Culture: Direct vs Subtle

I’ve talked about this one before, and will probably do so again because it is endlessly fascinating to me. ONe of the big differences between the west (especially the U.S.) and the east is the difference in attitudes tangled around in the web of tact vs being direct, being straight-forward vs ‘beating around the bush,’ being a shame based and thus face saving culture vs a ‘we do not shame people’ culture, etc. To westerners it really does often look like just dishonesty when they can’t get what they feel is a direct (that is, helpful) answer from easterners, and to eastern people, it looks like unspeakable rudeness when we basically refuse to take no for an answer.

It’s not actually that we refused to take no for an answer, it’s more that we didn’t understand that there was a ‘no,’ because to us, no means no, I don’t know means I don’t know.

Things that do not mean ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’ to us: That will be difficult, it’s on aisle 4, yes, okay, maybe later, later, and not answering the question at all. Often these responses or similar ones are accompanied by facial expressions or gestures or body language that does enhance the meaning of ‘no,’or ‘I can’t help with that,’ or ‘I don’t know how to do that.’ But those facial expressions and gestures are generally missed by Westerners, because we’re not that subtle and we don’t really do hints. Our version of hints looks like being hit in the face with a boxing glove to easterners. Their version of hints doesn’t look like much of anything to us, because it slides right by us.

A few nights ago we had some dinner guests, and after dinner we played some silly parlour games, guessing games, the kind of games where there’s a trick, just one or two people know the trick and they have to figure it out. Our guests included one American lady around my age, she’s lived her a long time, and three young Asian males in their 20s, one Korean and 2 Filipinos.

One thing I noticed is that this crowd caught on to the ‘tells’ much more quickly than the groups of Americans we’ve played with typically do. That may not be a fair comparison since one of them is a third culture kid grown up, and having lived in and out of at least 3 different divergent cultures in his life, he’s always going to be more observant than is typical. And both the other two are really smart cookies who work with westerners so they have an edge, too, but still. WE ran through about half a dozen of these kinds of games in just a couple hours, and often when we play with a group of Americans there’s only time for one or two and we’re giving giving incredibly broad hints by the end so nobody feels left out. But maybe their unique situations had more to do with that.

However, there was one game where it turned out one of the Filipinos already knew it. IT’s the Johnny Oops game- it’s easier to show than explain, so here’s a youtube video:
Just start at around 30 seconds and watch about 10 or 15 seconds for the gist of it. Exactly how you do the fingers and the ‘Johnny Oops’ is irrelevant. It’s the arm crossing at the end that is the thing you have to notice.
At least, that’s the case in the American version.

In the Filipino version, you ever so slightly and quite naturally sort of brush the side of your nose with one finger at the end. It’s so subtle that my husband and I, even knowing exactly how the game works, were only about 75% sure that was the tell. The Filipino friend thought the arm-crossing was ridiculously obvious and overblown and nobody could fail to catch it.

He and I both share a love for and fascination with the little cultural differences that come up, so for us, this little revelation was as much fun as the games themselves.

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Mmmm, Burritoes

We had burritoes for dinner last night. I made them from my family’s traditional recipe, a tradition only about 45 years old, but they all have to start somewhere.

Living in Davao, finding the right Mexican food that fits the tastebuds of my Arizona, Sonora desert influenced and my husband’s southern California tastebuds is difficult.

I only recently discovered a grocery store that even carries refried beans, a key ingredient. I haven’t even seen pinto or kidney beans, canned or dried. I’m sure they are around here somewhere, but when I have to take a cab to go grocery shopping, my options are limited.

So, in order to make burritoes for dinner:
I call ahead to my Korean friend and Dong-Gap Minha’s Filipina household help, Rosaline, and order tortillas- she needs at least 24 hours notice, sometimes 72 hours. They cost about the same as in the states, but they are worth every penny.

I plan ahead and on Monday or Wednesday have my own helper pick up peppers and red onions from the palingke (open air market under a big roof, not that open air, very smelly and sometimes slippery) and possibly 2 kg of minced beef at the meat market. The peppers may or may not be spicy, I haven’t been able to make my wants clear on this.

Go to Gaisano, or G-mall, where I seldom go because they are glitzier and more expensive but they are my ownly source for refried beans and good salsa. There is a Philippine brand of salsa at another store I shop at more regularly but the spicy version is not at all spicy, it’s super sweet and gross to my palate. What we’ve decided to do is buy something like ten jars and cans each at a time because otherwise, it’s not worth it to go back just for the salsa and refried beans.

Buy cheese at the mall where I usually shop (all grocery stores are in malls). Its pretty expensive as cheese goes, but it’s just the two of us, so I splurge. Sometimes I buy sour cream. IT comes in a container the size of individual yogurts at home and costs around three or four dollars. I don’t always buy it. I also buy tomato sauce in foil pouches because metals are more expensive here, and there is an emphasis on lightweight containers. I could buy the meat and vegetables there, too, but they will cost a lot more.

