Friday, February 27, 2009

Geoje-Karatsu Tunnel is a Winner for Korea: Part 1

The debate has raged for the past thirty years. Experts, nationalists and ordinary citizens on both sides of the Sea have offered supporting and dissenting research, projections, and opinions. Political posturing has overshadowed much of the debate as everyone imaginable has opined endlessly, questioning the feasibility of such a project. “Is it worth it?” “Will it be safe?” You name it, and it has been called into question. Well, it looks like those days are waning and, finally, plans are beginning to materialize and the question “Should Korea and Japan build a tunnel that links the two nations?” might just be answered.

In early January of this year, a research committee was tapped to start drawing up “specific construction plans” for the project. The proposed route would connect Geoje Island near Busan to Karatsu in northwestern Japan by an undersea tunnel (209km). It would be the longest undersea tunnel in the world and one of the most impressive engineering feats of the 21st century. (The Channel Tunnel is only 50km long)

For many Koreans though, the thought of such a connection invokes memories and emotions of a dark and violent past under Japanese colonial rule and under no circumstances would I ever suggest that those feelings are not justified. They are. This is understandably a very touchy and delicate issue which has clearly been reflected in its 30 years of rocky debate. I don't think comments like this are justified.

"...project's opponents say Korea would gain nothing from a tunnel, and it would only end up helping Japan advance into the continent. Choi Yeol, a professor of urban engineering at Pusan National University, said, "An undersea tunnel would add a Japan-size sphere of influence to the southeastern region of Korea. But Japan could extend its sphere to the Eurasian continent. That means the two countries would have disproportionate spheres of influence."
I do think, however, that bridging the two nations would not only set a course towards a more trustful relationship between the old foes, but would also diversify South Korea’s economy, ease trade costs, tourist industry and improve its image around the world.

Some say the project carries a 200 trillion won price tag and, considering the state of the economy right now, even discussing such plans smacks of irresponsibility. Others point out the absurdity of building an undersea tunnel in a hotbed of seismic activity is enough to scrap the entire plan. Both of those points are valid and will need to be addressed, but if the project is deemed feasible and safe, the benefits severely outweigh the drawbacks.

South Korea has tried tirelessly to push their current “Korean Sparkling” tourism campaign. Seoul is getting facelifts and feverishly vying for a larger share of the northeastern Asian tourist industry, but is still seeing very little fruit for their troubles. The industry in essentially centered around Seoul and, for many reasons, is simply not attracting a substantial amount of non-Asian tourists.

As of now, Korea is locked in a battle of trying to prove itself as a world tourist destination which is clearly demonstrated by the slew of sales angles presented in their promotional commercials (here, here and here). The tunnel could potentially provide some direction. If the tunnel is built, Korea will no longer have to focus its resources on introducing Korea to the world’s tourists. Instead, they can appeal to the tourists who are already Korea-bound.

As we know, Japan is a well-established tourist destination and by easing access from Japan to Korea, it unlocks a passageway for tourists in Japan (as well as Japanese citizens) to come to Korea with little hassle. Not only would the headache and cost of air travel be eliminated, the lure of riding on the largest and most modern undersea tunnel would certainly be enticing enough that many tourists would certainly include a few days in Korea on their itinerary. And with the arrival city in Korea being somewhere other than Seoul, more opportunities for Korea to establish itself as a multifaceted tourist destination will be opened. Cities like Busan and Daegu will experience booms as well as smaller “unknown” cities all around the peninsula.

A properly managed influx of tourists is certain to have long-lasting effects on the nation’s image. This is one of the best ways Korea could maximize its exposure. By having a steady flow of tourists from around the world, Korea will have the opportunity to impress upon them just how modern, exciting and even business-friendly Korea has become. Gone will be the days when Korea must make its case as a vacation spot to the rest of world. All corners of the nation will become lively destinations and hotspots and as more people discover all that Korea has to offer, the government will finally start spreading its resources more evenly among its cities. Universities will open or move campuses, business would relocate their headquarters and finally Korea would become a country with more than one city.

The possibilities are endless and the advantages that Korea will receive from such a project would create positive ripples that none of us can fully predict. The battle ahead is still long and there will be a lot of political mudslinging and banter along the way, but I sincerely believe that Korea and Japan will come to an agreement, and that that will be a victory for this nation.

To be continued...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Grandpa's Libido

That's right. Granpdas need love to and Jongmyo Park in downtown Seoul is the best place where you can witness old men trying to flirt.

The park has been considered a ``sound'' playground for retired senior citizens, but it has recently become a hotbed of the illicit sex trade between sex-hungry old men and prostitutes.

But who would sleep with such old men?
``They are prostitutes,'' said a cobbler working in front of the park. ``The number reaches its highest around 3 p.m. Among them are ethnic Koreans from China
I like how they said "among them". Does that mean "among" all the Korean hookers? Nice omission, Korean media.

You can hear Confucian-style cats calls like "I'm older than you!" or "Because I said so" resounding from the buildings around the park. And not only is this a haven for these aging sex-addicts, but they can also score drugs there as well.
A public restroom in the park was already bombarded with fliers promoting sex-related medicine. ``Cure-all for those suffering declining energy!'' a flier read.

Illegal drug sellers frequent the path encircling the park. A seller attracted customers, displaying the prescription-required erectile dysfunction medicine Viagra
What's the difference between a "seller" and a "dealer" you ask? Blood. Korean's are "sellers" and foreigners are "dealers". The word "dealer" sounds much more depraved and evil whereas "seller" sounds like a child selling lemonade. Regardless, they even offer the old shaman favorites...
Among the traders were those selling dried parts of reptiles including snake. ``I caught and dried these on my own. It's really helpful in boosting metabolism,'' one seller said, but refused to say what kinds of side effects it might cause.
They also had dried skink and anole.

Then the article turned its attention to "sex cruisers". In the United States, people tend to "cruise" at rest-stops, bathrooms and, yep, public parks. Of course, most of these cruisers tend to be gay, but since there are no gay people in Korea (except for this guy and these guys), old-men step up to the plate.

And it closes with...
``Sexual desire is a desire not only shared among young people but also old people. But our society is sill stuck in the obsolete Confucian-based perception that labels desire as an undesirable state, playing a major hurdle in setting a sound sexual culture for the aged,'' said Prof. Lim Choon-sik at Hannam University's social welfare department
So desire is the problem? I guess that's why there are love motels, "massage" parlors and call-girl fliers on every corner. There's just no "desire".

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Attendance Policy

I'm not a strict teacher, but do I teach adults and I expect them to act as such. If a student can not come to a class every now and then, I'll understand. Life gets in the way. My official policy is that in order to get credit for the course, you must attend 80% of my classes. I think that's pretty fair and most students have no problem with that.

One guy, however, does. He's the same "in-the-closest" student that I wrote about earlier. The thing that really bothers me about this guy is that he personally campaigned to get a specific class opened. He showed up everyday, all by himself, begging me to open a class for him. He even convinced a few friends to join the class. Once there were enough people in there to be able to have a meaningful discussion, I opened it. He showed up for three classes and I have not seen him again. I can safely say that he will not get credit for the class.

Now that students are heading back to school, most of my classes aren't full, but I can assure you that I will not open another class during winter/summer break just becuase some dude wants it.

Obama Hits It Out of the Park

Foreigners...with HIV...Gone Wild!!!

Hide your children! Lock the doors! Barracade your home because there are FOUR uncaged foreigners somewhere in Korea that have HIV!!! And guess what? They're coming for you!!!

