Friday, July 22, 2011

talking about the weather: linguistic xenophobia and HABOOBS

"Haboob" in the headlines--perhaps you've heard the word used over the past few weeks to describe the massive dust storms that have blown through central Arizona...

(photo of Phoenix above  from

Fortunately, here in Tucson, such massive clouds of choking doom are rare; the summer monsoon flow is usually from the south or southeast--thunderstorms pop up and then the winds blow out from them, often toward the north or northwest, which means that after the high grassland and mountain ranges of SE AZ, they pass over the over open desert and fallow farm fields between Tucson and Phoenix, sucking up all the debris around Casa Grande into the sky as the weather marches toward the 'Valley of the Sun.'

Back to the linguistic point, though...Today's NY Times has this article, entitled "'Haboobs' stir critics in Arizona." Really? There are people 'upset' that the term 'haboob' is used, simply because it's a word of foreign origin?! And, cardinal sin in their eyes--the word is from, gasp, Arabic!? (Here's the letter-to-the-editor of the Phoenix newspaper that was quoted in the NY it and weep.) I am embarrassed for Arizona...

(Then again, maybe the NY journalist just wanted to capitalize on the 'pick on AZ' sentiment that's been so present in the press over the past couple of years? Granted, there's been plenty of fuel for the fire...)

So...some folks object to 'haboob' because of it's foreign origins....

Hmm. This would mean that 'monsoon' needs to go, because that word, too, (so dear to Arizonans by the way), is--again, gasp--of Arabic origin! And 'hurricane' is also a 'foreign' word...And so is 'tornado!' and 'cyclone' and 'typhoon' and 'tsunami!'

Linguistic xenophobia. Silly...We think quaint, now, the usages in the past of 'Victory Cabbage' instead of 'sauerkraut'  in WWI...or 'freedom fries' instead of 'French fries' at the beginning of the Iraq War...

Silly, it might seem, but scary, as well...Ignorance, xenophobia, words...acts?

Besides--let's all enjoy our inner juvenile--'haboob' is just fun to say...

[Incidentally, a few other everyday words from Arabic: algebra, zero, pajamas and khaki.]

Sunday, July 17, 2011

This morning: mourning doves...If you've read 'A Moveable Feast'...

...I thought this was too late in the year for doves to be nesting--? I was in the backyard this morning, watering plants and then looked up to notice a mourning dove and her two babies, perched under the eave, but on the outer side of the patio roof. How they've survived the neighborhood hawks, I don't know...


If you've ever read Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, or any of F. Scott Fitzgerald, or seen any Dali or Picasso, and/or been to/ lived in/ dreamed about Paris...then, whether you are a Woody Allen fan or not (I am not so much), GO SEE Midnight in Paris. You don't have to like every moment of it, but the film is a love-letter to Paris and a series of well-intentioned caricatures of the literary and artistic giants of Paris-in-the-1920's.

Few places in Tucson are cooler on a summer mid-day (already at the century-mark outside) than a popcorn-scented movie theater. First-showings-of-the-day are even cooler--five and change versus almost ten bucks...And so S. and I  have spent a couple of recent mornings, enduring loud previews and forgetting that 'pretzel-bites' at the movies are always a bad idea.

A week or so before 'Midnight in Paris,' we went and saw 'Tree of Life.' There is a thin line between sublime visual poetry and overly-long self-indulgent cinematographic silliness. Brad Pitt acts well, indeed, in it...and Jessica Chastain looks like a Boticelli painting come-to-life... It has its moments... At the end of the 2hr+ film, I was glad to not have paid full price, but also glad to have seen it on the large screen. Really, there were moments of 'sublime visual poetry.' And how often does a Hollywood-released film allude, seriously, to the book of Job? But...


The monsoon is back. After a hiatus of almost a week (the 'gone-soon,' the local press has dubbed the dry weather), afternoon thunderstorms have returned. Driving home from an errand this afternoon, the wind kicked up and as the drops began falling, the temperature dropped from 105 to 75 in less than ten minutes. Gonna go see, now, how the mourning dove family fared...


...and an essay from our local paper's editorial cartoonist on "The sunburned pains of growing up too pale in Tucson."--a bit of local color...or lack thereof.


(...and I've had to deal with some administrative changes--
so, the little photo-blog I started a while back
has had to change addresses: no longer exists;
just add a dash--it is now:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Korean food coming to you via PBS--documentary to air nationwide this summer

I've been back for almost two weeks...and the flavors of Korea are tenacious; I've enjoyed tacos and salsa since returning, but Seoul-food tugs at one's soul...

...fortunately there are several Korean grocers here in Tucson and a couple of decent restaurants...

And then I find out that on PBS, a new documentary/travelogue/food show will be playing soon:

Here's a preview:

As does the LA Times...

The actor Hugh Jackman does some of the narrating...
why "Wolverine" is in to Korean food, I don't know...

Korea got the summer Olympics back in 1988; the 2018 Winter games were just awarded to the country as well...perhaps now it's time for this peninsula's in-your-face cuisine to become more widely known outside of the coastal cities....Bon app├ętit & Jahp-soo-seh-yo!

Friday, July 8, 2011

why the new blog?

After almost five years of blogging at, this is now home.

Why the move? Why the new name?

After spending a month in Korea, I decided that I no longer want le blogue to be defined by our ‘year-in-Nicaragua,’ which has now receded well into the past…five years ago (already?!) to be exact…S. and I still think of things as being ‘Before Nicaragua’ or ‘After Nicaragua,’ and we still treasure that year of la vida centroamericana as being one of the defining experiences of our lives…but time moves on, and living takes us elsewhere…

Now, why the title of this new blog?–why “allophile?”

