This Explains a Lot (K-Drama Culture)

From the book Culture Shock! Korea, Sonja Vegdahl Hur and Ben Seunghwa Hur, the version I read was published in the 90s.

You are at a party (in Korea) and start up a friendly conversation with a person you have met only a few times. One of the first questions he asks you is why are you not married. You do not wish to answer. What do you do?

A. Explain it is none of his business and walk away asap
B. Joke that there are no partners good enough for you.
C. Lie and say you are already married.
D. Ignore the question and change the subject.
The answer is D.    A would be horribly rude and hurtful.  B might make somebody laugh, but they will also think you are arrogant.  C is obviously a problem if you ever get caught in the lie. You won’t be trusted or well thought of.  D is… well, interesting.  How many times have I yelled at a K-Drama character, “Just answer the question!”
Another tidbit:
When a neighbor or friend drops by, you must offer a drink. They will say no.  A few minutes later, you should offer again, but it doesn’t matter if he says no, you should bring him one anyway. IT doesn’t matter if he likes it or not, you don’t have to ask if he wants cream and sugar, for instance, or prefers coke or sprite. Just serve the drink.  Serving the drink is what matters, not whether or not the guest likes it.
It was acceptable at the time this book was written to touch children to discover their gender.  babies and toddlers might even have their pants opened or pulled down.  That was fine and expats were advised not to freak out.
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Good Reads

Interesting and thoughtful essay on what’s wrong with the current movement to vandalize statues and topple cultural heroes.


Inebriates of Virtiue is an excellent, excellent read.  Here’s a taste:

Yale’s new bureaucracy is called the “Committee on Art in Public Spaces.” Its charge? To police works of art on campus, to make sure that images offensive to favored populations are covered over or removed. At the residential college formerly known as Calhoun, for example, the Committee has removed stained glass windows depicting slaves and other historical scenes of Southern life. Statues and other representations of John C. Calhoun—a distinguished statesman but also an apologist for slavery—have likewise been slotted for the oubliette.

But impermissible attitudes and images are never in short supply once the itch to stamp out heresy gets going. Yesterday, it was Calhoun and representations of the Antebellum South. Today it is a carving at an entrance to Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library depicting an Indian and a Puritan. The Puritan, if you can believe it, was holding a musket—a gun! Quoth Susan Gibbons, one of Yale’s librarian-censors: its “presence at a major entrance to Sterling was not appropriate.” Why not? Never mind. Solution? Cover over the musket with a cowpat of stone. (But leave the Indian’s bow and arrow alone!)

The New Elite’s Silly Virtue-Signaling Consumption
The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class, Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, Princeton University Press, 272 pages
By BENJAMIN SCHWARZ • September 14, 2017

“Currid-Halkett convincingly argues that the consumer preferences of today’s elite—be it the approved podcast, TED Talk, or magazine; goat tacos from the farmers market, a five-dollar cup of Intelligentsia Coffee, ceviche at the Oaxacan restaurant in the approved urban enclave, or tuition for the anointed school—are now the primary means by which members of the educated elite establish, reinforce, and signify their identities. In a detailed analysis of the experience of shopping at a Whole Foods supermarket, for instance, she explores the rather stark hypothesis that “for the aspirational class, we are what we eat, drink, and consume more generally.” By creating “an identity and story to which people wish to subscribe,” the store allows members of that class to “consume [their] way to a particular type of persona.” The upshot is that elite consumption—the pursuit of personal gratification—somewhat paradoxically entwines with the pursuit and buttressing of what amounts to a tribal identity.”

I am reminded of the Sheep that Shopping Shaped

I may have posted this before. It’s shorter than the others, an article rather than an essay. It’s about why it’s important to write your notes by hand rather than via keyboard. I find it particularly interesting because you could replace writing here with narration and find the same benefits (so use both!). Writing notes by hand requires you to slow down, process, organize, select, prioritize:

“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” he said. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain, it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize.”

The result?

“Learning is made easier,” he concluded.”

