Sunday, May 31, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"War Across The Nation!"

That would be a brilliant song by the semi-punk band Chelsea. Who none of you boy-band fans have ever bought a record of. Chelsea are only slightly related to the fact that my sainted mother asks the following question:

perhaps you could address the feelings in SK about the current situation with NK and its threat (and I know they threaten often) to go to war with SK.

As I read reactions back “home” I am stunned by how stupid they sound over here ( I completely accept that I might sound as stupid over there). North Korea (NK from now on) may be a 'rogue nation" (whatever that might mean), but as far as anyone in this hemisphere can tell, they are neither suicidal nor stupid. The overseas misunderstandings seem to focus on two Myths

Myth One: NK is ready to nuke SK (or Japan, or the US) without hesitation
Answer: If NK had "no hesitation to nuke anyone" it would have happened long ago. This is their second test.. they have nukes and boats. That's all it would take.

Myth Two: Kim Jong IL (KJI from now on) is some kind of crazy man
Answer: Crazy like a fox. What leader in the world has turned less (no economic base, no real power, starving citizens, an army that can't win) into more international status? He's smarter than the last Bush (by some multiplicative factor) and as sneaky as The Hustler. NK is a nothing country, going nowhere, that still manages to lead bigger countries around by their noses.

They do this kind of thing to BUILD SUPPORT INTERNALLY by representing themselves as always under attack. In a way, NK is the classic Orwellian “1984” country, except that they’ve actually “always been at war with EastAsia (the US)” since “always” in Korea is judged as just past the last war, unless one needs to go back further in order to malign the Japanese.

There may be a third myth in here somewhere (like the horse in the pile of shit) about NK being “ready to revolt” but that’s a different issue

I think KJI still likes cigars and whiskey (this is a metaphor and a fact). If he attacks SK in any meaningful way the Chinese will kill his ass (thus removing tobacco and booze) before the rest of the world gets a chance to. There is also the fact that North Korea is very small and we know exactly where KJI and his friends in power live. Check out this very good article on how even Google can find the apparatchik of North Korea if you think they believe they are invulnerable.

The only, ONLY way NK goes for it is if KJI actually is insane and thinks he can get it done under the radar, by which I mean so quickly that no one can stop it before KJI his bad self is kilt.

I don’t believe either condition is true. To be fair, I live in Seoul, so I might have a betting interest in how this all turns out. ;-)

NK only has just two cards, and they can’t be laid down in the same game.

  • They can toast Seoul. That would be the last thing they did, of course, and I believe they know that.
  • China loves them as a buffer (but, you know, toast Seoul and that’s gone).

This is a pretty weak hand that KJI has played well. He has to bluster and bluff and the bigger reaction he gets from idiots in the United States (I’m looking at you neo-conservatives. WTF, you can’t have sex unless we’re about to go to war? Go back to your roots, grab the whiskey jar, beat the three-legged dog, and work on that car that will never run) the better he plays outside of the US. And the better he plays in NK itself.

And now his personal stakes are raised. Look at the pictures of him. He’s dying. He wants his stupid Juche revolution to continue. So he’s gonna beat the drums, rally the troops, and line up the future. It’s unlikely he’s pulling the trigger.

If the trigger does get pulled it will unfortunately be one of those retarded but inexorable processes in which one stupid little thing is followed by successively larger ones until the largest stupidity is accomplished.

Human stupidity, not insanity, is the biggest threat here. Cause when it comes to stupidity? We're exponential (existential?) that way!

Here in Seoul, I’ll still be as dead. But it will reassure me that it was due to human stupidity and some slowly built inertial suicide. This kind of end adheres to the rules of physics; I can accept it. What the fuck.. I'm old enough to die for any stupid reason.

Still, most people I know come from that Greek rational tradition. Then the enlightenment supposedly taught us to think.

This is the West’s moment to not get butthurt, to not react, to realize that NK wouldn’t be acting like this at all if their leadership had the slightest notion that they were winning and were going to stay in control.

When NK acts like this it is a sign of weakness, not a sign of strength. And every time, every US administration plays it the other way.

Pat Moynihan got murdered for coming up with the notion of benign neglect
. But guess what?

It's called for. Unbury that fat Irish fuck and put him in charge of all of this. Stat!

