Saturday, October 31, 2009

Korean class field trip

in New York (mostly 32nd St.) between 3:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.
  • kimchi dumplings at Mandoo Bar
  • costume shopping
  • dinner at Shilla Restaurant
  • Koryo Bookstore
  • Pinkberry frozen yogurt
  • karaoke
  • oyster sundubu stew at BCD Tofu House
  • chocolate walnut bread at Grand Central

line for costume store

Madoff Halloween?

간이 붓다 (lit. to have a swollen liver): to be brazen, uppity, disrespectful

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Dear Yalies, if you haven't already seen What the Butler Saw, do yourself (and a friend/classmate/significant other) a favor and go watch it this weekend. 90 minutes of laughs.
. . .

On a different note, perhaps I should spend less time studying honorifics (relevant post soon to come) and gender and irregular verbs and characters?

The Cosmopolitan Tongue: The Universality of English
(John McWhorter)
Even with good instruction, it is fiendishly difficult to learn any new language well, at least after about the age of 15. While vilified in certain quarters as threatening the future of the English language in America, most immigrants who actually try to improve their English skills here in the United States find that they have trouble communicating effectively even with doctors or their children’s schoolteachers.

Yet the going idea among linguists and anthropologists is that we must keep as many languages alive as possible, and that the death of each one is another step on a treadmill toward humankind’s cultural oblivion. This accounted for the melancholy tone, for example, of the obituaries for the Eyak language of southern Alaska last year when its last speaker died.

That death did mean, to be sure, that no one will again use the word demexch, which refers to a soft spot in the ice where it is good to fish. Never again will we hear the word ' for an evergreen branch, a word whose final sound is a whistling past the sides of the tongue that sounds like wind passing through just such a branch. And behind this small death is a larger context. Linguistic death is proceeding more rapidly even than species attrition. According to one estimate, a hundred years from now the 6,000 languages in use today will likely dwindle to 600. The question, though, is whether this is a problem.

Obviously, the discomfort with English “taking over” is due to associations with imperialism, first on the part of the English and then, of course, the American behemoth. We cannot erase from our minds the unsavory aspects of history. But we cannot change that history, nor is it currently conceivable how we could arrange for some other language to replace the growing universality of English. Like the QWERTY keyboard, this particular horse is out of the barn.

Notice how daunting the prospect of Chinese as a world language is, with a writing system that demands mastery of 2,000 characters in order to be able to read even a tabloid newspaper. For all of its association with Pepsi and the CIA, English is very user-friendly as the world’s 6,000 languages go. English verb conjugation is spare compared to, say, that of Italian—just the third-person singular s in the present, for example. There are no pesky genders to memorize (and no feminine-gendered tables that talk like Penelope Cruz). There are no sounds under whose dispensation you almost have to be born as a prerequisite for rendering them anywhere near properly, like the notorious trilly rˇ sound in Czech.

At the end of the day, language death is, ironically, a symptom of people coming together. Globalization means hitherto isolated peoples migrating and sharing space. For them to do so and still maintain distinct languages across generations happens only amidst unusually tenacious self-isolation—such as that of the Amish—or brutal segregation. (Jews did not speak Yiddish in order to revel in their diversity but because they lived in an apartheid society.) Crucially, it is black Americans, the Americans whose English is most distinct from that of the mainstream, who are the ones most likely to live separately from whites geographically and spiritually.

As we assess our linguistic future as a species, a basic question remains. Would it be inherently evil if there were not 6,000 spoken languages but one? We must consider the question in its pure, logical essence, apart from particular associations with English and its history. Notice, for example, how the discomfort with the prospect in itself eases when you imagine the world’s language being, say, Eyak.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Pumpkin Eaters
(Peter Mayle)
In France, the topic of Halloween pumpkins can become more sensitive than village politics.

“Do you mean to tell me,” [M. Farigoule] said, “that pumpkins all over America are massacred, with all that good honest flesh tossed away, simply to provide a primitive decoration?” He took a deep swig of rosé and shook his head. “Do our American friends know what treasures they’re missing? Pumpkin fritters! Pumpkin and apple sauce — so delightful with sausages! Then, bien sûr, there is Toulouse-Lautrec’s sublime gratin of pumpkin.

But Dear M. Farigoule, none of that compares to America's pumpkin pie. (Madison and her mother just baked the best pumpkin pie I've ever eaten. Half a pie and an incredible amount of whipped cream later, I'm in a pretty divine place right now.)
. . .

and a happy alowine from Shiv!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

S Am Houston

Today in history:
  • 1836- Sam Houston is inaugurated as President of the Republic of Texas.
  • 1964- Jean-Paul Sartre is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature but turns down the honor. (a wise precedent, perhaps...?)

