Caveat: More Korean War Reading

Having finished that Halberstam book I was working on, last week I started yet another Korean War book, which is also from the collection of books I acquired from my friend Peter when he was leaving the country "forever" last summer (I saw him on Saturday, so his "forever" hasn't worked out). 

FrompusantopanmujomIt's a book by a Korean War general named Paik Sun Yup (백선엽). After Halberstam book, it provides a very interesting and distinct perspective on the War, and I'm enjoying it more than the other book although I find myself speculating too much between the lines about his possible roles in the subsequent dictatorships in South Korea, given General Paik's noted anti-communism. Regardless, I read almost half of it on my low-tech Sunday, and I can recommend it.

According to the wikithing, the General is still alive – see picture below. It's hard to imagine how he must perceive the South Korea of today vis-a-vis his experiences.


 [daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: Even hermits need good social skills

This article (linked) is about the “job” of hermit. Apparently, it requires good social skills.


Meanwhile, my own off-work hermitage was pleasantly interrupted by my friend Peter and my long ago friend Basil (a friendship I have neglected the last few years) who came out to Ilsan to visit me. We had a sort of reunion. . . I met Peter originally through Basil, whom I had gotten to know when he and I were coworkers at LBridge Academy in 2008.

Here is a picture of our reunion at a Starbucks at Madu.


CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: 복잡한 시간표

One Korean word that I use quite frequently is 시간표. It means “schedule” – I use it because it comes up so much at work, and there are so many issues involving the scheduling of classes, etc.
Today we had a sort of “schedule crisis” – that’s how I would describe it. I am of the opinion that KarmaPlus has made its own schedule unnecessarily complicated, but it’s more a consequence of lack-of-planning and the “evolved” nature of it than because of any specific incompetence. In any event, anytime some policy change (e.g. in this case, the new policy “Jared should teach all the advanced level speaking classes for the elementary students”) is decided, there arise numerous scheduling conflicts and problems – in fact, we have 11 cohorts in parallel and only 10 teachers – so you can see where the problems can arise as resources get spread quite thin. Thus, the new schedule (intended for July 1st) failed to represent the intended policy. My reaction was to just shrug and take it in stride, but Ken felt upset because it was something we had fought hard for. Now we are madly struggling to solve the problem, well past the deadline. This is typical in Korea, I guess – at least in hagwonland.
I’m writing about this because in the event of discussing this, I got a bit defensive and got angry. “I didn’t make the f__ing schedule,” I said to Ken and Razel. This was bad behavior, on my part. I agree. Now I feel badly about it. That kind of reaction poisons coworker relationships.
Partly, this event occurred after I had just gotten out of three not-so-well-done classes. I had attempted to “have a fun class” with the elementary kids, since it’s the last day of the old schedule before cohorts get rearranged and new books and levels are started. The kids weren’t getting it, though. After having computer problems during my first class (I was trying to do one of the karaoke-style “CC” classes with them), the second and third classes failed to play by the rules of the game we were trying to play. So I was annoyed with them; we stopped the game and went back to textbook, which was a bummer for everyone. I didn’t lose my temper in class, but I was on a short fuse by the time I got back upstairs to the staff room, and when I got confronted with “why is the schedule like this? This isn’t what we agreed on,” immediately, I blew it.
Thus I’ve spent the last 2 hours feeling repentant and trying to solve the schedule problem, but I can’t. It’s just too complicated. There are universities with less complex schedules than this small 10 teacher hagwon, I swear. A person would need a degree in mathematics with a specialization in graph theory and combinatorics to solve it.
[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Three Stars of Complexity

“Samsung” means “three stars” in Korean. It is, I reckon, now the most widely known Korean word in the world – although few realize the word means anything more than fancy electronics, and a lot of Americans, for example, have the parochially mistaken belief that the name is Japanese.

I ran across an interesting diagram the other day, that has been circulating online. It shows the complex cross-ownership patterns of the many different “Samsung” companies.


In fact, this wacky diagram (you can click to embiggen) doesn’t even show them all, since there are some Samsung companies that are no longer “related” to the vast Samsung empire held by the Lee family (e.g. Samsung Motors, and automotive company, Korea’s third-largest, that is an owned subsidiary of the Renault-Nissan Group, but which retains the Samsung name for historical and brand-loyalty reasons). Not including these unrelated Samsungs, the Samsung Group allegedly comprises about 20% of the South Korean economy – a fact I first remarked on this here blog 4 years ago.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Looking for matches in a Mexican snowstorm

Mexico City appears much more often in my dreams than seems merited, given I only lived there less than 2 years, and that was almost 30 years ago, now. I suppose it was such an important, formative period for me, though.

