Friday, July 31, 2009

The Book Review Club (August 2009)

So, I've been meaning to do this for months and I'm finally about to get my shit together in time! Woot!

A couple of months ago I borrowed Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire from a friend and she mentioned that I might like a book that was an interpretation of Alice in Wonderland, but she couldn't remember the title off-hand. A couple of weeks later, another friend bought the book, The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor and then finished it on the train ride home from Mudfest and handed it to me. Since I've been working like crazy and obsessed with vampire porn (as anyone on my Facebook profile could hardly miss), I only just this week got around to reading it.

I'm so glad I did. I liked it a lot more than Son of a Witch and possibly more than Wicked. Granted, I now very much need to actually read Lewis Caroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Here's what Visual Bookshelf on Facebook says about The Looking Glass Wars:
You know the myth...

A little girl named Alice tumbled down a rabbit hole and proceeded to have a charming adventure in the delightful, made-up world of Wonderland...

Now discover the truth... Wonderland Exists!

Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland throne, was forced to flee through the Pool of Tears after a bloody palace coup staged by the murderous Redd. Lost and alone in Victorian London, Alyss is befriended by an aspiring author to whom she tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life only to see it published as the nonsensical Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alyss had trusted Lewis Carroll to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere would find her and bring her home. But Carroll had gotten it all wrong. He even misspelled her name! If not for royal bodyguard Hatter Madigan's nonstop search to locate the lost princess, Alyss may have become just another society woman sipping tea in a too-tight corset instead of returning to Wonderland to fight Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

Meet the heroic, passionate, monstrous, vengeful denizens of this parallel world as they battle each other with AD-52's and orb generators, navigate the Crystal Continuum, bet on jabberwock fights and travel across the Chessboard Desert.

The Looking Glass Wars unabashedly challenges our Wonderland assumptions of mad tea parties, sleepy dormice, and a curious little blonde girl to reveal an epic battle in the endless war for Imagination.
The first thing that struck me was the illustrations because the card soldiers seem ripped straight out of the recent Star Wars trilogy. Beyond that jarring flaw, I loved this book more for its plot than its characters. Alyss seemed well drawn and credible, though I found Redd and Dodge Anders to be less so. I loved the way Beddon connected real world events and events in Wonderland - the timeline was interesting, though perhaps I'm alone in my geeky love of timelines. I loved Hatter Madigan and his kick-ass weapons. I missed entirely that General Doppleganger was Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum - I have Carroll's books back in Canada and intend to bring them back with me before reading the next two parts of Geddor's trilogy.

The theme of the book, which deals with issues of anger, revenge, power and justice, rather hits you right over the head in terms of obviousness - while I find that more common in books for children and young adults, in comparison with Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy I think Beddor could have been a bit more subtle. That said, it was easy for me to draw parallels with the real world and other literature, such as the connection to North Korea and 1984 with Redd's use of constant broadcasting to control the Wonderland population.

I think this would be an enjoyable book to teach and I suspect my students would really enjoy it, as well. I look forward to reading the next two books.

July is Ending

2. Read 101 books. (88/101) Flow, Lord of the Flies, The Great Gatsby, The Old Man and the Sea, The Catcher in the Rye, Tumble Home, City of Thieves, Dead Until Dark, Zen and the Art of Vampires, Even Vampires Get the Blues, The Looking Glass Wars
3. Read 50 children's books. (38/50) Nate the Great and the Missing Key, Dear Mr. Henshaw, Ruby the Copycat, Lunch Money, The Annoying Team, Case of the Elevator Duck
5. Spend 30 days reading out of the house for at least one hour. (20/30)
8. Read all the magazines in my place.I really must get on this before I move.
12. Complete a month of posts each year (NaBloPoMo or other month.) (6/3)
19. Be able to label a map of Africa.
23. Win at any of the quiz nights.
57. Eat at 25 new restaurants. (15/25)Korean place in Boryeong, Scrooges, Sam Ryans
62. Dip my toes into two oceans/seas. (1/2)Yellow Sea
76. Take the subway to or from work once a week. (35/38)
84. Finish all my multivitamins.
90. Go to bed by midnight thirty times. (5/30)

95. Make one day a month internet and TV free. (20/30)

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Facebook Status Archetypes

Social networking is a paradox because usually the people who are the most active online are the least active in real life. At least that's a common criticism. Is it a fair assessment?
Or else they just have a lot of down time at work which isn't quite long enough to do anything else of value. In my five minute breaks, unless I need to pee or fill my water bottle, I tend to log on to Facebook and fart about for the four minutes remaining. Since I don't have the interent at home, I tend to like going on at work because the only other time I use it is to watch True Blood or Weeds online while reading blogs or sending emails, which only happens twice a week. This is also why I take so many idiotic Facebook quizzes - they fit nicely into one break, are amusing enough, and are a very much needed mental break from children.

