Caveat: Who is Jared?

Yeo-eun has been my student for more than 6 months. I think more like approaching a year, now. 

We were preparing a debate scheme last night. Because it is a very small class, I had allowed all the students to form a single team, and I would "be" the other team, by myself. I wrote out the debate scheme on the whiteboard, and beside my CON team speeches, I wrote my name. 

With utter sincerity, Yeo-eun asked, "Teacher! Who is Jared?"

The other students laughed.

"You don't know?"

She shook her head, clearly having no clue.

We've even had extensive in-class discussions about my name, and about cultural differences in the way students address their teachers or other adults. I have explained that in fact, from my casual American perspective, addressing me as "Teacher!" is less polite than, say, using my name. Some students even have sometimes tried out the awkward "Mr Way." But the use of "Teacher!" to address one's teacher is culturally in-grained: it's just a simple direct translation of "선생님" [seon-saeng-nim], which is completely universal. Many students never bother to learn their teachers' names, as they're not allowed, culturally, to use them.

Yeo-eun had decided knowing my name was unimportant information, and had purged it from her brain.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Random Poem #32

(Poem #333 on new numbering scheme)

A tangled moon was weaving rough black cloth.
The poets noted this, with their swift pens,
but all their exploitations of the fact...
they failed to yield a single line of verse.

Caveat: 십년공부 나무아미타불

I learned this proverb from my book of Korean aphorisms.

십년공부 나무아미타불
ten-years-study “namo amitabha buddha”
[After] ten years of study, [one is reduced to saying] “Namo Amitabha Buddha.”

This is an interesting Korean proverb, because although the proverb itself is Korean in origin as far as I can figure out, the phrase “Namo Amitabha Buddha” (rendered as namuamitabul) is Pali (the language of Buddhist scripture), filtered through Chinese.
The phrase “Namo Amitabha Buddha” is an invocation of the Amitabha Buddha, which under the Pure Land tradation (“Amidism”) within Buddhism, frees the invoker of his or her karmic hinderances.
The meaning of the proverb, however, is about the phenomenon of Buddhist monks who become enchanted by secular women, apparently a commonplace in the Korean folk tradition. So the monks would chant “Namo Amitabha Buddha” in an attempt to escape such enchantments, but the point of the proverb is that they are trying to escape the earned consequences of their own behavior. There is a specific story where a monk studied for 10 years and then fell for a dancing girl. So after 10 years of study, all is come to naught. The proverb roughly means “All in vain!
This proverb is exceptionally apropos, as I approach the 10th year anniversary of my sojourn in Korea, and yet, due to my own laziness and poor behavior, I still have failed to really master the Korean language: ¡십년공부 나무아미타불!
[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Lest by diminished vitality and abated / vigilance, I become food for crocodiles

Feed Me, Also, River God
Lest by diminished vitality and abated
   vigilance, I become food for crocodiles—for that quicksand
   of gluttony which is legion. It is there close at hand—
      on either side
      of me. You remember the Israelites who said in pride
and stoutness of heart: "The bricks are fallen down, we will
   build with hewn stone, the sycamores are cut down, we will
   change to cedars"? I am not ambitious to dress stones, to
      renew forts, nor to match
      my value in action, against their ability to catch
up with arrested prosperity. I am not like
   them, indefatigable, but if you are a god, you will
   not discriminate against me. Yet—if you may fulfill
      none but prayers dressed
      as gifts in return for your gifts—disregard the request.
– Marianne Moore (American poet 1887-1972)

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Random Poem #30

(Poem #331 on new numbering scheme)

There is a kind of microclimate
amid the dawn redwoods that grow
along the pedestrian
pathways I walk to work,
in the neighborhood,
amid apartments
and children.
The air:

Caveat: Time’s Weight

This week is the 17th anniversary of my wife Michelle's suicide.

And work is feeling burdensome.

And next week is a hospital visit for a full inspection, as my 4th anniversary of cancer surgery.

I have a young student who has decided that my name is grandpa. I can't seem to discourage this habit. It's distressing.

Time feels heavy.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: I am not immune

Apparently, I am not completely immune to that internet thing known, collectively, as cat videos.

This cat's behavior is interesting. How much of this is training, and how much of this is its own cleverness?