The Suwon Immigration Office said Tuesday it had been tracing the whereabouts of four foreigners who have been tested human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive.

Late last year, the office obtained names of 12 foreigners diagnosed with HIV positive, which could develop into Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), from the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

And who are these scumbags trying to infect the innocent Korean public?
For instance, a 36-year-old Uzbekistan woman, diagnosed HIV positive in 2006, was recently caught in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, where she worked as a barmaid overstaying her visa. It has not yet been confirmed whether she had sexual relations with others during the period of time, according to police.
Of course, she did. She's a foreigner. And eventhough she looks a little old for her age...

...customers are lining up.

Korea tried to offer these renegades prison sentences or deportation health-checkups...

"But they failed to draw attention from foreigners mostly busy making money," a Gyeonggi government official said."
Typical foreigners.

So, what did we learn?

1) Korean's should be scared of most foreigners because even the government isn't sure who has AIDS.

2) Foreigners are sex-craved and hellbent on intentionally spreading diseases.

3) Foreigners don't care about their health so long as their making money.

Thanks Korea media.

Obama and "His" Helicopters

Another day and another failed posturing attempt by the waning GOP.

McCain, the Arizona Republican who was Obama's rival for the White House in last year's election, questioned the president about the cost of the new helicopter fleet on Monday.

"Your (proposed new) helicopter is now going to cost as much as Air Force One," the presidential airplane, McCain said. "I don't think that there's any more graphic demonstration of how good ideas … have cost taxpayers an enormous amount of money."
Of course, Barack Obama (who has cancelled the order) did not order those planes.
President Bush put in the order for new high-security presidential helicopters in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States
Epic failure.

Three-Year Universities in the US?

I don't like this idea at all.

At the American Council on Education's annual meeting earlier this month, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. and a former university president, pressed college presidents to offer three-year degrees. In Rhode Island, legislators are considering a bill that would create a standard set of college-level classes for high schools, so all students could have an opportunity to finish college in three years
And of course, a Tennessean is involved.

My biggest problem with this is it will give me one less reason to dislike Canadians (who only go for three years). That's a shame.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Post Apologizes...

...and Matt Drudge is a coward. How does he reveal Murdoch's apology?

Instead he focuses on Murdoch's prediction that the world is coming to an end because his party will soon become irrelevant isn't in control anymore.

X-Rated Film Released on Unsuspecting Koreans

It looks like "Shortbus" will get a shot at the Korean market afterall.

U.S. film "Shortbus," which had to go to the Supreme Court to fight the Korea Media Rating Board over a "restricted screening" rating, will go on general release next month. The KMRB said Thursday that "Shortbus" was rated R in a re-evaluation following the Supreme Court’s decision to throw out the "restricted screening" rating
The poor unsuspecting Korean population will get to witness the joys of "group sex and masturbation" in their very own theaters. But sadly, it will be Koreanized. Which...
"...covers up sexual scenes that are deemed grossly graphic."
Since many "adult" movies in Korea blur out a harmless ass, I'm not expecting too much except for a theater full of Korean's shouting "어떻게!" in unison.

Song of the Week: All in Time

This week's song is "All in Time" by Umphrey's Mcgee performed at The Vic Theater in Chicago on MLK Day.

Here's Part 1:

Here's Part 2:

Most of the kids that listen to them now have no idea about the old UM days. I started listening to the nearly 10 years ago when this was what they were doing. I remember in 2001, I wrote their manager over and over again trying to convince them to come to the Southeast to play. They were totally apphrehensive, but decided to make the trip anyways. It was a success and, for my troubles, they put me on the guest list for about two years and sent me bootlegs.

I remember one show when they came to Knoxville. Our group of people were there and we got to go backstage with them. We tried everything we could to stay back there as long as possible. It was sweet. We also have a friend who continued on to the after-party with them and asked the drummer (and founding member) "What would you do if UM failed?"

Less than a month later, he left the band. We tormented her for years about breaking up the band. She didn't of course and the new drummer is even better, but it was funny. I have too many great memories surrounded around these guys and will have many more in the future.

Anyone from home care to add anything?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Korean Students Love Marijuana

Not true, but flashy nonetheless.

It’s very foolish to do drugs in Korea. In fact, it's downright stupid. And if you gotta do it then at least wait until Korea is a memory. Between strict laws, witch-hunting Korean citizens and the risk of deportation, there is very little lure for the level-headed expats here. Still, some do it. For the average Korean citizen, the punishment is even worse both legally and socially.

In class this week, we're talking about drug laws, sentencing and a few other related topics, so today I started with a little open discussion about the perception of drugs in Korea, and marijuana was immediately brought up by one of the younger, “hipper” students. (Roboseyo has a funny little write up on his confusion with marijuana and the film “Marley and Me”.)

The student was speaking very openly about marijuana consumption in front of the class and even had to gall to ask me if I could assist him in his quest. I immediately told him to stop his inquisition, that that was not the aim of the discussion. I have no idea where one gets it anything in Korea, nor do I care to know. I don't want to deal with finger-pointing and he seemed to get the picture for about five minutes. But why was he so comfortable asking me in the first place?

When it comes to drugs, this man, like many of my students, has a very simplistic understanding of foreigners and foreign culture. Just as he was taught by mass culture, he believes most teachers are addicted to some sort of drug. The manner in which he was speaking to me resonated in stereotyped behavior and (outdated) drug-related colloquialisms. Having never been involved in any sort of Western counter-culture, he felt it was acceptable to ask for pot in front of an entire class while casually propositioning me to "travel to the US, get some marijuana and sell it to his friends in Hongdae". Why in the world would this guy ask such an outrageous thing in front of his peers? I was and still am baffled.

My theories:

1) He’s been indirectly exposed (not involved) to enough elements of Western counter-culture (probably television and film) that his curiosity now outweighs all of his naturally-honed Korean ability to fear all drugs.

2) He has such a warped idea of Western culture, from which he believes all of us to be involved with drugs and, since we are all addicted, it seemed acceptable to casually approach me in class as if he were simply asking for a higher grade. (Most likely)

3) He is a mole from one of these anti-foreigner groups and he’s trying to bait me.

4) Since he is the youngest student in the class (21), he is trying to play the role of the younger, rebellious youth that rejected society and blah blah blah…James Dean…blah.

5) He’s just a fucking idiot. (Also likely)

My guess? I think he’s a mixture of #2 and #5. Most Koreans think that all drugs are horrible and there is no difference between cocaine and marijuana. That view leads to alarmist reactions when they hear of drug use. Even an academic or legal discussion of drugs is not something I would recommend. But here’s this guy, trying to convince me that I would be rich if I smuggled dope in for his friends.

The other students in class were sheepishly smiling at his antics, but I’m certain that many of them were thinking that this guy is nuts and maybe a few of them were even considering calling the police. Alarmist yes, but this guy was asking for it.

I have since changed the topic for week to stupid Korean student's perception of what it means to be foreign.

Lesson one: Don't associate with douche bags.

Free Writing at the Dentist

Saturday 2pm

I just got to the dentist office with 고. I’m going to stay in the waiting room and kind of just write about nothing. It’ll be a fun free flowing exercise.

There’s something very unnerving about sitting in a dentist’s office waiting room. Everything is designed to calm me down. The soothing music; mellow lighting and earth tone furniture all are supposed to make me feel relaxed, but it just doesn’t work. I feel so exposed and vulnerable and that at any moment, I could be forced to the back and strapped into a chair for hours of pain. I just don't trust them.

