Monday, October 31, 2005


I composed these lyrics at school today. Maybe my friend Allan can add music and make a song out of it...

when you're in my shoes
do you see the bubbles
the boiling bubbles of my stew
do you see, oh do you see me shaking
the shivering snow
falling...falling from my shoulders
is it it all taken...

taken for granted
tay hey ken TAY HEY KEN
for granted
(whispered) taken for granted

can you see my eyes
do you see the fire
yeah the FIGH HIGH YEHR Yeah
and the flames
(whispered)can you hear my angry cries
do you hear the anger
the shivering shaking of my rage
or is it taken...

taken for granted
tay hey ken TAY HEY KEN
for granted
(whispered) taken for granted

and then there is...
You ooooh You hoo hoo You
And when you say my name
It's all falling from my shoulders
four hall...falling...(whispered): falling water
you're the water to my soil
you're the rain upon my flame
you're the cool in the heat
and the warmth when it's cold

(whispered) and I'll never be
taken for granted
and I'll neh eh ver
take you...for granted

you're tay hey ken
I'm tay hey ken
we're tay hey ken
(fading): Taken..taken..taken...

Chomsky Audio

Click on the title of this post to listen to an October 25th interview (MP3) with Noam Chomsky.

Apple Art

Using a picture I drew about a year ago, I asked the students to draw their own patterns, and fire up their own imaginations. I personally don't think art interprets anything when we try to render reality as closely as we find it. Interpretation means 'seeing or showing in a particular way, or according to a particular view'. It could be argued that all of us interpret all things differently, but I am not sure, if two people are drawing a knife, or a fork, if there is much difference between their basic view of it. That's not a fact, it's certainly debatable. But I prefer abstract art as a more direct route to accessing and representing complex ideas in simple colors and shapes. It's not as important for others to understand what we produce, just that we understand our own inspiration, and let that fire fire brightly within ourselves.

Next door to the school where I work (and in the same building) they are opening up an art school. I wonder if they would have offered me a part time job there?

Kunstler: They Lied To Us*

*Oops, I did it again... another morbid article. You know, it's not morbid, it's just the truth. Try to read it dispassionately, as a math teacher would follow the clumsy logic of a child's homework...or lack thereof...and seeing that the child never figured out the basic theorems or formulas needed to solve these elementary problems.

October 31, 2005
The cry across the land grows increasingly shrill: "THEY LIED TO US!"
For going on three years, the American public, especially on the political left, has been complaining that the Iraq War was some kind of a shuck-and-jive. The Bush government pulled the wool over everybody's eyes. They ran a vicious propaganda operation. We were fooled by all those fairy tales about WMDs, Saddam and Osama, and African radioactive yellowcake.

Now, through the fog of the Valerie Plame affair and the indictment of Scooter Libby, the cry is reaching a crescendo: "THEY LIED TO US!"
Being a Democrat myself, and therefore nominally in opposition to Bush-and-Cheneyism, one has to contend with all sorts of embarrassing nonsense emanating from one's own side. In Sunday's New York Times op-ed section, for instance, Nicholas Kristoff wrote: "Mr. Cheney, we need a stiff dose of truth." I'm sorry to tell you this Nick (and the rest of my homies), but what Jack Nicholson's character said in that court martial movie some years back still applies: you can't stand the truth.

If the American public could stand the truth, we would stop calling it the Iraq War and rename it the War to Save Suburbia. Of all the things that Bush and Cheney have said over the last six years, the one thing the Democratic opposition has not challenged is the statement that "the American way of life is not negotiable." They're just as invested in it as everybody else. The Democrats complain about the dark efforts by Bush and Cheney to cook up a rationale for the war. Guess what? The Democrats desperately need something to oppose besides the truth. If they would shut up about WMDs for five minutes and just take a good look around, they'd know exactly why this war started.

When the American people, Democrat and Republican both, decided to build a drive-in utopia based on incessant easy motoring and massive oil dependency, who lied to them? When tens of millions of Americans bought McHouses thirty-four miles away from their jobs in Boston, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Dallas, who lied to them? When American public officials adopted the madness of single-use zoning and turned the terrain of this land into a tragic crapscape of strip malls on six-lane highways, who lied to them? When American school officials decided to consolidate all the kids in gigantic centralized facilities serviced by fleets of yellow buses that ran an average of 150,000 miles per year per school, who lied to them? When Americans trashed their public transit and railroad system, who lied to them? When Americans let WalMart gut Main Street, who lied to them? When Bill and Hillary Clinton bought a suburban villa in farthest reaches of northern Westchester County, New York, who lied to them?

You want truth, Progressive America? Here's the truth: the War to Save Suburbia entailed an unavoidable strategic military enterprise. Saving Suburbia required that the Middle East be pacified or at least stabilized, because two-thirds of the world's remaining oil is there (and in case you haven't figured this out by now, Suburbia runs on oil, and the oil has to be cheap or we couldn't afford to run it). The three main oil-producing countries in the Middle East, going from west-to-east are Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran. We had serious relationship problems with all of them at various times, and they with each other, leading at frequent intervals to a lot of instability in that region, and consequently trouble for us trying to run Suburbia on cheap oil (which they sold us in large quantities).

After nineteen religious maniacs from the Middle East, mostly Arabs (though unaffiliated officially with any state in their actions) flew planes into our skyscrapers and a big government building, we had to kick someone's ass. We decided to start by kicking the ass of Afghanistan, where one particular mischievous maniac, Mr. bin Laden, had set up operations connected with 9/11. It wasn't enough. We never could find Mr. bin Laden, Afghanistan wasn't really in the Middle East, and whatever else they were, the Afghans weren't Arabs. We had to find somebody else's ass to kick to reinforce the idea that religious maniacs unaffiliated with any particular state could not pull off lethal stunts like 9/11 without bringing substantial pain down on their own home places. To put it plainly, we had to kick some Arab ass. We picked Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Not because he had anything to do with 9/11-- which we couldn't pin on any Muslim nation -- but because Saddam's Baathist regime was Arab, and the same general religious brand as the guys who did 9/11, Sunni Muslim, and because Saddam had already proven to be a freelance mischievous maniac quite in his own right over the years, worth getting rid of, and most of all (from a strategic point-of-view) because Iraq was the perfect place geographically to open a US police station in the Middle East.
It was right between those two other troublemakers, Saudi Arabia and Iran, and setting up an American military presence between them, it was hoped, would moderate and influence their behavior, and discourage them from doing anything to interfere with the indispensable supplies of oil that we desperately required to run our beloved, non-negotiable Suburbia. It was even hoped, by a band of extreme idealists in the US Government, that in the process of setting up a military presence in Iraq, we could convert this troubled, fractious nation into a peaceful, cohesive, beneficent democracy, establishing a shining example, blah, blah. . . . But such is the nature of idealism.

I apologize for taking two long paragraphs to tell you the true origins of the War to Save Suburbia, but it was, after all, only two paragraphs, and the truth is sometimes not so simple. The American people have gotten exactly the war that they bargained for. The outstanding obvious question is not by what wicked and recondite means the War to Save Suburbia got started, but how come once started, we did such a poor job of resolving it, specifically why, after nearly three years, our vaunted technological mastery couldn't get the electricity running more than a few hours a day in Baghdad, why we let squads of redneck moron enlisted personnel beat up on prisoners and videotape their own antics, and why we can't even get the oil equipment in good enough shape so the Iraqis can sell us the oil we still need to run our non-negotiable way of life?

So, as a card-carrying Democrat and as a Progressive who would like to see his country successfully adapt to the changing realities of the world, I propose we stop making ourselves ridiculous by whining about being lied to, because we've only been lying to ourselves. We walked into the War to Save Suburbia with, as the old saying goes, our eyes wide shut.

Great minds, I reckon, think alike. Pathetic minds don't think at all.

1 233

That's the page I'm on in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Rowling's a good writer, and she's good enough for adults too.

Samples from some emails today:

My Dad had a mild hart attack on Tuesday and the doctor was in and out the whole week. They had to take blood and put the heart monitor on etc. He is better now and could bath himself this morning...Your Dad came to see my Dad but I have not seen him lately. I just left a message for him that my Dad was ill and wanted to see him. Every time something happens and he thinks he is dying then he wants to see my brother, your Dad and another friend of ours. One never knows how serious it is and then I have to call on them, because if I don't and he does die, I may not be forgiven.

I was in Nelspruit this weekend to see the friend who was shot - was pretty emotional and a hell of a long drive just to pay somebody a hospital visit so am pretty pooped. The Lowveld was worth seeing though - the fever and jakaranda trees are too beautiful for words.
[My friend] looks alright for somebody shot 8 times. He thinks he recognized his attackers and suspects that they are guys he sacked a while ago. He put up a hell of a struggle and managed to get them out of his house after about the first 4 shots, after which they shot open the door and came back in to finish the job. When he was shot in the sternum he kinda just gave up, fell down on a bench or something and prepared himself to die, saying a prayer in doing so. After a few minutes he realised that it wasn't happening, got into his car, drove through the gate and went to look for help.

