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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

And now, for your edification,

I will do my best to translate the Korean version of this song. You may recognize it. The Korean title is "I'm OK." Or maybe, "I'll be OK."

Caveat: I won't try to be too artsy with the translation. I'm going for bizarrity, instead.

"If you leave, I'll be left behind
to pass the night without tears
you probably believe me and you're probably sorry
but I'm ok
don't give me your sympathy
I'm ok, I'm ok

Don't think that time meant everything to me
No matter how weak I look, no matter how young I look
I'm ok
I won't collapse
I'm ok, turn around and go.
I don't want that love that resembled love
no matter how beautiful, no matter how dreamy
if for all eternity it can't change.
I'm ok
I I'm ok.
I I'm ok
I I'm ok

Don't look at me with those eyes
I don't need that kind of sympathy
I'm going to forget you
I'm going to forget everything [this is a fudge, the grammar's confusing]
I'm going to do it for sure, I'm going to erase you away
Just leave like that, don't turn around and look at me
Don't make me any more miserable
Everyone, one time or so, suffers a separation
I'm ok"

And then cue the chorus a few more times.

Hope you enjoyed it!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Question from Jamal: Do You Like Chekhov?

I'm still pretty ambivalent about Chekhov. I think what I appreciate most is his ability to make a story with some emotional impact without using any of the usual tropes or keywords writers tend to use for that effect. Then again the emotion conveyed is usually some kind of bleakness or fatalism, so maybe it's not so impressive.

The other thing is that, except for when people die, his stories never really conclude. In this sense, his stories are more realistic than many others, which all end at some point that's non-arbitrary, i.e. at the culmination or resolution of some strand of the plot. In Chekhov, on the other hand, this cohesion seems to be lacking. When you read a story like that, it's a little discomforting - but should this make us question the author or our assumptions about how stories ought to begin and end and proceed, and what they're supposed to do for us? In this sense, Chekhov reminds me of a bit of a painting (Rothko or Yves Klein or Duchamp, or Schoenberg in music) that makes you ask, "is this really art?"

The reason his stories are so boring is because there's little, if any, "morality" to them. No heroes, no victors, no villains, no great loves or great revenges, no grand schemes or speechifying. Of course, I've only read about 120 pages of stuff, so I'm generalizing. Nobody gets any comeuppance, no worldly justice is served, blah blah. Everyone just goes about their little lives, with their little happinesses and little pains and little troubles, and that's that. Not exactly the most exciting reading, but it seems to me to be a more accurate, if disillusioned, depiction of the way lives go.

So, do I like Chehkov? I don't really get any pleasure out of reading the stories. But they do express a certain take on the world that's interesting, even if not completely agreeable. Then again, I've long been sort of a literature-masochist. If it hurts to read, it's probably good for me. Unless it's written by Joel Osteen or Rick Warren. Then it's just bad for the planet.

A quote from Virginia Woolf, who's much smarter than me, so much so that she got herself put on the Chekhov entry in wikipedia (my ultimate aspiration):

"But is it the end, we ask? We have rather the feeling that we have overrun our signals; or it is as if a tune had stopped short without the expected chords to close it. These stories are inconclusive, we say, and proceed to frame a criticism based upon the assumption that stories ought to conclude in a way that we recognise. In so doing we raise the question of our own fitness as readers. Where the tune is familiar and the end emphatic—lovers united, villains discomfited, intrigues exposed—as it is in most Victorian fiction, we can scarcely go wrong, but where the tune is unfamiliar and the end a note of interrogation or merely the information that they went on talking, as it is in Tchekov, we need a very daring and alert sense of literature to make us hear the tune, and in particular those last notes which complete the harmony"

Monday, October 13, 2008

Relearning Economics

So I've taken up the habit of reading the newspaper when I'm out to dinner during the week, since it's not bad for studying and anyhow it's infinitely more interesting than whatever soap opera or slapstick show playing on tv.

Originally I just read the section for English-learners, which consists of a dialogue and a translation. The horoscopes (according to the Chinese zodiac and the year you were born, not the Greek zodiac and the month-ish period) are on the same page, so I started reading those and asking the restaurant bosses about stuff I don't know. Actually, trying to understand a word you don't know through description in another language is a pretty good learning process. So, now, the boss always asks me, "Mike, did you see your horoscope today? You understand"?

