Thursday, September 27, 2007

Entering the Academic Borg

When you can write a jargon-filled sack of shit like:

Kim Yong Ik (1909-1996) was a pioneering Korean-American author. His use of language and close attention to local custom, whether in Korea or the United States, was married to an often nearly arid approach to culture which initially seems without judgment almost intentionally acultural while at the same time larded with cultural Golems and reference points. His work was simultaneously traditional and nearly post-modern – it stood at a diasporic crossroad where perception is crossed by praxis. It was also deceptively simple, using language carefully, typically with a strongly defined narrative center.
you might just have been in academia too long!

But, you know... props to me!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What I Did on my Bummer Vacation!

As usual, I was able to sneak off of work a bit early. I was out of the office by 2:30 and despite some showers on my side of the hills, there was no traffic to speak of - it was enjoyable, in a schedenfreudey kind of way, to see traffic backed up going the other way. I stopped at the store to purchase food and get some firewood and then it was up the coast to the campsite.

The BAG had left for the campsite the night before and had done a rather tidy job of setting up the tent. With the exception of not putting the spine into the rainflap (thus its flaccidity in the picture), the thing was solid. We fixed that right up, which was very convenient when the thunder, lightening and rain came crashing down from the heavens. It really couldn't have been better timing. We had the afternoon and evening without rain (thus the fire) but the threat of the rain kept the campground almost empty. There were something like 39 campsites of which only about 4 were occupied and the whole campsite went dead at about 9:30. The BAG, who had arrived on Thursday evening, had enjoyed the entire campground to herself.

We made a fire, ate some roast chicken, and read books until it it became to dark to read anymore. The fire started to burn down, so we hopped into the tent. Once we were tucked in the storm hit (we were largely protected by the trees) and it pretty much went away by the next morning, so we were able to have a morning fire (I drank some beer) and then headed off to Small Coastal Town for a quick looksee. Some shopping, a visit to a saloon and then it was back down the coast to our second night's lodging in a tent-cabin and a real dinner.

As usual I shot a series of cruddy pictures of nature. The light was great and the photographer was worse. ;-)

Out of a ton of blurry shots of birds I salvaged the ones you see, but I spent most of my time trying to shoot the waves abusing the kelplets which hang on to the rocks. The BAG had, the previous day, spotted a couple of beaches that had really nice tidepools, so while I shot the pictures she kept hunkering down and turning her back to the ocean. Neptune was not on my side on this particular day, and thus we headed (as a couple) down to the tent-cabin. There had been an over-booking and the place was swamped. A wedding was about to begin and there was only one guy at the front desk who was being hammered with phone-calls, people rushing up to the desk, as well as handling (sort of) registration duties. At one point he forgot to put someone on hold when he walkie-talkied his grounds crew begging them to send an iron and ironing board to a tent that was "bugging him." When he returned to the phone they started yelling at him loud enough so that it could be heard in line. I felt pretty sorry for the guy and was all smiles when I finally got to the front of the line.

The upshot of the over-booking was that we got a better cabin then we would have (YAY!) and having been at the tent cabin before, I was clever enough to have brought a power strip and electric heater. We plugged the heater and laptop in (the place has wireless!), and read the rest of the day away.

Dinner at the restaurant and then sleep.

The next day was a trip back up the coast with more pictures of tortured little kelpies. I will certainly go back and try this again when there is enough sunlight to catch the kelpies in slightly less dark form. Then we took another quick stop in Small Coastal Town for a beer (for me) and to catch the 49ers game (for me). The game was already a rout and after it we took off up a little road that we had been told returned to the freeway. It did, after a lovely little detour, and we slowly made our way up the coast and then back over the hills.

At the top of the hill we stopped for lunch at a well-known (well known enough that there is a song about it) motorcycle bar/restaurant and with some regret headed down the hill to Big City to pull out some of our camping gear and spray the crud off it.

And that, my friends, is what I did on my bummer vacation.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Call the Ewhaaaaambulance...

