So, I’m sitting here in the nuddy…

Too much information? Deal.

The reason I’m blogging “oh nachur ell” is because I am just too damned effective when I start doing things. I’ll be moving to a new, cheaper/ smaller, apartment in a couple of days and yesterday was spent cleaning and packing. More cleaning than packing since I tend to live slightly Spartan… Did the Spartans play MMOs in their spare time? I bet they would have. Now I’m just as inactive as I was active yesterday. I understand Leonidas was the same way on his days off from killing Helots for shits and giggles.

History lesson: Like the Romans, the Spartans were vicious, murderous little shits who only lasted through history because they killed everyone else and stole their technology. This tells you all you need to know about humanity. I’m glad to say that it’s only the washboard abs that we have in common. (You can’t see my six-pack because it’s still in the bag. Bwa! Ha! Ha! Haaaa~!)

Here’s a picture from my recent trip to Seoul. Click to see it bigger over on Flickr.

Gwanghwamun Square

Gwanghwamun Square used to be a very busy expressway through Seoul when I first touched upon these shores much in the same way Cheonggyecheon Park used to be one. Both were dug up and made unfriendly to traffic as part of the city’s ongoing effort to make it look less slummy. While I do still hold some resentment towards Seoul’s slums, it’s just because a former employer housed me in one. Which, I would like to point out, had lovely neighbours who all came to help me when my apartment flooded. I’d also like to point out that this was not on top of my list of reasons I smile at the idea of them going out of business some years later. Heh heh heh heh. Revenge through natural the processes that come with demographic changes! The best kind!

The Jongo/ City Hall/ Insa-dong area of Seoul was one I had yet to visit since my return to Korea so I put it on my itinerary, grabbed my Olympus Pen for some street/ from-the-hip photography, and went on a walkabout. The square doesn’t hold a lot of interest aside from the two statues that required you run out into traffic to go look at back in the day. There are events and the like. In the picture above there was a memorial/ political thing about the teens that died in the Sewol sinking.

The biggest change was the food stalls being shuffled off of the main drag of Jong-Ro to some side street. The ability to walk along that sidewalk without having a bunch of people smacking into you was nice, but some of the grubby flavour of the neighbouhood was missing. For long-term expats, Seoul’s grubbiness tends to be part of the charm. Which I think must be the only reason they usually want to live in dumps like Itaewon and Haebangchon because I can’t see the ability to eat Mexican food and compare back tattoos being that vital to a good life in Korea.

But what do I know? I’m blogging in the nuddy.

Dropping it like it’s mildly awkward and uncomfortable

Yeah, I’ve been pretty sleepy this week what with the morning classes and for some reason that makes me not give much of a damned about blogging… That thing only Gawker and expats in Korea still do. Not that I’ve put in a huge amount of effort to keep you distracted on a regular basis in the near year that I’ve been running this thing. Sorry. I don’t love you hoes. I’m out the door.

Next week. That’s when I move to my new apartment.

See how hip and timely Uncle William is, kids?

Aside from this tortured reference from a decade ago on my part, the truth be that I don’t much in the way of images from my trip to Seoul to share with you at the moment since I decided to shoot mostly with film and the developing is some time from now. I already told you about my brilliant attempt at using the Seoul subway system that I used to know like the back of my hand in the previous post… I’ll wait for you to scroll down and read it.

Done? Great. Painful, eh? There is also the mildly interesting story of the granny with two arm-loads of junk who sat beside me for two hundred kilometers, pretending to be asleep when the people who actually paid for the seat she was filling up boarded the train. And then… well, that’s the entire story, really.

Let’s look at a photo I took.

I know you can see me. Don't pretend that you don't.

I know you can hear me breathing behind you. Don’t pretend that you don’t.

This is Gunsan, not Seoul. There *are* people in Gunsan. I know, right? Anyhoo, I’ve been going over my “street” (I don’t like this term because it makes me think that I should stink of patchouli) photography and I’m really aware at how bad I am at getting faces. While I do think this particular image has some nice feelings to it, the back of a head isn’t all that interesting. It so frequent in my images that it’s enough to make me think of taking cat pictures or something.

It’s that thing they call The Decisive Moment which was named after a book of Cartier-Bresson photos. A lot of people have a lot of ways to explain it. It’s just you shooting at the right moment. It basically comes about like this:

“This photo you took didn’t suck as badly as the other ones you took that day, Henri Cartier-Bresson. A pretty decisive moment for you to press the shutter, I must say. Unlike the twenty other ones you took that afternoon.”

“I meant to do that.”

