Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Compare and Contrast

the crying bunny makes me sad...

More sad than the anorexic lead singer, anyway...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

On the 28th we had a “uni” walk through the hills. Given our extremely strong sense of team bonding, it ended up being me and the HR director. Oh, and his 15 year old son who bounded up the steep inclines with the grace of a deer and, in doing so, gave me some insight into the joy HYS must feel when he shoots one of the cervidian motherfuckers right through the heart…

Ahem… That was off track..

Anyway, it was stark, grey-skies and sepia and ochre coloured earth and plants. About halfway up the hill we came across a trio of.. well, shrines, maybe? Koreans have a lot of the animist/shamanist in them. Even the “catholics” believe things about nature that the Pope would consider wrong. Man’s dominion and all that shite. But we came across three shrines that were focused on a small spring which flowed from the side of the hill. There were several plastic dippers and, by the side, thawing blocks of half-spherical ice which had been popped out of the dippers. Each of the shrines was stacked rock (as the HR dude noted, one shrine had used the finest polyvinyl foam to hold the rocks together) with a box on top. Each box contained candles that had been recently lit.

We stopped, drank our bottled water in relative silence, and then continued up the hill, not quite sure what we had just visited.

Later, we had So-Galbi and Maekchu.

Another freezing day in Paradise.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Some bits of decent news

1) The last translation BKF and I did for EWHA University netted a pretty good paycheck and, as usual, BKF is cutting me in all out of proportion to my contribution. I can't wait to get up to Seoul and try to start working us in with the BPU2 folks.

2) I came across an old friend on facebook and dropped a line. Got a lovely return message revealing she's happy and has a child and a father associated with that child. ;-)

3) The TESOL class is a good one. The teachers are all at least semi-fluent, and the curriculum that Candace (one of our ABD teachers) put together is grand, and will give me a much better background in TESOL than I had before this. A good deal all around.

4) Sore from a romp through the hills yesterday. How did I get so old? ;-)

Looking forward to seeing all of you I can, in a month or so..
Have I posted this before?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Things you don't much see in the States

That red line is to point out the long and snaking path that the gas-line is taking to deliver gasoline into a house.

I guess this house isn't on LPG or the City gas (not "oline") and so they use gasoline. I'm reasonably certain this would be illegal in most states, but in South-Central it's a common sight.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Kwanzaa begins today...

So I thought I'd share my thoughts on the African-American experience...

All Ice Cube movies are worth watching.
If I were Halle Berry I would spend all my time nude
All movies should include Dan Cheadle
No one has replaced Sammy Davis Jr.

That will be all..

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry XMASS to ALL you all!

As you all, in the “behind world,” wake up to face xmas, it is already passed in the land of the future ™.

It’s funny how being in a new country, without stuff, focuses your present buying. The OAF and I each bought each other mugs (highly appropriate if you think of the two of us).

I bought the OAF a tea-mug, since I use one of my mugs for my toothbrush, and the other to temporarily hold various cooking items, mainly oils.

She bought me a toothbrush mug!

William Sydney Porter? Shut yo mouf!

Also, all waeguk surrender to Korea. Not only was today xmas, but last night was a birthday party and an xmas eve party. At both parties, socks, mittens, and scarves were highly esteemed as gifts.

Predictably, the OAF and I traded scarves this morning. ;-)

It’s true… four distinct seasons … with the good two so brief that it’s obvious Korean achievement is despite God’s punishment.

Good on the Koreans, then.

That picture there is the lame LED xmas tree that I drew on the wall of my flat, in cable and despair. The picture catches it in full-on LE(d)xplosion and thus it looks much less pacific and Christ-like than normal.

The OAF and I then careened, cold and in the wind, through Daejeon all day…. Bookstores and coffee-joints, pummeled by spitting masses as we walked through the Jung-ang market.

Ended in a tuegi joint that was stuffed to the gills, and that really laid on the meat portions.

Another freezing day in paradise… ;-)

and I did wear my scarf to the PC joint.. so Korea has made me gay.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

For those of you who follow the OAF’s relatively random blogging, she has posted some pics of her new pad in the rich neighborhood. It’s nice.. if I can find a place remotely like it up in Seoul, I’ll be thrilled.

But while she was posting these pictures I noticed that she has at least one more fiancee…. The one she’s only had for 6 months..

She rushed to hide this reality, only to reveal something even more shocking.. that she’s into jailbait… if that’s what you call a kid under one year old..

that's just disgusting!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Do I get the Laziness Now?

I think I’m an official professor now.


Because I waited until the absolutely last day to do my grading – in fact I did it on the train up to Seoul. I even took the Mugunggwha so that I would:

a) be bored enough, and
b) have time enough to do them

Now they are done and my only concern is that for some reason the spreadsheet isn’t properly calculating my performance grades into the final result. This means that, currently, everyone failed my class. While I might have occasionally wanted to do that, it wouldn’t look good to the head office, so I’ll need to head back there and work out whatever the kinks are.

The kids did ok – 8 As; 4 B’s: 4 Cs; 1D, and; 2 Fs, with one F earned by getting caught cheating on the final. That kid was gonna fail anyway, so I guess he thought the gamble couldn’t cost him too much.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wouldn't Fly in the States

I suspect this advert would draw some controversy.

Also, for the life of me, I can't imagine why a homeless-looking black dude would be used to sell tequila?
I survived my first Membership Training (which they call something else here) with at least semi-flying colors. The good news, from my perspective, is that these students are extremely high-level; I’d say up there with The Best Class Evar at BPU.

I got up to BPU2 and, as is Korean (and I should say expected), everything was running a bit late. This was ok as it gave me time to add some bits to my speech. While I was doing this another waeguk popped his head in. This turned out to be James, who will be one of the two professors I am replacing. This was a priceless chance to get some inside info, so I had him sit down and pumped him for information. His basic story was that the University was a good one to work for, the kids were all good students, and I was lucky to have been introduced through Kim Soonyoung. In a bit, Mrs. Kim came back with some pizza that was surprisingly good. Then, about 1.5 hours late, we set off into the Friday evening traffic (jam) in Seoul. The bus was tricked out to be a Norae-bus (That's that picture at the top, which is swiped from David, here), with multicolored lighting, a sound system, and a microphone that reached to the back of the bus. This feature, thank God, was never taken advantage of. We crawled through Seoul, then out of town for a bit and into Icheon.

