No! I don’t think “Gummy Bill” is a good nickname! At all!

So one of my molars shattered Monday night and I’ve been a bit distracted since then.

I’ve also been practicing my from-the-hip shooting. Here’s the image that turned out the best.

Someone with all of his teeth.
Someone with all of his teeth.

I was born at a very early age and some years after that I was a child with horrible teeth. Turns out I had more teeth than jaw to put them on so things needed pulling. The teeth that remained had lots and lots of cavities that needed filling. I was pretty shitty at hygiene. At the time it didn’t matter because all children are runny and gross. Once I hit puberty it turned out that no one wants to have sex with you when you stink. Whoopsie! I had to start washing behind my ears. I also didn’t wear my glasses as a child so the corrective surgery that straightened out my lazy eye failed and my eye eventually returned to it’s position of confusing people about who I’m talking to. Basically I was an idiot kid with bad genetics. Now I’m a slightly less idiotic adult with fucked-up-not-as-badly-as-it-could-have-been teeth. I may not have a lot to put on my tombstone, but at least I can have “Had bad teeth and a lazy eye, but he was never a Gamergater

Here’s another from the hip shot. This is the second best one.

I like that he's smoking in front of a medical center.
I like that he’s smoking in front of a medical center.

Getting back to the tooth: At the time it was common practice to fill molars in a cross shaped pattern. No one knew until years later that this method weakens molars, causing them to crack and eventually break. I first found out about this about ten years ago while eating a Whopper in Itaewon. Something hard and pointy was in the chemical mush they call a paddy and I was thinking, “I’m gonna sue Burger King for putting a cog in my meat.” Pulling it out I quickly realized that it was a tooth. Wanting to make sure it was my tooth and not someone else’s… because that would be *WAY GROSS*… I poked around with my tongue.

After I woke up from passing out from the pain of poking an exposed nerve I raced to a dentist who explained this to me. He also told me that the three other molars that had the cross filling are showing signs of cracking and it’s only a matter of time before they all shatter like grenades, sending shrapnel into my brain and killing me. I never got them all filed and crowned because while I could afford to do the broken one, all four was beyond my financial abilities. I got the gold crown and proceeded to take my chances.

The gold crown fell out months later and vanished into ocean along with my poo. The next tooth took a decade to explode. That too has entered the ocean floating in my poo. I’m okay with this because I’m at that age where you’re happy to poo because the alternative is a cycle of painful constipation and painful diarrhea. This is also the age you have to give up on love and companionship because no one wants to fuck a man whose life is based around his bowel movements. Well, no one you’d want to kiss afterwards.

Here’s the third best from the hip photo I took.

Hide your faces from the all-seeing eye!
Hide your faces from the all-seeing eye!

The secret to from the hip seems to be wide angled lenses. Which would explain how all of the street photography I see is usually with a wide-angled lens. Take in everything and crop out all of the empty sky. Works for me. Except my wide-angle is also the kit lens. Kit lenses are pretty good for just about everything you need to do but they… or at least Pentax’s kit lens… Is a bit slow on the auto focus. I know that I really should stop being lazy and get good at zone focusing so I can leave the auto focus out all together but I think you’re expecting too much from a man with one eye and no teeth.

It’s my party, I can grump if I want to!

I’m feeling pretty negative about humanity today. It comes from having access to the internet. No doubt about that. Murderous cops. Bigoted pizza store owners. Assholes stumbling over themselves to give them piles of cash because they’re assholes. People thinking that the right to voice an opinion is the same as a right to having an audience for that opinion. People forcing me to block them on FaceBook because they’re unpleasant about everything. Me still knowing everything they write because some dumb-assed friend keeps engaging them. Cats, dogs, living together. My beard growing out twisted and unmanageable forcing me to shave it off. (Perhaps the deepest cut of all.) The lunch at Bennigan’s blasting it’s way out through the other door. It’s all enough to make a man want to find a mountain hermitage somewhere with hot water, electricity, and a good restaurant nearby.

