Monday, November 30, 2009

A word on Greg Dolezal, ATEK President, and Death Threats

I've talked with Greg Dolezal, ATEK's first elected President, at length a few times on the phone. A lot has already been said about him and the threat made against his life on the Anti-English Spectrum comment boards, so I'll direct you to read about it there... but I just wanted to say, I want to put in a word in support of Mr. Dolezal. He's always been on the up and up, every time I've talked with him; he seems to have his head on straight and a good view of what's important and what can slide, and I'm grateful that he's stepped forward to lead ATEK in this formative year. I think he's a good man for the job, and I wish him the best.

Read about his death threat here

and here and here. And here's a report on it submitted to CNN by Stephannie White. I support him going after this guy, just to say, "We won't be pushed around," and "No, saying 'I was just kidding' is not an acceptable escape from responsibility for being a racist asshat"

Greg's part of a movement toward an expat community that's more integrated and connected, and I approve of that. Another person who's working on that is Shannon, from the Seoul Global Center, who was just featured on The Seoul Podcast, and came to my latest 2S2 meetup.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Deo Geu-rae-ee-tuh Get-chu-bee Project and KoreanGov

OK. So over on Twitter, there's this great tweeter called koreangov, who writes hilarious 140 character send-ups of Korean promotions and news. S/He was also the first person I know of who mentioned the ifriendly website that caught so much flack a couple weeks ago. It's like Dokdo Is Ours, but more condensed.

Now, Koreangov has started a blog as well, where you can enjoy his style of satire, stretched out into longer passages. I particularly enjoyed the "new driving test" post. The blog has had a good start so far, and has the advantage of an already-built-in audience.

Moreover, my hat is off to Koreangov's amazing skill at writing English as if it were a Korean trying to write English. We've exchanged a few e-mails, and I can assure you it's a ruse, and s/he writes English perfectly fluently, but s/he is just hilarious.

It reminds me of this book I once randomly picked up:

It's a hilariously ridiculous book that obviously never passed through the hands of a single native speaker on its torturous journey from being written, obviously, in Korean first, and then translated into English with the help of a Korean-English dictionary and a grammar class. But only one or two grammar classes.

Go ahead and read it: it's right exactly on the line between clumsy, hilarious, frustrating, and sad.
Here are some examples of the train-wrecky text:


So why am I writing about this?

Because old favorite comedy blog Dokdo Is Ours just rolled out a really funny idea: The Great Gatsby Project, where contributors can take a page out of the NORMAL book "The Great Gatsby" and translate it into "This was obviously written first in Korean, and then translated into English, and never edited or read by a Native speaker at any point in the process" It's called Deo Geureat Kechupi Ploject.

I think this is a great idea which might have hilarious results, and I might contribute a few pages for fun. If any of you have regular proofreading, editing, or writing marking duties, this might be a fun way to blow off some of that frustration. So go check out the project proposal, and the new blog DIO started for the project, and maybe claim a page or two for your own.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

General Safety Bulletin and call for help

If a bunch of people invite you to take a ride in a limousine, don't get in. Even if they offer you candy.

Seriously, though, sometimes they don't offer candy: sometimes four guys force you into their car and try to rape you. And then word spreads on facebook, and bloggers send out requests asking if anybody who might have been witness to the incident, in Itaewon at 3:30 AM, or who has some info about it, could get in touch and help us track down the kinds of creeps and scuzzmuffins who would do something disgusting like that.

More at this facebook page. If anybody knows more about this, there's contact info on the page.

Been forgetting to take my camera

OK, first: As Good As It Gets is playing while I'm writing this, and I'd forgotten what a charming film it is. My new favorite part of Jack Nicholson movies is the part where other actors impersonate Jack Nicholson's character, because of course, everyone in Hollywood knows how to do Jack (pun intended). They did it in A Few Good Men, they do it in this movie. Anybody know another movie where somebody does their Jack Nicholson? All I want to see is a movie where somebody does their Al Pacino, or their Robert Deniro. You know there are dozens of spot-on Pacinos and Deniros in Hollywood, just waiting to make it on screen.

Anyway, I've been forgetting to take my camera out when I go meet my friends and stuff, but I'm generally having a good time. Found some nice spiced wine near Gyungbokgung, went back to my favorite tea place by Anguk, 2S2 was a success, and at my buddy Evan's birthday party, I ate so much brazilian steak that I was full for two days.

