Saturday, January 31, 2009

A bit of something at MorningCalm

How US Publishers see translated fiction


First, to prove that Konglish is worldwide, I present you with an authentic "should have been poofed proofed first" sign from Texas. How many mistakes do you see?

Second, to assuage the OAF and to prove that not all is bad down here, the parents at breakfast..

Tomorrow I leave for the Yay Area....

Friday, January 30, 2009

BPU2 ranked among top 18 Unis in Physics

Go beloved employer!


Unfortunately, as in most Korean (English) papers, there is no link to the actual study data

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This and thattery

Some scrapticiousness...

  • MACY'S SUCKS: As I navigated the public transportation from SFO to San Jose, I realized that I would be passing the Macy's I intended to shop at. Since I was more than four hours before check-in time I decided I'd stop and do my shopping there and then. Walked in and asked the guy (oh, "sales-representative", I should say) if I could leave my bag at the counter. He flatly refused saying he "couldn't be responsible." I said, ok, is there a concierge around here? He said, "No in Macy's and I don't know about the mall." So, I couldn't shop there. I trudged out and towards the bus stop and, lo and behold, saw a Men's Wearhouse who were more than happy to see me leave my piece of luggage in front of their counter.

    Consequently, it was Men's Wearhouse that got my $375 of shopping. In this economy I can't imagine how a Macy's can't find the way to help me spend some money in their shop. And this Macy's is right across the street from Santana Mall, where the shopkeeps are forelock-tugging obsequities who would do anything for the sale (well, not that!).

  • The hotel was splendid and the next morning BKF picked me up. He and JAE had a bit of an adventure as they ran over a box-spring that flew off of a vehicle in front of them. When I spotted them in the parking lot, they were snapping various pieces of plastic body to the metal frame underneath. This worked in all cases, so in essence the car wasn't hurt.

  • Then it was off to Rossotis for burgers. The BFK and krewe as well as MAF and chilluns. I snapped a few pictures of these folks (more to come), and some follow here (as the OAF let me take her small camera on the condition that I take pics of everyone she misses):

Katherine plays with the creepy "stick to anything and stretch to anything" pig. I brought this as a gift, and since it was made in China, playing with it has probably taken 5 years off of all our lives.

The great unifier ponders the many uses of kamcha (sorry, no Korean keyboard here in the Empire)

The JFLO chilluns attempt to cadge free drinks.

The lovely JAE clowns for the camera

One more of the great re-unifier...
A fun time (I think) was had by all.
The next day was off to Texas and the Parental Units....

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Meanwhile, back in the States...

The flight was.. well, an international flight. Got to the airport and immediately spotted the tour of 35 Korean kids who were getting on the same flight as I was.

This is never good.

Got on the plane and was sitting next to a guy about my age who had been in Korea for a week (his first time) and we had a grand time swapping stories of eating the inedible, Korean drinking, and trading cultural animadversions. The Korean kid behind me looked like an innocent little girl, but as soon as I turned my back she turned into Pele, Maradonna and Beckham indulging in an open-goal kicking contest. I didn't sleep on the plane.

The public transport hookup from SFO to SJ was good. The main things I noticed in the US were the lack of spitting, the amazingly clean air (no smog or bad smells), and the vast amount of space among and between buildings. Korea is without property setbacks and space between buildings (unless it is a vacancy or wreck), and parking lots are pretty rare. I walked around and shopped for clothes.

I also went to a couple of my old hangouts and found them without charm. I ate at a Mexican place I used to frequent, and couldn't clean the plate the way I used to. The old bar just seemed cruddy and dank, so I did more walking about and watching TV in English.

As I type it's 5 am (hello jetlag) and the lobby of the hotel is empty. I see MAF and the BKF today for greasy burgers, and will consider that the "official" start of my vacation in the heart of the empire..

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Incheon Airport

Has a wonderful free computer lounge - a macbook even. This makes up for the fact that the ticket I purchased on KTX, far ahead of the holiday rush, was mysteriously for a train that no longer existed. It had to be traded for a later train and it cost an extra 2,500 won as well (so there went my profits from the 48 pounds of coins!).

