Occasionally I get the urge to be creative.

The last comic I did was intended to be be angry and hateful of all humanity. But funny.

The last comic I did was intended to be be angry and hateful of the base shallowness of all humanity. But funny.

Controversial statement: Photography isn’t creative. Photography is just stealing light with a box. Setting up sets, directing models, and predicting crowds to be photographed? That is creative, and good on anyone who goes to these lengths in their photography. The main requirement for creating is… ready for this?… creation. Making something that wasn’t there before. Capturing light that’s already there isn’t creative. We clear on that? So when I practice photography, due to the style I employ, I certainly am not being creative. Someone perched on top of the staircase waiting for that perfect moment, is.

For me, being the geek* that I am, that means drawing something. A comic. So I look at my paper and pencils and go, “Okay, what to draw?” Then I sit there for a bit chewing the idea over. Inevitably, it comes down to two things:

  1. Finish an old abandoned comic series that I quit making in the middle of serializing.
  2. Make a comic about expatriates teaching ESL.

Both of these have their drawbacks that leads me to playing video games, or going for a bike ride, instead.

The second last comic I did was intended to be be happy and hopeful for of all humanity. Which is funny on its own.

The second last comic I did was intended to be be happy and hopeful for of humanity’s ability to rise above their problems and do good. Which is a funny idea on its own.

Finishing an old comic requires that I somehow regain the audience the comic had beforehand. The internet, being what it is, means that there’s no central point I can drop a line and say, “Hay guise! Nu comix! Lol!” And there’s no reason for them to want to start reading again because they have no idea if their time will be rewarded or if they’ll be left hanging once more. For my part, it would be looking at the older art and trying to not be constantly mindful of where I went off the rails story-wise. And by “mindful” I mean “It preys on my mind like a parasite, devouring all enthusiasm”.

Also, it’s been years for both of them and their audiences were never that big to begin with. I’d basically have to start from scratch because the audience will essentially be new. In which case, why not redo everything that I didn’t like that caused me to abandon the comics to begin with?

The comic before those? I actually finished that one... Eight years ago.

The comic before those? I actually finished that one… Eight years ago.

As for the comic about expats: I’ve been playing with that idea for a very long time. A lot of things have stopped me. Not having a story for one thing. I suppose I could make it a gag strip like The Halifax Explosion up there. But then I’d just be going over old inside jokes that every expat would understand but people who have never lived our lifestyles wouldn’t.

“I went to the bar and I saw a sign that said, ‘Fuck off black people.’ Can you believe it?”

“At least they’re finally being honest.”

*sad trombone*

It would take some effort to make that sort of thing accessible. And if I was going to make that sort of effort, then why not make a story of it? Yet all I have right now is the idea of a comic about being an expatriate. The actual comic about being an expatriate is not in my head.

That’s were my creative urges stand at the moment. A mild desire stymied by not having any actual content to create. A while back a famous superhero comic writer responded to a question about how to deal with writer’s block with (paraphrasing) “Maybe you’re not actually a writer and you should do something else”. Of course this unleashed a lot of geek outrage, but thinking about it, I think the guy was right. Creation is an act of passion when you get right down to it. You need to love your ideas to the point that you’re absolutely certain that everyone else is going to love them too. It doesn’t matter if you’re producing shit. You got to produce. It’s in the blood and bone.

So maybe those urges I feel aren’t anything at all.

I suppose I can knock out a humourous image should the urge arise. Good for Tumblr fodder.

I suppose I can knock out a humourous image should the urge arise and post it up on Tumblr since they like that sort of stuff there. Yes, Boromir is wearing sneakers. Problem?

*”Geek” is a self-description that I’ve recently decided isn’t very good due to the large number of scumbags who are also geeks. Until a new term is invented, I’m stuck with it. I’m also rethinking the word “atheist” for similar reasons and I’d be happy if all those trilby-wearing assholes would fall of the face of the Earth.

Oh! Right! I have a blog. Ha-ha! Forgot about that. Have a story.

Yeah, I haven’t been posting because there are only so many ways one can badmouth South Korea/ complain about how boring I find Gunsan without getting repetitive.

Pictured here: Gunsan's interesting things.

Pictured here: Gunsan’s interesting things.

So I’ll do it in story form instead…

Many years ago towards the end of my last tenure here in Korea I woke up one Saturday morning, just as the sun was rising, to water pouring onto my bed. This was when I was living in a fairly decent officetel in northern Seoul, and using my Sherlock-like skills of detective reasoning I figured out that it was coming from the apartment above me.

