Thursday, April 30, 2009


Meaning my blogging..

it's been busy as I've had to catch up on all the marking that I had avoided in the first half of the semester. I've also been a very social critter with James, Gord and Scott visiting me at various points. Much blah-blah-blah about writing and just about an equal amount of drinking.

With midterms graded and returned, and next week featuring tuesday and friday off, I think I'm ok with the school thing. This weekend is a quick trip to Tokyo with the BLF (she will stay on two days after I do, for some kind of ceremony in which she gets a tattoo and has her little finger chopped off.

I'll google what that means later.

For now I have to figure out the minimum amount I can bring (including all my camera gear, since part of this trip is to take pictures for a photo-article I will be publishing next year) for a three-day, two-night trip.

see you on the flipside...

Friday, April 24, 2009


Some awesome things on the writing horizon at BPU2. The Mentor and I have a scheme for analysis that is both a mile wide and, so far as we can tell, previously untapped.

But, really, doesn't all that fade in the face of Rosemary Chicken with scallions and cherry tomatoes? With a Heineken on the side?

Clearly, that question was rhetorical!

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Had an interesting talk with the Chinese and Korean students in my conversation class. These are pretty articulate and pretty smart kids, and a couple of things they said quite suprised me.

First, ALL the Chinese students thought that not only should Korea unify, but that it would. Second, the Korean students were split. Half thought there would be re-unification and the other half thought there shouldn't be.

The short explanation of this is that the Chinese kids believe in re-unification as a general notion, and are clever enough to generalize it. When I said something like "WTF you OWN North Korea, why would you give it up?" they responded with "countries should be unified." And then made an exactly parallel argument about China and Taiwan.

The Korean students, on the other hand, were split between fuzzy racialists (we are all one) and people who were afraid that the economic failure of NK would mean a re-unification would economically destroy SK.

The Chinese students found this interesting, as they identified a similar problem as the main reason that Taiwan had steered away from re-unification with China. That is, they thought Taiwan's historical aversion to China had been economic, and now that China was a tiger, this problem had gone away. Some of the Korean students were politely sceptical that this was the ONLY fear Taiwan had about Chinese rule, but I was amazed at both the depth of thought (I heard some things I hadn't considered) and their willingness to try to express it in English.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


As I am sensitive to the requests of both of my regular readers ("Anonymous" and that other "Anonymous"), today I return to the mighty house-plant blogging endeavor. In fact, I have been so remiss in my plant blogging that I have failed to mention two new plants. The first is a Rosemary plant, one of two that the BLF and I picked up in Gwangju two weekends ago (the other is suffering a slow death in her dark apartment). This bad boy has already been trimmed for at least two chicken dinners. The second plant is some other kind of thing, which I picked up just down the street.

But that was then and this is now.

The first thing to note is that I did track down some potting soil. I memorized the word for soil and went into a little shop just up the street. It looked grim upon entry – the typical collection of lovely plants that were clearly rootbound in the little containers in which they sat. But using my piss-poor Korean and pointing, I got across to the woman what I was looking for. She moved a little screen aside, and lo and behold there were three bags of potting soil. I purchased one for 10 chun won and lugged it up to my apartment. I also asked the woman if she had any pots, but the ones she had were quite expensive clay ones.

Buoyed by my victory, I went back out onto the street to try to find some kind of ceramics store which might have something I could use for pots. No luck there, but the garbage gods did bless me with one medium-sized plastic bowl that had previously served to hold something greasy, with green flecks. I tried not to think about that as I tucked it into my backpack. I made it back to the apartment with this treasure in tow, and decided it was time for the heavy-drinking section of my day.

I stepped outside my door, took about 23 (it could have been 22) steps down the hill and, lo and behold(!), there next to some brand new garbage, was a big old black pot.

I beelined over to the thing and was ecstatic to see that it contained several more largish pots that would suit me just fine. This put off the heavy-drinking section of my day by several score minutes. I scooted back up to the pad and started dishing dirt (as I do) and pulling plants out of pots and re-potting them.

When I was done, my repotted collection was fantabulous. Also, I was coated in mud and dirt was scattered all over the floor.

Now I need to figure out where to place these plants, as well as get a few new ones. I want full-tropical up in this fugger. Full Tropical!!

When I get all that figured out, I'll be back with the most potted plant shots since Chris Hitchens went after Al Sharpton about atheism!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Artopia! Klimt in Seoul!

