Caveat: Consequent Totalitarian Conditions

I really haven't been sleeping well, lately. Partly it's the sultry late summer temperatures, I'm sure – I don't like to sleep running my a/c which is, in any event, not very useful, but it's hard to sleep with my apartment at over 30 C. 

So my sleep feels fragmented. I wake up at 4 am. I read or something – I refuse to just lie in bed awake – though it might be smart to try to meditate, but my mind has been really resisting that lately, too. So then I doze off and wake up again at 5:30. Same pattern, several times. The night gets sliced up. 

When I was young, and could sleep continuously for 12 or more hours with little difficulty, I used to sleep with the radio on. I can't do that anymore, but I think it left some permanent effects. 

One thing that used to happen that was more than a little bit entertaining was that my dreams would have commercials. Fully separate, hallucinatory vignettes inserted willy nilly into some other hallucination. Mostly I don't have commercials, anymore. But the other thing my dreaming developed at that time which remains a recurrent constant is the "announcer voice." Sometimes, my dreams have an announcer, or a voice-over. It's not my voice, nor that of anyone I know. Just a disembodied, often authoritative voice making commentary. 

Since it's dreaming, however, the announcers rarely make much sense. Things don't seem relevant, or the utterances are non sequiturs.

Yesterday morning, I woke up before dawn with the following voice-over stunningly, clearly and precisely reverberant in my mind. In that moment of awakening, it felt incredibly profound, and I wrote it down – otherwise, like most of my undocumented dreaming, it probably would have faded from memory quickly and disappeared. 

"You're not wearing shoes, and you blame me for such totalitarian conditions?" – the disembodied voice in my brain.

Instead, later I found that scrap of paper where I had written it, and I decided that although it was rather gnomic and weird, it still seemed oddly profound.

I wonder what it means, or shows, about my subconscious and my state of mind. Perhaps, it only demonstrates that I read too much philosophy, history and political science while barefoot in my apartment? 

What I'm listening to right now.

Black Boned Angel, "The Witch Must Be Killed (Side B)." This is a "drone metal" group from New Zealand – I [broken link! FIXME] posted "Side A" some years ago. My musical tastes remain weird.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Head Tax

I got a very strange tax bill the other day.
Not strange in the sense that it was wrong. But after living in Korea for 8 years, I didn’t really expect to discover a new tax obligation out of the blue. Did they just recently realize I existed, and finally get their stuff together enough to send me a tax bill? Did the law change? My coworkers seemed familiar enough with it.
It was strange in a kind of annoying way, too, because it was for such an insubstantial amount: 5000 won for a year. Wouldn’t the cost of collecting this tax be more than any possible amount collected at such a rate? Maybe this is why they never bothered to collect it until now.
picture[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: the highest form of consciousness

"In a sense, we are all crashing to our death from the top story of our birth … and wondering with an immortal Alice at the patterns of the passing wall. This capacity to wonder at trifles – no matter the imminent peril – these asides of the spirit … are the highest form of consciousness." – Vladimir Nabokov.

This Nabokov quote serves, probably unintentionally, as a summary of the plot of the poem Altazor, by Vicente Huidobro, which is probably my favorite "long" poem, at least in Spanish.

[daily log: walking, 6 km straight down]


Caveat: Multipolarity

What I'm listening to right now.

World Order (Genki Sudo), "Multipolarity." These guys do really interesting robotic dance routines, which is why I first found their music. The music is kind of pop-generic but I don't mind it, either. Mostly it's for the videos, though. 

I don't have the lyrics. I searched by my ability to search in Japanese is stunningly poor. 

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: falling asleep with the light on


그동안 시인 33년 동안
나는 아름다움을 규정해왔다
그때마다 나는 서슴지 않고
이것은 아름다움이다
이것은 아름다움의 반역이다라고 규정해왔다
몇 개의 미학에 열중했다
그러나 아름다움이란
바로 그 미학 속에 있지 않았다
불을 끄지 않은 채
나는 잠들었다

아 내 지난날에 대한 공포여
나는 오늘부터
결코 아름다움을 규정하지 않을 것이다

아름다움을 어떻게 규정한단 말인가
긴 장마 때문에
호박넝쿨에 호박꽃이 피지 않았다
장마 뒤
나무나 늦게 호박꽃이 피어
그 안에 벌이 들어가 떨고 있고
그 밖에서 내가 떨고 있었다

아 삶으로 가득찬 호박꽃이여 아름다움이여
– 고은

Pumpkin Flower

For thirty-three years as a poet
I merrily defined what beauty was.
Each time, without hesitation
I would declare: beauty is like this, or:
this is a betrayal of beauty.
I went crazy over several different kinds
of aesthetic theory.
But beauty was never
in those aesthetic theories.
I was falling asleep
with the light on.

What fear in the days gone by!
From now on I will strictly refrain
from any definitions of beauty!
Define away!
Define away!

As if beauty can ever be defined!
All through the weeks of summer rain
no flowers bloomed on the pumpkin creepers.
Now the rains are over
and at long long last a flower has bloomed,
inside it a bee is quivering,
outside it I am quivering.
Pumpkin flower brimming full of life:
you are true beauty!
– Ko Un (Korean poet, born 1933)

The translation is not mine, it is from Cornell East Asia Series, 1996, and was shared on 3 Quarks Daily blog.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Does Curriculum Even Matter?

