Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Korean Language Schools in Jinju and...

So, Seoul National University SAYS it wants to be more international, if by "international" you mean "ranked higher on the Newsweek World's top 100 universities" list...

but isn't willing to put its money where its mouth is. Another case of "I want it to look like I'm doing it, and I want my status on international rankings to reflect it... but I don't actually want to change what I'm doing." More at The Korea Times. Time for a little name and shame?

Next: I got this e-mail today. Wonder if anybody'd be able to answer this cat's question:

...I am a Humanities undergrad student specializing in Korean culture in Toronto, Canada...
Maybe you could post my question up on your blog?

Basically, I would like to know if you know of any Korean language schools in Jinju?
I am interested in pursuing a graduate degree in Korea, and I posses only a very basic level of Korean language skills.
Even if there are language schools in Seoul/Busan/other cities, I would love to know.
If you have any information regarding this, any and all help would be greatly appreciated!

To start, here's the Galbijim wiki about online learning resources...

next... what are the formal, physical-building schools people can attend?

One sad and one weird...

Looks like (or at least, one can wish) the "I was drunk" defense is losing traction in Korean courts and, more importantly, in the court of public opinion (because the law will, eventually, follow the ethos of the people). This guy did such horrible things to a little girl, that I don't even want to type them out, or I'll have to wash my hands for ten minutes, but netizens are FURIOUS that he only got 12 years. I'm pretty sure this isn't the first time Korean netizens (whom you can hate for other reasons, at other times, but occasionally get things right) have decided "I was drunk. I had a hard life" is no longer enough to qualify for clemency.

in other news, it'd be interesting to study the relationship between netizen and public opinion in Korea, compared with other countries, as well as to compare the level of reporting on netizen "gusts of popular opinion" with the level other countries' media report on netizen opinion shifts.

In less ghastly (or at least, ghastly in a funny way) news: the band HAM (yes, that's right. Ham). Has an uplifting song for you about putting away your sorrows... but instead of forgetting your sorrows by going "DOOOOWNTOOOOWN" as Petula Clark advised, they suggest you should do the "Tee-Tee Dance" (which sound an awful lot like the "Titty Dance"), from the emoticon T.T, which is supposed to look like a pair of crying eyes.

It's a cute, uplifting song with an uninspired video, and the band (which is new) has added a new item to the list of items you can put on your K-pop video bingo list: "Shaking the video camera as a substitute for dancing ability" which goes along with "strobelight as a substitute for dancing ability" on the list of fudgeing effects.

Watch for the asian poses in the last third of the video.

Anyway, Brian and a few other people pointed out this video yesterday, and I'm not sure if I was disappointed or relieved that "Do the Titty Dance" didn't mean something a bit more like this:

(or this)

...or maybe this

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Now that Dan Gray has been put in his place... a celebration. bliss-out by proxy

Yes, we can move on, now that Dan Gray is a heap of shame and dirty clothes, and I'd like to point out to you a blog(ger) of which(whom) I am a fan: after running another blog for a while, and bumping into awkwardnesses when her adult students found it, and started reading it, she moved to a new address and has continued posting all kinds of excellent music.

Here is her bliss-out post, of music in which (or maybe by which) light is victorious over darkness.

67 Reasons Dan Gray Sucks

So Dan Gray has decided I'm his nemesis.

So it's time for me to let you all know the real Dan Gray, because really, the K-blogosphere has been entirely too bland since Metropolitician and Baeksu had their last falling out, and I'd like to make a case for why you should all be on MY side when it's time to March on Dan's twee little cupcake-eating apartment with pitchforks and torches.

His favorite Star Trek captain was Jonathan Archer.

This scene was based on Dan Gray's love life.

He eats mild salsa sauce.

He thinks Eddie Murphy's best movie was "Pluto Nash"... followed by the The Nutty Professor series.

His mom stood him up for the prom.

He can't decide whether Creed or Nickelback is the new U2.

KGB vodka coolers are too bitter for him.

