Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Happy Times...

I'm tired every day when I get home from work... but there's a lot of awesome in my life right now.

Here's a song to commemorate my happy.  "The Heart of Life (is good)" by John Mayer, whose soft rock belies a seriously skilled guitarist.

and here are a few pictures from my wedding and honeymoon:


My Step-Mom is a class act.  We got her some hanbok made, and she looked fantastic with Wifeoseyo's ma.

This bouquet was part of wifeoseyo's birthday celebration.  It isn't easy to get flowers in the maldives, but it was worth every penny, dear readers.  They were gorgeous, and perfect for the situation.

Here is a happy Seyo.

Wifeoseyo can make a coral blue sea and a champagne glass into a nifty photo.

She's also a hot silhouette.

We chose the right night to go on the sunset cruise: the other sunsets that week were mostly grey and disappointing, but we got gorgeous skies all the way from blue to gold to pink to purple to moonlight.


Oh yeah.  Also my niece.

And my other niece.  This is one of the pictures I like most, of all the pictures I've taken.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

B- Blood Needed in Gwangju

I've received a few messages:

at Cheonnam University Hospital in Gwangju, there's a longtime expat, and upstanding community member named Michael Simning who sick: the full diagnosis isn't out yet, but he needs blood.

All RH negative blood is rare in Korea: most Koreans have a positive RH, so there is often a demand, or shortage in negative blood types.

A few months ago, there was a call to give blood for a kid in Yonsei Severance Hospital, across facebook and other places.  I wrote about my experience trying to give blood here, and I wrote about what one must do to qualify to give blood here.  It will help if you bring a friend who speaks Korean: even in Seoul, the blood clinic folks barely spoke a stitch of English.

there's a facebook group called "Blood Connections" that shares information about blood donation in Kroea.  They're a good group to contact for more information about what you have to do, to donate blood in Korea: the language gap can be a problem. There's more here.

The donation eligibility form is the same at any red cross clinic worldwide:

Take a look at this document. Read it carefully.
Take a look at this document. Read it carefully.
These two documents'll help you determine your eligibility.

In this article, and this one, I was told you need to meet these requirements to donate blood in Korea: 

1. You need to have an Alien Registration Card. Bring it, and be ready to present it.
2. You need to have been in Korea for a year.
3. You need to be able to answer some questions about your medical history... mostly the ones inthose two documents above... the guy at the Seoul Global Center, when I called in April, was pretty sure that you need to speak enough Korean to answer the medical history questions yourself, but when I went in person, the nurse did allow me to answer the questions through an interpreter.  Some of the questions made my translator feel awkward -- "have you shared needles"? But if you can help save a guy's life, it's worth it, right?

I'm not sure who the best person to call for more information is, either at the hospital, or for gwangju-specific information - maybe a Gwangju-er could let us know in the comments?  But that's a start.

ht: Brian in JND, Twitter, and the two or three people who have messaged me on facebook or by e-mail.

more about my blood donation experience here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

North Korea on Collegehumor

Collegehumor put up this fictional "google map" of North Korea on their main page.

Here's a teaser/screenshot:

It was kind of funny - riffing on the propaganda thing.

It's not the first time North Korea's been mocked, and I'm sure it won't be the last.
I'm so Ronery (Team America, World Police)

the "Jackass does North Korea" thing was mildly funny... not funny enough for an embedded video...

but my personal favorite is this Chinese insurance commercial.

I like to imagine Kim Jong-Il seeing this stuff when he surfs the internet, and I wonder how he responds.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Question of the day: Multi Language Car Navigation

So Wifeoseyo and I got a car. It's pretty sweet, though commuting is... commuting.

Anyway, it's not a Korean-made car, so the next question is this: see, the navigation system that's built into the car... well... has a few shortcomings. We're looking at getting a Korean navigation system, but as a not-Korean native speaker, Korean-only navigation systems aren't helpful for me, because exactly at the times when I need to focus on the road and not have too much distracting me - off-ramps, left-turns, merging traffic - having the Navi speaking to me in Korean increases my stress instead of decreasing it, and divides my focus instead of helping. I can turn the thing off, but having notations and such is useful.