I haven't even touched my [broken link! FIXME] IIRTHW ("if I ran the hagwon") effort in more than a year. I kind of gave up on it as excessively idealistic and not relevant to my goals. But of course, the nature of my job means that I nevertheless think about it frequently.

Yesterday I was having a conversation with my boss about his constant casting-about for new, more effective approaches to curriculum.

It's odd, because I feel like we've reversed roles, somewhat, in comparison to when we first met, years ago. Back then, I thought, and argued frequently, that curriculum design was important, while he said, much to my consternation, that a "good teacher" ought to be able to work with whatever curriculum was on hand. 

I resented this at the time, and took it to mean that my frustrations with curriculum were symptomatic of my not being a good enough teacher. 

Yet over the last several years, I've evolved to a point where I more or less agree with the sentiment. Much to my dismay, yesterday, Curt seemed to essentially disagree when I said something to this effect. I had said that we should focus on improving our teachers, rather than on improving our curriculum. And his reaction was that he didn't see teachers as being the problem. It wasn't a direct rejection of the earlier philosophy, but it certainly felt like an about face to me. 

The context in which I suggested focusing on teachers instead of curriculum was actually a sort of brainstorm I had, during our conversation, about curriculum. Curt is looking at alternatives to the fairly fossilized "Reading-Listening-Speaking-Writing-Grammar-Vocab" subdivision of material that prevails in hagwon. I first went with my prefered notion, what he called "Immersion" but that I think of as "subject-driven" – teaching "subjects" in English, integrating the various functional components.

When Curt rejected that, for the same reason he always does – the dearth of native-speaking teacher to serve as a focus for that style of teaching (a rejection that strikes me as utterly rational if not completely necessary), I decided to suggest another alternative arrangement that I've been mulling over lately, mostly out of frustration with the seemingly excessive complexity of our modest hagwon's schedule. 

This alternative would essentially say we only have 3 types of classes, which is really my observation that we have three basic types of teachers in our hagwon: 

1) integrated class – this is the native speakers (like myself or Razel or Grace), who focus on "subjects" or "topics" in the immersion style mentioned above

2) analytic class – this is the grammar-translation style that is most traditional in Korean English education, rejected by pedagogy but a reality "on the ground" and we have teachers who teach this way and we might as well support them – some are quite good in many respects

3) foundations class – this is the "daily word test", the memorization words and also the naesin (school term tests) style memorization of speeches, essays and other fragments; this also includes the attendance-keeping and counseling aspects of the "homeroom" teacher job. I hate this memorizaiton stuff, not because I don't think it's helpful – I actually strongly believe that it is helpful – but when overly emphasized, it makes English painful, and that discourages students, and destroys motivation. 

Anyway, I laid these ideas out to Curt. He basically said, "that sounds like it's teacher centered." I said, well, but that's OK. If we focus on our teachers' strengths, and develop them, that will benefit the students, in the long run, as our consistency and quality will increase." He asked about how we would decide the curriculum for these new divisions of labor, and I said what he'd once said to me, that it didn't really matter – the focus was improved teaching and good teachers would inevitably choose or develop appropriately good curriculum. He was somewhat scandalized by this notion.

Hence my feeling that the tables had been turned. 

I haven't developed a specific thought about this at this point, mostly just recording here for future reference. 

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: a mirror-search

What I’m listening to right now.

Apoptygma Berzerk, “Paranoia.”

Chew the pill that tastes like hell, but gives you strength
Embrace the drug that makes you mad, cause then it turns you into something else
Feel the need for love grows stronger!
Swap your mind for a mirror-search, and shake until the break of day

One day you’ll realize that you were wrong
And you’ll regret that all this happened
Did it (all) happen?
Some day you’ll realize that you were wrong
(You’ll be) Left with paranoia, (as your only friend)

Your mind is full of enemies, the room is full of energies
That want to take control
They’re all around you, and you’re all alone
Your mind is full of enemies, the room is full of energies
Haunting your soul
They’re all around you, and you’re on your own

One day you’ll realize that you were wrong
You’ll regret that all this happened
Some day you’ll realize that you were wrong
To be left with Paranoia

picture[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: 남아도처시고향

I found this aphorism in my Korean-English Buddhism dictionary. Most of the aphorisms there are embedded in the articles, and are of Chinese origin (since that is the language of Buddhist scholarship in Korea for the most part). This makes them doubly hard to make sense of, and mostly I just go with whatever explanation is given, without trying to puzzle out the etymology.
남아도처시고향 (男兒到處是故鄕)
I found this explanation: 남아가 가는 곳 마다 고향인데, which (very roughly) seems to mean “every place is your hometown.”
I like the sentiment of this. There is an English aphorism that I think it was my uncle used to say: “Home is where you hang your hat.” I think this is similar.
[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Tragedy

We were working on a listening passage in my TOEFL2 cohort, last Saturday. Here is the last part of the listening, which is kind of a sophomoric imitation of a literature class lecture, I guess. That's the way the TOEFL goes, especially in the dumbed-down "prep" modes.

… One of the earliest genres of literature was tragedy. There are a lot of different defining qualities of a tragedy, but in general there's a heroic character with a tragic flaw, something in the character's personality that makes him or her meet with bad fortune – like Medea. Medea is a play by Euripedes, where the main character, Medea, meets with bad fortune because of her jealousy. Her tragic flaw was her jealousy.