I was walking around the neighborhood around the Monumento de la Revolución (which was called “Colonia Revolución” when I lived there but had been renamed “Colonia Tabacaleros” in 2007, the last time I was there – I believe the “renaming” was a reversion to an older name, however). When I lived there in 1986, the Monumento was surrounded by rubble from the 1985 earthquake, though the monument itself had survived just fine. I was out at dawn, looking for matches. Why was I looking for matches? Something about building a campfire – I was cold. I went into several small stores but I was in a linguistic crisis – I could not remember the Spanish word for matches. People would not help me.

This was more like Korea. Or perhaps… it was a flashback to that time when I was freshly arrived in Mexico City and my Spanish was still quite weak. I stepped out of a small store and the rising sun was a vivid, bloody orange just above the peak of Popocatepetl to the east, with the Torre Latinoamericana standing in stark silhouette. But it was cold, and when I turned around, I realized it was starting to snow. I ran down the street taking pictures of the snow on the Mexican streets with my phone. I really did see a fall of snow once, in Mexico City – it is not unheard of, though it is quite rare. But this was a lot of snow, falling now.

I still wanted to buy matches. I stepped into a shop that was called, oddly, “El Museo.” It sold a random collection of things. I succeeded in explaining to the clerk, through mime, that I wanted matches, but she said she did not have any. She was being fatalistic about these things, in the Mexican way: es que no hay. She shrugged, and suddenly decided that she needed, desperately, to sell me some comic books. These were those bound collections of humorous or dramatic stories and vignettes in cartoon form that were so ubiquitous when I lived there – strangely, I have a collection of “Condorito” humor cartoons on my shelf here in Korea, which I have no idea how or why it followed me here. It may have been accidentally included in some box I mailed to myself.

Anyway, she succeeded in selling me a collection of humor vignettes wrapped in plastic. I stepped out in the snowy Mexican morning, still without matches. I unwrapped the book and opened it to find that the cartoons included were my characters – my alligators and aliens, etc. I was only fascinated, and puzzled, as to how they had gotten there. The Spanish dialogue was interspersed with Korean, and the jokes made no sense.

I went into the VIPS restaurant (a kind of Dennys clone, with a Mexican twist, and unrelated to the Korean chain also called VIPS) that is a few blocks south of the Monumento, to get out of the snow. I met my father (this makes sense, since I remember he and I went there once to eat when I took my father to visit my old haunts there in 2007 – though it was summer then). With my father was my hyperactive 4th grade student Hyeongyu, whom my father was dealing with quite well. They had ordered a plate of chilaquiles. The waitress seemed relieved to find someone who would speak Spanish at the table when I arrived, and she started complaining about Hyeongyu, who had been under the table playing.

I was showing my father the pictures I had taken on my phone of the snow on the Monumento. Then I woke up. The sun was just rising – it was before 6 am and at the summer solstice the sun rises quite early in Korea, given we are on the eastern edge of our meridional time zone.

I was unable to go back to sleep.

Unrelatedly, I found a strange video about escaping from a prison area called Writer’s Block (if the embed fails to work properly, which seems possible given how it seems non-standard in some way, here is a link). [UPDATE 2023-05-13: depressingly, the video has apparently irreplaceably disappeared – depressing internet linkrot at its best… ]

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 3.5km]

Caveat: God’s Alive! Run, Bob Dylan

One of the worst cases of mis-heard lyrics I've ever experienced was with this song by Korn called "Got the Life." I love the song, though it's a bit dark and depressing, I suppose. The song's main chorus and title are the words "Got the life." I always heard this as "God's Alive," which – given the atmospherics of the song, as well as rest of the oeuvre of the boys from Bakersfield – I assumed was meant ironically in some way. Further, there's a line which is just nonsense: "Dance with me / Rumbiddieboo." I always heard it as "Dance with me / Run, Bob Dylan." 

Personally, I prefer the way I heard the song to the way it actually goes, so even after learning the correct lyrics, I still imagine my own personal version when I hear the song:

"God's Alive! Run, Bob Dylan." 

What I'm listening to right now.

Korn, "Got The Life."


Hate, something, sometime, someway,
something kick on the front floor.
Mine? Something, inside.
I'll never ever follow.
So give.. me.. some.. thing.. that.. is.. for.. real.
I'll never ever follow.
Get your boogie on…
Hate, something, someway, each day, feeling ripped off again.
Why? This shit inside.
Now everyone will follow.
So give.. me.. noth.. ing.. just.. feel.
And now this shit will follow.
God thinks we will never see the light, who wants to see?
God told me, I've already got the life, oh I see…
God thinks we will never see the light, who wants to see?
God told me, I've already got the life, oh I say…
Oh, I see
Each day I can feel it swallow, inside something they took from me.
I don't feel your deathly ways.
Each day i feel so hollow, inside I was beating me,
You will never see, so come dance with me.
Dance with me
Rum bum dee dum dee bum diddie doo
God thinks we will never see the light, who wants to see?
God told me, I've already got the life, oh I see…
God thinks we will never see the light, who wants to see?
God told me, I've already got the life, oh I say…
Got the life.
Got… the… life.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Trip of a Lifetime

Lately several of my coworkers have been militating for and setting up some vacation time. Everyone, even Curt, has asked me "don't you want some vacation?"