Now, I know that in America, you can get a navigation system that can switch voices - you can have Homer Simpson or Kyle from South Park tell you to turn left or right.  I haven't researched it, but I bet that means you can also switch your navigation to a different language...

At some point, maybe sooner than later, my Korean language will improve to the point it's not necessary, but until then...

So the question is, here in Korea, how does one get a navigation that can switch between English and Korean instructions without too much difficulty?  Which brand is best, or what does one have to do to their navigation system, so that it'll do it?

Answers in the comments, please.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Funniest Sexual Harassment Training Video

My coworker just told me he stalks me on my blog. That's OK, Bryan. You're still awesome.

However, while we're on the subject...

There have been rumblings around my workplace that there might be a sexual harassment training seminar in our near future.  That's OK with me, all things considered.  But that got me remembering the funniest Sexual Harassment Training Video I've ever seen - from collegehumor.com.

warning: mature topic, some words your grandmother doesn't like to hear, and a few unexpected visuals.

warning: hilarity

Disclaimer: while this video is over the top and funny, sexual harassment isn't, and anybody who employs these techniques in earnest is some kind of scuzz or another.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The best thing about living in Korea...?

So I got stuck in a traffic jam this morning - more about driving in Seoul sometime soon, now that Wifeoseyo and I got a car...

but I have been accused of too much bitching on my blog lately, so it's time for something positive.

First off, being married is great.  Wifeoseyo is a champ, in every respect, and it's been an awesome time so far.  Got to hang out with the in-laws last weekend, and my one-year-old niece is super-cute, too.  She likes me.  We're only at the waving and smiling point so far, but that's OK with me.

Anyway, this last week, I've been taking full advantage of one of the things I love the most about Korea, and here it is:

Monday: grilled Mackerel, in a long-standing, well-known restaurant in my neighborhood: crisped brown, perfectly salted, purple rice (healthier) on the side.  4000 won.

Tuesday: hot pot bibimbap: the pot is so hot that the rice scorches against the inside of the bowl in which the bibimbap is served; I mix it, and then press the mixed rice against the sides of the bowl, to maximize the scorched flavor and texture.  Best bibimbap I've had in the city (as always, the best bibimbap, hands down, is in those little restaurants at the bottoms of mountain trails, right after climbing a mountain, but short of climbing a mountain, this is great).  The old ladies at this place know me, and know that I don't eat the "Yakult" cup, so they don't set it out on my tray.

Wednesday: maybe on Wednesday I'll go to "Halmoni Kalguksu" near Jongno 3-ga, in a tiny back-alley near subway exit six.

The old ladies there have kept their prices the same since the 1980s, according to wifeoseyo, who read about them, and they plan to continue that way until they die.

Plus, they're really cute old ladies:

Their kitchen is pretty sweet, too.

And maybe on Thursday, I'll head down to the dark, slightly sketchy street near my workplace, where you can pay 6000 won for a seafood pancake (해물파전) that's crisp, delicious, fresh, and big enough that two people can't finish it together in one sitting.

See, you never know where you'll find a brilliant gem of a restaurant - the narrowest back alley might bend around and reveal a line up out the door and around the next corner, where you'll eat your fill and then some from a few people who actually take pride in serving great food for a low price.  I'll tell you what: where I'm from, if the soup became famously delicious, it wouldn't take long for the soup's price to reflect the degree of fame it had achieved.  

I've heard Japanese food is great - but you've gotta seriously pay for the best of it.  I've heard French cuisine is similarly great - if you don't mind paying through the nose.  But in Korea, the best - seriously, the best Korean food, the most authentic Korean food experience, the most delicious food, and the food that reminds your Korean friends of their childhoods, is usually cheap as anything, loaded with more side dishes than you can eat, and in unpretentious farmhouses, or in bare-bones simple hole-in-the-wall restaurants in a back alley where directions to find it go like this: "Turn left, and then right, and then left, and then right, and if you reach the old lady husking garlic cloves on her front porch, you've gone too far."

And I love it.

Halmoni Kalguksu (pictured above) is closed on Sundays, and don't go during lunch hour, because the line goes out the door.  Here's the google map:

View Halmoni Kalguksu in a larger map

Friday, August 20, 2010

Overpackaging In Seoul: Has Anything Changed?