Comedy is another genre. Comedy, these days, usually means something realy funny, but comedies earlier in history were more lighthearted than funny. Generally, strange events happen because of some sort of misunderstanding. Perhaps the most famous comedies come from Shakespeare, whom I'm sure you all know. Shakespeare's comedies usually involve people in love who are tricked or confused through some clever ruse. A Midsummer Night's Dream is a good example. People in that play fall asleep in a forest, where a magical flower makes them fall in love with anyone they see.

At this point, Sihyeon became agitated and interrupted, "No! That's a tragedy!"

"Why?" I asked, laughing already.

"Because right now Seokho is who I see."

Seokho wasn't offended by this. He seemed to feel similarly.

[daily log: walking, 6.5 km]

Caveat: 處暑

I don’t really know how it is possible that I have lived in Korea for so long with knowing about the concept of “solar terms.” Perhaps I was exposed to it and it didn’t stick.
I’ve been watching the Korean 24 hour news channel a lot on TV lately. Mostly, that’s because I’m curious about what’s going on with North Korea – I’m not really that worried, but those around me – my students and coworkers – like to worry about it, so I try to keep up. Regardless, having Korean-language programming running in the background when I’m at home feels virtuous, because I am hopefully picking up bits of Korean.
Today, on the news, during the weather report, the announcer said today was 처서 [cheoseo]. I wondered what that was, and so I looked it up. Specifically, today is the “start” of 처서. It’s a Chinese calendrical concept, the division of the year into 24 named periods called solar terms, each of which is subdivided into 3 pentads of 5 or so days. This must be linked to the every-five-daily market day pattern I remember becoming so aware of when I lived in Yeonggwang. Anyway, you can read about it on the wiki thing.
The name Cheoseo is Sino-Korean [hanja 處暑], and means “limit of heat.” Pretty much appropriate.
Happy Cheoseo.
[daily log: walking, 2km]

Caveat: Infinite Spiralling Trains

I remember as child being really into model trains. My uncle enjoyed enabling this obsession.

There is a guy who made an infinite spiral train set.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: un inmenso corazón que se abre

La lluvia lenta

Esta agua medrosa y triste,
como un niño que padece,
antes de tocar la tierra

Quieto el árbol, quieto el viento,
¡y en el silencio estupendo,
este fino llanto amargo

El cielo es como un inmenso
corazón que se abre, amargo.
No llueve: es un sangrar lento
y largo.

Dentro del hogar, los hombres
no sienten esta amargura,
este envío de agua triste
de la altura.

Este largo y fatigante
descender de aguas vencidas,
hacia la Tierra yacente
y transida.

Llueve… y como un chacal trágico
la noche acecha en la sierra.
¿Qué va a surgir, en la sombra,
de la Tierra?

¿Dormiréis, mientras afuera
cae, sufriendo, esta agua inerte,
esta agua letal, hermana
de la Muerte?

– Gabriela Mistral (poeta chilena, 1889-1957)

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: When North Korea Attacks, Cancel Homework

We are in class, it's about 7 pm. 

A student says, "Teacher. Are we going to cancel class?"

"Why would we cancel class?" I ask. I took it for typical teenage "joking." 

"Because 북한 [bukhan = North Korea] just shoot missile at Yeoncheon." 

Yeoncheon is the county just north of Paju, whose border, in turn, is just a few blocks from our current location. I may even have had students who commute from Yeoncheon, a few times. 

"Really?" I ask. I think the students must be inventing something. But Yeongjin shows me the news on his smartphone. It's true. Later, I will read about the details in English, where they are easier to understand. 

Anyway, it's believable enough, on a Korean news site. "When did this happen?" I asked.

"About 4 o'clock," one student said.

"Wow," I said. "What should we do?" I guess I meant this collectively, and not necessarily with respect to the current class setting. The students took it more immediately.

"Cancel homework," several said in unison, as if it were the perfectly logical and obvious response to a North Korean attack.

I made a retort: "I think, if North Koreans are attacking, we should study English even more." 

"Why?" one boy asked.

"Because you will need English when you have to leave the country." This was excessively grim, and largely facetious. The students didn't really get what I was meaning. I decided it was too dark to explain.

Keep calm and study English.

[daily log: walking, 6.5 km]


Caveat: Sole Aims of Sabotage

Last week we had a rather competitive debate in my HS cohort (HS means "pre-HS", not High School – they are 9th graders, and are in their last year of middle school in the Korean system). I divided them into teams randomly, but neither team was really working well. Instead, each team seemed to be working to sabotage the other members of their own team. 

I had place an incentive of reduced homework for the winning team. I couldn't understand why the teams were self-sabotaging. I asked, and even explained the word "sabotage" to them in some detail.

The dynamic in the class is complicated by the fact that the class is divided about evenly between some very diligent, hard-working students who always do their homework, and some more slackish students who often don't. One student said explicitly, that he didn't mind if his team lost, because even if he got homework, it was unlikely he would do it. I commented that that seemed like a realistic but regrettable perspective. 

But then I asked, well, why bother anyway, then? 

And Jinu said, in much better English than he normally uses in his speeches, "My only aim is for Jihun to do homework." 

