Thursday, December 31, 2009

Live! Blogging! The! New! Year! Part whatever

It comes close...

we have a beer and a cider....

and the smell of cigarettes..

I blame the godammned Scotts... and Tennyson... and reliable clocks...

The bar has turned all the tvs to some kind of savage Korean NY clebarion with drums, fire, and people without faces...

I'm starting to feel better!

Live! Blogging! The! New! Year! Part 5 golden rings

Each ring lovingly left by a 400 cc glass of Cass beer...

Yvonne has retreated into "The Girl From Leam Lane," one of her books that show the reliability of horrible death for women.

It is reassuring to know that the Universe cares to that extent....

The bar is now all Korean, and we may not make it out alive, as Yvonne has been humming Japanese war songs from the 1940s.....

I think she has read too many books..

Live! Blogging! The! New! Year! Part 40 ounces!

I just kicked Yvonne of the "Snoopy" Facebook game...

she was bitter...

apparently the New Year will, like my first serious GF, never come...

and, of course, both will be my fault...


where is the champagne?

Live! Blogging! The! New! Year! Part Trixie

The cleaning must have worked, as the trio at the next table continues to drink what looks like California wine....

New Year's may be, however, canceled, because far behind Yvonne two people have ignited cigarettes, and this makes Yvonne act as though she is slowly being strangled in a Khmer Rouge death camp....

The fights continue on the tube.. NY is about 1 hour 15 away..

Live! Blogging! The! New! Year! Part Tres


the cleaning job must have been good..

a trio just came in, and have seated themselves at the table that was just covered in puke...

Man.. I love Korea...

1 hour 40 to go...

Live! Blogging! The! New! Year! Part Deux

Well.. the army dude straight-legged it back to the table next to us, puked violently, and then went face down on the table..

9:48 or so...

Yvonne has green tea latte all over her face, some K1 dude just got the nut shot of all time, and I'm getting another beer...

With some luck, I'll puke before midnight...

PS.. the "clean up the puke" process in this bar is efficient in ways snow response never is....

plastic bags, plastic brooms, disinfectant, and everyone in pink plastic gloves...

wow.. I may just be becoming aroused!

Live! Blogging! The! New! Year!

Delicious sogogi dinner..

we now sit in "The Library" drinking... next to a white dude and his Korean girlfriend who are engaging in a snogging session that would be pretty much inappropriate on this side of MTV...

Tea for Yvonne... Gin and tonic for me....

One soldier has just staggered out...

delicious side-dish of sugary nuts (Yeah, I got that!) nearly gone....

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Clear but icy cold..

A nice change from Sunday and Monday's snow. Sunday night the snow hit and all the roads turned to silly mush. Koreans don't seem to have tires that deal well with snow, so the main road outside my neighborhood (which is on a rather steep hill) as a skating rink of cars fruitlessly spinning their tires and drifting here and there on the road and in parking lots. After seeing Yvonne off to the tube-station I sat outside for about 20 minutes and watched the show.

Monday morning, there were few taxis available and non on my street which was still snowy and (yes) still steep. Korean don't know how to drive in the snow, and there doesn't seem to be a civic response to snow at all. I did see some trucks driving around dropping off bags of artificial salt, but that seems to be the extent of the official response. Kind of lame, considering snow isn't exactly a surprise. Homeowners and shop owners do clean 'their' sections of the sidewalk, and sometimes the road, but that is an iffy response. Taxi drivers are not about to get up in the early cold and wreck their livelihoods, so in general on days like this they take an extra couple of hours of sleep. I had to walk all the way to Noksapyeong station to grab a cab.

The other thing that happens is that the large amount of polished granite, marble, and other stones used on floors, stairs, sidewalks, and entry halls, becomes incredibly slick with freezing. This is the season all the TV channels are running alarmist adds with halmoni and halbogee falling over and breaking their hips, but those ads are based in observance. Everyone except the very young tiptoes carefully about - everyone except the violently smashed Ajusshi I saw last night. Remarkably, his lurches, stutters and stumbles seemed to be equally met by the treachery of the ground, and although he could barely stand up when in one place, his semi-epileptic mode of walking seemed adequate to the weather.

Oh well - another storm may be coming in tomorrow, so we are all girding our loins and other historical phrases..

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry PaganMass! (A semi-re-run)

Rudolph the gamy reindeer
Had a very mangled leg
And if you ever saw it,
You’d say hey cripple get a peg

All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him lame
They used to trip poor Rudolph
And keep him out of reindeer games

After a visit from the ADA
Santa came to say
I have to hire the handicapped
So won’t you come as my skycap?

Rudolph the wobbly reindeer
Wasn’t all that great at flight
And if it wasn’t for the ADA
He wouldn’t have been aloft that night

Rudolph the feeble reindeer
Wobbled weakly towards the sky
All of the other reindeer
Began to worry they would die.

Flying over icy wastes
Rudolph’s leg gave out
The sleigh began to tip and spin
Lines tangled and they corkscrewed in

All of the other reindeer
Screamed in fear and agony
As Rudolph the crippled reindeer
Brought the sleigh down into the sea

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

(in)Famous at Last!


Sort of. ("The Official Website of the Republic of Korea") is featuring my blog on their front page. As that will be transient, I've taken a screen shot..

Sunday, December 20, 2009

All Over but the Crying..

There they are... symbols of slavery....

Mine is on the right and that horrible imperfection on it? Yvonne's looming head behind the camera..

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Absent Google

"Sad Hockery"

which I had to use since "Sad hoc" apparently has some meaning....

I know define my new phrase as meaning an argument made up on the spot, that despoils you actual point...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Besides, his artistic passion were busted in other fields like movie.."

Dear Seoul Art Museum,

Holy spattered excreta on a steaming shingle! It is an Andy Warhol exhibit, a pretty big thing. You obviously spent piles of money on the staging, which was totally brilliant, and much more just to get the art over to Seoul.