The apartment above me was occupied by a coworker who, I will tell you right now in the interest of honesty, was one heroin addiction away from being a complete Scottish stereotype. I’ll call her Spud. I dashed up the stairs to the next floor and pounded on Spud’s door. No answer sent me back down the stairs to grab my phone to call her friend for her number. After moving my few pots, pans, and cups under the leaks I called her up. After several minutes of ringing she finally answered, “Whut?”

“Where are you? Your apartment is flooding.”

“Whu? Ach, I’m hungover. Cannit wait ’til later?” I grabbed one of the frying pans and emptied it.

“No. It can’t wait until later. My apartment is getting soaked. Get back here so we can stop it.”

“I’m here noo.” I stared at the wall at this. Staring at the wall is soothing because it doesn’t have a face to spit in.

“I was just up there.”

“Dat was yoo? I’m going back t’ bed.”

“Fuck no. Get up and turn off whatever it is you left running. I’m going to get the super.” Despite what you may assume about me due to my snarky writing, I normally don’t swear at people even when I’m angry with them. If I do that’s how you know I’m in the middle of Hulking-out.

In the elevator ride down I enjoyed the trip with one of the many middle-aged johns that I recognized from their frequent visits the hookers who had been moved from my floor to one of the ones up near the top. I guess the time the other john kicked in the bathroom door the girl was hiding from him in was enough to change location. Either that or the college guy raping his girlfriend the month before that gave the floor a bad vibe.

To distract you from the unpleasantness of the last two sentences, here's Gunsan's cultural center.

To distract you from the unpleasantness of the last two sentences, here’s Gunsan’s cultural center.

After a lot of comedic gesturing, bad Korean, and barking like I was Lassie, I finally got the super and the security guard to come with me. After a few minutes of banging Spud opened her door. Her face a mask of annoyance, because, you see, she had a hangover and that was more important that the lake she had created. We didn’t take off our shoes as is customary in Korea. Water squirted up from between the floorboards as Spud staggered her way back to her bed and crawled under her pillows. The super opened up her thick black curtains so we can get a better look at the mess.

“Fook”, Spud mutters. “Tis the boiler. Close ta curtains, wouldya? T’wasn’t wurkin’ so I pulled ta stopper like I wus told.”

“You’re supposed to put it back in after it drains.”

“Grunt. I was fooking drunk. I jus’ got home.”

Gritting my teeth, I left her with the super and the security guard went with me to check out the damage to my apartment. Things were pretty minor. Some stains I was able to clean up. I had to throw out the pots and the pans because whatever it was that the water passed through on the way to my apartment, it coated them with what I can best describe as “Satan’s diarrhea”.

I was joined on the way down to the recycling box with the super and the security guard. They too are looking annoyed and tired about the whole event. So in order to be friendly I pipe up in Korean: “I’m hungry.”

They start chortling. The security guard points at my belly.

“Hungry? You’re fat. How can you be hungry? Huh, huh, huh.”

And that's the sort of country Korea is...

And that’s the sort of country Korea is…

“There’s only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures and the Dutch.”

I’d have to say that my greatest achievement as an ESL edutainer is in turning Spin The Bottle into a fun, mildly educational game for children. They’re not smooching each other… I save that for the salarymen classes… they simply do janken/ kai bai bo/ rock-scissor-paper and the winner gets to practice their English. Re-purposing old games is a skill I learned in Japan, from my old partner teacher who is now enjoying her life in Australia. She was good at that sort of thing. I learned a lot of stuff in Japan that made me better at the job, and I like to think that I became kind of good at my edutainment job there.

I learned the meaning of fear in Japan as well.

I also learned the true meaning of fear in Japan.

Kinda proud of myself in a way after a life of failing at everything that I’ve ever attempted. I can almost control a classroom full of children now! But like everything that improved me in Japan, the job skills I learned there are simply not welcome here in the old Hermit Kingdom. I’m now at the point of not bothering to try to apply anything I’ve learned there because it’s a Sisyphean task introducing new things here. And while the kids have some trouble adjusting to new approaches due to the unfamiliarity, the real problem is the adults. There’s a lot of “If being bored and miserable was good enough for me…” going on.