Jihun is one of the diligent ones. He is so diligent, that he is often the best prepared. As such, he has sometimes won one of my homework exemptions in the past. I guess this had caused resentment on the part of his peers, so they were sacrificing their own chance of avoiding homework simply to see him "go down." 

Indeed, Jihun's team lost, and so they got stuck with homework.

The unsurprising thing is, this week – the following week – we met again, and Jihun had done his homework. Indeed, since the other team had won the exemption, and since his own team were mostly slackers, he was the only one who had done homework. He gave his speech, self-satisfiedly. The other students seemed to regret their previous strategy, since my grade sheet filled up with a plethora of zeros, and, of course, as the only one who had done his homework, Jihun won yet another exemption.

I'm not sure if this exemption policy really works the way I want it to. I'm rethinking things, and have temporarily suspended the policy. 

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Hello? Your Goat Is Blocking My Driveway

In Korea, it's common for people to put their cellphone numbers on small placards or stickers facing outward in the windshields of their cars. The reason for this is that then they can park blocking entrances and driveways, and if someone needs to get in or out, they can simply call to have the person move the car. It's quite logical, if a little bit chaotic, and clearly subject to abuse, but because the Korean social contract is mostly civil, it seems to work out. 

Recently I read about a new thing emerging in Somalia, wherein people put their cellphone numbers on their goats. This seems similar, although obviously it's not, in fact, about goats blocking driveways so much as it is about goats getting lost or damaging someone else's property. But it's very fascinating to me that such a trend should emerge in a country like Somalia, which is supposedly a country utterly lacking in a civil social contract. Maybe that's not, in fact, the case? 


[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: The Ilsanigator

Recently, some civic-minded group of the sort which still abound in Korea decided to decorate the park benches along the pedestrian streets among the apartment blocks in Gangseon neighborhood, where I walk every day to go to work.
For example, someone placed a duck with ducklings on one bench.
Then I noticed there was an alligator – right in front of the church that annoys me so much because of the evangelists that stand on the steps handing out free packages of wet-wipes inscribed with biblical information (this is a thing in Korea).
I dubbed it the Ilsanigator.
picture[daily log: walking, 6 km right past the Ilsanigator]

Caveat: Zero to one hunnit baby

지금 듣고 있어요.

인크레더블, 타블로, 지누션, “오빠차.”

오빠 차 뽑았다 널 데리러 가
Baby Let’s ride (Hey) 빨리 나와 (Skkkkkrt)
어서 타 달리자 어디든 괜찮아
Baby Let’s ride Let’s do it All night

질리도록 말했잖아 돈 벌어서 데리러간다고
넌 그냥 몸만 오면 돼
쥐뿔 하나 없어도 날 믿어주던 사람들에게
확실히 보답해
Brake 없이 Accelerator
말년휴가처럼 달려가 제대로
신발대신 이젠 바퀴
멈출 생각 없어 아우토반이 된 앞길
풀릴 일 없게
꽉 조여 매 안전벨트
걱정 마 너 말곤
아무도 안태워 내 옆엔
아까워 우리 나이가
좀 빨라도 겁내지마
가끔 속도위반

오빠 차 뽑았다 널 데리러 가
Baby Let’s ride (Hey) 빨리 나와 (Skkkkkrt)
어서 타 달리자 어디든 괜찮아
Baby Let’s ride Let’s do it All night

다 태워 먼저 부모님 또
뒷바라지해준 여자친구
절대 아냐 허세나 생색
내 차엔 없거든 Airback
돈 번 다는 말은 진짜 종이 쪼가리 몇 장을
바라는 게 아냐 알아서 따라올 걸 알아
이젠 사치가 된 부모님의 걱정
한낱 소원 같은 게 아니었어

I love my car my ride 네 바퀴 달린 왕좌

U know U want it baby Shotgun it baby
Strap on your seatbelt Let’s ride

I love my car my ride 네 바퀴 달린 천사

Zero to one hunnit baby
We runnin crazy
Let’s make some noise

오빠 차 뽑았다 널 데리러 가
Baby Let’s ride (Hey) 빨리 나와 (Skkkkkrt)

어서 타 달리자 어디든 괜찮아
Baby Let’s ride Let’s do it All night

운전면허 딴 적은 없어도 아끼고 안 쓰고 벌어
그 당시 전 재산 털어 십년은 넘은
아빠차를 바꿔드렸어
한 달 뒤에 주차장에 세워져
먼지 덮인 걸 보고 화냈지
울 아빠는 말했지내 아들의 첫차 아까워서 어떻게 타겠니? For real

오빠 차 뽑았다 널 데리러 가
Baby Let’s ride (Hey) 빨리 나와 (Skkkkkrt)
어서 타 달리자 어디든 괜찮아
Baby Let’s ride

오빠 차 뽑았다 널 데리러 가
Baby Let’s ride (Hey) 빨리 나와 (Skkkkkrt)
어서 타 달리자 어디든 괜찮아
Baby Let’s ride Let’s do it All night

[daily log: walking, one hunnit meter]

Caveat: Teacher, Go Home

Yesterday, Chris, a child of very little English, ran up to me and breathlessly said, "Teacher, go home." Unfortunately, it was not time for me to go home.

My colleague Grace overheard this and said, "Why is he telling you to go home?"

