Thursday Update

It’s day two of cold grayness and pissing rain. Hell of a time to find out my shoes aren’t waterproof. On the positive side the cold will hopefully kill off the mosquitoes.

Stuff? It’s cold. It’s gray. School hasn’t turned on the heat. I’m typing this while wearing fingerless gloves. The windows in the hallway leak so puddles form on the floor. I wonder if they’ll ice over in the winter time.

My coteacher and I have largely stemmed the tide of rebellion and only have one class that makes teaching horrible. They wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for three or four turds. They’re the shitheels of the school and pretty much everyone will be happy when they’re gone. On the other side of the coin, four of the best students from one of my other classes are all transferring to another school at the end of the week. (Their parents are playing the game where they have their kids switch elementary schools in the last month of 6th grade so they, the kids, don’t have the shitty school on their “permanent records”.) So it goes.

Other stuff? My wife and I went away last weekend to Gyeongju. Yeah. It’s historic. Yeah, tombs and the Silla dynasty and all that shit. Whatever. It’s a cheap quick bus ride and we wanted to eat at one of our favorite restaurants. (They have the best pajun. It’s like an omelet made love to a scallion pancake.) We then stayed in a motel room that had a bath tub larger than our bathroom. So, hurray for laziness and warm water. The internet connection was shit though.

Other, other stuff? Shit. What do you want from me? Here you go. Pick and choose whatever interests you:

I read Tete-Michel Kpomassie’s An African In Greenland. It’s a fascinating read. As a kid in Togo he was attacked by a snake and while convalescing he read a book about the Inuit in Greenland and so going to Greenland became an obsession with him. Eventually he worked his way out of Africa and across Europe until finally he arrived in Greenland and traveled there. It’s great. Kpomassie is a charming author. He also reminded me a bit of Wilfred Thesiger who wrote Arabian Sands. Two very different individuals who both became obsessed with a place (in Thesiger’s case the Arabian Empty Quarter) and traveled there. Definitely give it a try. Now I’m reading The Long Ships by Frans Gunnar Bengtsson. As you can see I’m pretty much hooked on the whole NYRB catalog.

Earlier this week we played a game in class and during the game some of my students wanted me to help them cheat. Of course I did the exact opposite and went out of my way to hinder them, which made two of them so mad they needed to look up the word conscience just so they could say I didn’t have one. That was fun.

Apropos of nothing I wonder if it’s possible to measure the correlation between one’s developing an interest in classical literature (the Greeks and Romans) and one’s ultimate conversion to the conservative Catholicism of the Chesteron/Lewis type (that is, equal parts cleverness, bluster, and a prissy elitist humbuggedness).

Did I mention it was cold? Yeah. OK.

What about my goatee? Did you realize for the whole month of November this blog has been written by my Evil Spock twin Justout? Did you notice the difference? He types with two totally different fingers! For what it’s worth I like my crop of facial hair (it gives my face something to do) even if it’s a major no-no here in Korea, because it’s associated with drunkeness and being dirty (which is funny because the men on their money have facial hair). I suspect that’s one of those things Korean men have indoctrinated into them while they’re in the military. One thing I started to feel is that the longer I live here in Korea the more my presence will become a middle finger displayed towards the overculture. Not sure that’s a good thing.

But maybe that’s fatigue talking, because I did that thing last night where you fall asleep right after dinner and wake up around midnight and can’t fall back asleep, so you sit up drinking coffee and eating oranges until 4AM when you finally fall asleep and have terrible dreams for the next three hours before your alarm wakes you up. Yeah, that’s never fun.

Lunch time!

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6 responses to “Thursday Update”

  1. Rick Bowes says :

    Love your Chesterton/Lewis description “equal parts cleverness, bluster, and a prissy elitist humbuggedness”. The thing was that the interest in classical lit wasn’t so much a developed interest as something that got shoved into you because it was good and useful and a gateway to success in the great world. I suspect it was a useless millstone even in the latter 19th century – Catholicism I suspect is what the clever, blustery, prissy, elitist humbugs did with it.

    • Justin says :

      I agree. Now-a-days when I encounter folks who seek only to read Classical Lit, I suspect it’s from a desire to be “above the herd” and the whole thing suffers from too much prissy, elitist humbugedness. The Catholicism that’s likely to follow just makes me shrug and say, “Oh. Of course.”

  2. gordsellar says :

    Wow, you had rain? We had a little, but not much… thank goodness, as I need new shoes and the ones I have left are, yeah, not waterproof either.

    Gyeongju is kind of okay. We weren’t so impressed with the historical stuff, aside from the Shilla polyhedral dice. We were very unimpressed when the guy at the tourist info center claimed most yeogwans would refuse to let a Korean and a non-Korean stay in the same room. (And made a face when we asked, “What if we’re married?”) The place we stayed didn’t make an issue, though I would rather know where this giant tub place is. Sounds nice.

    We also had amazing pajeon… and then, down the street from our pajeon place, hung out in a cafe run by some retired opera singer dude who was pretty cool.

    As for Classical Lit leading to Catholicism, that’s funny. I haven’t read a ton of it but it always gets me imagining what Europe might have been like if the Church had just sort of failed to dominate, and went on to become just one more little cult among the many. A sort of anodyne for a recovering Catholic or something… though then again, while I think a pagan Europe might have been more interesting, I’m not sure it would’ve been better. (Having a centralized dogmatic cult to fight against to do any science, social reform, or whatever makes for an easier battle in some ways than having to deal with a jumble of assorted cults.)

    But yeah, your characterization of Lewis at least is bang on. Honey-tongued demon that he was… the bluster is the part that always makes me want to say to Lewis, “What, you REALLY don’t see that self-contradiction/oversimplification/illogical leap, man? Or are you hoping just that *I* don’t see it?” I can never be quite sure how aware he was of those problems in his arguments… I’m thinking in particular of parts of Mere Christianity, which yeah, I actually read once. I will say I really loved Screwtape Letters, though. So entertainingly evil, and a little more honest about religious arrogance than I’m accustomed to seeing these days.

    I’ve been having those “drop off after dinner” nights but I don’t wake at midnight. It’s more like at 5:30 or 6:00am, which is too early to be productive, damn it… 🙂

    • Justin says :

      And we had rain all day today too…

      We like Gyeongju as a place to visit, but we’ve been to the museums, so now when we go it’s more like an excuse to eat and loaf. It’s a weird town — conservative but also worldly. The motel we stayed at is right downtown. It’s decent as far as love motels go, and it’s somewhat separate from the sleaze district. I could easily find it for you on a map if you wanted.

      I have the same reaction to Chesterton as you do to Lewis. Some of his books, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, The Man Who Was Thursday, and The Club of Queer Trades are quite fun and entertaining. But then you get to the blustery stuff and just sort of want to look away or get angry. I think in some cases too their self-satisfaction with their own cleverness blinded them from being logical.

  3. gordsellar says :

    And yay facial hair. Korea needs more of it!

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