Here are photos of expats in Korea to go with my latest online diary entry for the first of November

In Gear

It’s been a pretty shitty week to be a Canadian. Mad gunmen shooting up Parliament. Sexually violent media personalities who used to run an interview radio show I once listened to regularly. Our neighbours to the south, and the economy we’re tied to, look like they’re about to step once again into the mouth of madness and elect the same crowd of vicious lunatics and corporate stooges that fucked up the global economy last decade. Our vodka-loving, gay-hating neighbours across the Arctic are rattling sabers at the world. And on top of that, it looks like our sitting Petro-Tory government really are the fraudulent crooks that shouldn’t be in power like all sane people thought they were.

Of equal importance, I have four months left in my current job. Maybe I should stay here since I don’t seem to have a real Canada to go home to?

A drawing expat.

A drawing expat.

Gear Change

Yeah, I know. Four months left! It’s like I just got here, but time passes quickly when you’re complaining. This is all part of the cycle of unreality in Korea. You live year by year and while a year can be forever, it’s also a really short time. The “Neato!” quickly morphs into the “Get me the hell out of here!” which finally calms down into the “The end already? It can’t be!” in your head space and you’re suddenly kicked out of your rut.

Another drawing expat.

Another drawing expat.

One of the three main signs of being middle-aged is constantly worrying about your potential future of being an elderly drain on the system. (For the record, the other two are constant aches and pains, and lusting for people half your age.) I have been thinking about what I’ll be doing at the end of this contract pretty much from the day I got on the jet for my hell ride (Never fly Delta. Never go through the USA. May LAX fall into the Pacific.) to Korea last year. Now I actually have to start acting on this stuff and get my resume and whatever documents I may need prepared.

Will I be asked to stay another year at my current job? Do I want to do that? Does anyone else want me or will my age and lack of Brad Pitt-level attractiveness force me back to the sofas of Canada? Can I move back to Japan? Would my job there be as good as my last one or will I be overworked and underpaid like some salaryman? Go home and learn a trade? Give up and go on welfare? Fret, fret, fret.

A singing expat (Though he might be on an entertainment visa)

A singing expat (Though he might be on a temporary entertainment visa)

Gear Change

I haven’t been too pleased with my photos lately. It’s becoming obvious to me that I’m pretty bad at manual focusing but I keep using old manual lenses on my digital Pentax… At night, with the aperture wide open which makes getting the focus perfect a priority. Which means I might suck at cameras.

While I think most of you dear readers know this already, here’s a quick info dump about what I just wrote means: When you set your camera to to a really low “F” number (It’s one of those settings you never use on your expensive DSLR. Just stick with “Automatic” and you’ll be fine.) the amount of stuff you can get in focus becomes┬áreally small. In some cases it’s the difference between having an eye in focus, or having an ear. I seem to be pretty good at getting ears even with the camera beeping at me. That’s why the faces you see here are blog-fodder instead of getting shown off as examples of my awesomeness on Flickr. Lots of ears.

I might sink some cash into a couple of more digital lenses to replace the manual lenses I’ve been using. You know though… I have four months left on my current contract and may have to save some cash. Might be a dumb idea to buy something that will go for $20 at the pawn shop in a year or two.

anexpat1

Gear Change

I drew some D&D character concepts recently.

I’m part of a small crowd of expats who have been trying to get our D&D on for the last few weeks but scheduling has been a pretty big barrier. Most of us have apartments that are too small to host in and we all work a wide variety of hours. Also, a lot of these folks are of the Nu-Geek breed that have fulfilling social lives in addition to their nerdy hobbies. If it came down to a choice of a Saturday night rolling dice, or going out and getting laid, there will be many Orcs remaining un-slain.

At this moment I would like to add that I feel no resentment to the new, better socially-adjusted breed of geek. So feel free to attractively cosplay, academically criticize games, demand better representation, and otherwise continue to mainstream my youthful refuges, kids. I will not threaten to murder or rape you over it… Unlike a large number of shitstains you’ve doubtlessly become aware of recently. Feel free to give those guys a wedgie if you meet them in real life.

An expat with the same expression I have when reading the words “ethics in game journalism”

P.S., If you see your face here and feel *really* uncomfortable with it, drop me a line on FaceBook and I’ll swap it out with something else.