I said that I wasn't sure. My suspicion is that he was simply so excited to have mastered the (admittedly quite simple) grammar of the expression, he had to try it out. 

I was so proud of this idiomatic usage that I decided to disregard the failed pragmatics.

[daily log: walking, 1 km]

Caveat: All Izz Well

Lately I have been watching a lot of TV, trying hard to watch Korean-language content, guided by the idea that it could help me improve my Korean. I don't always understand much, but I try. Sometimes, however, one can stumble across very strange things when channel surfing Korean television. 

The other day, I arrived on a Bollywood movie being broadcast, right as some engineering students started a dance routine in the dormitory showers.

This struck me as funny.

At the end of the song, I was hooked – watch til the last seconds of the song above, you'll see why – the movie has a serious subtext. The movie was hard for me to follow, given the subtitles were in Korean. Only about 30% of the dialogue is in English. 

Apparently, the movie, called "3 Idiots," is quite famous.

[daily log: walking 6 km]

Caveat: The People’s Republic of Arcturus

I have my "alligator bucks" – play money that I give to my students as rewards for classroom points or for homework, etc. 

In most of my classes, I give the students the bucks and they each have their little pouches or pencil cases where they store their money. Some put their dollars inside their smartphone cases, which is also a common place where they "hide" real cash, too. 

I have many classes where the students have pooled their cash for specific events (like I will offer to sell a games-playing class event or "pizza party" for some amount) but the kids are always quite meticulous in their accounting for who has contributed what amount to the pool, and the "banker" role is always strictly temporary.

Then there is my Arcturus cohort. These kids set up a "banker," perhaps originally with the same of idea of pooling resources. But the student in charge, who goes by Gina, is a bit of a forceful personality. That's being polite – really, she's a bit of a bully, to be frank, and it's often an effort to keep her domineering ways in check. Anyway, she, of course, appointed herself banker. And now, no matter what, she collects all the cash earned by any student the class.

She keeps meticulous count of how much she has, how much is owed each day, but none of the students, nor her, have any accounting of who has what proportion of the total cash at this point. Thus she is more of a government agency or a feudal lord than a "bank."

I'm not totally happy with this situation at the moment, because a few times I've gotten hints (only hints, no kid will openly admit it) that not all the students want to be a part of this forced communitarian approach to holding alligator dollars. Gina currently holds more than 300 alligator bucks on behalf of her fellow students, and I think I'm going to have to come up with an exorbitantly-priced event of some kind, liquidate the bank, and then cancel the dollar system for a while.

But meanwhile, I see a sort of unintended social experiment unfolding, among 2nd and 3rd graders. I call it the People's Republic of Arcturus.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Poor Robin

We like to think of the “drug epidemic” is something that emerged in 1970s and 1980s. We like to think there aren’t deep and complex cultural roots to the relationship between drugs and violence and disadvantaged social classes, and that those roots antedate the “War on Drugs” by many decades.
I wonder to what extent the “War on Drugs” wasn’t a kind of “redirection” of repressive energies vis-a-vis the civil rights movement.  The former ramped up alongside the latter, and served as a kind of coded means to continue social control while paying lip service to the ideals of equality.
What I’m listening to right now.

Luke Jordan, “Cocaine Blues.” 1927. Really – this recording is older than my dad’s car.

Now, go on, gal, don’t you take me for no fool
I’m not gonna quit you, pretty mama, whilst the weather’s cool
Around your back door, says, honey, I’m gonna creep
As long’s you make me those two and a half a week

Now I’ve got a girl, she works in the white folks yard
She brings me meal, I can swear, she brings me lard
She brings me meal, she brings me lard
She brings me everything, I swear, that she can steal

Now, Barnum Bailey’s Circus came to town
They had the dancers looking good and brown
They didn’t know it was against the law
For the monk’ to stop at a fine drug store
Just around the corner just a minute too late
Another one standin’ at the big back gate
I’m simply wild about my good cocaine

I call my Cora, hey, hey
She come on sniffin’ with her nose all sore
The doctor swore ain’t gonna sell no more
Sayin’, run, doctor, ring the bell
The women in the alley
Am simply wild about my good cocaine

Now, the furniture man came to my house
It was last Sunday morn
He asked me was my wife at home
And I told she had long gone
He backed his wagon up to my door
Took everything I had
He carried it back to the furniture store
And I swear I did feel sad

What in the world has anyone got
Dealin’ with the furniture man?
If you got no dough
To stand up for show
He certainly will back you back
He will take everything from an ugly plant
From a skillet to a frying pan
If it ever was a devil born without any horns
It must have been the furniture man

I call my Cora, hey, hey
She come on sniffin’ with her nose all sore
Doctor swore ain’t gonna sell her more
Sayin’ coke for horses, not women or men
The doctor says it’ll kill you but he didn’t say when
I’m simply wild about my good cocaine

Now, the babies in the cradle in New Orleans
They kept a-whiffin’ ’til they got so mean
They kept a-whiffin’ had to fix it so
The judge wouldn’t ‘low to sell no more
Sayin’, run, doctor, ring the bell
The women in the alley
Am simply wild about my good cocaine

I call my Cora, hey, hey
She come on sniffin’ with her nose all sore
The doctor swore, “I ain’t gonna sell her more.”
Sayin’ run, doctor, ring the bell
The women in the alley
Am simply wild about my good cocaine

Another song.