Someone told me my blog is getting really morbid. Let's have a look. Hmmm. I'll cut down on the posts until I am less morbid, how's that?

Travel alert on outbreak of bird flu

DISASTER experts from the Asia-Pacific region will meet in Brisbane today to discuss how to cope with a global outbreak of deadly bird flu, amid warnings that international travel would be virtually wiped out in a pandemic.

Health Minister Tony Abbott yesterday said overseas travel would almost cease for a "significant period" if avian flu broke out in the region.

"From the evidence and the incidence of bird flu that is out there at the moment, it is probably a bit early and irresponsible to be talking of widespread doom, destruction and death," Dr Haikerwal said. "People need to be able to get on with their lives without the prospect of some sort of ornithological Armageddon creating fear in the community."

"It is probably a bit early..."
I wonder when it is a good time to talk about widespread destruction. When it is actually happening? Or when there is time so that it can still be avoided or mitigated against? The real message here is, No one worry, no one panic, go on working, buying and spending, sleep.
It's prudent to remember that in 1918 when the Outbreak was well underway, people said Don't worry, don't panic. Of course, there are many people who want to hear that, and want to know that.

It's this kind of widespread denial that leads to tragedy. If populations stirred from their slumbers, they might notice the causes of these disases, the conditions in which these animals live and the slaughterhouses. And that our trips into fry pits like KFC and Burger King and MacDonalds largely fuel the demand for these bird food factories.

The diseases we are seeing are symptoms of an unhealthy eating habit (as coughing is a symptom in smokers). But they would have us sleep and continue our habits, rather than clean up the systems that make us and our environment sick.

There is a difference between worry, negativity and due diligence. We ought to be diligent, and conscious of our contributions, as consumers, to the world. We ought to face the negative influence of our actions. We, over and over, leave our worries to others, and they do the same in turn. It is because we live so carefree, that our cares will come back to us. And so we go, sleepwalking into the future.

The Divorce

For the last two hundred years especially, and especially the last generation, man has asked Nature for a divorce. We separated a long time ago, living in our square cells, driving in square boxes belching smoke. We ignore the sun and moon, and flick switches. Our feet feel shoes and carpets instead of grasses and soils. Our lips sting with coffee and cola, instead of sweet and smooth water. Our bodies bulge and sweat as we pour burgers and lagers down our throats. Our bodies have survived thousands of years of evolution, but our cancerous ways have led even our bodies to become foul and sick. The body and spirit, the soil and the atmosphere, of our home, our Earth, is filled with smoky trails, and snaking effluent.
We have asked Nature for a divorce time and time again, and Now, Nature will give it to us.

Will God help us, when the divorce between man and nature becomes manifest in our lifetime? It's a difficult question to answer, and the answer may not be in a language you understand (though I am sure you understand English). The best answer I can give is this one:
When we are divorced from nature, we are divorced from ourselves. If God lives in both, in all, then we are split. That means we are separated, not because of God, but because of our actions. We need to engage and connect with our world once more, through our being, through our spirit, through the light and truth of our being, not through stuff and toys.

And that's what I'd like to focus on here. On God, or rather, on the God that we've designed to suit our purposes. We may believe that our cars and planes serve us, as we go about our business, as we go to work and read the news, but we, the populations of the world, spend our energies breathing life into a myth. We fuel our machines, and run them over roads in order to buy and build cities and structures that have no future. We don't know it now, but our lives are in the service of machines, and the machines are based on oil. And the custodians of that oil, want us to put oil in our lamps, rather than the light of enlightenment, the light of Life.
Our God has been designed to suit our purposes. We pay money to our preachers, forgetting that the truth ought to be imparted for free, or else it is purchased truth, and thus, not real.
And our fantasy of God's greatest gift, is a bloody human blood sacrifice (as shown in the Passion of the Christ). A quivering, mutilated, bloody corpse. That's what we consider appropriate to our salvation. Grotesque amounts of suffering. Curiously, macabre as it is to suggest, perhaps our ultimate saving, if that is how events turn out, will only come after grosteque amounts of nuclear fire and holocaust.
Maybe that's what's required to get the human mind to educate itself. Massive suffering, massive unhappiness. We are far from being enlightened enough, most of us, to choose this path by means of intellectual power or spiritual insight. This is a terrible shame, but one we force ourselves, the lesser aswell as the greater among us, to endure.

It may not seem that way, for all the old words in the Bible seem to have remained with us, and just the same. But even in this single span of your life, your mind and moods have grown up since childhood. Only your faith, can stay the same, if you let it. If you will it. Your faith rules these thoughts and moods and designs. So if your faith has not changed, then neither have you.
The interplay between intentions and actions is in no area more important than it is in religion. Why? Because religion is another way of saying 'what we believe'. And after we believe something, we act. Therefore it's very important to know what our intentions are, to know what our beliefs are, and to ensure that both are synchronised, so that we have congruent actions.

This is clearly illustrated by the War in Iraq, which is officially a war sanctioned by fundamentalist Christians (who see Iraq as Babylon, and a very real good versus evil conflict), and then also sanctioned by moderates (many of whom are also Christians) who believe in 'democracy and freedom'.
In fact, the War in Iraq is a resource war, a war for oil power and oil access, waged on behalf of Exxon Mobil and CEO's. To the extent that this last sentence doesn't sit well with you, that's the extent of media and political indoctrination around this subject.

If you do research on this subject, interestingly enough, you may find yourself saying, "Well, maybe it's not about good versus evil. Maybe it's about making sure we don't have to pay more to fill our cars. Well, either way, it's okay with me."

That's where your belief system becomes one of convenience. We do, after all, whatever it's structure, believe what serves us best. Some Christians emphasise love. Others exercise violence. Some agree to disagree. Some violently, and murderously, act out their disagreements on these articles of faith.
Faith, in a way, is what we vest ourselves in. So if what we believe is attacked, or defiled, we believe our very selves (to the extent that we vest ourselves in our beliefs, and our beliefs are expressed through our lives). Even if we feel we aren't vested strongly in beliefs, we maintain a strong tribal 'us' and 'them' instinct. The easiest way to engage a conflict, is to label a companion an infidel, a traitor to all that you believe. Maybe that person has done nothing real, and imagined nothing to hurt you. But if you believe someone has wronged you, you will go to war with them, if that belief is strong enough. Even if you've never met, even if you can't speak their language. The idea is simple enough.
And people, are unfortunately, equally simple, and easy to manipulate. Faith and religion, after all, asks us not to think, not to consider consequences, only to accept and believe, especially when our leaders, who believe in our God, and apparently represent Him, lead us to war.

God bless America.

So whether our hearts or our wallets are really where our spirits lie, there's a more practical issue to consider. Many people believe that the greatest good any man can do for another, is give his life. Modelling Jesus, the greatest sacrifice a person can make, is to die for another person.

Let's think about that for a minute. If I wanted to wage a war, and I was a leader, wouldn't this philosophy be incredibly useful to me, especially if I convinced you your death meant something, was meaningful and you would be honored and remembered?

Let's look at a family situation. Let's say a mother is pregnant, and she is told that if she allows the baby to grow to full term, she will die. So either the baby must die, or she must. What should she do? What would you do? Many might argue that a good mother would give her child a chance at life.
What if the baby was already alive, and there was a limited amount of food and water. The child is, say 8 years old, and there is only enough food for one person, enough to last only a few days.
The Eskimos historically found themselves in this predicament. With survival in constant question, when babies were born in times of scarcity, they were killed.
Is that immoral or sensible? Let's say the mother killed herself. What life would that be, for a child, without a mother? And how would that child live in the world, knowing his mother had killed herself so that he might live? Perhaps this child would become a murderer, whenever he felt himself threatened, because he 'must live' at the expense of others.
And isn't that, implicitly what we believe? We can live and consume and do our thing, while the vast majority of people suffer and starve. We can oppress and attack, as long as we can maintain our easy lifestyles. Is that what we believe? It's not what I believe.
Wouldn't the best result be that the mother abort the baby, and then have another child, one she could lovingly raise and care for? In the same way, we need to abort our lousy lifestyles, our lousy ambitions, so that life, sustainable life, can continue around us.

There is a simple reason why war today is unthinkable. Because of the increasing threat of nuclear weapons. A war with nuclear weapons will directly impact on your and my survival, wherever you live, and after the radioactive dust has settled, the radiation will continue to gnaw at the living. Any warmongering attitudes in these times ought to be torn from leadership positions, rooted out of society. Instead, ordinary people and their leaders are becoming dishonest, bad mannered, and increasingly aggressive.