At a certain point the bus-driver stopped the bus and said he could go no further. This was a bit weird as the road he assured us he could not drive on had SUVs of all description whizzing over it. So we all shouldered our stuff and started walking through a dark landscape of gutted rice fields, stalks shorn to near the ground, occasional houses (each with requisite yapping dog), puddles of water, and occasional precipitous drops at the side of the road. We walked for 20 minutes or so, and then started up a hill. This road turned to a dirt one, and we trudged up that.

On the right we heard an enormous clamor. There was (what the next day’s light revealed as) a dog-farm, and every single dog went absolutely fucking insane.We arrived at the pension. It was nice. A bit funky, but Jim and I, as Waeguk, shared one hanok to ourselves. It had a partitioned off kitchen and we quickly decided to treat that as a sedond bedroom.

Then it was up the hill to three metal barbeque pits where the boys started to prepare something that sounded like “mackerel” but was in fact some delicious sliced chicken breasts (So probably, the word began with “Ttak”) which were cooked and then sliced into pieces. While this was being prepared, our host whipped up an incredibly smoky delicacy… rice that was pressed thin and then scorched on one side.

Sounds not so grand, but it was great, since it was hot and the outside was freezing. Meat came off the barbeque, straight onto a plate, and the little bits were snatched up and eaten. One group of boys had trouble with their barbeque – it frequently flared up, in fact once several pieces of chicken caught on fire. This flambé approach to the chicken had the effect you might expect – it arrived on the plate done on the outside, but raw enough on the inside to be seen by the dull outside lights. Thankfully the girl in charge of the cutting did catch them and send them back to the grill.

Just when Jim and I were fearing that we would stand outside and eat dinner in individual pieces, we were gathered inside for a traditional sit-down dinner. With the conspicuous absence of one very Korean tradition; there was not a drop of alcohol to be seen. As my internal cursing at the Buddhist swine began to be overtaken by the first symptoms of Delerium Tremens, we were hustled off, five-by-five to make pieces of pottery. This was, after all, Icheon, home of Korea’s finest ceramics and rice.

Jim turned out to have a little knowledge and it was, proverbially, dangerous. He got a big, “Whaaaaaaaaa” (the Korean “Wow!”) when he was able to form his clay into a tall tower. The Whaaaaaaaaas got even louder when he started to dig down into the middle of this to create the inside of a vase. About halfway down everything went a bit queer. Jim put too much strength into one hand and pulled out a deforming bulge on the lip of the thing. With the wheel spinning at full speed, it only took a minute for the whole thing to go spinning off the wheel. Ah well, the old pro slapped it back on the wheel and quickly formed it back into a vase.

After the ceramics was done, it was time for my big speech, which was all about useful approaches and tips for translators. After forgetting to introduce my own name(!), I asked them how many planned to be literary translators.

Dead silence in the room.

I then asked how many of them planned to be any kind of translators?

Again, crickets chirped (and were quickly collected boiled, and dipped in bean-paste and soy-sauce, as a snack).

So, I said, alright, I’m going to go off script here and spend my time trying to persuade you all that you should be translators. Then it was 25 minutes of my normal song and dance, mixing the role of translation with the Korean international marketing problem, and we were away. I made them laugh, I made them cry, I made them wish they’d brought their whole family (“my family number is five, my mother, my father….”).

Then it was off to a room filled with Soju. I sat down and nearly had my heart stopped when a student immediately, and I mean rather sharpish, hopped down across the table from me and started asking me questions in English. This scenario was repeated all night, through a round of toasts, drinking games, and general bonhomie. These students not only wanted to learn English, they wanted to do it right then and there. Above and beyond the usual tonic effect of Soju, this was warming. Even better, when I intentionally tested them with some extremely fast talk, they could all follow it. The Instructional Assistants were also quite cool – Amy was born in the US and Golden Flower (the literal translation of her name) was born in China. They were inseparable over the two days, but also fun to talk to. Golden Flower has visited Pyongyang, so we talked a bit about that.

This may end up being a lot more work, but it also seems it will be so much more fun.

At a certain point, Kim Soonyoung snuck off (she later said that Jim and I had been doing so well that she felt safe leaving) and by the time Jim and I tottered back (in the rain) to the Hanock, we were shocked to discover it was 3 AM. The kids, we learned the next day, kept going until 7 AM or so.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Several Theoretical Imperatives Supporting the Proposition That You Should “Shut the Fuck Up, You Moron!”

BPU2 have asked me to give a bit of a speech: 40 to 60 minutes. Somehow, this speech should relate to translation. Which is a bit odd as I am an editor and not a translator. Also, I’ve never bothered to try to sit down and work out a formal rationale for the thing.

Still, sitting in smoky rooms with the BKF, slugging down beers, and working our fitful magic on text, some vague outlines have emerged. The problem now is to work these inchoate themes and ideas out of my head – to untangle them from the detritus, the voices suggesting that I kill, then kill again and again until I can kill no more, forever – and get them into some clear English words that won’t unduly tax Freshmen.

No sweat.

Now I’m reading all these theoretical texts. Which only brings my general distrust of theories bubbling to the surface. It’s not that I like dislike theories per se, in fact they are similar to girlfriends – good when used appropriately, but becoming stuck on a particular one leads to madness (I should know!). Some time ago I came across the excellent article “The Hegemony of Theory” and today I found another excellent one in my intarwebs ramblings today. This is Maria Teresa Sanchez’ “Domesticating the Theorists: A Plea for Plain Language.”

It’s title is drawn from an absolutely horrible passage of academic jargon produced by Lawrence Venuti who describes translation as the “ethnocentric violence of domestication” that produces “the effect of transparency, the illusion that this is not a translation, but the foreign text.”
Well, I suppose we should call an immediate halt to that sort of thing, then?

Disregarding the reality that if we did, no literary work would ever cross any language barrier. If this is the conclusion that Venuti is drawing, he should be aware the he might simultaneously be arguing against his own tenure, as the elimination of translation might also mark the end of translation theory.