Luke Jordan, “Pick Poor Robin Clean.” 1927.

REFRAIN: You better pick poor robin clean, pick poor robin clean
I picked his head, I picked his feet, I picked his body but it wasn’t fit to eat
You better pick poor robin clean, poor robin clean
So I’ll be satisfied, havin’ your family

Get off my money and don’t get funny
‘Cause I’m a nigger, don’t cut no figure
Gamblin’ for Sadie, she is my lady
I’m a hustling coon, that’s just what I am

REFRAIN: You better pick poor robin clean, poor robin clean
I picked his head, I picked his feet, would-a picked his body but it wasn’t fit to eat
You better pick poor robin clean, pick poor robin clean
Says, I’ll be satisfied, havin’ your family

Oh, didn’t that jaybird laugh when he picked poor robin clean?
Picked poor robin clean, poor robin clean
Oh, didn’t that jaybird laugh when he picked poor robin clean?
Says I’ll be satisfied, havin’ the family

REFRAIN: You better pick poor robin clean, poor robin clean
I picked his head, I picked his feet, would-a picked his body but it wasn’t fit to eat
You better pick poor robin clean, pick poor robin clean
Says, I’ll be satisfied, havin’ your family

Now if you have that gal o’ mine, I’m gonna have your ma
Your sister, too, your auntie, three
If your great-grandmammy do the shivaree I’m gonna have her, four
I be satisfied, havin’ the family

REFRAIN: You better pick poor robin clean, pick poor robin clean
I picked his head, I picked his feet, I would-a picked his body but it wasn’t fit to eat
You better pick poor robin clean, poor robin clean
Says, I’ll be satisfied, havin’ your family

picture[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: 신세계

pictureOn Sunday I did something I don’t do very often (maybe basically almost never): I watched a Korean movie all the way through, without subtitles.
I find it frustrating to watch without subtitles, because my Korean just isn’t that good. But when something comes on the TV, there are no subtitles. More often than not, I will just channel surf away from a Korean movie on broadcast TV, but for some reason something compelled to sit and watch this movie.
It’s a critically acclaimed Korean gangster movie from a few years ago, called 신세계 (New World).
Here’s the thing: the whole time I watched it, I more or less understood the basics of the plot. And the excellent acting and character development were somehow apparent despite my lack of ability to pick up on many details.
I didn’t even know the title as I watched it. I couldn’t figure it out, and I’d missed the beginning. Sometimes the broadcasters put little graphics showing what you’re watching in the upper left or upper right of the screen, but I couldn’t see a title in this broadcast of this movie.
How did I find out the movie’s name? I related the plot of it to a coworker, the next day, and they told me.
This is a kind of linguistic milestone, although I’m not sure how it could be characterized: watch a movie in Korean, tell the plot to a third person, and have them recognize the plot and fill in the details for you. Of course, this conversation was largely in English, but at least I was getting the plot from the movie, somewhat.
Anyway, I would perhaps like to re-watch the movie with subtitles. Or maybe after some indeterminate amount of time, that is approaching infinity, when my Korean is up to the task.
picture[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: percipient as elder branches in the night


The simple contact with a wooden spoon and the word
recovered itself, began to spread as grass, forced
as it lay sprawling to consider the monument where
patience looked at grief, where warfare ceased
eyes curled outside themes to search the paper
now gleaming and potent, wise and resilient, word
entered its continent eager to find another as
capable as a thorn. The nearest possession would
house them both, they being then two might glide
into this house and presently create a rather larger
mansion filled with spoons and condiments, gracious
as a newly laid table where related objects might gather
to enjoy the interplay of gravity upon facetious hints,
the chocolate dish presuming an endowment, the ladle
of galactic rhythm primed as a relish dish, curved
knives, finger bowls, morsel carriages words might
choose and savor before swallowing so much was the
sumptuousness and substance of a rented house where words
placed dressing gowns as rosemary entered their scent
percipient as elder branches in the night where words
gathered, warped, then straightened, marking new wands.

– Barbara Guest (American poet, 1920-2006)

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: a more fulfilled and self-actualized indoor kitty existence

I have fallen victim to a cat video.

This one has a gadgeteer angle to it, however. 

This guy built a food dispenser for his cat that is activated by plastic toys that the cat has to find in a kind of hide-and-seek game. 

He writes on his blog: "So what if my cat, while out on patrol, actually found its prey? Surely this would bring him one step closer towards a more fulfilled and self-actualized indoor kitty existence."

He wanted his indoor cat to have the experience of the hunt, so he created an artificial hunt. This takes "playing with your cat" to a whole new level. Maybe, in the future, our pets will enjoy time in the holodeck, too? 

 [daily log: walking, sorta]

Caveat: Where do you fall when you have nowhere to go?

What I'm listening to right now.

Calexico, "Falling From The Sky."


[Verse 1]
Well, I dreamt you were playing
An old guitar from a five and dime
There was a song trapped inside
With the sweetest tune
You said it was sad to sing

Where do you fall when you have nowhere to go?
Where do you go where you have no one to see?
What do you see when you have nothing to feel?
What do you feel when you're all alone?

