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 crap...it'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.