Why is it, then, that you chose to do your translation into English though Babel Fish? This was the worst set of translations I have seen in my life (you may click on the graphics for bigification).
"In works, he focused on to express public emotion that shares star not on star itself."

WTF is that, some kind of splattered Zen koan?


The lovely fiancée and I went downtown to see the Warhol exhibit. It was great. The art was much better than I had expected, and the museum did an astounding job of laying out the rooms. Luckily, particularly for an opening weekend, the place was nearly deserted. I don’t think Warhol is the kind of artist that causes parents to grab their kids and head to a museum. Consequently there were almost no kids in attendance, and the normal push-pull-squeeze was not in effect. There was, however, one totally cute little 5-year old wandering solemnly from piece to piece, writing something down in a little notebook.

There were no signs (that I saw, anyway) saying no photography, so I took some snapshots of the absolutely terrible translations. About 2/3 of the way through the exhibit I saw the docents stopping Koreans from taking pictures of each other, so I’m assuming it actually WAS a no photo zone. Maybe the docents just didn’t want to try to explain that to the weird foreigner who wasn’t even taking pictures of the art, just the explanations postered on the walls.

This exhibit is absolutely worth checking out – it makes the Renoir exhibit that came through a few months ago look absolutely lame. At only 8-chun and with unimpeded views and paths? Get down there!

And laugh at the English translations..

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Snowing in Seoul

With the semester coming to its usual tangled end, the snow is falling in Seoul. It looks nice and engenders the typical Seoul "oh mi Gawd!" responses to snow - freak out, get out the brooms(!), toss down some cardboard, halmoni and halbogee (and broken-footed me) walking at even more glacial paces, and cars with bald tires spinning out even on the little snow we have on the mild hills surrounding my house.

This must be shitty for the motorcycle delivery men, for more than one reason.

As to me, I'm still grinding out these writing things... 1200 words on Gyeongju is now off to 10 Magazine Asia and I turn to my photo essay for Education About Asia, which is due Friday. Last night was spent cranking out the last of 14 model essays for some high-school around here. Still, relaxed enough to come into work today for some coffee and strawberries.

Then time to think about re-writing next semester's classes...

Assuming I have the same classes this Spring that I had last Spring, I should be good to go. During the break I'm teaching one of my troublesome classes - "Discussion and Presentation English." The Presentation part is pretty easy - some peformance, some short speeches, and how to do Powerpoint properly.

Like a retard I was thrashing around on what the "Discussion" thing meant?

Last night a thought occured.

"Ok, maybe," decides I, "Discussion is like Converation.. only with... discussion?"

And Bingo.. now the class is writing itself in my head 8 weeks of discussion and 8 weeks of Presentation. Weird, almost like the name of the class!

LOL.. I'm stooopid

Saturday, December 05, 2009

On a Saturday..

It is freezing and beautiful in Seoul.

On the streets people are preceded by their condensed breath, and they walk briskly.

I can do no such thing.

After years of joking from my family about my injuries being gout?

They have brought it to me. LOL

Woke up two days ago with a swollen big toe... all the sam gyap sal and wine have turned on me. I wasn't sure what it was.. so I just iced it and it got better (read: I also went back to my semi-vegetarian foodstyle). Last night the lovely "someday-to-be-ex-wife" came by and wanted to go out for dinner.

BANG.. beef and soju and the toe is all swelt...

Crap.. if this continues I'll need to be concerned about my health!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Down in Silla Town

Last Friday the family bundled up and off to Gyeongju. We took the train down and on the way I was amused to see the sister campus to where I work looming off on the horizon.

when we got to the yeogwan, Baxter assumed his customary position:

Outside in Gyeongju the evening was frightening:

But it was still autumn when the sun came up:

Squirels were standing on their heads

And the lovely Seokguram Grotto loomed ahead:

As did tumuli
And the harsh streets of Gyeongju (Picture courtesy of Danny):

We wandered through the "open air museum" that is Gyeongju, and ate alarming amounts of sam gyap sal...

You could say it was a good day...

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


The family left today and the house seems big and empty... :-(

Oh well, I'll see them all in February and have plenty of work to do...

We made it down to Gyeongju, which was grand, and scooted all over Korea in the cold (but not too cold).

A grand time was had by all and Jen made sure that the house is completely ready for the next overseas visitor .... ya'll come by now, ya hear?

Monday, November 30, 2009

In Which the Alien Fiancee gets a Job!

BPU2 has hired the lovely Fiancee --

a cabbie and her bad Korean almost nixed the deal - in trying to pronounce the name of BPU2, she actually pronounced the name of some other University entirely and was thus, with 20 minutes left before her interview, "Lost in Seoul!"

But another cabbie got here here in time, and now she has a non-hagwon job!

Coming Soon: Straight Outta Gyeongju...

Monday, November 23, 2009


Two names my charmingly stumbly Graduate Education student call me..

1) Mona Angry
Which should amuse anyone in the family.


2) Mr. Mongo Marry
Which I feel is even better!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tourism Fail and Fambly Matters...

Preparing for my parents, sister, and brother in law landing here. Part of that preparation is to get them down to Gyeongju the "outdoor museum" of Korea. Home of the Silla Empire and some mighty cool cultural artifacts. Go to the hanatour website, fill out their handy-dandy contact form, click the button to send if off through the tubes and...


And you get that even on a vanilla PC running IE (which many sites in Korea insist on). And that is today's marketing fail from Korea, the home of the marketing fail.

Perhaps the bigger marketing fail was the estimate hanatour gave me. Part of that fail is on me, since I was vague enough that they thought I needed their help in Busan.. but it did send me off to the web for some research, so at least I have re-acquired in my head the places we need to go..

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Two More Steps Outta Hell....

1) Got a crudload of papers graded.... Academic Writing? Great to teach, a pain to mark.