Here are some pictures from that day.
It was my buddy Evan's birthday party. Here's him and his buddy Jonathan making pirate faces (my idea... I should totally be a portrait photographer)

I'm gonna be sad when nobody remembers Zoolander, and Magnum.

And my friend Kelly NameChangedForPrivacy was also there: she looks good in a hat, but then, I haven't yet met a woman who doesn't look hot in a fedora, and a newsboy cap. I'd almost say every woman should own one of each, but then it would be less special.
she wouldn't do magnum for me.

I like hanging out with Kelly and Evan, because even though they met randomly in Korea, I'm buds with both of them. Even more unusual is this connection: both Evan's mother and Kelly's mother were best friends to my mother, at different times in my mom's life. That's cool.

I also had a spaghetti party, and my friend came: she used to be a coworker, and she's a nice lady. She's also a funny one, because she's a very pretty lady, yet whatever the opposite of photogenic is, she's it: in photos, she rarely more than 45% as pretty as she is in real life, but in this photo, she's all the way up to 70%, and I'm proud of that, so I'll take it.

things have changed from the "no gays in Korea" days.

Honestly, I think there are some memes involved in the ways bloggers and expats perceive Korean culture, that need to be retired. One of them is the "no gays in Korea" thing -- it gets passed around a lot, but fact is, it's been about four years since I've heard somebody tell me there are no gays in Korea, and I think that it's time to let that one die.

Another one is the one blood myth: maybe among the older generation it's sticking around a bit, but I think that the myth that ALL Koreans are pure-blood obsessed is losing its iron grip. I'm not ready to say it should be retired, because genealogy and blood heritage does still sometimes play a role in how some people think about the world, but I think it needs to be destabilized, and taken as a possibility rather than a given. So yeah, let's take the blood myth a little more on a case-by-case basis, rather than as if it were across the board. That monolithic FrankenKorean that gets stitched together from stories passed around, and examples of extreme cases, and ridiculous news stories illustrating further extreme cases, ought to be reexamined from time to time, in order to make sure we're not being just as flip and dismissive in our view of that diverse culture on the other side of the language barrier, as the worst of them are of us.

back to photos:
this cute couple was stuck in the crosswalk by insadong.

I got this picture shopping for halloween gifts... now I'm not sure if this is some celebrity...


maybe OJ?

or if the costume shop just wanted me to be able to dress as a spook for Hallowe'en. (Yes, I know that's an offensive word. The mask offended me.)

anybody here can read the Japanese? Leave a translation in the comments. I'm interested to know what it says.

They also had a sweet Barack Obama mask, but it was 40 000 won - a bit too much for me to pick it up. The ears were appropriately ginormous.

More later, dear readers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rubber Seoul and World AIDS Day

Rubber Seoul 2009

OK, everybody. World AIDS day is coming up, and my buddy, Tom Rainey-Smith contacted me, and wanted me to pass on word about an event called Rubber Seoul in Hongdae.

On December 5th, an event will be held to raise money to support AIDS, as well as to encourage people to practice safe sex. According to the press release, this is especially important in Korea because over here, 99% of new HIV/AIDS cases are transmitted sexually. The event will give you access to Janes Groove, FF, and DGBD, and all the bands playing in each of those places, all for just 10 000 won, plus you get a souvenir made by AIDS-affected South African women to take home.

Last year was a monster event, with 12 million won raised, which figures into... um... a whole lot of South African women's lives. This year, to top that, we'll need your help. If you blog, tell your blog pals about this one: it's a durn good cause and deserves a boost. Check out their facebook page or the Rubber Seoul blog for more info.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Holiday Season Has Officially Begun: Flash Mob Magic

Sweet Elf flash mob in New York City. Bonus points for using moves from Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies" (which still won't allow embedding)... and I'm pretty sure I spotted a few actual little people.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Stay Classy, Korea Times Comment Board

The Korea Times continues to embarrass itself by allowing this level of dialogue on the comment board. Source.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Memo to Korea:


Add a fifth slice to the pie: "I live in Korea" Korea's internet follies have been well and extensively documented. The latest train wreck was ifriendly, a miscalculation so badly botched the Korean Government might just want to give up, take its toys, go home, and start its OWN internet. But I just wanted to throw that graphic into the mix.

Online ad blunder by Lacoste

Lacoste is making me hate them by having these ads that automatically play music whenever I open a page. They oughta know better.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kim Yu-na tops herself again. (김연아)

Girlfriendoseyo says Kim Yuna is now only competing with herself, and I agree. As she gears up for the winter olympics, she set yet another world record in her short skate, and was nearly twenty points ahead of the second place-winner in the short skate.