I suppose, in his own horrid way, this might be what he is after. If the pesky reality of translation were to disappear, theorists would have that situation they have eternally dreamt of, an empty and arid canvas on which to speculate. It is a simple dream of control – Like a man who, incapable of understanding women, wants them all gone, replaced with a mute and blank-faced dolls against which any kind of theoretical structures can be applied, and no hideous flesh-and-blood to argue, demonstrate, or remonstrate against those structures.

Sanchez takes Venuti to task for the obvious redundancy of “ethnocentric” and “domestication” as well as his commonplace that translation does violence (in the sense of meaning, though Venuti’s overheated prose seems intended to hint at darker and more hegemonic evils) to text. Then there is the notion that a translation causes an “effect” of transparency that leads people to believe they are reading the foreign text.

Well, other than the fact that readers generally seem to have a good handle on a) their native languages, and b) the languages they don’t know. Consequently they look for translations of foreign works. Heck, the translator’s name might even be on the book, just in case a reader were forgetfull.

Venuti’s language is the language of the smooth, thoughtless bureaucrat. It reminds me of something I read long ago – perhaps Lewis Gizzard, perhaps someone else, who, after noting that the Census had officially designated lovers as POSSLQ’s, commented something like, “I don’t exactly know what “Person of the Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters” was meant to imply, but they’ve just come up with the ugliest way I’ve ever heard of to describe two people who are fucking.”

Venuti, I suspect, is a tool.

In the bad way. ;-)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Starbucks and getting lucky....

Korea is the 13th largest coffee drinking country in the world and it imports over 1% of the world’s coffee beans. Coffee was primarily introduced to Korea by the United States military. Unfortunately, the “coffee” that was introduced was instant, powdered coffee and this still makes up some 90 percent of total coffee consumption in Korea. This stuff tastes, to use a strong word, crap. In 1999 the international expansion of Starbucks to Korea first brought espresso-based coffee to Korea. In fact, a ‘regular’ cup of coffee (Americano) is brewed by first creating an espresso and then watering it down with hot mineral water.

Good coffee is primarily a ‘youth’ phenomenon. As Baek notes (2003), “many (people) especially those who are over 40, said that they prefer the flavor of instant coffee to freshly brewed.” Among these younger customers, the majority are white collar women, who, at Starbucks, outnumber men by 150%. This may be a function of Starbucks initial marketing efforts, which were primarily aimed at college students, women, and Koreans with international experience. One surprising statistical outcome of this is that while men drink almost 50% more coffee than women, women spend more money on coffee as they prefer to purchase their coffee at ‘take out” locations such as Starbucks. In 2007, the Korea Health Industry Development Institute released a study which showed that Korean men and women consumed equivalent amounts of social staples such as rice, ramen and pork, but that men tended to consume a large portion of their remaining calories in soju, while women did so in coffee (the average coffee mix in Korea has about 55 calories in sugar and flavorings).

Starbucks is not just a coffee shop but, also, a social phenomenon. Here again, this follows partly from the “brand” that Starbucks has created: Stores are constructed for social utility (the decision to build stores with this layout actually precipitated the departure of one of Starbucks’ original founders as he preferred to focus on coffee and not the “watering hole” nature of the new Starbucks). But this social construction is also uniquely Korean, and an international aficionado of Starbucks will quickly recognize that Korean stores have more wooden chairs and tables than sofas and coffee tables. This is a conscious design decision to maximize the amount of people who can fit into a given space and it closely follows the model that Koreans were already familiar with in their tea-houses.

And if you walk into a Starbucks in Korea, you see the remarkable demographic I mentioned above. There will be table after table of women. Sprinkled amongst them will be a couple or two, and if a single male is in a Starbucks, it is a decent chance that this will be a non-Korean male. I think I've only seen a group of males in a Starbucks, once.

Which, of course, means that this should be a great place to pick up chicks! Just sit in there with your laptop, exuding confidence, testosterone, and the faint scent of last night's soju and you should pull chicks like crazy. ;-) Not that this matters to me, as I have given my heart and Seoul to the OAF (as well as that left testicle she keeps in the vise, and the right - one that she has hung on her mantelpiece).

Actually, there seems to be a certain bifurcation between what might be called “traditional” Korean coffee houses and what might be characterized as “global” (i.e. Starbucks, LavAzza, and other international joints). When I’m in the traditional ones the sex ratio seems closer to general reality, but in the Starbucks it’s all about the frails (Sorry, but in my culture class I did a little “history of rock n’ roll” and it included explaining the differences between Jazz and Blues – “Minnie the Moocher” happened to pop up in this, and now I’m all about the guys and dolls). That the picture to the right is of a "traditional" coffee house and although the only person in sight is a female, I often see couples in there. This place also serves a decent red wine by the glass and offers free wi-fi, so it is one of my favorite stops in Daejeon.

Again, single guys take note.

PS.. a lot of this analysis is from Bak, "From Strange Bitter Concoction to Romantic Necessity: The Social History of Coffee Drinking in South Korea" which I picked up from a link at the Metropolitician.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Did you ever see the faces of the children, they get so excited?


Call from the BPU2 and they want me to come up this Friday to something like their MT ("Membership Training" and, no, I can't really explain what it is, but this link will) and give a 40 minute speech on translation and editing and meet the kiddies.

And, then, of course, drink.

I couldn't be more excited by this, both because it should be grand and because I should be able to suss out the skill levels of the kiddies.

I'm outlining the little presentation thing in my head.. a personal intro.. some talk about literature.. then something like "advice for a young interpreter"...

Let's just say that stories of working with the BKF will be liberally interspersed.

At the moment I'm uncertain as to how I should introduce the fact that 50% of working with him (in person) is ducking the wild, and potentially dangerous, flailing of his hands. ;-)

Then, there's the requirement for some beer - can their young minds handle the fact that you must first unmoor before you can connect? Could I make a joke about Othello in there? Will they stare at me as though I had just dropped, naked and fat, from a tree? How does one (in a culturally sensitive way) drop the notion of trading grades for sex? Will one of the youngsters outdrink me?

There are many questions.

But for the moment, I'm totally pumped about this opportunity to meet everyone.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dear Korea..

Your "three cheese pizza" should not include BLUE CHEESE.