As we headed off to the Gustav Klimt exhibit at the Seoul Art Center, we made a terrible miscalculation. We ate at the waffle house near Noksapyeong station. After stuffing ourselves ill, neither of us wanted to head across the Han for the exhibit.

Still, Sunday in Korea does not bring tempting couch-potato fare such as the National Football League, and with little better to do, we headed off on the 6 and 3 lines, and were dumped off in some non-descript area of Seoul. The BLF (just now upgraded from OAF) immediately began freaking out that the “neighborhood map” that is a feature of each subway station, did not have the Hwarangan Museum on it. Being a bit taller than the nearly-subterranean BLF I could see the rather prominent street signs that pointed towards it. To be fair to the BLF, these were printed in rather large English, and that probably put her off track.

We walked (BLF suspiciously muttering all the time about how lost we were and how the “Koreans would slaughter us and eat our brains for anju") and as we did saw a cool overpass-slash-water-sculpture that, when we returned to, was alas off.

But we found the Klimt exhibit and bought our tickets. About 12 bucks each, US, for adults. The exhibit was a bit crowded, and had an unusually high percentage of people who didn’t really know how to queue and instead bumped around randomly and cut in front of things. In fact, in just about 1.3 years (cumulatively) in Korea, this was the first time I ever felt that expat complaint that Koreans paid no attention to who got some place first.

Oh well, it lightened up, and so did I. The exhibit was grand, particularly in the cases in which it had the planning sketches from pieces the Klimt painted. The first chamber, of course, was an obligatory attempt to tie Klimt’s art to Asian/Korean influences. It had some Asian paintings he had owned, as well as some Asian clothing. This was, I thought, good marketing, because it brought him home to the local issue.

Anyway, after that we wandered through the chambers and goggled. It was a bit dark in some places, in consideration of the age of the art I’m certain. But it was grand.

There were some great sketches leading to development of posters – in some ways Klimt prefigured computer typography and the Adobe Ilustrator program. Of course he also blew by those limited things in every conceivable way – his skill was that he could toss in those approaches, photo-realism, negative space, negative space defined by detritus, toss out brush strokes, and still end up with something mesmerizing. The room of pencil sketches of naked women was funny for more that one reason. Klimt drew some pretty graphic sketches of naked women, at least as graphic as you could get before the razor blade and Brazilian Wax. But no matter how obscene the picture (and at least two were graphic depictions of masturbating women), he gave them those great antisceptic “painterly” titles: “Reclining Nude #1 With Legs Parted.” Then there were the ajumma and ajeoshi, who had brought their kids to the exhibit to introduce the kids to culture. That was all good in the more tasteful rooms, but the haste with which kids where whisked through this room was epic.

And it had a totally cool “electronic poster/panel” section that showed various works that were not present, but gave context or meaning to pieces that were there. Another excellent panel combination compared works of Klimt to fashion that had trod the runaways in 2006/7. A really brilliant thing to see. This also contained digitized pictures of his friends and family, including a very spooky (we think) death mask of Klimt himself.

Then it was off to the “total artwork” section. Klimt and some of his fellow “secessionists” wanted art to extend beyond gilt frames and embrace entire environments. So they designed rooms and buildings that were entirely coordinated: A kind of proto-quieer-eye-for-the-straight-guy thing. The accompanying text related a (probably apocryphal) story of one of the “total art’ dudes opening a fashion line because people were walking into his “art” space in clothing that clashed.

A few final paintings, and we were out for the day, after I took a photo for the BLF’s brother (the bear one, obviously!). That was pretty funny in itself. Korean couples were running all over these rooms taking pictures, but they were using the art as a background. I took a shot of the bear shitting in the woods(?) and security was on me in a trice. Either you have to be taking a picture of a girl flashing two peace signs (in front of anything you want), or you need to be Korean. Outside of that. “No pictures please, sir!” LOLcatz..

BLF wanted to walk more, so we headed up the hill behind the museum and found a nice little Buddhist enclave which was gearing up for this weekend’s celebration of the man/god/extinguished. Thus there were lanterns hung everywhere. Here, we saw something amusing, this display which indicated what, if you took a particular trail, you could eat afterwards without fear of caloric impact.

Then it was down the hill backwards, to the plaza outside the Opera House. There was an Opera that night, so the sharply dressed intelligentsia were queuing up like sheeples from their glossy cars. In the plaza, there was a water-display timed to various snippets of opera. It was cool.