Certain friends and relatives also have brought it up. They ask, When am I planning to take a vacation and travel and see people? 

When I think of taking a vacation, it leaves me utterly cold. On the one hand, it's true that I have been working hard – but I'm not working to exhaustion. I get enough sleep and rest and I don't push myself except for work – even to the extent that a trip to the store seems excessive and gets put off sometimes, and the idea of even a day trip into the city on a weekend requires a lot of lead time and mental preparation. On the other hand, when I imagine a vacation, I imagine two possible things. First, I could travel somewhere (e.g. the US) and make a whirlwind visit to people who are important to me. That sounds exhausting and stressful, and although I would love to see certain people, I can't imagine trying it on the sort of week-and-a-half-long race across America such as I did in 2012. The second possibility is that I could sit in my apartment and "relax" for some period of time. Frankly, that sounds boring and depressing. My 4-day weekend a while back for Buddha's birthday was already pushing the limit of my mental hunger for solitude.

As a consequence of the above thought processes, in fact the idea of a vacation doesn't really inspire me much. I'm having about the kind of vacation I "need" right now, anyway: because of the exam-prep period of the middle-schoolers, my teaching schedule has been halved for a few weeks. So I have enough work to get me out of bed each day, to keep me active and interested in things, but not so much work that I feel overwhelmed by it. Next month, I'll get a chance to feel overwhelmed again, but for now I'm taking a sort of "working vacation," basically.

So I'm not really planning anything. The whole idea of travel hasn't been particularly compelling for me the last few years – even before the cancer diagnosis, I was evolving into more of a homebody. Although I still sometimes fantasize about traveling, the reality of it is that I tend to get depressed and lonely  during extensive trips (such as my trip to Japan in 2010, or to Australia and NZ in 2011), or else I feel stressed – overwhelmed and exausted (such as my trip back to the US in 2012).

When people came to visit me, we did some trips – day trips and a few overnight tours to various parts (Andrew and Hollye to Yeonggwang; Ann and Jacob to Sokcho; etc.).  Although I enjoyed those trips, I did them as a means to "share" Korea with them, more than out of an interest in traveling myself. For me, a half-day adventure into Seoul to meet my friend Peter and hike a stretch of city wall is about the most extensive sort of trip for which I can work up any interest at all.

I write all this to say: sorry, if you're hoping I'm going to take a vacation. It doesn't seem to be in the cards, right now.

Here is another thought about "vacation," vis-a-vis my cancer experience of the past year:

In a sense, sickness is a place, more instructive than a long trip to Europe, and it's always a place where there's no company, where nobody can follow. Sickness before death is a very appropriate thing and I think those who don't have it miss one of God's mercies. – Flannery O'Connor (written to friend about her lupus disease that eventually killed her)

What do I mean by quoting this? I only mean that perhaps I've had the trip of my lifetime, over the past year, at the National Cancer Center Resort.

What I'm listening to right now.

Aztec Camera, "Pillar to Post." In my college years, I really liked the group Aztec Camera, but it is no longer very interesting to me. Nevertheless, occasionally it comes around on my mp3 shuffle, and I get nostalgic for those times in the mid-80's when I listened to it a lot.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Hell for Leather

I ran across the expression "hell for leather" in the Halberstam book I've been reading, and had to admit I'd never seen it before – I had to look it up.

It apparently means to do something doggedly or recklessly – the latter meaning seems to be under the influence of a different, unrelated expression, "hell bent." The most plausible etymology was that it refers to the effects that an arduous journey had, in the 19th century, on shoes (i.e. "leather"). To take a long, dogged, difficult trip was "hell for leather." Hence the primary meaning of doing something arduous in a dogged fashion. The phrase "hell bent," however, had influenced the meaning of the expression by the beginning of the 20th century, and I think the soldier Halberstam is citing as using the phrase means it more as "to do something recklessly and at great speed."

Having finished the book yesterday, I will say I'm not as disappointed in it as my friend Peter (who gave me the book, I believe, if not quite intentionally). I think ultimately with a modified title it would have been much less disappointing. Halberstam's title is "The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War".  I would only change the subtitle: "The Coldest Winter: How Douglas MacArthur's Mistakes in Korea Led to America's Disaster in Vietnam." That about sums up the book, and with that narrower title, one could be more comfortable with the book's many omissions.