“Sure thing, Pee Wee.”

Was that the decisive moment? Could it have been seconds later? Seconds before? Would a slight difference in the direction they’re looking have improved it? Should I have kept my camera in continuous shooting? Should I have gotten in their faces because I am le artiste?

Hell if I know. I just take pictures of stuff.

I considered peeing my pants because it was less shameful

The thing is now, I used to live in Seoul for a number of years. You’d think that I’d be able to get to my hotel after stopping off in Chungmuro to load up on film without much problem. Seriously, here’s the map that I stole from a website that probably stole it from somewhere else.

derp1

Wednesday morning. Bank holiday before Seollal last week. I’m up for the week because even half-closed Seoul beats schlepping around Gunsan for the holidays. My backpack and camera bag are weighing me down and I missed my morning coffee…

That’s the funny thing about coffee, you can use it as a scapegoat for every dumb thing you do in the morning. It’s almost like having a tasty version of a native English speaker that you can blame problems on to the hagwon boss. Let’s call him “Maxwell House Teacher” because calling him “Bill Teacher” will reveal a pile of resentment towards old coworkers best left buried.

Maxwell House Teacher let me down again by not telling me that I had gotten on the number four (light blue) line instead of the number three (orange). He also didn’t tell me that I had gotten on it going in the wrong direction.

derp2

Instead of going, “Oh, well. I be silly!” and getting on the number two (green) circle line going to my stop from the other direction, I cross the platform and head back towards Chungmuro Station to get on the three. I’m going south, dammit. The three goes south! My hotel is south and I got to dump these bags off so I can get out and about with my Olympus Pen EE3 and take the bestest candid photos ever! Then I forgot to get off at Chungmuro Station because I was happy that I was going in a southerly direction.

I got off at Myeong-dong Station to go back to Chungmuro because I am, dammit. Maxwell House Teacher didn’t remind me that this route was fine as well, and that I could have transferred at Sadang Station.

derp3

My dogged determination finally paid off as I return triumphantly to Chungmuro Station and make my way to the number three line. Success! I am doing what I planned to do, all logic and sense be damned! I’m half way to being a small business owner! I sit down like Caesar returning from Gaul and make my way to my hotel in the south of Seoul. Maxwell House Teacher isn’t going to beat me with his incompetence.

“This station is Jongno sam ga. Jongno sam ga.”

derp4

When I eventually got to the hotel I took a nap.

“Love”

My original plan for this post was to give you fourteen songs about love in some sort of post-ironic manner for Valentine’s Day tomorrow.

Then I realized that of all of the “love” songs available to me, the video for Lovin’ Every Minute of It by iconic Canadian mullet heroes, Loverboy, was far more hilariously 80s (ie: delusionally sexist) than the rest of what I could offer you. Then I realized that this was more of a Friday song than a Saturday song, and Valentine’s Day is a huge pile of nonsense anyway because every day should be a day you’re in love.

In love with Loverboy.

Am I the only one who thought the opening band was pretty rad?

Now, because I need to keep in with the blog theme:

It’s really easy to say bad things about K-Pop and your bad taste in it. I admit to taking shots at that particular barrel of fish. All love-themed songs in Korea are horrible, overwrought ballads bellowed out by a robotic pile of dancing, lip-syncing models. Sure. Even I know that not all Korean music sucks. The dancing lip-syncing models occasionally get something handed to them that isn’t horrible, and when someone decides “Fuck it!” magic happens. Despite these things forcing their way out into the sunlight, the scene is so vanilla even Weird Al seems gangsta.

Yet there is plenty of metal, punk, underground hip-hop, and whatever else may float your boat in Korea. Unless you’re a weird obsessive (A fan of heavy metal who is weird and obsessive? Impossible!) knowledge of it is hard to come by if you’re not slumming all the time in Hongdae. For example, the only Korean metal band that I’m aware of are these guys. They’re called Crash, which is such an obvious metal band name I’m shocked no one used it before them.

I’m not a big metal fan. I like Mastodon like everyone else does. And a lot of the stuff from the 70s and 80s. Twisted Sister counts, right? I think the genre’s fans are pretty silly with their making a new musical sub-category every time the guitarist buys a new effects pedal. I enjoyed this tune regardless of whatever label gets slapped upon it. The tune is a bit older and I have no idea if they’re still putting out music or if they’re making enough money to not have a day job. I also have no idea if this song is appropriate for Valentine’s Day though if you had a dirty enough mind the title Crash Day fits.

Even if you don’t like metal, it’s still evidence that there is more to Korean music than groups of dancing, lip-syncing, robotic models.