A bit over a year ago I made this video to point out the extreme level of overpackaging many products have in Seoul: even Wifeoseyo's mom is shocked by the overpackaging when she comes in from Daegu.

The question is: has it gotten any better since then?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'm gonna spoil Inception for you.

OK, readers, I'm about to spoil a movie for you.  Not spoil like, "give away the ending" but spoil like "once you realize this, you can't look at the movie the same way again" spoil -- not in the "HE's Keyser Soze" way, but in the "How did Fezzik find out Count Rugen was the six-fingered man?  He didn't talk to Wesley after Wesley was captured" way.

In the same way that the best criticism I heard of Harry Potter came out of left field and surprised me with the perceptiveness of the comment, Wifeoseyo just pulled a tiny thread and made the movie Inception unravel for me.

See, I met this lady who didn't let her kids read Harry Potter... but not because Harry Potter was the devil recruiting her kids to witchcraft, but because Harry was a bad role model: one of the overarching themes of the books (especially the early ones) was "Kids usually know better than adults, and adults are not to be trusted, and rules made by adults are to be circumvented or ignored whenever it seems best to kids to do so."  Think about how often Harry doesn't tell Dumbledore about something that he should have, given that Dumbledore was above reproach and always did right by Harry, given that Harry always trusted him when he thought explicitly about him, and how Dumbledore always proved trustworthy.  Yet Harry lied or concealed all kinds of stuff from Dumbledore, McGonagall, and all the other teachers.  This mom didn't like the spirit of disrespect, mistrust, and disobedience for adults embedded in the books. And she was right.  And that message was subtler, and therefore harder to de-program, if kids picked it up.

I was totally unprepared for her critique, but she was bang on, and as the series continued, Harry started concealing or lying to his friends as well, to the point that by the seventh book, he was one of the most unlikeable heroes I've read in a book.  Say what you want, but the heroes of the Narnia books, and especially Lyra and Will in the "His Dark Materials" trilogy by Philip Pullman, are miles more likable than our man HP.

So what about Inception?

Well, yeah, the story was subtle and cool.  The effects were great.  The levels and the themes were nifty and I'm sure I could watch it three more times and get more from it each time.  DiCaprio remains my favorite actor of his generation (that's the post-Johnny Depp generation, as Depp is in a class of his own), and I still think that in thirty years, Depp/DiCaprio will be the Pacino/DeNiro of our generation, unless Robert Downey Jr. has a run of brilliance like Tom Hanks had in the '90s.  Then somebody will come along and say, "Streep" and everybody will go, "Oh yeah.  She owns them all.  Plus, we're sexist."

But here's the thing that undid Inception for me, and that won't get out of my head now that I realized it.  And now I'm going to wreck it for you, too:

Wifeoseyo commented, offhand, that she really got annoyed by all the gunplay in the movie.  This is surprisingly similar to something my mother would say: she'd tune out and usually fall asleep, at the first gunfight, no matter how good the movie was.  (And then snore during the most crucial scene, to the exasperation/delight of everyone in the family.)

But then I thought more about it, and realized...

Holy crap, Inception presented one of the biggest lost opportunities in a movie, like, ever.

See, we're in a dream world.  a dream world and the most imaginative protection one's subconscious can come up with is people with guns?  In a freaking dream world?  Come-freaking-ON!

Christopher Nolan sets his movie -- makes the whole point of his movie that it happens in the subconscious -- and then the best he can come up with is people with guns?

Where's my Matrix-anti-gravity moon-boot action?  It's a dream after all, isn't it?  Why would I bring a gun into someone's dream world, when instead I could turn my arms into giant steel octopus arms, or grow myself fifty feet tall and get my stomp on, or spray psychic mind-beams all over the landscape?  Why wasn't a single one of the five dream layers defended by giant robot ninja hedgehogs with rocket-claws and laser eyes and invisibility power?  At the very least, why weren't the dark corners of these dream cities and hotels hiding ghouls and bogeymen and spiders and kidnappers and whatever else lurked in the dreamers' nightmares?