Inspiration from the Berkeley College library:
not sure it's true, but poignant nonetheless

Shaw didn't include pain and hand cramps, which were center stage during my International Studies midterm today. Being done feels great though—never before in my life was it so cathartic to predict the disastrous consequences of climate change, the danger of nuclear proliferation, and general world doom. Now I'm done with midterms...until Monday.

(Also, my TA said she would give extra credit if we incorporated a cat into our essays, but because I ran out of time, I just wrote "MEOW" in large letters on my last page. I just realized that might seem kind of creepy...)
. . .

the three main food groups:
chips, Cheeze-Its, and Quaker Oatmeal Squares

"I can take my pants off, too—I have tenure."
- Professor Brian Scholl, after taking his shoes off during lecture

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


midterms = exploring fun rooms of the library
. . .

plus some GoCrossCampus action
(think Risk, Ivy League edition)

Monday, October 19, 2009


Today in history:
  • 1469- Ferdinand II of Aragon marries Isabella I of Castile, paving the way for unification of Aragon and Castile into a single country, Spain.
  • 1851- Empress Myeongseong* is born in Yeoju, Joseon.
  • 1873- Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and Rutgers draft the first code of American football rules.
  • 1959- The first discothèque opens in Aachen, Germany.
  • 1987- Black Monday: the Dow Jones Industrial Average falls by 508 points, 22%.
  • 2009- Sunshine finally reemerges in New Haven, Connecticut.

*Queen Min (posthumously Empress Myeongseong) was the wife of King Gojong, the 26th king of the Joseon dynasty of Korea. Among her accomplishments:
  • Advocated industrialization, religious tolerance, multiculturalism, freedom of press, universal education.
  • Helped found Ewha University, an all womens' school offering education to both commoner and aristrocratic women.
  • Actively hired teachers for English, French, German, and Spanish language education.
  • Developed literacy programs throughout the country.
  • Invited Christian missionaries to enter Joseon.
  • Commissioned the first Korean hymnal (despite remaining a devout Buddhist).
  • Commissioned new newspapers.
  • Established the Maritime Customs Service.
Tragically, the Japanese government considered her a major political obstacle and, after unsuccessfully orchestrating rebellions to remove her from power, assassinated the empress and burned her body on palace grounds.

Friday, October 16, 2009

빛과 어둠, 아름다움과 고통

Listening to:
"Toes", Zac Brown Band. (Listen to it, especially if you're somewhere cold and miserable like me.)

Below is the essay I wrote for Korean 150 this week. It's a bit awkward and has some spelling mistakes, but considering the fact that I had never written anything longer in this language than birthday cards to my grandmother before September, I'm really happy to be learning so much from this class.

빛과 어둠, 아름다움과 고통

빛이 없으면 그림자도 없고 어둠이 없이는 빛이 있을 수가 없다. 그리고 캄캄함이 많으면 촛불 하나가 밝게 비치지만 주변이 밝을수록 전광판의 빛도 잘 안보인다. 그러므로 밤에도 어두워지지 않은 시내에서는 별의 희미한 빛을 보기 힘들다. 별을 보고싶으면 시내에서 먼 목초지나 산꼭대기로 가야지 가장 뚜렷하게 볼 수 있다.

기쁨과 슬픔의 관계도 이런식이다. 한편으로는 모든 사람들의 제일 큰 목적은 행복이다. 이 이유로 사람들이 공부도 열심히 하고, 돈도 많이 벌려고 하고, 인간 관계도 잘 맺을려고 한다. 방법은 사람마다 조금씩 다르지만 목적에는 큰 차이가 없다. 하지만 반대편으로는 이 많은 사람들이 찾는 행복의 비결중에 한가지는 슬픔이다. 이 생각이 겉으로는 이상하게 들릴 수 있지만 깊은 의미도 담겨있다. 어느 물건이 없어질때까지 그것의 진가를 인정하기 어려운 것처럼 슬픔을 겪기 전에는 기쁨의 가치를 완전히 이해할 수 없다. 따라서 고통 없이는 즐거움도 없다.

다르게 말하면 인생에 못생긴 일들이 없으면 아름다움을 알 수가 없다. 그러므로 예술가에게 가장 중요한 것들 중에 하나는 고통이라고 할 수도 있다. 훌륭하고 제일 재능 있는 예술가들의 인생을 보면 보통 사람 인생보다 고통이 대단히 많다. 예술가들은 이 아픔과 불행을 표현하면서도 피하기 위해 예술 작품들을 만든다고 한다. 프랑스의 유명한 화가 르누아르는 이렇게 말했다: “고통은 왔다 지나가지만 아름다움은 영원히 남는다.” 아마 빈센트 반 고흐 화가도 이런 생각을 하면서 정신 병원 유리창 밖을 볼때《별이 빛나는 밤》에 크고 아름답게 그린 별들이 캄캄한 어둠속에서도 특별히 뚜렷하게 보였을것이다.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Post #50

October 15, 1844- Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche born in Röcken, Prussia. Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!