That will be all...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Best Class EVAR ends

Friday was the last meeting of the volunteer lab class. We watched a Stephen Fry documentary about the West Coast states. This made me a bit homesick, but as I will soon be home, and sick of it, this doesn't really matter. They brought me a piece of paper card/art work from China and we all hung around after class, a bit unsure of how to say goodbye.

As the title (subtlely?) indicates, this was the best class evar.

That picture to the left is one of the many I was forced to participate in, although it is quite useful inasmuch as it demonstrates all the places I will need plastic surgery, when I finally vacation in Thailand.

Then it was off to an Italian restaurant in the old downtown. Entirely run by Koreans, but with pretty good Italian food and some reasonable wine. We were celebrating the marriage engagement of two of our friends. After dinner we moved on to a bar and blabbered until nearly one.

All good, but upon returning home I couldn't sleep and tossed and turned for several hours before giving in and taking a sleeping pill from back home. When the OAF woke up at 8 and began on her usual morning routine of raising alarums, clanging pots and pans, playing unfriendly rubbers of bridge with the horsemen of the apocalypse, and raising the dead from their sweet, sweet, quiet graves, it all turned quite bad.

On the plus side, the conference panel I will be presenting in and moderating, has been accepted, so this will be another publication. Of course I will have to look back at my abstract and see exactly what it is that I have claimed to have knowledge of.

Tonight, some more red wine, and some sleep.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

10000 hours....

It is now the end of my second complete semester here at BPU and as good a time as any to take stock of what I’ve learned. I’ve been reading (about) Malcolm Gladwell and have recently been amused to see that his reputation as smartest hipster around has begun to make him a target (here, here, and here are some representative attacks). It was inevitable.

His latest “work” includes the theory that you can become good at something if you work at it for more than 10,000 hours. That’s over 400 days and I think it’s fair to say that the only thing I’ve worked at that long is drinking.

And I’m still not quite at the level I want to achieve!
Oh.. I should add in sleep.. and again.. I just haven’t got it quite right.

I had this 10,000 hour thought after walking down the stairs from the final exam of my Japanese Studies class. They all moaned and groaned when I did the listening part of the test, but to my surprise all did well on it. They had a bit more trouble on other aspects of the test, but part of that was due to really poor test-design. The test included instructions that were difficult for me to decipher, and vocabulary that had never been covered in the class or the workbook. This semester I decided to use the test provided by BPU, as opposed to last semester when I wrote my own. This was a mistake and leads to learned thing #1: Take as much control of the course content as you can. Sadly this conflicts with LIFE-LEARNED lesson number one: Be lazy. Still, it makes me glad I’m moving on the BPU2 and close to complete control of the syllabus and methodology. Some time soon I’ll post the rather detailed syllabi I’m compiling (replete with works stolen from very many of my betters).

Anyway, I was walking down the steps feeling I’d given it a fair go, when Gladwell’s equation popped into my head. I did some quick figuring, and so far I’ve taught 525 hours at this level. I’ll give myself about half of that in preparation time, grading, and reworking things for a closer fit in the classroom. So that puts me at 787.5 or so.

On the other end of things, I’m not sure what to assign all that time I worked as an IA in the CC system. I should certainly get full credit for time in Mass Comm 6 at Chabot, since I not only wrote the thing but taught it; I’m not sure what I should assess for doing the tutor training; all the pedagogy work I did on the ESL/CALL interface should count for something; heck, I might even count in time spent as being student, both for myself and others; Time spent researching and writing academic papers and presentations, and; I suppose, some things I forget. Optimistically, and giving myself full credit for things that were in fact half-assed, I have about 5,000 hours. Probably far fewer.

Which means I have 5,000 to go.

I won’t live that fucking long. ;-)

Doesn't matter anyway - BKF is gonna become a world-famous translator and then I can retire from the teaching fray to the more gentile world of text-editing, canapes, and the occasional caress of the rattan cane.

Today was also the second-to-last day of my International Student Lab Class. They have three finals between today and our final class on Friday at 10:30. They go from that class directly to another final. I asked if they would rather study during my class, or have another presentation and discussion on Western Culture. There was a 100% response in favor of one last day of work. This means at least two things. First, they feel prepared for their finals. No surprise, as they actually study and learn. Second, it means they like my class, since they had a free pass to not come to it. Which leads to learned thing #2: I prefer to work with motivated students, “good” ones, even (though we aren’t supposed to make such invidious distinctions). To be honest, I’m not drawing a line that would mean much back in the States. In the CC’s in California, even the most basic of remedial classes contain students better at English than the Korean kids at BPU. The Korean kids at BPU aren’t, largely, interested in English, nor do they have reason to be or should be.

Additionally, today was my second-to-last “running all over the fuck” day. My morning class is at the “Nearly a Bizness Skool,” then I run up the hill to the University, finally scramble back down to the Institute for my night class. These days are always hectic, even if I have brilliant and complete lesson plans (or, I imagine they would be hectic if I ever did!). Which brings me to learned thing #3: I don’t like working all over the known Learniverse.

Which brings me to learned thing #4: I should really prepare my classes better (this is strongly related to learned thing #1, but slightly different). Which, as I will post later, I think I already have started to do.

I hope this all adds up to BPU2 being a better school for me. The fact that I get to make all the content up should naturally lead to better answers to learned things #1 and #4. I don’t think I will be sent off campus, so I should have more time spent working. Finally, the students in a translation program will probably have to be better than the average ones at BPU.

Also, I hope, BPU2 will give me an office computer that works. ;-)

And, to be fair, that trading grades for sex thing never really worked out here at BPU and I need to give it another shot at BPU2.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Caligula Pimpin!

That's right baby! Now that I fit into Korean shirts I can also purchase ties to accessorize em. This here snapshot does not do justice to the reflective gold and silver thread in those ties, but it probably does reveal that I am colorblind (or stupid).

Two shirts and three ties for 24,000 won (about $16 American) - now that's a bargain, and now I have some "Korean-type" splashy color combinations. All I'm going to have to purchase back in the States is a coat (or two) and some shoes.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Random Shots

It continues to expand..
And in another corner of town other things continue to expand..

