Canon Shot Rodeo


Giant spider crab chilling out.

Canon 550D. Bog standard entry-level DSLR. In photography “Entry level” means, “We sell slightly better gear to assholes with too much money, but not enough money to afford a full set of Leica lenses. This one is fine for your needs.”

It was my back-up camera in Japan.


Ash fall from the Shinmoedake eruption. That sucked.

I had the Canon 30D at the end of my previous slog through South Korea. That would have been my training camera if a dead battery and hundreds of useless images didn’t lead me to buy a fully manual film camera, the Pentax MX. That was my training camera. But I liked the 30D enough that when I went to buy a new DSLR (I sold the 30D to a coworker when I was wandering Asia like a hobo.) my first choice was another Canon. Nikon just felt weird in my hands.


The only shaft of light between buildings.

I was discovering how to best do photography in Japan at the same time I was discovering how to live in Japan. So a lot of my pictures came from me stomping around the neighbourhood. Southern Kyushu was great for this because there was no getting away from nature there. Pick a tree. Yup. Covered in spider webs.


And on your face!

My main camera was the Mamiya C220f. I took my best photos of the place with that camera. But even in Japan film was getting harder to find and more expensive to buy. I still use film with my Yashica Mat but that’s an “art” camera. It doesn’t get used unless I’m confident I’ll get a good image with it. The Pentax K-50 is my Spray ‘n’ Pray camera.


Ignore the URL unless you have really good anti-virus.

I lost count of how many times I tried to get a good shot of Kumamoto Castle. Black walls against the sky. Sheesh. My great white whale. I keep telling myself that before I leave Asia for good, I will return and defeat it. Wrestle it down. Pop a flash off in its eyes. Make it call me “Daddy”. Perhaps at the end of this contract? Maybe I might even wind up living there? Maybe I won’t spend my retirement murdering people for food in the post-scarcity world?



See, this photo is a metaphor for the ESL industry. Hey? Hey? Get it? Pretty clever, eh?

glub glub

This weekend is report card weekend which is why I’m sitting here blogging and doing my laundry instead. I may even clean my apartment if I run out of other distractions.

If this were a sane industry I wouldn’t spend the end of every month trying to come up with new ways to spin a wee, incremental increase in language skills (Or worse: The apparent loss of them.) into something mom can show how smart little Kwang-su is to the grandparents. It’d be every three month or at the end of a semester. And the I hate the fact that I’m probably lying about their progress. Smart observers will note that kids are really good at telling adults what they want to hear. It’s a good life skill to have. Especially if you want to be employed at some point. But that means the kids repeating back to you what you just taught them isn’t a sign that you’re a super teacher. It’s a sign that they like you enough to lie to you.

Which I guess is good. Happy kids keep coming, the boss keeps getting their tuition, and you stay employed. ESL, everybody! It’s for the kids.

The photo above is of an eel tank outside of a fish-seller. While you do get dried fish hanging above the butcher (fish-monger?) they like to keep your food in a tank so you can see just how fresh the meat is. It’s sort of like you going to the farm and hand-picking the cow that will become your hamburger.

Once you’re done reading this post I’d like to invite you kids to get off of my damned lawn

The lyrics in modern pop music are as complex as nursery rhymes and the musicality can be found in the dictionary next “banal”. K-Pop tends to turn banal up to eleven which I figure is why it has legions of not-at-all-nutty-and-reactionary fans. It was only a matter of time that a Korean music producer would take a thing you do to keep a two year old entertained and make a song out of it.

Now, here’s the thing: It’s a super hypnotic ear-worm. I’d say the best one of 2014 since I’ve listened to it numerous time in the last 48 hours. It has won the battle. All we need is Park Geun-Hye in a jumpsuit strutting in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner and Korea can stop making pop music.

iPhone Shot Rodeo

I Hipstamaticed the hell of out of Japan when I was there with my then-new iPhone4. I chose that as my fake film app due to it not having a tedious social media requirement (I’ll choose when my shots are shared, thanks.) and being square format like my beloved Mamiya C220f.


I took my iPhone back to Canada with me but the rat-assed bastards at SoftBank neglected to tell me that they were going to carrier lock the phone when I bought it. In the end all I had was a slab. And with iTunes essentially region-locking their MP3s and all of the songs I bought in Japan vanishing when I hooked my account up to the Canadian store, I’ve vowed not to get another smartphone again. While they have a lot of useful aspects, they truly are a technological gilded cage.


Cherry’s Diner in Miyakonojo… almost in Mamita… had a great burger. But it was their fries that really sold me on the place. Then they changed the recipe.


