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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Dinosaur Comics!

So, there's a comic I read at called Dinosaur Comics, and it's totally great, and the deal with it is that the pictures are ALWAYS THE SAME AND COMPLETELY UNRELATED TO THE PLOT. Yet it somehow manages to be extremely hilarious, nearly without exception. A while ago, browsing the site, I found out that a teacher in Japan once did a project with his kids where he took the text out of the comic and let the kids, bless their little hearts, try their darndest to make up a story in a language they don't know to match up with pictures that don't make too much sense. The results: mostly muck, but a few gems as well.

Seeing that, I of course decided I would need to do the same. So I bid my time, waiting until Halloween, and then sprung the project on my kids and coworkers. Our kids are generally ok at finishing work and answering questions and even forming sentences according to models in the book, but as you'll see, even the best ones can't make it through 6 frames without some sort of grammatical error, and some of the kids are really terrible, though they've been studying English for 5 or more years. While part of me feels quite guilty for taking advantage of this in order to get some sweet comics, the other part says, well, at least I got them to try writing something in English that they didn't just copy out of a workbook. And at least I have some sweet home-brewed DINOSAUR COMICS MADE BY KOREAN PREPUBESCENTS! Better than all the Halloween candy in the world!

Follow the link above to see some of the more interesting comics. I've included some commentary, which, in my humble opinion, was totally hilarious and fun to make. I hope you enjoy. You can even print them out for use as Christmas Cards or something. I'm pretty sure that Korea doesn't enforce copyright laws - maybe it doesn't even have any - so go ahead and stick it to Hallmark without fear of repercusssion!

Also, I promise, soon I'll actually write about being in Korea. Tomorrow is Mountain-climbing-trip day with the middle aged squash players club, and I'm going to get all decked out in my hyphenated pants and new travel shoes, and will hopefully take beautiful pictures of Korean Foliage and also middle aged men acting like teenagers, screaming and chucking rocks at each other and who knows what!

Also, T-1 month until I leave. How time flies!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween pictures! Maximal cuteness. (And I'm not talking about myself.)

Actually, I didn't post the pictures yet, I just needed a snazzy title to ensnare you in this post that is again about - uh, politics. Sorry.

The pictures will be up soon though. Go check.

This post is inspired by the global electoral college page from the economist magazine online. While an average poll in America might put Obama up 52-47 in the popular vote, and 350-190 in the electoral college, the economist's thought experiment imagines what would happen if, in addition to 150 million Americans (just assuming half of the country votes), another 3 billionish people from around the world were eligible to fill out a ballot on Nov. 4th? Doling out electoral college votes to other countries the way the Constitution apportions them to states, the result is apparently that 9,053 votes go to Obama and 185 go to McCain, so far. Of course, the only people whose votes are counted are people who can and want to go to the economist's website, so the sample is hardly accurate and the results aren't necessarily meaningful.

Nonetheless, the idea has fluttered across my mind more than a few times and kind of freaks me out. Recent years have brought on an ever-increasing need for nations to coordinate policies and actions - whether we're talking about military efforts, humanitarian aid campaigns, financial regulations, economic policies, or the rules of war. In all of these cases, we realize that each country, and America in particular, can have have huge effects on others, and that we need some way to monitor, mold, reduce, or offset such efforts. But what American action affects the rest of the world more than the choice of a president?

I'd be willing to bet that as a college-educated, upper-middle class white male, my future is relatively secure. (Not to mention the fact that if you speak English as a native language, regardless of your other qualifications, you can probably live your whole life without truly worrying about unemployment, if you're willing to travel.) Or at least that, no matter what goes wrong, it probably won't hurt me as much as it hurts anybody else. Immigration policy will surely affect any number of Mexican citizens more than it will me, and trade policy will help or hurt more Chinese or south-east Asians than I'm comfortable thinking about. Not to mention military policy. Of course, in principle all of this could be said about any country, since no single country contains a majority of the world's population within it. (India and China each have about 17% and 20%, respectively, and the US is next with a paltry 5.) But it's especially true of America, the influence and consumption of which are grossly disproportionate to its size.

So, what gives me the right to vote for the American president? If the idea is that some politician is supposed to represent me, why is it me that s/he should represent instead of someone that needs more help? In fact, the reasons I chose Obama over McCain are hardly related to self-interest in the first place. For one, I'm simply disgusted by McCain and Palin's social policies (in this arena, my above argument falls through, since surely an American abortion ban would a more likely affect me than it would any citizen of another country), religious affiliations, militant nationalist bravado, deceptive campaigning, tendency to appeal to people's basest instincts, and annoying speech habits. While those are all kind of personal things, they're only related to self-interest insofar as I'd be happy with someone I could respect being in office. The reason I prefer Obama to McCain is that he strikes me as more altruistic, more inclined to cooperate with other nations a little more, to think about what we do to them when we make whatever choices and decisions we do. He seems more cognizant that America is not really some great nation of great individuals with a great destiny, but rather, as all countries always have been and as they will all always be, a work in progress, only as good as the policies and lifestyles and lives of its citizens and representatives. Of course, this is all self-serving in the sense that playing nice now may pay off later, but that kind calculation doesn't really run through my mind when I think about whom to vote for.