Then, a couple days after the last of these supplies has been brought in, I get up at 6 a.m. to chop the vegetables and fry them with the meat, and maybe dice tomatoes and extra onions, and grate the cheese and put it back in the fridge. I do that this early because I prefer to do those things when it’s only 90 degrees in the house instead of 100. I exaggerate- it’s been in the mid-80s a lot lately. Then in the evening, I roll the burritoes and serve them tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, and sometimes guacamole on the side, depending on the season.

You can see we are desperately hungry for famliar Mexican food. One does not simply have an urge to eat certain food and fix it by suppertime, unless it’s pretty basic. Even a lot of Filipino dishes require some advance planning. More likely, people go to the market and make plans for meals based on rice and what’s at the market for a good price.

It’s a bit inconvenient and we’d save time and money if we did without the burritoes. On the other hand, you never really understand just how valuable a taste from home is until you’ve been without it. No matter how much I love fresh shrimp, kinilaw, crispy kang kong, and green mango shakes, sometimes nothing but a cheese tortilla will do. And also, a good avocado costs about 60 cents or less right now because they are in season. So there’s that..=)

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Huxley on Brave New World 30 years later

In 1931, when Brave New World was being written, I was convinced that there was still plenty of time. The completely organized society, the scientific caste sys­tem, the abolition of free will by methodical condition­ing, the servitude made acceptable by regular doses of chemically induced happiness, the orthodoxies drummed in by nightly courses of sleep-teaching — these things were coming all right, but not in my time, not even in the time of my grandchildren. I for­get the exact date of the events recorded in Brave New World; but it was somewhere in the sixth or seventh century A.F. (After Ford). We who were living in the second quarter of the twentieth century A.D. were the inhabitants, admittedly, of a gruesome kind of uni­verse; but the nightmare of those depression years was radically different from the nightmare of the fu­ture, described in Brave New World. Ours was a night­mare of too little order; theirs, in the seventh century A.F., of too much. In the process of passing from one extreme to the other, there would be a long interval, so I imagined, during which the more fortunate third of the human race would make the best of both worlds — the disorderly world of liberalism and the much too orderly Brave New World where perfect efficiency left no room for freedom or personal initiative.
Twenty-seven years later, in this third quarter of the twentieth century A.D., and long before the end of the first century A.F., I feel a good deal less optimistic than I did when I was writing Brave New World. The prophecies made in 1931 are coming true much sooner than I thought they would. The blessed interval between too little order and the nightmare of too much has not begun and shows no sign of beginning. In the West, it is true, individual men and women still enjoy a large measure of freedom. But even in those coun­tries that have a tradition of democratic government, this freedom and even the desire for this freedom seem to be on the wane. In the rest of the world freedom for individuals has already gone, or is manifestly about to go. The nightmare of total organization, which I had situated in the seventh century After Ford, has emerged from the safe, remote future and is now awaiting us, just around the next corner.

George Orwell’s 1984 was a magnified projection into the future of a present that contained Stalinism and an immediate past that had witnessed the flowering of Nazism. Brave New World was written before the rise of Hitler to supreme power in Germany and when the Russian tyrant had not yet got into his stride. In 1931 systematic terrorism was not the obsessive contem­porary fact which it had become in 1948, and the fu­ture dictatorship of my imaginary world was a good deal less brutal than the future dictatorship so brilliantly portrayed by Orwell. In the context of 1948, 1984 seemed dreadfully convincing. But tyrants, after all, are mortal and circumstances change. Recent developments in Russia and recent advances in science and technology have robbed Orwell’s book of some of its gruesome verisimilitude. A nuclear war will, of course, make nonsense of everybody’s predictions. But, assuming for the moment that the Great Powers can somehow refrain from destroying us, we can say that it now looks as though the odds were more in favor of something like Brave New World than of something like 1984.

In the light of what we have recently learned about animal behavior in general, and human behavior in particular, it has become clear that control through the punishment of undesirable behavior is less effec­tive, in the long run, than control through the rein­forcement of desirable behavior by rewards, and that government through terror works on the whole less well than government through the non-violent manip­ulation of the environment and of the thoughts and feelings of individual men, women and children. Pun­ishment temporarily puts a stop to undesirable behav­ior, but does not permanently reduce the victim’s tend­ency to indulge in it. Moreover, the psycho-physical by-products of punishment may be just as undesirable as the behavior for which an individual has been pun­ished. Psychotherapy is largely concerned with the de­bilitating or anti-social consequences of past punish­ments.