[Verse 2]
It’s a song that circles round and around
Like a bird lost inside a cloud
Cut off from the stars and they’re guided in the light
Not sure which way is up or down anymore


Tired of waiting
Clouds will be breaking
Soon you'll escape and
Someday we'll find a place in the sky

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: como un sueño de pólenes y estrellas

La Canción Del Verano

Y ésta es la canción de un verano
entre muchos hermosos veranos,
cuando el polvo se alza y danza
y el cielo es un follaje azul, distante.

Y entonces fue cuando vino con las brisas
que se levantan de los arroyos y de sus conchas,
la que cantaba la canción del verano,
la canción de yerbas secas y aromáticas
que arrullaban, cuando a mi lado
la sentía como una tierra que respira
y como un sueño de pólenes y estrellas
que resbalan tibias por la piel y las manos.

Entonces vino saltando
en medio de las brisas y la tarde, en grupo,
y lo primero que vi fue su traje ondeando
a lo lejos a la distancia contra el cielo puro.
Pero desde entonces no tuve ya nunca ojos para su traje.
Y no oí nada más, sino la canción del verano.

– Aurelio Arturo (poeta colombiano, 1906-1974)

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: You cower in your tower praying that I’ll disappear

What I’m listening to right now.

Saul Williams, “List of Demands (Reparations).” This song has a reference to the concept of reparations for African-Americans, which has recently seen some revival, especially on the part of the stunningly talented writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I want my money back, I’m down here drowning in your fat
You got me on my knees praying for everything you lack
I ain’t afraid of you, I’m just a victim of your fear
You cower in your tower praying that I’ll disappear

I got another plan, one that requires me to stand
On the stage or in the street, don’t need no microphone or beat
And if you hear this song, if you ain’t dead then sing along
Bang and strum to this here drum ’til you get where you belong

I got a list of demands written on the palm of my hands
I ball my fist and you gon’ know where I stand
We living hand to mouth, you wanna be somebody?
See somebody? Try and free somebody?

Got a list of demands written on the palm of my hands
I ball my fist and you gon’ know where I stand
We living hand to mouth
Hand to mouth

I wrote a song for you today while I was sitting in my room
I jumped up on a bed today and played it on a broom
I didn’t think that it would be a song that you would hear
But when I played it in my head, I made you reappear

I wrote a video for it and I acted out each part
And then I took your picture out and taped it to my heart
I’ve taped you to my heart, dear girl, I’ve taped you to my heart
And if you pull away from me you’ll tear my life apart

I got a list of demands written on the palm of my hands
I ball my fist and you gon’ know where I stand
We living hand to mouth, you wanna be somebody?
See somebody? Try and free somebody?

Got a list of demands written on the palm of my hands
I ball my fist and you gon’ know where I stand
We living hand to mouth
Hand to mouth

Ecstasy, suffering, echinacea, buffering
We aim to remember what we choose to forget
God’s just a baby and her diaper is wet

Call the police, I’m strapped to the teeth
And liable to disregard your every belief
Call on the law, I’m fixing to draw
A line between what is and seems and call up a brawl

Call on them now ’cause it’s about to go pow
I’m standing on the threshold of the ups and the downs
Call up a truce ’cause I’m about to break loose
Protect ya neck ’cause son I’m breaking out of my noose

I got a list of demands written on the palm of my hands
I ball my fist and you gon’ know where I stand
We living hand to mouth, you wanna be somebody?
See somebody? Try and free somebody?

Got a list of demands written on the palm of my hands
I ball my fist and you gon’ know where I stand
We living hand to mouth
Hand to mouth

I got a list of demands written on the palm of my hands
I ball my fist and you gon’ know where I stand
We living hand to mouth, you wanna be somebody?
See somebody? Try and free somebody?

Got a list of demands written on the palm of my hands
I ball my fist and you gon’ know where I stand
We living hand to mouth
Hand to mouth

 [daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: 무의도

Today was the last of my little summer break.
I went to a little island called 무의도 (Muuido) with my friend Peter. He is returning to the US soon, and so we had decided to get together at least once before he goes, although I have a feeling he’ll come back to Korea at some point.
Anyway, this island is a small, touristy kind of island west of the Incheon Airport, which itself is on an island west of the main part of the city of Incheon, on the west coast of South Korea west of Seoul.
The airport, and thus the airport island, is easily accessible from where I live in Ilsan, so it was convenient to take the bus from where I live to make this trip.
To get to Muuido from the airport, we took a local bus to the southwest corner of the airport island, and walked across this cool causeway to get a ferry. It’s a short ferry ride – at low tide, it seems like the ferry trip was about ten boat-lengths – maybe less.
On the island, first we walked over the little hill from the ferry terminal to the west side. Off the shore on the west side there is an even smaller island, that can be reached by walking across the channel between them at low tide. We did this. Peter wanted to see this island because it had been some kind of prison camp in the 1960s, and was used to train some convicts for a dangerous mission against North Korea. Unfortunately, the convicts had different ideas, and assaulted a bus and tried to escape at some point, and were killed. This was memorialized in a movie that Peter had seen. I had no knowledge of this story.
After visiting the prison island, called Silmido, we caught a bus and rode around Muuido some. There is a beach on the west side farther south, made famous by some TV show sometime back, and now very crowded and touristy. I didn’t enjoy the beach that much, but Peter had come here before with some coworkers and was waxing vaguely nostalgic.
We stopped and had lunch. I had some 바지락칼국수 – something like a clam-broth hand-made noodle soup. Then we decided to go to the airport. This was not random – it turned out somewhat by coincidence that our acquaintance Basil was flying out of the airport this afternoon.
Basil is moving to Istanbul. He said he was giving up on Korea. He seemed in good spirits.
I have known Basil since we worked together at LBridge in 2008. In fact, we met before I started at LBridge, just walking down the street in Ilsan and exchanging greetings as two “foreigners living in Ilsan.” Anyway, Basil and I have criss-crossed paths many times, including my having [broken link! FIXME] visited him in West Virginia in 2009, and him [broken link! FIXME] visiting me a few times in Ilsan, etc.
So Peter and I saw Basil off at the airport.
Here is a map I made of our meanderings at Muuido. I drew some low-tech lines on it: red is bus trips; orange is walking; pink is the ferry.
Here are some pictures we took.
picture[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Unclear on the concept of “how long?”

