Thursday, February 26, 2009

Winnarz! (so far)

The place is bigger than I remembered, and I am apparently surrounded by unsecured wireless hubs!

Straight outta Daejeon

I hear a thousand drums
A million miles away…

… I get so excited
call me a fan that’s just what I am…

It is my last night as a resident of Daejon and I don’t feel a bit of regret at leaving. Not that it hasn’t been splendid, in fact it has.

There is some kind of saying that is, I think, associated with the quitters at AA. It speaks to the typical futility of the geographical move as an effort to make a change. It features rotating cities, but it goes something like, “If an asshole gets on a plane in Tucson, an asshole gets off in Beijing” (I internationalize it only because most of the AA folks I know are pretty solidly regionally oriented).

Of course I was an asshole when I got on the plane in SFO. I was an asshole when I landed in Incheon. I would be the last to argue that I’m not an asshole as I sit here typing this in the Pirate Bar.

Now though I am a slightly different (I hope improved) asshole. I still despair of humanity, hate that life is without meaning, and love the only kind of football that God cares for (That would be US football you pathetic third-world losers – I’m talking to you, Canada and the UK!). But I’ve had some fun, accomplished a few things, even got healthier (which will make my syncopial/infracted exit even more ironic). And, somehow, it had to do with, if not the move to Korea, the decision to get the heck out of Dodge.

So I’ll take that.

And Daejeon, with it’s quiet (somnolent) lifestyle and easily walkable distances had a lot to do with that. BPU was perfect as well – a non-challenging place filled with waegukin. As a newbie instructor, this was a perfect place to develop some instructional chops. It was also a good landing place for the OAF (despite her various traumas) and that was a bonus. Culture shock was fairly minor.

But now I don’t think there is much new for me to do in Daejeon or at BPU, and so it was time to move on. That I was lucky enough to know Koreans important enough to get me an entrĂ©e to BPU2 was a bonus that I attribute to

1) Lucking out and meeting BKF
2) My (so-far) robust liver (thanks Ma!)
3) The greasy-pole climbing nature of my monkeyness

Anyway, with several days of travel on KTX with a big-ass suitcase over, I’ve got pretty much all my stuff up in Seoul. I’ve also been beavering away on my classes, the creation of which has been a total blast. I have to remember that this is really the first time I’ve had a chance to put together three brand new classes that will work entirely to my own specifications. If I don’t remember that my thrill might have to do with the new experience, I’ll just settle back into my default position on faculty in the United States – that they are mad whiners who don’t understand what special jobs (in the prosaic sense of ease, pay and vacation) they have, or the special opportunity (in creative and educational senses) they have.

I suppose my PR gig was the envy of many people, and the pay was grand. Meat, meet poison, I guess.

But who cares about other people? They merely interfere with my plans for world domination. ;-)

Next step.. Seoul, brotha!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Building the courses…

So I have two courses that are quite intertwined in my mind, mainly because I ran them similarly at BPU’s “Nearly a Bizness Skool” (BPUNBS). This was a culture class and an auditory class. At BPUNBS, the students in these classes were entirely different and so I could run the classes with considerable overlap – in fact the visual media I used were almost always the same, with the focus being different (and the level of instruction being entirely different). BPU2 gave me two auditory classes initially, so I began with the pieces I had from BPU1. Then, I started understanding the third class I got from BPU2, which they called “British English Regional Studies” which turns out to be a class on culture.
I can’t guarantee that I won’t have students overlapping in these courses, as they are both in the Translation Division, so I can’t merely run the same videos. OTOH I do want to include as much cultural content in the auditory class as I can, because translators need this content. This means I don’t want to just run random videos in the Auditory class, just because they are in English. Consequently I’m sorting back through all of my videos to see which are the richest in cultural explanation.

In order to make the sorting between the classes easier, I had to come up with an outline for the culture class. This process has been fun, though it will necessitate my writing actual lectures for each class and then piecing together the media to back them up. In order to do this, I came up with a list of cultural representations/summations that apply to each country.