Friday, December 05, 2008

“It’s the sound of my ego / getting out of control”
Bob Mould

One of the risks you take by being a foreigner in Korea is that you will be used as evidence of the “internationality” of some event. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, the “international” appellation is applied to everything, regardless of whether it is international or not. The “International” Kimchi Festival, for instance, surprisingly includes no Kimchi from countries other than Korea. The same was true of the “International Bartending Competition” (covered in unnecessarily nauseating detail here), which consisted entirely of Koreans, and not just Koreans, but solely of bartenders who lived in Daejeon.

I got several fistfuls of free drinks, so I don’t mean to complain.

However, you do need to get used to the fact that as a foreigner, you will certainly have your picture taken at these events, and the picture might just show up any old where. Partly because of the multicultural nature of the States, it’s difficult to think of this kind of thing happening there. We’ve all seen Asians, Blacks, Albinos, and even some unreconstructed neo-cons, so we’re kind of used to the “other” and it is difficult to assume that someone who isn’t White is from a different country (Sniffle! America, Land of Opportunity!)

But in Korea, being White can lead to this picture taken at the Geumsan Ginseng Festival (International! Of Course!). It features me, the OAF, some guy who can’t escape the shadow of my enormously swollen head, and Mark the Englishman who the photographer interrupted while he was attempting to score with some Chinese woman from BPU’s “Nearly A Bizness Skool.”
Mark, it is worth noting, has already burned through two wives (A Brit and a Russian, I believe), and now has his eyes set on a Chinese bint. His line that his genitalia resembled the ginseng in the young ladies’ gloved hand, go him no (International!) loving on this particular day.

Anyway.. one day this magazine shows up on my desk and I’m the (International) star on the cover.

A bit unsettling, really.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Back to Norml

Went scruffy for about 7 days and then shaved the thing off in order, to see what level of facial hair was "most attractive" (yeah, yeah, relative term). Really hard to say, as my generally hung-over mien pretty much shines through the whole series of pics. Also, apparently, I have had some sort of stroke, as my left eye is stuck in a lazy, open position.

I needs medicine!

Monday, December 01, 2008

As I’ve just woken up from my Thanksgiving Drunkenness, I’m thinking of brilliant moments from Thanksgivings past.

One of these brilliant moments was crabbing. (This is partly spurred by an email from my sister, which came, Blackberry style, from another crabbing extravanza).

But, sister aside?

Crabbing is for men.

Manly men. Men who swear (Mainly when they bang their heads against something on the boat, lose their buoys, tangle the prop with rope, or turn 200 yards of other rope into a Gordian knot).

It is also an outstanding opportunity to roll out onto the sea and commune with nature at its saltiest.

It’s not so good for a photographer, as most of those opportunities come while the little crab boat is hammering through swells and salt-laden seawater is threatening the integrity of your lovely lens.

By “lovely” I mean to say “expensive.”

Still, on a good day, even a wussy photographer can enjoy it. There’s a certain rhythm to whacking in and out of the waves and even if the boat seems in constant danger of sinking (only to me, I should add) the high tech equipment onboard seems quite cool.

It never starts that simply.

I drove up to the coast early with the OAF to follow. I got to the hotel, skidded over to the trailer park (and I mean that in the best possible way) touched in with the fambly, and headed back to the hotel by the sea (and the totally obnoxious lighthouse horn).

I wandered about a bit and wondered about a bit. Then walked out the hotel door.

Lo and behold, apparitionally, there was the OAF. We walked into the hotel and I showed her the arched room, the fireplace, the view. She wandered around for awhile and I asked her if she wanted me to light the fire? She glared back at me. I asked about three more questions to which she was unresponsive or snarly. I asked about her mood.

She looked at me like I was insane.

I asked again, “why are you so crabby?” (heh! Get it? “Crabby!!!!)

She thought and said, “oh, because my car died at the gas station down the hill.”

This was at least 10 minutes AFTER she had arrived and in the interim she had forgotten that her car was dead, and not just dead, but actually pulled up next to a gas pump. She was still cranky, but the fact that her car was dead and gonna be towed had completely slipped her mind.

It must be nice to live in the moment.

Fortunately, she had stopped at the first gas-station in town, which was only 150 yards from the hotel. This was extremely fortunate, as the BAG had stopped about 10 miles out of town and the car had restarted there.

Turns out it was just a loose connection to the battery post. Good news for the OAF, bad news for the car which she was soon to total in an accident that is an entirely different story.

The next day it was off to the crabbing and the RV park (I swear, someday I will be able to say things like that without the loathsome hipster disdain that creeps, unbidden, into my voice. I suck).

Totally fucking awesome. The crabs came in (we had a vast haul on the last day) and the chefs did the other thanksgiving foods to perfection. We may have been in a trailer park with a big neon palm tree, but it was the best trailer park, ever, with a big neon palm tree. And, really, it was kind of my goodbye party to/for the US.

I doubt any Thanksgiving will ever rival getting lost with the BKF and JAE in the rainstorm in Death Valley, but this one gave a pretty good run for it.

I should just mention that in many of my photos HYS looks a great deal like another of my favorite acronymicons, HST.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Feeling the Farking Love

Man, what a day…. I go to the “Nearly a Bizness Skool” for my lab class and the door is locked and the lights are down. Which is weird, because I know I’ve seen a student duck around the corner leading to the door. As I wander back down the hallway the student yells at me to come in, and when I do the class is all gathered by the door and blowing off those champagne-popper fireworks screaming “happy birthday!” And they brought drinks and chocolate cake. Then they light aluminum-based sparklers and start singing “Happy Birthday” to me. The board has “happy birthday” written on it in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Kazakhstani. Plus, they give me gifts of a map of China, and a brief letter that says that I am their favorite instructor and the lab is their favorite class. As a bonus, the enormous clouds of smoke we generate do not trigger the smoke-alarms, although they do pull in another instructor who snaffles a piece of MY cake!



I will completely miss that class. It’s optional, with no grading and no attendance, but these 8 adorable little scholars come twice a week and we navigate the often freakish and incomprehensible waves of national culture(s). This is the class in which I can discuss the Vietnamese War with a Viet dude, Tianamenn Square with the Chinese students (and, trust me, you don’t just bring that shite up to the average Chinese student), and imperialism and the fall of the USSR with the Kazkhstani student. Great kids.