OTOH, I'd be interested to know if the NKCIA is as lame as the US CIA . If they are, who knows what stupidity they are feeding KJI? And what he might believe is actually possible. If KJI's "intelligence" guys are as retarded as the US ones have been in the last 10 years?

Fuck... I might still end up doing that futile dog-paddle one attempts in a lake of fire.


I have enough soju for tonight. And the bibimbap at the place the cabbies go?

It was fucking brilliant.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Unexpected Responses from Google

So.. I realize I have not set my goals for this year and, given my essential laziness, this will hold me back.

So I started to work on them today.

Been looking at translation sites..

Thinking about my teaching....

Looking at conferences..

And trying to plan losing the next 30 pounds. In that effort I googled something I had heard, that modern soju was made from ethanol based on a chemical mash, and sugar. I just wanted to see how bad for me this could be, as Korean men consume soju at an industrial rate, yet still seem to stay slender.

In my eternal search for wisdom, I googled "soju and sugar"

See that picture thingy there at the top, left?

It was the first(!) result.

It's a goddamned dildo!

This result didn't help me at all in my particular search, but I've ordered two for some friends who need a little release. ;-)

Oh yeah.. and one for me!

Stooopid Goooooogle!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Arbeit macht frei!

It looks like I might get some editing work from Ewha University. The last job I did for them was apparently good by their standards, and they sent me an email back asking if I would be willing to do more work.

Of course, I said yes. ;;-)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Team Building Weekend!

It started far too early – just after 6 am on a Saturday. Unless you are still grinding the surface off your teeth in a crank frenzy, this is a time to sleep. But the alarm clock comes without mercy, and so it did to me. I cleaned myself up as best I can, and grabbed a cab to the Uni. Got there a bit early, which was in fact spectacularly early, since the “departure time” had been calculated based on “Korean time” (which is something similar to “Mexican Time” if you live near the border). Everyone showed up, and we headed off just about 8:15.

I really could have used that extra hour of sleep, but made up for it the best I could by napping on the bus. Sleep was impossible after we stopped halfway through the trip and heard that ex-president Roh had killed himself, apparently on account of the corruption probe into his presidency and family.

We took a quick stop at a kind of shrine to a Korean Movie which showed North and South Korean troops living in peace in an imaginary semi-utopia.

We arrived in town and walked through the market, which was nice, but nothing really unusual for a Korean open market. Lunch was adventurous. Seundae (an intestine based sausage), So Mori kuk pap – which is Cow-head soup and rice, and some extra bits of cow head and liver (the only thing I didn’t touch, based on horrible memories from my childhood) and Makkeoli. Not a bad meal, if you forget what’s actually in the thing.

Then it was off to rafting. As we drove up the river, it looked pretty lame – flat and regular. But the rafting was quite fun – the river was very tame, tame enough so that the guides actually crashed us into things for fun. Two of the slenderer girls were on the verge of hypothermia by the end of the trip and the guide kept splashing them with water and pushing them into the river (this was part of the game), despite the fact he had given one of them a heat-blanket type thing, and had the other huddle in the bottom of the raft to get out of the wind. This didn’t make sense to me, but it must be one of those Yin versus Yang things that no occidental tourist can understand. It also began to rain on us, which added to the coldnessosity.

Then back to the bus and off to the hotel. Our lovely office planner snagged me a room with a bed – a giant room, for only 60k won, which I was happy to pay for the solitude and control of the TV!

Then a truly brilliant dinner. Fat-ass Sam Gyap Sal, real sausages, thick mushroom strips, bean soup, rice and beer and soju flowing like beer and soju. Lots of cool chatter with the students and the kind of public good feelings that Koreans are so splendid at. Some folks headed off to a casino after, but I retreated to my big fat Korean room and am watching TV and preparing to go to sleep early.

Word is we aren’t expected to leave until 10 tomorrow, so I also should get a bonus sleep-in type of thing.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Man, I love me some Bit-Torrent

Yeah.. I paid for the Ron Wood album when it came out.. but it is gone now... The intarwebs bring back a bit of prophecy:

Maybe I'm right
And you're wrong it doesn't matter
In the course of our lifetimes
You'll surely start running away
We'll wait and see about that

But if you don't stay with me, baby
Well, if you don't stay with me baby
I'll be right there in your mirror
When you get old
And we all get old


talk about lack of buyers' regret!