And then, suddenly, it all fell apart.... When I returned from my lovely vacation (pictures of which are to follow) I had a phone call from the BKF telling me I needed to call him immediately. As I had sent him an IM full of fear and loathing on Friday and had no response, I already sensed something was up...

As it turns out, the suspicion I had voiced that the BKF and I were not minimally qualified to apply for the grant as solo interpreters also somehow applied to Ewha College and, with time running out towards the deadline someone at The Academy of Korean Studies informed Ewha that they were institutionally unqualified to apply for the grant.

This is the story we were told. The real story will remain as remote and hidden as the Han cultural heart, and I will never know it.

This sudden halt is not a tragedy on several levels.

• The BKF's heart was never that deeply into this and I also found the work tedious. A few translations perhaps, but three years was going to be a grind.

• Just the translation of this work has been incredibly useful for my upcoming conference paper. "Yi Saeng Peers Over the Wall" is the very first piece of Korean fiction and can thus be fairly said to be sui generis in one sense, but also archetypal in a more important way. And YSPOTW is rife with themes and plotlines of diaspora and return (heck, I might even nick that line for my conference paper) and thus will provide a lovely historical and literary background and echo for my argument.

• Similarly, having translated all the poems in YSPOTW, I know have a much better idea of what Korean poetry is about, and this will help me greatly in at least one of the pieces of literature I am reviewing for Acta Koreana.

• It was was just plain cool to do.

• Lurking out there like a vast subterranean follower of Cthulhu, there is the very Korean issue of face and obligation. The work I have done here should have certainly increased my balance on the credit side of these things. This would be an incredibly rude thing to say aloud to a Korean, but it is nonetheless true and when I tote up all the cool shit that went on around this (now) clusterfuck, that may be the most important thing that happened.

Monday, the day after this news, the book of Korean Poetry came and it was a slender enough volume that I could take it to a bar with the Master's Thesis from which it derived, and in the time it takes the Tennessee Titans to beat the living crap out of the wretched New Orleans Saints I could read and compare all the duplicate poems (73 out of 90) as well as make more notes on this review. I now have 4 pages of notes (not counting marginalia in the book) and will let it sit for a week or so. When the time to write comes, the writing should come easily (although just saying that is putting the worst kind of hex on things!).

I also finished "Three Generations" by Yom Sang-seop .

This book began just horribly, in a storm of Korean social structure and trite political posturing that would make any reader from the US grind their teeth in frustration. In fact the BKF is Anglicized enough that this happened to him. He handed me the book with the "bad news/good news" explanation, "I started this book, but by the time I got fifty pages in, I realised it was the kind of book you should read."

Nice, buddy!

But as it went the social structure became part of the novel and the trite political posturing (and otherwise somewhat cardboard characterizations at the outset) became something like two obvious black lines standing up on either end of a canvas - the framework for a clever, subtle and always changing representation of a bamboo grove. Yom's characters grew and changed throughout the book and at the end there were no easy solutions. The end was even something of a cliffhanger. I may just write a review of this thing for the hell of it, to fix its meaning in my head.

Anyway, all of this also helped to blunt whatever kind of blow the loss of the potential Ewha gig might have been. It was never in our hands, I suppose, so we never lost it.

On to the next motel!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Even Satan Doesn't Want Maggie Thatcher

How is this evil bitch still alive (And isn't Giulani revealing his fucked up evil self - and while we're at this, isn't the woman on the left about due to take some time off from the Botox that has sketched her face in permanent rictus? -DANG.. betcha 20 bux that "face in permanent rictus" is a non-Google phrase!)