[daily log: walking, km]

Caveat: Monthly Monkeywash

pictureI brought home my minneapolitan rainbow monkeys (bought at the Minneapolis-St Paul Airport in 2012) because they needed to be washed. So they took a spin in my washing machine with a load of laundry.

The children, especially my Copernicus반, are quite fond of these monkeys with their magnets (which stick to the whiteboards) and stupid smiles and the stories I tell of how their job is to be eaten by the alligator-du-jour (currently named David). The monkeys’ names are therefore Breakfast and Dinner. There is also a small, white, stuffed mouse named Lunch. I think the two monkeys are enjoying their vacation away from the alligator, however, and like hanging out on my laundry-drying rack.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Soñé vagar por bosques de palmeras

Las Hadas

140px-JorgeisaacsSoñé vagar por bosques de palmeras
cuyos blondos plumajes, al hundir
su disco el Sol en las lejanas sierras,
cruzaban resplandores de rubí.

Del terso lago se tiñó de rosa
la superficie límpida y azul,
y a sus orillas garzas y palomas
posábanse en los sauces y bambús.

Muda la tarde ante la noche muda
las gasas de su manto recogió;
del indo mar dormido en las espumas
la luna hallóla y a sus pies el sol.

Ven conmigo a vagar bajo las selvas
donde las Hadas templan mi laúd;
ellas me han dicho que conmigo sueñas,
que me harán inmortal si me amas tú.

– Jorge Isaacs (poeta colombiano, 1837-1895)

 [daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: Autoarcheological Activities

I am sometimes reluctant to expose too much of myself in this blog. Then, other times I lapse into an ardent, navel-gazing confessionalism. This morning, while looking for some writeable DVDs in my closet (which I never found, though I distinctly remember purchasing them), I happened across one of my old paper journals which had gotten separated from the main collection. This collection I carry around with me, and on rare occasions I will dig into it, fish something out, and use it in some way: for my current efforts at novel-writing or to “retroblog” it here in bloggolandia. I suppose it’s a bit autobiographical, but because of the need to sometimes guess at the date or context of a given bit of writing or drawing, it’s really more like “autoarcheology.”

The journal I found was from 1983~1984 (my first year of college), with some loose pages inserted, oddly, from 1998. Actually, finding loose pages from 1998 happens all the time to me – that year was quite prolific in journal-writing terms (perhaps my most prolific, at least until blogification) but the year was also intensely disorganized, hence the loose-leaf pages have ended up in all kinds of strange or unexpected places.

How everything – this whole collection – has managed to follow me to Korea might seem a bit mysterious. In fact, I was more organized at some point in the early 2000’s, and I had consolidated all my paper writing in a clearly marked box, which, when I realized my stay in Korea was evolving towards permanency in 2009, I mailed to myself. Once the box arrived here, however, it exploded in several bouts of nostalgia and its contents has since been fairly evenly distributed among my boxes and closets and folders here in Korea.

After a mostly unproductive, cancerous year, my retroblog has seemed nigh moribund. I decided to post two things I ran across this morning. One is a rather-compelling (to me, anyway – YMMV) bit of poemy prose from winter, 1984, and the other is a drawing with accompanying enigmatic inscription from the previous summer.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Children Climbing the Walls and Learning Racism…

… not at the same time, though.

Well, there are good days and bad days. Lately, I think my affect has been improving, despite the recent bout of stomach problems and other annoying but minor health issues. Earlier today, I was feeling pretty positive.

Then I had a bad day. I felt unable to my control my elementary classes, and I sat, exhausted after only three classes, wondering what I was doing wrong. Today I feel like kids were quite literally climbing the walls: there were three boys who somehow managed to start a competition at the back of the classroom to see who could jump highest against the wall, trying to touch a part of the door frame, all while I was going desk-to-desk checking homework. It looked like they were, indeed, climbing the walls. 

Then to cap things off I had one of those "only in Korea" experiences that many people would dismiss out of hand but that left a very bitter taste in my mouth. Sometimes when we have new potential students come to the hagwon, I'm asked to do a "native-speaker" interview to find out the potential student's ability level in English. I went in to interview a young student and she immediately freaked out and started to cry – she was in first or second grade, and sometimes kids react strangely. I wasn't bothered – I ran out and went to get one of my puppets to maybe try to play with the her and calm her down. When I got back to the interview room, though, buwonjangnim told me to skip the interview, as the girl was "afraid of foreigners" – according to the mom.