It seemed that most people had done their Seollol traveling on Friday, so the train, subway, and the subway-train to Incheon were pretty empty. It's a cold day, so those heated seats were particularly welcome. 10 hours of flight, and then I'll be back down in the US of A. Strangely, I'm not as excited about that as I thought I would be. I'm dying to see all the peoples I haven't seen, but the idea of, say, San Jose, doesn't move me that much. ;-)

A nice dude on the last train noticed that I was about to get off at the wrong station (the English announcements, oddly, were one station out of sync - I've never heard of that before) and scooted over to tell me that I was about to get off at Gyeyong station and be in the middle of nowhere. The reputation Koreans have with some expatriates for not being helpful seems completely undeserved to me. Any time I've needed help, and times like this when I didn't even realize it, there always seems to be a helpful citizen about...

Off to see if they'll sell a brother a beer in this airport.


As the picture suggests, they will....

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What is 48 pounds of Korean coins worth?

I discovered the answer.

Since I arrived in Korea I have been saving my loose coins in plastic water bottles with the tops cut off.

Last night I poured 2.3 bottles worth of coins into some plastic bags, and put them in my backpack. The straps groaned at the weight, so I put the whole thing on the scale to see what it weighed - 48 pounds.

This morning, the backpack seemed on the verge of snapping somewhere (or was that me?), so I took a cab to the KB bank, which has a coin counting machine (a rare thing in Korea). I don't have a bank card with KB, but the 아저씨 at the bank was quite helpful, pulling out his own bank card (or a card the bank gave him for this purpose) and getting the machine running. He was a bit bemused when I pulled out the massive double-bag of coins, but was quite a good sport about it. I fed the machine for about 10 minutes and then it stopped.

I had filled it up as full as it could get! The 아저씨 had to go get someone to open the back of the machine and emtpy its contents. While this process was going on, some poor Korean kid with a baggie full of change showed up. He took one look at my bin full of coins, and the bag of coins still remaining on the top of the machine, smiled ruefully and walked on out of the bank.

The machine went back on line and I finished pouring my coins in.

The haul?

nearly 450,000.00 won.

Of course, since the won knows I am going to the United States it has been tanking ferociously against the dollar. Consequently my haul will convert to about $2.38 in US currency ;-(.

Still, now I know what 48 pounds of coins are worth.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Stars, Stripes. Tubes...

Oh man.. it's a Negro!

And I'm sitting up in a PC Bang at something like 2 am to make sure I see the sonofabitch get sworn in.

No way I thought this would happen in my life.

Of course the close PC bang was mysteriously closed and I had to hike to near Solbridgeey to find a PC Bang..

I think it will be worth it... ;-)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My first set of classes are in and they are..

BPU2 has given me...

Two English Listening Classes for majors
Discussion & Presentation English
British and American Regional Studies

and the possibility of two more conversation classes. Which I actually think I want, since that would pump me up to nearly 18 hours, which would be a butload (to use the vernacular English for which I am so well known) or overtime and I'm all about the Sejongs (that would be "the Benjamins" in Korea).

The listening classes should be a snap.. I have the syllabus done already and all the content lined up. Discusssion and Presentation English means basically "Speech." And the last is a culture class which I think I can make quite interesting.

Already sounds way more interesting than most of what I've done at BPU1

Monday, January 19, 2009



Click on the widget to go to the KTO page which has the widget with all its vignettes.

So, like Stafford, Robesoyo, and several other bloggers, I've been spammed by an alleged college student who wants my to display the "marketing" widget you see above. Somehow this thing is supposed to make foreigners want to visit Korea by demonstrating to them that they will land and act like complete rubes, be laughed at by Koreans, be beaten and/or killed, and eat things that will make their heads explode into flames (ok, maybe that's fair enough!).

Watching this widget reveals far more about what Korean thinks about foreigners (uncouth idiots) than it reveals any reason a foreigner would want to visit Korea.

I watched this thing for about 15 minutes and jotted down its little scenarios, which I reproduce below. Seventeen out of the twenty-four scenarios unarguably reveal David (our waegook hero) to be a dangerous idiot. What kind of brilliant marketing scheme is that?