Elvis put it best..
I saw a newspaper picture from the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously in pain
She spills with compassion, as that young child's
face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice
coming down on that child's lips

Well I hope I don't die too soon
I pray the Lord my soul to save
Oh I'll be a good boy, I'm trying so hard to behave
Because there's one thing I know, I'd like to live
long enough to savour
That's when they finally put you in the ground
I'll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down

When England was the whore of the world Margaret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear as the black tarmacadam
Well I hope that she sleeps well at night, isn't haunted by every tiny detail
'Cos when she held that lovely face in her hands all she thought of was betrayal

And now the cynical ones say that it all ends the same in the long run
Try telling that to the desperate father who just squeezed the life from his only son
And how it's only voices in your head and dreams you never dreamt
Try telling him the subtle difference between justice and contempt
Try telling me she isn't angry with this pitiful discontent
When they flaunt it in your face as you line up for punishment
And then expect you to say "Thank you" straighten up, look proud and pleased
Because you've only got the symptoms, you haven't got the whole disease
Just like a schoolboy, whose head's like a tin-can
filled up with dreams then poured down the drain
Try telling that to the boys on both sides, being blown to bits or beaten and maimed
Who takes all the glory and none of the shame

Well I hope you live long now, I pray the Lord your soul to keep
I think I'll be going before we fold our arms and start to weep
I never thought for a moment that human life could be so cheap
'Cos when they finally put you in the ground
They'll stand there laughing and tramp the dirt down

A comical argument for Leavology

From the excellent

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Not found on Google Reduxulusneous-osity

Yet more of my attempt to make Google perfect by posting phrases it has not yet assimilated.

The missing phrase
"my pain was never enough to keep her love alive"
came from a re-writing of an Elvis Costello lyric:
My tears were never enough to keep that girl alive
I think my version more closely describes what makes some girls tick.

The missing phrase
"I'll have that with extra pain"
Came from reading "Procrastination---Now With Sand"
On the excellent "Academic Cog" website and somehow thinking of the Spurlock Documentary "Super Size Me"
I thought, surely, that some emo kid would have used this phrase in complete seriousness. But I was wrong.

Along the same line there was no
"I'll have a side of heartbreak"

"Suicide a la carte"
checked in with a modest 4 instances, which somehow bolsters my faith in the creative whininess of the human race.

Over at Warriorsworld they asked..

What print have you purchased..

for me it was this one..

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Writing a Couple of Reviews

for Acta Koreana.....


Thank you for kindly offering to review Choi Jongyoll's Sky Nest and Cho Se-Hui's The Dwarf for Acta Koreana.

I personally think it would be interesting to have an English major's perspective on these two works, so I will have the review copies sent out to you straight away.

For inclusion in the January 2008 issue of Acta Koreana, it would be helpful if your reviews could reach us (as e-mail attachments) by 1 December 2007.

I would also be grateful if you could send a short e-mail to this address to let us know when you receive the books.

This is not a paid gig, but will certainly help pad out my meagre Korean CV.

The first is on Sky Nest by Choi Jongyoll - this is a compilation of poetry, and reading and reviewing this can only help me if the BKF and I continue along on the Korean lit/poetry translations. And since I found a pdf of the actual poems, I can begin before I even get the work!

More fun should be The Dwarf by Cho Se-Hui which seems to be a very important work in a Korea and focuses on things that should be easy to ramble on about, you know, industrialism, capitalism... dwarves! ;-)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Just Me and the BKF vs. The Pansies at Harvard...

Spent another long slog with the BKF this weekend. Friday night in a hotel where we worked from about 5:45 to 10:00 on a new piece that the Koreans had sent him. I had been unaware this had been landing because, well.. no one had warned us. BKF opened his mail when he got to my hotel and there the thing was. Not only there, but in the extremely “only freaking Koreans use it” .hwp format. Which there is really no way to open in the rest of the world. This was unfortunate, because BKF and I were, just at that time, in the rest of the world.

Finally we made phone contact with our person at the Korean University and a .doc version was sent. We also discovered something we should have thought of – we aren’t just going to be in a “reputation qeueue” with Korean Universities, but with international ones as well. Our Korean contact named a few schools who were expected to apply – BKF and I quickly ran over who was a shoo-in – Harvard, UCLA, Berkeley, probably someone in England (does Oxford have such a program?). In the end we figured that the 10 slots would probably be split about evenly between Korean and international universities. We still think our Uni has a chance, it is very prestigious, but it is intimidating to think of actual “scholars” working on this project. It makes the amount of time BKF and I can currently apply to translation, and our poor research resources (Google, Empas, and Naver) seem woefully inadequate. Then there is the additional fact that neither BKF or I are technically qualified for the positions we will fill. I imagine there will be some “putative” experts and we will be ghostwriting. This would be an issue with me if it meant my name would not go on the published work. We’ll have to wait and see.