"Vielleicht weiß ich am besten, warum der Mensch allein lacht: er allein leidet so tief, dass er das Lachen erfinden musste."
"Perhaps I know best why it is Man alone who laughs: he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter."
- Friedrich Nietzsche

From today's Spiegel:
East German Jokes Collected by West German Spies

(Hans-Ulrich Stoldt and Klaus Wiegrefe)
"Political jokes thrive in dictatorships," says Christoph Kleeman, a former official from the Birthler Authority, which was set up after German unification to manage the archives of the East German secret police, or Stasi. "Anyone who tells one or laughs about one creates democracy for a brief moment, and brings the regime leaders down to his level."

"Telling jokes was playing with fire," says Kleeman. The Stasi had 91,000 employees and a network of around 189,000 civilian informants to spy on the East German population of 17 million. It regarded every political joke as a potential threat. Anyone who poked fun at the representatives of the organs of state and society was subject to prosecution.

A few highlights:
  • Did East Germans originate from apes? Impossible. Apes could never have survived on just two bananas a year.
  • What would happen if the desert became communist? Nothing for a while, and then there would be a sand shortage.
  • Christmas has been cancelled, goes another joke. Mary didn't find any diapers for the baby Jesus, Joseph was called up to the army and the three kings didn't get a travel permit.
  • Why can't you get any pins in East Germany anymore? Because they are being sold to Poland as kebab skewers.
. . .

New Haven weather at 1:30 p.m./weekend forecast:
This is not okay.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I love my *****

Listening to:
"Fireflies" by Owl City

During my quick lunch in Commons today, I overheard part of an interesting conversation about Pakistan's culture. A Pakistani student described the biggest difference between Pakistani and Indian cinema as "the sleeve lengths of actresses." He also mentioned that, despite the Pakistani government's official ban on Indian films, Bollywood movies are extremely popular throughout South Asia, including Pakistan.

He then recounted the experience of watching a Bollywood movie with his family at home (in Pakistan) that he had already seen in the U.S. Apparently, the only difference was censorship of parts of the soundtrack: in the theme song "I Love My India", the word "India" was bleeped out every time the chorus repeated. Viva Kashmir?
. . .

I never knew chicken meat could be so fascinating:
'Boneless' Wings, the Cheaper Bite
(William Neuman)
Wholesale chicken prices have turned upside down. The once-lowly wing is selling at a premium over what has long been the gold standard of poultry parts, the skinless boneless chicken breast.

The recession is the cause of the price flip-flop.

There's a very good chance this is also related to my suite's regular runs to the Buffalo Wild Wings in New Haven.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Parents' Weekend

Happy Columbus Day (except there's nothing especially happy about the fact that we had classes today).

Also, considering how much cooler Wurst and Bier are than smallpox and colonization, there is a much more important occasion to celebrate today, in my opinion:
  • 1810- first Oktoberfest: the Bavarian royal family invites the citizens of Munich to join the celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.
Bierleichen: people who pass out from drinking too much (German Bier: beer + Leichen: corpses)

In honor of Ludwig I:
musicians at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich
(founded in 1589; also the site of my brother's first beer)

me wearing a traditional Bavarian hat (many moons ago)
. . .

This past weekend was Parents' Weekend =
  • my awesome parents
  • lots of good food
  • New York
  • five boxes of Quaker Golden Maple Oatmeal Squares

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Geburtstag der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik

Today in history:
  • 1949- German Democratic Republic (East Germany) formed.
  • 1952- The bar code is patented.
Our hall bathroom was struck by a vomit tsunami last weekend, rendering my suitemates and me lavatory refugees. Armed with only our towels and toiletry cases, we have been braving the unknown wilderness of nearby bathrooms in search of cleaner sinks and less noxious odors.
. . .

On a less unsavory note, one of the grammar structures reviewed in Korean class recently was 란 (lan), an awesome monosyllabic suffix that roughly translates to "(preceding noun) is characterized by" or "(following verb phrase) is called".

Today's qotd is the example sentence in our textbook for this suffix:
"인간이 누구나 다 죽게 마련이다."
"Human beings are doomed to be mortal."

The three exercises below the example sentence consist of nothing less than defining the essences of men, love, and laughter.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Gandhi!

Today in Brain and Thought, we had a guest lecturer from the Yale School of Medicine who provided fascinating insight into the combinatorial code of the olfactory system. Halfway through the class, we were interrupted, naturally, by a zombie attack:

the Pundits

(A Yale society founded in 1884, the Pundits are known for elaborate pranks and naked parties. According to some, the society predates and gave rise to the modern use of the word "pundit".)