Friday, 2 January 2015

2014 Recap... A Stinker

2014 is over. And good riddance. As the title indicates, this was a stinker of a year.

Both sides (me and wife) were touched with death this year: teachers and mentors, a special uncle, a well-known member or two of the Korea expat networks, and a beloved pet.

An airplane disappeared. Another was shot down. Another one disappeared just last week. Seriously, what the hell is happening? The Sewol ferry tragedy happened. The Anti-gay Sochi Olympics and Putin's yearlong nose-thumbing at "the West" reminded us what a morally bankrupt sham international sporting events are. As did FIFA's "Let's have a racism free World Cup because we can't have a corruption-free, human trafficking-free or child labor free World Cup," given the stuff happening in Qatar. Yuna Kim got silver, which would have been a low point in other years, but this year comes off trite and shallow next to all the other awfulness of 2014. As summer came up, Wifeoseyo, who normally loves spring, called this the worst spring ever.

South Korea's constitutional court dissolved a political party, and continues its free fall on international freedom of the press and free speech indexes. And that whole UPP thing mostly started because the government needed something to distract the public from the NCIS interfering in the 2012 election to begin with. I mean... what the hell! This is new democracy stuff, not generation-old democracy stuff. Seriously. Meanwhile, South Korea and the country that should be South Korea's best and strongest ally in the region (Japan) are both letting lowest common denominator populism drive their policies towards each other. ARGH!

My favorite bar in the neighborhood, and really, one of the few truly perfect pubs I've been to, closed its doors this spring. One of the coolest new coworkers at my new job I'll tell you about in a minute left after a single semester. My kindle broke, but my son's most annoying noisy toys never break. And I didn't accomplish nearly as much writing of any kind during my unemployed period as I'd have liked.

And I haven't even started into Ferguson, Hands Up, Don't Shoot, Igloo Australia, the NFL star felony of the week, the ruining-for-all-time of Bill Cosby, mainstay of my childhood, or any of the other things that have been flaming up weekly on Twitter and other SNS thanks to many of my facebook friends being Americans.  Sparking sometimes-acrimonious arguments between people I like on Facebook. Hollywood has been mostly shit this year. What a horrible underuse/misuse of the Dinobots!

2014 has been pretty awful. It's a shame my opinions about the events of the year have far outstripped my time or inclination to blog about them, because if I were still at my 2008 "20 blog posts in a month" mode, it'd have been a beast of a year, with rants, rage and fury all over the place.

So... 2014 has been a complete write-off, in a lot of ways. But I don't want to leave on that note, so here are a few of the high points:

1. In the last few months, something clicked in my son, and he's been singing and dancing way more than he did before. And revealing a pretty impressive ability to carry a tune for a three-year-old. He can also be genuinely funny when he wants to - his jokes are no longer all just imitations of funny things he's seen mommy or daddy or grandma do. It has been really fun to be part of him getting older, becoming a little smarter, a little more curious, a little more patient, a little better at asking questions that will get him the knowledge he wants... and doing this in both languages at the same time. He resembles me so much in some ways that mean I have more patience for him than anybody else, and I'm happy to be the one to wait while he lets his methodical side come out.

2. I haven't given it the full write-up yet, but after writing the "beautiful rivers and mountains" post earlier this year, I was invited to write for a TBS EFM (English) documentary about Shin Joong-hyun, Korea's legendary rocker. I'm putting it off in order to give the documenary, and the artist, the treatment they deserve, and this last week I compiled my "Shin Joong Hyun Playlist," which I'll also be sharing, and which I'm quite happy with. It was the kind of dream writing project where I got to find a topic I really liked, work with someone whose enthusiasm and ideas about direction generally matched mine, and get paid for it. So stay tuned for more on that.

3. My father and step-mother visited in October, and they are awesome, and we had an awesome awesome time. We took my first ever trip to Seokcho, watched people shoot fireworks on the beach, drove all over the place, including the closest Poposeyo has ever been to North Korea. We ate some incredible foods -- we went at the perfect season for steamed crab -- but just missed the fall colors, on the early side. My son got to put a face and some real memories to the photos of his Canadian grandparents, which has made the family in Canada that much more real to him.

4. My circle of friends is actually pretty small, and even some of the people I'd love to know better and hang out with more, just don't end up taking slots on my dance card, as it were, because there are so few. But the friends I do have... mean that much more to me because of it, and it's sure nice having the chance to dig in. In an anomaly for expat life, this is was of the years when only one of my cool friends repatriated, and I'm grateful for that. So thanks, Jennifer, Eugene, Danielle, Kenny, and a few others: even if I don't see you all that often, your support, or humor, or insights, or kid who loves to play with my kid, or impeccable taste, or all of the above, have become part of the texture of my life. And Jo... I will miss you dearly. So, thanks, guys. And to the other folks on my list... I hope to get to you this year!

5. I've really enjoyed working on The Cafe Seoul podcast, which I cannot currently link because we're kind of between hosts right now. The other people involved are good folk, and we just last month were awarded "best Podcast" at the K-blog awards. Which means that much more because it was mostly determined by fan voting. The best part of blog awards, however, is always the chance to learn about great new blogs you've been missing.

6. After graduating from my Master's program in February, in September I started a job in one of those University Jobs you always hear about, and it's been good. Now I'm looking down the barrel of an extended vacation, which looks nice too. Maybe I'll study Korean. Or blog more. Or exercise.

7. Great female singers. Back in 2003, other than a few jazz vocalists, almost all the music in my collection was by male singers. I didn't set out to have it that way, but it just kind of happened, without much conscious effort either way. Over the last four years, again without making conscious effort to seek out female artists, I've simply discovered that a huge proportion of the music I've really liked lately has featured female artists. Bat For Lashes, Janelle Monae, Cibo Matto, Sia, P!nk, Sleigh Bells, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj, The XX, Dengue Fever, Lee Sora, EMA, Icona Pop, Kim Jungmi, Neko Case, and others comprise well more than half of the newer music I've been excited about over the last few years.

8. Guardians of the Galaxy - the movie this year that made me smile the most, from beginning to end. Especially Groot.

9. Umm... we had a really long, really nice fall, and it didn't get really properly cold until quite late in the year, which was nice.

10. Can I really not even think of 10 things? Really? And I'm using number 9 to talk about the weather? This year was rough.

Um... there's a nice new bagel place in my neighborhood?

Happy new years, readers, and here's to hoping next year is miles better than this one. It's a low bar to clear, I know, but it's a start.

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