Thursday, June 26, 2008

Scratched the surface of the treasure trove.

I have a strange hobby. Now, it's less of a hobby and more a potential for a hobby-an interest I have which I've only surreptitiously and half-heartedly started to follow. I love vintage music. Especially pop music. Hearing the worn-out strains of 1920s popular songs on my iPod is such a magnificent confusion. The songs seem so immediately familiar in their usual poppiness, but they sound like pop from another world, from a distant America, which is true, they're from a completely different America, one we can never know, a passed, strange America which wore hats.

All this is an introduction to today's find: two large treasure troves of vintage music (via WFMU's Beware of the Blog).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Greatest Literary Hoax (Or One Of Them)

Check out the story of I, Libertine, a literary hoax to end all literary hoaxes (via Boing Boing.)

Gosh, I wish I could make a hoax like this one.

How Smart Is The Octopus?

Readers of this blog will know: very smart.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Like any sensible man, I've been thinking about Henry Timrod this morning, the poet laureate of the Confederacy--reading his poems shows just how batshit crazy the Civil War was. Here's a particular gem:


Ho! woodsmen of the mountain side!
Ho! dwellers in the vales!
Ho! ye who by the chafing tide
Have roughened in the gales!

Leave barn and byre, leave kin and cot,
Lay by the bloodless spade;
Let desk, and case, and counter rot,
And burn your books of trade.

The despot roves your fairest lands;
And till he flies or fears,
Your fields must grow but armed bands,
Your sheaves be sheaves of spears!
Give up to mildew and to rust
The useless tools of gain;
And feed your country's sacred dust
With floods of crimson rain!

Come, with the weapons at your call -
With musket, pike, or knife;
He wields the deadliest blade of all
Who lightest holds his life.
The arm that drives its unbought blows
With all a patriot's scorn,
Might brain a tyrant with a rose,
Or stab him with a thorn.

Does any falter? let him turn
To some brave maiden's eyes,
And catch the holy fires that burn
In those sublunar skies.
Oh! could you like your women feel
And in their spirit march,
A day might see your lines of steel
Beneath the victor's arch.

Let's conversate in this space.

To the stakeholders of the Super Naarkatron project,

We need to touch base about this offline, but in order to pre-prepare and get some forward planning as we are going forward together, from the get-go we’d better not let the grass grow too long on this one and get all of our ducks in a row, we need to start actioning 110% of our human capital if we don’t want to have egg on our face because we didn’t pick the low-hanging fruit when we have the chance and we ended up being stuck at the close of play without even looking under the bonnet to conversate about how we could solve the challenges we faced: the fact is that we are in negative territory in this space; we need to have some 360-degree thinking idea showers because we all know you can't turn a tanker around with a speed boat change—I assure you I have a holistic, cradle-to-grave approach on my radar but my door is still open with respect to this—but let’s loop back on this: the fact is that you can't have your cake and eat it too, so you have to step up to the plate and face the music; I know that there have been rumors to the effect that we don’t have enough bandwidth to come to the party and really live the values of our company, but at the end of the day that’s a way to wrongside the demographic—why don’t you take a business 2.0 approach to that and learn to sprinkle some magic on our challenges and incentivise our paradigm shifts?—also in addition if anyone wants to get their fingers down the throat of the organization of that nodule tell them you’ve got leverage it was auspiced by me, Rupert Naark: to feed it back, not only do we need to become project evangelists we must capture our colleagues and hope for the strategic staircase will cascade into the target demographic, but I digress; taking a high-altitude view I assure you the business is still a really cool train set, and we continue to be optimistic things will feed through the sales and delivery pipeline, but despite drilling down, we must make drastic reductions in our workforce in this space.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Rupert S. Naark, CEO-at-large, Nark Industries

This sentence has every single one of the BBC News' 50 office speak phrases you love to hate.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A. O. Scott, you are my favorite person in the world.

Seriously, A. O. Scott. I would really like to be you. Reading an A. O. Scott review is like eating chocolate--WHILE READING AN A. O. SCOTT REVIEW. It's so good, it's fucking recursively good. Check out this gem from his review of "The Love Guru"

No, “The Love Guru” is downright antifunny, an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again.
And here's another one:

I’m not opposed to infantile, regressive, scatological humor. Indeed, I consider myself something of a connoisseur. Or maybe a glutton. So it’s not that I object to the idea of, say, witnessing elephants copulate on the ice in the middle of a Stanley Cup hockey match, or seeing a dwarf sent flying over the same ice by the shock of defibrillator paddles. But it will never be enough simply to do such things. They must be done well.