The more I think about it, the more disappointing the gunplay becomes, and the more cheated I feel.  Christopher Nolan set an entire movie in dreamland, and there wasn't a single shapeshifting bearshark with robot intelligence that spit acid saliva.  He gave himself a total blank slate: a dream world with a virtually unlimited hollywood budget... and then filled it with the most conventional element in the world.  That's like your friend buying a Ferrari and then only using it to drive to church, or owning the world's greatest home entertainment system, but only having "The Notebook" in your DVD collection.

For the record, Inception is not the only movie I believe was made into a huge letdown by an over-reliance on gunplay: Mr. and Mrs. Smith, with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, was another movie where the gunplay copout left me cold.  The whole point of the movie was two super-smart, super-spies who are married... and instead of extricating themselves from their spy agencies through some super-smart, stealthy piece of intrigue that gives them a watertight out... they shoot a bunch of people in a warehouse?  I was totally disappointed.

That's all for now.  Leave requests for other movies I can spoil in the comments.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wanna be a KPop Star?

Now that I'm officially out of the KPop closet, I was looking up articles to put together a topic for my discussion class, and came across this:

what it takes to become a KPop star.

Interesting.  Extra Korea regularly comments on the conditions KPop stars work under (hint: pretty outrageous).

And in other news, I've got to report on KPop songs I like quick, for one of two reasons: either the song doesn't hit, and it vanishes from the public consciousness so quickly that my video clip seems irrelevant, or it DOES hit, and it becomes so ubiquitous that I get sick of it.

So here's the latest song that's been buzzing through my head.
And maybe if it gets stuck in your head, dear reader, it won't be stuck in mine for another week.

ever notice how so many of JYP's bands have English words at the most catchy points of the melody? Exactly those points that are supposed to catch in your head?

It makes me particularly susceptible to infection.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

North Korea on Youtube

The Korea Herald had a blurb on its front page that North Korea had opened a Youtube channel.  Now, this is very, very interesting news to me, because a North Korean propaganda channel on Youtube is/could be...

1. unintentionally hilarious
2. unintentionally frightening
3. a fascinating convergence of backward-looking thought with new media
4. in danger of being blocked by the Korean government
5. loaded with hilariously bad English

-here we expat bloggers have been moaning that South Korean promotions people have been failing to reach their audience because they've been publishing/producing stuff THEY like instead of stuff that'll actually reach their audience... how much do you want to bet a North Korean Youtube channel will raise that hilari-out-of-touchness to a degree we may never have seen before.

If the intended audience of the Youtube channel is the international world, and not just South Korean sympathizers/potential sympathizers, that is.

Here's North Korea's Youtube Channel: take it with a grain of salt, and keep an eye on it: who knows when the hilarity will begin.  I'm praying for subtitles and English language narrators to keep me joy-ing.

Also interesting are the comment threads on most Youtube channels related to North Korea: even my own video about North Korea gets a random "Hail the great North Korea" comment posted on it about every third month or so.

For more North Korea on Youtube:
rodrigorojo1 (Hat-tip to Reasonable Man)
the famous north/south b-boy showdown video that went around Youtube.

The video you SHOULD watch is this one, by LINK (Liberty In North Korea) - this was a video sponsored by Google to spread word about the situation in North Korea.  This video features a talk by a North Korean defector who grew up in a North Korean concentration camp.  Did you know there are still concentration camps operating in the world?  Why isn't every person in the world outraged about this?

public executions, mass starvation, concentration camps; the list goes on.

The tragedy: this video only has 100 000 or so views as of today.

story on google news
I'd link the Korea Herald article, but I've been getting "this site will harm your computer warnings" lately.

Vice Guide to North Korea: a tour of North Korea from the view of a western TV Crew who pretended to be tourists, and took hidden camera footage.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Language Changes How We Think: Article from "givemesomethingtoread.com"


All this new research shows us that the languages we speak not only reflect or express our thoughts, but also shape the very thoughts we wish to express. The structures that exist in our languages profoundly shape how we construct reality, and help make us as smart and sophisticated as we are.
Language is a uniquely human gift. When we study language, we are uncovering in part what makes us human, getting a peek at the very nature of human nature. As we uncover how languages and their speakers differ from one another, we discover that human natures too can differ dramatically, depending on the languages we speak. The next steps are to understand the mechanisms through which languages help us construct the incredibly complex knowledge systems we have.