It's difficult to know these realities and have them bounce off Christians, whose beliefs are conversation stoppers. They can't be challenged, because their faith is not based on evidence.
Christians see a silver lining in a mushroom cloud. They even see, and want to see, their beliefs, their end times scenarios, fulfilled. Mushroom clouds, global warming, and greedy consumption. This is how we make our own homes, our bodies, our minds and our hearts, our gallows. Jails for ourselves and others. Not jails made of asphalt and iron, but furious winds and fire. It's in this scenario, of lunacy, that we do perhaps deserve what we believe into being. A blood Christ for all of us, as a species. That bloody Christ is you, it's me. Is that what we want?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Merchants Of Our Time

Shylock: I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.

I watched this movie with a Korean friend of mine, and she understood it all perfectly. Actions speak louder than words, actions are easier to understand because they reveal our true intentions, and although the words of this film are poetic, the actions (and intentions) of this film offer insights into ourselves and our world in this day. We do well to give our attention to these dramas. In so doing we may learn of our own intentions, or what they might be.

Shylock: He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew.

It's rare that a movie bears the breast as bravely as this one does. It's insightful, because you find yourself asking, "What are they doing?", and then you realise, the movie is following our world a few hundred years ago. Things have changed, or have they?

Pacino is brilliant as a greedy and vengeful moneylender. Yet some of his anger resonates.
Shylock: I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.

Personally I did not feel the pangs of anger that others who are not Christians might have felt, such as Muslims, and perhaps some Jews. I did not feel it was as much an idictment of Jews as it was a portrayal, and perhaps with some tongue in cheek, because this play was first intended to be a parody, of Christians. Christians as perfect and saintly (and kissing one another) and unindictable (if there is such a word). For me it was less about tribalism and more about desires (for wealth and love)and greed (for revenge and more wealth) and passion (for the satisfaction of these desires).

Bassanio: So may the outward shows be least themselves: The world is still deceived with ornament.

If the world has people as brave and noble as the Merchant, then we ought to have laws to protect them, and intelligent practioners to enforce them. Perhaps we do. Perhaps Fitzgerald is such a man. Unfortunately, noble merchants are few and far between, and the few that are in vogue satisfy their own egos in ways that aren't noble or brave. I'm referring to guys like Trump in The Apprentice. There is little legal apparatus left for (poor)ordinary citizens to relie on. Justice has to be bought, and it comes at a price few can afford. We do have our common sense, and Bassanio, in the persona of the woman dressed as a learned man, a symbol of our intuition (as explored in The Da Vinci Code)and that may well deliver us from evil.
Shakespeare does have a gift for revealing classical subtleties in life, in unsubtle ways. He has that gift for drammatising some of our secret moral daydreams.

In this film you'll see breasts hanging out of dresses, because that's how the prostitutes revealed themselves, and woed their clients. Are we so much more civilised today?
You see a man kiss a man on the lips, and a goat's throat being slit - if you don't duck, it seems, that blood might fall from the screen and spray onto you in your seat. There's more, and it seems a shame that Shakespeare is not here, to reveal and mock the subtleties and not so subtleties of our ridiculous lives and even more ridiculous governments. Or perhaps he is, in a different guise.

Most interesting is how our own words and intentions condemn or liberate us. We see this in the so-called 'war on terror'.

Shylock: If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.

So we see our revenge for 9/11 dealt on the Middle East in Iraq, and they will learn their revenge, and have their revenge on West.

When we see Shylock and the Merchant intersect, the one with his knife, the other with his body lashed to a chair, and his clothes torn open, it is interesting how the fate of man can rest on the edge of a blade. The pity is ours that there are so few to know the wisdom that is our wisdom.

Controversial, compelling 'Merchant of Venice'
Julian Satterthwaite / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Macbeth has been adapted for the cinema at least 18 times, according to movie database Othello has been done at least 12 times and King Lear at least eight. But only now has The Merchant of Venice made it to movie theaters, and you don't have to look far to understand why one of Shakespeare's best-known plays has also proved one of the hardest to adapt.

"It's never been done as a movie...probably because it was too controversial," says British director Michael Radford, addressing the inevitable question of whether the play, and now his movie, are anti-Semitic.

The charge concerns the character of Shylock, here played by Al Pacino. A Jewish moneylender in medieval Venice, Shylock extends a loan to Christian nobleman Antonio (Jeremy Irons) on condition that he make good any forfeit with a pound of his own flesh. When Antonio's boats quite literally fail to come in, Shylock demands payment in full--even though it will cost Antonio his life.

Vengeful and relentless in his insistence that Antonio honor his contract, Shylock is sometimes seen as a racist stereotype of the avaricious, slightly subhuman Jew.

Not surprisingly, Radford rejects the charge. "It's a 21st-century perception of things," he says of the play's critics. "Nobody who could write those great speeches that Shylock had could be an anti-Semite."

Certainly, the movie Merchant takes pains to make Shylock a tragic character--the most common modern interpretation of a man previously played as either utter villain or comic buffoon.

In a short prologue, Radford adds a scene where Antonio is seen spitting on Shylock--illustrating a standard, shameful practice among Christians of the time. A series of captions also explain that anti-Semitism was then the norm, leaving the audience in no doubt that this Shylock is tragic victim, not a monster. His behavior may be regrettable, but it is the sad consequence of prejudice, not an example of it.

Doubts remain about the play's original intent. Shakespeare invites us to cheer as Shylock is reduced to ruin (and forced to convert to Christianity) in the famous trial scene near the end. And he never loses an opportunity to have supporting characters damn the moneylender, even while Antonio is never portrayed as less than saintly.

Even so, the Shylock seen here is one that will resonate with modern audiences. Radford claims, perfectly plausibly, that some Muslim viewers have seen his movie as being about the difficulties they face in an era of Islamophobia.

Pacino's riveting performance also helps. Despite some hammy showings in recent years, here he is full of subtlety and, if anything, is rather understated.

Overcoming charges of anti-Semitism is not the only challenge in adapting Merchant of Venice, however. Any version of the play also has to balance the two wildly different strands of the story--Shylock's tragedy and the light romantic comedy of Portia and Bassanio. "I think what happened was he [Shakespeare] intended to write a comedy and then got intrigued by this character [Shylock]," Radford says, explaining the contrary nature of the two plots.

In the movie version, the serious side of the play certainly wins out, with the director playing up some of the complexities that have usually been left implicit.

"One is Antonio's unrequited love for Bassanio, his homosexual love," Radford says. "I happen to think it's a true homosexual love affair...If you don't have that in there, what is it all about?"

It's an analysis that adds extra depth to Irons' fey, melancholy performance as Antonio--a character who can sometimes seem little more than a cipher for nobility. "In sooth I know not why I am so sad," Antonio says in the movie's opening line, but the audience soon does.

Radford says he set out to create a version of Shakespeare that was "lucid, clear and involving." He succeeds with a film that draws viewers in from its opening frames. Give your ear a few minutes to adjust to the Shakespearean dialogue and this is a compelling, very modern drama full of contemporary themes.

"People went to Shakespeare's plays in their thousands in the 16th century...and they didn't speak in verse in those days either, so what was it that got them there?" Radford asks. "It was the story."

White House Ethics, Honesty Questioned

A majority of Americans say the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby signals broader ethical problems in the Bush administration, and nearly half say the overall level of honesty and ethics in the federal government has fallen since President Bush took office, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News survey.

If the leadership of the world superpower is dishonest, and these people are controlled by multinationals that lie and decieve us (from commercials to platitudes) then where does decency begin in ordinary society? Who sets an honest example, who can we hold accountable? Which person says, "Well, no one has treated me fairly or with truth and honesty, but I'll stand up and treat others fairly and truthfully."

Jerry MaGuire: These fish have manners.

5/15 Swim

The pool was quite empty tonight, only the best swimmers were there tonight ;-)

Swim: 1.5km
Time: 0:40
Best 100m: 1:16
Did some fly and crawl.
Weight: 84.7kg

I saw a Korean friend of mine in the pool too, swimming two lengths of Butterfly, back to back. She's really strong. Very impressive.

Funny, while I was swimming, I reflected on a character in the latest Harry Potter book, Slughorn, who is a fat, bald, cronying personality, who sets up his favorites and gathers people around him who have connections. He tries to get Harry Potter to be part of his 'club'. At first Harry sort of goes along with it. Not sure what happens after that, I'm not there yet in the book.
I remember at school, after placing first in state swim championships, a High School teacher approached me and said I was going to be a 'champion' and he was going to 'look after me'.
I told him, shortly after that, that I thought I was going to 'take a break from swimming'. He was aghast that this star, 'with so much potential', was going to give up his apparent destiny, and promptly shipped in stars from other schools, including arch rivals like Luke, a swimmer I'd narrowly forced into second at State Championships.
Funny to have that memory surface.