You will just never see it.

If they had been blasting Stevie Wonder I would have let it slide…

I had to wake up early today to go to Immigration to process my new work visa but things got delayed. Don’t ask. If things ran smoothly it wouldn’t be EFL in Korea. Even if I didn’t have to get up early, I would have been awakened by the religious nutters blasting hymns from the back of their truck as they rode around. I agree: Dragging someone out of their sleep is the best way to put the words “Jesus Christ” on someone’s lips.

At least the farmer in the Bongo truck blasting noise about the veggies he’s selling is promising something useful when he wakes you up.

Here is, I think, my oldest surviving photo.

1136577599_ed66649c58_o

Not the oldest photo I own. That’d be my birth announcement. I never got better looking as I aged. Unfortunate. But this is the oldest photo that I took that didn’t get eaten by the great capricious god Hard Drive Failure. I should worship that as I know it exists and doesn’t blast anything at eight in the morning except the grinding sound of the death of your files.

That up there is the ramen restaurant at Omuta Station in… wait for it… Japan. As far as rail travel cliches go about Japan, the ramen stall at the train station is pretty common. Now it might be just due to the low population of most of Kyushu, or maybe the decline of rail travel there as everyone moves to the big cities, but I found more often than not that any station that wasn’t a transfer point had nothing outside of two vending machines. Tickets and drinks. Not in the same machine though that might be a good idea.

I always travel by train here in Asia whenever I can. Not just because flying is a shit experience in every way you can possibly imagine without going full on Goodwin about it. Canada is lessened by not having a decent, affordable rail system. (Hooray for privatization and the slimy, underhanded malevolence of oil companies?) I always appreciated it when there was a ramen restaurant at a station that I could grab a bite at while waiting for my transfer. Good, filling food but not overly so. The stations here in Korea do have restaurants as well but Steff Hot Dog (Warning: Korean website) lacks the romance of some mom and pop ramen joint with a bunch of salarymen sitting ass cheek to ass cheek and slurping some oden down.

This being my idea of romance might explain why I’m a confirmed bachelor.

Here’s another contender for oldest surviving image.

blurlightkids

This is another one of those failure images that I quite like anyway. The lack of focus and soft light seems to match my memory of these kids. You know how it is… I can’t sharpen their images in my head. Just vague recollections. Blurs of colors and emotions and noise. That might be a sign of aging, or maybe they were right and photography does ruin your memory.

These kids would all be in middle school now and dealing with all of the stresses and miseries that come with being fourteen years old in Korea. Unfortunately, a lot of them won’t make it to adulthood because of the pressure cooker they’re in. I hope they do get through it okay, of course. I wonder if they look back on those days as a half forgotten blur as well? I do with my own childhood but I’m old enough to forget to put on my trousers before heading to work so I don’t know how universal this is.

Here’s a song from my childhood that I half remember.

Well, I remember the Sesame Street part of this. The Stevie Wonder came later.

Made up my rassoodock what to do with the day

Hello my droogs, viddy well my post.

clockwork_brainwash

You know, I’m not alone in adoring retro future. Movies and other media made in a time where they couldn’t think of anything more high tech than a reel to reel magnetic tape computer. Much has been made about the present looking like 24th century Star Trek. Not that this has anything to do with this post… Unless you can make some sort of connection between the internet here in Korea and the still common usage of Internet Explorer, Windows XP, and Active X.

And, if you’re feeling unkind, the clothes Koreans wear. As if your ironic t-shirt and blue jeans are stylish. Seriously, son… Why you still wearing a fauxhawk on your head?

Here’s a picture of what’s wrong with youth these days and thus they lack the upstandingness of my generation who thought professional wrestling was real and venerate A Clockwork Orange;

selfie club

It’s nice when someone follows you on the Flickr who is much better than you. You’re like, “I should be following you, champ. Steal all of your techniques like a good artist does.” It’s hard to estimate your own skill at something. Well known fact that most people think they’re better than they are. A lot of people think they’re worse than they are as well. We’re the ones who tend to flame out the fastest thanks to self-doubt. I have no idea if this is true because it certainly isn’t me that does this since I’m awesome.

Have you heard of Poe’s Law? On the internet you can’t tell the difference between extremism and a parody of it because no matter how nutty you make it, you can find someone who sincerely believes in even nuttier nuttery. This has nothing to do with the last sentence of the previous paragraph.

theaudience

I signed the contract for another year at my current job because my partner teachers are both pretty good, the remaining students are pretty good even though the boss and the elementary school obviously want higher class numbers but we’re still doing better than the other schools, I’m working pretty good hours, and I need the money.