The fifteen weeks looks something like this (and if anyone has suggestions, I’m wide open to them):

1) General remarks about culture and myths; Demographics and a cultural overview of the UK and US

2) Rock and Roll (and a bit of its pre-history)

3) Cowboys and Shopkeepers

4) Manifest Destiny vs The White Man’s Burden

5) Economic systems – Capitalism vs. Semi-socialism (and of course, the explanation that neither system is what it claims to be)

6) Sports

7) Violence

8) Love

9) International Relations

10) Imperialism

11) Food and Drinks

12) Literature

13) Cars (Dodge vs Jaguar)

14) Religions

15) Political systems (Wit and Wisdom)

I hope I can get all my shit together before the classes come (and I’m still figuring out what to do in my communication and presentation class.. some debate, some speech, some powerpoint, I guess..)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Leaving Daze..

It continues to snow in big, gustly flurries, here in Daejeon. But I got up early-ish and headed to my BPU office to clean it out, and get everything off the computer. This task is slowed by the fact that my PC is painfully slow copying files, and I am snagging, among other things, all 45 episodes of Monty Python (Nerd!).

Got in at about 10 and it is now going on 2, with completion just coming in sight. When I leave this particular office, I will not be returning. Tonight I bring some things to the OAFs pad for safekeeping, and on Monday I begin my move up to Seoul (as well as some consultation on the horrifice 110 page editing job I just did) by bringing a suitcase full of books and printed out articles.

This afternoon I will also clear up whatever else I need to do with immigration. I understand all but two of the documents they are requesting, and I will have my friend M give immigration a call to get clarity on the other two.

This whole crazy plan might work out - I can get into my work office on the 25th, and pick up the key to my apartment on the 26th. Do some moving on the 27th and spend the next two days making sure I have all my ducks in a row for instruction.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Teh ague is almost gone and consequently I’m much more optimistic. I made it to the office today and got a new swipe-card to get in my apartment building. The lovely OAF, for some reason in her alien head, took my card to Busan and left it in a restaurant. So I’ve been getting in on the charity of friends or, worse, leaving the basement windows jimmied and crawling back through them. This was not much of a problem when I was sick, as I stayed in most of the time, but now that I’m recovering I wanted out.

Talked to the Brit-going-to-China and he regaled me with stories of talking (on the internet) Chinese girls out of their underpants and into sending him pictures. Rather classic tales, particularly from a man who is going to China to get married to another woman. Canadians may have pot-smoking and child-abuse down pat, but no one beats the English for promiscuity.

Semi-relatted, this evening I finally got the notion for my Brit-Am Culture class. It’s going to be based on shared generative myths, like manifest destiny in the US and the white mans’ burden in the UK, and I will use lecture and media (primarily videos and music) to tie the thing together. It may be a bit raggedy as I work it out, but it will be a thing of beauty by the time I’m through the first semester. It’s also an approach which will maximize the impact of my devious bullshittery and give me plenty of time to sit on my keister and watch movies.

So.. that makes the auditory and the culture class well into the bag. Now I have to figure out how to combine the speech and debate classes… it might not be too difficult.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I are Ubiquitous!

Some other time (I'm too lazy to find the post), I noted that if waegukin go to festivals in Korea, they run the risk of being immortalized in print. Now I see it is more.

Back from the States, I'm sitting with the OAF watching Arirang, which has mysteriously finally showed up on my cable now that I'm about to leave for Seoul. I am nearly unconscious from this ague I have, but even through the haze, I see a flash of something on the TV screen..

a brief glimpse of a tremendously handsome man; chiseled features, a noble brow, eyes that seem to penetrate the universe itself, his equanimity, grace, and wisdom pour through the screen.


It was me... Check out at about 45 seconds into this bad boy...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Back in Town.. Train trip down..

On the train to Daejeon, pushing 24 hours of wakeyness, listening to the mellow guitar/saxophone/bongo jam at the end of "Can't you hear me knocking" by the mighty Rolling Stones. It's the end of a highly entertaining and revealing (for me, that is) return to the old places.

Some guy like Santayana once said something like "memory is our own internal system of rumors" and I think I found this while reading a Stephen King novel on the way back to Korea. That might have been all of six hours ago. I picked the thickest motherfucking book at the airport bookstore and that was, of course Stephen King (nosing out the equally logghoreic Dean Koontz. In the same book, King has a character note that memory is also the playground on which we continually build and rebuild our personal myths. This may be true, but King seems to claim that this is self-panegyric in nature,

I have my doubts.