A. O. Scott, can we be friends?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How To Nap

We humans make everything more complicated than it needs to be. Just to expend our excess brain power, I suppose. In that proud tradition, here's a handy infographic on how to nap. I encourage you to practice at work today.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Signs That You've Been Bit By The Travel Bug

If you read this list of tourist spots Americans can't visit (via Kottke) and you begin to plan how, indeed, you could visit them all.

I think that Kumgangsan is a bit within my reach, right?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

This Time, The Times

The recipe didn’t run in the magazine. Nor do ones that call for glove boning, which is a way to turn a bird inside out to bone it without cutting into the skin.

“It’s a marvelous technique, but who is going to do that?” Ms. Minifie asked.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

In South Korea, Students Study So Hard They Have To Leave South Korea

The New York Times reports on the curious phenomenon of South Koreans sending their kids to English-speaking countries to study English. Don't think for a second when you're reading this that this is at all rare. In every single class I teach there is at least one student who has lived in Australia or Canada or New Zealand (usually Canada). Sometimes there are two or three. And these students have a definite edge over the other kids, at least when it comes to English.

The demand for English education in Korea is huge. There are about 300,000 of us native English teachers here (keep that number in mind when you read that Lee Myun Bak wants to add an additional 10,000). And part of the reason why the demand is so great is that there exists a sort of low-level desperation about English. Everybody knows that it's important, and everybody studies very very hard, but learning good English, the sort of English expressed on test scores, seems almost Sisyphean.

And the problem I see is that the high cost of education is driving a wedge between rich and poor. After-school kids are expected to go to private academies (which cost a lot of money) and these kids will do better in class. And so in the public school classroom, the bar is raised a little higher--perhaps so high that the kids whose families cannot afford academies or private tutors or trips to Australia will fall behind. I know in my classroom sometimes the only kids who can understand me are those who have been to America, go to two English academies a day.

And it's not like the kids who can do well are enjoying themselves. My students--middle school students--study so much that when I ask them questions like "What are your hobbies?" they tell me "Sleep." "Video games." Indeed, after the last vacation I asked my students: "What did you do?" and many told me "I went to Bangkok."---This is Korean slang for staying in the house all day. (Bang means room, and I think Ko means corner [I'm not sure.]) Anyway. The kids are being educated ragged. Without the freedom to let their minds play, get creative, rebel, create themselves.... Just so they can speak good English. Damn.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Korean Food: A Crash Course

Today at an impromptu teacher's lunch/dinner (the proceedings stretched continuously from about eleven thirty in the morning until five in the evening) I ate the following, in order.


Korean lunch-box (including pork cutlet, rice, soup, and a variety of other things whose name I do not know.)
Coffee-flavored cookies.

THIRD SNACK (speared by the P.E. teacher as he waded into the ocean in a SCUBA suit--literally killed by the P.E. teacher not more than three minutes prior to the food sliding into our mouths--did I mention that we were eating this all right on the beach?)
Fresh sea cucumber.
Assorted fish.

Mussel soup.

Live! Sea! Cucumber!
Live penis fish. (I do not know what this is in English, but it looks like a penis, and it's most certainly an invertebrate, because even after you kill it and chop it up it continues to writhe in agony suggesting it has no central nervous system. It looks pretty much exactly like a penis.)
Live octopus.
Some sort of crustacean that tastes like sea water that we certainly do not eat in America.

Fresh scallops (still moving) cooked on a table-mounted barbecue. (The first cooked thing we ate all day!)
Some other sort of fresh shell-fish.

Eel. (Now, there were many things I ate which the Korean teachers suggested would give me 'stamina', basically all the phallic fish which you ate still alive fall into this category, for obvious reason, but the very most potent stamina-boosting food was the spine of the eel, served separately from the rest of the eel, and I ate about ten of them, these spines, and though you might think that the whole stamina thing is bullshit, I'm having heart palpitations right now, and I blame it squarely on my eel-induced male power.

I managed to get home somehow but some of the P.E. teachers want me to come out and drink with them. But I can barely move.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

And I thought I haven't had any action for a while.

The bdelloid rotifer, a tiny transparent puddle-dwelling animal, hasn't had sex for 85 million years.

You know, if celibacy was really god's will, these little creatures are guaranteed to be the divine's chosen animal.

Monday, June 2, 2008

In South Korea, It Never Ends

The it meaning work. My humble host nation topped the list of the hardest working countries. The average South Korean works six and a half hours a day EVERY DAY OF THEIR LIVES.

Thankfully, this workaholism does not transfer to the large English-teaching population. Although if you counted my literary pursuits as 'work' I am probably pretty high up there, as far as total hours spent in work each day.

Just to emphasize something that they mentioned in the article, here you are often given a title depending on your job. Instead of Mr. Mackie I am Mackie-Teacher, or, in proper South Korean, Mackie San Sang Nim.