What does that mean for what you know of the Korean language?  Dump your theories here.

Sucks to your Internets, Korean Immigration. or: dealing with HIKOREA.or.kr was extremely frustrating today

I'm fuming right now.  All I wanted to do was make a reservation so that I didn't have to wait for five FRIGGIN' hours at immigration tomorrow afternoon when I actually have free time in my MAD schedule to go down and finish the documentation for my marriage visa.

That doesn't sound too hard, does it?

So I go to the website.  No problem.  Try to log in.  Popup.

"*#&@^$^@%@%^" (translation: "this is Korea, durr. We haven't heard of google chrome, or internet platforms other than Internet Explorer Six") ... or to be more accurate..








you get the idea.

Firefox? (also known as the world's most widely used web browser)  No dice.  Safari?  No dice.

Welcome to Korea.  Mac users need not apply.  My own dumb fault for getting a mac, I suppose, but cripes almighty!

screenshot:  oh really? you don't say.

So I phone the operator at the immigration phone line thoughtfully supplied by the government of Korea.  How nice.  Really. and the lady was quite polite and patient, as she asked me to tell her my hikorea login and password over the phone (seriously, Korea? this is how you do things? have people read passwords to other people over the phone?)

except that there was NOTHING she could do.  Literally nothing.

The password I got when I registered didn't work.

"So how can I get a new password?"
Well, just go to your fax machine...
"Nobody uses fax machines."

Seriously?  A FRIGGIN' FAX MACHINE is the only way to recover your password?
Youtube lets you click a button, prove you're not a machine, and sends an e-mail to the address you originally provided.  Would that be so hard?

"But if you don't have a fax machine you can't get a new password."
Kind of misses the point of bringing the service online, don't you think?
"Maybe you have a friend who has a hikorea login that can make a reservation for you?"
Umm. no.  Why should I need to?
"Maybe you can come in really early tomorrow when the lines are light?"

Got classes then.

So I'm going to end up sitting in immigration for THREE FRIGGIN' HOURS of my ONLY FRIGGIN' free afternoon of the week (thanks to the new "hey, your seniority means nothing; you're all working four nights a week; newlywed nothin'!  Better enjoy your new bride on the weekend, 'cause you'll be getting home dead-tired ALL WEEK!" policy at my school) because that lovely, thoughtful phone line won't let people make reservations over the phone, even if they can provide all the pertinent id numbers.

Nope. They just have the phone line to talk you in circles until you go back to the website, so that nobody has to actually directly deal with you.

I'll be positive tomorrow.  Right now I'm friggin' choked.

And dear everyone running a website in Korea: it ain't 1997 anymore.  figure out a way to run your website on more than just Internet Explorer six.  Dumbass.


(image credit)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

ATEK Presidential Nominations

The July ATEK newsletter, which was sent out to all members, announced that presidential nominations began on July 23.  They close tomorrow.

So far, one person has submitted her candidacy, and while I'm assured that she's awesome, it's better for the organization, and better for English teachers, if we have more people in the running.  Campaigning and presidential debates allow for a discussion of English teachers' situation in Korea, and the future of the organization, in a way that more clearly articulates a person's vision, and the community's needs.  If you're a general member of ATEK, and you want to throw your hat in the ring, the nomination period ends tomorrow, so get down to the ATEK general members forum to join the race.  Also: any nominations need to be seconded by a general member.  Don't forget to second candidates you support.

New Korea-related Brilliance on Youtube

When I was looking for that trot video I posted on the Taxi driver post, I stumbled across these as well:

now, I know we're all fond of KPop - honestly, it's taken me five years or so, but K-pop is starting to grow on me. Really grow on me - basically, because within the limitations of what it's trying to accomplish, it succeeds eeeextreeeemmmelllly well.

And let's be honest: we all have a soft spot for trot music, the cheesy, accordion-rich music the old taxi drivers listen to when they drive us from place to place, loaded with overdone vibratos and yodel-ly voice-cracking vocalization techniques.  It's silly, it's fun, and it's unlike ANYTHING from back home... admit it. You like it.  I know you do.