Here's one clip of her performance:

And here's another.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Chosun Ilbo Has it in for Career Women

Yet another condescending article lacking in sources, dealing in stereotypes about Korean women in the workplace. Now I'm not sure if this is the Chosun Ilbo Korean as well as the Chosun English (pretty embarrassing if this is the premium content that they've chosen to translate, in putting their best foot forward for the international English speaking audience), but whatever the case, articles like this sure won't help Korea shake off its reputation for being a rigidly uber-patriarchal society.

A while ago it was that "alpha women" have no life skills - Girlfriendoseyo (who is a professional herself, and manages her life quite well, thanks) and I had an interesting conversation about it.

Now it turns out nobody wants to work as a subordinate to a female, (if by nobody you mean 64% said they preferred working for males, when we don't know what questions, or how they were asked) because of some generalizations that sound to me like gender stereotypes, along with results of a survey that includes no information whatsoever on how the statistics were gathered, or how the questions were asked.

I'm sure other bloggers could give this article a much better read, but the fact remains, articles like this are are a drop in the bucket, and nothing more than symptomatic, of a society that keeps plummeting towards the bottom of the world gender gap rankings... with a millstone (that's the opposite of rising with a bullet, I guess). 92nd in 2006 (embarrassing enough for a country with a top 15 economy), and a startling 115th in 2009. 18th from the bottom. For a bit of perspective on that, many of the countries ranked lower than Korea are countries where female genital mutilation is still practiced.

For shame, Korea. For shame, Chosun Ilbo.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2S2 on Saturday

That's right, dear readers. Clear your calendars and get ready to come out on Saturday.

Come to Anguk Station Seoul, exit 1, and turn right when you come out of the station. Almost right there, you'll see the Twosome Place coffee shop. You can come and hang out with us in the first chapter of 2S2. If you have a deck of cards, or even better, a set of Gostop cards, bring it: one thing we're going to do is try and figure out how to play that classic Korean card game, Gostop.

For more about 2S2, here's the 2S2 manifesto I wrote last month, edited a bit for brevity:

You know how everybody knows that the fourth Friday of every month is club night in Hongdae? You don't have to check local listings -- you just have to show up, and people begin to plan part of their weekends around it, because they know it's gonna happen -- every fourth Friday, like clockwork, it's there.

It occured to me that expats ought to be planning out things other than "get blitzed and dance like mad night" in a similar way, in order to establish a more integrated network of expats here in Korea, in order to provide opportunities for socializing with people other than coworkers (nothing against them, but still), at other places than the neighborhood bar (nothing against it either, but still...). It's time for us to take all the online connections we have, and get them into real life!

It's called 2S2 -- it's symmetrical, it's memorable, hopefully somebody with some graphic design skill will make it into a simple, recognizable logo sometime, and it contains the information you need.

2S2 stands for "Second Saturdays at 2" or every second Saturday at 2pm. This 2S2 would be a regular get-together where people can meet, network, and then from there, head out and participate in other activities.

It's my dream that 2S2 grow to become a decentralized get-together with numerous agreed-upon meetup locations where expats can meet all over Seoul and Korea, in order to build and strengthen connections, and in order to provide a context in which expats in Korea can help each other learn about Korea and integrate better with their host-country, as well as to provide a gathering of people ready to participate in a tangible community, and give something back to Korea. At this point, the people scapegoating foreigners and English teachers are well-mobilized and well-organized, but we English teachers and expats aren't doing a whole lot to provide a different image of ourselves than the dirty, unqualified, etcetera. Once it gains steam, 2S2 meetings could be an opportunity to get expats out in the community, picking up trash, volunteering at different places, taking part in cultural events, and who knows what else -- really, the imaginations of the organizers is the limit, and anybody can pick up the ball, and become the organizer of a chapter. Including you.

Here's the best thing about it: all it takes is a couple of people to organize a 2S2 Pocket. Basically, we already have the main info: 2S2 means every Second Saturday of the month, at 2pm. From there, all an organizer needs to do is send me a message and say "Hey. I'm going to start a 2S2 pocket at ___" and name a location. I'll publish the location, here, at The Hub of Sparkle, and if somebody has the web skills, we might even put it up on its own website, at some other easy to find location.

