Archive | July 2011

Internet Down

Our home internet connection is out and likely to remain unfixed until tomorrow. Right now I’m using the wifi in my new favorite cafe, Hand’s Coffee above the Dickies on the pedestrian street section of Shinae. Here’s a picture of the bike trail I walked along this morning. It’s the backside of Pohang where it backs against the hills (and if you consider the front side the East Sea). According to one cab driver in town, the hills are home to packs of wild boar that rampage through the streets in the fall and winter.

Wild f’n boar!

Today I saw a few happy dogs, a scrawny cat, and a horde of ants eating a scarab beetle. No boar at all. But, who knows, maybe they were there, watching, waiting…

And Another Reason

And here’s another reason to keep a blog: I get to make a little archive of neat stuff found or read online. Case in point, today’s post over at Things Magazine:

“What emerges from all this is more evidence of the steep valley that lies between history and nostalgia, wherein a penchant for the latter tends to shape one’s attitude and interpretation of the former.

The Internet exacerbates this condition, building up our perception of the past through the endless reproduction and celebration of past ephemera. The past is filtered through a lens of celebration, a perpetually art directed world, be it the gritty black and white world of life sold from a suitcase in these images of Brick Lane in the 80s, or Soviet ruins, or abandoned lunatic asylums, rusting machinery, filleted libraries, caches of Eastern European match box covers, esoteric ephemera from long-forgotten Olympic games, boring postcards, found photographs, passive aggressive notes left on refrigerator doors, weird LP records, shopping lists, ticket stubs, or even our own almost entirely context free Pelican Project.

Collectively, we’ve managed to make a fetish of the failed, forgotten and the marginal, mashing them together with the Utopian and the celebrated until the edges are blurred. Whether its the decline of manufacturing and urban centres (Chicago Urban Exploration) or nuclear catastrophe (Approaching Chernobyl) or the collapse of the housing market (Scenes from Surrendered Homes) is all rendered flat and equal by the vivid resonance of the image. This is where the overwhelming emotional content of a carefully filtered past meets our nostalgia for now (‘… a mourning for the transience of a moment when you are still in that moment‘), and the result is a state of being that appears to seek out the romantic past in every captured moment.”

Fetish of the failed? Nostalgia for now? Alliterative indigestion aside, I’m going to be chewing on these paragraphs for months.

A Quick One

The thing about teaching kids is that you’re constantly bumping into and having to deal with your own impulses/negative emotions/short-sightedness, except it’s in another person, a kid, who has no idea how to mask, hide, or, most importantly, deal with these things.

In not unrelated news, Jun got mad that none of the other students would let him cheat at Halli Galli or let him bully them, so he took his ball and went home.

Parents, I don’t know how you do it.

(Which isn’t to say I don’t find the job fun and rewarding most days.)

The Future of Reading in Pictures

Right now I see readers existing on a continuum. At one end we have the addict…

  “I read that GRRM novel in two days. You got anything else? Robin Hobb? Joe Abercrombie? Scott Lynch? Brandon Sanderson? Nothing! C’mon, man, I’m dying! What about a World of Warcraft tie-in novel…”

At the other end we have the fetishist…

“… wraparound gold embossed *gasp* slip cover with *pant* waxen end pages and *sniff* mint-tinged book binding glue *squee*…”

Of course both can and do exist in the same person, which is great as long as the overall environment they exist in is healthy. Trouble is that as the distance between poles increases, books cease to be objects we encounter in our day-to-day lives and reading becomes marginalized until it’s either as effortless as eating a tube of Pringles or so fraught with arcana that one expects rites and initiations, along with a full bank account, are required to do it.

Books as addictive substance, or books as art object, support either, but if one side wins it’s likely to be a loss for everyone.

Some Houses

A row of houses near the school where I teach. Behind them is the old beach, Songdo Beach. The houses have courtyards accessible through those wide doorways and these lush interiors belie the otherwise blank exteriors. Across the street from here is the weather station along with a pine tree park and a highrise apartment complex.

Homeland

“Homeland is not flags, anthems, or apodictic speeches about emblematic heroes, but a handful of places and people that populate our memories and tinge them with melancholy, the warm sensation that no matter where we are, there is a home for us to return to.”

– From Mario Vargas Llosa’s “In Praise of Reading and Fiction”

Can We Stop Having This Conversation?

This whole literature versus genre fight, can we just stop it?

This fight between “poseurs” and “hacks”, it’s like a fight between two paranoid reclusive relatives. Each lives behind barricaded doors, ranting against the evils of the other. Meanwhile the actual reader has to put up with them.  “Oh yeah. That hack. Jeez, she’s all hung up on plot over there. Yeah. Better add another lock on your door. See you next week. Thanks for the Borges.”

Attention and energy are limited. Read what you want. Write it, too.