Speaking of slugs...After swimming I went with a Korean friend to a coffee shop across from the pool. We were busy ordering when two girls pushed in from behind us, and as I confirmed the order we were told to wait, while they filled in loyalty cards and what not. There's no sense in Korea of first come first serve. It's more, push-in and serve me. It's a hurry up world, and we hurry to take money and spend money, but manners get left behind. That's how you get rich quickly, and get poor slowly, but over the long term. Even companies like MacDonald's will one day face bankruptcy, after getting rich exceedingly fast. They will fail, because at heart, they have no principles.
Since we'd placed the order verbally, in English and Korean, we sat down, but about three new tables were served while we spoke of other things.
Anyway, being a coffee shop a sandwich was priced at about W5000 so when it was clear they weren't bringing us our food, I was happy to leave. It wasn't a total loss. I told the (probably gay) fellow behind the counter that I wouldn't come to this shop again.
"Okay," he said brightly.
Maybe he thought I said, "I'll definitely come back again later."

Well, my Korean friend and I had an important conversation, and she didn't have much time anyway. She had to leave for another engagement, so it was good that we got to sit down and have a meaningful conversation. I must say, I will miss her when I go.

A Day In One Picture

I saw an excellent movie last night, with Al Pacino. Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice. I might have gone out to Halloween gatherings around Seoul, but fortunately I had the excuse that I ran out of money. W20 000 cash towards a wedding gift, and W30 000 to pay for a meal between myself and two students. That generosity swung around later in the evening when I got dinner on the house, and a very good dinner too. I had just enough money to pay for my subway trip home (in coins) shortly before midnight.

Going to swim now, but will try to write a review of Merchant when I come back.

Apology For (Sometimes) Being A Party Pooper

Well, it's official. It's written in the stars. Capricorn's (I'm a Capricorn) are not too eager to please. I'm not sure what that means though...not too eager to please... If it means not overly concerned with making appearances and satisfying peers...maybe that's right.

Drinking style:
Capricorn is usually described as practical, steadfast, moneyhungry and status-thirsty -- no wonder they get left off the astrological cocktail-party list. But this is the sign of David Bowie and Annie Lennox, not to mention Elvis. Capricorn is the true rock star: independent, powerful and seriously charismatic, not too eager to please. And if they make money being themselves, who are you to quibble? But just like most rock stars, they're either totally on or totally off, and they generally need a little social lubricant to loosen up and enjoy the after party, especially if they can hook up with a cute groupie.

I'd say that's an accurate description. Here are some more:

Drinking style:
Aquarius and drinking don't go together that well (except for water, that is). They have an innate tendency toward know -it-allism, and if they get an idea while sizzled, they're more stubborn than a stain or a stone. If they're throwing a party or organizing an outing, however, they're too preoccupied with their duties to get combative -- and they make perfectly charming drunks in that case. Fortunately, they're usually capital drink-nursers. They also make the best-designated drivers (if you can get them before they start raising their wrist): Aquarius is fascinated by drunken people and capable of holding interesting conversations with soused strangers while sober.

Drinking style:
If you're a Pisces, you've probably already heard that you share a sign -- and an addictive personality -- with Liz Taylor, Liza Minelli and Kurt Cobain. Not only do Pisces like to lose themselves in the dreamy, out-there feeling that only hooch can give, but they build up a mighty tolerance fast. Who needs an expensive date like that? On the other hand, they’re fabulously enchanting partners, whether in conversation or in crime. With the right Pisces, you can start out sharing a pitcher of margaritas and wind up in bed together for days. The phrase "addictive personality" can be read two ways, you know.

Drinking style:
In vino veritas -- and, for Sagittarius, in booze blurtiness: When buttered, they'll spill all your secrets and many of their own. Tactlessness aside, Sagittarius is just plain fun to drink with. This is a sign of serious partying (what else would you expect from the sign of Sinatra, Keith Richards, the Bush twins and Anna Nicole
Smith?). They're the people who chat up everyone in the room, then persuade the entire crowd to travel somewhere else -- like a nightclub, or a playground, or Cancun. Good-natured hijinks are sure to ensue (including a high possibility of loopy groping; spontaneous Sag is a brilliant booty call).

Drinking style:
Don't ever tell Scorpios they've had enough, for they'll smirk at you and quietly but intentionally keep tippling till they're hog whimpering drunk, out of 100-proof spite. Scorpios like to drink, and screw you if you have a problem with that. Most of them see the sauce as something to savor in itself, and not as a personalityaltering tool -- though if depressed, self-loathing Scorps seek total obliteration. But generally, they're fascinating drinking pals, brilliant conversationalists and dizzying flirts. They also remember everything -- especially what you did when you were blitzed. Only drink with a Scorpio who likes you.

Drinking style:
"I'm jusht a social drinker," slurs Libra, "it's jusht that I'm so damn social?" Libra loves nothing more than to party, mingle and relate to everyone. Whether dipped in favor of Good Libra (with Insta-Friend device set to "on") or heavier on the Evil Libra side (they are little instigators when bored), the Scales can really work a room. Charming as they are, Libras are notoriously lacking in selfcontrol, however, which can get them into all sorts of trouble --including wearing their wobbly boots waaaay too early in the evening, flirting with their best friend's beau or even blacking out the night’s events entirely. Oops!

Drinking style:
Cerebral Virgos are compelled to impose order onto their bender. Their famously fussy quest for purity could lead to drinking less than other signs, sure -- but it could also lead to drinking booze neat, to sucking down organic wine or just to brand loyalty. They rarely get fully shellacked -- but, oh, when they do! Virgo's
controlled by the intellect, but there's an unbridled beast lurking within, and they let it loose when walloped. It's dead sexy (and surprisingly unsloppy). As one Virgo friend used to declare, "I'm going to drink myself into a low level of intelligence tonight." A toast to the subgenius IQ!

Drinking style:
Cancer is a comfort drinker -- and an extra whiskey with dinner or an after-work beer or six can be extra comforting, can't it, Cancer darling? Like fellow water signs Scorpio and Pisces, Crabs must guard against lushery. Cancers are never really drunk; instead, they get "tired and emotional" (read: weepy when lubricated). But there's nothing better than swapping stories (and spit) over a few bottles of red wine with your favorite Cancer. Even your secondfavorite Cancer will do. The sign also rules the flavor vanilla, and you'd be adored if you served up vanilla vodka and soda.

Drinking style:
Leo likes to drink and dance -- they're often fabulous dancers, and usually pretty good drinkers as well, losing their commanding dignity and turning kittenish. Of course, they're quite aware they're darling -- Leos will be Leos, after all. They generally know their limit, probably because they loathe losing self-control. When they get over-refreshed, expect flirting to ensue -- and perhaps not with the one what brung them. But Leo's not the type to break rules even when drunk, so just try to ignore it (try harder, Cancer) and expect a sheepish (and hung over) Lion to make it up to you the next day.

Drinking style:
Impulsive Aries people like to party and sometimes don't know when to call it a night. Their competitive streak makes them prone to closing time shot contests. They're sloppy, fun drunks, and they get mighty flirty after a couple tipples. Getting Aries people drunk is a good way to get what you want out of them, should other methods fail. Aries can become bellicose when blotto, but they will assume that whatever happened should be forgiven (if not forgotten) by sunrise. They can be counted on to do the same for you -- so long as you haven't gone and done anything really horrible to them last night.

Drinking style:
Taurus prefers to drink at a leisurely pace, aiming for a mellow glow rather than a full on zonk. Since a truly intoxicated Taurus is a one-person stampede, the kind of bull-in-a-china-shop inebriate who spills red wine on white carpets and tells fart jokes to employers, the preference for wining and dining (or Bud and buddies) to body shots and barfing is quite fortunate for the rest of us. This is not to say that the Bull is by any means a teetotaler -- god, no. A squiffy Taurus will get, er, gregarious (full of loudmouth soup, some would say) and is extremely amusing to drag to a karaoke bar when intoxicated.

Drinking style:
Gemini’s can drink without changing their behavior much -- they're so naturally chatty and short-attention-spanned that it's just hard to tell sometimes. They can amaze you by conversing with finesse and allusions, then doing something to belie an extremely advanced state of intoxication, like puking in your shoe. Gemini’s possess the magic ability to flirt successfully (and uninfuriatingly, which is very tricky) with several people at once. They like to order different cocktails every round -- repetition is boring -- and may create a theme (like yellow drinks: beer, sauvignon blanc and limoncello) for their own amusement.

The Year In Review

 Posted by PicasaJesus had his tragedies and triumphs rolled into an incredible 33rd year. He was 33 when he 'saved the world'. My 33rd year has been equally - well, not equally - filled with contrasts.