This all makes me late for the (stupid) mandatory meeting on our new computerized grading system. Which is a good thing, though it may not sound like it. I get there, grab the handout and, looking through it, note that it isn’t quite what is being shown on the screen. This observation is further strengthened when, at the end of the presentation, the Director says, “now, don’t expect this to look like what we’ve just showed you! We put this presentation together before we had the system implemented. But when you get into the system it will look like this….” At which point he waves the handout in the air.

And I wonder why we went through the whole stupid presentation. Still, I arrived late, so that’s good.

Get to my Japanese Studies class and they are docile and I have a lovely little quiz to spring on them.. keeps them quire busy for the last half hour of the class.

Then it’s off to the office and eventually my night class. While waiting for the night class I download the audiobook for “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (for the greatest Auditory Skills class there will EVER be!) and grab the last two Rolling Stones albums I haven’t looted. So, really, time well spent.

As to the class? One guy shows up on time. We sit and shoot the shit. A second guy shows up 20 minutes late and says, “Sorry, I have an appointment tonight.” The first guy looks confused, then like a light is going off in his head, and then all shifty, “Oh, I also have an appointment.”

Off they go.

The third Musketeer arrives 10 minutes later and peers suspiciously into the empty room, as though trying to calculate the odds that I have killed and eaten his friends and that he might be next. I say, “everyone left, would you like to come in and learn something?”

He looks at me for three seconds, then, “No.”

Without another word, he spins on one heel, heads to the elevator and disappears.

Bingo! Worst-Class-Evar is cancelled!

Walking home burbling happily and as I pass the bar, Betty (our nickname for the proprietress) comes bubbling out of the door hollering some uninterpretable Korean (I think that might be redundant). All that is clear is that she wants me to come inside the bar. I do, and I see another foreign instructor sitting at the table eating. Turns out that it is Betty’s daughter’s birthday and mom is celebrating at the bar by feeding us free cider and 떡-based delicacies. 떡 is a ferociously glutinized rice concoction which is made, at least partly, by beating the living shit out of an enormous patty of rice-goo. I’m not normally a fan of Ttok (the semi-Anglicization), but this isn’t that bad and at least two of the things (one of which featured raisins) are completely delicious. I sit with my compatriot and talk bad Korean with Betty (who wants to know when the OAF will be around). After I eat my fill, assure Betty that I will return with the OAF, and I leave the bar fed and even jollier.

Later, I will return and, probably, break out of November just a bit early, with a delicious beer.

Well, ok, with a CASS.. but, still, technically a beer.

I believe that even Ice Cube would concur that it was a good day.

Friday, November 28, 2008

It falls up faster..

Despite bouts of rain, the Korean workmen have stayed at it and now have the second floor framing in place...

The inside of the first floor is a rat's warren of support beams. Perhaps because of the rain, no concrete is currently being poured.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

"I see Ed People!!"

Holy Cow.. is it the BKF in 20 years? If he gets all depressed?

BTW, for your "edification" (heh! I kill me) - it's actually the son of an ex-Korean president fighting with his sister over mom's business. Very familial..

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Random Reflections on the New Job

1) It’s a good thing because it will change things. Like every monkey (think Community College Trustees) I like shiny rocks. I also have the habit of banging them about and dragging them through various mucks. They don’t stay very shiny, very long. BPU2 will be, at least, a shiny new rock.

And I have my new look all picked out!

2) If the translation institute at BPU2 can use me, then I’m in hog-heaven, because this is, of course, the path I’d like to follow for the next few years. The novel I just finished editing featured a heroine who lived in a little cottage on the beach – man would that be a cool thing. The US economy just needs to tank, and I need to get into the editing thing here in the land of the sparkling dawn. Then it is conceivable that in a few years I could do it from the States, with the BKF as translator, and whatever else I could dig up.

3) Seoul – I’m actually ambivalent about this. One of the things I really like about South-Central is that it is not crowded. This has several advantages. It is quieter for one thing and, as my friends know, I am an epic noise-sissy. Long walks are quite possible – no bumping into people and very little looking out for homicidal scooterists. And, let’s face it, I’m a misogynist and Seoul is crammed, nearly overflowing, with nasty people. They’re everywhere! On the positive side, much more culture.. MUUUUUUUUCH more culture. Also, closer to KLTI and the other important players in translation. And this contract will allow me to get an apartment, which could be a very nice thing, if the right one is available (I should say that the lovely Millie – my Korean tutor – has already found two realtors she thinks will work well with waeguk, but won’t necessarily try to place me in Itaewon with all the other waegukdul. So there’s that.)

4) Visitors. HAH! RIGHT!In the highly imaginary event that anyone I know comes to visit me, Seoul is where I want to be to host them. It is not only the heart of Korea, but it is convenient, by train or plane, to everywhere. The tourist ‘thrills’ of South-Central can be achieved in about 1.5 days, and every one of them is solidly second-rate.

5) Sports – Seoul has several basketball teams, at least two (?) baseball teams, a soccer team, volleyball (so that’s a point against), and even something called the KNFL which, after watching for 15 minutes on cable, I would never EVER attend.

6) Money – with only 9 hours of scheduled courses, a bit of overtime and editing should mean that I make at least a bit more money. This is always good (Capitalism 101).

7) White Peoplesess…. – I’m gonna have fewer of them in my daily grind. BPU has White Peoples stuffed everywhere. You can’t open a cupboard or desk-drawer without at least three of them (from at least two different countries) tumbling out and beginning to tell you tales of that “time I was really, really wasted!” They get underfoot, clog toilets (they flush toilet paper, you see), smoke marijuana, and complain about how Koreans drive. This will not be true at BPU2 where, it is my understanding, I will be the only foreigner in the department. I suppose this is a good and bad thing.. I’ll miss my homies, but I should get closer friendships wit Koreans, which is a good thing in terms of language acquisition, cultural knowledge, and drinking soju.

All in all, I must echo the words of the great philosopher Walsh and summarize that “I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do.”

BPU2 and Me..

Are now official.

So it's off to Seoul!

Below is a picture of the lovely quad. I will work somewhere off there to the left. In the background, on the ridge of the hill, you can see Seoul Tower.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Long Goodbye?

