News In Brief

The strangest names I’ve encountered here in Korea are Meen Gook and Ji Wan, not really for their sounds but rather for their meanings—the first means Republic and the second means Support, and when you combine those meanings with the odd Korean tendency to add a vowel onto people’s given names, you get results like Republicky and Supporty. The latter gender-neutral name is one of the most common and at least its sound is actually rather euphonious, especially when you compare it with all the little Jung Chuls and Dong Hos and Hyeon Beens we have running around here.

There is an ever-present fear that the radioactivity from Japan will poison my unborn son; and a possibility, however remote, of sending my wife to live in America until the melting reactor cores cool off. I dream of a world without man-made atomic fission, oil companies, deforestation, overpopulation, mass slaughter, cultural homogenization, hunger, disease, poverty, television; in short, a world without people (à la that X Files episode).

I haven’t been writing here or posting new pictures because I’m focusing on completing my novel before the baby arrives. This living deadline will surely sweep past me—or, rather, poop, pee, and shriek through the night, over my shoulders—but I must try to meet it nonetheless.

I attended my second ancestor ceremony, or Jae Sa, last night. I will reiterate that the great platter of food and the fire and the incense and the bowing and the chanting and the burning of the ancestor’s name and the setting out of steel chopsticks for her to devour the banquet prepared in her honor is one of the most fascinating things about the country and appears to connect the modern world very clearly to an ancient past which a different set of Christian cultural rites have almost totally erased from the West. There are only two things I can think of that are comparable to it: pouring one out for my dead homies and leaving a glass of wine out overnight for Elijah on Passover. She was represented by a recent professional photograph of an old Korean woman in huge 70s-style glasses and pink traditional clothing.

It appears that we were worshiping the second wife of an especially polygamous great uncle, who was rich enough to afford two wives at the same time several decades ago. Her son seemed like an Asian version of Joe Pesci and was therefore rather intimidating; he joked that the disaster in Japan had pushed Dokdo—a few rocks in the Sea of Japan, subject of a territorial dispute, that the Koreans care about fiercely and that most Japanese have apparently never heard of (this debate is typical of Korea-Japan relations)—closer to Eel-bone, the Korean word for Japan.

Koreans seem to care a lot about what’s happened there and the disaster would appear to have dampened their fierce hatred and envy for one of their closest neighbors, but my wife told me that some horrifying Korean ‘Netizens’ said that the earthquake was a good thing and that the Japanese deserved it or whatever. The power those people wield here has driven celebrities to suicide before.

One more bit on Dokdo, from Wikipedia—

“En route to Liancourt Rocks, the ferry shows an animated film featuring a giant robot warding off Japanese invaders.”

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