LOL. Look at that! I just jumped from “we can’t get the job” to “I’ll quit if I don’t have it my own way!”

The new translation was an academic cover letter for our piece. It drove BKF crazy because it was repetitive and academic in that “go over every point three times and dig out significance” way. We had also been told that the thing was “two pages” when it turned out to be almost 1,600 words when “turned into” English. Thankfully it did not include any footnotes. BKF alternated between translation, drinking beer, and swearing and flailing his arms in the air when he got to a point that he felt had been adequately covered three times before. We called it an evening and decided that if I could I would get another night at the hotel, since working there was substantially quieter than working at his house, with the chillun and the family there.

The rest was ESPN and one more beer, ;-)

OPUS MAGNUS? Statistically, it had to happen.

Holy Crap.... Berkeley Breathed (Perhaps Breathed Berkeley? Who could know with an obvious alias like that?) has finally hit "funny" again!

Bloom County was one of the trustworthy comics of something sort of getting back close to my childhood. When Bloom County went away? It hurt, and I embarked upon a 20 year alcoholic spiral which resulted in the great job I have today, lying to the kiddies of Big City for about 100k a year. The return of Breathed (Berkeley? Panted? Oxford? Really, someone being arrested on "Cops" could come up with a better pseudonym) Opus sounded great but it was normally stupid.

But this one has great inking (I particularly like the semen being squeezed from Opus - I imagine it is coming out of all his orifices.) and more than one risible notion ('do what you're told or end up in Guantanamo' is clever, but perhaps too close to the truth for satire?).

I count about 4 punchlines in this one comic .. which means I shouldn't have to read Opus again for the several years I might spend in Korea...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dude - I'd Like to Help, but Your Name...

Is "Dudu."

And you really don't look hungry, more like you're stoned.

This advert just doesn't sell the message.

So I guess your ass is gonna starve.....

Friday, September 14, 2007

"Make Mistakes All Shiny, New"

Which I am pleased to say is yet another "phrase not found on Google." And also a dim remembrance of some poem I writ back in the undergraduate days (aah, the best 25 years of my life!) which had something like...
"We do the things we always do,
And make mistakes, all shiny, new..."

which for some reason resonates with me as I re-read Harlan Ellison's anthology "Dangerous Visions" which holds up reasonably well for a volume intended to push the boundaries way back when it was published in 1967 or so..... those boundaries have been pretty well exploded, so anything that holds up in that regard must have been some pretty solid writing to begin with

But as I read "Dangerous Visions" and contemplate Korea, translations, leaving the highest paying job I will likely ever have, and the likelihood that the Patriots will win the super bowl (asterisk baby!) I come across a lovely little quote..
Seems to me most bad things happen within a man's pattern... he gets out of phase and there's a whole row of stones ahead of him laid exactly where each and every one of them will crack him... What he should do is head upstream. It might be unknown territory, and there might be dangers, but... theres' a who row of absolutely certain, absolutely planned agonies he is just not going to have to suffer.
Really. Why keep going on the same path that's busting your ass in predictable ways? It's a failure of imagination.

There are so many novel ways to get broken down and why wouldn't you prefer that, or the possibility that a non-predictable path, a tangent, might spin you off of your absolutely predictable agonies? There will be many paths not taken, but if you (by which I mean "I" since this is all about me.. me.. ME!) stick moronically to one yer a .. yer a .. oh .. a moronic stick!

(that's some mighty fine logickin'!)

Off to see BKF tomorrow about a cover letter, some translation, and where the future is....

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Another phrase not on Google

"unified field theory of pain"

Really, there should be such a thing. This came up as I was reading the lovely Academic Cog's discussion of the notion of "the law of conservation of sleep." This is similar to a theory I have long had about pain and avoirdupois, that when one person sheds some, others gain it.