• David lands and is amazed that his host family comes out to pick him up.
• He steps into a room without taking his shoes off.
• He plays hacky-sack and, showing off, knocks a bird unconscious, leaving the hacky-sack on the roof.
• He messes up a pot at a ceramics festival
• He eats sam gyap sal correctly
• He drinkes Sikyhe correctly
• At the Lotus lantern festival he tries to hang lanterns and instead falls on his ass, dragging the lanterns down with him.
• At a tea ceremony he actually kind of gets it right.
• He knocks heads with a Korean woman while (apparently?) trying to kiss her.
• Kimchee makes his head explode in flames.
• He puts mud on a Kid’s face and gets a face full back
• He puts on a Hanbok (this, at least, does not end foolishly, although putting “Hanbok” in quotation marks is weird.
• He, apparently, gets on a turtle boat and takes an arrow to the chest.
• He breaks out in tears watching Korean TV while two Koreans just kind of stare at him
• He doesn’t know what a Dolmen is
• The Hampyeong Butterfly festival goes ok
• He breaks into a traditional dance and gyrates like an idiot
• He is boggled that a Korean child can say “hello” (amazing, considering that it is rare you can pass ANY Korean children without getting volleys of hellos)
• He falls asleep while meditating and gets whacked with a stick by a monk
• He chases a Korean girl, causing her to fall and hurt her ankle
• He gets smacked with a stick for not “listening to his teacher”
• He fantasizes he is Moses parting the seas and gets roundly laughed at by locals
• He kicks a Korean in the balls while practicing Taekwondo
• At the observatory in Cheomseongdae he makes up an imaginary constellation. It is ridiculous and it roars at him and scares him

Calling all Translators

This is barely news to expats, but the Times is making note of the reality in an article this morning

Literary Professor Kim Joo-youn said Korea badly needs a growing pool of professional translators to have local literature better known worldwide.

He made the remark in a Korea Times interview Thursday after being named the director of the Korea Literature Translation Institute (KLTI) under the Ministry of Culture.

Maybe this dude will hire BKF and me? ;-)

Cross-posted in its entirety at morningcalm.

Friday, January 16, 2009

All my life...

I've washed my Levis with the rest of my laundry. Today I went downtown to do some shopping, which included picking up a pair of 501s. When I wandered back to pick them up after tailoring (that is included here in the land of the morning Yellow Dust), the nice guy was very explicit that I must dry-clean my jeans and only then could I wash them.

Why is that?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

One Apartment Seouled to the Waegukin

The apartment search ended in a dual victory. First, I found a nice two-bedroom apartment in quiet section of Itaewon Dong-2. This part is stuffed with all kinds of win. First, it is not by the Itaewon station, which is where all the seedy bars and crappy tourist joints are. Second, it is a very quiet place; you have to navigate up some little roads to get to it. Third, it is top floor with no shared walls. Fourth, it has a stove! I met the ajumma who rents the place, and while she is a bit manic, she seemed quite friendly. She had, of course, not warned the current tenant that I was coming with my real estate man, but the current tenant was quite understanding and, since she (Tiffany) spoke fluent English (surprising for a Canadian!), I was able to ask her a series of rapid-fire questions that neither the Ajumma nor my agent could follow. In this conversation I got info on the neighbors, the ajumma, the monthly bills, and pretty much anything else I could think to ask. As it turns out, Tiffany is leaving Dongguk after three years there. A few blocks away, the neighborhood is grand, with little nooks serving sam gyap sal, a couple of nifty looking western-style bars, and an English bookstore which, I’m certain, the OAF will wear out.

The dual victory aspect of this was that we also went back to re-check a place I had seen last weekend. At that time it smelled a bit of mold, but we were told cleaning had removed that problem. We got there and the mold smell was just a bad as ever.

As a bonus surprise, the ajumma/landlord who owned it decided, just this afternoon, that the rent should go up from 800,000 won to 850,000 won. In an email to me (which I received in his office as I had been in transit when he sent it), my real estate agent referred to this woman as the “bad landlord” and he was nearly prostrate with embarrassment that this change had been communicated while I was on the train on my way up to Seoul. Then, after telling us that there was no mold, but that if there was we could always open the windows (I should note that it was 13 degrees below zero last night) she tried to force me to decide on the spot, “you need to decide tonight or it won’t be available.”