I have a problem with this way of conceptualizing the problem: this is, in my opinion, the exact way that racism is created and perpetuated. The child's reaction was innocent, I prefer to assume. Something in my manner, or appearance – or even just the stress of being "interviewed" for enrollment at hagwon – startled her and she reacted, but I sincerely believe that children that age are not yet set in their attitudes about "foreigners" as a separate class of humans. The mother, by using the language that she did, and characterizing her daughter's reaction in that way so matter-of-factly, is teaching the child about racial difference and legitimizing her reaction. Everyone, including my coworkers at the hagwon, shrugged it off as "normal" and no big deal. I, however, quickly dropped into a doomy, gloomy feeling full of thoughts such as, "Well I should perhaps just get out of here, then."

[daily log: walking, 6.5 km]

Caveat: I’m dead and I’m perfectly content

The last few days, I have been suffering from some kind of minor but unpleasant stomach flu, I think – or some kind of minor problem from something I ate. I had bought some vegetables from the Lotte Supermarket which in retrospect may have been a bit questionable. I'd used them on Saturday to make a mild curry sauce which wasn't particularly delicious or easy to eat in any event, and then this consequence followed. 

Oh well.

Work is easier at the moment, with a somewhat reduced teaching schedule since the middle-schoolers are now in exam-prep classes for their Spring exams. I slept 10 hours last night – some kind of recent record.

What I'm listening to right now.

Charlotte Gainsbourg, "The Songs That We Sing."


I saw somebody who
Reminded me of you
Before you got afraid
I wish that you could've stayed that way

I saw a little girl
I stopped and smiled at her
She screamed and ran away
It happens to me more and more these days

And these songs that you sing
Do they mean anything
To the people you're singing them to
People like you

I saw a photograph
A woman in a bath of hundred dollar bills
If the cold doesn't kill her, money will

I read a magazine
That said by seventeen
Your life was at an end
I'm dead and I'm perfectly content

And these songs that I sing
Do they mean anything
To the people I'm singing them to
People like you

And these songs that we sing
Do they mean anything
To the people we're singing them to
Tonight they do

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: On prospects dreaer

To A Mouse

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

pictureI’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
What makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell –
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

pictureBut Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me;
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects dreaer!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

– Robert Burns (Scottish poet, 1759-1796)

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: 호랑이 더러 고기를 달란다

This is an aphorism from my aphorism book.

호랑이 더러 고기를 달란다

ho.rang.i deo.reo dal.lan.da

tiger some meat-OBJ ask-for-PRES

[He] asks a tiger for some meat.

Which is to say, the asking of the impossible. I was puzzled by the word 더러, here. I surfed the dictionary for a while and decided it must mean something like “some” or “a bit of.”  I’m not very confident of that, however.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 1 m]

Caveat: 왜저래❤ AKA Mr What-the-Heck

“왜저래” [weh-jeo-rae] is my “korean name” though it very much a joke, since its meaning is something like “what the heck?” When students call me “Weh-jeo-rae-saem” it’s like they’re saying “Mr What-the-Heck.”

pictureThe other day in class I found this (at right) written on the board at the end of class – I’d already left the room and come back to get some stuff I’d left in the room, so the author of the note was annonymous. It’s nice to know that I’m appreciated.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking km]

Caveat: Reality

I felt a little bit under-the-weather today. I slept in much later than my normal time, ate an omelet, worked, and felt tired.

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." – Philip K. Dick

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Mouse Torture

I have a stuffed toy mouse whose name is “Lunch” – because his job is to be eaten by the Alligator (who in his current incarnation is named “David”).

Lunch sometimes comes to my elementary classes because the kids like to play with him. Yesterday, my Betelgeuse반 kids (first and second graders) started torturing Lunch. The placed him on the floor under the end of a chair-leg. I caught them and took a picture with my phone. They were proud of their mistreatment of the mouse – as kids can be cruel.


[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 흙

I added a new word to my Korean active vocabulary today: 흙 [heuk = dirt].

Why am I now able to talk about dirt in Korean?

I had a plant – a flowering houseplant whose identity I don’t know well, but it was given to me while I was in the hospital last summer by my friend Seungbae (who is now a proud resident of Mexico City, believe it or not). My brother Andrew attached the flowerpot to the top of my IV cart, decoratively – here is a picture.


In fact, the flower is the longest-lived houseplant I’ve had since my time with Michelle in the 1990’s. I’ve made several attempts to keep houseplants but I seem to have a singular talent for neglecting them, and they die.

So this plant has lived nearly a year, and I feel some small attachment to it. The thing was looking droopy and forlorn lately, and I decided it needed an infusion of new, higher-quality dirt. So I got linguistically brave and ventured into the neighborhood plant shop and with my dictionary I figured out how to ask for 화분용 흙 [hwabunyong heuk = flowerpot-use dirt], and bought a bag of dirt.