Me saying stuff like, “In Japan we…” might be a big part of the problem. It may be hard to believe from the land of happy fun K-Pop, but there’s a deep-seated anti-Japanese bigotry here in Korea that runs through the culture. I had a student a few weeks ago toss her pen down in disgust because it had “Made in Japan” on it. Kids learn that sort of shit from the adults in their lives so you can’t just chalk that up to the foolishness of youth. And while you can rightly point out abuses seen in early twentieth century history as a source of the problem, I’d like to point out that it’s now 2014 and it’s about time people start acting like it.

He seems like someone who decided to do this through logic and reasoning. Maybe we can sit down and talk this out.

He seems like someone who made the choice to do this through logic and reason. I have no doubt he’ll happily sit down and talk this out. Source: Reuters

I expect too much though. I’m from a country that has a long shameful history of abusing aboriginal peoples, and we still treat them like shit. Our large neighbours to the south see their cops gleefully beating up and murdering black people. Both of those countries are supposed to be shining examples of Culturally Advanced First World Nations ™. We’re always failing to act like we live in what would be seen as a utopia to people one hundred years ago, so why should we expect better of other cultures?

To sum up: Humanity is doomed.

Get yer stinking paws offa me, you damned dirty app!

I don't need no stinking filters

This is what expired film looks like. You may recognize it as “That thing my phone kinda does sort of well depending upon the app.” I’m not dissing apps. Going over what remains of my iPhone shots recently, it was kind of obvious how the filters worked: Same overlay flipped in various directions so they don’t all look the same. The problem is that it looks just like the same overlay being flipped in different directions. They’re very firmly “Not as good as…”

However, I do think phones are looking increasingly like the best way to do street type photography to me. Everyone is using them non stop so you blend in with the crowd. It has that wide angle street photographers insist on. And the internet demands a filter on all of their images. I’d almost be tempted to get a new one just to use it as such, but the limits of the hardware get really obvious really quickly the second you step out of the sunlight.

Also, I’d just spend all of my time playing remakes of old games with it.

Back of my neck feeling dirty and gritty… From the smog

I finished my summer classes yesterday. Let me tell you about summer classes. When the kids are off for summer and winter vacation, they’re plunked into extra classes offered by hagwons and public schools. (I hope that explanation didn’t come across as too complicated.) A lot of times this is just a form of daycare since a lot of households have both parents working and the kids would be a lot safer with their teachers and friends than sitting at home watching TV.

There’s also that insane idea that a child spending any second with their parents and family ruins their chances of getting into the big universities and the chaebols and every waking hour must be spend working towards that goal. It’s been my experience that this is more a Seoul/ rich people problem than anything, however. Anyone that I’ve ever met who worked in a chaebol has been a scumbag so I don’t know why someone would want to groom a kid for that. Well, because money. Sure. But still, I have noticed a generational shift that sees this goal as less desirable. So things have improved on that front.

As for the summer classes in regards to the ESL teacher, it’s probably the worst part of the job. I’m lucky since all it meant for me was that my classes were moved to the morning from the afternoon. Being a life-long night owl means that I just had to push through a month getting up hours earlier than normal. I’ll save my tears for when I need them. For most here in Korea it means double shifts: A set of classes in the morning, then your regular classes in the afternoon/ evening. So you’re looking at thirteen to fourteen hour workdays for what is roughly an extra thousand bucks on the paycheck.

Something to keep in mind if you’re thinking of heading this way because Eat Your Kimchi makes you think you’re going to K-Pop Happyland. I swear, it’s like anime nerds heading to Japan because they’ve watched too much school girl porn cartoons…

Is it safe to blog again?

Now that the traffic spike has passed and I’m back to my regular readership, let me give you some of what you came here for:

That's right... Hot hill action.

That’s right… Hot hill action.

After almost two years of near daily posting as a way to deal with my grief over being forced to leave my comfy rut in Japan, I’ve been doing some culling of my Flickr photos to emphasize my more fancy-pants shots. I’ve found that once you hit about a hundred images, you start to get that Second Page/ Too Much Scrolling problem of people not wanting to look that deeply. It often makes me wonder why some websites even maintain archives since they largely go unread. My feeling is that it’s one of those things that gets done because it’s a thing that has always been done. Like comments sections.

The result of this culling of Flickr means that a lot of the images used here disappeared. So those posts were culled as well. You likely didn’t notice due to the phenomenon I mentioned above.

Also, I can recycle all of those shots six months down the road because I’m not famous enough to not get away with it.