The society described in 1984 is a society controlled almost exclusively by punishment and the fear of pun­ishment. In the imaginary world of my own fable, pun­ishment is infrequent and generally mild. The nearly perfect control exercised by the government is achieved by systematic reinforcement of desirable be­havior, by many kinds of nearly non-violent manipula­tion, both physical and psychological, and by genetic standardization. Babies in bottles and the centralized control of reproduction are not perhaps impossible; but it is quite clear that for a long time to come we shall remain a viviparous species breeding at random. For practical purposes genetic standardization may be ruled out. Societies will continue to be controlled post-natally — by punishment, as in the past, and to an ever increasing extent by the more effective methods of reward and scientific manipulation.

In Russia the old-fashioned, 1984-style dictatorship of Stalin has begun to give way to a more up-to-date form of tyranny. In the upper levels of the Soviets’ hierarchical society the reinforcement of desirable be­havior has begun to replace the older methods of con­trol through the punishment of undesirable behavior. Engineers and scientists, teachers and administrators, are handsomely paid for good work and so moderately taxed that they are under a constant incentive to do better and so be more highly rewarded. In certain areas they are at liberty to think and do more or less what they like. Punishment awaits them only when they stray beyond their prescribed limits into the realms of ideology and politics. It is because they have been granted a measure of professional freedom that Russian teachers, scientists and technicians have achieved such remarkable successes. Those who live near the base of the Soviet pyramid enjoy none of the privileges accorded to the lucky or specially gifted mi­nority. Their wages are meager and they pay, in the form of high prices, a disproportionately large share of the taxes. The area in which they can do as they please is extremely restricted, and their rulers control them more by punishment and the threat of punish­ment than through non-violent manipulation or the reinforcement of desirable behavior by reward. The Soviet system combines elements of 1984 with ele­ments that are prophetic of what went on among the higher castes in Brave New World.

Huxley, Brave New World Revisited

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Miss Mason and Logic

“Canst thou deny it? Did not goodwife Keech, the butcher’s wife, come in then, and call me Gossip Quickly? — coming in to borrow a mess of vinegar; telling me she had a good dish of prawns– whereby thou didst desire to eat some — whereby I told thee they were ill for a green wound,” &c., &c., Mrs. Quickly — peace be with her– still runs apace in drawing-room and market, from pulpit and platform. Her themes are many, but her method is one. It is at home she has been trained; in the delightful unrestrained of home talk she has acquired her facility. But Mrs. Quickly must be suppressed: we can not more of her. It is she who is the sower of faction — the propagator of error. It is her inconsequent “thought,” irrelevant speech, invincible ignorance, her utterly unconvincable attitude of mind, that rises like a huge earthwork in the path of enlightened effort. In this connection it is well worth while for parents to study at least two chapters — those on Language and Conceptions — of Archbishop Thomson’s Outline of the Laws of Thought. it is profitable to know that there are laws of thought, the infringement of which is calamitous both for the individual and the community.” Volume 1, 1890/91, pg. 75, Parents’ Review

Let’s break this down for the modern reader who has not had the benefit of an education which gives her a comfortable familiarity with Mistress Quickly and her character.

Mason is quoting her from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, part 2, act 2, scene 1.
While the title of the play is Henry IV, it’s really all about Henry the V as a prince, and how he grows up and matures and becomes the noble Henry V. During his reprobate youth he’s great friends with a rapscallion called Falstaff. Sir John Falstaff is older, wheezily fat, given to lying, cheating, womanizing. He’s careless with money, his or other people’s, and often the source of humour in the plays.
Mrs. Quickly is the owner of the Boar’s Head Tavern, where Falstaff has spent quite a bit of time.
In this particular scene she’s taken him to court for breach of promise and to recover money Falstaff has borrowed from her.
The judge has asked her what sum Falstaff owes her, and she replies that it’s more than some, and goes into a brief (for her) tirade about how Falstaff has abused her goodwill, but she never answers the question. The judge tells FAlstaff he should be ashamed and tells him to make things right, so Falstaff asks her how much he owes her. Mistress Quickly’s answer runs something like this:
“Good Gravy, if you were honest, you’d be giving yourself to me as well as the money. You promised me, swearing on a goblet gilded with gold, while sitting in the Dolphin Chamber at my tavern it was at the round table next to a fire stoked with sea-coals, on the Wednesday seven weeks after Easter, around hte time the Prince punched you in the head for comparing his father to , singing man of Windsor (people make guesses, but nobody really knows for sure why this was bad) and when I was cleaning up the blood, you promised me then to marry me, how could you deny that? Right then Goodwife Keech the butcher’s wife came and called to me “Neighbor Quickly!” because she was coming in to borrow a mix of vinegar, as she told us she had a good dish of shrimps, and when she said that you said you wanted to eat some and I told you they weren’t healthy eating for somebody with a fresh wound, and then, when she had gone back downstairs…”

And so, on, and on,and on, and yet again, she never answers the question. That’s how Miss Quickly talks. Miss Mason says the Miss Quickly types are still common, you can hear them at home, out shopping, giving sermons in the pulpit and speeches from politicians. The subjects these ‘Quicklys’ discourse on are varied, but the style is all the same. IT started at home when the Quicklys of this day were allowed to rattle on without restraint, but it’s time to supress these rambling, unrestrained, irrational tendences. This insequential, irrelevant chatter isn’t thinking. It creates divisiveness, spreads error. In the face of any efforts to enlighten, to educate, this sort of personality, this habit of thoughtlessness is like erecting sandbags walls of ignorance to prevent the leaking in of any meaningful knowledge or reason.