The original mission of the blog, was to log the 3rd attempt at the Ironman. Months later, that journey, as significant as it was, seems to have paled when put into the broader context of unravelling world events. It's been an incredibly difficult year worldwide, with the Tsunami first wiping out at least a quarter of a million people, a recent Earthquake close to a 100 000, 2 and more nervesplintering hurricanes slicing oil rigs off their moors like a lawnmower in a bed of flowers, one of them going on to effectively destroy a modern city. We've had bombs in Bali, and London, and we've had some nuclear taunting from North Korea and Iran. Worse still, we've seen how little big governments and companies care about ordinary people, in a number of situations. And as if this wasn't enough, a killer virus has begun to spread around the world. If we were wise (and we're not) each day when we wake up in the morning, and there's no news of this disease spreading, is another day to live and enjoy for all its fullness and all its freedoms. Of course, we will soon look back on day's such as this, with longing. We will think of now as 'normal', but normal was lost a long time ago, and now is just being borrowed to us, in lieu of what's coming.

George Clooney has had a tough year too, culminating with spinal fluid dripping out of his nose. In comparison, mine has been less trying. I've gained 10kg, weighing in at all time records. This alone has been a source of profound discomfort, and shame. I can see how weight gain is tied to unhappiness. It's fair to say that I have never put on this much weight, this quickly, ever.
I'm not sure if I've ever been more miserable. I'd guess that I have beem.
I think what made the misery more difficult, was that it followed the incredible triumphs, of living strong and colorfully, finding love and joy in my country amidst the whole Ironman exercise, and then returning to Korea and seeing everything I'd built up internally, externally, endure a slow collapse.

The fact that I never bothered to buy a handphone speaks volumes about my investment into the people here, and my personal investment here. From the first hours airborne I struggled and resisted this period, and although that resistance melted into acceptance, the acceptance withered finally into grim endurance.

Grim endurance is the best way to describe the Half Ironman. The extreme heat was made worse by a body almost completely untrained, and a mind that had become frail with loneliness and worry and homesickness. Neverthless, I completed the race, and that achievement can certainly be stenciled into an all time list of HARDEST THINGS I'VE EVER DONE.

The good days, in Korea, that stand out, are the Terry Fox run, the recent cycle along the Han River with David, a swim and then nocturnal walk afterwards over the hill, Rollerblading with Song in Lake Park, and today was a spontaneous and lovely day, filled with bright eyed children, a wedding, a friend, some good food and a good film. This is to say nbothing of the two weeks my girlfriend was here, and the many Friday nights all the teachers had dinner and drinks together when I first started working.

A recent trip to Buddhist temples illustrates my ambivalence best. It was not a good day, but it had elelemts of beauty and magic woven into it that perhaps...made up for some of the discomfort and alienation, and the disjointed nature of things here.

The bad days are pretty much the week days, the time spent at school, which spills into weekends and evenings and mornings. These bad experiences, these endless exposures and the desire to stave off anger have exacted a toll, and a burden, which I no longer wish to bear.
On the day we went to look for an apartment, my director threw a tantrum, and shouted some mean things to my recruiter. Afterwards my recruiter said, "This guy is not a nice guy. After 3 months, you should leave and I'll find you a better job."
I am the longest serving teacher at the school at the moment. Everyone who was there when I signed up, has left, including the secretary, and her replacement, and her replacement.
For the last 2 weeks I have been teaching without any textbooks. I've taught art, and sucked lessons and games out of my thumb. Once the new textbooks arrive, the students, who haven't studied anything consistently for two weeks, understandably are resistant to opening books and writing down notes again.

It's been easier to deal with all this because I have a girlfriend who makes me laugh (and I seem to make her laugh), and we've supported each other, and remained hopeful and positive, enjoying the knowledge that our reunion will be sooner, rather than later, and also enjoying a general openness and sharing. Just the sharing of everyday experiences.

And there has been massive progress in developing the craft of writing, and resucitating Rocketboy. I've been in touch with the key decision makers in South African business circles, including Adriaan Gie, Mark Shuttleworth (via a friend of his) and Jonathan Ackerman.

I've also produced a short 12 chapter novella, called Heaven Is In Your Heart, but I believe, most important, I have uncovered the depth of the human condition, and have traversed the spiral stairwell into the dark recesses. This has been troubling for me personally, and the negative information has had an impact.
For several weeks and months my sleeping patterns were so severely disrupted that I was bearly functional, and this of course had a cumulative effect.

I've made contact with writer's such as Kunstler, and observed the thoughts and processes that stimulate people like Simmons and Heinberg.
I've studied Chomsky more closely, and have begun to read the media not for what they say, but for they avoid saying, for their bias and deception.

I've found a more practical way of living, although it may not seem so, and it may not seem obvious.
I have two articles, one instrumental, that will see publication in November, and by early next year it's very likely that I will be editor of that publication.

Like Kunstler, I aim to set myself up in a small community, and educate the locals, and design systems that will foster meaning and survival in the increasingly difficult times that the world will be faced with.
I'm less willing to engage in 'normal' socialising, although I appreciate the balance of work and play and fun. I'd prefer my fun to be associated with a relationship or with sport, than a sort of consumptive fun, an escapist yearning, a quest for oblivion. I believe it is time to be practical about our lives, and 'sheer fun', especially continuous deception, drunkenness, debauchery and spending like there is tomorrow, does not fit with my new sense of mission.
I find it indulgent and repulsive, given the swollen and looming realities of our time. It's also foolish.
I prefer a focus on lifestyle issues such as health, and patterns of living, and education, and on changing communities through communication, and talks, and the installation of new systems and services.

I have never been here before, so everyone and each thing is up for revision at a later date.
If Peak Oil hits 5 years from now, I will have plenty of time to prepare myself and my own living arrangements. I may also convince a few groups to make some constructive changes.
If it is sooner, then at least I have found my road, wherever it leads.

Reposted: How To Be Unhappy

This first appeared on this blog on November 1st. It's worth looking at again, I reckon.

Make little things bother you. Don't just let them, MAKE them.

Lose your perspective on things and keep it lost: don't put first things first.

Get yourself a good worry, one about which you cannot do anything.

Be a perfectionist, which means not that you work hard to do your best, but that you condemn yourself and others for not achieving perfection.

Be right. Be always right. Be the only one who is always right, and be rigid in your rightness.

Don't trust or believe people, or accept them at anything but their worst and weakest. Be suspicious. Insist that others always have hidden motives.

Always compare yourself unfavorably to others. This guarantees instant misery.

Take personally everything that happens to you.

Don't give yourself wholeheartedly to anyone or anything.
Get rid of your sense of humor. Life is very serious and you should take yourself seriously. (Gail)

Two words: self-pity and lots of it. The whole world is definitely against you. (Gail)

Cultivate bad, addictive habits in yourself. Drink a lot. Smoke a lot. Eat a lot. (Gail)

Go silent whenever someone sparks up a conversation that you don't know about. Make sure to fidget, squirm, roll your eyes and bite your nails to the quick. Quickly change the subject at the first opportunity. (Nancy A Cara Sager)
Always build yourself up at the expense of others. Say things like "I could've told you that." (Nancy A Cara Sager)
You have the power to change other human beings. (Tammy McQuillan)

All people other than yourself are broken and You can fix them since you have Godly power. (Tammy McQuillan)

You can fix another person, but you can't do squat about yourself. (Tammy McQuillan)

Become irresistibly attracted to people who will never be there for you, on any level, ever.... (Sarah)

Never say "I'm sorry." (Nancy A Cara Sager)

Make sure you take things people say to you as an insult, and let them know it - especially if you know they didn't mean it that way! (A. M. W.).

Ask for help from somebody who is unsuccessful 4 weeks before the most important exam of your life and then believe them when they say, "Nobody ever passes that exam" (PGM)

Remember every little wrong that has ever been done to you, real or imagined. Gather those bad feelings & put them in a bag - it will be a large and heavy package. Then drag that bag behind you everywhere you go for the rest of your life. It is your ticket to unhappiness and your proof of how right you are about everything! (TC)

Scrutinize your partner's path with God and tell them what you see that they are doing wrong. After all, God talks to you, therefore you know what is best for others where God is concerned. (Viv)

Make sure you vocalize your unhappiness to your loved ones, every day! Share the wealth, take them with you! (Viv)

Say mean, hateful things about other people when they aren't around, but be nice to them when they are. Be sure no one except your partner hears the words you speak. (Viv)

Tell your partner how much you can't wait to get rid of them and remove them from your life. The next day, tell that same person how much you love them and how lucky you feel having being able to share your life with them. (Viv)
Yell, scream, and belittle your partner until they cry. Then smugly proclaim what a baby they are. (Tami)

Surround yourself with misogynistic alcoholics who cannot maintain a relationship. (Brigette C. Pepe)

"Don't ever let yourself feel pain or fear or sorrow. Instead, turn it instantly into anger, and then make sure to let your partner see that anger." (M.T.)

"Always remember that if your partner loves you, he or she can read your mind. There is never a need to share openly with them how you feel." (M.T.)