And Keef on lead!

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Second Wave

Namsan is changing, as it does.

The bright blossom colors from this day have gone away.

Still, the greenosity is epic.


compares to this (click ya genius!) in that apples and oranges way.

And the once gnarled Rose of Sharon (click here, ok?) now looks like this:

meaning the field of ochre that was this link.. is now this field of green

And the blossoms be coming baby, the blossoms be coming!

One more pretty time before the heat killlessez...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Perhaps Someday I Can Become a Super-Jenius?

The Economist is now reporting that living overseas can make you more creative (if that is the same thing as smart).

20 more years here and I'll be comfortably above average intellectually!

Monday, May 18, 2009

"Teacher's Day," Last..

Koreans have a day for everything. For instance, today was "finally old enough to be seduced day," a day on which Korea finally frees its innocent young maidens up to be preyed upon by Hagwon English Teachers.

Well, actually, it's "Coming of Age Day," but still.

Last Friday was "Teacher's Day" and that note over there on the left was the best of the three notes I got, as it was the least formal. I also got a decorative cup and saucer, a rose, a box full of bakery treats, and a cake.

The respect Korean students have for instructors (although the students are work-avoiding missiles, just as in any other country) is just another reason it is a good deal to work in a University here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


This started out rather lamely, but ended surprisingly well. Yvonne and I got up early and headed to Noksapyeong for coffee at the new coffee-shop that has inexplicably been placed inside the fare-gates. I swear, sometimes I wonder about the marketing guys here.

But the coffee was good (as it gets) and cheap, and the Noksapyeong subway station is an amazing thing. It is three stories high with a glass geodesic dome on the surface, and could easily handle 20 times the traffic it handles on an average day. You look at it and wonder what the designers were expecting when they built it.

My only theory is that it is right next to Yongsan Army base, which will go away in a couple of years. At that point Seoul will have an enormous chunk of empty property in downtown (northern) Seoul, and they may be planning something grand.

Anyway, we eventually headed off to the COEX and got to the fair. It was in two rooms, and the first room was rather uninspiring. Basically a bunch of kids books, and nothing that could fairly earn the title “international.”

The second room was better, with reps from Saudi Arabia, The Philippines, the US, Japan, etc.. Nothing that I was personally interested in, but undeniably international. Later, talking to a man who has had a booth at this convention for many years, I heard that the global economic splash had greatly reduced the number of North American and European booths. Surely something the organizers cannot be held accountable for except, perhaps, on Dave's ESL Cafe.

I quickly canvassed the entire place and was kind of unimpressed, but when I went back and spent more time (duh!) it turned out much better than I had initially judged. The Korean Literature Translation Institute was there, with many books I have read or own, and my one attempt to communicate with the woman running the booth was so traumatizing that she basically ran to hide.

Only to return in about 10 minutes with a raft of free stuff in English, which included 3 copies a seasonal magazine on translation, an annual (this is the first one) book of “new” Korean fiction and poetry translated by the KLTI, and a book listing ALL known translations of Korean fiction from 1980 to the present. The last thing will be very useful for my kiddies who are studying the penetration of Korean literature in the West, in Europe this summer. There is also an associated website.

On a more amusing note, the folks from Urantia were at the conference. I imagine they were downplaying, somewhat, their argument that people with blue-eyes are descended from the “smarter” planet of space aliens from which we all originated.

Some Dao-ists (a kind of splinter sect of them, to be exact) were there, and I spent some time talking to a Korean guy with amazingly perfect English. Obviously, he would like to convert me, but there also seems to be some slight chance that he will have editing work for me. As I had been researching religious structures in Asia for an upcoming photo-essay, I was able to gracefully drop into the conversation the question, “oh, there’s an important Daoist temple in Manila, isn’t there?” This surprised him and I got pulled into the booth for a one-on-one chat that I hope will lead to some work, or even just an introduction to the Daoists in the Philippines. He also gave me a bilingual copy of “The Cosmic Autumn Approaches” which is some kind of distillation of their essential doctrine of Millenial Daoism.