Yes, I’d be the worst hermit in the world. I can’t even wear a loin cloth because I don’t think that I can hunt and skin a loin.

Instead of grousing like some sort of grouser, here are some pictures of those intolerable Homo Sapiens. I’ve probably shared some of them already but you pointing this out, straw-man reader, is why you’re horrible. The first one is new, though…

Disorderly Queue

c'mere

Under the bridge, along the river, sits the weary

datenight

Pull

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time I took this picture.

criticalmiss

That time was two nights ago while playing AD&D. I play D&D in my 40s. I know, right? My generation of geek was the last generation of geek for who Saturday night D&D wasn’t one option among many, it was the only option. It’s amazing that I found two groups of players here and I know of at least two more. Here. In Gunsan. Tiny little backwater Gunsan. The geeks won. Much like how the black people won when jazz became the dominant musical form in the 1920s and all racism ended.

Once upon a time I owned this piece of photographic equipment.

meterwrap

This is a spot meter. It tells you how bright something is so you can adjust your old creaky camera’s setting and get a nice picture. I used it for years with my Mamiya C220f and I took nice pictures with it. The era in which I started using the Mamiya is also the era of the acceleration of the death of film. While I was exceptionally lucky to be living in an area with enough film sellers/ developers to feed my habit, it became ever harder to afford to do so. I switched to digital and film cameras with the meter built in. I gave this to a friend to give to some students if he knew of any. In a way I regret doing so because you look super arty and cool when you use it.

Once upon a time I went to this place.

2654528748_153b15dba0_o

This is the Habitation at Port Royal in Nova Scotia. Well, it’s a reconstruction since the original one was blown up by Americans four hundred years ago. Well, people from the colony of Virginia, which is the core of what became America so at least you know they were getting into the habit of going overseas to blow things up early. Enough ragging on my violent, warlike friends to the south. The Habitation is a small, very out of the way historical site like most of the historical sights in Nova Scotia. History moved the cultural and economic focus to Halifax before abandoning that part of Canada entierly when it was no longer needed to sail soldiers to Europe to go die for England.

Once upon a time I taught these children.

IMG_1661

This was the kindergarten I visited every two weeks when I was in Japan. There were forty of them and I never memorized their names because I saw them for two hours every two weeks and I’m really horrible. I did like them a lot though. If you want to know the difference between Japanese and Korean students… Korean kids are far more active and in your face. You could even describe them as “rude” if you were feeling uncharitable. However they have a sort of grace in their pressure cooker-like daily English lessons, and while they’re miserable they can speak English relatively well. Japanese kids are the opposite. Make of that what you will.

(UPDATE: It’s been brought to my attention that this segment looks like I’m talking shit about Korean kids. That wasn’t my intent. Even my worst, rudest, most disrespectful Korean students are fairly likable as people.)

Once upon a time, when I was six years old, I really liked this song.

I might still, now that I listen to it…

Pop Pop

A long time ago, I owned a Canon 30D. I had been interested in photography all my life but it was only in Korea that I could afford a camera. Even the cheap-assed second hand ones. I’m from Nova Scotia and no one has life savings let alone the spare cash to buy a $200 camera. That’s not entirely true. There were always a bunch of trust fund kids and future student loan bankruptcy cases who went to the local art school putzing around town taking photos of the endless sea of bands we breed there. For the most part hobbies were limited to the affordable drinking of beer.

awalk1

The picture above was taken with a Pentax film camera back in those early days. The Canon’s battery had died on a trip and I foolishly had forgotten to bring the battery charger. No precious memories for me that weekend. I was also having problems getting the images I wanted out of it so my friend Greg suggested that I get a fully manual film camera. Shutter speed, film speed, aperture. Maybe one with a light meter, but that’s it. The cost of developing ruined images would force me to get better or quit.