Hellmouth

theorange

The sodium vapor light casts everything in a sickly orange color at night in most cities. When I returned to Canada last year I noticed that when they burn out they’re replacing them with the new LED lights. That’s good. They’re less energy-draining. But my memories of the city will always be associated with that coloring that turns them into the unreal places they are.

I’ve been thinking that I should write a bit more about Korea since most of you readers are either interested in Korea, or already live here and are hoping to find some nice, tasty confirmation bias. Those are the posts that get me the most eyeballs and what sort of internet personality would I be if I wasn’t trying to get as many of you into my wee army as possible? Just for the record: My most shared posts on Tumblr are about geeky pop culture. And my most liked images on Flickr have Japanese people in them because it’s really hard to find pictures of Japanese folks…? I should find some sort of focus.

Anyway, what to tell you about Korea that gets me more eyes reading? Shall I tell you about the pop culture? The music is awful and you should be ashamed of supporting it. Though I understand that you can make a career out of blogging on YouTube about it so maybe I’ll look into that as a retirement plan. The TV is terrible. The food is good but there is a samey-ness to it after a while. Every expat with access to the internet blogs about the food, and I don’t have a smartphone so I can’t capture the true essence of photographing it.

Shall I tell you about the politics here? The politicians are the same sort of craven mendicants in the pockets of big business that they are back home. And everyone thinks North Korea are a bunch of loudly-barking dogs chained up behind a fence. More noise than threat. I understand that you can make a career out blogging about this as well. But I don’t think that I can maintain the American culture-war transplanting that blogging about Korean politics seems to require.

Shall I complain about work? That would be dumb, and dishonest, since employers can be pretty vindictive here and I have few complaints now anyway. Though counting it out on my fingers tells me that I have four months left here, which is stunning to think about since the time has passed so quickly… yet so slowly. I will miss the kids when I move on, but I always do. Not moving on is not an option. While staying in the same ESL job for multiple years worked out well for me in Japan, it never has here in Korea.

Oh! I know!

I fell asleep with the odol heating on the other night and woke up covered in sweat. The room stayed warm all day so I guess there’s that.

What do you want to read? You could tell me in the comments… If I had them. Which I don’t since website comments are, on average, horrible things that make you despair for humanity.

Just do it.

Like You Just Dont Care

When it comes time to throw your hands in the air, old Koreans will wave them around like they just don’t care. I suspect the courage-emboldening aspects of soju might play a part in it.

If you’ve ever wondered where that hip-hop cliche came from, it came from this song:

You will also notice that 80% of all of the lyrics written in the 90s came from this song as well.

Know No

Awr Yeah

Have you heard of The Knowing Smile? This is what it looks like.

I’m often at a loss about what I should write in relation to these images. Writing about the expat’s perspective on Korean culture? Excuse me while I make a rude gesture that indicates masturbation. That’s probably why I tend to post once a week and when I do I’m making some wisecracks. Like saying the word “masturbation” in a hopefully unexpected manner that will elicit a smirk from the surprise but really just having it come across like a dad joke.

I often wonder if this is due to a lack of focus (In the motif sense of the word) or artistic goal in my photos. I tend to call myself a documentarian, but I think that’s true in only the broadest sense: I document. So does a security camera. I like to think I’m a lot better than a swiveling security camera, but I’ve never been featured on World’s Craziest Security Footage shows so I guess they win.

People tend to look at that label as being more of a path for people like Dorothea Lange who showed the world big events and social issues in the hopes that maybe someone would do something about it aside from taking photographs. Nothing like that is going on in my images and likely never will. Witnessing something like Tomoko Uemura In Her Bath would leave me a depressed mess unwilling to go outside due to despair for humanity. Maybe if I took a jog through World War Two like W. Eugene Smith did I’d be made of sterner stuff like him.

A quick look at Wikipedia’s list of photography genres leads me to think that what I do could be better described as Vernacular Photography. Which means that I can’t really hang out with all of the cool photographers because they see it as barely a step above posting heavily-filtered selfies on Instagram. (Also, I don’t own a Leica and you’re not a real photographer until you own a Leica.)