He got drunk just from reading that last sentence.

He still says "Yeah, baby," like Austin Powers.

He identifies movies by the name of the lead actor or actress, and a short line from the soundtrack's theme song: "Hey. Let's watch Leonardo DiCaprio -- MYYYY HYEART WILLLLLL..."

Here's his idea of a comeback:

wait for it.

"I hate you, Roboseyo."

When he eats cookies, he says "I'm a keebler elf!" and sings an elvin song.

After watching The Matrix ten years ago, he said to me the other day, "Hey, you know, what if WE'RE in the Matrix, right now? That'd be weird, wouldn't it?"

He still ends sentences with "not!"

He claims his collection of Morphin' Power Rangers Action Ficures is going to be worth something someday, and that's the only reason he still keeps them.

And plays with them.

He sits down when he pees.

On the bathroom floor.

He still does a Borat impression. But he always pooped in a plastic bag.

He calls Maxim instant "Real coffee."

He cried at the end of D-Wars.

When he had to start dressing more formally because he became an adult, his mom made a youtube video to show him how to attach his tie. It was a clip-on.

He looked up all his former classmates on Facebook, and sends them each a vampire bite a week.

He plagiarizes lines from The Search For The Holy Grail to insult me... but picks the wrong ones. "Hey Roboseyo: 'Help! Help! I'm being oppressed!' Hey! Hey Roboseyo! 'Three shall be the number thou shalt count' haha!"

He thinks Scary Movie 3 was better than Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Because his criteria for good movies is frequency of shots of hot women running in slow motion.

So he also thinks Transformers 2 was better than The Dark Knight.

He double-dips.

He once bathed in hand-sanitizer, and figures that'll keep him safe from Swine Flu until he dies.

He sings "My Way" at the Noraebang. Over and over.

He thinks Boyz II Men's ballads are subtle.

He gets shocked every time characters in Korean dramas get cancer.

He calls it "the google" and says "Why don't you do the google to it?" instead of "Why don't you google it" if somebody asks about something he doesnt' know.

Which means he says it a lot.

He can't eat the kimchi.

He thinks Stephen Colbert is serious.

He also thinks Dokdo Is Ours is serious.

He still hasn't found his mouse's right button.

When he sings, he tries to sound like Shakira.

And he does.

He wears pants with pleated fronts.

Old men wear pants with pleated fronts.

Also Dan.

He's worried that the elephant in Seoul Grand Park that threw a rock at the lady's head will get fair representation in court.

He thinks Ben Wagner is a fairy tale character.

He doesn't understand that words in acronyms stand for something.

He spent a year trying to lick his own elbows. He thought yoga would help.

His idea of yoga is sitting at the back of a Buddhist temple and shouting questions at the monks in charge of proceedings.

His feet got tired walking around, so he asked me to carry him.

Sometimes he wears his pants inside-out so that it's easier for him to access his pockets.

He still throws ice-cubes to show that he likes a girl.

His best pick-up line is "uhhhh, uhhhhh. Uhhhh. So.... woman...." and then runs away.

He doesn't get knock knock jokes. He goes to the nearest door.

He thought The Ugly Duckling was Mother Goose's kid.

When he plays rock scissor paper, he always chooses the fourth option: duck and cover.

He forwarded me the Numa Numa video. Last week.

His belly-button is 15 centimeters deep, and he stores skittles in there.

When you argue with him, he tells you the number of facebook friends he has to show you that he's right.

If you point out that his shoes are on the wrong feet, he says it makes him feel cool and kind of squishy that way.

When you scratch his ear, he pees.

If you ask him, "Do you live in North Korea or South Korea?" he has to think about it. Every time.

He thinks Jem and the Holograms was the band of the '80s.

He doesn't know Dokdo.

He says things like, "I'm going to go work on friendships with my facebook peeps... because I, unlike you, HAVE A LIFE!"

He still can't read Hangeul, and thinks Sejong is a brand of soju.

When he's charging his phone battery, he stands perfectly still and tries to "help it charge" with his mind-power.