How those two thoughts are supposed to work together is unclear to me, but if I attend their workshop, I am sure they will lay it out for me.

Not quite as ironically amusing as the Cool Urantian Dressing mentioned above, but still funny, was the 'save the world' poster that was apparently begging the polar bears to go all Terry Schavio, dye their fur, or.. well do something to the planet that ends with "ave"



pave (no, wait, not likely with the hippie thing going on here)



oh... "save!"

The idea of the confused and mismanaged (and apparently doomed) whitey-bears was amusing to me, but I was frankly terrified by the little insert on the lower left (click on it an a bigger version will magically appear by the magic of the intarweb's magical magic) in which a bird has clearly pulled the thumb-tip off of its owner, and is consuming said delicacy whilst still perched on the owners immobile wrist.

The only way this could be possibly happen is if du Maurier/Hitchcock's ugly avian fantasy had come true and the owner was already deceased, eyeballs an appetizer for the hideous ruler-seagulls of the aerial future.

Yeah well, who cares about other people?

The point here is that the books and magazines I snatched up for free (beyond what I scored by obviously being white, both Yvonne and I looted the free magazines at the US Embassy exhibit) will go into filling that bookcase in my school office, so the kiddies think I am a legit instructor.

Back home to a chill night with Yvonne and a trip to see Star Trek this morning...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The End of Hi-Seoul

Being pretty busy, I contrived to miss most of Hi-Seoul, the annual festival of culture, but last weekend ADAM and I did take a spin around town to catch what events we could. I had Friday off, and he left Daejeon in the morning, so we headed towards Cheonggyecheon to see what we could see. It was "street performance day" at the stream, and so we were treated to a pretty amusing clown doing the kinds of things amusing clowns do.

As a teacher of English in Korea, I identified!

As an added bonus, ADAM is Mr. Photography and he knew of the fabled Canon dealership in Seoul. For a measly 10K chun they took the camera apart and cleaned both the sensor and the see-through apparatus. I had known the sensor was smudged - in close up pictures you could actually see the smudges on the digital output, but I had no idea how bad the eye-piece had become.

It was like looking through an entirely different camera, and a better one at that!

As you can see however, it did not succeed in making my photographs any better. ;-)

As we wandered down from Cheonggye and I took some snapshots of about the 100th "Changing of the Guard" ceremonies that I have snapped in my life, we also went by this kind of cool installation art in the sky. Later that night Adam looked it up on the wikipedia and it was revealed that the fabric was supposed to represent rivers.

We were just impressed by how it looked, and even more impressed at seeing such a grand expanse of green grass anywhere in Korea. Most fields are of spit-permeated dust, or covered in concrete or stone. What little grass is around, is usually pretty beaten and abused, but this was in good enough shape to lie directly on (after conciously excluding the whole "coated with spit" thought from your mind!).

Then it was home for dinner, Yvonne joining us, and some time spent over in Itaewon. Never my favorite place to go, but it was pretty fun.

The next day was back to Seoul and some cultural performances. I was still carrying the effed up card from Tokyo, so I really only had 256 safe MB to work with and was thus quite parsimonious about my snapping. Still, this pictured little girl was both intense and cute, and the medley of Beatles songs(!) played on traditional Korean stringed instruments (help me here BKF?) was soothing and kind of ridiculous sounding.

Finally, as we backed out of the shrine/temple park, we were amused to see the following piece of (I think) conceptual artwork. Someone has erected a scaffold around a brick building and is enclosing it in a facade of doors. Surprisingly, to me at least, it looked attractive and thoughtful.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dancing? Or Pron?

From the Busan Dance Festival (did I forget to say "International?") comes this picture of a man, clearly having more fun than a woman.

Just as it should be.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

If at first you don't decede? Die, die again!

It was only editorial restraint that stopped this stories' headline:

Man dies after attempting suicide 4 times in one day

from being

Loser finally loses



I mean, this kind of persistent striving for failure?

Dude should have joined the Republican party.. he could have run with Palin in 20012.

3 times...


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Book Reviewer....

Looks like I just got some page space in 10 Magazine as their hip new book reviewer. Three reviews a month, one of a translation, one of a book on Korea, and one of a best seller.