I’ve had a difficult relationship with dentists. Aside from my cavity-addled, baseball season penchant for suicides, Big League Chew and Airheads as a kid, I always seem to be in need of some sort of dental work. For starters, I was born with a small mouth. You can’t tell by looking at me, but I actually only have 24 teeth.

I have had eight permanent teeth removed since I was nine. I remember the cracking sound when they were pulling them out. I was young, but that sound is still with me. I had a root canal when I was 15 and another when I was 21. I am in need of caps and fillings I’m sure, but just being in the office was a big step for me. I will get my teeth taken care of before moving back to the US though.


I’ve been here for an hour now. I’m not sure how long it takes to get wisdom teeth removed, but I think it’s a fairly simple procedure. Maybe they threw in a root canal on top of it. In fact, the root canal I had when I was 21 was just that. I went in for a filling, but after a few minutes into the procedure, I realized that something was different. By the time I managed to inquire, the root canal was over. It didn’t hurt really, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was the $250 difference. I went in there the day before for a checkup and he told me I needed a filling, so I went back in for that and ended up with a root canal. When I finally did ask why he switched it, he replied, “When I saw the entire tooth, I realized it needed a root canal.”That, by the way, is totally illegal.

Which leaves three possibilities: 1) He’s an awful dentist who can’t properly diagnose his patients, 2) He was being honest and that can happen or 3) He’s incredibly crafty and deceptive. And if he is the latter, then what’s his M.O.? Does he intentionally misdiagnose in order to lure people back in for cheaper procedures or does he just add stuff on to inflate the bill? This, of course, makes dentists no different than mechanics, lawyers and everyone else that can screw you over because their trade is so “specialized”.


Alright, it’s been an hour and a half now. There seems to be a lot of action in and around 고운’s room. I’m getting really bored and a little hungry, but I’ve waited this long so I don’t want to leave. I get good husband points by waiting here this whole time. If I leave, then it’ll all be in vain. They do have a coffee maker. Maybe I’ll get some... I did and I made a huge mistake. I got an Expresso with crème. I didn’t even know that existed. There has been a constant cycle of Kim Yu-na featured commercials on the television which only contributes to my frustrations. (The Party Pooper did a nice little write up on that here.)

We went to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button this morning. We usually go and see movies in the morning. It’s less crowded, quieter and, maybe the biggest reason, much cheaper. It’s like five bucks for two tickets. That’s a deal and since one of us always seems to finish work late, it’s the only time we can go.


She's done. She looks a little sore, but it was an easy procedure I think.

Flush and Toss in the Korea Times

Another week, another Korea Times opinion article...

It's about the Flush and Toss method that I wrote about here.

A Pot Friendly US? has a nice write-up about some recent polls which suggest that American's are "growing kinder to bud".

Check it out for yourself, but here's a little highlight.

That's a pretty high number. Talkleft also chimes in.

"North Korea has deployed new ballistic" -- Big Whoop

Let the speculation begin!

North Korea recently deployed a new type of medium-range ballistic missile capable of reaching northern Australia and the U.S. territory of Guam, South Korea's Defense Ministry said Monday.
Same old, same old, but I think the writer is wrong about this one:
South Korea is the most likely target of Scuds, which have a range of up to 310 miles (500 kilometers), while Japan is the likely focus for Nodongs. The North is believed to have more than 1,000 Nodong and Scud missiles in its arsenal.
Just because the South is the closest doesn't mean it's a target. For a regime whose soul purpose is survival, a cheap shot would seriously jepordize that mission, especially with the "Bulldozer" Lee Myung "Bulldozer" at the helm.

A Quick Drive Around Seoul

I was picking up 고 on the bike and decided to film it...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hallabong Juice

We were certainly on a movie kick this weekend. We saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button AND Marley and Me. Both were good, but I liked Marley and Me more. Besides the obvious reasons like my love for dogs, it was really quite touching. Last year, I had to say good-bye to two dogs. It was rough. Sadness aside, the point is that 고 and I had a lot of time down this weekend.

Today, we decided to make orange juice. 고's dad sent us a box of hallabongs last week and there was no way we were going to finish them all, so we decided to make hallabong juice. Our skills in the kitchen have yet to mature, but he still gave it a try.

First, we got online to figure out how to make orange juice.

  1. Begin by tightly squeezing oranges repeatedly to soften them.
  2. Wash thoroughly, cut into halves and remove seeds.
  3. Proceed to step 11 if using a juicer.
  4. Carefully cut circularly around the edge of an orange half, slightly separating the fruit and peel.
  5. Grip the orange half tightly and squeeze directly into a glass or serving pitcher.
  6. Continue squeezing and periodically rotating the orange in your hand until liquid is no longer produced.
  7. Scrape the orange with a spoon and add fruit directly to the juice for additional pulp.
  8. Put the juice through a strainer for less pulp.
  9. Repeat with the other orange halves.
  10. Serve and enjoy.
  11. Follow specific machine instructions on loading and juicing oranges if using a juicer.
BUT... we decided to scrap that and try it our own way.

First we rolled them.

Then we squeezed them.

And there we peeled them all the way and put them into this super old pot.

And then we dumped into our little blender.

Blended them up a bit.

There was tons of pulp because we opted for the blend method. So, 고s doing a little straining.

Finished product.

Some extra pulp for me. And yes, I pull my hair back with my sunglasses while at home.

The juice tastes pretty good although it's pulpy as hell. Don't get me wrong, I know that this was very simple and a total waste of time to read/write, but I figured it was a good excuse to throw some pictures up.
And don't make juice this way either.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

ESL Email Scams

I received two emails recently and both of them are clearly scams. The first one is really obvious, but the second one is a little trickier and, honestly, I'm not sure what the scam is just yet. Plus, I'm on nurse-detail today because of 고's wisdom tooth removal and I figured I'd waste some time.

The obvious one first:

How are you doing today? I am sorry i didn't inform you about my traveling to Africa for a program called "Empowering Youth to Fight Racism, HIV/AIDS, Poverty and Lack of Education, the program is taking place in three major countries in Africa which is NIGER , South Africa and Ghana . It as been a very sad and bad moment for me, the present condition that i found myself is very hard for me to explain. I am really stranded in Ghana because I forgot my little bag in the Taxi where my money, passport, documents and other valuable things were kept on my way to the Hotel am staying, I am facing a hard time here because i have no money on me. I am now owning a hotel bill of $ 550 and they wanted me to pay the bill soon else they will have to seize my bag and hand me over to the Hotel Management, I need this help from you urgently to help me back home, I need you to help me with the hotel bill and i will also need $1050 to feed and help myself back home so please can you help me with a sum of $1600 to sort out my problems here? I need this help so much and on time because i am in a terrible and tight situation here, I don't even have money to feed myself for a day which means i had been starving so please understand how urgent i need your help.i have decided not tell my family so that they will not be worried.when I return I will tell them and they will understand.

I am sending you this e-mail from the city Library and I only have 1.30min, I will appreciate what so ever you can afford to send me for now and I promise to pay back your money as soon as i return home.You need to transfer the money through Money Gram or Western Union to the address below.Pls reply back to my alternate email address at Becouse gmail service is very bad here in Africa. Hope to hear from you soon.

Name : Jiyeon Kim
Country : Ghana
City : Accra
Zip Code : 00233
West Africa

I know that you can do that and i wish you a nice day hope to get back to me as you done with payment so that i can go and get the money save. You are my hope

God Bless You
Jiyeon Kim

So, it starts out by suggesting that we know each other somehow and that she had accidentally forgotten to tell me about her trip. She mentions "Empowering Youth to Fight Racism, HIV/AIDS, Poverty and Lack of Education" as well. Even though the name of the organization sounds pretty real (and suspiciously encompassing), I googled it to see if it was even legit and the only results were warnings about the scam and copies of the same email that I received. A scam's a scam, but I was shocked by how bad this one was.