He thinks Jeollanam-do is an elaborate hoax masterminded by Brian.

He thinks shouting animal noises at high volume is Japanese.

And in case you doubt any of these claims, here is a video clip that will put your doubts to rest.

OK, Dan. Your move.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Some pics and something seyo do not like.

Something I love love love about Korea:

the sitting outdoorsy stuff --

Especially outside the convenience stores.

This was by a lefty display near the Chunggyecheon. I believe they were spouting their ham-fisted "LMB is Worse than Chun-Doo-Hwan" junk on the very day of Roh Moo-hyun's funeral. It was really distasteful. I wish they could have put the propaganda away just for that day. Just one day, seriously!

Yeah I hate when people use Hitler's image or name in propaganda. Especially in Korea, where it has been pretty amply demonstrated that people do NOT understand the proper uses, or the sheer power of name-dropping Hitler, or what his image means.

[Update: Kushibo's comment reminded me... Koreans ain't the only ones using Hitler's image - this German charity's ad raised a stir... but at least it raised a stir in Germany, and was named inappropriate by a lot of Germans.]

Took these pictures. Like my camera.

By Konkuk university station, there's this huge new complex called Star City, which I walked around a while ago. It was actually pretty tootin' cool, as public space design goes.
Especially when it got dark, and the coloured lights came out.

It's with joy and dismay that I call firsties on spotting this new stupid Konglish trend: it's been spreading. In April 2008, I posted a picture of a "Sand & Food" -- a sandwich/coffee shop to go with "Sandpresso". Now, the word Sand has officially become a stand-in for the way-too-long-and-hard-to-pronounce-and-humorlessly-means-what-it-actually-says-thereby-not-making-Koreans-sound-stupid-when-they-try-to-use-English word "Sandwich"

examples are proliferating:
The sandcookie sucked. It was chewy in the middle like caramel, and the cookie was crumbly and way too sweet.

In samchungdong:

Near Jogyesa Temple:

I tried to find the "I hate sand" clip from "Star Wars II, Attack of the Clones" - but George Lucas doesn't like to share, so instead you get this weird fan redub, which is kind of funny from time to time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Curious to Know...

I'd be interested to know ...

If the Korean media is approaching Jae-beom's quitting 2PM due to hyper-nationalist, knee-jerk Netizens, in the same way these thoughtful Korea Times articles are. (one) (two).

Because it's all well and good if they're saying this in English, but if they're saying this in Korean, then that's... really interesting.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Any Jeonju Tips?

Hey there. Planning a trip to Jeonju soon. Anybody got any tips about places to eat or things to do?

Came across...

While researching Asian-related racism for this blog post at Hub of Sparkle, I came across this... interesting... ad. (Warning: bad language, and a really rude, racist guy.)

Also: this one reminded me of my niece and nephew.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

File this one under "No S***, Sherlock"

Turns out men prefer women to wear sexy underwear and women prefer wearing comfortable underwear. Not to mention, women prefer not showing their underwear on the outside -- thong-straps or bra-straps showing -- but men turn out to like it. The Chosun Ilbo reports. You don't say.

Also, this just in: a survey of 7000 Canadian, Russian, Chinese, and American bears reveals that their preferred place to shit is in the woods. The startling exception to this is Arctic polar bears, who prefer shitting in the snow.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Last few Summer Vacation Pictures

Last set of my best pictures from my Canada trip.

I like pictures of airport hangars and stuff. This was (I believe) in Tokyo. Or maybe Toronto. Anyway, I like the tinted glass, and the way it makes the sky that much richer.

Liked this sign at the Vancouver bus terminal.
I've told you about my sunglasses curse, right? I've never been able to keep a pair of sunglasses: I always either lose, or break them. Fortunately, hats have worked out better for me so far (knock on wood).