I did a transplant of my little flower to some new dirt. Now I have all this left over dirt, and I’m thinking of buying another plant. Let’s all pray for their survival at my unproficient ministrations.


CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 7 km]

Caveat: expediency determines the form

The Past Is the Present
If external action is effete
and rhyme is outmoded,
I shall revert to you,
Habakkuk, as when in a Bible class
the teacher was speaking of unrhymed verse.
He said - and I think I repeat his exact words -
"Hebrew poetry is prose
with a sort of heightened consciousness." Ecstasy affords
the occasion and expediency determines the form.
- Marianne Moore (American poet, 1887-1972)

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: … and War Dreaming

I suppose having read detailed war history all day yesterday, it was to be expected: I dreamed war dreams. They were quite odd, however. The war was being conducted mostly at KarmaPlus hagwon, where I work, and the soldiers were the elementary students. Their weapons consisted mostly of small index cards of different colors, such as I give the students for writing their speeches and notes for debate classes. They would draw various weapons on the cards then put them down in places in the hallway and other students would move theirs around. It was more like chess than war, in some ways – but a kind of free-form chess played on a very large and variegated board.

I think the dream had its origins in the detailed battle-maps of Halberstam's book, with their conventialized, rectangular representations of various units – companies, batallions, regiments, etc. – just like index cards.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: War Reading

I spent the day with my computer in the off position. I have been trying to get back to reading more, as I know it improves my affect some.

Halberstam_coldest_winter_105I read about 300 pages of David Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter, a history of the Korean war that seems focused on the bizarre and erratic personality of Douglas MacArthur – as is appropriate I suppose.

It ended up being riveting and novelestic reading.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: um. . . no]

Caveat: 북악산과 청와대

Yesterday Peter and I hiked along the northern stretch of the Seoul city wall, that runs up a small mountain called Bukaksan, behind (north of) the Korean presidential palace, called 청와대 (blue-roofed house). The wall is militarized – i.e. it basically forms part of the defensive perimeter for the high security areas around the presidential palace and offices even today, and thus runs through what is effectively a military base. Consequently, to hike the wall we are required show our IDs and there are soldiers and CCTVs everywhere, and some things are not permitted to be photographed.
Anyway, it was interesting.

Here are some pictures.
The wall.

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Some people blithely picnicking next to a “do not enter” sign.

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A tree with bullet holes in it from a 1960’s era commando raid that the North Koreans launched against the presidential palace (and one of the reasons the mountain behind the palace is still so fortified today).

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2014-06-06 12.23.33

Jared at the peak of Bukaksan.

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One of many gates in the wall… this one, however, appears to be an at least slightly older restoration than the others, which are not weathered at all and hence have a sort of disneyesque feel to them.

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A statue of a weird chicken-creature in a plaza near the Blue House.

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The Blue House (Presidential Palace).
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Old Seoul, foreground, New Seoul, background.

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Lunch – the most I’ve attempted to eat in a long time.

2014-06-06 14.22.52

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: Tudo cai pra lá e pra cá

Today was Korean memorial day, so I had the day off. I worked a lot this week, though, and I don't get Saturday (tomorrow off), so it's a bit of an anticlimax, as holidays go. Just an extra day off.

I met my friend Peter and we hiked along the militarized bit of the old Seoul city wall in the southern part of Bukhansan park, behind the Blue House (Korea's presidential house, 청와대, cf. the US's Whitehouse). I will post some pics tomorrow, I was too lazy to get them off my phone today, as I came home about 3 and crashed.

What I'm listening to right now.

Smoke City, "Underwater Love."


This must be underwater love
The way I feel it slipping all over me
This must be underwater love
The way I feel it
O que que é esse amor, d'água
Deve sentir muito parecido a esse amor
O que que é esse amor, d'água
Deve sentir muito parecido a esse amor
Esse amor com paixão, ai
Esse amor com paixão, ai que coisa
After the rain comes sun
After the sun comes rain again
After the rain comes sun
After the sun comes rain again
After the rain comes sun
After the sun comes rain again
This must be underwater love
The way I feel it slipping all over me
This must be underwater love
The way I feel it
O que que é esse amor, d'água
Eu sei que eu não quero mais nada
Follow me now
To a place you only dream of
Before I came along
When I first saw you
I was deep in clear blue water
The sun was shining
Calling me to come and see you
I touched your soft skin
And you jumped in with your eyes closed
And a smile upon your face
Você vem, você vai
Você vem e cai
E vem aqui pra cá
Porque eu quero te beijar na sua boca
Que coisa louca
Vem aqui pra cá
Eu quero te beijar na sua boca
Ô que boca gostosa
After the rain comes sun
After the sun comes rain again
After the rain comes sun
After the sun comes rain again
Cai, cai e tudo tudo cai
Tudo cai pra lá e pra cá
Pra lá e pra cá
E vamos nadar
E vamos nadar e tudo tudo dá
This must be underwater love
The way I feel it slipping all over me
This must be underwater love
The way I feel it, oh...