As I pondered on this I drank six beers (thus losing pain and gaining weight, all of which fits in neatly). At this point a breakthrough occurred - I realized that pain is above mere laws and must needs be theory. Suck it, Einstein!

So I looked it up.

And it didn't exist.

Google does not yet define the world.

I am, however, scared to note that the phrase "unified theory of pain" does have 2090 references as of this post. That's a band name, not a subject for study.

What the hell is wrong with you people?

Sick? Funny? Some Combination like "Sunny?"

Oh man... I laughed, but I understand how you could cry...

Why I Shivered Myself To Sleep Last Night

Gutted, like an Alien would suck the goo from an otherworldly bug on the shores of a tarpit, on a planet far, far away.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back To the Future.. Korean Embassy Floor

Just finishing the pictures of the rebuilding of the BKF's house, since he has some folks overseas who want to see it. This post should have been sometime back in July.

That evening we made a start at the floor, but it was pretty desultory. That first photo is just to remind what the floor looked like when it was all linoleum. When I arrived back from the hotel the next day BKF was sitting on the floor sort of swatting at the composite pieces. We quickly learned it was much better as a two person job.

Somehow we got through the previous day drinking only one beer each. This was just the wrong approach and so, although it was early on a Sunday morning, I stopped by the liquor store to pick up a six-pack of Bud Light. When I got to BKF's new house he had already had some kind of semi-Mexican breakfast the remnants of which were already congealed to their yellow fast-food wrapper. So I scrounged around and found some kind of Cheesy-Poofs and had the following breakfast of champions.

The BKF and I soon learned that in the big, spacious areas it made sense to lay the composite flooring down three pieces at a time. So we raced over these kinds of areas. The tricky bits were in the kitchen where there were all kinds of tricky angles, a refrigerator, and an unfortunate two-inch difference between the width of three pieces of composite and the floor space. I worked on the big areas while BKF called me when there was need to trim something, move something or force something into a small space.

By the time I had to leave we had most of the kitchen done and the refrigerator back in. It looked like the house might actually make it.

Ed, of course, had a celebratory beverage, and for once it wasn's mechju!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I quiet the voices in my head with a sharpened chopstick through the ear....

that will be all... :-)

Tossed in Translation

Another gnarly day of translation, though far gnarlier for the BKF than me. Saturday was an eight-hour job and today was just a bit less. Translation is not as glamorous as they make it seem on television, in Hollywood, or on the Great White Way. The piece we are working on is what the BKF calls a “library piece” which means, among other things, it is heavily footnoted in ways that require Chinese and Korean characters. BKF plugged away on this while I worked on some poetry translation. Since BKF was somewhat unsure on the original Chinese content of the poem, what I had to start with was a bit vague and the whole thing kind of suffered.

I got the first cut done, though, and it looks like this:

Have you not seen? The rules of the Qin Dynasty failed

And nobles seeking literary pleasure have worshipped honest living

have you also not seen the earls and dukes of the nation fought and disrupted the harmony

And the arrogant Zhangzi of the Black Garden toyed with bones of chickens

Some who were free of greed repaired to bamboo groves

Others of the people stayed in the chaos they spoke of their hearts as grey ash (bitter)

The historical figures of ancient time cannot return

but they left their words in vain in history books 1,000 years old

Now I look at this painting and my mind quiets.

Clear blue inspiration rises from the wind and dust

In a quiet bamboo grove, the leaves fall and the wind whistles

An old tree's branches are gnarled and knotted

Twisted roots and parched branches harbor love

The winter branches are broken in cold weather and you can almost hear the sound

I clean an empty room and unfold the picture

And suddenly the white wall lets out the sound of nature.