[daily log: walking, 8km]


Caveat: Random Poem #28

(Poem #329 on new numbering scheme)

The angel polychromatic will come
down rainbows, seeking to convey the host,
in all its numbers, under kingdoms dark,
until they fecklessly arrive in Oz.

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: The content is nothing

I've been a bit under the weather, I guess. Actually, it's possibly just the outcome of some work-related stress, on issues I'm not really comfortable trying to summarize right now. I'll get around to it at some point. Meanwhile, I feel kind of lousy and plan to do as little as possible this weekend… or even less. 

What I'm listening to right now.

Haujobb, "Dead Market."


Contact and rupture
Unlike a pulse
Law of repetition
We will always follow

Identity is safe
The content is nothing
Deconstruction of form
We will always follow

Manipulate the pulse, the pattern, the rhythm
Dominate the beat
Manipulate the pulse, the pattern, the beat
Dominate the world

Desire remains
Discharge of pleasure
Absence of contact
We will always follow

Manipulate the pulse, the pattern, the rhythm
Dominate the beat
Manipulate the pulse, the pattern, the beat
Dominate the world

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Random Poem #25

(Poem #326 on new numbering scheme)

I have this inventory: broken things,
non-functioning, old things - not problems, just
invitations to live more simply, so
my ancient television only asks
that I not watch it. How can I resist?

Caveat: 구렁이 담 넘어가듯 한다

I learned this aphorism from my book of aphorisms.

구렁이 담 넘어가듯 한다
gu.reong.i dam han.da
snake wall go-over-AS-IF do-PRES
[He/she/it] acts like a snake going over a wall.

I think this must be more or less the same as English’s “Like a snake in the grass”: sneaky behavior, creeping up on on a situation unnoticed.
This makes me think of Bob Dylan’s old song, “Man Gave Names To All The Animals,” which is my favorite song from Dylan’s “Christian period.”
I would like to include a youtube embed of Dylan’s song, but Dylan is one of those performing artists who is VERY aggressive in his takedowns of his work online. I personally consider this reprehensible, and combined with his assholery around his recent Nobel prize, that’s why he’s gone down substantially in my estimation as a human being, if remaining high in my estimation of him as an artist.
What I’m listening to right now.

Townes Van Zandt, covering “Man Gave Names To All The Animals,” by Bob Dylan. It’s perhaps a better rendition than the original, anyway. But regardless, Dylan is an amazing lyricist: the ending of the song is poetically brilliant.

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago.

He saw an animal that liked to growl
Big furry paws and he liked to howl
Great big furry back and furry hair
“Ah, think I’ll call it a bear”.

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago.

He saw an animal up on a hill
Chewing up so much grass until she was filled
He saw milk coming out but he didn’t know how
“Ah, think I’ll call it a cow”.

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago.

He saw an animal that liked to snort
Horns on his head and they weren’t too short
It looked like there wasn’t nothing that he couldn’t pull
“Ah, I’ll think I’ll call it a bull”.

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago.

He saw an animal leaving a muddy trail
Real dirty face and a curly tail
He wasn’t too small and he wasn’t too big
“Ah, think I’ll call it a pig”.

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago.

Next animal that he did meet
Had wool on his back and hooves on his feet
Eating grass on a mountainside so steep
“Ah, think I’ll call it a sheep”.

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago.

He saw an animal as smooth as glass
Slithering his way through the grass
Saw him disappear by a tree near a lake ….

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: This sacred text has been brought to you by the letter ‘A’

Someone has created a version of the first part of the Biblical Book of Genesis using ONLY words that start with the letter 'A.'

1. An advent: ancient archangels architect abstract astronomy and arid asteroids.
2. All asteroids are amorphous and absent; And all asleep across aquatic anarchy. And astral angels advanced across area.
3. And Almighty asked," Appear." And all appeared aglow.
4. And Almighty approved. Aura and absence: an antagonistic arithmetic.
5. An afternoon and aurora, an aeon.
6.And atmosphere and all awash abscinded.
7. Astral air above; aquatic area abased. All as Almighty asserted.
8. Angel's abode appeared. Another afternoon, another aurora. Another aeon.
9. And Almighty authored aquatic archipelagos. Arable acreage appeared.
10. And Almighty approved.

In fact, it's quite poetic.

Alliteratively amazing, actually.