[daily log: walking, 8.5 km]

Caveat: 카사노바

Some 6th grade girls in my Newton1-T반 were explaining the concept of 카사노바 (kasanoba i.e. the Casanova type of man). They did so in a way that struck me as algebraic: I guess “A” is Mr Casanova, while B, C, D and E are his various romantic interests.

Here is a picture.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 11 months cancer free

Almost a year, then.

I'm really just making this post only for completeness – I have kind of lost my desire to "celebrate" these monthiversaries. Doing so compels me overmuch to reflect – even more than I would otherwise – on how transformed some aspects of my life are, and to reflect on how in other respects my life is utterly the same. Neither reflection is flattered by the scrutiny. It might be better to just try to live life, with less reflecting upon it.

I will post next month, and then be done with this "feature" on This Here Blog Thingy™.

What I'm listening to right now.

José José, "Almohada."

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: used to deal with edgeless dreams


Man, introverted man, having crossed
In passage and but a little with the nature of things this latter
Has begot giants; but being taken up
Like a maniac with self-love and inward conflicts cannot manage
his hybrids.
Being used to deal with edgeless dreams,
Now he's bred knives on nature turns them also inward: they
have thirsty points though.
His mind forebodes his own destruction;
Actaeon who saw the goddess naked among leaves and his hounds
tore him.
A little knowledge, a pebble from the shingle,
A drop from the oceans: who would have dreamed this infinitely
little too much?
- Robinson Jeffers (American poet, 1887-1962)

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Se quedó hasta el fin.

More and more I simply feel rooted to this place. I think, often quite seriously, of quitting or escaping or trying to do something else, and my poor health gives me both compelling reasons to stay (the reliability and cheapness of the healthcare) and compelling reasons to go (the difficulty of my work situation vis-a-vis my poor health).

Nevertheless every time I sit down to sort out my feelings, I end up concluding that I will stay here. I was in this long daliance with Korea before my cancer, but the cancer was like a shotgun wedding and now I feel utterly committed to staying. I feel I will simply stay until I die.

I do not mean that morbidly – I mean it as a statement of what feels like inevitable fact, at some level. There are things I don't like about my life here, and I am deeply disappointed not just with my health but with my failure to somehow "make something" of my "second chance" (and really, if you know my biography, this is more like a "fourth chance," isn't it?).

But what, exactly, would I or should I be making of it? When I analize what is important to me carefully, those things are tied to my creativity and my teaching and my growth as a person. As such, where else could I have a better chance to make progress in any of those things than here in this place? If i quit my job, I probably would simply not have one – that's what seems likely. I cannot imagine that would cause me to feel less lazy or more productive about something like my art or writing – it's not like I don't have time for those things right now. That's what I believe, anyhow.

I'm just rambling. Reflecting.

Lo que estoy escuchando en este momento.

Maná, "En El Muelle De San Blas." I've posted this song before, but this is one of my favorite songs, I think. So I'm putting it again. It is simple but tells a memorable story. She just stays on the dock, waiting, for the rest of time, like a García Márquez novel or something. "Se quedó hasta el fin" – She stayed until the end.


Ella despidió a su amor.
El partió en un barco en el muelle de San Blas.
El juró que volvería,
Y empapada en llanto ella juró que esperaría...
Miles de lunas pasaron,
Y siempre ella estaba en el muelle,
Muchas tardes se anidaron,
Se anidaron en su pelo
Y en sus labios.
Llevaba el mismo vestido
y por si él volviera no se fuera a equivocar.
Los cangrejos le mordían
Su ropaje, su tristeza y su ilusión...
Y el tiempo se escurrió,
Y sus ojos se le llenaron de amaneceres.
Y del mar se enamoró,
Y su cuerpo se enraizó
En el muelle.
Sola en el olvido.
Sola con su espíritu.
Sola con su amor el mar.
En el muelle de San Blas.
Su cabello se blanqueó
Pero ningún barco a su amor le devolvía.
Y en el pueblo le decían,
Le decían la loca del muelle de San Blas.
Y una tarde de abril
La intentaron transladar al manicomio;
Nadie la pudo arrancar,
Y del mar nunca jamás la separaron.
Sola en el olvido.
Sola con su espíritu.
Sola con su amor el mar.
En el muelle de San Blas.
Sola en el olvido.
Sola con su espíritu.
Sola con su amor el mar.
Sola en el olvido.
Sola con su espíritu.
Sola con su amor el mar.
En el muelle de San Blas.
Se quedó...
Se quedó...
Sola, sola.
Se quedó...
Se quedó...
Con el sol y con el mar.
Se quedó ahí,
Se quedó hasta el fin.
Se quedó ahí,
Se quedó en el muelle de San Blas.
Sola, sola, sola.