I like to think that I got better but your mileage may vary.

pomm

My time in Japan was a bit of an experimental one for me as I tried all sorts of cameras, all sorts of film, and all sorts subject matter. I tend to think that my best images were taken there but in many ways it’s hard not to take a nice picture in Japan. The country is so damned photogenic at every single turn. It’s to the point where you go, “I have nothing to photograph but the scenic snow-covered volcano in my backyard *again*? Man, my life is hell.”

Even that does get boring after a while. Everybody is photographing Mt. Fuji in the sunrise. Everyone is photographing the kudzu covered trees in the south Kyushu forests. The train plowing through the snow as it takes the country students to school? Try not to get in the other guys shot. Not that there’s anything original in photography. Millions of people over a couple of hundred years have been working on it before you. The best you can hope for is to present something just-different-enough in a nice way. This is the same with every medium. People don’t want the same Katy Perry song every time. They want the same Katy Perry song just with the autotune tweaked a little differently. How about Rick and Darryl killing a zombie with a machine gun instead of a pistol on this weeks Walking Dead? Cutting edge!

These small changes add up over time and it’s only through hindsight that we see the change. It’s like evolution in that way. Think of originality as a form of mutation that dies as soon as it leaves the womb.

The Festival Light

I got more interested in people in recent years. They’re more of a challenge, trying to find that balance between getting the shot and not being an invasive asshole. I probably shouldn’t because it’s the invasive assholes and their photos of obviously uncomfortable people who are the ones getting the gallery shows so I guess that says a lot… about the sort of people who go to gallery shows. I just hang around in the background trying not to bother people and hoping to see someone worth pointing my camera at.

I’m probably doing it wrong or something.

suyu scene

It’s now one year and one month since I returned to Korea. It would only take you a short trip through the archives to see that I’m pretty meh on the experience so far. From my observations it seems that unless you’re deeply invested in Korea for some reason… Korean family, Korean lovers, that horrible K-pop… a general spiritual malaise falls over every expat here. A lot of folks seem to go nutty after enough time has passed. Some sort of combination of boredom and frustration. You can see it in every shot glass they throw back. Every online argument they have. Every leering photo of a Korean girl they take.

Of course, the people who are invested in Korea are nutters too. Just in a different way. I should write about that some day.

We’ll Have Fun Fun Fun Til Our Daddy Takes the Xanax Away

Yahoo! Saturday! Parrrrrr-Tay!

Except I don’t drink. Nor do I smoke and I find the smell of it repulsive when it’s in my clothes. I have an amazing skill at saying the most room-chilling things at the worst possible time. I’m miserably socially awkward. And on top of that I’m a fat, balding, middle-aged man. Basically, just what everyone doesn’t want at the bar chatting up the twenty-something girls there in the vain hope that someone, somewhere will help you fend off, for at least one night, the crushing knowledge of what the true despair of emptiness feels like. So no fun for me.

Great Andrew W.K. song, though.

Here’s a photo I took in Japan once;

aug1310g

I never see stuff like this here in Korea. I don’t mean the girl in the kimono doing a traditional Japanese dance in the middle of a bar district. That would be pretty weird to see in Korea. Maybe back during the occupation. Too soon? Anyway, what I mean is that Japan always seemed to have all of its historical stuff revisited frequently whereas here in Korea that sort of thing is limited to reenactments at museums or historical parks. Even then it tends to be kept in the background. Japanese culture sees to embrace it’s (not the fascist empire but the sexier samurai and ninja-based) history while Korea tends to want to run away from any era that wasn’t the 1980s.

These are just broadly brushed cultural things that I’ve anecdotally noticed and I fully appreciate that your Korean/ Japanese spouse’s family are totally old school/ modern and are in no way stereotypical of their culture the same way you’re not an overbearing westerner so please don’t bother to “Um, actually…” at me because I totally get you.

Here’s a photo I took in Taiwan once;

taichung night

I was only in Taiwan for a very short time. Know why? Because it’s really fucking hot there and I sweated so much that it left salt stains on all of my clothing. I think that if you grew up in a place where the air is a non stop sauna it’d be a wonderful location. But I’m just a wee, fragile Canadian who thinks twenty four degrees is a heatwave that will murder anyone who dares leave the safety of the air conditioner.