It was nice to walk away from her.

As a bonus and a problem, the place I did get is available February 26th. The bonus is I don’t have to pay for time I won’t use it, and the problem is that I will have to move up there with some dispatch. Anyway, it was back to the real estate office and a quick lesson in how all that works in Korea. The ajumma seemed quite happy to have the place pre-rented and treated my lame Hanguk-mal with extreme politesse.

Tonight I’m just happy that this problem is solved. One room is big and the other room is office-sized. It isn’t gigantic, but it is certainly large enough for small gatherings, which is also nice. When the BKF and JAE come visit this spring, I can fix them some hearty Korean food – because there’s a Korean cooking school right down the street. That’s another win.

When I left the office, the air smelled fresher and all the girls were prettier. ;-)

A review that many people will find boring...

over here at the resurrected "Morning Calm" website we have a review of Cho In-Hoon's House of Idols.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Things I Think about Korea

1) Running when the temperature is 5 below zero (Celsiosity) is like being stabbed in the lungs with icicles. Oddly, starting there then makes 3 below zero seem nearly tropical.

2The four distinct seasons? Can the summer and winter ones become just a bit less distinct?

3) It’s no wonder Koreans want you to take your shoes off when you enter their homes – they know the public excretory wonderland that you have just trodden through.

4) I wish they'd stop tearing down the cool old hanok housing and replacing it with stands of grey concrete behemoths.

5) More kimchi, please. ;-)

Creatures of the Night?


As I've mentioned elswhere, Korean TV shows US series that would cause any typical Korean to be scared shitless of the US as the home of nothing but crazed killers, victims, and cops. But last night Cold Case did a show that begins at the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and uses the soundtrack for commentary. As an extra bonus the psycho-killer is played by Barry Bostwick.

They even did the ending credits in the blood font from the original movie!

This has to be the "best" (I know, it's relative) Cold Case ever, and I never would have seen it had were it not for shitty "in English" Korean TV

Monday, January 12, 2009

Up To Seoul

Woke up yesterday and it was snowing in South Central. The OAF and I met at SC Yeok and headed up to Seoul. As the KTX rolled north the flurries of big snowflakes were replaced by blue skies and colder air.
We shopped a bit for clothing then headed to Itaewon for some bookshopping. We went to "What the Book" and entirely cleaned out their translated Korean literature section. Since the entire section was comprised of five slender volumes, each containing short stories by one author, this cleaning out process was brief. I got

Chinatown by 오숭히
A Toy City by 이텅하
Human Decency by 겅지영
House of Idols by 재인훈
An Appointment with my Brother by 이문열

These works range from 1960 to the late 90s and two of the authors are women, so it should be a good set. I want to read them all and review them here - also start some kind of notation system for elements and themes in them, in case I ever want to write something bigger about them.

A good trip, even if I didn't get the apartment I really wanted (right after I saw it, someone made an offer on it).

Friday, January 09, 2009

That was the week that was

I’ve been a shitty blogger, since this was intensive week, I’ve been house hunting, and I’ve been struggling with my stupid New Year’s resolution.

The classes were all pretty good, but all but one of them were new to me and one was new to PBU. This was the TESL class, which is teaching theory and theory-application to Korean elementary school teachers. The students were very good, although they complained about how much work was given them (a very Korean thing in my experience). The odd thing about that complaint was that no matter how we tried to dial them back on specific assignments the crazier they seemed to get. You could say “I only want you to discuss how to teach using multiple learning styles – just a discussion,” and you would be completely un-comprehended. They would get in their groups and go absolutely mad creating theoretical frameworks, lesson plans, physical props, and assignments of all stripes. We just couldn’t get them to NOT do this. And the work was just outstanding. In both writing classes we gave perfect scores to ALL groups. I mean they took the assignments out behind the shed, strapped them to a pole and beat them until they gave everything up. Then they made them tea, slapped on some bactine, an made them beautiful for presentation. Given this student approach (an offshoot, I think, of the BKF’s “what the fuck” theory of Korean behaviour) I think that dialing back the assignments was all we could do.