The letter claims that "she" lost her "little bag" in the taxi, which of course happened to have everything of value in it. The problem with that is how did she pay for the cab? Did she give the driver the cash and then --somehow-- accidentally drop the bag back into the cab? It's not a wallet that can slip out. It's a bag.

Then she moves on to her hotel bill. She owes over 500 US dollars. I'm not sure what a three-month volunteer is doing staying in a hotel, but even so, the punishment for not paying is bag seizure (which doesn't have anything of value in it because she already lost that in the cab) and --my favorite part-- being "handed over to Hotel Management". I don't know a lot about the interrogation methods of Hotel Management, but I imagine it's not much worse than this:

If you're really bold, then watch this one or this one instead. (I wouldn't though. They're rough.) She goes on to ask for an additional 1,000 big ones for her flight home which is presumably Korea. Well, planes from Accara, Ghana don't fly to Seoul, so Tokyo is the closest stop and how much does that cost? Try over four grand. It's not a winner at all.

The next one, however, is much tougher to figure out because it's not asking for money. Instead, it's offering a job teaching English in the UK. I've recieved several of these emails.


Greetings of the day, me is Mr. Jerry married to Anthonia, we are both from France but have just relocated to Uk here in Belfast for three weeks now,because this place is an anglaise speaking /parlon country,i need a private teacher to come and teach me,my wife,my two kids who are Mark and Victoria how to speak and write English language, i want to build a hospital here and also reside here with my family. i will be needing you to come and work for me just for a period of oner year. will had to gave you 7500GBP on every month, a two bedroom apartment, flight tickets and other benefits.send me you pics/cover letter/resume/transcripts you can call me through +447024043001.

take care
waiting for your response
Dr Jerry.

His background story seems plausible, as does his reasoning for needing a teacher. But a few things don't pass the smell test.

Names: Jerry isn't really a French name and neither are Mark and Victoria. He also identifies himself as both "Mr." and "Dr." which is a little suspect as well. Most Phd's or MD's don't switch back and forth between the two.

Location: Why would he need/pay a teacher from Korea to move to Belfast to teach his entire family? There are tons of language instructors in England. Perhaps was looking online and stumbled upon my name on an ESL job site, and was inquiring to all the teachers he found. Maybe, but again, why not look locally?

Grammar: The grammar errors in there are not common for French to English translation. It looks like someone is intentionally trying to make mistakes.

Pay: Why would he offer such great pay PLUS housing? 7,500 GBP equals 10,747.53 USD. That's ridiculous. I would be making a ton of money, living in England and not having to pay for housing. That's way too good of a deal.

What's the catch? Well, the only thing I find that is somewhat odd is this line: "send me you pics/cover letter/resume/transcripts". Most likely, he found my email on an ESL job site, so that means he also has my pic/cover letter and resume. That just leaves my transcripts, but what can be gained from someone else's transcripts? Personal academic information? I guess he could doctor them or circumvent local laws by suckering people who are located in Korea, but I'm really not sure. My only guess is that maybe he can get originals from a lot of different schools and expand his fake transcript business.

Bottom line is that you should always take your information off of those job sites once you have secured a position. Most of these scams are clearly scams, but others look like great opportunities. Be smart and if something is too good to be true, that usually means it is.

Wisdom Tooth Removal...again

Two years ago, 고 got her two bottom wisdom teeth removed. And if you recall that, then you'll also remember that it was a very painful and long ordeal. Her cheeks swelled, her wounds got infected and there was even discussion that she might not be able to go with me on vacation to America. Luckily, she healed in time, but the memory lingers.

Well, today it's all coming back as she must return to get her top two taken out. We've got the ice packs, salt and luke warm water ready, but you never know. I imagine she'll be sleeping all day and I'll be putzing around on here.

Wish her luck...

Defected North Korean Artist

Here's an interesting read.

Sun Mu, who was trained to create posters and murals for the Communist government, is the first defector from the North to have won fame as a painter in the South by applying that same propagandistic style to biting parodies of the North Korean regime.
I would like to see the one described in this passage.

Sun Mu’s paintings have also depicted his own fearful journey across the river border into China in 1998, and the plight of a shackled North Korean defector who was repatriated to North Korea from the same Laotian prison where he himself was detained before proceeding on to Thailand and eventually to South Korea.
But he seems to be focusing on one of his others series'.

So far, however, his signature work has been the “Happy Children” series, with its relentlessly smiling North Korean youngsters. The smile has been variously interpreted by commentators as grotesque, a joke on the collectivism of North Korea, or a mask to hide the helplessness many North Koreans feel.
Here are a few of my favorites...

I especially like the baby drinking the unknown red liquid. It's titled "What are the feeding me? I think that one expresses his experiences in the North the best.

As he says, “They teach you how to smile that regimented smile — there’s a certain way to shape your mouth,” he said. “We children thought we were happy. We didn’t realize that our smile was fabricated and manufactured.”

Friday, February 20, 2009

Flush or Toss: Korea’s Challenge with Toilet Paper

It only takes a few weeks to realize that Koreans are very proud of the rapid development their nation underwent soon after the Korean War finally subsided. While walking around Seoul, it’s sometimes hard to imagine the carnage and violence that once engulfed the now bustling megalopolis. Each decade of the past sixty years has ushered in new waves of social, structural and technological modernity and Seoul, the city that I have now called home for three years, is undoubtedly destined to reach a newer and “greener” pinnacle in the near future. Current economic woes aside, there is nothing impeding further and grander development. That is, except for one thing.

This one thing is the only obstacle that must be overcome before any more apartments can be built, canals constructed or sidewalks repaired: Korean’s have got to stop putting soiled toilet paper in the trashcan. You see it everywhere. You could be in the finest restaurant in the ritziest part of town eating the most expensive Beluga caviar with a pearl spoon, but once you close that stall door behind you, the fine food, drinks and atmosphere quickly fade as you are faced with a bin full of filthy, used toilet paper. It immediately transforms an enjoyable dining (and bathroom) experience into one that is either rushed or outright unhealthy.

Like so many aging generations around the world, older Koreans have many “when I was your age” moments which are usually followed by a lighthearted chuckle or possibly, a sheepish smile. But if Korean bathrooms are the topic, this classic and usually playful expression is not fitting. Korean’s of all ages join in on the wipe and toss method without giving it a second thought. Why would they question it? That’s what their parents and grandparents did. That’s what they see in the bathrooms in schools, malls and public buildings. Those who use the wipe and toss method might not see anything particularly unclean about it. To others, however, there is.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually one of the first to stick up for the quirks of this nation, but sometimes the strength (or weakness) of my stomach overrides my loyalties. I’m surprised this practice didn’t disappear long ago and I honestly can’t think of a single plausible reason as to why the wipe and toss method is STILL used. Sure, Korea developed at a breakneck pace and there could be a few cultural hold-overs, but that isn’t an excuse. That pace allowed for contemporary infrastructure to develop. It allowed for the modernization of nearly every public work and plumbing was not left behind. In fact, Seoul is a member of the World Plumbing Council and even hosted the newly elected executive board which and I quote, “has worked closely together for the past six years on matters pertaining to education and training and the role plumbing plays in protecting the health and safety of people all over the world”.