"Keep careful track of everything you do for your partner, and vice-versa. Remember, the person with the highest score loves the other the most. Be sure to keep your partner appraised of the score - especially when you are ahead." (M.T.)

"Believe every single negative thing anyone ever says about you. Forget about anything positive - they were obviously wrong!" (M.T.)

"Don't waste your time trying to better yourself. People that love you will obviously put up with anything you want to do. Instead, work diligently to change others - that is much more fun." (M.T.)

"Admitting you have a problem is the first, and a huge, step towards recovery. Be proud that you have the wonderful insight and honesty to admit you have a problem and stop right there. That should be plenty of work for anyone!" (M.T.)

"Surround yourself with only people that agree with everything you say. The last thing you need is contradictory opinions!" (M.T.)

"Don't think about your own flaws much at all - this only causes problems. After all, ignorance is bliss." (M.T.)

"Dwell on your flaws all the time. Never miss a chance to remind yourself that you are an imperfect person." (M.T.)

"Remember, home is where you can let your hair down and relax. No need to be polite and put your best foot forward at home. Save your best for the outside world." (M.T.)

Saturday, October 29, 2005

4/15 Nuns On The Run

It's bright and chilly today, but with two layers on I overheated again. It's 16C outside now, but came home with the cotton shirt sopping wet. Good fat burning run though.

Run: 1:40
Distance: 14km (3 laps)
Kcal: 1600
Heart Rate: 141

On the 3rd lap I pulled off to do some pullups. Found two nuns working out.

Pullups: 10

Then I turned right, and as I was heading up the last incline I heard a 'toc toc toc' noise (my iPod's power had run out a few minutes earlier). I looked up and saw a big wooden box lashed against a tall pinetree, and a woodpecker,about the size of my shoe, with bright red and black feathers, was headbanging against the tree.

Very hungry now. Will try to get to Sey's wedding, and after that there are some parties in Seoul. Am not feeling particularly sociable...
Will try to get up early for a long cycle tomorrow.
Meanwhile, today this blog is exactly a year old. 20 700 in a year is more attention than I would have anticipated.

This blog has achieved it's initial purpose - it was to make me accountable for my Ironman training, and turn my third attempt at the Ironman into a successful one. It was. That goal has been superceded by a much broader, and far more challenging, and compelling goal. To define a rational way of living, and an approach to how we live.
Not just for me personally, but for a planet full of people headed towards destruction.

Exercise is a great way to wipe away the mind rot that our man-made living and working environment generates.
Vast amounts of exercise are needed to pump out the grease that accumulates through our diet. An Ironman may be an extreme method of gaining control of body, mind and spirit, but we live in an extremely irrational system.

Stay tuned for the 5 month run up to the 2006 South African Ironman.

Terror Is Not a High Priority in the World


by Seif-Eldeine Och
The Tufts Daily, September 30, 2005
Nearly three years after his last appearance on the Hill, Noam Chomsky was back Thursday night to talk about the failures of U.S. foreign policy, including what he called the "grotesque" situation in Iraq.

Chomsky, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology linguistics and philosophy professor outspoken on social and political issues, addressed a packed room in Pearson 104.

Students lined the aisles and in some cases sat behind the podium. Just before Chomsky entered the room, one of the organizers said the speech might be given in Cohen Auditorium - prompting many students to leave the room only to wind up missing the speech.

The four major crises facing the world, Chomsky said, are: nuclear war, environmental disaster, the indifference of the superpowers to the first two problems, and the failure of the superpowers to make amends for past mistakes.

But Chomsky spent most of his 90-minute speech and hour-long question-and-answer session on Iraq, Iran and the War on Terror.

The press is unable to communicate the scale of destruction in Iraq, Chomsky said, because reporters are confined to the safety zones around the capital.

The destruction of a foreign country is not a new phenomenon in U.S. foreign policy, he added. Chomsky mentioned the history of U.S. involvement in Iraq and Iran, including aiding Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein during his war with Iran from 1980 to 1988.

"Bush, Blair, Powell and Rice bitterly denounce Saddam for crimes in the 1980s," Chomsky said, referring to the President, the British Prime Minister, and the two most recent American Secretaries of State. "What is missing is [Saddam] committed those crimes with our help."

Chomsky also said the sanctions imposed on Iraq during the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton Administrations led to the death of hundreds of thousands of children. The United States has a "standard operating procedure to put sanctions on the government and arm the militia," he said.

"We also should be paying reparations to Iran and Iraq for 50 years of torture," Chomsky said.

When he spoke in Cohen Auditorium on Nov. 18, 2002 - as the likelihood of a war in Iraq grew - Chomsky said the George W. Bush Administration did not want to address the root causes of terrorism, only to promote an "unending war."

He echoed a similar sentiment Thursday evening. "One reasonable conclusion: terror is not a high priority in the world," he said. "Securing gas and resource is."

The war in Iraq has caused more terrorism and the Bush Administration knew that would happen, Chomsky said.

The speech also addressed the current U.S. nuclear dilemma with Iran. At a United Nations meeting earlier this month, the Iranian president declared his intention to give nuclear technology to other Muslim countries.

The U.S. strategy of preventive attack on Iraq set a dangerous precedent for rogue states, Chomsky said. "If Iran were to adopt U.S. and British standards, Iran would develop nuclear weapons and carry out terrorists attacks in the U.S.," he said.

Following his prepared speech, so many students lined up to ask question that Chomsky had to turn to a moderator to pick questioners.

American political institutions encourage a foreign policy directed at securing resources, he said. The Democratic and Republican Parties are "far to the right of the American population," Chomsky said.

The government is largely influenced by corporations, he said, and the public rarely knows the stances of candidates.

Under corporate influence, even democratic "governments typically want to control their own population" Chomsky said. "They don't want democracy."

News and information about foreign policy must be carefully scrutinized for accuracy, he said. "The people at the wrong end of the club typically have a clearer view of the world."

The End of the Road...Almost

pooo 346



This picture and the two below courtesy of my Korean buddy Pete.



Friday, October 28, 2005

2 "You are a pig"


I made today 'Art Day', and most of the kids loved it. I showed them a technique (drawing patterns over real images) I invented, and gave them my own pencils. Some of them came up with wonderful pictures. One boy copied the Pringles guy, including moustache, and then applied patterns to the picture. Another student combined a knife, a snail and a heart into a very effective artpiece.

I had a feeling, when I was on the phone to a friend of mine, and the director burst into the office and jabbed his finger at the clock, there was going to be hell to pay.
There was. He called me into a meeting (as he is prone to do when the last class is over, and it's the last day of the week).
He told me I must think carefully if I want to keep my job. I said, somewhat ironically, "Yes, I have thought carefully about it."
He suggested I tell him on Monday if I still wanted to work there. He said some parents have complained. Apparently I told a student he was a pig.
This is disturbing, obviously, but what's more likely is a student called me a pig, and then I said something like, "If I'm a pig, so are you."
And then the kid went home and said, "The teacher said I am a pig."

koo 070

What's quite funny is that yesterday I took a series of photos (totally unaware of the pig-theme in today's lecture) and all feature kids in three or four classes stuffing themselves with chips, dry ramyeon and other snacks while I'm trying to give them a lesson. Someone has apparently lost their sense of humor. Kids stick their tongues out at me, and call me all sorts of names, punch me and kick me, snatch papers out of my hands and tear them or bunch them up and throw them away, but lo and behold, if I say anything, even in jest, then let's screw the teacher.

I'm sure I've said even more shocking things to my students:
Are you a North Korean spy?
Do you like to eat dong?
Why don't you like Japan?

But in the framework of chaos, it's not really that spectacular. I don't think I am working with children that might produce Korea's next President, let's be clear on that. It's more likely I'm educating the next legion of hagwon directors. Yummy.

Anyway, I told the director, if he'd like to fire me, that's fine, but I will still collect my pay at the end of the month. He said he just want me to be 'lovely'. I suggested that I give him a month's notice starting now, and he said, "No no no..."

To make matters worse, I went directly from school to Hongdae and waited for a friend outside the subway. As it happens, tonight is bloody freezing. I think I am coming down with something, because I feel pretty tired and irritated, and the back of my throat feels raw when I swallow.
I called from the subway, told him where I was, and my friend said he was still in a taxi. About half an hour later he was waiting at a Burger King somewhere else.
The Burger King where we agreed to meet has disappeared since I was last in Hongdae. Nevertheless, it's like saying, "Meet me at the World Trade Centre in New York." Okay, if the World Trade Centre is no longer there, is still means, let's meet in New York. Obviously not all people follow the same logic, or we'd have met up. This is not to take a swipe at my friend, but it's fair to say I get annoyed very quickly when people don't listen to what I say. I get annoyed in the classroom, and I get annoyed outside of it. It was also annoying to have the director yelling at me on one end, and my friend not listening on the other end, and I ended up stuck in the middle.
So after hanging around absolutely starving and cold, I decided to call the day quits and went home.