BPU2 has now put decision on my (potential) position off until Wednesday. I can't tell if this is just the traditional Korean way of saying no without actually having to come out and say it, or if it is just administrative dicking about.

Either way it's a pain in the ass, and the director at BPU (the original) needs to know if I am staying or going - a fact he reminds me of in email and every time we see each other in the halls. I suppose that means they want me to stay, but it is still a pain in the ass..

Oh well, if BPU2 puts it off past Friday, it becomes the Korean "no" in any case, as I'll need to commit to BPU or lose whatever pathetic advantages I've accrued in my one year "tenure" here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 4 and 5

Today there was no activity, as it was raining, but things are already reaching towards the sky. In the first picture it may look like there are walls up, but if you look closely at the left side of the photo (up near the top) you'll see that these are actually the metal molds into which the concrete will be poured. Look closely and you'll see about 12 inches of space between two "walls" of metal. Also, some structural bits are up.. rebar surrounded with the metal frames.

Looking at those support bits I can't imagine that the place will be actually be three stories, since the supports only go up one story.. can you offset support columns from floor to floor? Don't supports have to be stacked or columnar?

I have questions!

Anyway, this second photo is from the angle I'll take most shots.. just to show how it grows..

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lebensraum in my brain...

As of 5:15 local time (two minutes ago), the big editing job for BKF is off to the intarwebs and a few days of semi-frantic editing are done. Nothing big for the next week, with the exception of discovering if I am hired by BPU2 or staying one more year at the one, the only, the original BPU.

Maybe it's time to focus on the little things that matter, sunrises, good coffee, sodomy. Just take a break. ;-)

And take pictures of the building going up...


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 2+3

On day two our intrepid constructionists poured the slab on top of the "foundation" concrete (which could not possibly have set in that short, and cold, a time.).

They use the Korean construction technique of linked metal plates (that pile in the foreground) which are used to create forms within which the concrete is poured. As the concrete sets it pulls away, slightly, from the metal, and once set the metal can be pulled off of the concrete.

It's a wickedly quick way to build walls and, as I noted yesterday, largely silent.

It is Saturday (토요일) here in the land of the everchanging national slogan, but this did not stop the workers from coming out and doing some sort of work with two-by-fours. I couldn't quite suss out what it was. Unlike a lot of construction around here, the demolition guys were quite careful about the sidewalk, so you don't have to walk in the street to get around this site. That's a sort of bonus in these parts.

I hope, as the YAF optomistically suggested in comments to the last post, that this is going to be a three-story piggie abatoir.

And soju, I'll need some soju. ;-)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Falling Up (From My Bestseller "Great Expectoration: Spit-Takes on Korea")

Korean construction is, well.. unusual by the standards I am used to. It happens incredibly quickly and sometimes looks like all the details haven't been thought out.

Right up the street from my place was a lovely 삼 겹 살 (Sam gyap sal - bbqued piggy) place which had an outdoor garden with graceful trees and a proprietor who played guitar. His wife and he cooked and served and it was one of the OAF and my favorite places.

Consequently, it was doomed.

One day we saw the owners taking things out, the next day the windows were busted out, and the following day the land was scraped to bare earth.

Yesterday the construction began and I am going to take a series of photos (one a day, I hope) to show the thing going up. I stopped and "talked" to one of the construction guys, and while my Korean didn't quite get me to what the building would be, it did get that it would be a three story building.

Yesterday, in temperatures below zero, they poured the "foundation." This is the first picture up there .. it is of two inches of concrete poured directly over bare dirt (that blown up part of the photo shows where the dirt actually pokes through). This morning, with the concrete set (uh, maybe?), they began placing a frame of rebar above the concrete. As far as I can tell, there is nothing in the way of a connective foundation here .. certainly I don't see any footings, or anything that would tie the foundation to the ground. We'll see what happens as they continue along. This may just be a difference in construction technique because Korea is not on the Pacific Rim and thus not subject to much in the way of earthquake threats.

As is the case with all Korean construction, great pains are taken to protect the buildings next door - cloths are hung up on their walls! ;-) I'm not sure I would consider that sufficient.

Finally, because it is butt-cold, the workers keep a small fire going at the edge of the site, to which they occasionally repair to warm up.

As I watched and took photos, the workers began setting up the metal forms that will contain the concrete walls. Korean construction is often much more quiet than construction in the United States because the buildings are made out of concrete and not wood - no hideous hammering at 7:30 each morning.

Tomorrow, I hope to get some pictures of the concrete wall creation.

I'm gonna miss that restaurant.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The fourth distinky season

As it snowed last night, and this morning the river is iced over, I think it is the 4th distinct season here, at last. The snow just kind of swirled in front of headlights and didn't stick, but it was cool to watch.

I also discovered that I can now purchase Korean shirts off the rack (to be fair, I always could, they just wouldn't fit), so that will cut down on the shopping I have to do back in the states. I should also say that I am also now on the other side of two more or my weight goals, having passed several key markers of obesity: on the way down, thankfully!

Well, so far. ;-)

Job decisions still await, but right now so do 20 crazy Chinese kids...

Monday, November 17, 2008

I HATE DECISIONS (And JAE’s buddy didn’t make it any easier)

The interview with the Buddhist Potential University (BPU2) went very well. I seemed to sync well with the interviewer (less well with the Department Chair, I thought) and it was just interesting enough to make me have to decide what I want to do. Only 9 hours of required teaching, I’d get to make my own content, opportunity to work with their new translation center on editing translations, a beautiful campus, the promise of MUCH more collegiality between me and the Korean instructors and a much more professional education approach. Additionally, I’d have some say over when my hours were and there would (probably, Ms. Kim was very vague about this) be more vacation. Oh.. and no camps.. so that would be good.

Also, as the students are in the English Lit and English Translation programs, I would certainly have more dedicated students than at BPU1.

The downside is I’d have to come up with my classes in a hurry (though they have an auditory one that I could just roll out of the one I’m currently doing for the “Nearly a Bizznezz Skool””. And then the big one – housing is NOT provided and I’d have to find my own housing (with the likelihood of having to put down key money). The pay is 3million, so they have the money in the paycheck.. and if the OAF were to get the editing job in Seoul we could live together.

Still, that housing thing is a biatch….

