque decor.
Quid mirum, cherubim, seraphim si voce tonantem
perpetua laudent, dum tua sic potuit?

– Alcuin (Anglo-Saxon poet, theologian and Carolingian administrator, 735-804)

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: my strong conviction

This morning I had dental appointment #2/?…  I have no idea how many more dental appointments lie in my future, as they fix things up that have been neglected since before the cancer.

I reiterate my strong conviction that cancer hospitals are preferable to dentists.

That said, I am still alive. So there's that.

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: A message for the spies

Some months ago, the whiteboard in room 212 had been coming loose. There was worry that it would fall down at an inopportune time, so Curt told Mr Park (the 과장님 – literally "supervisor" or "chief" but really he's a kind of glorified handyman and janitor at Karma) to add some reinforcements to its support. He duly attached some extra screws with fat washers to hold the whiteboard in its place on the wall.

I guess for whatever reason, one of the girls in my HS2-M cohort noticed these rather larger features in strangely placed, apparently random locations on edges of the whiteboard.

"It looks like a CC camera," she observed. It did rather, if you didn't look too closely.

"Someone is spying on you," I observed, perhaps teasing a bit.

Another girl turned and pointed at the "official" CC camera, mounted on the ceiling in the corner of the room. "Of course," she observed.

Such CC cameras are ubiquitious in Korean life, and as far as I can figure out, are actually legally mandated for settings like schools and hagwon. Presumeably, they serve to provide reassurance to parents that nothing bad can happen to their children because there is a record of classroom activity. And I know Curt has spent money to make sure they are all working and well-maintained, which supports the idea that there's a regulation requiring them – but I don't know this for certain.

"That one is unofficial," I clarified, pointing at the screw-with-washer on the whiteboard. This obligated me to spend several minutes explaining the word "unofficial." Which, of course, is exactly the sort of conversation I most like to have with my students: relevant, student-driven, but, hopefully, full of new information and/or vocabulary.

After that, one of the other girls, Gayeong, asked, "Who would want to spy unofficial?"

"Kim Jeong-eun," I joked. One of the other kids laughed.

"Oh no!" Gayeong declared, and mimed an insincere, mocking look of shock and terror. The North Korean leader is mostly an object of derision and gallows-humor for typical South Korean middle-schoolers. He's not taken very seriously.

But then a soft-spoken and shy girl, who happened to be sitting closest to the whiteboard, really shocked me. She leaned forward, toward the "camera," and in an earnest whisper said, simply, "Fuck you."

"Jiwon," I declared, both impressed by this very idiomatic experession and dismayed by its vulgarity. "What's that about?"

Of course, even without teaching them, all the kids know this type of English – it's too ubiquitous in American pop culture (movies and music) for them not to know what it means and how it's best deployed effectively.

Jiwon just shrugged and smiled. "He's a bad person."

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: the testaments they told

What I'm listening to right now.

The Chainsmokers (with Coldplay), "Something Just Like This." The video is "unofficial," but cute and sappy. This was a song chosen by one of my middle-school CC classes recently. I'm letting them choose their own songs completely, now. It's going pretty well, actually.

Lyrics

I've been reading books of old
The legends and the myths
Achilles and his gold
Hercules and his gifts
Spiderman's control
And Batman with his fists
And clearly I don't see myself upon that list

But she said, "Where d'you wanna go?
How much you wanna risk?
I'm not looking for somebody
With some superhuman gifts.
Some superhero,
Some fairytale bliss.
Just something I can turn to.
Somebody I can kiss.
I want something just like this."

Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Oh, I want something just like this
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo

Oh, I want something just like this
I want something just like this

I've been reading books of old
The legends and the myths
The testaments they told
The moon and its eclipse
And Superman unrolls
A suit before he lifts
But I'm not the kind of person that it fits

She said, "Where d'you wanna go?
How much you wanna risk?
I'm not looking for somebody
With some superhuman gifts.
Some superhero,
Some fairytale bliss.
Just something I can turn to.
Somebody I can miss.
I want something just like this.
I want something just like this."

Oh, I want something just like this
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Oh, I want something just like this
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo

"Where d'you wanna go?
How much you wanna risk?
I'm not looking for somebody
With some superhuman gifts.
Some superhero,
Some fairytale bliss.
Just something I can turn to.
Somebody I can kiss.
I want something just like this."

Oh, I want something just like this
Oh, I want something just like this
Oh, I want something just like this

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Poem #545

December, 627

The Emperor Iraklios disliked
the foggy plains where Sumer once held sway.
He marched for Ctesiphon, but then turned back;
they’d cut the bridges, stopping any chance.
He’d made his point regardless: King of Kings
in Persia signed the treaty in the end.

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: Poem #544

I have one hour till I have to go.
I'll make one more cup of coffee.
And think of something to write.
It's hard to imagine.
Meanwhile the sun slants.
Dust motes settle.
Motionless.
Static.
Still.

Caveat: What would Justinian have done?

I had a flu some weeks back, and I feel I have not ever really recovered.

This whole week I have slept at least two hours longer than my normal sleep time each night, which for me a reliable sign that something is amiss with my general health. Despite my occasional bouts of hypochondria, I don't think worry about cancer is well-placed, since just a few weeks ago I passed my semiannual inspection successfully. I'm just feeling unhealthy and consequently rather glum about life.

I should add to the above the fact my normally predominant escapist hobby – my geofiction – has been on indefinite hold due to a strong sensation of burnout with respect to what you might call the internal politics of the website where I was engaged in that.

picture

So I have been feeling adrift and painfully uncreative – allowing a possible exception for my daily effort at poetry, but with the caveat that even there, I am "depleting my reserves" rather than doing much that is new.