I took a lot of train trips, bus trips, public transport of all kind, and found that my Bay Area …meant that wherever I went I saw something that pulled me back into the good old days. Which largely consisted of memories of failures. Oddly, most of my unabashedly happy memories were triggered by the sight of places I had walked, either solo or with a partner (that partner being, in an overwhelming percentage of the cases, the OAF).

Caught you on TV last night, in a rerun soap You were young and beautiful, already without hope

This is, maybe, why I like Korea… not only does it hold few memories for me (and most of what it does are carefully cherry-picked successes), but it is also a country with no local nostalgia. Oh, sure, they love King Sejong for developing Hangul, and the turtle ships are revered (whatever they actually were), but anything within anyone’s lifetime?

Burn in down, tear it out, make it into highrises. Aside from a rather well-developed facility for nursing historical grudges, a fairly future-based society. And, happily, one in which I have no history.

In any case, other than the 10 lbs I’m sure I gained (turns out it was about 6), the trip home was splendid. I saw almost everyone I wanted to, attending to their rank, as Macbeth very nearly said.

Then he went mad.

Me? I'm going to sleep.

Friday, February 06, 2009

LOL.. I'm published in the Korea Times..

talking about that widget...

Amusingly, the Times never told me that I had been accepted, but I'll take it.

In celebration I am eating a chocolate chip cookie and having two fingers of Jim Beam (which will soon turn to a fist, and then probably a fisting).

Thursday, February 05, 2009

One up and one down for Korean Marketing

Over at the Marmot's Hole they are reporting that the Chosun Ilbo thinks a Hyundai advertisement during the Super Bowl "hurt American Pride." (That article would be in Korean)

Pretty unlikely, I think, as the US has managed a pretty good job of hurting its own pride, at lease with respect to the reputation of our automobiles, but it makes me wonder who in the hell would design an ad that might hurt the pride of the the the intended market?

Oh, yeah, Korean marketers.

Anyway, the ad was, for whatever reason, a total flop (Hello Korean marketers!) as it came in second to last in viewer response. Results here. And here is the advert (which seems more likely to insult Japanese and Germans than US folks):

On the other hand, I think the "return your car if you lose your job" campaign is brilliant. If nothing else, Hyundai gets to hold on to your money until (if) you do lose your job (there are some other bits of fine print that also help/protect Hyundai). And, lo and behold, Hyundai auto sales were UP 14% in January, one of only two car companies to achieve upness.

Now that is brilliant..

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Ugly is as ugly does....

Getting on BART was strangely.. well, spooky, and it took me a while to figure out why. Of course, as usual, I could understand the conversations around me, which were all stupid and petty. But it was also something else, and it took about 3 stops to figure it out.

I was surrounded by ugly people (Thank God I am so beautiful!).

Or rather I should say that I could recognize all one-million shades of ugliness that surrounded me. In the first six months of my time in Korea I became much more aware of differences in Korean faces. But my taxonomy is still pretty broad. It takes a pretty aggressively ugly Korean to impress me for just that reason. If a Korean doesn’t have oozing, bloody string-warts, or hydrocephalacy, then they look ok to me. But in the United States I have 5 decades of experience with noticing and describing all the little things that make someone ugly. So, bored on a train, what am I to do but to catalog this. ;-)

That’s one thing. The other is that in Korea I see a quite different slice of Americans, so my vision of what we look like has been skewed. For instance, there are very few truly old Americans in Korea. Because the vast majority of Miguk outside of Seoul are teachers or professors, they don’t include people over 60, and very few over 50. In fact, I think the demographic swings strongly towards the early-to-late 20s. This is, of course, when people a still good-looking, and have had enough time to figure out how to maximize their looks (before the long, hideous slide begins at about age 30).

Finally, Koreans spare no expense to make themselves look good. No Korean would ever dress as haphazardly as the average US citizen does. And I was taking a BART train through Berkeley, perhaps the epicenter of haphazard retard-dressing in the US (Dreadlocks, nose-rings, and burkhas? Dude, you’re a white guy from Orange County!).

Throw all these things together, and you get a difference (part in my head and part based in demos and behavior) in how people look.

OTOH? The weather here is great!