My awesome friend Melissa's son is super-cool. We had a great time chatting about the kinds of things seven-year-olds chat about. . . some of my favorite topics.
My surrogate family lives in my old hometown: when I was back in Canada, taking care of my sick mom, they lived in the same town, and whenever I was down, I'd go over to their place, just show up at the door, and they'd invite me in for a recharge. The two daughters are like my younger sisters, and they're awesome, and growing up to be awesome human beings, both of them. One of them had a birthday party, and I got to attend.
They're wonderful and funny and all that stuff, and here's a video of them being cute and funny and sisterly.

We found some flowers while walking around Harrison Hot Springs. Heres' my youngest surrogate sister. She's as funny as she is beautiful, and smart to boot. I spent a day hanging around with her and her friends (they all graduated high school this year) and we had some good laughs. From having conversations with seven year olds, to conversations with seventeen year-olds, it was a real grab bag this summer.
In Korea, flowers in your hair is a symbol of madness (cf: Ophelia), but in Canada it doesn't mean anythings special except, "I put flowers in my hair."

I drove the rockies and took some videos: most of the "shoot from a moving car" shots didn't work out, but I took some video that turned out OK. Watch for the flocks of birds, the bugs, and FWAM! The flying eagle!


Then off to Ontario for the end of my trip. My dad's house is there, and my extended family. Instead of craggy mountains, you get this:
My dad's house's bathroom had this really really cool looking sink-drain-plug.

My Dad lives in Niagara Falls now. (sweet!) and by happenstance, my cousin was visiting my OTHER cousin not far from there, and they had the time to come out and spend a day hanging out with me and being awesome. Dang, but I miss them! Staying touch isn't always a strong point for me, so I hadn't actually seen one of them since we were practically kids, but Heather lived near my old hometown one summer, and we had some hoppin' good times. She's awesome.

Sucks butt that I missed both their weddings while I was in Korea. Seriously sucks. I want to meet their husbands, though. This is the part where it really stings to be so far away.
My cousin Heather is one of the most beautiful human beings I've ever met.
We went under the falls, where the bass thundered all through your body.

The falls were in fine form.

You've seen lots of pictures of niagara falls already. I won't bore you too much with mine.

At night, I went there again with Mary-anna, my step-mom. She's super cool, and bore with me as I took pictures that she'd taken dozens of times before, all the while regaling me with interesting stories.

Here camera's way better than mine.

Plus, there was a fireworks show.

And the music didn't suck, like other fireworks shows I've been to (second one's Andong mask festival. Sound got muted, but the lady was singing "You Raise Me Up" [cheesetravaganza]. No music is better than crappy music... especially when it'll just get overshadowed by the falls' thunder anyway.

I caught the end of the fireworks show on video, and I've also showed some other cool shots I took on video. It really started raining after the show, and we got totally drenched - so wet that my shoes were still damp when I returned to Korea and unpacked them. It was a fun adventure with Maryanna, though.

This video also includes some footage from behind the falls and at the bottom (I think it's called table rock) -- it's awesome down there, and the falls are so loud, and all the other usual adjectives (majestic, awe-inspiring, blah blah). To get an idea of what it was like being there, connect the youtube video with the biggest speaker you have, lay on your back, turn the volume on high, and lay the speaker down on your chest while you play the video.

The video, then.

The last day before I flew back to Korea, I finally saw my mom's parents, one of the two main reasons I'd decided to go back to Canada this summer (that, and attending the family get-together in Langley). At my grandparents' house, the site of most of my best childhood memories, I got this shot of Dad

and this one of my grandparents. They're awesome. I wrote about my grandfather here.
Here's the house where they live, from the back yard: it's way out in the country, so remote they still use dialup, and only got their road paved in the '90s.
My grandmother loves gardening: she maintains a huge vegetable garden, even in her '70s, and keeps a whole swack of gorgeous flowers, too.
This is my favorite picture of their house from the trip:
and more flowers:

In the woods in FRONT of their house, my grandmother has carved paths all over the place, and each curve of the path represents, for her, a different son, daughter, grand, or great-grandchild. I didn't think to ask her which part was mine, but this little patch here...
was my mothers, before she died. The rock on the bottom right is the rock under which her ashes are buried. This was the first time I had the chance to visit mom's burial place since 2005, the year of her passing.