You can read the rest here.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Random Poem #23

(Poem #324 on new numbering scheme)

This morning tasted just like cancer. Well,
you might just wonder: what does that taste like?
It tastes just like most other mornings do,
except your gut is filled with burning, fierce
desires to keep breathing and stay alive.

Caveat: Clowning around

I guess clowns need love too.

뭘 지금 듣고있어요.

박겨애, "곡예사의 첫 사랑." Is this song really about a love affair with a clown? It seems to be. What is it with Korean culture and clowns? I haven't quite figured that out. I wonder if this song proves beyond question that the 1970s were weird in Korea, too? The performance is from 1987, but this artist's release of the song was popular in 1978. 박겨애 is not the original composer – I found a reference to 정민섭, and that he wrote this particular song in 1966, and that maybe (depending on my ability to figure out the Korean) it is in fact a reference to a Korean folk tale – which makes more sense than it being about a western-style clown. I think maybe the terms for traditional bard/jester type characters in Korean culture (i.e. 곡예사 or 어릿광대) have been somewhat conflated with the western "clown."


줄을 타며 행복했지 춤을 추면 신이 났지
손풍금을 울리면서 사랑노래 불렀었지
공굴리며 좋아했지 노래하면 즐거웠지
흰분칠에 빨간코로 사랑 얘기 들려줬지
영원히 사랑하자 맹세했었지
죽어도 변치말자 언약했었지
울어봐도 소용없고 후회해도 소용없는
어릿광대의 서글픈 사랑
줄을 타며 행복했지 춤을 추면 신이 났지
손풍금을 울리면서 사랑노래 불렀었지

영원히 사랑하자 맹세했었지
죽어도 변치말자 언약했었지
울어봐도 소용없고 후회해도 소용없는
어릿광대의 서글픈 사랑
공굴리며 좋아했지 노래하면 즐거웠지
흰분칠에 빨간코로 사랑 얘기 들려줬지

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Random Poem #22

(Poem #323 on new numbering scheme)

She murdered monkeys by proxy
by crafting tales of woe
the monkeys didn't know their fate
because she was a pro.

– this quatrain in ballad meter is about a certain student I have, who makes up rather gruesome stories about my little toy monkeys that come with me to class.

Caveat: Bartleby, et al

I have been re-reading some Melville short stories. In college, during that brief period when I thought I was an English Major, I had a seminar on Melville in which we read many of these stories. This is the first time I have returned to them.

"Bartleby the Scrivener" is, of course, a famous and compelling story. Actually, I see it as a kind of case study of major (catatonic) depression, written avant la lettre so to speak. It's quite brilliant, and anticipates Kafka and 20th century nihilism too.

I was more interested in reading the diptych, "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids." Many have observed that it is a kind of allegory on the theme of the incipient capitalist mode of production – although 'allegory' seems a strong word, as it is really just a fictionalized description of the way things work. What I was struck by, however, is that it's not necessarily about early capitalism, per se. It's just about capitalism – the parallels between the situation in the two scenes – the dining scene in London and the factory in New England – and, say, capitalism as it exists in modern China, are striking. There is also, in these parallels, the notable gender-based division of labor, which is an aspect worth thinking about. Why are most of the workers in sweatshops, whether in 19th century New England or 21st century Asia, women? This question clearly preoccupied Melville profoundly. Another aspect that struck me but that critics don't seem to frequently mention: what's with the emphasis on the "paleness" of everything, at the factory? Is this some kind of oblique, inverted reference to the situation of slavery, and its relationship in turn to 19th century emergent capitalism? I feel there must be an awareness there – the decade is 1850s – abolition was in the air. 

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Jumping Out of the Sky

In 1960, a guy name Joe Kittinger jumped out of a high altitude balloon and fell to Earth. I don't think I could ever have the nerve to skydive, but this activity has always fascinated me. I suppose this is the ultimate in skydiving.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Random Poem #19

(Poem #320 on new numbering scheme)

The planet kept on spinning like a plate
that someone threw down on the floor, and still
it kept on spinning, rolling in a curve,
an aimless helix, then it flopped down, still.

Caveat: pie

The song by Joe Hill (union organizer in the first decades of the 1900s) entitled "The Preacher and the Slave" is the origin of the phrase "pie in the sky."

Joe Hill was executed in 1915, probably framed for a murder by state authorities trying to get tamp down his troublesome politics.

What I'm listening to right now.