Last week I was teaching a writing class to a supposedly intermediate-level group of elementary students, my Newton3반. We did a short reading, and there were some simple comprehension questions afterward. I view these kind of exercises as a warm-up for the process of writing one's own paragraph. 

The paragraph in the book we read was on the basic theme of a girl who moved to a new neighborhood a few years ago and why she liked it better than her old neighborhood. I didn't think it was too difficult. 

The first comprehension question was: 

How long has Cynthia lived in her neighborhood?

I asked the first student.

"3 minutes!" she announced, confidently.

"Um," I said.

I asked the next student the same question.

"Lunchtime," she proposed, tentatively, trying to read my face as to whether I thought it was right or wrong. I deadpanned. I looked around the room. 

The first girl attempted a correction of her answer. "2 blocks," she offered. At this, I started to laugh.

A boy's hand shot into the air. So I asked him the same question, yet again, and he said, "Yes." He nodded sagely.

I summarized: "So the question is: How long has Cynthia lived in her neighborhood? We have four choices: 

a) 3 minutes
b) Lunchtime
c) 2 blocks
d) Yes

The kids just sat there, looking befuddled. Not a one of them made any additional effort to answer the question. Finally, I announced what seemed the correct answer: "She has lived in the neighborhood for 3 years." 

I never did figure out if this was genuine cluelessness or if there was an element of "messing with the teacher."

[daily log: walking, 2 km]


Caveat: The Joseon Dynasty’s Online Mapping Utility

JoseonmapThere is a very cool online zoomable map of Korea, pieced together from images from an atlas made in 1861. I put an image of the overview of the area covered by this old atlas, at right.

The detail and accuracy of this map is quite amazing, considering it was made not just pre-satellite but essentially pre-Westernization, although I suspect it was made in response to Western contact, if that makes any sense.

Matching place names to modern place names is rather difficult, because the names are in handwritten hanja (Chinese characters). Nevertheless, I managed to locate the town of Juyeop-ri (주엽리, hanja 注葉里), which is an area I walk through every day on the way to work. There is now a subway station there.

I zoomed in and did a screencap of from the map, and then put a red star on it, below. On the scale of the map, for my daily commute to work, I walk from the lower right of the red circle I made to near the top of the red circle I made.


I have a few days off from work, for the provincially mandated summer break. Per my usual custom, these days, I'm doing very little with my free time, except thinking of it in terms of undoing my incipient burnout.

[daily log: 1 km]

Caveat: 동에 번쩍 서에 번쩍

This is an aphorism from my aphorism book.

동에 번쩍 서에 번쩍
dong.e beon.jjeok seo.e beon.jjeok
east-AT gleaming west-AT gleaming
[…Like] a glint in the east, [then] a glint in the west

This references someone who flits around, not really leaving a trace. “Quick and aimless feet” is the phrase used in the aphorism book. I can’t think of an English language equivalent, at the moment.
I rather like the utter fail that is google-translate’s offering: “Standing gleaming in gleaming copper.” That is poetic but not quite what was intended.
This aphorism makes me think of wizards, or ghost stories.
In fact, this reminds me of the ghost story I sometimes tell my students. It’s not really something that happened to me, although it has some germs of truth in the events of the night I died.
What I did was modify and alter some details, and focus in on several details that aren’t part of the canonical telling, and craft a narrative appropriate for children, with a frisson of weirdness and supernatural. Koreans enjoy ghost stories, and I felt that having my own ghost story would be a good idea.
I thought I had written this story down in my blog at some point in the past, but it seems that I did not, based on searching around the archives a bit. I was going to put a link to it, but since I did not, I’ll have write it for my blog and post it in the future, at which point I’ll put a link here.
[daily log: walking, yes, walking, walking, walking, well, not really that much.]

Caveat: Rats Redux

When I was in middle school and high school, I had a pet rat. His name was [broken link! FIXME] Fnugus. I saw this video recently that made me remember that indeed, my rat was a pretty smart rat.

I had trained him to go to his cage much like the girl in the video. He would also jump whenever I said "jump rat." If I did it several times in succession, it made him look like he had a weird tic or was spastic. That was entertaining. It was also fun to put him on some elevated platform and have him jump to another platform. He would jump back and forth.

Mostly when I was in my room, I would allow him free run of my room. After he died, I found he had built a secret nest behind a filing cabinet in my room. It was full of some of my drawings, shredded into a comfy bed. I didn't hold it against him.

[daily log: 2 hops and a jump]


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