2) Finished my 250 page textbook edit. Semi-hysterical work and semi-hysterical me. I had to vet, above and beyond the language, if the pages with definitions were correct, and if the fill-in and essay questions were appropriate. Let's just say there was some "thesaurus-using" by whoever created the testing component.

But I R dun....

Prepped for tomorrow's classes and ready to sleeeeeep!

Work Updates.. from hell... where work comes from.. ;-)

Finally.. finally finished the review of The Red Room I've been working on...

It is
available here
for my one reader who wants to read 2000 words about Korean Pain-Porn-Lit (and that's me!) .

Got about 1K words done on "Who Ate Up All The Shinga." This is one of the two reviews I'm doing for the online Korean Review...

But Shinga is a killer book that is fun to read if you like mother/daughter fiction or to read about the development of an author as a child... actually, it's just a pretty good book!

Tomorrow is pain... three sets of essays to grade and about 200 pages to edit...

If I should die tonight, grieve if you want, but my spirit will be light. ;-)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Rule for Song-Writing/Performing?

If you have a tight rif and good lyrics?

Make the drummer go faster....

Husker Du

I suspect my second rule is about the bass player.....

Building Expat Community in Seoul

NOTE: This is cross-posted at MorningCalm

Saturday was the first 2S2 (Second Saturday, 2:00PM) meetup near Anguk Station. For those who don't know, this is an attempt to build to build some community and camaraderie between expats and, we hope, to create a stronger support system for incoming English teachers and professors. For more information you can contact Rob at his blog, Roboseyo. Here's what it looked like at one point:

left to right: Shannon Heit, Roboseyo, Chris Backe, Jo, Joy Iris-Wilbanks, Hayley who came in from Jeollanamdo, Yvonne from Daejon (Not pictured: Joe McPherson, Dan Gray)

This is also associated with a website, the Chatjip expat site which I urge all expats to check out and join. This site has information about 2S2 and is working to create the best online events calendar in Korea for English speakers. It also aggregates headlines and blog posts.

We were extremely lucky to have Shannon Heit, from the Seoul Global Center, attend the meeting and talk to us about what the Global Center offers expats and what she hopes to do in the future. In the past, the Center has focused on business initiatives, but now it is branching out in an effort to support all expatriates. In addition, Shannon hopes to expand the Center's support impact on the web. Shannon can be reached by email at

Everyone had a great time, and we will do it all again in a month.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Last Weekend

Since it is already this weekend, I suppose I should post about last weekend?

Which was off the Morning Calm Gardens in Cheongpyeong, which is kind of north-east of Seoul. We had gone on this train line before, but discovered that if you took the train from Oksu you ended up in the Cheongyeongri train station and we were able to catch a train, standing room only, within about 15 minutes. We were in the front car with about 10 college students who were heading up to Gapyeong or Chuncheon. They quickly pulled out the beer, then quickly spilled some of the beer, but everyone was in good spirits.

Once we got to the train station it was a short walk to the bus station, where we discovered we had just missed the bus.

So it was a quick taxi ride to the Morning Calm 아짐 고요 Garden. Alas, we had arrived just about at week to late and most of the beautiful leaves were on the ground, though they were made up for, in volume, by gnats. This will certainly be a cool place to visit in Spring. You can see how beautiful it was BEFORE our visit by checking Roboseyo’s site out. By the time we got there, most leaves were on the ground.

We did get to see one of the world's smallest churches (Photo on right has tiny Injun for scale):

Then it was a walk back through town and a samgyapsal lunch/dinner at a fairly backwoods place – it was where the bus drivers went to eat and we were quite the center of attention with the ajumma hovering and cooking our meat for us. Any random little bit of Korean I could pull out was appreciated and we left, full and happy.

On the mugungwha, again standing tickets, and back to Seoul, drinking a coke and a beer on the floor and sitting with slightly fewer students.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Goggle-eyednesss, from the Goggle Eyes..


here is oldage...

The subject-line had some bigass meaning for me (and it was surely about Carly Simon's "You're So Vain").

Now I close all the other windows I've been working in and it makes no sense to me at all...

Welcome to the sliiiiiiiide.. ;-)

Friday, November 06, 2009

This and or that...

With week 10 of classes done the finish line is starting to come clear.. which is a darn good thing as they continue to pile the editing on.. not a bad thing, just a bunch of work at just the time I'm trying to get three book reviews, two newspaper articles, and a paper out of the way so that I can concentrate on the photo-essay that is due in early December. ;-o

Oh yeah, I still have to grade the big essay my Academic Writing students gave me as well as the midterm for the Graduate English Teachers Convo Class.

Consequently, after work today, I bailed on anything productive and instead headed over to Gyeongbokgung Palace to take pictures with my boy Adam from Daejeon. At Gyeongbokgung Station I stopped to take a snapshot of this arch. The arch isn't anything particularly grand, but right next to the arch is the punchline - the metal 'stone' with the inscription:

This gate was made of monolith in imitation of PULLOMUN in CH'ANGDOKKUNG.
It has a legend that once one passes through the gate, he would not be old forever.

That always cracks me up, since I'm pretty sure the Grim Reaper is also out there to make sure I don't stay old forever.

Anyway, Adam and I and a guy from Australia cruised around, took pictures and drank coffee. Later Adam and I headed into Itaewon to eat some kind of Middle Eastern food and Adam sucked on a Shisha like a half a dozen hookers looking for a big paycheck.

After we ate at this restaurant we headed around the corner from Noksapyeong Station where Adam stopped at Instanbul and had "Second Dinner" (I think he might be a Hobbit?).

Now home, waiting for Yvonne to get here. No celebration yet, but her hiring at BPU2 moved one step closer yesterday. BPU2 may find a better English teacher than me, but I think they're decided they are unlikely to find a better editor. Part of the deal is that I will stay at least one more year after the next one and they will lobby for a year after that if our grant goes through.