Utah Phillips, "The Preacher and the Slave."


Long haired preachers come out ev'ry night,
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked, how 'bout something to eat, (Let us eat)
They will answer with voices so sweet; (Oh so sweet)
You will eat, (You will eat)
Bye and bye, (Bye and bye) in that glorious land above the sky;
(way up high)
work and pray, (work and pray) live on hay, (Live on hay)
you'll get pie in the sky when you die. (That's a lie)

And the starvation army they play,
And they sing and they clap and they pray.
Till they get all your coin on the drum,
Then they'll tell you when you're on the bum:


Holy Rollers and Jumpers come out,
And they holler, they jump and they shout
"Give your money to Jesus," they say,
"He will cure all diseases today."


If you fight hard for children and wife-
Try to get something good in this life-
You're a sinner and bad man, they tell,
When you die you will sure go to hell.


Workingmen of all countries unite,
Side by side we for freedom will fight!
When the world and its wealth we have gained,
To the grafters we'll sing this refrain:


You will eat, bye and bye,
When you've learned how to cook and to fry.
Chop some wood, 'twill do you good,
And you'll eat in the sweet bye and bye.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Random Poem #18

(Poem #319 on new numbering scheme)

The sea was reaching long arms through the rifts
of green, wet valleys; grasping at the peaks
of mountains with her cloud-hands; fine-grained snow
was falling on the beach in steady clumps;
the eyes of all the world were blinking, each
a ghost that watched the other ghosts alone.

– this poem may be related to another poem I wrote long ago. In any event, the setting is Mahhalian.

Caveat: en las ondas escrevir

Bien amar, leal servir,
cridar et dezir mis penas,
es sembrar en las arenas
o en las ondas escrevir.
Si tanto quanto serví
sembrara en la ribera,
tengo que reverdesciera
et diera fructo de sí.
Et aun por verdat dezir,
si yo tanto escreviera
en la mar, yo bien podiera
todas las ondas teñir.

– Juan Rodríguez del Padrón (poeta español, 1390-1450)

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Maybe Because I’m Really Very Anti-Social

I had a sort of vague mini-epiphany today, as I walked to work.

There aren't that many foreigners working in the Hugok neighborhood, where I work. I have seen the same 5 or 6 foreigners (i.e. Westerners) from time to time, on the street. I even have some idea which of the many hagwon in the neighborhood they each work at. 

I have long realized I have strange tendency to avoid interacting with foreigners in Korea. Partly, in my own personal experience, I find many of them to be annoying people. Expat English teachers such as one runs into on the streets in Ilsan tend to either be wannabe hipsters suffering from incipient alcoholism and with a tendency to complain about everything, or else sufficiently "gone native" that they instead arouse feelings of jealousy in me that make it unpleasant for me to be around them. There aren't very many who fall in the gray area I have occupied for so long. 

Today as I walked to work I noticed one of these "Hugok foreigners" and found myself actually crossing the street to avoid meeting him on the sidewalk. He is definitely in the wannabe hipster category, and I have interacted with him once or twice – he strikes me as one of those people who refuses to make any concessions whatsoever to being a supposed professional in a foreign and relatively conservative culture: a half-dozen piercings, visible tattoos, a mop of oddly cut hair and ragged clothing. Yet he's clearly accepted at the hagwon where he works – I guess he must be doing something right, as he's been around for a few years. I don't begrudge him his success, but I don't really approve of his style.

Anyway, this is not the first time that I have intentionally avoided meeting a foreigner on the street, but I always just wrote it off to my general anti-social tendencies. Nevertheless, I had a sort of realization today. It's not just that I'm anti-social or that I don't like foreigners, despite being one myself. It's that I actually genuinely like living in a country where there is a large and permanent barrier preventing easy communication. I'm just simply that anti-social.

This thought, in turn, lead me to my mini-epiphany: perhaps I deliberately sabotage my Korean-learning efforts for precisely this same reason. If I became truly competent at speaking Korean, I'd have no excuse not to interact with the vast majority of the people I see each day.

That's a pretty damning insight. Do I need to go live on a mountainside somewhere?

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: Random Poem #16

(Poem #317 on new numbering scheme)

young minds want
to receive what
they are taught but then
they get pulled away by
the pointless distractions that
culture endlessly gives to them
such that there's no room left for knowledge.

– a return to the nonnet form.

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