Monday, May 04, 2009


"On the occasion of every accident that befalls you, remember to turn to yourself and inquire what power you have for turning it to use."

Cheryl Miller

not just Reggie Miller's gay sister.. a brilliant writer
Hunter S. Thompson first proposed, in his seminal work of philosophy, “The Barrel Does Too Fit In My Mouth,” we are “A Generation of Swine.” Unfortunately, as though pigs had developed prehensile hooves, the swine have now come home to roost.

The threat of the Swine-flu has begun to drive Asia batty. Getting on the plane at Gimpo was difficult enough, but for entirely different reasons. As it turned out when I got there, I did not have a return-stamp on my visa. This is problematic and thankfully the nice woman at JAL looked at me and asked, “You do want to return to Korea?”

I made clear I did, and after some third-lingual (the exact opposite of trilingual) hijinks, we figured out that I could go to Japan and come back if I ran over to immigration and paid a bit of money. With that, I was through immigration and totally broke (in terms of won). No problem, as the fucked-up terminal I was in didn’t serve any alcohol.

Instead of drinking, I worked on my auditory classes for next week.

I’m sure that will pay off then, but for the moment it merely served to piss me off.

The flight was uneventful, except for my hatred and rage at the two Koreans who ordered wine and then had one sip, put the cap back on, and then eventually returned the nearly full bottle to the sky-waitress. Right under my twitching nose!

We landed, and I followed a remarkably aggressive halmoni down the aisle of the plane. A good move, because once we got into immigration, it was a clusterfuck. We had to fill out a form (basically, “have you had contact with any dirty beaners?”), but it was worded in obtuse ways that made it unclear when they were asking for your permanent information (that from where you lived) and when they were asking for your information in Tokyo.

This caused a massive bottleneck, but that was ok, since eventually each one of us had to stop and have a thermal-imaging done of our heads. Apparently this would reveal the hot-heads among us, and that would show if we had the porcine-plague or not. I was amazed that anyone passed this, as the queue for this thing was in a room that must have been near 28 degrees, and everyone was sweating and fanning themselves frantically.

As I watch BBC this morning, I guess the problem is spreading. China has suspended flights to Mexico and some poor… ahem … swine in Hong Kong are trapped in their hotel as one of them has turned up positive for the thing. I’m guessing that this whole thing will blow over, after all, the flu (of all kinds) kills thousands of people per year. Either that or the world will end in an internal flood of mucus.

But either way?

I’d hate to be working in the Mexican Tourist Organization right at this moment.

Got off the plane and navigated my way to the hotel, with only one moment of fear as the monorail I was traveling on shot by the Dai-Chi Hotel at least two stops before I got to my station.

I was worried, but trusted my map, and as it turned out, Dai-chi has a string of hotels in Tokyo, and this was just another one of them. Like Seoul, Tokyo has a public transit system that punks the Bay Area.

Got to the hotel shortly after midnight, checked in, and took a walk around.

Looks like no one drives in Tokyo, as the streets were swarming with schools of taxis. What taxis weren’t swarming were parked in lines at the curb. I was about done by 2am (and feeling that late hour this morning) and the cabs still sat out there, largely unused.

Today it is off to a Shinto shrine, to take photos for my upcoming photo essay in EAA and then back to Haneda to pick up Yvonne who, left to her own devices, would get off the plane and somehow navigate her way to the hotel behind the Hotel Rwanda.

You know, that one that didn’t turn out to be so safe?

Finally, I used every single Photoshop Skill I have to put together these two photos of Japanese beer cans. Like their Korean brethren, they make amusing claims – “This “koko & kire” taste cheers your mind” – but unlike Korean beers, they taste good and do not have dour color and design schemes.

Anyway, off to the day!

As it turned out, I headed to the synagogue first, but this was a bad go. The synagogue itself was being rebuilt and thus the Jewish community was housed in a nondescript compound loaned them by the local Catholic Community. A short talk later, with one of the groundskeepers, and I was headed of to the Meiji Shinto Shrine. On the way I got some pics of a church that was poured into a vertical section of the corner of one block. The shrine was also quite nice, and once I was done I headed off to the airport to see Yvonne. She got off the plane eventually, and as it turned out she had not been without difficulty, but worked through them. Her bank had picked this weekend to upgrade its computers, and the physical bank was closed for May Day (apparently this caught more than a few people by surprise). This meant that although Yvonne had been paid, she could not access her check! Fortunately, her director is fond of her, and they took her out to dinner and loaned her 700,000 won for the trip. When she got to the airport there were slight questions about her entry/exit stamp (just like the ones I had when I left) but finally immigration said that she could exit and re-enter, as she would have one day to spare.