I've left the possibility open, but we'll see about that. At least if Yvonne gets hired we will have shared winter and summer vacations and will be able to come home a lot more.

For the few of you who do not know, we'll also be getting married (anyone know a good pre-nup lawyer??????!!!) when we get back to the States in February. As you know, the Korean tradition is to put money in envelopes and give it to the couple.



Oh yeah, that last picture is of the smaller pagoda in the smaller lake at Gyeongbokgung. It's a pretty place and I hadn't been there since my first trip to Korea with the BKF.

Had to scope it out in prep for the fambly landing later this month...

Tomorrow it's off the the prettiest garden in Korea..... more pics..

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

One Down, Two to Go...

I just signed my letter of understanding for my second year here at BPU2. Without even looking at a potential contract. ;-)

Now that has to be a job I like!

Now, tomorrow, I go in an try to nail a job down for Yvonne here at BPU2.

If that works out, we are beyond golden.. except for my age, hairline, waistline, still cracked rib..

well, ok.. our jobs will be golden...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Love Teaching but...

Grading is a colossal pain in the ass.

Sure, I can apply myself to the enormous stack of ungraded paper on my desk and by engaging in a grueling death march of up to 15-20 minutes I can get through some 3-5 papers before the siren song of Facebook (or the qualuuded threnody of Blogger) pulls me away...

I look up from my relentless clicking through the web look for a friend online, just one lousy friend to come online, and I notice the sun, once rosy in the sky, is now setting in the East (as it does here in Korea) or.. holy's the next morning...

Which means, without graded papers to return and discuss I'll have to ginn up another writing assignment which I will then bring back to my office, set on top of the towering pile of papers already there..

I will sit down, cup of coffee at hand, green pen in hand (red is a bad color in Korea), and concentrate profoundly.. on trying to find that one Elvis Costello B-side I never tracked down on Pirate's Bay.

And to be sure I'll have a tab open to Facebook..


Monday, October 26, 2009

It's like herding LOLcatz!

Reading "The English Teacher's Guide to Korea" (which is enough to make me love ATEK despite it's occasional problems) I see:

Don't be tempted to run in the subway station. If you miss your train, don't worry - there'll be another one along, in a minute or two; it's not worth risking your life for. Subway stations are made of hard and sometimes slippery stone floors, stairs, and sharp corners and if you fall down you man not be getting up again. (205)

LOL.. at least I did get back up, cracked rib notwithstanding...

but lesson learned..

Also, a "cute" toilet?

In the Aeogogae Subway Station there is a family stall (Yeah, I was the guy in the men's room with the camera!)...

Unecessarily Graphic Monday Part Whatever

Well, OK, at least she's honest..

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Noted with minimal comment

If Kimchi "prevent" swine-flu, why all the panic around here?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Am I Science Yet?

Cause I think I explained something about the universe in an email.. er..

no.. in an email I explained something about the universe..

cause the universe being in an email is ridiculous.

Everyone knows how slow the universe is, so it is clearly in an old fashioned postal envelope.


Here is the unified field theory of work:

I posit (which I sometimes do when I am feeling philosophical; other times I get depressed and drink) a conservation field theory of work (and laziness). The physics, of course is trivial to polymaths such as my readers.

dW = ρi vi Ai dt - ρo vo Ao dt

dW = change of Work in the system (kegels)
= density (bbbd -Bush Presidencies per decade)
= speed (or any other semi-amphetamine)
= area (m2)
= an increment of time (not including overtime)

Some of the implications of this are that:

1) Work can be neither created nor destroyed

a. Therefore doing any work is foolish, for it cannot affect the total amount of work in the universe

2) The form of work can be altered by container

a. Thus, although it can’t really be dealt with in any worthwhile way, it can be packaged differently and shifted around (I’m not sure I need to be explicit here and say I mean shifted to others?)

3) The density of work can be altered

a. Consequently I prefer to spread it out the maximum amount I can

I think, perhaps, that this was best summed up by that Great American Philosopher, Johnny Cash, when he croaked, “16 tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

More RETARDED overseas marketing.. this time Korean food


sounds good (link here)..

various events have also been organized to raise awareness of and popularize Korean cuisine among L.A. residents. Locals will have the opportunity to enjoy food-tasting events, such as with "gimbap," or seaweed-covered rice rolls, and fried squid and other seafood.

But they are doing it at Hannam Farking Market IN KOREATOWN! Because God knows, Koreans know nothing.. NOTHING I tell you! about Korean food.... This "gimbap" as you call it? How will Koreans react to its strangeness?

Jesus... take this money and roll it into some kind promotion with the Kogi Truck which has, in less than a year, converted more whitey's to the advantages of Korean food than 20 years of M*A*S*H, Sandra Oh in movies, or multiple translations of books about the pain and woe of Korean history..

Crap.. what is wrong with these people?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How I avoid work....


gotta finish these last 12 pages of editing for a book chapter about Korean religious history (which I am now pretty much of an expert on, for a layman) and instead it makes me wander off and write my blues song (though it seems all choruses and no verses) about my need for faith healing....

I really suck when addressed as a productivity vector...

I need an answer for a heel -
a stripper named Faith or Grace?
A red-wine benediction -
drawing a halo on my face?

Perhaps a charismatic minister
To bring me to my knees
To put his hand upon my head
And cure me of my disease

Baby I need faith healing,
or medical attention.
Cause I got a sickly feeling,
and no faith that I could mention.

No wings on my scuffed heels
Angels wouldn’t touch my shoes
And I can’t say exactly how it feels
Wishing I had a thing to lose.

I want me the healing tent
A white man in a white suit
Plastic chairs and plastic hair
The promise of God’s fruit

Baby I need faith healing,
or medical attention.
Cause I got a sickly feeling,
and no faith that I could mention.

fade ooot.....

Walking on these scuffed heels
I gotta get outta town…
Living here without faith
And no doctor hanging round..

