Inner Dialogue

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Cello / East Asian modernity / German / Hip-hop / Music / North Korea / US-North Korea relations

Summer, the era of the self, is over, and the academic year begins.  Narcissus goes into hiding in a cave by the border, lurking, perhaps to infiltrate one’s apartment in the wee hours when the cops have stopped cruising.  The docks and harbors in Tacoma undulate with aimless slow motion, train whistles echo, and the museums of downtown collide up against one’s vision, testament to past human aspiration that now stands grounded firmly upon earth.

Seismic inquiries will need to wait a few days.

Meanwhile at the university, the syllabi emerge like growth hormones in a baseball clubhouse gone mad: “this is what will make you strong!” we crow, cascading the room with the long-awaited and newly-crystallized master plan as the student gratefully accepts sheaves of freshly burnt paper for which, at least, she did not have to pay $64 at the bookstore.

Lectures begin: we shout ourselves hoarse, listen deftly, privileging the naïve questions, the questions of the newly arrived, the demands for pure reason, that pregnant original question (‘why?’).  Nimble thinking in query.

Grids jumbled up with Arabic numbers offer illusions of intellectual certitude.

****

The convocation arrives — and the present author sits, attentive, spine straightening, keeping the synapses aligned, viewing the podium through a tangle of television wires.  One is again in the state of being on stage.  Orchestral pulchritude drenches the room.  In response, the crowd’s tempo is lugubrious; no eyes on the ictus.  Speech follows speech, each with its golden mean moment, its Mozart ratio.  As here, within this digital space, slapped up carelessly in the ether, about 67% complete, then it all falls off.

The pixels nick my cornea and slither to my mind’s rim.

PLU wins a Paul Simon award for campus internationalization.  Folk like me get to represent while having done mere shards of work, yet are ebullient like a child riding grandfather’s shoulders at the state fair, admiring an anvil of his Scandanavian vintage.  It feels good to celebrate in data-driven ways like this.

Then, in an expansive and justifiably triumphalist riff on our campus internationalization, our university president sought to lock in the gains of self-identity.

And then Narcissus stole into the gynasium!  He, that mythical character, saucered eyes set in grey skin,  clamberd up with sinewed limb onto a cranked-with-tension-basketball hoop levering down from the ceiling, a steel fragment begging for completion of its own mission, like a helicopter pad on the CCTV building in Beijing. There he crouched and waited for a mission statement while working on his own.

We gazed into the pixeled mirror as an institution today, and my joy was actual, palpable as the cello nestled under my calf.  And we wanted to dance as we recognized the force of our own globalization, that the spinning world was loaded and overflowing with the force of our good works, that the curricula had been internationalized, that we speak languages other than those spawned among us by British settlers, that according to Zogby this generation of students does not see national borders as significant.

Well what about North Korea? I wanted to stand up and shout.   Try connecting our students with civilization there…And let them stand on the north shore of the Tumen and tell the North Koreans we want to sing songs together.  Perhaps we could confuse them with songs of the Democratic Youth League…And then, if we get upset with the barriers erected, do we encourage wholesome engagement irrespective of moral difference, or stand our ground and work to bring the whole temple down on their heads?

This calls for a rhyme, drop a beat on it….[4/4 time, quarter note = 64 bpm]

Track II engagement on the 405

North Korean agents done multi-plied

At the multiplex flip tickets, nicht enscheidet zu sein

DP RK in LA churn up the Red Line and

Hurtle south to Long Beach / like Inchon/ truffle up in ya snout

Dan Fouts / spiral centrifuge / ya keep in ya house

to house searches, DVD keeper lurches,

furtive bursts of speed is all that refugees need

but their calories cleave to the #1 steed

of Il, that’s Kim Jong, the guts been spilled

if pancreatic cancer cuts appetite, he’s over the hill

and will decease, but corresponding decrease in uranium rates?

that’s like saying Fox News will cease Nazi propaganda

when Rupert Murdoch does clam up and his 文化大革姑娘

picks up the reins of the beast

so release your prophesies, all hail the mortal power

of change, traum des Wiedereinigung

the harpoon shanks the KPA, the Ahab caught by crew

protein bars rain down from skies,

the Swedish air force / inget boryar /before it begins

cos the newest famine lurching loose,

the hunt on Hoeryong’s rim

no animals stand in the path of magnif’cent regeneration — and

the path to Chongjin from Yanbian parts like Red Sea prophets assured us.

Bounce with it now…[skratch outro with little samples from 卖花姑娘]

The Author

Lecturer of Chinese history at University of Leeds, and Editor-in-Chief of SinoNK.com.

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