And, for a sweaty waeguk, there is also the rather substantial walk up the hill to the college. I can just imagine what a sweaty mess it will make me, come summer. On the plus side, you make that walk and you’re a short walk from Namsan Park and up to Namsan Tower – which is pretty cool… I are being conflicted…..

BKF – ask your lovely bride (and the mother of the Great Reunifier) if she remembers a Kim, Soonyoung? About 2001, rented a room next to Jae’s in the house in Monterey….

One chorus of “It’s a Small World After All!”

As I said, the Dept Chair came in and seemed less interested in hiring me than the interviewer was. He hrummphed and gave me a little speech about how the position didn’t even exist yet, so he may be preparing me for the big letdown.

Oh well, that would answer the question then, wouldn’t it? ;-)
The conference was bizarre… lots of big names but almost no attendees. The rumor was that something went wrong at the airport, but I find I hard to believe that 1,000 souls were diverted at Incheon. The website had claimed that 1,200 people were scheduled to attned, but I would be boggled if 200 people were there, which means about 50% of the folks were presenters.

Even presenters were scarce. By the afternoon, when I presented, two rooms of threads were squashed down into one, because out of 9 or 10 presentations, only 4 presenters showed up. As the only chair (out of the 4 for the two threads) it was my job to get the schedule to work and even though we started quite late, it did work even though we had Korean marketing and Turkish tourist destinations in the same room.

I think this has partly to do with the fact that accepted papers went into a conference document with an ISBN number – so it counts as a publication on a CV. Also, I’m guessing, this conference is not known for its rigor in jurying its papers. As usual, I was the only person with an actual, footnoted, cited paper and some of the papers in the conference document were a bit skimpy on content. So, if you just want a publication credit, you send a paper in to these guys, then blow the conference off.

Everything was running spectacularly late, for some reason, and there was a classic moment when the organizers led us all to lunch – a lovely room with flowers, china settings, wine, etc…

And then told us that unless we had yellow meal tickets we had to go have lunch across the hallway. In the Cafeteria! With visions of the VIP luncheon dancing in our heads, we were treated to barley’d rice, Kimchi and, to be fair, a rather delicious beef hotpot. Still, it was like these guys had never put a conference on before - queuing us up before the promised land then herding us to the cattle call.

My presentation went well –the foreigners had lots of questions and the Koreans were largely silent because the numbers of my survey really couldn’t be argued. I was happy about this, because there was one irascible professor from Sejong University, who had given the Chinese guy who presented before me a rather large ration of shit for, apparently,not giving enough credit to Korean creativity when explaining the success of the Korean Wave in China.

Afterwards, I met some people who might be very interesting to know down the line. We hung around till they kicked us out of the college and then walked down to the Hoegi subway station. One of the guys was all about branding and supposedly has a website. He’s looking vor bloggers and I may try to jump in on this.

As usual, the English documents were rife with types. As you see, the lovely certificate I received for my presentation has an “alternative” spelling of “cultural.” Gotta love Konglish!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Back from the Conference

Which was a spectacular combination of lame and wonderful (about which, more soon)... For now I'm in a cafe having a cup of coffee before going off to meet the OAF who is finally well enough to go outside..

At the moment though, Americano and cruising through the Conference Document. It’s a snappy little deal of some 923 pages. ISBN number978-89-922250-054 - you should pick it up when it comes to a bookstore near you; sometime right after Hell thaws, I think

Anyway, right after the riveting (at least as I read it I wanted some rivets pounded into my head) “Individualized Cookery on How to Improve Farmhouse Cuisine” (now what does that have to do with tourism), comes “Different Factors Affecting the Selection of Anaphoric Forms.” This is on page 301, if you happen to have this volume handy. It features the following abstract:

The selection of anaphoric forms is not random in context, but a complex multi-dimensional phenomenon affected by different factors. It is not only affected by the discourse structure but also affected by the context, relevant principle and conversational principle. This paper discusses several different factors affecting the selection of anaphoric forms, aiming at a further understanding of the contextual consistence and playing a significant role in anaphoric form selection.

Now isn’t THAT a pretty impressive, brimming, frothy cup of delicious WTF? Or, as a poet whose skills far surpass mine once put it, “What you talkin’ bout Willis?”

Thank god the actual article is in Chinese, because I think reading anything more along the lines of the abstract would have produced something syncopial in my head.

I've also finished the line editing for GREY DREAMS OF A TIN GOD, and that means I can move wholly to the BKF's work. Sweet.. there may be some more time for reading soon. ;-)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I take a look at this conference on Saturday and not only am I presenting, but I'm one of the chairs of my session. AND I've been added to the round-table discussion at the end of the day.

I must be verrrrrry important!

at Ye Olde "Nearly a Bizness Skool"

That spooky thing over there is one of the corridors of power at the "Nearly a Bizness Skool" here at BPU.

Where I may work next year.

We had the meeting with admin and it sounds like we might get a chance to semi-change status and also create the English program here.

Right now we have students coming in from about 14 countries, and about .25 are not sufficiently Englished-up to go directly into business classes. So some of them need to take a year of English (100 and 300) and even some of those who are in the BBa and MBa programs need to take classes.

So this is 20 hours a week at the 100 level, 16 hours a week at the 300 level, and three hours of (now) optional lab at the higher levels.

But because the problem is larger than NBS expected, and they need instructors with Master's degrees, and because this program was thrown together ad hoc style (a bunch of shit flung at a wall to see what would stick), they know the need something done.

Add to this the fact that teaching at NBS is far more time-intensive than at BPU (where we essentially work out of workbooks, and the syllabi and content is provided us) and you had some stirrings around here.

So it looks like, maybe, if all goes right, we will be given "projects" instead of classes, during the intersession, and this project will be building an entire English program from the ground up - decide on the curriculum and standards, pick the materials, create the syllabi, etc. This has several important aspects, the first of which is the experience, since not many people get this kind of foundation-up exerience; the second of which is the resume filler; the third of which is that I will get about as much pay as anywhere else, and; finally, I will get to keep my killer apartment on the top floor.

With all that said, today I sent out job applications for places in Seoul, and I'll be interviewing at Buddhist College on Monday... ;-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Terrorist in Chief

See? SEE? SEE?
The kids are wearing turbans!!
Muslim Extremists!