From what I can gather, phase one is complete. Seoul has overcome most of their structural issues regarding plumbing. I’m not going to deny that thousands of buildings and homes scattered around the city might not be equipped with modern plumbing that can handle heavy loads, but it seems like that’s becoming less and less of an issue. The solution lies in the crumbled (or folded) tissue-filled hands of our gracious Korean hosts.

A few days ago in class, I was discussing the complexities of rapid modernization in Korea and the difficulties that some facets of Korean society experienced during that transformation. The conversation ventured into the world of tangible versus non-tangible culture and I asked if anyone (perhaps begging for the discussion) could think of any habits that existed today which seem “old-fashioned”. Low and behold, a brave student called the wipe and toss method into question. I immediately prodded the class in hopes of discovering who --if anybody-- used this method. Out of nineteen students, not one of them raised their hands. Either none of them were guilty or they realized that it’s a bit unsanitary.

The advances that this nation has made in the past sixty years are something that no one can deny. I have witnessed Korea change a lot in the short time in which I have been here and I am always thrilled to be a cheerleader when I see it worthy, but the wipe and toss has simply got to go. That, my friends, is the one of the few snags left that Korea has yet to tackle. And judging by their record, I’d only give it a few years until they overcome that as well. The next step is stocking the bathrooms with enough toilet paper that will last more than two hours.

Sharks and the Economy

There's always a silver lining.

Shark attacks on humans were at the lowest levels in half a decade last year, and a Florida researcher says hard economic times may be to blame.
When the economy improves, shark attack numbers are likely to go up again, according to Burgess, predicting the number of attacks in the next decade will surpass those of the past 10 years.
So, I can only assume that this shark expert/economist believes that the economy will improve as shark attacks increase. Following that logic (loosely), it's safe to say that my wife and I will be moving to Gansbaai, South Africa next year since that is the shark attack capital of the world.

Clinton to be named "Han Hi-sook"

Why Han Hi-sook?

The surname “Han,” meaning Korea, is derived from the Korean pronunciation of the letter “H” in the name “Hillary.” With the conferment of the surname, Clinton will become the founder of the “Sejong Han” family. Secretary Clinton is the first “Han” from “Sejong-ro” or Sejong Street, the main street in central Seoul where the U.S. Embassy is located.

How stupid.
The name “Hi-sook” is a combination of two separate Chinese characters. “Hi” stands for “Shining,” while “Sook” is for “Clear.” “We believe that these are the attributes that have led to the appointment of Hillary Clinton as the 67th U.S. Secretary of State. Her clear vision and political insight will make important contributions in setting the stage for peace on the Korean Peninsula,” added Suh.

What the hell are these guys talking about? It's just an excuse to give her a Korean name. Nothing more. Stop fluffing.

I'm not surpirsed though. Of course she would get her very own Korean name. I'm just waiting for her to make kimchi in a hanbok in Insadong while eating ddeok bokki with chopsticks, which of course, will be so "spicy".

Where do shipping containers go to die?

Right next door.

Welcome home! On the bright side, you could make a super-cool fort out of them.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chimp Attacks Woman

This is one of the weirder ones I've read recently. You've got to listen to the 911 tape. WARNING: The caller has the scariest voice ever.

I did seem to take a little while for the police to arrive.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

McDonald's Opening 500 Stores in China

That's gonna be lot of McPuff's and Mala Pork burgers for the Chinese.

I'm still waiting for Wendy's to come back to Seoul, but this guy keeps telling me otherwise.

I'm Closing My Facebook Account

What?? How could I do such a thing? That's a question that we all have to deal with at some point in our lives. When is a good and appropriate time to close your Facebook account? Isn't the site just for young people after all?


Can you keep it open forever using it to stay in close contact with all of the people you have met over the years? Just yesterday, my Uncle got a Facebook message from one of his students from his teaching days at Clemson. They hadn't communicated in over twenty years. They were both thrilled to catch up.

Honestly, it seems like it would be more convenient to keep it open. Personally, I find sending email updates troubling and somewhat burdensome for everyone involved and calling is totally out of the question.

However, with the news that Facebook can now use personal information in any capacity they choose even after your account has been closed is more than a little concerning and has made me reconsider.

"Facebook's new terms of service say that it owns--or at least shares--your uploaded content. Your photos from a company retreat could show up in a Facebook ad. Or Facebook could sublicense the rights to your company jingle in a video. Does Facebook want to use your content like this? It doesn't matter--the company says it can."

Of course, Facebook has their terms available for all of its users to see, but I know that I had not read them in detail and I doubt many other people have either. The lure of unlimited picture uploads and instant contact with friends from all over the world easily distracts the new user. I've been a member since the end of 2004 and before today, had not read the terms in their entirety.(You can read them here if you want.)
Technically, the terms say that by joining and uploading, "you grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute..." your content. Facbook also specifies it can "use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising... ."
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg is trying to tell everyone to "call down" and even released this quick memo on Facebook this afternoon.

Just in case you can't see that, it says:

Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.

If you want to share your thoughts on what should be in the new terms, check out our group Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

I'm curious how they will "resolve this issue". I wonder if users will start to think twice when posting sensitive information on your profile. I'd like to think that maybe people have started realizing that they might be revealing a bit too much about themselves without any thought about how Facebook, a future boss, or the government might use that information.

The problem for some people is that they have profiles on other social networking sites. Should they be even more concerned?
MySpace's terms of use agreement grants the company the license to use your non-private content only within MySpace-related services. Moreover--and perhaps more important--MySpace notes that once you delete something from its site, it "will cease distribution as soon as practicable, and at such time when distribution ceases, the license will terminate.

With Twitter, the company's terms of service state it "claim[s] no intellectual property rights over the material you provide" and that "you can remove your profile at any time by deleting your account.

Even YouTube, owned by privacy advocate punching bag Google, limits its license to use your content at will. The license will "terminate within a commercially reasonable time after you remove or delete your user videos," the service's terms of service say.

Everybody will make their own decision, but right now, I'm in the process of saving all of my pictures uploaded onto Facebook onto an external hard drive (which will take about 12 hours)and after that, I'm probably going to close it down or at least totally minimize my profile.

I do foresee these types of sites becoming an issue for people in the future and I'd like to stay away from that while I still can, but it's a tougher decision than one might think. I had a friend who closed his account and I immediately started wondering what his reasoning was. Was it a personal problem? Was he getting a job and wanted to play it safe? I had no idea. In reality, I think he was just tired of the service and had had enough, but for some reason, I couldn't accept that.

So, now I am at that cross-roads and totally torn. I am certainly concerned about my privacy, but am also worried that I'll be in contact with friends back home even less.

There is never an easy answer to the tough questions. Stupid Facebook.

(And yes I see the irony that my Facebook imports my posts, so some of you will be reading this on there.)

Drudge and "Obama's Swedish Model"

Oh, how I love Matt Drudge's ability to "scare" people with his creative banners. Today he really tried by showing everyone this.

He's trying his best to become the Kos, Marshall or Huffington of the Right, but when you're appealing to the loons of the minority, then it just makes you look silly. Especially when the linked article title reads:

"Bank nationalisation gains ground with Republicans"

And the story goes like this.

Long regarded in the US as a folly of Europeans, nationalisation is gaining rapid acceptance among Washington opinion-formers – and not just with Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve chairman. Perhaps stranger still, many of those talking about nationalising banks are Republicans. Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator for South Carolina, says that many of his colleagues, including John McCain, the defeated presidential candidate, agree with his view that nationalisation of some banks should be “on the table”.

So, some of the most vocal critics of Obama's supposed socialist leanings are back stepping and appear to be dropping their campaign slogans.