A talented painter dared to show the heavenly creation

His painting cleanses my mind which is full of dirt and residue

Wieon and Munnyeoga have already become but ghosts

Who wielded the branches and conveyed their lofty image

He must have seen only the bamboo and tree beyond his preconceptions

Not only beyond, but beyond himself as well

He got the world and himself out of his mind and sat quietly

And the thread of endless new change must have shined at that moment in him

The true mystery resides where his brushtrokes are not yet manifested

He obtained the mystery and it conveyed itself to his hands

The brush painted harmony and his intention soared sky-high

Each branch and stalk are unadulterated with his preconception

Waving and weaving of their own accord.

His expertise and painting exemplifies nature and can't be put to words

Words can describe only things that fit in our conceptual framework.

Facing quietly the painting and severing even the smallest thought

The desire of the painter to draw took its roots in nature/mystery

How could an ordinary scholar understand the painter's attainment?

The child of the mountain pestles a medicine from time to time.

Are you not aware that the rules of the Qin Dynasty have been failing?

While nobles seeking literary pleasure have worshipped honest living

Have you also not seen the Dukes and Earls fighting and breaking harmony?

The arrogant Zhangzi of the Black Garden toyed with bones of chickens for augury.

Some people who were free of greed repaired to a solitary bamboo thicket

Others confessed to hearts as grey as ash, they stayed in the world of the wicked

The historical figures of ancient time cannot come back again

They left words in 1,000 year old history books, but alas in vain

Now I look at this painting and my mind become quiet and remote.

Clear blue inspiration rises from the wind and dust mote

In a quiet bamboo grove, the leaves fall and wind whistles

An ancient tree's branches are roughly gnarled and gristled

Twisted roots and parched branches encircle love around

Winter branches snap in cold weather - you can almost hear the sound

I clean an empty room and then unfold the picture

And suddenly the white wall lets out the sound of nature.

A talented painter dared to paint the heavenly creation

His painting cleanses my mind of dirt and exfoliation.

Wieon and Munnyeoga have passed beyond the living

Who then wielded branches and conveyed their lofty vision

He must have seen only the bamboo and tree, not his preconceptions

Not only beyond these, but beyond his own limitations

The world and himself were not in his mind as he sat tranquilly

The thread of ongoing change then shined, within and endlessly

The true mystery resides where brushstrokes are not manifested

He came to know the mystery and through his hands expressed it.

His brush painted harmony and his intention soared to the heavens

Every branch and every stalk are unadulterated with preconceptions

Each undulates and weaves expressing their own nature

Expert painting exemplifies reality that words would just denature.

Language can describe only things that fit in where we think they ought.

Quietly facing the painting and severing even the smallest thought

The desire of the painter to draw found its roots in mystery

How can an ordinary scholar understand the painter's mastery?

The child of the mountain pestles medicine periodically.

Beyond that, I found the website of the actual grant and we looked at pay structure and the overall structure of the grant. Besides the fact that BKF and I seem to NOT meet the minimum requirements for inclusion, it all seemed good.

We assume that the Korean Womans College will be taking care of covering that bit of it and if not, we won't get the grant, which would be far from tragic. This grant is just one of the things that we have, in partnership and alone, coming down the pike. It is an unsettled but promising future with these projects, and I suppose that is all I can ask for.

While out with the BAG yesterday I had something like an epiphany of how Korea could/should do its tourism advertising and, for no good reason, I am actually photoslopping some demos together. They would never make sense to the Korean Ministry Of Scaring Tourists Off To Japan, but they do make a bit of sense to me.

Whatever the case, I feel confident some kind of job will come from this and I will be able to get out of the current job nightmare and directly into the next job nightmare. ;=)

Monday, September 03, 2007

More Phrases Not Found (til now) on Google

Now this one confuses me.. as I was certain it would be there. After working on a translation of ancient Korean story "Yisang Steals a Glance," a thought occurred to me (which would surprise my family, who generally claim thought is outside my repertoire).

It was, "all good love stories end in death" and that don't show up in Google as of this day.

I must be fair and admit that further research indicates that I just don't love me my love stories enough, since as of today "all great love stories end in death" does show up three times on Google. Still, far less than I'd have expected.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Great Unifier, Introduced

JAE Likes the Drugs!

The "Great Unifier" Ponders his First Significant Separation!