[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: Half The Man

I weighed myself this morning and the number was 69 kg. That’s 152 pounds. I have not weighed this little since my early 20’s.

As I’ve commented before, as a person with a history of both anorexia and obesity (at different times), I cannot deny that I probably have somewhat chosen to go ahead and just let this eating problem turn into a permanent weight loss program. Still… I think there is coming a time when I will have to confront this situation more rationally.

I joked with someone last week that eating, nowadays, is a chore on par with cleaning my toilet. To test this, later this morning after eating a breakfast of ramen noodles (with half the spice removed to make it more bland), I knelt down and cleaned my toilet right then, thinking of this comment specifically.

Sure enough, the toilet was less unpleasant.

So there you have it.

The Jains of India have a tradition called santhara. It is a sort of slow-motion suicide-by-self-starvation – sometimes drawn out up to 12 years. The practice is in line with other ascetic practices of the Jains, whose historical predecessors were likely the ascetics referenced by Gautama Siddhartha when it is said he tried asceticism and failed it, before he ennunciated his “middle path” which became Buddhism. This type of asceticism has a sort of fatal appeal to me, and I feel as if my post-cancer-imposed eating regimen is evolving into a kind of unintentional santhara.

In any event, my peak weight of about 265 pounds isn’t quite cut in half literally, but I’m feeling that way. Half the man I used to be…

For reference, here are two interesting pictures from my archive. One picture is from near my peak weight, from February, 2005, with my friend Bob (he’s on the left) in Utrecht, Netherlands.


The second picture is from 1986, when I was 21, near my current weight, I think (or a little less even, maybe 140 pounds). It is a scan of a picture (it was in poor condition, so sorry for the poor scan) that was taken near La Libertad, El Salvador, in September, 1986.


CaveatDumpTruck Logo

Caveat: listening to people’s talking , scribbling on my notebook, and looking at the sky.

My student Hyo-geun had me make corrections to a speech she is composing for a competition of some kind. There are some fairly minor stylistic or grammatical issues, but thematically the work is excellent. I think she may very well become the writer she says she wants to be.

Here is a reproduction of the pre-corrected speech she wrote.

Introducing my unique hobbies

Hello, my name is hwang, hyo-geun. Today, I want to introduce about my unique hobbies. To begin with, I will tell you about my simple profiles. I live in Ilsan, Goyang, and I am third grader at Deogi Middle School. Because I am in the third grade, I usually concered about entering high school. So, I relax my body and soul by my hobbies; listening to people's talking , scribbling on my notebook, and looking at the sky.

Firstly, listening to people's talking is my new habit since I moved to this new apartment. Now, I live in fourth floor so I can hear many different sounds which a variety of people are making. When I came home after school, I could hear kids yelling adn laughing each other. Their laughs were full of enjoyment and made me look back over my youth. Not only after school but also at night, especially in summer, many people come outside and talk with their families and friends. Sometimes when I can not sleep, I listen carefully to the outside. Then, I can hear people murmuring. When I am lucky, I can even hear what they're talking about. I like to listen carefully outside in my quiet bed room because it makes me comfortable.

Moreover, my another favorite hobby is scribbling on my notebook or writing down some novels. It is not bad to write down some stuffs in my study room, but I prefer lying down on my bed and scribble to writing in my study room. Anyway, writing is a good activity to get rid of stress or to kill time when I am bored. When I write some novels, I can feel the hundreds of feelings. I usually make these feelings get calm naturally. On the whole, I want to feel many feelings in the world so that I can easily sympathize with a person. When it become easy to appeal to someone's emotion, I want to be a writer.

Lastly, I really love to look at the sky in my bed. Especially, in autumn, the sky is blue and high, so I think it is so beautiful. Thus, when I lay in my bed, listen to my favorite music, I can feel my mind become peaceful. If I had more time, I would take a nap under the sunlight. the sky is beautiful at night too. Even though other apartments block the sight, I can still see the moon and the shining stars.

So to speak, I introduced about my unique hobbies. To outline the main points, I love looking at the people who are talking, scribbling or writing novels, and looking at the sky in my bed. These hobbies make me calm and peaceful, so I love them. I wish it could be a useful information for you to understand about me. Thank you for listening.

[daily log: walking, 1 km]

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