Needing the money is a constant refrain in everyone’s life so this isn’t amazing and awe inspiring stuff about seeing the world and embracing strange new cultures like some blogs you may read about life here in Korea and I don’t know why you’re reading them but it’s a semi-free internet here in Korea so you can look at whatever you want as long as it isn’t naked people or North Koreans.

That was just two run on sentences. Here’s a photo I’ve posted up before. Probably no one in it can run;

Rhetorike R

The old men are very bored in Korea. At least these guys in Tapgol Park in Seoul in 2007 have the luxury of hanging out and ignoring Mr. Korea Is For Koreans. Most old folks, at least here in Gunsan, can be seen rummaging around garbage piles outside of apartments looking for recyclables to take in to the recycling center themselves for the small amount of cash they get from it. They’re living in poverty, see? And they need to make money so they won’t starve to death.

A lot of people think this is shameful. Not that there are old poor people who have been forgotten by society. That there are old poor people being seen by everyone. Reminding them that people become poor and become old and why don’t the streets belong solely to the moneyed attractive folks? There are some forces that are trying to muscle out the old poor people from the recyclables gig for both the crime of being old and poor, and because if some piece of shit thinks they can make chump change from stealing candies from toddlers they’d gleefully do it in some orgasmic Randian haze.

Here’s a related Ramones song. A band my upstanding generation venerates;

Four Distinct Seasons

It’s spring here in Korea. Dae Hammy Goo.

And right now you’re looking at your calendar on your overly large and overly expensive smartphone instead of your computer and saying, “Spring? Wha-whaaaaat? It’s February fourth! You be illing, G.” To which I say, “Thank you for the flashback to the last time hip hop was any good.”

Mmmm... Smell that spring air.

Mmmm… Smell that spring air.

Nah, what I mean is that the lightning-like construction of new, walls as thin as cardboard/ man I hope there’s never an earthquake here, apartment buildings has begun. The banging and crashing at six in the morning as a new day is dawning. Wood and rebar being slammed all over the place. Hammers hammering. Saws sawing. Yellers yelling. Streets being blocked off by concrete trucks. This, baby, is spring in Korea.

Summer in Korea is when the beef & booze joints located on the street level of these places open. That in itself isn’t the sign of summer. The puddles of puke and the two a.m. drunken arguments are.

Neon lights: Feel free to hum your favorite 1950s jazz now.

Neon lights: Feel free to hum your favorite 1950s jazz now.

Fall and spring are the times when I feel the most positive about living in Korea… and to some extent it was also when I felt the most positive about living in Japan as well. This may be because of the changing season. It may also be because a lot of vacation time opens up to me and I can do all sorts of things that aren’t work. Not that my current job is bad. It’s improved a great deal in the last six months and it’s hard to believe that it’s the same job. Not that I don’t have things that make me unhappy about it.

Let me tell you about me. Over the years I’ve come to realize that extended time away from my job makes me happy to return to it. Vacations are life and anyone who doesn’t take them as often as possible are fools. FOOLS! I say.

Here are two things about the job: One of my worst students, noisy, obnoxious, disruptive, lazy and all around wasting his parents money on English lessons, often comes to greet me when I’m entering the school grounds. He will use what little English he knows to communicate with me. It’s kind of amusing that he does this. He quit months ago because of the above-mentioned wasting his parents money on English lessons.

Also, my sixth grade students know that they’ll be going to middle school in three short weeks and have developed the maximum lack of giving a shit they possibly can. I’ve been trying to herd them into finishing their books so their parents don’t get cranky at us over wasting money. See, the parents of ESL students will search for anything they can find that they think might allow them to argue for a discount. Things like, “You didn’t do page fifty six in the workbook. I want a buck fifty discount on the next month’s tuition.” and, “The teacher smells like milk and cheese instead of pure, clean cigarettes, kimchi, and soju. We need a nose discount.”

We foreign teachers generally don’t have to give a crap about this because our partner teachers field those complaints. But don’t think for a minute that it doesn’t turn them against us. We’re at the bottom of the social ladder despite out status as a dancing poodle. You know full well that shit rolls downhill. Tread carefully. Bribing your partner teachers with snacks is recommended since they’re always hungry because they earn far less than we do.

Free booze also works on them quite well.

Free booze also works on them quite well.

This post is titled “Four Distinct Seasons” as a snarky reference to something every last single expat makes a snarky reference to. So let me tell you about winter here: It’s shit brown in color, but it’s the only time of the year when the skies are blue and the air is breathable.