No doctor hanging round…

LOL.. finally done with the edit... couldn't send until I fin.. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....

Saturday, October 17, 2009


LOL.. sitting here in Seoul the iPod served “Band on the Run” up and for some weird reason I rewound it 5 times and listened fully through it. Wasn’t til the 5th time I realized why the song poked at me.

Of course it was from the wayback machine…

I was somewhere outside of Palm Springs when reality hit. On a hot day in the desert, no drugs and no bats, I realized that my sister was human.

This was a realization that contradicted over 10 years of observed history.

I can’t remember what year it was, so it could have contradicted nearly 20 years of observed history.

It revolved around “Band on the Run” by the once semi-great and now treacly Sir McCartney. I had developed an immoderate love for the tune, particularly the long version. Back in the day, when dinosaurs ruled the earth), radio tended to cut singles down to snappy 2:29 ditties.

A few songs had come along and busted this up a little – “Stairway to Heaven” had been pretty impossible to:

a) deny, and
b) chop up

since it built and didn’t strictly adhere to the verse/chorus/verse model. Unfortunately, McCartney, even when brilliant, wrote in clichés, and “Band on the Run” was editable due to its formulaic structure.

So it often was edited, and I loved to hear the long version…

During summer, as usual, my parents had abandoned my sister and me to the clutches of one of the sets of our grandparents. This time, fortunately for me, it was our grandfather and his second wife. They had a closet filled with the boozes of the world and, as bored with us as we were with them, allowed me full access. I have no idea how my sister dealt with the boredom, although I did notice a lot of dead birds around the birdbath (NOTE TO SELF: Contact Hollywood Re: “Bloodbath at the Birdbath”).

The Grandparents had something on the lines of a Victrola, and my only contact with the outside world was through a portable radio the sister had smuggled down to Palm Springs.

So, in the midst of some kind of spat with sister, THE SONG came on the radio and I started grooving.
My sister was apparently adopted from as clever a family as I had been adopted from, and immediately noting that I liked the song, changed the channel.

I was, as is my habit, angry.

We got into a verbal brawl (I felt I had a minute or two for this, since the song was so long) but sister would not turn the channel back. So I grabbed the radio, or attempted to, and in the tussle I broke the antenna.

Radio reception went to black. To my utter surprise, my sister began to cry (dispelling the idea I had in my head that she was a reptile…. But.. hang on.. “crocodile tears?” it still could be true).

Sitting there, with a bent arial (better than an italic dingbats) in my hand, I felt ridiculously rotten.

In that moment I learned an important lesson –

I needed to buy my own technology, cause you can’t trust a skirt!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Web is My Friend!

After the computer (and ribs) trauma of the last weekend, I'm back up and running. The MacBook Pro is a cool machine and I've 'found' the latest Office and Dreamweaver online. A few more translation softwares to find and all I will need is Photoshop and a couple of other "big" apps that can't really be 'borrowed.'

In the meantime, I've been contacted by my author's (Kim Yong-ik) son! He saw some comments I made about his father online and he still lives in the family house, with papers and manuscripts intact. He also gave me contact info on several people who knew Kim, so that book I wanted to write might be back on.

I think I also mentioned here that Acta Koreana contacted me about a review, so I have three in the hopper. Add to that the paper I'm working on with Kim Soonyoung, and I'm a busy lad.

Still, it was an added bonus that I was also contacted by the son of Lee In-soo (about who, more later) who is interested in meeting. I think I need to email him soon.. now that I am fully technologized again!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stupid is as stupid does..

Had a great weekend. Some confusion on Friday night about an editing job that never came in, but on Saturday I went to my new Korean language class at the ungodly hour of 10 am. Yvonne got up and headed up Namsan to chill, sort of, in the sun. Later in the day, James showed up and Yvonne went off, again, to Namsan, but this time with our friend Margaret. James and I bachelored about until.. oh... 8:45 or so and then returned home old and defeated!

So sad. There was a day when I could drink until nearly 10!

Sunday was all about bookshopping, and I picked up a Pak Wan-seo short novel that it will be convenient to read as it will give me background on her style for the review I'm doing for Korean Journal on her autobiography/novel. James had to head back down to Busan, so Yvonne and I had lunch and then headed back onto the town.

Finally, time to return, and at Geongdeok station, transferring to line 6, the train pulled into the station as we came around the corner.

Preparing myself for the sprint to the train, I carefully placed my left foot upon the instep of my right shoe and ... and... began to tumble to the ground.

Three good sprinter's steps and my struggle to stay aloft was over.

I went in headfirst, but kind of on top of my backpack, which was loose on my right shoulder.

I got up with some pain.. mainly in my left chest (no doubt a heart-attack).. but mainly embarassed and, got the train!

Get home to check out the damage to my gear (laptop and camera and lenses were in the backpack) and fire up the computer, which works... but the screen looks like some kind of bad modernist painting.


camera and the rest of the gear is OK, but I will be buying that new laptop a couple of months before I thought I would. There goes my fantasy that some mysterious benefactor would buy me some top o the line shite for my b-day!

Thank god BKF brought an old laptop to Korea on his last visit... at least I have something to type on!

I will send this in the morning, if my broken rib does not puncture my heart....

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

In the past four days I have had a couple of experiences that reminded me why I am so fond of Korea, and one of the things that moving to Korea has meant to me personally.

Last weekend, as my fiancee and I sat in Yongsan Family Park (By the Korean National Museum, Ichon Station, lines 1 and 4) I was amused to watch a young Korean girl in the middle of the playground. She ignored her surroundings and concentrated on waggling her left arm in the air. She found this intensely interesting, and so did I although I don’t think I would have been interested in doing it myself! In fact, as I watched her work her way around the playground, I noted that she found everything extremely interesting.