We wandered about for a bit, found a place that served semi-German beer, and chilled for the time it took to have two beers (me) and two cokes (BLF). Then it was off to the subway and our divergent trips home.

I think you should ALL fly over to Seoul and see this exhibit. I have a spare room with a bed, and the round trip is less than 1,000 US. You Americans lose at least that much each day on your plummeting stock market!

Heck, you get a view of Namsan Tower each night and at least one sam gyap sal dinner for free.

You parochial bastids won't come!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Unecessarily Graphic?

It isn't Just Fan Death that can kill you around these parts, mister!

I have to hat-tip the BKF for giving me a clue of this. We were walking to dinner during his visit (a time I already refer to, with just a hint of woe on my otherwise noble countenance, as "the good old days") and he started laughing. I asked why and he gestured back over his shoulder, "There's a sign back there that threatens to kill litterers."

In the interim I have learned the word for garbage, and so today as I walked past the store I could read some of that white sign scratched in the concrete. It says, "If you litter around here, I'll kill you!" (that is kind of translated from the literal)

New Words are -
걸리면 = When caught
버리다 = throw away
죽는다 = dies

and I think(?) that the verbs are all in the root form to make it simple for foreigners to understand? The BKF can clue me in on that, I'm sure.

UPDATE - The only other thing I can easily read there is the advert for cigarettes, not only because it is ubiquitous here, but always looks the same - white circle, red letters, blue background. Now THAT is marketing!

The Hills Are Alive....

Walking up the hill behind BPU2 to get to Namsan Park I first come across this little shrine, tucked between two horizontal trails across the hill. Around it you can see the kind of springing that is going on.

Those once ochre and dull-green hills have asploded with color - in fact much of the cherry-blossom color has already fallen off of the trees. As you walk through, the wind brings down gusts of blossoms, like velvet flakes of snow.

Finally, a close-up of the 무궁화 bushes reveals that they are finally starting to come back from their savage pruning. Good, since I think it will mean a second efflorescence on the hill.

I'm all for it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

How Simple Am I (Pavlov's Translations)?

The editing came through tonight. I was thoroughly excited to get the email and see the two attachments. My feeling was like a jackrabbit in that classic HST thing (for you slow ones, I'm the jackrabbit):

People who claim to know jackrabbits will tell you they are primarily motivated by Fear, Stupidity, and Craziness. But I have spent enough time in jackrabbit country to know that most of them lead pretty dull lives; they are bored with their daily routines: eat, fuck, sleep, hop around a bush now and then... No wonder some of them drift over the line into cheap thrills once in a while; there has to be a powerful adrenalin rush in crouching by the side of a road, waiting for the next set of headlights to come along, then streaking out of the bushes with split-second timing and making it across to the other side just inches in front of the speeding front tires."

And we all know how that kind of game ends. Road Hassenfeffer. Still, I was excited. And then thrilled when I saw it was actually an achievable edit, not 100 pages of total gibberish due tomorrow morning before I could even go to sleep tonight

Dear Imaginary Lord - do not take this thrill from me or I will take a fistful of Xanax and try to swim to Japan. I could be the first waeguk to make it!

Taking an assignment and "running" with it

The cute kids in my communications class do an advertisement. Just for BAX, I think they are calling the drink "Super Eight!"

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Enough Said

The Klimt exhibit in Korea (which OAF and I shall see next weekend) occasioned this quote from Teit Ritzau the Austrian art organizer in charge of the exhibition.
Private lenders from countries including America and Germany made the exhibition complete but it was difficult to convince them to contribute their collections,” he said.

“Korea had not much to offer them back.

But of course Korea does (eg Celadon and painting, often decorative ) have much to offer back.

Which no one knows the first thing about, due to Korea's failure to spread knowledge about Korean culture.

It's the same old problem.
Korea might never be China in the international imagination, but could it please step up and be Korea?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Two Bathrooms and a Heating Pad

The last two weekends have been spent out of Seoul. Last weekend in Gwangju, and this expiring weekend in Busan. These trips from Cosmopolitown have not been without incident. In Gwangju we met the L family, and the father is a traditional older Korean. This means, to my unrestrained joy, I get to drink a lot when we visit him.

