I know almost nothing about Cyprus. What with the recent referendum and today's EU celebrations, the island-nation's been in the news quite a bit. Here's the only really remote tie I have to Cyprus. I used to live in Kenya, East Africa; the first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta was a friend of the president of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios. As an eventual result of this friendship, the Orthodox Patriarchal Seminary/Makarios Theological School was established near Nairobi. All this makes for an interesting study in Orthodoxy, nationalism, and geopolitics - a study upon which I'm not qualified to pontificate. Just recently, though, I scored some Orthodox hymnography in Swahili from that very seminary. I'm all for standardized liturgical practice, but it was nonetheless refreshing to hear the African voice breaking through the traditional tones.
I can't say I think much of Poet Laureates nor much of this one especially. She was unknown to me before I read the news, but in my hasty, unfair opinion she seems to exemplify much of what's wrong with contemporary Anglophone poetry. Although it looks like she's a mite entertaining:
When Ishle Yi Park was installed as the third poet laureate of Queens last week, she did not simply thank the judges and recite a poem or two. She closed her eyes, spread her arms rapturously toward the audience gathered before her and began belting out a Korean pop song from the 1970's.
She gets an entry here mostly because she's of Korean descent and I like poetry. But just so that you can judge for yourself, a piece of hers:
Before you, life was unbearable – a flat screen and ping pong ball. But oh, you sleek grey box, you already wrapped present!
We sat in front of you, awed as if you were the first red sunrise.
We burned a horseshoe of permanent round circles into the rug with our asses - a communion of Afghani, Puerto Rican, Korean kids
trying to unpeel the secrets of a mustached plumber who swallowed mushrooms, zapped dumb-eyed turtles, warped to other zones through green maintenance pipes.
We slept to your lullabies, the digitized soundtrack of our childhood.
Outside, a world of mothers chastising in accents thick as static. Blocks of white boys bored and violent, ready to snap gum, spit, snap us in half with splintered
Louisville Sluggers. Inside – Zelda and goblins and magic wing-ed fairies. Enemies you could throw a pot at, stab twice, and they’d implode and disappear.
10 years later, we’re split and scattered, half college drop-outs, Soju drunk, stumbling, and I recall how we once fought
to keep alive, counting our hearts, freezing time to gulp Coke, taking turns to save each other, anything, anything! To beat them at their game.
Back then, we never gave up, never walked away –
if the light wouldn’t bling on, we’d check the plug, blow into the cartridge, clean out the dust, bang that sucker on any flat surface –
A while back I posted a little piece on the kidnappings of some Korean missionaries in Iraq. This is late news, but it seems that cousins across the sea-whose-name-is-in-dispute reacted to their returning compatriots about the same as the Iraqis did to the Korean hostages. No, I'm not drawing unsavory parallels - in both instances each side is polite, rather disgusted, and would like to return their catch as soon as possible:
"You got what you deserve!" read one hand-written sign at the airport where they landed. "You are Japan's shame," another wrote on the Web site of one of the former hostages. They had "caused trouble" for everybody. The government, not to be outdone, announced it would bill the former hostages $6,000 for air fare.
Some would say these Japanese are just eating their due and would wish the same to the Koreans - but as I recall, there was little more than a quick flurry of articles in the papers when the Koreans returned home. Naturally, this might have something to do with the nature and duration of their respective ordeals. At any rate, we can scribble it on the long list of differences between the Peninsula and the Archipelago.
It seems that some of the Japanese folks are heading back, too. Ideals? Or when faced with a decision between Japanese scorn and Iraqi street weapons, he figgered he could outlast the Iraqis?
I used to live in Ubangi, not far from the Congo river; my brother was born there. I've few memories of it, but as with all places of one's childhood, I'm immensely attached to it. Consequently this New York Timespiece was mezmerizing:
"My father took me to the river," said Alfie, who is 7. "He said I was a witch."
...Anecdotes from children's advocates suggest that across the country, more and more children are accused of sorcery, blamed for the ills that befall their kin in what remains a time of unfathomable hardship.
The grown-ups who care for them see it as a barometer of national despair. When nothing else explains the gnawing misery of daily life, the supernatural steps in. Sickness, death, joblessness, hunger — all can be blamed on witchcraft. Children, defenseless by definition, can be the easiest scapegoats.
DR Congo, and strife-soaked Africa in general, looks like a ripe spot for field work on the question of religion and society. Clearly it seems that it is not only has the Congolese moral fabric been torn - whatwith drowning children like cats - but it appears equally that their spiritual footing has been shaken by civil chaos. I smell a lot of academic aggrandizement in the making.
There's a ton of news regarding the Korean elections. Others have done a much better job detailing the intrigues of the election, but here's a simple summary: A year ago Roh ("Noh") gets elected prez; he's librul, uneducated, popular, and wants rapprochement with NK and distance from the US. This gets him impeached about a year later, this last March, by the conservative opposition. Most of the charges, while likely valid, are minor to the point of hilarity. The Consitutional Court still has a few months before it has to render its verdict on the charges; but many commentators see yesterday's election as a referendum on Roh and impeachment. In general, both sides have behaved themselves during campaigning and there has been little civil unrest since the days surrounding the impeachment itself.
I remember (but I can't find a link) a few months back an editorialist warned ROK troops heading to Iraq not to eat squid, since according to Muslim dietary regulations they're worms. For a Muslim (and even for the few kosher Jews I encountered here) Korea is a culinary nightmare. "Worms" are everywhere.
Seven Koreans who were apprehended by armed insurgents in Iraq yesterday were released after their identities were verified as Korean nationals...The seven were seized on suspicion of being American spies. After being blindfolded and taken to a camp about 10 minutes away by car, the seven were thoroughly questioned and investigated to determine their identities. When identified as Korean civilians, the group was released and escorted to the Palestine Hotel located in a safe zone in Baghdad.
Some Japaneseweren't solucky. Interestingly the Koreans were missionaries. I wonder what effect all this will have on our New President's troop dispatch plans....