This is the rock where she's buried.

and i can't think of anything to say after posting that picture.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Preach it, sister!

Interesting article in the expat living section of the Korea Herald:

Thanh Cam Nguyen, rightly argues that ugly people can spoil an attractive city, and names a few behaviours that all of us have seen, and suggests ways to improve those weak spots. The article's worth a read, and while she's almost certainly right that Westerners have an easier go facing discrimination, than South-Asians like herself do, I still had a smile at the line, "When Koreans meet us for the first time, they usually ask, "Did you come to Korea to get married?"... I am very sure that the same question would not be asked if we were white and blonde."

Nope. White and blonde females get asked if they're Russian. And all that goes with it.

[Yeah, that was a petty snipe, and yeah, wise-ass cracks like that are the reason Westerners who follow Korea online may well have an inaccurate view of Koreans -- one that's informed more by "wacky Korea" and "sparkling" stories from ESL Cafe and the like (where the weirdest and most extreme incidents run the highest chance of being passsed around, and so, the FrankenKorean mischaracterization perpetuates...) than reality, but still...]

And she was mostly right about the success of Beijing's awareness campaigns for the Olympics: I was there five months after the olympics, and even then, people were still standing aside when subway doors opened to let people off before pushing on. Not that spitting was gone entirely, but it sure wasn't as bad as a walk through Pimatgol toward Jongmyo park.

anyway, the article's worth a read. Git over there.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Why does Korea Keep Ruining its Good Parts?

Piano Street might have been my favorite feature of downtown Seoul. It was unique, distinctive, one-of-a-kind, and instantly identifiable - everybody knew "piano street". It was a reliable a meeting place, as automatically known, as City Hall Plaza, but without the occasionally awesome, but occasionally ham-handed Seoul Promotions. They dug it up a while ago, which blew my mind, and I thought, "They durn better replace it with something way cooler, because other than the broken glass panel thing, this little stretch has a good thing going. Well, they finished renovations. Get Scott Burgeson on the line, because now it's a groddy little strip where people sell crap, and what used to be one of the coolest features of the busiest part of Northern sucks.

Yeah. Seoul really needed another place where you can buy cheap crap. I was walking around Dongdaemun thinking that the other day. Or was it Namdaemun? Or was it ONE OF THE HUNDRED OTHER PLACES YOU CAN BUY CHEAP CRAP IN SEOUL (unlike the only Piano street in Seoul, which was, you know, singular). So, if this eyesore and pimatgol are any indication, it seem Korea's new strategy for urban renewal and revitalization is to take out cool stuff, and replace it with cookie-cutter stuff that sells crap, and has none of the character the original had. See, you know, I don't even have a problem with the idea that decrepit old buildings have to be dealt with... but the La Meilleur building is the bone you're going to toss those displaced restauranteurs on one of the tastiest strips of alley in Seoul? And a bunch of stalls selling useless crap is going to help tourists remember Seoul better than the awesome piano keys? Which yes-man has been whispering in Mayor Oh Se-hun's (오 세훈: I hope you find this on google and read it and cry) ear, and the supposed park space between Jongmyo and Namsan better be pretty goldurn awesome to win back my favor after this Pimat-Piano fiasco. (Oh yeah: not to mention almost getting away with trashing City Hall's lovely old building, as if it were his backyard shed and not ANOTHER of the city's most recognizable spots... in a city starving for recognizable images other than matchbox apartments. Discussion class after class tells me that Seoul, to join the ranks of the world-class cities, needs an instantly recognizable symbol -- an Eiffel Tower, a Statue of Liberty, a Golden Gate Bridge, a Shanghai Pearl, or a Sydney Opera House, to build the brand, so what the HELL are these people doing demolishing what few sweet landmarks there ARE?