I got bored with Hipstamatic after a while and started just buying apps that promised to make your shots look like film. Some came closer than other but in the end they all looked like phone cameras with filters on them. There are a lot of Micro Four Thirds type of cameras, like the digital Olympus Pens, have filters on them that do similar. So does my Pentax K-50 for that matter. I figure eventually even the high-end DSLRs will have that option as professional portrait and event photographers probably get asked to make their images “look like Instagram” all the time.


I need to be very careful when looking through my images from that era of my life. It was a pretty comfortable time with me where all was pretty much all right. It’s easy to forget the things I didn’t like there (For example: That’s where my stomach decided to explode into my chest.) And that in turn makes me forget about the things I do like about here in Korea and back in Canada. Nostalgia is almost as much as a rat-assed bastard as SoftBank and if you encounter it, you should kill it without mercy.


I really miss summer festivals, though.

Unused Shot Rodeo

I have a few shots I uploaded for previous posts that I never used. So I will use them now.

Shibuya, Tokyo

Shibuya, Tokyo. It’s made of people!

Tokyo, greatest city or The Greatest City? You decide. No better yet, I’ll decide. It is. You’re welcome.

Kyushu is lovely in the spring.

Kyushu is lovely in the spring.

Public drunkenness isn’t illegal in Korea and Japan. So it’s not unusual to see fellers, usually salarymen, passed out on whatever flat surface is available. Usually a park bench will be their bed for the day but if they’re especially inconsiderate they’ll make an entire row of seats on the subway their bed.

If you happen to be a pick pocket or a thief in general, this is the place to be.

Kyushu by choo choo.

Kyushu by choo choo.

While I complain a lot about Gunsan being small and dull, Miyakonojo was very similar. Miyakonojo’s great advantage over Gunsan was that it was fairly close to the lovely city of Kagoshima and the beautiful ocean vistas of Miyazaki. I could tell in my time there that Japan’s train system was just a shadow of it’s former self. But given the aggressively lovely volcano-born landscape taking the train anywhere was preferable to flying.

Sorry for the faint praise. Being dragged behind a horse is preferable to flying.


There was a big spider behind me.

Though if you can’t be a steak, at least try to be a tasty doughnut…

We aren’t really teaching English.

On paper, sure. And while we’re standing up in front of those kids and blathering away it sure looks like we are. But they don’t fully understand what we were trying to tell them until the Korean/ Chinese/ Japanese/ etc… teacher explains it to them in a language they understand. We’re being asked to teach in a language immersion style in a non-immersion environment. We’re deluding ourselves that it’s succeeding at something aside from teaching them how to play along so they don’t get yelled at for being dummies even though they simply don’t have the basic tools to understand us to begin with.

When it comes to English, we’re just the appetizers and not the meal.

No. No. What we’re teaching is not related to the A B C Song. What we’re teaching is how to interact with people from a different culture. We are teaching how to deal with adults. If it’s done wrong, we’re teaching them that adults are unpredictable and not to be trusted. That foreigners are nothing but antagonists to be battled in ways both big and small. If it’s done really wrong we teach them adults are a source of pain and pain is the only way they’ll get what they need in life.

Phonics is just the sauce. The meat is underneath.



I’ve been thinking about the E2 visa situation here after catching wind of an editorial suggesting mandatory drug testing for foreign teachers.

While they don’t have that, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s on the agenda at some point down the line given the even-more-right-wing turn the country has taken since I was last here. Just to get the document that says that Korean Immigration will consider letting you into the country, you have to spend a lot of time and money “prove” that you’re not a criminal nor a child rapist. (I put prove in scare quotes since all it proves is that a child rapist/ criminal hasn’t been caught.) Once here you also have to prove that you’re not filled with AIDS. Then you can get a card that says that you can legally work here. You have to really love PSY to want to put up with that if you had other options.

Once here, if you have a bad job, tough shit. You’re better off leaving in the middle of the night with your latest paycheck than trying to move on like an adult. Other than putting a neon sign up in Incheon airport that says “Fuck off” I can’t see how they can be more clear about us not being welcome here. And while white skin/ passing for an American does shield most of us from the more blatant expressions of tribalism/ bigotry, that seems like a pretty thin shield to me.

You know… My last run through Korea ended because I was filled with anger from my collection of negative experiences over those six years. This time I think I’ll be leaving due to disappointment in humanity.

The photo was taken at the Koagoshima City Aquarium. The low light meant that I had to leave the lens wide open which created a very shallow depth of field. Funny thing about fish is that they tend to be bad models with their constant fluttering about so my only shots were of things that tended to just sit there like the guy up above.