Well-known, or at least easy-to-find locations are probably best; I'd suggest coffee shops rather than bars, because part of the purpose of forming a more tangible community is to break OUT of the stereotype of English teachers in Korea to extend frat/sorority life. From there, it's just a matter of showing up at that spot, every second Saturday at 2, and to meet whoever else is looking to connect, and to have an activity ready to go for whoever does show up. Hopefully, we'll start hearing from people with information like "Hey. I know an orphanage in this area where they'd love to have volunteers..." "I know a church that runs a Saturday soup kitchen..." or, for that matter, "why don't we all bring our used books to the meetup and pass them around?" and who knows what other ideas people might have, so that we can start reaching out to the community, and also connecting with each other.

Bring your friends: it's an open invitation. Pick a different location every month if you're just attending -- but if you're an organizer, once you've named a location, be there every second Saturday, or find someone to fill the post in your absence, so that it's consistent. And that's it.

Like Club Night, it would take some time, I imagine, for the grassroots meetups to gain steam, and membership, but the nice thing about this is that it's decentralized, which means that each group can take ownership of their own pocket, and decide what their 2S2 Pocket is about, and how they're going to run things, and what kinds of activities they're going to do. If you want to open a pocket, I'm asking you to be patient, and be committed, during the beginning stages, when things never look very impressive. Maybe it's just you and your three coworkers for the first four months... well, OK. But this is something that could eventually build up to something a lot bigger, and meaningful for a lot of people, so, yeah, encourage people you meet to join, and stick with it, eh?

So I'm naming a location for the first, pilot 2S2 Pocket: The second floor of Twosome Place, at the top of Insa-dong street. If you want to find it, go to Anguk Station, exit 1, and turn right when you come out of the gate. Twosome Place will be on your right, just before the big intersection. Go there, and look for me, tomorrow at 2pm.

If you're thinking about starting your own pocket, send me an e-mail at roboseyo at gmail dot com, ask me any questions I haven't already answered here, and I'll spread word about it. Seoul's a big city, so I'd be happy if pockets opened in other areas, like Kangnam, Bucheon, Ilsan, or Bundang, but I'd especially love it if 2S2 pockets started up in the other major cities of Korea: anybody willing to start one in Daegu? In Busan? in Daejeon? in Gwangju? let's get our network properly networked, rather than just being isolated packets of foreigners who don't much know that each-other are doing.

This is not an exclusive effort -- the invitation's open to anyone, so bring your Korean, Brazilian, or Martian friend if you want, and let's try to get the expat community in Korea amounting to more than the sum of its parts, instead of significantly less, as it stands right now.
See you on Saturday! And if you're thinking about starting a pocket, DO! It's only one Saturday a month, and who knows how much good it could do for the community, once this thing gets rolling.

Be in touch.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Some words for my Opa

My Grandfather's Funeral was last Tuesday.

My sister wrote about him.
My uncle delivered the Eulogy at the funeral. (published here with permission)
Because I couldn't be there, my two cousins read the eulogy I wrote at the funeral. Here is what I wrote.

Stay classy, Korea Times

Here's a new feature at Roboseyo:

Send me your screenshots of The Korea Times' comment boards. Show me the classiest, suavest, sanest, most logical flame-wars they have to feature. Include a link to the original page and I'll post'em here. This was from the page where Kim Tae-hee basically apologized for being beautiful but untalented. My personal opinion: keep collecting your commercial paychecks, Ms. Kim, and don't expect me to sympathize with you because your acting talent blocks you from making aNOTHER degree of order more than I make. If her middle school grades were so high, why don't we get her into scholarship? I'd attend her academic paper. Especially if this was her presentation style:

Keep it classy, KT. To follow the conversation properly, read it from the bottom to the top: most recent comments go on the top at KT.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Mosquito Apocalypse

Anybody else bugged all night by mosquitoes last night? I noticed surprisingly few during September and October (usual skeeter season in Seoul), but last night alone I killed about eight (sorry 'bout that, Buddha), and everyone I've heard from so far has reported similar experiences.

Anybody else nervous about the mosquito apocalypse? Do you think they've just been laying low all September, to muster the troops for an attempt on humans for the place of primacy on planet Earth, or what's up?

Their attempt to move up the food chain sure didn't go unnoticed. Anybody know where I can get one of these?

By the way... Schwim just posted the funniest student drawing I've since... I couldn't even tell you.

2S2, November Edition this Saturday

Hey all. Don't forget to clear your calendar on Saturday afternoon for the second monthly 2S2 meetup.

For more explanation on what 2S2 is, and where to meet see this link.

For a write-up of the last 2S2, go here.

I'm hoping this one will have a bit bigger turnout than last month's, and if you're coming, bring a deck of cards or, even better, a set of gostop cards. The activity of the afternoon will be learning how to play/ playing Gostop. If you want to be extra-prepared, read the rules here.