While down in Gwangju, we stayed at a Love Motel/Yeogwan and these things are always kind of interesting. In this case the interest came late at night as our drinking session required me to use the bathroom. Yeogwan’s tend to have similar layouts (as illustrated in my MS-Paint quality graphic below), you walk into a very small entrance vestibule where you can take of your shoes. It normally has a door directly in front of you, which goes to the sleeping area, and a door to the left of you (sometimes right) that goes to the bathroom. Typically the light in the vestibule is movement activated, so when you pass through it, it snaps on.

This Yeogwan was no different, so when I walked through the vestibule, the light snapped on and illuminated the bathroom. I stepped in and peed, the light going off as I did so.

No big deal, I’ve learned to pee in the dark.

Upon conclusion, I dropped the toilet-seat back down, and pulled the handle to flush the toilet.

The handle, that is, to the bidet function.

So, instead of flushing the toilet, I got sprayed in the lower torso with a stream of warm bidet-water.

In my drunken state, I thought the toilet was taking its revenge by peeing back at me.

I dried myself off with a towel, identified the actual flushing mechanism, and staggered back to bed.

This weekend, it was the OAF’s turn to lose the war(s) with technology. Our ‘normal’ yeogwan in Busan was full, so we went to one around the corner. It was very nice, but I don’t think we will be allowed back.

The bed had an electric blanket and of course the OAF turned it on. The blanket is underneath the mattress pad (a sort of simulation of Ondol heating on a bed) and whatever lays upon it, gets very warm (again like Ondol heating). At about 2 am this morning, the OAF rolled over onto a spot that had been covered by a pillow or something. Like a frog, the slow heating of her body had not bothered her, but this was apparently different. I awoke (as I imagine our neighbors did), at about 3 in the morning , to the sound of the OAF hysterically screaming, “Hot! Hot! Hot! Hot!”

I hope anyone listening thought I was driving her mad with my skills in the Marital Arts, but I imagine that they thought more about criminal activity.

I pulled the plug on the blanket, and all was well until morning.

In the morning, I visited to my old nemesis, the yeogwan bathroom.

I suppose there is no delicate way to say this, but the OAF has a lower bowel in which it is still possible to believe Jimmy Hoffa’s corpse could be found. This has been a problem at several places we have lived, and apparently one of Jimmy’s arms had come loose in the night.

The toilet was clogged.

For those of you who haven’t lived in Korea, Koreans have a mystical belief (akin to their belief in fan death) that toilet paper is a very bad thing, and thus should be tossed out, once removed from the buttockal region, into a waste-basket. This is one of the reasons that some Korean toilets smell so… unusual.

The OAF has certainly re-inforced this belief in at least the one ajumma who runs this yeogwan in Busan (although the fact that the toilet paper was in fact still floating around was the initial evidence that the thing was clogged, and should expunge any rumor of guilt from attaching to it's papery name).

We snuck out early, partly to avoid the shame, and partly so that I could go to the bathroom.

This eventually led us to a bookstore in Busan that was far better than any I have found in Seoul…

But the train is approaching Seoul as I type, and maybe that needs to be a post for later.

"In the Depths"

A little something over at Morning Calm.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Eating the Air

As an earnest amateur scientist I am interested in measurements of all types.

As my attempt to comprehensively map Korean bra cup-size (in situ, so to speak) caused so much misunderstanding, I have moved on to other projects.

At least until my record is expunged.

However, in an email a few days ago, MSM asked what it meant when the Weather Channel says "hazy in Korea." This gave me my new taxonimization - haze.

Since it was only minimally hazy on that day, I snapped the lovely photo you see above (NOTE: The bizarre red UFO-thingies were placed there in post-prodution). The steeple (1) is probably a half mile away, the building under construction (2) is no more than a mile, and the mountain (3) is maybe 1.5 miles away. This represents my haze rubric and today, when I got up, I had a solid "level one" gone alert, as the second photo demonstrates.

The mountain, she is gone! And the second building is barely hanging in there.

So that's haze in Seoul. I think I need to buy more house-plants!


BKF and JAE just got in the car to go to Incheon Aiport and it makes me a saaaaaad panda!

Their stopover was grand (the OAF even grabbed a KTX on Wednesday after work and came up just for one night) but it just wasn't long enough and life will go back to boring with them and the Great Re-unifier (who ran around with all the happy rage that only a two-year old can have) gone.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A "lyric"(?) written on IM to the OAF on Occasion of an Insult to her by an Idiot

There is a subtle pulse to things
Precise time insists upon
A steady march of morons, dreams
The impulse to be gone

Also an interred counterpoint
Beating below the ground
Where we meet in unmortised space
But no soul can be found

There all scratching pecking fools
Are pecked and scratched upon
In eternal space, now so confined
Their happy malice gone.