And so, Miss Mason says, in order to breach those walls, or rather, to prevent erecting them in the first place, parents should study some logic, specifically at least two specific chapters, one on language, on on conceptions, in the book “Outline of the Laws of Thought,” by Archbishop Thomson.

Mason reminds us that there are laws of thought, and when we ignore them it’s disastrous for the individual in possession of such an impenetrable mind, and for those around that person, the community at large.

In short, Miss Mason says don’t be an irrational flibbertygibbet.

Those two chapters are about a hundred pages. I’m skimming them now,and I have to say that once more I am struck with the high opinion Miss Mason had of parents.

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K-Drama: Just Between Lovers, Rain or Shine, Just in Love- that JunHo drama

Hangul title:
그냥 사랑하는 사이
Sounded out roughly, that’s
Geunyang Saranghaneun Sai
Other English titles:
Rain or Shine, Just in Love

I mentioned in the middle of watching it. I just finished it and I’ve cried to the point of dehydration. I love this one, but it’s a unique place in my heart, and I’m not sure how much is the drama and how much is timing and the way the tune to this OST just resonates with the chords of my heart:

With lyrics attached:

With Junho and Won Jin Ah footage:

When we?
Where we?
Why we?
On some day.
It’s so gray.
When to?
Where to?
Why to?
It’s been gone.
It’s somewhere.

Every time when I see
It’s so gray
It’s okay
Feels like you’re the one I know
It’s been gone
It’s somewhere

Tell me where I’m falling back to
It’s so gray
It’s been gone
Tell me why I’m longing to see
It’s okay
It’s somewhere

I sing your song.
You sing along.
For once,
You sing my song.
We sing along
As once we did.

When we?
Where we?
Why we?
On some day,
It’s so gray.
When to?
Where to?
Why to?
It’s been gone.
It’s somewhere.

I don’t know how I feel…
(Wish I could tell you why)
Maybe we’ll be on our way
on some day
It’s so gray.

I sing your song;
You sing along,
For once.
You sing my song;
We sing along,
As once we did.
(by Kim Kyung Hee and Ryu Ji Hyun)

Oh, my heart. Some songs just do this for me, it has nothing to do with lyrics or anything but the sound. That tune calls, tugs, and pulls at me, and my heart answers.

What is it?

“a harmonic phenomenon wherein a formerly passive string or vibratory body responds to external vibrations to which it has a harmonic likeness. The classic example is demonstrated with two similar tuning-forks of which one is mounted on a wooden box. If the other one is struck and then placed on the box, then muted, the un-struck mounted fork will be heard. In similar fashion, strings will respond to the external vibrations of a tuning-fork when sufficient harmonic relations exist between the respective vibratory modes.”

I could listen to this song a hundred times, and in fact, I think I did that this morning while waiting for the last episode of this drama to finish loading subs. It sounds similar to Mad World, which I felt the same way about when I first heard it.

The whole drama is too fresh and too much for me to explain it. Throughout much of the drama I felt like the writer and director, maybe the whole team, were punching me in the gut and then giving me medicine for it and rubbing my back and saying soothingly, “There, there, it’s okay,” only to give me a shove and a slap and start the abuse cycle all over again. I won’t tell you how much I cried. Oh, I guess I did that already. I’m blogging about it and recommending it, though, so you know that the show and I had couples counseling and are in recovery.

Junho and Won Jin Ah are just fabulous. I will look for each of them or both of them again. Okay, Won Jin Ah could work on her kiss scenes a bit- and I won’t usually comment on that mainly because I don’t care beyond thinking the frequent awkwardness of kissing in a K-drama is cute and restrained and preferable to the passionately public face sucking of American teleivion. But this seemed particularly stand-out awkward. Or maybe I was jud st too emotionally invested in this relationship because Junho and Won Jin Ah are such incredibly talented actors. They really sold it. It was particularly impressive since it’s Junho’s first lead role, and Jinah’s first time in a drama at all.

Kudos to the writer, who has done his or her research. It’s a drama, so some things are a bit glossed over, but really, so much of the traumatic reactions and symptoms were so real, so true.

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