These are longer essays/articles.  If you haven’t got a kindle  (affiliate link) or downloaded a kindle app to your mobile device yet, you should, and then you should use push to kindle to send articles to your e-reader so you can read them offline and anywhere you go.

You could assign these or similar articles to your high school students for reading.  After they read, some possible assignments could be:

  1. Narrate orally.
  2. Set a timer for 5 minutes and write down as much as you can remember as fast as you can.  The next day, organize your thoughts from this exercise into a review of the article (or, if not the next day, a couple days, or even a week later)
  3. Summarize the main point of each paragraph (this is not the time for the student to argue with the points in the article. It’s an exercise in understanding the point, later, when they are sure they understand what the author is saying, they can argue, but understanding must come first).
  4.  Make an outline
  5. Make a simple list of key points.
    Pick one of those points and respond to it in a short essay of your own, or make it the topic of a journal entry.

These are merely suggestions, not requirements, and you probably should not do more than 2, if that many.  You don’t have to assign them to your kids, you could do it yourself.  Or just read, and think.  Thinking should not be optional.


You may also like Isaac Watts on improving the mind through reading.

And you might enjoy Books on Reading.

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Try to keep up

You may have thought, as I most certainly did, that Trump’s tweents about the NFL players were stupid folly and beneath the office of the President, and mostly just sounded ignorant and belligerent. One can think those things and still think the NFL millionairs refusing to stand for the National Anthem because oppression are also smug, self-righteous, hypocrites abusing their popularity for politics. But anyway, whatever I thought about Trump’s NFL tweets, he seems to have been effective.
“Only 11 NFL players did not stand during the national anthem during the first set of games Sunday.

That is a stark contrast from the 180 who kneeled last week, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

He tweeted Sunday afternoon, “Last week, about 180 NFL players didn’t stand for the National Anthem. This week? 11.”

62% of NFL fans say they plan to watch less NFL football because of the protests. If you imagine that won’t happen because football is too popular, well, you could be right. Or you could be ignoring the fact that football was not always the favorite sport. once it was baseball. Once it was boxing. There isn’t any intellectually sound reason to imagine that what has already changed in the recent past (100 years is nothing) can’t change again. Trends and popularity are fickle.

I didn’t vote for Trump. I mostly took his candidacy as a joke. I never believed he’d be elected. But as I listened to the increasinly shrill, divorced from reality, and often libelous and ugly accusations of Trump supporters coming from Never Trumpers, including people I personally know and formerly respected, and then compared them to what actual Trump supporters were doing and saying, I began to have a wee bit of hope for this presidency. People who voted for him weren’t voting for a polished statesman and they knew that. They’ve had their fill of polished statesmen who apologize for America, give billions of dollars away to terrorists, make it possible for Iran to obtain nukes, leave ambassadors to die in Benghazi and then blame a video maker who had nothing to do with it and destroy his life for political cover, weaponize the IRS against their political enemies, and more. They voted for Trump largely because he is *not* politics as usual, and many of them voted for him as a wrecking ball for establishment politicians and politics as usual. So rather than being dismayed and pointing fingers and shouting “see what an idiot he is because he does this!!” – maybe it’s time to notice that ‘this’ is not an indictment of him with the people who elected him, it’s what they wanted. And then go one further and see that even among many of those who did *not* vote for him, his actual effectiveness and success with those irritating and unstatesman-like displays, are, well we’re getting used to it. Combine that with the rabid, over the top, absolutely unbelievable and disgraceful reactions from the never Trumpers and Democrats, and Trump actually looks pretty savvy.