So, a win. We came back to the hotel, and tried to wander off to some local gardens. I got up hopelessly lost, so instead we wandered through bits of Ginza, and then back to Shimbasi Station. Yvonne was quite insistent that we do something with the rest of the day, so we headed off to Ueno. Most of the temples were closed already, but the park was beautiful, and we walked all the way through it, marking in our minds the places we plan to visit today. Then it was back to Ginza and a truly delicious dinner featuring some tuna and scallop sashimi that were enormous pieces of fresh, nearly buttery tuna.

I hadn’t noticed this on the toilet/douche/butt-heaters in Korea, but as I looked at the toilet seat in the hotel, I longed for the good old days of the slit-trench squatter toilet from the good old days. No threat of ELECTROCUTION!!! with them.

Yvonne, who normally sleeps in til about noon on weekends, arose at 7:30 and ostentatiously pretended to try to allow me to sleep. Her efforts at ensuring my sleep included random switching on and off of every light in the hotel room, repeated emptying of the pockets of her zippered backpack, and a remarkable display of snorting and nose-blowing that would have beggared any swine-flu clinic in Mexico.

She is currently out hunting coffee, while I have a different kind of breakfast – a traditional glass of grapefruit juice, disguised as a beer. It is shockingly delicious. And as the picture here demonstrates, a lovely 6% alcohol.

Man, I love Asia!

The rest was a trip to Ueno. A beautiful park/zoo/museum site which is a day’s worth, or more, in and of itself. We wandered about and eventually split up as Yvonne wanted some museum time, and I still needed to get pics of religious sites. My endeavour was complicated by the fact that my new camera card is apparently flawed, and it conked out after about an hour of shooting. I had to run back to the three places I had taken photos, and retake them on my old 256 meg card. Once back at the hotel it seems that many of the photos on the bad card are still there, but it was a sketchy moment.

OTOH we saw two insane protests about Gawd knows what, both of which featured semi-armoured cars with painfully loud sound systems attached. As someone who observed several of the idiotic “Mad Cow” protests, I have to say that the Japanese protest volume is completely without equal. With that said, however, it seemed that the Japanese protesters were, at least, scared of their cops (who were dressed in very Samurai protective outfits), who didn’t seem to be a bunch of scared 22 year olds, like the local version. We also saw us some Japanese punks, were amazed at how well the Japanese drive (the cabbies are not homicidal!), and didn’t miss, AT ALL, the relentless spitting of Seoul.

Yvonne and I then went to a German restaurant by our hotel, and had some brilliant bread, some good sausage (a thing Korean restaurants just can’t seem to get right), and a pate that Yvonne snorkeled down at a rate that would have terrorized the livers of two dozen ducks. It was a nice goodbye for me, and I left all my metal money with Yvonne, who is no doubt using it to purchase gifts for all y’alls.

Or, used books.

I slept through my flight, the guy at customs was funny and friendly, and my T-money put me on the train to Itaewon.

A good trip all around.

Except for the pussy-whipped dude who just got on the train, and is sitting across from me as his girlfriend assiuously works at popping a zit on his cheek.

Dude! Sack up!

Friday, May 01, 2009

My Students WIN!


Just got news that the grant application for overseas scholarship (Germany and England) that I worked on, was funded!

This means that three of my students will travel to Europe this summer to do research on the penetration of Korean literature translation in Germany and England, and what the implications of that level of penetration are (i.e. associated impact). This will, of course, be a comparative study, with the Wae-Pirates as the rubric to judge by. Once it is completed, we will turn it into an academic paper and parade it around the Koreasphere for a year or so.

The only bad news is that I won't be funded to go to Europe, since I'm not a student. ;-)

Still, this is the kind of nifty thing that comes from moving to an academic university and I suppose it won't look bad on a resume or sound bad in an interview.

Now I need to get all packed for Tokyo.