In all honesty, I did become acclimatized to the semi-tropical weather of Miyazaki. Ten degrees and no snow in January? Yes, please. When I went back home after half a decade of that I was massively nippley all summer because everyone had the air conditioner running full blast during Nova Scotia’s rare not-raining and cold days. I was probably unbearable to be around. Which sort of brings it back to the previous two points about being an unbearable westerner and not having a social life.

Here’s a picture I took in Canada once;

lodgeinthefog

This is the sort of place I grew up in. Grey and dour. Which explains a lot about me. It’s also why I take a lot of pictures in black and white and certainly not because I always badly expose a lot of my photos and monochrome is a great way to cover it up. No sir. The problem with all of this grey is that it really instills a sense of inevitable failure in a person. Well, maybe not the grey so much as the culture of failure there that comes from being traditionally an economic backwater that even the most hard-working and optimistic people have difficulty escaping the gravity of. Our main export being laborers for other parts of the world because not everyone can afford meth.

Here’s a picture I took in Korea once;

uuuup

Korea is also grey and dour but this place tasted the sort of success forever denied the east coast of Canada. It’s always looking up and onward towards a possible great future. Might explain why the bars here are full of middle-aged men chatting up twenty something girls in the vain hope that someone, somewhere will help you fend off, for at least one night, the crushing knowledge of what the true despair of emptiness feels like.

Instant

“Biru~! Biru~!” She waves me to the door as I pass the daycare. They keep the doors open a crack on mild days to get some fresh air in to blow away the diaper odor. She is carrying her nephew on her hip. He’s an interesting kid. Someone with a natural talent for mischief and lacking any of the fear of his peers. He was the kid you had to chase as he ran nude because diapers are a tool of oppression.

“Where are you going?” she asks. I hold up my needlessly expensive Instax camera. “Sashin desu!” I reply in my stupid yet seemingly endearing Japanese. She turns to the kid, who in turn looks at her in the confused manner of all babies, “Hai, cheeeeese!”

I take a picture.

beibee

The crowd tries their best to ignore the fascists yelling about patriotism and strength from their loudspeaker-equipped black vans. They aren’t breaking any noise laws… and if they were, their friends in the city government will support them. The local business owners can’t do anything about them because they will simply park in front of the store and chase customers away. Like all men who believe in strength as the greatest virtue, they’re bullies and thugs.

I turn to Greg, “I want to throw a rock at them.” He gives me a look that suggests it might be a good idea if we could get away from them before they kick the crap out of me, but it’s probably a really bad idea. At least, that’s what I assumed his face said though it could be my brain talking some sense into me. I look at the annoyed couples as they pass. I look at the two young men watching them in rapt attention, swaying to the speaker’s every Hitlereque gesture.

I take a picture.

fucktheseguys

Wandering around the small city of Miyakonojo. It’s a fairly spread out city, having eaten most of the agricultural land on the plateau just because it could. Its days of growth are long gone by the time I make my presence known there. So many abandoned homes and businesses now being eaten by the nature they replaced. In Canada the plants and algae would have been removed from the artificial streams for reasons. They¬†have fish in them here. The one next to the school has a pleasant smell.

I take a picture

greenstream

I walked into the hotel with my backpack off, rummaging through it for my booking confirmation sheet. I attempt to speak their language but since I’m as good at second languages as a stuffed bear, I quickly relent when they speak to me in English.

I check in and the valet gestures to me to follow her. She can speak pretty decent English so we have a conversation on the way to my room. If I had something like self confidence I’d have assumed that she was into me. As it is, I just assumed she was being polite and friendly. In my room she shows me all the buttons and switches. She leaves, I’m alone again. This is how it always was and always will be. But for a few minutes I remember that sometimes travelers need a companion because they make the insignificant things more interesting.