What next? Han River Park Shopping Mall? Unesco Digital Market? Kyungju "Tomb" Underground Shopping Arcade? Starbucks in Changdeokgung? (Hey: there was one in the Forbidden City)

I mean, go ahead and make stuff better. You know. Tear down old stuff that isn't doing its job anymore, or that's uglifying the town... but replace it with something just as cool, wouldn't you? Sneak in some office buildings; I understand the need... but can you keep SOME of the winding alley-ways around? Fix up the buildings if need be, and see to it the coolest restaurants get spots in whatever preserved thingy remains... but do SOMETHING, would you? Instead of something unimpressive, modern (read: ugly and steel) and totally divorced from nature (isn't harmony with nature supposed to be the great thing about Gyungbokgung? By the way: nice trees in the plaza. Oh wait: they're NOT trees: they're shad-deficient metal dr-seuss abominations!)

How're those working out for you, then?
(image source... sorry for borrowing this gwn, but it's the only one I could find that illustrated my point about the tree-things)

Now Gord Sellar weighs in with the loss of Wonmisan. Seriously? Improving a mountain with stairs? And you're not allowed to take the other path, even if you WANT to? Yech.

Hand, meet forehead.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hadn't thought of it that way... Suicide and Swine Flu

This Korea Times editorial brings together a few things:

You see, Korea's GNP (that's Gross National Product) is now 15th in the world. That's pretty tootin' high; however, its GNH (that's Gross National Happiness) is a dismal 68th. Now, the article trots out some of the usual statistics about the birthrate, the suicide rate, the economy, and job stability, but it also brings up this one:

Only four Koreans have died of swine flu so far. Just four. Yet despite only four Koreans dying from it, the response has been not far off from a national panic -- students getting their temperatures taken on their way into school, people flinching at every sniffle beside them on the subway, and government PSAs, contingency plans, and some big talk about canceling all kinds of things. No Korean children have died of swine flu so far, according to the article, yet teachers are making them all pass the ear-mometer test before they come to school.

On the other hand, hundreds of Korean youths commit suicide every year. How bad would the swine flu have to get to equal the number of Korean young people who have killed themselves in the last five years?

So the question of the day is: Wouldn't it be nice if Korea's leadership threw up their hands with equal urgency over a threat that has been killing, and will continue to kill, many, many more people than have been killed by the flu so far? What would that look like, and how would life change for the people at the highest suicide risk?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Asian Poses, and a picture of a friend, and an embarrassing picture of a nemesis

I love eating out with food bloggers (unlike Dan Gray, who likes the same thing, but without the "with"), because you get pictures like this, where everybody's forgotten that food is for eating, not photographing.

And I, for one, want to tell you about Asian Poses: it's a hilarious blog chronicling all the goofy poses that Asians make when somebody pulls out a camera. It's an awesome blog, and you should check it out.

And not only do I want to tell you about the blog, I want to demonstrate a few of the poses... so here goes.

Dammit, I'm awesome! I'm totally entering this video in their contest!

Next, it's good to hang out with food bloggers, because there's usually good food nearby if you keep them on your speed dial.

Plus, there's always the chance you'll get some embarrassing pictures of them. Especially when they pose for them. (I don't know why they pose for embarrassing pictures when a blogger's holding the camera... even the ATEK guys saved their really juicy stories for the second or third time I met them: not the first time.

But anyway, enjoy these pictures, because I never actually got permission to post these from Joe or Dan or Evan, so I might have to take them down. Even though once it's on the internet, taking it down is kind of moot... but whatcha gonna do?

So, without further ado, here's a picture Joe might not want you to see.

Next: here's my buddy Evan.

Doesn't he resemble this guy?

Finally: here's G-dragon.

Doesn't my buddy Dan resemble him?

Yeah I thought so, too.
Dan is trying to dig up some dirt he can use to embarrass me, but unfortunately for him, last time we hung out, he got so drunk he couldn't remember all the scandalous secrets I told him, and the Asian Poses video is the best he could do. Shouldn't have finished that first beer, Dan!