My friend was not too happy to hear I was going home, but then, with half of the night already ruined, neither was I.
I only found out when I got on the subway that Sinchon was just one stop away, but it probably would have translated into at least another half hour, and all the time spent waiting had got me to realise I'd rather cash in my chips and have an early-ish night. That way I can get up and do a 15km run tomorrow.

Feeling glum and chilled to the spine as I walked from Madu's subway, I noticed a girl beside me, walking with wet hair. I asked, with probably a dull expression on my face, whether she'd been swimming. She said she'd gone for a workout at NewCore.
We continued the conversation into my building, up the elevator and onto the fourth floor. Turns out she stays in an apartment just across from me. Small world. Her English was really good too. She says she's majored in literature, and visited Canada for 6 months.
So at least I met one friendly face tonight.

koo 086

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Backlash Versus The Ant Colony

Stability and order are one of the things we treasure most in society. Well, we do without knowing we do. We sort've expect things to be stable because few of us alive today have any experience of massive crisis or war. My father was born in 1941, which means by now he is 64. Even he doesn't have a very real experience of the Second World War. It is our generation that needs to steer our consciousness towards awareness of our historical records, our historical patterns. It is our generation that needs to accept a No More War mentality. So far, you know, we haven't. We aren't.
I believe there are many people who implicitly support military actions because they feel that indirectly it favors them over another. This tendency to seek dominion over another is what we share in common with beasts. Nature controls their efforts at dominion nonetheless.

Support for war is encouraged by the media as being 'sensible'. But what if you were part of the majority of people these actions were directed against? In a real sense, the governments who cause their populations to engage in wars, direct the majority of people into conflicts that don't serve their interests. All people not in government are this majority. In fact, every day governments operate to serve only the interests of a tiny minority. People with control over central banks, and owners of multinations (including weapons factories - one of the wealthiest businesses to be involved in today). A war, of course, provides the biggest loan a country can make from the central bank. And rebuilding incurs further demand.
But what if, in all this so-called war-for-profit, a single weapon was capable of wiping out millions; what if it fell into 'the wrong hands'? Who is 'the wrong hands'? The media will tell you: anyone who isn't you. Fear them.
It is our fear that leads us to support war.
In a world where these weapons exist, we ought not to entertain aggressive manoeuvres. We know that. So why do we?

Aggression and fear lead us to Last Man Standing, and a Grabfest for the Puppeteering politicians and their Masters..
We now need to inculcate a culture of tolerance and understanding, even if it must be among ourselves, on a small and very local scale. We need to evolve new urban communities modelling new orders of co-operation and collaboration.

It's important to try to predict some of the shifts in popular sentiment, simply so that once these sentiments begin to overwhelm people, those who understand them don't give in to hatreds and emotions, but maintain a practical grasp of events.
Below is an example of what sentiments we're likely to see in the future, that will inflame people as the battle for resources (oil/energy, food, fresh water, medical supplies) intensifies.

I believe in the next months, we will see increasing momentum against the American tide. As economies contract, and the bloody swathes of war arc even further, and global weather worsens, the villian of this planet will become ever clearer:

The largest consumer of energy.
The largest polluter.
The country whose companies conduct the most environmentally destructive policies.
The world's largest disseminator of false advertising, junkmail and media distortions.
The world's warmonger.
A country based on show. Show me the money.
A country no longer based on know. Know thyself. Know what you are doing. Knowing anything useful.
A country full of excuses and aggression, and unable to tell the difference.

I believe we will see a massive American backlash, as the wary world looks to the source of its woe, with a shout of, "I TOLD YOU SO."

But the villain is less American citizenry, than their controllers. Ordinary people in other countries are unlikely to make that distinction. Perhaps they have a point, as at least half of the population elected its leadership.

It won't matter though, because America's problems have become so enormous, they have already engulfed us all.

The solution to this crisis is not to join protests or riot in streets (I believe we have passed that juncture). The solution is to form groups and communities; small, busy ant colonies, who begin to forge their own quiet solutions to the increasing challenges we face. These communities are based on fellowship and co-operation, not divisiveness. The world is based on systems (economic, energy, social-consumption)that don't work, that are unsustainable and frankly, unhealthy, and thus people attached to these systems face the collapse of lifestyles and livelihoods. New systems have to be created, invented, which require an act of will, and a collective enlightenment.

We can begin to aggregate and adapt to these systems now. It's a question of choice.

McDonald's & Me

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"We are all controlled by the world in which we live, and part of the world has been and will be constructed by men. The question is this: Are we to be controlled by accidents, by tyrants, or by ourselves in effective cultural design?" - B. F. Skinner

In 1997, I was in London, after having cycled from Maidenhead to Cambridge, and I was starving. I felt dizzy from dehydration and hypoglycaemia. Seeking relief, despite the protests of my companion, I ordered some french fries from McDonald's. That act alone, apparently killed our friendship.

Or perhaps not.
I'd written to her for 10 years, and we had a strange, but frankly wonderful relationship. Our letters contained no ordinary musings. She and I would debate world systems and write about spiritual abundance mixing, like a tonic, into our teenage intoxications. We send thick parcels across the Atlantic, filled with photographs and newspaper clippings, and several pages of typewritten documents. She was focussed on the environment, and had met Prince Charles and received some kind of commendation from him. She went on to do a Ph.D in Cambridge, although I don't remember her mentioning this priveledge had been accorded to her until her studies there were well underway. It was a humble and passionate correspondence, and somehow, me being the eldest, I had the effect of being her Guide. But after not so many years I felt my Apprentice had become my equal, and that was certainly true when we both found ourselves in Tanzania, me at 6000m, while she and her expeidtion combed the forests in a park mere kilometres away. She invited me to join the expedition, but we went on another safari instead.
A year later, or so, I went to England.
It was at this point that I finally caught up with her. I found her in Cambridge one day, sitting crosslegged on the floor, listening to classical music in an art gallery.

She made an impression with her body as much as she had on paper, sharing her thoughts. She had long hair, and a pixie like slightness about her. She always seemed to be barefeet, and her eyes shone with intelligence and clever mischief. She wore silky thin dresses, dark, but embedded with bright cosmos. She spoke with a Cheshire accent, which always reminded me of audio tapes I'd listened to in rapt facination, of The Famous Five. She spoke just like those characters, and woven into all of that was adventure and unspeakable thrills. She was everything pure and strong and shining from my deepest, and most sincere childhood places.
I'd gotten postcards from her, over the years, from as far afield as Peru. But she'd been to Madagascar, and Bolivia, and India too.

One day we sat in a garden, near her student house, in Cambridge. I was snapping pictures of the furry bumblebees working through the colorful pompoms. I remember feeling mentally exhausted, because she chattered on and on extremely quickly (as I sometimes do) and it was hard to follow her stream of consciousness and offer a few torrents of my own. I found I was getting a headache. It was basically a kind of intellectual game of was the mental equavalent of a long run beside a fit and efficient companion.

We discussed, as I remember, two things in particular: religion, and the environment. She admitted to being surprised and unhappy to hear that I was a Christian (at that stage I was just beginning to dismantle the dogma of my beliefs, and search for original answers, and original truths). She suggested that religion did more harm than good, and offered her examples.
I suggested, through the course of our conversation, that caring for animals on a microscopic scale (recording bird's songs and measuring the sizes of eggs)may be ultimately ineffective (in terms of the grand mission to conserve and keep the wilderness)if we aren't able to persuade the vast majority of the human race to abandon their destructive patterns. I felt economics and a kind of...communication campaign to 'awaken' the masses was necessary. Perhaps we were both fools to think, then, that we could make any difference. But it excited us, and each excited the other, that this was possible, and what's more, essential. We shared a sense of mission...and now, I believe, we lacked real confidence in the practical matter of it.

Many factors tore at the two of us, most of all we were both ensconced in relationships which would exact heavy tolls. Mine on my spirit, hers on her heart. She had an abortion soon after I met her, and I confronted her with the irony: that she cared so much for the life of this planet, in its insects and leaves, in the birds and the beasts, but when it came to what ought to be most precious of all, the life she's spun (wittingly or not) then it was to be 'gently extinguished'. Although I understood she did not want to abandon her doctorate at Cambridge, she somehow delivered a deadly blow to all the illusions of childhood, and adulthood. She said as much, during our time together, and gave me a gift; a tape where she'd recorded a collection of music, and inscribed on a sliver of paper: "Lose your illusions or they'll overcome you." Or words to that effect.