This started me watching all the kids in the park, and I noticed they all had remarkable ability to find things new and interesting. The boy who watched a bug intently for 10 minutes, then sprang up to chase a dog, could go back to the very same bug with the very same intensity as he had the first time he observed it (ok, the first time he poked it with a stick, he was a young boy after all).

I forgot about this until yesterday, when two things happened. First, as I was running through my daily blog list, I came across a blog that quoted the movie, Knocked Up (which I have never seen) in which two characters watch children playing in a park.

What's so great about bubbles?
They float. You can pop them. I mean, I get it. I get it.
I wish I liked anything as much as my kids like bubbles.
That's sad.
It's totally sad. Their smiling faces just point out your inability to enjoy anything.

Second, as I walked home and enjoyed the coolish autumn air and the spectacular foliage in and around Namsan Park, I settled in behind an older man, probably in his 60s. He walked along, but it was clear he wasn’t going anywhere, at least not in a hurry. He kicked at pebbles, he “high-fived” low hanging leaves, every once in a while he stopped to examine some small thing on the ground. When the sidewalk leveled off, before ascending to the Hyatt Hotel, he pulled a very thin, dead branch out of the bushes, yanked off the smaller end so that the switch was approximately cane-lengthened, and then swept up the hill like D’artagnan, poking and prodding at things in the bushes, waving the switch in front of himself, and pushing things (very small things) around on the sidewalk. I thought to myself, “what a great day, and what a great model for enjoying it.”

These three happenings, and the excellent mood I was in, crystallized something I like about children, about Korean society, and about what moving to Korea has done for me. Almost all children and much of Korea, is able to find pleasure in the smallest things, and they are able to find that pleasure again and again. I’m not sure I’ve met a jaded Korean.

Coming to Korea has restored this semi-childlike wonder in me. I had spent the last few years in the US weaving together banded bits of thread into something that throttled my ability to have spontaneous fun; there was always some important thing to do, or some way I had to act, and, at least where I was, there was no culture of spontaneous fun. In Korea, I was able to turn much of this around.

Part of it, of course, is that all of Korea was new to me when I arrived. So it was easy to be enthralled by the differences. This is one reason that people travel, you are a passport and a ticket away from a quick and easy return to a state of wonder. But another part of it is the spontaneous (a word expats often don’t associate with Korea) public culture that breeds the opportunities to have fun and new experiences. I think back to my hike up Bukhansan and the family that shared food with us (and others) and the climber who insisted I toast my summitting with Makkeoli. This kind of experience may happen disproportionately to foreigners, because we are so obvious, but I see it everywhere I go. Finally, there is also what I interpret to be (although it might be something else entirely) the Korea solipsism (I mean that in the good sense of the word) that allows Koreans in public, to ignore others and do their own things.

All of this has combined, for me, into an opportunity to reconnect with the little kid inside of me. Who knew he had emigrated to Korea?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

At the Chuseok-hop

So… Chuseok, of course, was not over after 1.8 days. Instead Yvonne and I repaired to the couch to watch movies. The first lovely photo is Yvonne setting up the jury-rigged system we have to show movies on the walls. It actually works wonderfully, and we had noodles and beer and watched Iron Man. I had been given the movie some long time ago by Yvonne’s brother, but had put it in the bookcase where it languished, as a book, until Yvonne found it last week.

Good movie!

The next day, which was actual Chuseok, it was off to Yongsan family park to loll about. Koreans are very public, and Yvonne loves that hang out in public thing, so I bought a pad and we pack up some water-crackers, tuna, and various beverages and go into the park and hang out. Yvonne reads, I read and take notes (somewhere around here is a picture of my “park office” which is similar to my “Train office” which picture I now cannot find on the blog?), and at various times we wander around, watch Korean kids play, watch the dogs run free, or as in one of these pictures, watch the super-solipsistic Korean women find a way to hang mirrors outdoors and make sure their makeup is just so!

And, you know, take pictures of bugs

We stayed out until the sun started hiding from us, and then it was back home to sit around (more reading!) until it was dinner and movie time.

Next day was similar…. A late start and then off for a walk on Mt. Namsan, from where most of these pictures come. When the sun came down that day we went to “Dear Friends” a cute little café up the street and had lemon tea and gin and tonics (I think most people can guess who had what). Then it was time for Yvonne to take off for the train.

It’s a drag – she doesn’t have to start teaching til late on Monday, but the Hagwon insists she be there in case of emergency.

Lo and behold, when I caught her on FB on Monday morning, the imaginary emergency had finally come: Her Canadian (they are largely swine and every last one untrustworthy) co-teacher had pulled a runner, leaving only a filthy apartment and filthier memories.

Heh.. this will be the example the director will use to defend his Monday morning policy for the rest of his life.

Monday, October 05, 2009

My Chuseoked yours in the face...

It was just the Korean holiday for family re-union and ancestor worship, which meant four glorious days off for both Yvonne and I. Yvonne hopped the Mugungwha up to Daejeon. Chuseok is also the Korean National Holiday of Everyone Going Everywhere At Once, so highways and public transportation are wildly impacted..

Anyway, she got up here on Wednesday night. Thursday was spent in that most Yvonne of things, bookshopping. Out at Gwangwhamun, on the way back, we stopped at the exhibition of Haechis (I should note that the human/mascot Haechi is hideous) and took a look.

We had some quick bulgogi and Yvonne was allowed to operate the tongs.

Then it was off to meet Margaret at my office and pass along a fistful of power-prong adapters and some literature. Finally, a trip with Margaret for a few beers in Itaewon, and home for some sleep. For the next day we had mountains to climb.

Yep, it was time to test the old kneebone, and Yvonne had found the steepest, rockiest place in Korea to do so. We hopped on the 6 line (got a happy surprise in a call from the BKF as we were underway) and got off to find the signage in Korean, but quite clear (well, not so much to Yvonne, but that's ok). A nice Korean family adopted Yvonne on the way up. They were clearly afraid that Yvonne's purple face and sheets of sweat were about to turn syncopial and any time Yvonne stopped or slowed, the Ajumma solicitously hovered about her.