So, to go back to my question, why me? Given that my voting is already an attempt to help out people other than myself, people I'll never meet living in places I'll never get to, why not skip the middleman (me) and just let one of them pull a lever somewhere? Just because I happened to be born in California? A hundred years ago, or even fifty, your birthplace was probably pretty highly correlated with the role of that country's government in your life. But what if that's no longer the case? Especially given the universalist tone of the Declaration of Independence - you know, unalienable rights, government by consent of the governed, etc - there seems to me to be, logistics aside, a compelling argument for letting people in other countries vote, considering that the status of being "governed" by any given government is pretty hard to pin down without the help of circular logic. Isn't it conceivable that someone in Iraq is more "governed" by the President than I am? Or at least that, in the rest of the world, any given 20 people are?

I realize that there are of course enormous logistical difficulties, as well as difficulties in deciding exactly who is so affected by American policy that they should be granted some share in directing it. But surely someone could have voiced the same worries in 1775, right?

Sorry for the rambling. I couldn't really figure out how to organize my thoughts.

Don't forget to look for super-cute halloween pictures!

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Apparently a Candian writer named Christian Bok published a pretty interesting book in 2001 and it took the BBC 7 years to write an article about it. The book is called "Eunoia" and is noteworthy because each chapter makes use of only one vowel!!!

Normally I'm a little suspicious of gimmicky stuff like this - I hate the idea of choosing a style that deliberately limits your ability to express yourself freely, since for me the purpose of writing and reading (literature, poetry, drama, etc) is to tap in to some relevant human experience. An a priori imposition of certain stylistic restrictions can only hamper that goal, right? I suppose I don't thoroughly feel that way, and I wouldn't support the argument in all cases, but it flashes through my head whenever I hear of something like this.

Even more the case when the article points out that "Mr Bok believes his book proves that each vowel has its own personality." As if we're in some Dr. Seuss book where each letter has its own hat and socks, color schemes and preferred flavors of cheese. However, just reading the excerpts of the book that make up the above BBC article, I really do get a weird feeling that the guy is right. It's almost a truism to say it, but each vowel has a certain set of sounds, and more particularly, related consonant combinations, that all add up to give a certain eerie feeling about each piece. I haven't spent enough time on it to really be able to explain the bizarre synesthesia that results from the passages, but try it for yourself. It turns out that I really don't like the letter A too much, and that I kind of love E, and U is unusually suuthing.

Note that the author doesn't cheat like me.

Just for fun, of these two little guys, which one would you name "Kiki," and which one would you name "Bouba?"

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

On the way home last night

I went downtown last night for open mic night at a bar for foreigners ("Commune's Lonely Hearts Club"). Happened to run into a friend I hadn't met in a while, and on the way home, we share the following conversation:

Me: You know I'm leaving soon?
Medium Mike: Oh? You gonna throw a party? [the open mic also served as another friend's goodbye party]
Me: Nah. I'll just make sure to see everyone I want to see one last time before I go. I'm not really into parties.
Medium Mike: What, you don't like being the center of attention?
Me: Not so much, no.
Medium Mike: Are you human?

Thanks, Mike.

Also, a third Mike was sitting in the back seat. Also, there were 4 other Mikes at the bar. So really, my blog name would be pretty ambiguous were it not written in Korean.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A little oddness

I was just reading a little morning news article from the BBC about senator Ted Stevens, who was apparently found guilty of accepting bribes. More surprising than that fact - after all, who's surprised when a politician takes a bribe? - was the following line: "And there is no rule barring felons from serving in Congress, so if he wins [his upcoming re-election bid] he will be allowed to stay in the Senate. "

Is this absurd or what? I'm pretty sure I learned in 10th grade government class that felons lose their right to vote. Is it really possible that under our system, it's possible to strip someone of the right to wield a measly amount of power by voting, while still allowing them to wield an immense amount of power by holding office???? Anyone who has studied this stuff a little more than me, please respond and tell me that the BBC is just making stuff up about the American legal system. This is one of the very few instances where I would be truly delighted to be wrong.

That's the stupidest thing I've heard since last night, when I saw some videos of a Kenyan Pentecostalist witch-hunting preacher casting demons out of Sarah Palin. Palin also apparently believes that during the endtimes, people are going to come flocking to Alaska, since God has designated it as some sort of refuge. Huh?

Hopefully, in 10 days or so, that will be over and I'll never have to hear a word about Palin again.

In the meantime, the following article should cheer me up: Man's arm trapped in train toilet! Ahahahaha!