You should not get caught up on a word [nationalisation],” he told the Financial Times in an interview. “I would argue that we cannot be ideologically a little bit pregnant. It doesn’t matter what you call it, but we can’t keep on funding these zombie banks [without gaining public control]. That’s what the Japanese did.

Can't get caught up on a word, huh? Right. These guys are the ones who have been elected on only words for years (abortion, gay marriage, morals, terror, Jesus, gay, guns etc...)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gray Hair

I guess it was only a matter of time until I found one. This morning, while inspecting my slowly growing beard, I discovered a gray hair. In fact, I noticed four white ones springing from my chin and cheek. I'm a little upset really because this is my first attempt at the beard and now it's marred by the appearance of these hairs. Only a few weeks ago I was making fun of my 31 year old friend who has a few gray ones in his beard and I'm even younger.

It's not that big of a deal, but I wonder how many are hiding in my light-brown (and in some light ginger-ish) hair. My mom is in her mid-fifties and still has the luxury of hiding a few in her locks. I guess I'd have to blame my dad. He started graying at thirty and now has a totally gray beard with salt and pepper hair.

We'll see what happens, but I'm going to keep it though. It'll be another thing for Koreans to look at.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gangnam Cross-walk Dangers

I’ve witnessed three people get hit by some form of transportation at an intersection near my house. I saw one girl get nailed by a bus and fly about five feet before going into shock while people walked around her trying to avoid the situation. I've also seen two men get hit by cars. One of them was seriously hurt and I honestly don't know if he recovered. They’ve all taken place at the main crosswalk near Gangnam Station which also happens to be on one of the busier streets in Seoul for both vehicles and pedestrians. Both my wife and I have to cross there several times a day and I, too, have gotten close to being hit there as well. The whole intersection is a potential deathtrap.

This is the basic layout of the crosswalk.

First, you’ll notice that the cross-walk is split into two parts with one side being much longer than the other. This becomes important when considering peoples’ perception that they can cross the entire road at once. I’ve seen so many people make it across the small section before trotting out onto the big one only to get caught in the middle by honking cars, threatening buses and impatient bikes. The same goes for crossing in the opposite direction. They cross the long one first and assume the short one will only take a second. Well, Korean drivers don’t have a second. They’ve already started running the light.

The middle section is the bus stop and, in my opinion, causes the most accidents.

As you can see, the buses are stopping on the opposite side of the road because of the door location. When people exit these buses, it’s normal to assume that traffic on that side would be going in the same direction as the bus that you just exited was. Even if they have gotten off at that stop everyday for a year, the sensation doesn’t change. Just look at that guy behind the bus in the front. He's asking for it. That's where I saw the girl get hit.

Apparently, officials have become aware of this danger zone and they have started to make a few adjustments. They added a timer at the cross-walk and a few more crossing guards for the evening rush.

The problem is the Korean approach to driving and life. Korean’s love to use the term “빨리, 빨리" (quickly, hurry, etc...) The peninsula is full of people who live by this. I’ll address this issue in detail in an upcoming post, but for the intent of this one, let’s just say that Korean drivers will do anything to get to their destination faster. Those of who live here see it all the time. They’re running lights, driving on sidewalks, pushing people in the subways, anything to get somewhere faster. (Oddly, I happen to think that a lot of Koreans are usually late and unproductive.)

The Republic of Korea even tops a few lists as being the most dangerous.

According to the 2007 OECD International Road Traffic and Accident Database
announced by Green City Research Institute, 5.28 per 100,000 Korean pedestrians
died in traffic accidents in 2005, placing the country in first place. Korea
also topped the category in 2004, with 6.0 pedestrians per 100,000. As for the
number of deaths in traffic accidents per 10,000 cars, Korea took second place
with 3.45 people, following Hungary with 3.79.

How far ahead (or behind) are they?

Considering that the OECD member countries' average number of pedestrians' death in traffic accidents marked 1.58 per 100,000 and the number of accidental deaths per 10,000 cars marked 1.68, South Korea has still a long way to go to become an advanced country in terms of traffic safety.

I totally agree that they have a long way to go, but sadly this issue gets thrown into the "You don't understand Korean culture / We're“빨리, 빨리 Koreans" excuse when questioned about this problem.

As I've said before, I'm counting down the days until I sell the motorcycle and hopefully, I'll survive the daily walk across the street so I can have that oppurtunity.

Korea Times Publishing

I wasn't informed by email (again), but Korea Times published my piece on the cycle of friends in Korea. Here's the link to the paper and here's the link to the post.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Father at 13?

I wonder what the Korean reaction would be to this?

And I don't think 제니,주노 (Jenny, Juno) can be used as evidence either.

Memories of Memory at Memory's

The title of my latest post, Memories of Memory at Memory's, is lifted from an ongoing joke that one of my great buds John Mecklenborg and I had during our days at The University of Tennessee. This is him. He dresses like this everyday.

It arose from when we noticed a new restaurant called Memory's had opened on the outskirts of an area of Knoxville called the "Old City". It was supposed to look like a 50's Diner type thing, but like the many previous failed business ventures that started in that building, Memory's met its fate. The restaurant is not important, but its name led the two of us into one of our numerous and sometimes month-long discussions about things that never actually took place. It was a dialogue without a base and certainly no direction, but it made us laugh.

The actual name, "Memories of Memory at Memories", was the result of multi-layered jokes. It started with just an innocent jab at why the restaurant would choose "Memory's" as a name. Then we layered it with the assumption that the owners had something in mind like "People will talk about their memories at Memory's." So, we laughed about our potential memories at Memory's. In its final formulation stage, John told me that one of our mutual friends, Evan Gower, had a little sister named Memory Gower. Awful name, but it served so well for our joke. The obvious next step was joking that we would possibly have memories of Memory at Memories, even though we never knew or had ever met Memory Gower and had no intention of going to the restaurant. We enjoyed that joke for several years, not because it was really that funny, but because it was absurd.

And that intro brings me to why I'm writing this post and similar ones in the future. It has started to occur to me that I am getting older by the day and that so many of my formative memories could get pushed into the backwaters of my psyche. These memories are usually refreshing dashes of youthfulness and innocence. They have provided me with some wisdom, pride, humility and embarrassment, but most of all they put a smile on my face and perhaps some of you might be included.

I'll include links to some of the events or locations that I discuss here, but besides that, it will be a free form exploration into the perhaps shallow depths of my memory.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Dance Style Revealed

After years of trying to describe my dancing style, I think I found the closest representation.

But throw some short shorts on him and BAM! it's me.

Hip Korean Housewife Hookers

A little late on this one, but apparently some bored Korean housewives have started their own little enterprise while the husband and kids are away.

"Seven housewives in Seoul were arrested for engaging in ‘pay-for-sex’ acts after meeting male clients through a phone chatting service, Hankyoreh reported Friday"

But they're not the traditional ladies of the night.
"According to the police, their “business hours” are normally from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when their husbands and children are not home. They then called their male clients and met them in various motels in Goyang city or Paju city in Gyeonggi Province."

I'm not surprised really. When you see stats that claim nearly 79% of Korean men cheat on their wives, what do you expect? These women were just getting a little revenge and some extra spending money.