So what am I doing with my time, outside of work and sleep?

I have been reading history. Almost exclusively, and for many hours each day. I began, a few weeks back, with a curiosity about the Byzantine Empire, I have been wandering off wherever my interest leads: Sassanids (Persian pre-Islamic); Avars and Lombards and Franks and Visigoths; Khazars and Göktürks. It's notable that with the internet as it is today, one hardly needs to go out and buy books to pursue these eccentricities.

From this reading, I have only this generalization to draw: 

The world is always just about to end. There is nothing new under the sun.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: with tablespoons of blue lentils

Apocalypse

Of all sixty of us I am the only one who went
to the four corners though I don't say it
out of pride but more like a type of regret,
and I did it because there was no one I truly believed
in though once when I climbed the hill in Skye
and arrived at the rough tables I saw the only other
elder who was a vegetarian–in Scotland–
and visited Orwell and rode a small motorcycle
to get from place to place; and I immediately
stopped eating fish and meat and lived on soups;
and we wrote each other in the middle and late fifties
though one day I got a letter from his daughter
that he had died in an accident; he was
I'm sure of it, an angel who flew in midair
with one eternal gospel to proclaim
to those inhabiting the earth and every nation;
and now that I go through my papers every day
I search and search for his letters but to my shame
I have even forgotten his name,  that messenger
who came to me with tablespoons of blue lentils.
– Gerald Stern (American poet, b 1925)

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: scrambling over the wall to the other side

Apparently Ursula Le Guin has died. 

I thought she might not. She seemed a forever type of person. But actually everyone dies.

She was a great writer. And a philosopher, though not in the conventional sense. I don't need to review her life or work – others can do that better than I can. But her writing has influenced me profoundly.

I was 12 years old when I first read the Earthsea series of fantasy books. And I really doubt that I have spent a single day in my life since then when that imagined world hasn't crossed my mind in some way or another. It's a visceral thing – I don't know that the philosophical and psychological ideas there were so impactful – though they're undeniably present in the books. I only mean that I imagined that world quite vividly, in reading those books. and so picturenow I think of it, much as one remembers a memorable trip, perhaps. For example, I think every day of the years I lived in Mexico, or the two months I spent in South America, or my one month studying in Paris, or my six months in Chicago. They were profound and memorable experiences, which shaped who I am. Likewise, the reading of those books, at that time in my life, left a similar type of indelible impression.

Her novel The Dispossessed had a more philosophical impact on me. I consider it a great philosophical novel. The "sci-fi" aspect is nearly irrelevant, except as a way to set the scene – the same story could have been written in a different way, set on Earth in some slightly altered historical context. I would put this book in my Universal Recommended books list.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

 

Caveat: Cthulupalooza

The internet wins the day. It turns out that H.P. Lovecraft's apocalyptically-themed poem "Nemesis" is a perfect metrical fit for Billy Joel's "Piano Man."

And then someone made it happen.

What I'm listening to right now.

Julian Velard, "Nemesis" – lyrics by H.P. Lovecraft, melody by Billy Joel. 

Lyrics – "Nemesis."

      Thro’ the ghoul-guarded gateways of slumber,
          Past the wan-moon’d abysses of night,
     I have liv’d o’er my lives without number,
          I have sounded all things with my sight;
And I struggle and shriek ere the daybreak, being driven to madness with fright.

     I have whirl’d with the earth at the dawning,
          When the sky was a vaporous flame;
     I have seen the dark universe yawning,
          Where the black planets roll without aim;
Where they roll in their horror unheeded, without knowledge or lustre or name.

     I had drifted o’er seas without ending,
          Under sinister grey-clouded skies
     That the many-fork’d lightning is rending,
          That resound with hysterical cries;
With the moans of invisible daemons that out of the green waters rise.

     I have plung’d like a deer thro’ the arches
          Of the hoary primordial grove,
     Where the oaks feel the presence that marches
          And stalks on where no spirit dares rove;
And I flee from a thing that surrounds me, and leers thro’ dead branches above.

     I have stumbled by cave-ridden mountains
          That rise barren and bleak from the plain,
     I have drunk of the fog-foetid fountains
          That ooze down to the marsh and the main;
And in hot cursed tarns I have seen things I care not to gaze on again.

     I have scann’d the vast ivy-clad palace,
          I have trod its untenanted hall,
     Where the moon writhing up from the valleys
          Shews the tapestried things on the wall;
Strange figures discordantly woven, which I cannot endure to recall.

     I have peer’d from the casement in wonder
          At the mouldering meadows around,
     At the many-roof’d village laid under
          The curse of a grave-girdled ground;
And from rows of white urn-carven marble I listen intently for sound.

     I have haunted the tombs of the ages,
          I have flown on the pinions of fear
     Where the smoke-belching Erebus rages,
          Where the jokulls loom snow-clad and drear:
And in realms where the sun of the desert consumes what it never can cheer.

     I was old when the Pharaohs first mounted
          The jewel-deck’d throne by the Nile;
     I was old in those epochs uncounted
          When I, and I only, was vile;
And Man, yet untainted and happy, dwelt in bliss on the far Arctic isle.

     Oh, great was the sin of my spirit,
          And great is the reach of its doom;
     Not the pity of Heaven can cheer it,
          Nor can respite be found in the tomb:
Down the infinite aeons come beating the wings of unmerciful gloom.

     Thro’ the ghoul-guarded gateways of slumber,
          Past the wan-moon’d abysses of night,
     I have liv’d o’er my lives without number,
          I have sounded all things with my sight;
And I struggle and shriek ere the daybreak, being driven to madness with fright.

Here is another version – nicer implementation (more true to the darker spirit of Lovecraft), but incomplete.

[daily log: walking, 7km]