The last dozens of meters were up a semi-difficult friction climb, which was difficult for Yvonne, partly because her shoes were shite. But we made it to the top and the nice family shared some apricot and chestnuts with us. Some guys also came over to me and let me toast our "peak" experience with a cup of Makkeoli. I swear... the people who blog about how mean and nasty Koreans are must alway climb up a different route than Yvonne and I do, cause we always meet the cool ones. ;-)

On the way down we discovered we had taken an unecessarily difficult route up the thing. We also discovered (as the climb had hinted) that Yvonne needed new shoes. Her shitty white-rubber soled items wouldn't hold on anything that wasn't bare granite and she spent some time on the way down skiing like a drunk epileptic along perfectly flat dirt patches.

But we made it, and then it was off to get some delicious foodstuffs.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chuseok Comes Early!

As Thursday is the traditional "early getaway" day for Koreans leaving for their hometowns, to celebrate Chuseok, we are allowed to cancel our Thursday classes. Which I did with a speed that would considered indecent in rabbit sex.

So tonight is Friday night, and so is tomorrow night, and the night after that.


Not so sweet - last night I decided to walk home and thought I might take a stroll through Namsan tunnel. This is just about a mile through Namsan Mountain. The tunnel was hot, polluted, and the walkway a bit uneven. Worse, what I didn't think about was that everything in the tunnel would be, of course, coated in auto exhaust. This meant that when I grabbed hold of the railing, I got a fistful of soot. Also, when I brushed the wall, or touched anything. You'd be suprised at how much af a tar-baby you can make of yourself in such circumstances.

Sweet, though, a student gave me two bottles of wine for Chuseok, so at least I had something to look forward to when I got home.

Now I'm sitting in Gecko's, with a beer and a quesadilla down, preparing to take the shortish walk home.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Just Another Friday.. er.. Graphic Monday..

Random graphics inserted...

Yeah.. two classes .. then started to walk home, but ended up watching some Korean Little League..

For some reason it seemed classically Korean to me.. Each inning the defensive team worked themselves into enormous trouble (two innings with the bases loaded before there was an out!) and then in a fit of "coaching" and pitcher changes (and probably the bottom of the lineup!) they worked themselves out without much damage.

As far as I could tell (I eventually buggered off to catch a taxi) the game must have ended in a 3-3 tie. The story of Korean history, perhaps...

then back home to a flurry, nay, a hurricane of edits. There is some kind of conference this weekend, and the papers are due by 9am tomorrow. This makes me a popular dude...

other than that... Fall in Korea... and Al Green rocking "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" on the Digitizer..

Cain't beat that shit!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tardy Updates, Lynyrd Skynrd style - "Gimme Back my Bullets"

Many things have happened and I have been an uncertain poster her. So I resort to bullets

  • BPU2 is considering upgrading my position to include work as a liason between the school and English-speaking Unis. More pay, of course. My teaching would be reduced to official load (9 hours) and I would be working on some cool projects. Not to get any hearts in a flutter, but this might include some work in Texas - "might."

  • We are also working on a totally cool project to create a rubric by which to pre-screen fiction that is being considered for translation into English. More about this will pop up on MorningCalm very soon, but for now it's a fun project

  • I still need (even more if my load is reduced) to find BPU2 a second English instructor. Someone has to know someone with an MA in English Lit or ESL who wants to come over and have some fun in Korea?

  • The BKF tells me that KLTI will be moving us onto their lists as a translator/editor team. That is, as we vernaculate, splendiddest. And has promise of more money attached to it.

  • Gecko's is the place to be in Itaewon on Sunday - Queen on the stereo, Yvonne mopping up the bits of calimari that she mysteriously spat onto the table, bookshopping complete, and the wireless working flawlessly and fast.

  • Next week? Two days of instruction!!! Deal with that biaaaaaatches!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


When a "Who" song comes on the iTunes and I think, based on the pointless noodling, that I'm listening to the intro to one of my Korea Language lessons?


Monday, September 21, 2009

Korea Imposes its Ferocious Will

I meet with the Chair last week to demonstrate that my knee is relatively healed up and that she can stop bugging me about going to the hospital.

I get into her office and she's giving off a nervous vibe..

She says.. "You know, until last Friday you DID NOT have health insurance. Someone forgot to enroll you in it."

I say, "well, boy howdy, but it's good news that I have it now, eh?"?

She says, "well, that is good news, but there is bad news also."

"What is that?" I inquire in that cat contemplating a hot stove-lid way that I have.

"Well," she responds, "you owe six months worth of paycheck deductions for your health insurance."

That would be the health insurance I have just been told I DIDN't have.

I ponder. I am being charged for a service I didn't have. And yet, since it is Korea, there is nothing to be done about it.

Lo and Behold(en), I am docked nearly 600,000 won on my next paycheck...


Friday, September 18, 2009

The 500 dollar "Fuck Me" post will be tomorrow..


Don't be so wise, I was born to fly
Not without a place in the wind
Walked off a cliff, then I closed my eyes
Ooh, I'm not a spaceman, no, no

Don't need no feathers, I don't need no twine,
I'm all together in my body and my mind,
Not supernatural, just a human combine,
Ooh, I'm not a spaceman, no, no

Adequately mis-explains what it is like to walk in Seoul on a warm night, Seoul Tower on the near horizon, and various bits of literature, scraps of theory, and notions to write about floating in my head.

LOL, I need to persuade Yvonne we never go back. ;-)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Few Nice Words About Korea

Every so often you hear someone complain that Koreans are a bunch of rude, neo-Confucians who would just assume run a foreigner over as look at one.