But the underlying meaning of this artcile is that it's a revelation. Finally, we have the answer as to why so many Korean mothers send their kids to dozens of hagwons. They need extra time for whoring. Between the sex and the drug dealing, it looks the housewives are the hippest cats on the peninsula.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Korean Students and Rain

I've had three classes so far today. The first one was about the Separation of Church and State in regards to the teaching of creationism in school and the second was on the rise of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Korea. Both totally interesting and both classes were essentially empty. My first class has about 11 people registered and only two showed up. The second class has 19 registered and only 5 showed up. These two classes usually hover around a 90% attendance rate. My third class, while not as interesting or as full, usually has 9 students enrolled. How many showed up today? Zero. Not a single fucking student showed up. I have another class that starts soon. There are 11 people registered and I am expecting about 3 to actually show up. Why? Rain.

Rain keeps students away from class more than any other type of weather. In fact, students skip classes more for rain than all other excuses combined. Snow is no problem. Seoul snow is weak and Korea does not have a “snow day” culture anyways. Blistering heat isn’t a problem because Korean’s thrive is unnaturally hot conditions as seen on buses, subways and offices all across the nation. Boozing until an hour before class doesn’t matter either. That just shows excellent time management skills that Koreans love to boast about. (“I sleep in the subway/bus/taxi because it’s efficient and gives me more time to work/drink/whore around later.”) Nothing can stop these cats unless, of course, a single drop of rain falls. Then, attendance drops with it.

If you remember (which you don’t) I wrote about the rain + exposed head=baldness myth that exists in Korea. Well, I don’t think this has anything to do with it. I also wrote about how dangerous Korean drivers can be and rain only makes them worse, but this isn’t it either. It’s more that rain just sucks, discourages enthusiasm and makes people feel lazy. That’s all -nothing particularly cultural to look into except for the fact that Korean’s don’t come to class if it’s raining.

It’s just a teacher’s observation.

Warm Weather Skiing?

Well, I was going to go skiing this weekend...


"I'm Straight!": The Introduction of an In-the-Closet Korean Man's Battle Against Himself

Student introductions are always fun. I'd say that a very clear majority will offer up the same core tidbits: name, age, university/major, job/title and maybe the occasional marital status or reason for studying English. They offer those facts to establish the nature and structure of the relationship. For those of us who have been in Korea for awhile, there is nothing usual about this type of introduction. The other day, however, I got a new one.

I had had second thoughts about opening this particular course up as I didn't like the time and the subject. I had also heard that this student is a little unusual and, honestly, I didn't want to mess with it. However, he begged me to open the class for him, so I agreed. It's been a little over a week now and I'm not sure if it was good idea, especially because every class seems to get a little more odd as he feels more comfortable to reveal more personal stories to me.

Let's take the first class and first introduction. I welcomed him into the classroom as usual and he took a seat. Since he had begged for this class to be opened in the first place and the 9am class start time doesn't appeal to business people (too late) or students (too early), he had a choice of thirty empty seats. Oddly enough, he sat right in the middle causing me to have to raise my voice. I eventually coaxed him to the front, but like many Korean students, there is an inborn fear of teachers. I asked him to give an brief introduction. I didn't want much, but something to get him thinking in English.

He started, "Well, I'm straight."
It didn't really sink in at first. I was only half listening since I rarely listen to intro anyways. I guess my perceived indifference to his statement jolted him a bit, so he repeated it. This time I heard it loud and clear. My first thought was, of course, that this guy was totally gay. I gave him a quick look over and decided that it must be true. He was wearing a multi-colored polka-dot shirt under a brown suede vest covered with a black velvet sports coat. I stopped there and decided to give him the benefit of the doubt since acceptable Korean male fashion sometimes gives off the air of homosexuality, as written about here.

Still, I couldn't get past his unprovoked declaration of heterosexuality. No matter how you slice it, there's something odd about that. As class continued, this guy seemed to go out of his way to talk about absurdly straight things. He talked about visiting hookers at massage parlors; dancing with girls all night long at the clubs and visiting a certain area of Seoul where all the girls wear "hot pants". Now I'm not qualified much in this area, but I do think that using the word "hot pants" reduces ones manliness significantly. As an added bonus, he gave me the oddest answer when I asked him if he had ever been to Cold Mountain (a popular ice cream parlor in Korea). His response? "I'm not gay." To top off his heterosexual conquests, he added that he has a girlfriend. I guess he thought that I would be thinking of him as some sex-crazed bad boy. I'm pretty sure he thinks he's a bad boy, but more like this kind of bad boy.

Class continued that way for the rest of the day. Over the next few days, he showed no interest in learning English at all and chose to continue dispelling his self-inflicted gay rumors by telling more and more stories confirming his sexuality. To him, he was making a strong case for heterosexuality. To me, he was cementing my suspicions. Yesterday, he was off on one of his rants about hookers and started steering the conversation towards his performance. In most cases, I'll let students just flow as long as they are using proper English, but I really tried to derail this one. He didn't care, ignored my pressure and continued on to his next prove-to-everyone-how-NOT-gay-I-am rant and thought it was time to talk about Viagra. He pushed on past his story quickly and let me know that he could get me Viagra anytime. I started laughing. Besides the fact that I might need just the opposite of that, he had gone from weird closet homosexual to pusherman. I've been offered what I thought was just about everything under the sun in my younger days, but this was new. AND it was from a Korean gay guy.

Yesterday was by far the most blatant example of what was becoming his glaring preference in men. He was in the middle of another seemingly endless tirade of how popular he is in nightclubs and decided to fill me in on how he picks up his countless hot panted women. He does this.

(Check out that website by the way. It's a real find.)

Like Richard Gere's Gerbil, most American's know this to be a gay gesture. While not anything close to an official source, Urban Dictionary's definition of "Gay Handshake" is as follows:
"A social faux pas in which you stroke the other party's palm with your index finger during a normal handshake. Can be seen as a sexual advance and it just feels really creepy. Go ahead, try it on someone."

So, I wasn't alone in my thinking that this guy just revealed something, but as I've said before, there is a lot of straight Korean behavior that would be viewed as gay Western behavior. I needed to ask some other Koreans though and who better than one of my classes with mostly Korean women aged 19-31. They would know if this was normal flirting or as UD said just "really creepy."

Turns out that this is not normal behavior in the least. In fact, when I told the class about this, all of the girls --in typical Korean fashion-- screamed "어떻게" and the men laughed. The female response did not surprise me since that's what I hear them say 90% of time while on the street. The men, however, were all shocked. They had never heard of such an approach.

Is this fellow gay? It doesn't matter, but I wonder why he's going to such lengths to prove he is straight.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"I heard the jury was out on science."


"Recent public opinion polls indicate that challenges to Darwinian evolution have substantial support among the American people. According to an August 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 63 percent of Americans believe that humans and other animals have either always existed in their present form or have evolved over time under the guidance of a supreme being. Only 26 percent say that life evolved solely through processes such as natural selection. A similar Pew Research Center poll, released in August 2005, found that 64 percent of Americans support teaching creationism alongside evolution in the classroom."

Why am I not surprised? For the past 20 years, all we have heard from the Right is that science is not fact and that we need to teach Creationism in school. It looks like it worked. Wow...

A-11 Offense is for Girls

Eleven eligible receivers? Plus, this looks like two quarterbacks to me.

I don't like this idea one bit.

"In the A-11, players do not wear the traditional jersey numbers for linemen: they use 1-49, and 80 through 99, which is legal. This means that all 11 players on offense can be eligible for a pass. In essence, the offense creates an island for 11 players, spreading the defense out, and looking for one-on-one matchups."
It pretty much makes for chaos.