If you thought, and I confess I did, that Trump’s recently public via Twitter fight with the mayor of San Juan over disaster relief for Puerto Rico, remind yourself, as somebody reminded me, to think back to Katrina. The disaster that followed Katrina was largely due to the incompetence of the NO mayor and the LA governor, with a contribution of years of mismanagement of infrastructure by consistently Democratic politicans. But then President Bush was targeted and blamed by a media acting in concert with the Democrat playbook. Bush was presidential. He didn’t defend himself, he didn’t fight back. I admired that, and it seems that today even Democrats who formerly called him Bushitler are coming around – not to respecting his presidency, but at least to respecting how he conducted himself personally. But here’s the thing- it failed. It didn’t stop the false accusations and personal smears, it didn’t help anything. I think Trump talks like an idiot, but I don’t think he actually is one. I think he remembers the Bush presidency as well as anybody else and he knows that however ‘unpresidential’ people may say it is for him to call out the Mayor of San Juan as he has done, it actually does work. People who aren’t personally invested in their Never Trumpism to the point of being unable to be remotely rational on the subject may not like what Trump says or how he says it, but they look it up, and they have to wonder-

Why is the mayor saying people are dying and they can’t get relief when the death toll hasn’t changed from 16, and she’s standing in front hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of pallets of relief?

Why is Paul Krugman claiming there are outbreaks of cholera in PR and getting 8,000 retweets and then admitting that was ‘unconfirmed,’ um, it’s not cholera, it’s pink-eye(!), and the correction doesn’t even rise to 200 retweets?

Why is the Mayor of San Juan claiming she can’t respond to Trump because she has no time for distractions while giving dozens of dozens of press conferences to… complain about Trump.

Puerto Rico has been hit with a horrible natural disaster. But before that, they were hit with an entirely natural disaster of their own making- inept elected leadership.
“Jorge Rodriguez, 49, is the Harvard-educated CEO of PACIV, an international engineering firm based in Puerto Rico that works with the medical and pharmaceutical sectors. The Puerto Rican-born engineer says he has dispatched 50 engineers to help FEMA rehabilitate the devastated island — a commonwealth of the United States — after Hurricane Maria. He refuses to work with the local government, which he called inept and riddled with corruption.

For the last 30 years, the Puerto Rican government has been completely inept at handling regular societal needs, so I just don’t see it functioning in a crisis like this one. Even before the hurricane hit, water and power systems were already broken. And our $118 billion debt crisis is a result of government corruption and mismanagement.”

And when that mayor gives an interview to Anderson Cooper of CNN while she’s wearing a custom designed t-shirt saying ‘help us, we’re dying,’ you have to wonder, where’d she get the shirt? Puerto Rico has no power, yet, she thought that was a good allocation of resources? Or did somebody from CNN bring it along for her?

People elected a wrecking ball, so when they see one, they are not disappointed. It doesn’t seem to be hurting Trump with anybody who matters- that is, people who are really angriest about it are people who would stay home and sit on their hands rather than vote for Trump even if the only alternative actually was Hitler. People who already voted for him don’t mind. People on the fence, somewhat open minded are starting to notice that times have changed and the media is completely unreliable, so their attacks are less and less effective. Actually, this is true even with some never-Trumpers. Just today I’ve seen more than one person saying they really don’t know what’s happening in Puerto Rico, the media is obviously making stuff up and they don’t trust Trump, either, so they don’t know what to think. But that first thing- that’s a huge indictment of the media, but not so much of Trump. People tend not to trust politicians. We know they spin things in their favour, that’s expected. But to move from being netural to ‘the media is obviously making things up and unbelievable’ is, well, huge.

People arguing about tone and statesmenship, well, I’m sympathetic. I wish for more graceful tone and more elegant statesmenship, too. But that isn’t what we have, and it looks to me like it’s not even appropriate for the times in which we live anymore. Stop wishing for something 4 decades old and face what we have now.

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Books Read in September

Dragons of a Fallen Sun, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, 619 pages long. Egad. Dragons, mages, knights, minotaurs, elves, humans, dwarves, missing moons, missing magic, and dying elves and a strange shield maiden and girl warrior, a Joan of Arc character called Mina.  IT took me about 200 pages to get into this one, and it was sheer force of will and stubborn-ness, and the fact that one of the teachers at the school who I have found a tough nut to crack really likes the series that made me continue.  It’s a trilogy within a trilogy within a series from what I can tell.  And I’m irritated that it’s one of those trilogies that just kind of ends without really resolving much of anything at all so I’ll have to read the next two books if I want to know what happens.  I mostly don’t really care much about any of the characters except the kender.  Kenders are a sort of Puck-like species, mischief makers, lighthearted and light fingered.  I am sure that my lukewarm appreciation for the book has as much to do with my age and the length of the book as anything else.  I mean, it’s not Tolkien, but who is?