There are fields that I do have an interest in such as the Photo-Essay. That kind of seems to require photography being your job given the depth you need to go into it. I actually did try to do it in Japan at the mall my eikaiwa was in. I wanted to document the hours before the opening of a shopping mall and the people who get up early to make the magic happen. The mall management and security were mildly interested in the idea but they listed so many restrictions that I’d essentially be photographing people’s feet. There’s probably also a lot more to it than just taking some names and some pictures and writing some prose to go with it that I’m unaware of.

Retirement project I guess. Assuming I’m not eating out of dumpsters by then…

Ehn. This is getting mopey.

Click Click Whrrr

Men of Action

Cameramen at a concert in the park in Gunsan last weekend.

Unfortunately, the mics on the audience and the crowd barrier prevented me from getting a full body shot of the photographer. He was posed like a Power Ranger and it was very dynamic. That’s the problem with documenting what you see: The world is completely uninterested in making sure your line of sight is clear. You can work with the backs of people’s heads if you’re willing to just shift a little bit. Long things like parked cars or utility poles are the worst because all they do is sit there being in your away.

Almost the end of October now. November marks four months remaining in this contract. Which is kind of sad because I’m finally getting out and meeting people instead of suffering here in solitude. Same thing happened in my final year in Japan as well. All I know is that I need to polish off my resume at around Christmas. More importantly: I have to get myself a pretty picture where I look younger because, y’know, ageism (and all the other isms)in hiring policies isn’t illegal here in Asia like it is in the rest of the civilized nations.

Your DSLR is a damned dirty liar!

bigfish

Remember this: The LCD screen on the back of your digital camera is a liar. Your image isn’t that sharp. It isn’t that bright. The colors aren’t that vivid. And as you can tell by the photo up above, it in no way tells you that you’re out of focus. I think I could have cropped this one into a nice image if it was in focus. I guess it’s my fault for trying to use a manual-focus telephoto lens at night.

However, I did get a number of images from the concert that I’m happy with that I’ll start posting up soonish.

“How can you say I go about things the wrong way?” (And other things that are playing on my iPod as I type this)

Beach Party

Yeah, I’ve been kind of slacking on the whole blogging thing recently. It’s hard to come up with expert-sounding posts about South Korea when there are dozens of other expert-sounding people posting on websites about South Korea. And really, my life is anything but interesting. “Tiring and depressing” would probably be a better description. Of course, I’m at that time in my life where I’m becoming aware of just how we pigeonhole ourselves by the choices we made when we were young and, gosh, maybe we could have been a rock god if we just stuck with playing the guitar when we were teenagers instead of giving up on it so quickly to go play D&D so “tired and depressing” is pretty much to be expected.

Speaking of D&D, I’ve been playing the old video games recently. Man, what a bunch of games that should have been better.

So in order to shake off the spiritual malaise I took my four day weekend and went down to Busan to take some pictures and hang out with the Indiana Jones of the webcomic set: Ryan Estrada. A bit more serious-minded of a fellow than I was expecting for some reason, but you can’t really be a professional artist and global adventurer without being so. Or it could have just been me being too odd for the room. That happens a lot. Maybe that would be better if I had stuck with the guitar instead of D&D but what yah gonna do? I did draw a few sketches while I was there so that’s something.

I’d have enjoyed it better if I didn’t spend roughly fourteen hours sitting on various trains and buses thanks to highway construction and most of the places I wanted to go being on the outskirts of the city. Man, those pictures better come out good when I get them developed or I’m going to cry like a gamer who just heard a girl talk about their video games. But if it doesn’t, I still have hundreds of photos from Japan to recycle.

Here’s a song that’s playing on my iPod right now. That’s right. I still own an iPod.

I think you’ll agree that The Monks were pretty rad.

As the weather is getting colder here in Korea, I’ve had to start digging the thick clothing out from the back of the closet. Like most men, I wear my clothing until it becomes too threadbare or stained to be able to place it upon my body and my winter clothing is no exception. Frayed cuffs and collars. A pocket ripping away. Pilling to the point that it looks intentional by the designers. I’m going to have to make the trip into Seoul this weekend to try my luck in buying winter clothing in Itaewon, land of knock-off fat people clothing for foreign fatties. It’s a real slog finding what you need there, dodging tailors and their pitchmen. Digging through the piles of excessively ugly clothing that even Macklemore would be ashamed to be seen in just for something that will keep you toasty long enough to get to work.

Odd that this Ramones song came on as I typed that line about getting to work…