I felt judged, I remember, when we discussed my Christianity. She decided, based on her perceptions about Christians, that I was simply wrong, and deceived. This irked me.
I felt that same judgement when I went into McDonald's that day. I was in a terrible way, I was literally dizzy and struggling not to pass out. She insisted that I get food somewhere else. I didn't sense what mattered most - one human being simply caring for another, and being able to push aside prejudices, however well intentioned. Prejudice is prejudice. Kindness and sensitivity ought to extinguish our prejudices. In an ideal world anyway, and until then, I was more than anything else, an Idealist. Today I am not, my standards are a lot lower, but given the framework of this planet, it's an operant philosophy. It has to be if we are to learn to control ourselves and the unfolding accidental nature of our lives.
Again, I understand her frustration with McDonald's, and Coke and all the big multinationals. They are the prime destroyers of our environment. But one needs to have a sense of perspective. A hungry person needs to eat, and after that, it's a good time to discuss policy.

I chewed on those long salted yellow fries.
Some of those lights in her eyes had diminished.
Letters curled in flames, erupting in piles of soft feathers and smoke.
This is how I realised where it is that our survival, and the great change that needs to sweep this planet, ought to begin.
As a rule, I never eat at McDonald's. I'd urge you to do the same.
It's not healthy.
But if you do, don't blame the corporation for what you become. We (McDonald's and Me)are one and the same. The world can be changed, but it starts with me, and then with you. One way you can commit to this necessary campaign, is to avoid McDonald's.
From then on, you'll know what to do.

"A person does not act upon the world, the world acts upon him." - B. F. Skinner

Allalie (left) and Catherine, who teach with Corneli at Kid's Herald School. Catherine's from South Africa, and David's (the guy I've cycled with lately)girlfriend.


Fact: we've reached a tipping point in the world's climate. The Amazon this year went from a carbon sink, to a carbon emitter (warming has caused the forests to die, releasing CO2 it would normally absorbe or hold back).
Imagine this: that 2006 is worse, climate wise than 2005, and 2007 is worse still. 2008, unbelievably, has even higher average temperatures and a series of the worst and most destructive Hurricanes ever recorded. 2009 puts all human activity on the defensive, including wars, as man scrambles to simply shelter and feed himself. Then comes 2010, where electricity grids in many corners are destroyed by fires or floods weeks after being re-erected. In 2011 people in huge numbers begin to die of heat stroke in the summer seasons on both sides of the equator... Far fetched?

Tropical storm Beta triggers warnings
MIAMI, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- Tropical storm Beta was gathering strength Thursday, prompting hurricane watches and warnings in Colombia and Nicaragua.

At 11 a.m. EDT, the center of the storm was 175 miles east of Nicaragua with sustained winds of 50 mph and higher gusts. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the system was gaining strength as it drifted northward, and would likely become a hurricane by Thursday night or Friday morning.

Forecasters warned Beta could produce 15 inches of rain over western Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, with isolated amounts up to 20 inches.

Beta, the 23rd Atlantic storm of the season, developed just three days after Hurricane Wilma raked the Caribbean, Mexico and Florida.

Beyond The Hand Of Man

I like this picture because above the road, and man's clutter are the trees. The implication is that Nature's Hand covers (and overwhelms, finally) the multitude (the mess) of men. Posted by Picasa

Today in pictures... Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Can I Panic Now, Or Will You Say 'When'?

It's not surprising but it is disturbing. It's one thing to predict an escalating conflict, it's another to see it happen. Part of the instigators of hatred, suspicion and warmongering, are the media. Today on CNN's website, this headline was in the 'top stories' column.

Iran anti-Israel remarks slammed

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Several world capitals have condemned Iran's leader for saying Israel should be "wiped off the map," and Israel's vice premier has called for Tehran to be expelled from the United Nations.

During a meeting with protesting students at Iran's Interior Ministry, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad quoted a remark from Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of Iran's Islamic revolution, that Israel "must be wiped out from the map of the world."

The president then said: "And God willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism," according to a quote published by Iran's state news outlet, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

The remarks by Ahmadinejad on Wednesday coincided with a month-long protest against Israel called "World Without Zionism" and with the approach of Jerusalem Day.

Israel reacted to the remarks strongly by calling for U.N. action against Tehran.

"Iran is no longer just a threat to Israel. Iran is a global threat, and the international community must act against the leader of a country who calls for the destruction of another member state of the United Nations," Israel's ambassador to the U.N. Dan Gillerman said.

While, to a point, I agree that some information needs to be made clear to the public (such as the exact casualty rate and spread of a dangerous disease), not all information should be disseminated so freely. Everyone knows, for example, that gossip and slander should not be encouraged. Why, because it encourages resentment. If someone insults you behind your back, and another person tells you what was said, then grudges are formed, and alliances forged against 'enemies', when perhaps they could have been avoided. Why do reporters provide us with articles like the one above: they want to stir tensions. They want to incite conflict. And their audiences, entertained daily by video games (there is a real game where black ops from the US infiltrate a Iranian military installation (a Nuclear Plant) and try to destroy it) action movies, and the media get populations baying for blood.

Here in an article in The New York Times that tacitly supports war, when most enlightened creatures know that war is, for all but a tiny fraction of society, lose/lose.

2,000 Dead, in Context

Published: October 27, 2005

Valletta, Malta

AS the aggregate number of American military fatalities in Iraq has crept up over the past 13 months - from 1,000 to 1,500 dead, and now to 2,000 - public support for the war has commensurately declined. With the nightly ghoulish news of improvised explosives and suicide bombers, Americans perhaps do not appreciate that the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the effort to establish a democratic government in Iraq have been accomplished at relatively moderate cost - two-thirds of the civilian fatalities incurred four years ago on the first day of the war against terrorism.

Comparative historical arguments, too, are not much welcome in making sense of the tragic military deaths - any more than citing the tens of thousands of Americans who perish in traffic accidents each year. And few care to hear that the penultimate battles of a war are often the costliest - like the terrible summer of 1864 that nearly ruined the Army of the Potomac and almost ushered in a Copperhead government eager to stop at any cost the Civil War, without either ending slavery or restoring the Union. The battle for Okinawa was an abject bloodbath that took more than 50,000 American casualties, yet that campaign officially ended less than six weeks before Nagasaki and the Japanese surrender.

Compared with Iraq, America lost almost 17 times more dead in Korea, and 29 times more again in Vietnam - in neither case defeating our enemies nor establishing democracy in a communist north.

Contemporary critics understandably lament our fourth year of war since Sept. 11 in terms of not achieving a victory like World War II in a similar stretch of time. But that is to forget the horrendous nature of such comparison when we remember that America lost 400,000 dead overseas at a time when the country was about half its present size.

There is a variety of explanations why the carnage of history seems to bring today's public little comfort or perspective about the comparatively moderate costs of Iraq. First, Americans, like most democratic people, can endure fatalities if they believe they come in the pursuit of victory, during a war against an aggressor with a definite beginning and end. That's why most polls found that about three-quarters of the American people approved of the invasion upon the fall of the Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad in April 2003.

The public's anguish for the fewer than 150 lost during that campaign was counterbalanced by the apparently easy victory and the visible signs of enemy capitulation. But between the first 200 fatalities and the 2,000th, a third of those favoring the war changed their minds, now writing off Iraq as a mistake. Perhaps we could summarize this radical transformation as, "I was for my easy removal of Saddam, but not for your bungled and costly postwar reconstruction."

Part of the explanation is that, like all wars against amorphous insurgencies, the current struggle requires almost constant explanation by the government to show how and why troops are fighting in a necessary cause - and for the nation's long-term security interests. Unless official spokesmen can continually connect the terrible sacrifices of our youth with the need to establish a consensual government in Iraq that might help to end the old pathology of the Middle East, in which autocracies spawn parasitic anti-Western terrorists, then the TV screen's images of blown-up American troops become the dominant narrative. The Bush administration, of course, did not help itself by having put forth weapons of mass destruction as the primary reason for the invasion - when the Senate, in bipartisan fashion, had previously authorized the war on a score of other sensible writs.

Yet castigating a sitting president for incurring such losses in even a victorious or worthy cause is hardly new.
World War I and its aftermath destroyed Woodrow Wilson.

I'm not going to quote any more of this article. The point is, he is saying, compared to other wars, not many have died in this one. It's a very dangerous and stupid point to make. For one thing, we are in the post-nuclear weapons world. Nuclear bombs were used to end off the Second World War. Now we have the country who dropped those bombs acting very aggressively elsewhere, inciting militarisation everywhere, and doing so in the name of 'Terrorism'. Who, please tell me, are terrorising the world? Which country poses a threat to all other countries?
And the argument that 'few' have died in this war, neglects to remember that one day there will be a successful counterattack, a real wolf (instead of the WMD wolfs America insists are there)and the cost to humanity will be incalculable. Meanwhile writers like this one, are saying, "You know, let's put war into context. In that one more died than in this one. So this one is really okay."
In a few years we will hopefully have paper to read the sort of mad thoughts that produced the coming catastrophes.