Maybe I'm out of the loop on this, but I wasn't aware of the tension between "traditional" eligible receiver rules and this A-11 business. Coach Bryan is very aware though.
"There is a demonstrative benefit of using the A-11 offense, and there is room in America for more than one style of football," Bryan said. "There is a loud, ugly minority out there that is against this offense. "This is standing up for the little guy in football, the schools without the numbers of kids or the big linemen. There is a huge disconnect between the players on the ground, the kids that play in this offense and the National Federation."
So, he's claiming that he opted for this because his school didn't have enough players or enough linemen. Am I too assume the if his school does get enough players, then he'll return to the standard receiver rules or is it more that he couldn't hack it as a coach without these cheap rules? Regardless, this...
If a player gets set on the line, and another player lines up outside that player, the inside player is ineligible to catch a pass. What the A-11 can do is have offensive players wait until the final seconds of the play clock and then take positions on the line making it difficult for the defense to know, until the last moment, which receivers are eligible.
...equates to pandemonium on the field.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Will Smith in Duel?

I wish.

I saw Seven Pounds the other day. It was good, but totally unclear until the scene where he met his friend, Dan, in the hotel room. It also became pretty predictable after awhile, but it never got boring. I’ve got to admit that Will Smith has really come a long way and he has been pulling off some totally convincing roles lately. I can’t believe how far he’s come since Independence Day, Bad Boyz and MIB. He still employs some of his more cavalier qualities that got him where he is today, but the roles that he’s been cast into recently give me the impression that he could become one of the greats. He’s got a long way to go, but if the writing is good enough, I think he’ll be fine.

I think that if he nails Oh Dae-su in the upcoming Old Boy remake, then I’ll be totally convinced. It’s up to Spielberg now though. If it’s as good as Duel then I’ll be a success no matter you look at it.

Co-workers of Past and Present

Just like so many other moderately irresponsible teenagers and university students, I managed to have more jobs than I can count. Seriously, I just tried to count them and couldn’t. Every time I land on a number, another job comes to mind. I’ve ranged from donut places, dorm halls, golf courses and toy stores to some higher class gigs like call centers, drive-thru’s, deli’s and dish rooms. Honestly, I think the longest I stayed at a job of that caliber was six months. My modus operandi was the classic no-call-no-show or call-in-and-quit. I loved doing it. It was swift and easy. The word callous comes to mind, but I’d say lazy might be more appropriate or perhaps a combo of both. While I didn’t gain much of a work ethic from those brief stints of employment, I did get to meet a lot of different and totally interesting people.

Let me introduce you to four of them.

From the US days:

I’ll start with Don. He was my boss at an upscale neighborhood diner for a few months one summer in college. He had inherited money from his father which he had been living on for years. He claimed to be the best chef in the area among other equally unimpressive and uncontestable feats. Don is memorable for a few reasons though: he constantly smoked joints in and around the kitchen, spoke ill of his wife’s reproductive organs (who was also a boss), openly insulted customers using derogatory phrases and terms and threw the word “f*ck” into nearly every sentence. I worked there with a couple friends for a solid two months, but after realizing that we were being paid from the tip jar which we had worked to fill up, we opted for the bailout. We knocked it up a notch by quitting on the same day. Bam! Two of us pulled the no-show, while the third decided to call and address his frustrations with an offensive message that basically repeated all of Don’s catch phrases. We would always joke “I’m f*cking Don. My wife’s ****** smells like lasagna.” What a class act.

Another summer a few friends and I were feeling particularly charitable (and desperate) decided we would work in a Shriners call center. Life in a call center is a dark world full of guilt, depression, social ineptness, self-loathing and fear that someone will actually answer the telephone. Of course, I didn’t experience any of those things because I quit after three weeks, but one man did: Kurk. The first thing you might notice is that he spells his name with a “U” rather than the traditional “I”. If you met this short, stocky fellow, you would totally understand that the “I” is inappropriate and borderline illegal. I was lucky enough to train under Kurk. He taught me all I needed to know about being a telemarketer and a man. Kurk was a heavy set fellow in his early thirties who claimed to have been somewhat of an accomplished body builder. Sadly by the time we met him, it looked like his years of Shrining had caused his muscles to slowly atrophy. Regardless of his physical condition, Kurk was a world class smoker. In fact, all call center people are. We were given a five minute break every hour and the beeline to the door was astonishing. The office would clear out in less than three seconds. Kurk was always the first or second out for the cig and usually was the last to finish, but oddly, he never actually had any cigarettes. He always bummed them. It never failed. He would sometimes come up with elaborate intros before the request in hopes of throwing us off. I remember he told me that he had started bodybuilding because he wanted to quit smoking, but once he hit his peak, there was no reason not to smoke anymore, and therefore, I should bum him a cigarette. His tagline was “Can I get a cig?” Well, we changed it to “Can I get a Kurk?”

Ricky (fake name) from Wales was an interesting person. First of all, he might still in Korea or coming back soon, so I don’t want to be too rude or anything, but he knows he’s “interesting”. I taught with Ricky at my first school in Korea. He was slightly older and from the start, I noticed that he seemed to be a little into…well…men. But he wasn’t just a plain old gay guy. That wouldn’t be interesting. This guy acted pretty straight most of the time. He had girlfriends (he once claimed to have slept with over 200 woman…while sleeping…in an airplane…bathroom…from Wales to…London.) He worked out at the gym, drank loads of beer and smoked tons of cigarettes. He was a normal dude. Without having to go into details; I’ll just say that on many occasions he asked various male co-workers to go back to his place for drinks. In fact, he asked me that question my first night in Korea. I omitted that bit of info three years ago when I was detailing the arrival. Maybe I’m flattering myself though. Perhaps, that doesn’t sound that gay, but if you consider that he would usually make the suggestion to one person at 4am as everyone was walking home, then you might get a different idea.

One night, five of us were at an old favorite dive called Beverage Lab. We were drinking at a table and amidst the joking; Ben decided to ask a question: “Raise your hand if you didn’t **** a man’s **** in college.” It was quite a show stopper to say the least. I remember trying to collect my thoughts and form some sort of answer, but I was so stunned by the question that I too was only getting crickets. Pat, one of the more blunt members of the group, fired back with an “Uhhh…No!” Ben tried to cover himself with a few “Come on, guys”/“You were never curious” combinations, but they just didn’t stick. I wish I could say that was all, but I would be lying. Towards the end of his tenure at our old school, he started to develop a strange penchant for man-kisses. He would ask for kisses or if he could kiss a man. From that was born, “Do you want to kiss me? Do you?”

Terry from Korea is one of my favorites. This guy had breath that could peel the paint off a car and a job that would make a gimp feel lucky. Terry’s job was the “ass” of my old director. He had to do every horrible task that was asked of him. The highlights included brushing the directors hair, unlocking doors for drunk locked-out teachers, lining children up, dealing with every detail and problem that teachers had with their apartment and, of course, saying the word “Hey!”.

You see, Terry was born with only one eye and where the other should be, is nothing more than an oversized marble. Some speculate that it’s actually gobstobber. Since he can’t see very well and has candy in his eye socket, his ability to learn English has been seriously hindered. The director has gotten away with everything from locking him in a closet and force-feeding him to just spanking him when he doesn’t do as told.

One weekend, the school had a retreat to the mountains. We stayed in a pretty sweet cabin-type thing and cooked food and drank beer and soju. On the way up to the cabin, all the teachers AND Terry rode in a van together. I knew this was a perfect time to teach him some English. You know, a little time away from the boss. Well, I started with the basics and soon we moved to the more advanced stuff. I wanted to teach him another way to say “Let’s go!” His pronunciation was pretty rough, but he got through it and pretty soon he was yelling, “I have an erection!” for all the teachers to hear. He was my favorite student and certainly one of my favorite co-workers.