I think that is only the motorcycle delivery guys. And I don't think it has any relationship to race or country of origin. ;-)

When my knee was all asploded, walking caused me considerable pain and it must have been obvious even on my stoic and craggy features (Did I say "handsome?"). Everywhere I went, Koreans stopped to help me. The helped me get down stairs, they helped me flag down cabs, they helped me walk up and down hills, they asked if I was all right. Cabbies rushed out of their cabs to help me get out without further crippling myself. By the time I could walk half-normally I had worn out all the kamsamneeda ("thank you") and kwenchanayo ("I'm OK") muscles in my face.

On Friday I went up to the District Office to see if there was anyone there to help me at the hospital, but all the English speakers were out to a late lunch. So I grabbed a cab home and rested the thing all Saturday. This worked out well enough that on Sunday I was able to go out with the Chatjip folks and stump all around Seoul.

The outpouring of spontaneous assistance culminated in the student who came to my class Monday morning and handed me an industrial-strength knee brace.


I'm reasonably certain no student in the US would ever have even thought of such a thing.

Now the knee is better to the extent that even though I banged it, last night, into a wooden planter outside the Buy Right (or whatever) I can walk on any surface and rotate the thing torsionally (for a while there, putting on socks was about a 20 minute exercise in pain and sweat - a lot like sex, now that I think about it).

And now, finally, I DO have health insurance (as it turns out I did NOT have it prior to going to the office and complaining that I thought I didn't have it), but that came with a kind of a joker...

which is a post for tomorrow, I suppose..

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday, Groovy Sunday...

Sitting in Leo's Bagel shop listening to the jangly but mellow vocal stylings of Morrissey, sipping a cup of coffee and eating the "Turk-Mex".

It could be any day in the late 80s.

The knee continues to get better, though it is still quite inflexible. Today Yvonne and I are off to the first meeting of a proposed community of expat bloggers in Korea. Some of the biggish-shots on the scene will be there, and it will be interesting to see what they are like in person.

For now though, just digging the sammich and the coffee.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ensmallened Scope

The knee is incrementally better.. I actually slept some last night and even the cab ride to work wasn't horrible (I mean, it hurt and all, but I didn't feel like barfing!).

I have an ice-pack because Yvonne angeled her way up to Seoul two nights ago and in a suprise visit brought food and the ice-pack. It's actually a hot-cold thing, so I suppose this weekend I can do alternating compresses.

It's funny to walk so slowly. I take my legs for granted and having one NOT work is a drag for non-pain related reasons. Inverted-L-shaped little old grammas now go shooting past me on the hill to my house! Oh the embarassment. Putting shoes on is an ordeal (actually socks are worse). Even sitting down becomes an adventure, particularly in chairs that have wheels and would like to dump me on my ass if they get the chance. Walking is funny also - things I used to race by are now landmarks in my turtling my way to and from work.

Oh well, off to the Division office for advice on a doctor/hospital..

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Kneebone connected to the?


Woke up this morning crippled. Walked to work and back yesterday with nothing out of the ordinary. Got home and right knee began to ache. A drag, but not so intolerable I couldn't do my normal evening stretching routine.

Wake up this morning (at about 3 am) after a painful night and it won't support any weight (and baby, I got that!) or straighten out, and is incredibly painful.

Trying to figure out how I'm getting out of my third-story apartment. :-(

If there are no updates I am crumpled in the stairwell.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Wedding Daze..

Down to Busan for a wedding…

I purchased the tickets entirely in Korean .. probably quite ungrammatical, but I was able to communicate that I needed two tickets on Saturday, one from Seoul to Busan and one from Daejeon to Busan and they needed to be together.

Small victories.

The Korean class is helping… the tutoring helped a bit, but the class is quite intensive (although only six hours a week, the instructor piles on the homework and hammers the two of us in class). I finished the first class, 1.1, with the tutor and now I am working on 1.2. There are three classes per level and I hope to go through all of them. It will depend on how long I am willing to drag my ass to a class that is MWF from 7 to 9 at night.

That is particularly galling on Friday, when I should be out hootin and hollerin in Itaewon.

Still, got the tickets and headed down. As I love trains immoderately, this is always a good thing, and Korea is still a beautiful green color as you 300 km/hr your way through it. Yvonne hopped on at Daejeon, and we were fully away.
At the Busan Depot we ran into two other couples who were going to the wedding and headed out to Gwang alli together. Grabbed a nice cheap (about 38 bucks US) hotel room with a view of the beach and headed over to the wedding.

It was mercifully brief, as Korean weddings can be, and then it was down to the cafeteria for a meal. The pic just above is the lovely couple working the room at the reception in a pub and the one down below is Yvonne smiling because this wedding gave her some new, expensive, ideas to try to pile onto our wedding. The post-wedding cafeteria served some really good food, and I had time to enjoy it with my friends.

At BKF’s wedding I was part of the photo-shoot after, and so by the time I got to the cafeteria everyone from that wedding had eaten and departed. I was the lone Waegukin in the vast hall, and so I ate quickly and skeedaddled. This time we all stayed at the tables until the beer and soju was gone. Then it was off to the deck of a pub which overlooked the beach. More idle chit-chat and general tomfoolery.

Many of the party headed off to a bar, but I headed back to the hotel while Yvonne went downtown to meet her friend Katie and her boyfriend du jour. I did absolutely nothing productive besides watching two episodes of The Simpsons.

In the morning we had coffee on the beach and boggled that, on a weekend as beautiful as it had been, essentially no Koreans had headed to Busan for the beach (that picture from the hotel window will give an idea). Korean vacationing runs on a rather rigid “season” basis and this is not the season to go to the beach.

Consequently, Koreans don’t.

I type this on the way back up to Seoul, Yvonne already dropped off (sob!) at Daejeon. Got a longish piece edited for BKF and finally finished my review of Yi Chongjun’s The Wounded. That pic at the bottom is of my little office on the KTX

If I do a little Korean homework tonight, this trip back up will have brought this weekend back from completely non-productive, to pretty good. And with a trip to the beach and a motel as well.

Can’t beat that.