I've now moved on, though, to a little learn-econ-through-comics strip. It's a little tough to understand, but it's in the "learning" section of the paper, so it's nowhere near as tough as a real article, which would surely destroy me were I to get near it. The strip is a little odd, and has the kind of pictures you might imagine if you've watched any japanimation - characters with big eyes, close-up shots of them screaming, sweat beading on their heads, oddly over-reacting to things other characters say. But it's accompanied by some pictures and graphs, so it's possible for me to follow along, even if some of the words are unclear.

What this all leads up to: I learned yesterday about the reason for the freakish drop in the value of the Won. I had said that I'd expect the opposite to happen; as people shift their assets out of dollars and into more stable currencies, the value of the dollar should fall. But, according to the article, on the whole, that's not what happened, because: in order to have enough cash on hand to survive bank runs, American banks had to buy back a lot of dollars from abroad. In buying loads and loads of dollars, the banks apparently pushed up their price. Voila!

I am hoping none of my former econ professors are reading my blog. The shame!

On the other hand, for any humanities professors out there: I tried to start reading Ulysses but it's really difficult. So I switched to Chekhov.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Travel Update!

I have finally purchased my plane tickets and most of the other materials necessary for my upcoming wander-thon. The backstory:

Last week, I went downtown one morning to travel agent alley, which is allegedly near city hall, though, having wandered around there a bit, I have yet to find said 시청. Anyway, Korea has an odd (or maybe not so odd? I don't know) habit of having streets dedicated to certain trades. For instance, Daegu has a jewelry street, eastern medicine street, tool street, car part street, carpet street, travel agent street, and, yes, a "culture street."

I went to the travel agent street with a description of the itinerary I was hoping for all written down so I wouldn't have to labor through explaining it at every travel agent I went to. Nonetheless, I wound up having to labor through explaining it at every travel agent I went to. Like a geezer in a riddle told by a sphinx (huh?) the trip has 3 legs: Korea-Taiwan, Taiwan-Singapore, Bangkok-Korea. The whole going-on-my-own-from-Singapore-to-Bangkok seemed to confuse everyone quite a bit, and a number of agents even told me such travel was impossible. Others said that the plane fares for December hadn't been released yet, so they couldn't help me this far ahead of time. One agent also claimed not to be selling plane tickets that day. Other people shot me down because it was lunch time. But a few did give me estimates (the best, about 1.4 million won, the worst, 1.9), and a few others took down the details and promised to email me. The best offer came in at 1.08 million won, a good 300k lower than the next best one, and when I went in today to seal the deal, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the tax had actually fallen and the ticket would now cost only 1.03 million won, or about 800 dollars.

(Actually, I was too pissy before to note that one benefit of this exchange rate madness is that it makes Korean stuff seem really cheap in terms of dollars. Thus, though the actual price here has stayed the same, my dinners have dropped from 4 or 5 dollars to about 3. Not that it matters - it's just that thinking about stuff that way makes me feel a little better.)

Also, I've been stocking up on some travel gear. It turns out a friend of mine(whom I met at the gym, who just graduated with a BA in engineering, and got a sweet job with Hyundai)'s dad owns a "mountain climbing" (much less strenuous than what we think of when we hear the phrase. It's more akin to nature-strolling) supply shop, so he gave me a nice 25% discount on some sweet light-weight, fast-drying, sweat-wicking, ultra-hyphenatable pants and a similar shirt, which is apparently slightly less conducive to word-play. I had also been shopping for some travel sandals, but they're a bit hard to find because of the season, and so I wound up buying some sort of sweet meshy shoes that seem like they'll be good for rain and/or muck, but also good at preventing pesky mosquito bites on my toesies. I still need to find a backpack, but there are 2 northface stores downtown, and my friend's dad's shop also stocks them.

In other news, I finally met up with Kait and Ace, who are pretty much just like me but in reverse. By that I mean, they went to the same place in Thailand to take the same course that I'll be taking in a few months, and then they moved to Daegu to work at a hagwon. They seem like quite nice folks - even mentioning me in their blog, hooray! - and had nothing but good news about the course and about travel in Thailand. So, I've got two friends here vouching for Cambodia and Vietnam and two others vouching for Thailand. Now, if only I can find someone who can vouch for Singapore, Malaysia, and Laos...

Ahhhh I'm getting quite excited about the trip. On the other hand, once I have all the planning and shopping done, and once the Obama-McCain mudfest ends and one of them is in office and there's not so much blasted news to read anymore, I don't know how I'll spend my mornings and afternoons.