I like learning languages--as in other languages...I like traveling--as in going elsewhere...I enjoy conversing, reading about viewpoints--as in other viewpoints...And 'allophile' literally means 'liker/lover of the other.' You know--'francophiles' like all things French...'cinephiles' enjoy the movies...

And growing up biracial, I was always 'the other'--in elementary school I was always 'the Asian kid,' whereas when going to Asia, I was 'the foreigner.' The only cities where I've felt truly 'at home' have been the coastal places where multiracial families are 'just part of the scenery,' instead of being 'odd'...

But even in Seattle--here's an anecdote. A few years ago, my wife was introducing me to an acquaintance. After the name-exchange, instead of the usual 'nice to meet you,' I was asked, "Where are you from?"

At this point, I'd lived in the NW for years, so I just said "oh, from here in Seattle.'

This wasn't good enough--"No, where are you FROM?"
So, I replied "well, I moved here from Georgia."

My response then elicited this question: "No--I mean, WHAT ARE YOU?"
I suppressed (with some difficulty) my desire to be snarky ("Umm...I'm 'human?' how about you?!")
I realized that this acquaintance needed to know my ethnicity--obviously, I wasn't 'like her'--I was 'Other'...

Not to get too academic--but the idea of 'liking the other'--being interested in 'Others'...that's the point of 'allophile.' If you do want to go down the academic road, here a couple of links:
--a Harvard professor has taken the word and run with it...
--an article from a Boston paper that summarizes it...

And as a teacher who works with teenagers--they are so often 'the Other.'

So, blogwise...
Can I write without undue verbosity? post photos without inducing slideshow-yawning?
Ah–showing just enough–therein lies the poetry–of prose and of images.
…not that a blog needs to be ‘poetic,’ but concise, when needed, is nice.

(the previous blog is copied below, incidentally...)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

...still jet-lagged; a Lego-inspired geography lesson iPhone photo-essay. Yes, you read that right.

It is 102 degrees at ten in the morning; forecast high of 111 today. I'm still jet-lagged, back in Tucson...After 30 hours in transit, I got home in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, and then Wednesday night, after 81 days without measurable precipitation, it finally rained. I got to 'welcome the monsoon' twice this year--first in Korea, and then back in southern Arizona...

Today's seemingly random posting is not random. (Although my time-zone-frazzled trains of thought are indeed susceptible to sudden track-changes...)

I grew up with Legos.
(After I moved out of my parents' house,
my mother, well-intentioned, gave away my Legos
to a neighbor-kid...
Yes...I've forgiven her.)

In Korea last month, I noticed t-shirts with graphic designs such as this:
A Lego-man rushing by a saguaro! Too cool...

And, just before I left Tucson at the end of May,
my wife, (only half-jokingly), got me this keychain-flashlight as a 'travel-companion:'

One cloudy afternoon, two weekends ago at my Uncle's in Sokcho, my wife was napping, my uncle, aunt, and mother were resting, and I was restless...So...Mr. Legoman and I decided to prepare a geography lesson. (Really, I'm not that weird. Really.)

I had just read a column in The Korea Times by an economist who'd gone to spend a couple of years, teaching/researching, in England...and who was suprised to be asked, by educated Britons, questions such as--"So, Korea--where exactly is Korea?"..."Don't you just speak Chinese there?"..."Do you have your own money?" (Incidentally, South Korea's population--48million--is not too far behind England's--51million...According to the World Bank, South Korea is the 14th largest economy in the world...the UK is 6th.)

I've written before about questions I heard when I was in school--"So, Korea, is that, like, a country?"..."Are there trees in Korea?"..."Do you have seasons there?"

So, a geography lesson...with a chopstick as a teaching-tool...
It also recaps where we've been over the last few weeks.

The Korean peninsula, in relation to its NE Asian neighbors, surrounded by China, Siberian Russia, and Japan:
Latitudinally, for Americans--think of going from Massachusetts to the Carolinas,
or, in a European context, from mid-France down to Morocco.

Flying into Korea from abroad, you land at Incheon international airport, built on re-claimed tidal land on an island about an hour's drive west of Seoul:

 In relation to Seoul, here is Sokcho, where my Uncle lives, on the coast of the Sea of Japan/East Sea: 
You'll note that on the above map, the border betwen North (where Legoman is standing) and South is not overtly marked...But the DMZ is definitely there...

(above map from Wikipedia)

Strangely enough, the world's last, and heavily-fortified, relic of the Cold War is used as a brand-name for bottled mineral water:
It might seem bizarre, at first, using a military acronym as a selling point for mineral water, but it has its own logic--parts of the DMZ run through isolated mountains, full of natural springs, and just 2km inside the South Korean border, this stuff is bottled...the DMZ has even become a wildlife refuge of sorts, after almost six decades of being uninhabited...

...So, there in Sokcho you can relax on the beach or in the nearby mountains:

Toward the center of the country is the mid-size city of Wonju...
...from where we flew to Jeju-do island: 
The above map is an inset;
the map below shows the island in relation
to other places in NE Asia:
(above map from here)

Oh...and I almost forgot the small city of Yangju, a northern suburb of Seoul:
This is where S. and I spent the better part of a day at the "Dae Jang Geum Theme Park."
(By the way, one of the corniest things we've ever done--
corny-but-wholesome fun!)

Wave good-bye...

...and back to the T-shirts that inspired all of this: 

Back in Cactus-land.