How To Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster My favourite chapter was the chapter on how every journey is a quest (except for when it isn’t).  I liked the general ideas, but individual chapters weren’t uniformly successful. The general idea is that writers are readers, and they put a lot of time into their writing, and when you incorporate elements like a disability or type of death (or illness, or, or, or….) you have to keep that going through the rest of your story, so there is usually a reason for it.  He also talks about the need for the reader to also be familiar with fairy tales, myths,legends, Bible stories, and so on and be able to read widely and start to spot patterns and think about them.  I particularly liked his point that while Freud and his whole Oedipus complex and similar theories are probably wrong and no longer widely accepted, he was so influential on our culture that you have to remember even if you think it’s all hogwash, almost every writer from Freud up until the last ten years or so was familiar with Freud and didn’t think he was full of hogwash.  Therefore, they often are incorporating Freudian ideas into their works.  It’s probably not legitimate to read them into works before Freud, however (odd that everybody since Freud sees Hamlet and his mother having inappropriate feelings for one another, but nobody thought so before Freud).   I think it’s a useful book for parents and for college students, but a lot of the illustrations are from books you may never have read.


Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton, (399 pages)  I never saw the movie, and I thought I was going to have to supervise a class where the students were watching this movie for science while their regular teacher is off-island.  I don’t have to supervise that class, which makes me happy.  It was an interesting read.  I see why he was a popular author.  He’s a bit heavy handed on the moralizing and Malcolm the exposition fairy was obviously only there to preach Crichton’s warning to the readers.  I agreed with most of the warning, it was just contrived.  Also, has anybody else read this and gotten the feeling that somewhere, somebody in Crichton’s sphere had a really bratty and obnoxious spoiled brat of a little girl that Crichton wished to torture a bit so he wrote her into the story?  I personally would not have minded if that child had been eaten by the raptors early on, but I guess we needed her to keep causing disasters.

I started a lot more books and didn’t finish them, and I kind of regret forcing myself to finish the 600 page monster about the dragon world.  I wish I’d read something more worthy of my time.

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“So long as they are reading?” Content matters.

“The habit of casual reading… is a form of mild intellectual dissipation which does more harm than we realise. Many who would not read even a brilliant novel of a certain type, sit down to read twaddle without scruple. Nothing is too scrappy, nothing is too weak to “pass the time!” The “Scraps” literature of railway bookstalls  (and airport bookstores) is symptomatic. We do not all read scraps, under whatever piquant title, but the locust-swarm of this class of literature points to the small reading power amongst us.

The mischief begins in the nursery. No sooner can a child read at all than hosts of friendly people show their interest in him by a present of a “pretty book.” A “pretty book” is not necessarily a picture-book, but one in which the page is nicely broken up in talk or short paragraphs. Pretty books for the schoolroom age follow those for the nursery, and, nursery and schoolroom outgrown, we are ready for the lightest novels on the library shelves of new books; the succession of “pretty books” never fails us; we have no time for works of any intellectual fibre, and we have no more assimilating power than has the schoolgirl who feeds upon cheese-cakes.

We have reached the point where to most readers, Scott is dry as dust, and if you can believe it, even Kingsley is “stiff.” We remain weak and poor readers all our days. Very likely these strictures do not touch a single reader of this page, and I am like a preacher inveighing against the ways of the thieves and drunkards who are  not in the pews. But the mischief is catching, and the children of even reading parents are not safe.


Guard the nursery; let nothing in that has not the true literary flavour; let the children grow up on a few books read over and over, and let them have none, the reading of which does not cost an appreciable mental effort. This is no hardship. Activity, effort, whether of body or mind, is joyous to a child. Those f an oolder generation who went out of their Robinson Crusoe into our Scott did not find the strong meat too much for them.”


Volume 5 of Charlotte Mason’s series, somewhat adapted by myself

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