Schadenfreude – the only Freudian thing worth a shite.
The last assignment in this class was a Writing Storm and I asked my students to write about their experiences in the class. This resulted in something unexpected. I came out fine, but the students absolutely unloaded on the “Games” instructor. In very un-Korean form several named her by name, the rest mentioned “a instructor” and if words could kill she’d be under a lovely bit of turf and marble right now with Jesus shining her up for use as a sunbeam. It was brutal. John and I read them together and giggled like schoolgirls (albeit fat male schoolgirls in our 50s) that someone else had gotten it. This may not be very adult, but it sure was fun.

I also got two chilluns classes, which I have historically hated, but these were good. I was a bit consterned when I arrived at my “(CAMP NAME REDACTED) 2” to discover that the 2 did not mean 2nd grade, in fact pretty much meant nothing. I had two sixth grade boys, but it was for only an hour a day, MWF, and only for this week. I pulled out some old lesson plans and showed some videos. That was that. The other class is twice a week with a handful of 7-year olds, but they are the best-behaved little suckers ever, and just as prone to short videos as any other class.

Academic Writing.
I got to this class and there was only one student in it, an extremely Pointdexter-ish male high-school senior. For the entire first class, every time I spoke he jerked visibly and then slowly subsided into lesser spasms, tremors and twitches. Still, as it turns out, he put himself in this class, not his parents. I assumed it was his parents and was confirmed in this assumption when, with the first class ending, he asked where the homework was. “So,” thought I, “if he doesn’t show his parents homework, they won’t be satisfied with how much work he is doing.”

Second class comes and I hand out the homework and ask him if I need to mark it in any way to impress his parents. After he stops his little impersonation of jello on a hot waffle griddle, he figures out what I am asking and says.. “Homework? No show parents. Homework is for ME.” So, you know, I was wrong about that whole domineering parent thing. Turns out he’s just a kid with a plan. Must have been the twitching that confused me.

Anyway, next week gets lighter and easier…

Home is anywhere, that you hang your head
The Korean listing habit, at least for houses listed on foreigner boards, is to list them when they become available; as available immediately. And Koreans expect something called “key money” or Jeonse (젼새 I’m guessing), which is a substantial down-payment (in fact, if you put enough down you don’t pay rent, the landlord just gets to invest your money. This strikes me as a risky thing, but I guess it works). Consequently I’ve watched two places I would have really liked, in, say, 6 weeks, go away. Oh well, I look at a place tomorrow.

My stupid resolution
When I got to Korea I swore I’d start running again. As I was an jelly-filled fat fuck (with an order of extra jelly), there was no way I could start immediately. So I set a weight that I would hit and then start running. I got to that particular weight and celebrated by sitting down. Didn’t quite start running. So, to jumpstart the whole thing, I resolved that in January I would just run one lap of the local field for the number of each day. One on the 1st, ywo on the 2nd, three on the 3rd, etc. Of course on New Year’s day I was hung-over. Day after I was lazy. I started on day three with already 6 laps to do, which was not quite my brilliant plan. Then I realized that if I was going up to Seoul on Saturday (the 10th, so ten laps) I’d have to get ahead a few laps as I wouldn’t run that day. Suffice it to say that I’m dizzy from running in circles, but will be able to take tomorrow off and still go into the truly daunting part of this whole scheme a couple laps ahead of schedule.

Next week should be a bit lighter, then one more week and I’m going back to Cali.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Saturday, January 03, 2009

지도둘 하고 외국인둘

Which is something like the way you'd say "Maps and Foreigners" in Korean. Because the city has changed the bus lines and mailed maps to everyone in Daejeon. Well, everyone, that is, who is not a foreigner. Every Korean address has received one and so far as I know, no foreigners have.

The 'why' of this may have become clear today, when the OAF and I stopped by the Daejeon International Center and requested two maps. "Sure," they said, but only in Korean. "No problem," sez I, and grabbed two. Then, foolishly, I gave mine to the OAF and she promptly left both of them in the Lotteria when she stepped in, without me, to grab a burger. She's special, that one.

Anyway, now I know the Korean ones exist I can head down to Daejeon Station tomorrow and grab a few. I guess the City just decided that all foreigners should get maps in English (or none at all, that still awaits seeing) and will send them when they are ready?

Thursday, January 01, 2009