Everything Goes the Way Of Grandparents

(Then Parents)
(Then you and me)

Just to Conclude Technology's "Fuck You" to Chuck

Today my miniDV camcorder stopped working.

Oh yeah, in class.

As I was filming my communication students.

So... the USB stick died. The Projector in my classroom died. My computer no longer can use its battery and resets to 1970 every time I shut it down. My digital camera needs cleaning.

And my farking camcorder died.


Monday, April 06, 2009

On the Amazing Ability of My Students


There is a strong narrative, both from Koreans and outsiders, that Korean education is broken.

Just, I would say, like education in every country is broken. ;-)

And Korea is far, far TOO oriented on passing the "test" rather than achieving knowledge. The problems of the system are well known.

Still, my kidz are monster little rockers. They are writing in a second language and doing really complicated thinking ("Interrogating" as the lit crit crew would say) cultural issues across races and countries. And the little weasels are sly! If I leave any .. any open space in an assignment, they will take that little crack, bust through it, and write to exactly the question they want to.

Then there are the two students who approached me about a grant (of course the 20-page proposal is due this Friday! Farking "Korean Time!") to go to Europe and study problematic areas of Korean literature translation. They approached me and their concept was so clever that I was rendered stupid.

Duh!, this was how to connect the Korean international marketing problem with literature. Literature is a strong vector of cultural contact and Korea simply does utilize this vector well, for a variety of complicated reasons, some of which these two super-geniuses have identified, and some bits I added in from a crassly marketing POV. And their proposal ties in to Korean obsession with Hallyu (also known as the "Korean Wave" and largely overestimated in Korea) and their bad translation approaches. Both things of which I was completely aware.

It is inspirational and humbling, to have these two kids walk into my office and lay on my table the approach that I hadn't thought to look for! I gave them the 30 minute lecture on research and surveys, and they went off to work. I'm certain I will be presenting, with these kids, at several conferences, and I can see a publication in the offing as well. I also hope they get their paid trip to Europe!

So, I dunno... I've only been at BPU2 for a bit over a month. And the uni cost me a million in fines by not getting me a contract. And the uni can't figure out my pay rate (on the first paycheck I got the bonus that Koreans get for lecturing in English!), so we're trading off electronic transfers of funds. And the uni does essentially no communication to Waegukin.

But the uni is a bunch of 50 year olds (alas, so am I!) and these kids are 20 year old hotshots.

They remind me of the expat Koreans I met in California, except when I talk to them they plan to stay in Korea, work for Korean companies, and use their English in a Korean context.

It's too small of a sample size for me to make any grand assumptions. So I'll just say; "I'm more than pleasantly surpised by how these kids think, and the things they think of."

Oh.. and this is only slightly affected by their good responses on my first informal assessment. ;-)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Woot - Upcoming Three Day Weekend

On of my little kiddies informs me that next Friday is "Hiking Day" and that all the students of the college are required to participate in a hike on Mt. Namsan.

Crusty old perfessers get the day off..

I'm heading me, to Busan!

Friday, April 03, 2009

OLDLOL catz...

My students are fucking brilliant....

so brilliant that I'm dragging myself off to sleep at 9:46 or so on a Friday..

This weekend is off to Gwangju with the OAF and BKF and JAE (and the great re-unifier!)

But I do plan to get back to posting about my students. They betray a common (and often realistic) notion about Korean students being test driven..... and that is all.

My kids... they raWkZ!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Woot! Hanguk beat Wae-Hanguk 1-0

But christ, watching the South Korean football team play is agonizing. They play brilliant "West Coast Offense" all the way down the pitch, then as soon as they get within scoring range they lose their minds, pass randomly, or just plain piss the ball away, and when they do take a shot they seem to subscribe to the "if we kick it directly at the goalie enough times, perhaps he'll get bored and let one through."

Crazy - they need a scoring coach.

North Korea seemed a worse team in general, but occasionally played long-ball and when they had scoring chances, their shots were wicked. On at least two chances, the South Korean goalie had to stand on his freaking head.

SK's winning goal was Beckham-esque though....

and came late enough that a fluke equalizer was unlikely.

Good game!