So let's combine them.

Watch the first two minutes of each of these videos if you don't know the original song, and then watch the howlingly funny "Trot" remakes:

Lollipop - from a phone ad a little while ago.  Featuring TWO Kpop megabands: Big Bang AND 2NE1.  That's right. How many kpop teen idol band sensations are promoting YOUR phone?  TWO? I didn't think so.

The Trot version:

bear with me. it gets better.

"Heartbreaker" by G-Dragon

And the trot remake: about halfway through, the traditional instruments take the whole thing moves to a new level approaching the sublime.

As an extra bonus, the Korean title is "Trotbreaker"

Finally, the best of all:

"Sorry Sorry" by SuperJunior, one of KPop's biggest supergroups.

and then watch this, the Trot Remake.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

been having an excellent taxi driver week

Sometimes it's the little things in life that keep you afloat... especially when one's glorious wedding/family visit/honeymoon to the maldives/summer vacation suddenly morphs into a "worst working schedule I've ever had and the staff room air conditioner stopped working" return to work.

but i'm happy to report that I've had a startlingly good run of taxi drivers lately.

And as tribute to Taxi Drivers, who can be the best, or the worst thing about life in Korea, depending on the one, and the day, and the weather, here's some taxi driver music, also known as "Trot" or 트로트.

Wifeoseyo and I were in a taxi heading to the Seoul Station Lotte Mart, and as we passed Seoul Station, Wifeoseyo twisted around and gasped, "We've gone past Seoul Station! What are you doing?" to the taxi driver. As we came a little farther around the corner, it was revealed that the Lotte Mart was around the side of the main station. Instead of the gruff, bulldog snarl that a lot of taxi-drivers would offer when their passenger said, in effect, "What the hell are you doing?" -- this taxi driver looked ahead, and sang cheerfully, "Lotte Marteu" exactly the way the radio jingle goes. It cracked us both up, and turned the situation from possible mean to brilliantly fun. Lovely.

then, yesterday, I got off work, and wanted to test out another route home before the car wifeoseyo and I ordered arrives, and I start seriously considering driving to work. So I caught a cab, and asked him to take me home by way of a certain road that's less travelled by than the usual thoroughfares taxi drivers head for, when one asks to go to my new neighborhood.

As soon as I started talking in Korean, the Taxi driver started laughing with glee -- it took me a few seconds to suss out that he wasn't mocking me, but was simply impressed and tickled that I spoke Korean as well as I did (not THAT well... but I'll take it)

Then, he started telling stories in 85% Korean (but mostly simple enough I could catch the gist), about other non-Korean passengers he'd taken, which included a hilarious re-enactment of a conversation with some Arab passengers-

"You tomorrow airport come! Big cash!"
"No I taxi small! Five people my taxi small."
"Please you come tomorrow please cash money!"
"I sorry taxi small no five people sorry!"

he was laughing all through his own story, and the way he told it reminded me of the seven-year-old I used to teach who was so excited about his story that he stopped using words, and just acted the ends of his stories out with broad, comical charades, while his classmates looked on, bemused, with faces reading, "I have no idea what's going on, but it sure is entertaining!"

Then he went on to explain how Japanese passengers can't speak Korean OR English, and complained that English is hard. He took his little screen (which had been playing trot/techno, which he stopped at the beginning of the trip, and which I asked him to turn back on, because it was hella fun), and turned on an English tv drama, which we watched, all as he told me in asides, "I have no idea what they're saying," and then took a phrase from the show "How do you like that?" and repeated it as he heard it: "Hawyuulaee'det?" over and over, until it cracked me up again.

So yeah, sometimes things get busy, and air conditioners break down, and wallets get pick-pocketed... but there's always a funny taxi driver, a cute old lady, or a friendly stranger, to keep things from going too far down the dark road.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Best Mangled English of the Year So Far

Courtesy of Nick Elwood, of the blog "Bathhouse Ballads"

Electric Rice Cooker...
and cum warmer.

If you're into that kinky stuff. (as Nick says: don't forget to wash it out after)

Did this make the rounds while I was on my honeymoon, or is it as hilarious to you as it is to me?

Any other submissions for best mangled English of 2010, so far?