I take a picture.

hotelinstax

There are a lot of pretty people in Tokyo. Big cities always have a lot of pretty people. Probably because they have a lot of people, period. Pretty people are a common subject because everyone likes to look at pretty people. This Instax Mini camera isn’t too great for that sort of thing because the lens is so wide that you need to get close enough to blind them with the flash. Or else they look like tiny figures in the distance.

I take a picture anyway.

prettythings

Spring is beautiful. The sakura is magical. I take a picture.

sakuragate

Shortly after this, the camera breaks. This is okay because the film is absurdly expensive.

I hope you like spiders~!

It’s getting really springy here in Day Hammy Goo and I’m starting to regret my plan of sitting on my money this year like some sort of Scrooge (Ebeneezer) just so I can go swimming in a room full of it at a later date like some sort of Scrooge (McDuck) because travel is the spice of life. Well, variety is, but traveling brings variety so kiss my metaphor. It also brings irritation and air-sickness which is why I rarely travel outside of whatever nation I’m living in at the time.

Flying is how they introduce damned souls to Hell. The demons don’t do anything different from a normal flight. They know they can’t compete with an airline in the evil-towards-humanity department.

Here’s a picture of a Japanese Huntsman spider slowly murdering a snail. It’s still more pleasant than flying.

How to know it's spring in Kyushu? You regularly pee your pants.
How you knew it was spring in Kyushu? You regularly peed your pants.

Today I’m feeling a bit better about the job since we had an actual breakthrough yesterday. The more experienced kids, despite some whining about moving from their preferred seats, actually sat next to and helped the boys who should be in the baby class. If I were in a hagwon this probably wouldn’t have happened because, due to the lifetime of betrayal and insults from the adults meant to be taking care of them, they cling pretty hard to whatever artificial social divisions they have. They also hate you and won’t do shit to make your job easier.

Try not to feel bad about not having full control in a hagwon despite the most evil efforts of your boss, supervisor, and partner teachers to undermine your confidence and authority. They keep the kids in line by yelling at them in a language the kids understand. They’re hardly the Confucian model of the perfect authority figure themselves so don’t let them fool you into thinking they are. They’re still treating the kids like shit which is why they’re rebellious with you and your funny foreigner talk and your funny foreigner face when you get angry.

If you’re having teacher problems (I feel bad for you son) but try to look at it like this: If they’re not helping make your job better, they’re making it worse. Even a neutral approach is not helping. Treat them as the obstacle they are and try to work around them. I wish there was an easy bit of advice to give but every situation is different. The only “Works every time” options are quitting or giving zero fucks. That’s why I’m glad I’m not in a hagwon. My boss is fairly hands-off and my current partner teachers are pretty good. They actually work with me to make things better in the classroom.

Here’s another Japanese spider. This one is kind of pretty.

I still wouldn’t want it on my face though.

While I do have many regrets about being in Korea instead of Japan to scrape and scrounge up enough money so I’m not dumpster diving for my meals when I’m old, the relative lack of critters in my bedroom isn’t one of them. The joys of looking up from your keyboard because some sense of wrongness cuts through your Reddit flamewar to see a spider the size of your fist popping up from behind the table your bare legs are tucked under. Becoming aware of a cockroach so big that you can actually hear the sound of it’s footsteps as it crosses your tatami. The terrifying takkity-takkit-takkity-takkity of the mukade (I dare you to Google it) as it tries, and fails, to crawl out of your kitchen sink that it just fell into.

You desperately looking for a way to pick it up or kill it. Your only options being an laughably ineffective boot or the long cooking chopsticks that you’re not sure you can control well enough to hold a vicious, poisonous, squirming, armoured insectoid murder machine. Not wanting to leave your apartment to go buy some spray or a hammer because what if it’s gone by the time you got back and you can’t find it?

You. Can’t. Find. It.

But it can find you.

Here’s a tiny jumping spider. It’s kind of cute in a hairy fanged way;

"Hi there! My name is Sam and I'm gonna sleep in your ear canal tonight!"
“Hi there! My name is Sam and I’m gonna sleep in your ear canal tonight!”