So clear your calendars. More about it later, when I dont' have to prepare for a class.


Friday, November 06, 2009

All Hail Tom Coyner!

Tom Coyner is one of the snazziest commentators on Korean culture. His webpage, Tom Coyner, is cool, but I especially like what he writes for Korean papers.

This time, he argues that at the same time as Korea tries so hard to build its brand, Korea continues bulldozing the kinds of neighborhoods and landmarks that would do the most for Korea's ACTUAL brand, rather than just the manufactured one. Yet again, the gap between what Korea IS, and how Korea wants to be seen, reveals itself in sharp relief. Give it a read. I totally agree... sure, some of these neighbourhoods ARE decrepit and DO need revitalization... but another rectangular class and concrete eyesore is the LAST thing Seoul needs these days to become a unique, interesting city with neighbourhoods that each leave strong, and different, impressions on visitors.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Few Links...

1. The musical version of "naturally blonde" oops I mean Legally Blonde, is coming to Korea. Just in case we didn't have enough fake-blonde Koreans already.

2. In really, really, really bad news: it is now officially legal to watch TV while you drive. Are you effing kidding me? I mean, seriously? Can Korea's justice system just call a mulligan on some of its judge appointments and bring in some new people who don't have their heads up their butts?

3. This guy thinks Korea's music industry is working on a business model that's all wrong, and in fact, threatening to lead to the downfall of the Korean wave! Personally, I agree: if you ask me, the boy/girl band, trained by a production company, business model just isn't going to lead to a growth of the kind of creativity and originality that will ultimately help the Korean wave flourish.

Morning Calm Garden, Day Trip in South Korea

Not sure if I've posted this yet, but I wanted to make sure I shared this picture with you:

I love the random appearance of soldiers in Korea, doing random things, like holding their girlfriends' purses at shopping centers, or goofing off on a subway platform, during their weekends of leave. This is my all-time favorite, though:

Next: Girlfriendoseyo took me to a place called "Morning Calm Garden" the very weekend after reading A Geek In Korea's glowing review of it. I took a ton of pictures, and here are the best ones for you. This was one of the prettiest botanical gardens I've ever seen (and I've seen a few). It's only 15 years old, and I'm sure as the trees mature, it'll only get better, but this was the absolute optimum day for fall colors -- both because of the date (everything was rich red) and because of the weather -- the grayish sky meant I never had to worry about backlighting while taking most of my photos, and then right near the end of our trip, suddenly the sun came out and I got a few blazing glory shots, too.

In a garden, open spaces are crucial for balance.

in the sun, those white spray-thingys look really great. I'm bad with remembering plant names, but in the same way not knowing musical theory doesn't mean I can't appreciate a good symphony, not knowing plant names hasn't impeded my aesthetic appreciation of them.

In the gift shop: this is what happens to a Korean kid if they wet the bed. They have to walk around the neighborhood knocking on doors and asking for salt. I imagine the public shaming might be a good disincentive.. then again, the fear of shaming might lead to bed-wetting level anxiety.

A mother rubbing her sick baby's belly. Girlfriendoseyo asked if I knew what was happening, and I helpfully informed her that Korean moms are not the only ones who rub their sick children's bellies. (snarky comment goes here.. but I'm trying to be less snarky)


I like wacky, crooked "1960s batman" angles when I take pictures.

A waterfally stream.

here's another picture of the stream.


green and red.

I love variegated colors like this, fading from one shade to the other.



stream bed

This tree had the most awesome colour fade I've seen in a while. Look how it pretty much hits every color on the fall spectrum, from its tips to its center.


from the lookout point, I played with setting the light filter lower, so that the brighter colours showed up more brightly in contrast.

lighter filter setting. Learning what my camera can do has been a fun process.

The rock-pile garden was fascinating. One guy had a pile so tall it was above his head! (you can see it poking up, a bit left of the center)



Kids were playing. They made me happy.




I also like pictures of backlit leaves.



The sunken garden.


More leaf fades.

Just to prove I was actually there:
Girlfriendoseyo likes to frame her subject on the sides of photos.

as you can see.

the pavillion lake.

had a continuous string of people using these benches to pose.

these reminded me of the Pines of British Columbia

Maybe my favorite picture of the whole lot:


a great people-watching moment I caught:


as usual with Korean sites, crowds were de rigeur... but the scenery was so nice, I didn't mind a bit.


Yeah. so that was nice.