The article is fairly amusing, if nothing original. If you've got five minutes, maybe you'll read it or mabye you're too busy updating your Facebook status.
Face it: When you get pregnant, you're not going to tell your best friend over Facebook. No, the "Big News Break" update specifically targets people who aren't among the inner circle of friends. But we're not knocking it. Facebook is all about lesser friends, and there's nothing wrong with second-tier.
I think I just might, should I ever get knocked up (and since that would be a big accident, I won't have told anyone about any plans or anything. My parents better get on Facebook, you know, just in case.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Random Vacation Days

The summer vacations at my hagwon are just odd. We get the last two days of July off and then the last week of August off (sort of.) There is technically a meeting on that last Friday of August, but if you are going anywhere, you get to just skip it and while Thursday is not an actual holiday, it's a day without classes or any need to be at work. Weird, right?

Sadly, though I have these next two days off, I'm up as early as usual in order to fill in paperwork and hang out with visa people. To that I say, meh.

Wanna Quiz Along at Home?

Whether you might want to or not, I'm too damn tired to write anything else today. Answers to follow.

First Lines

1. "Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested."
2. "Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden."
3. "It was a pleasure to burn."
4. "In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since."
5. "A screaming comes across the sky."
6. "This is not for you."
7."Half way along the journey of our life, I found myself again in a dark wood, Where the straight road no longer lay"
8. "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
9."The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."
10. "I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man."

Current Events
1. What was the drug, allegedly administered to Michael Jackson by his doctor, that may have killed him?
2. Which Formula One driver suffered a near fatal 150mph crash this week?
3. Which Head of State was hospitalized this week? For a bonus point, how did his wife arrive at the hospital?
4. The growing trend among Japanese men for shunning career employment and competition and avoiding marriage has led to its adherents being given what nickname?
5. What are the names of President Obamas Middle-East envoy and the Palestinian Chief Negotiator?
6. How has an official limousine gotten the German Health Minister into trouble this week?
7. What name has been given to the conspiracy theorists who allege that Barack Obama is not an American citizen, despite massive evidence to the contrary?
8. Rock legend Jimi Hendrix’s first recording contract was put up for auction in New York this week. How much was it worth?
9. In Football, Barcelona traded 40 million pounds and striker Samuel E’to for which Inter Milan player?
10. Farmers in the East Indian state of Bihar have taken what extreme step to induce the weather gods to bring a badly needed monsoon?

Words of the Recently Dead
1. I regret that, in our attempt to establish some standards, we didn't make them stick. We couldn't find a way to pass them on to another generation, really.

2. Neither conscience nor sanity itself suggests that the United States is, should or could be the global gendarme.

3. He sent you a priest, a rabbi and a quaker, Mr President, not to mention his son Jesus Christ. What do you want from him?

4.You're not a bad person. You're a terrific person. You're my favorite person, but every once in a while, you can be a real cunt.

5.When I saw their horrified eyes and their missing toenails, my comfortable life as a lawyer came to an end.

6. [Discussing peacocks]:
You see those things... don't think I'm being daft... but them things that look like eyes, are they their real eyes?

7.I've done far worse than kill you, Admiral. I've hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her; marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet... buried alive! Buried alive...!

8.I made a terrible mistake when I was young, I think, from which I've never really recovered. I wrote the word "pause" into my first play.

9. What we've got here is a failure to communicate.

10.If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Vienna Teng

All I did yesterday after teaching was watch True Blood, meet up with TOT for beers and Tandoori chicken at Jacoby's (so not at all like Tandoori chicken, but delicious), and then take her back to my place to crash before her incredibly early flight to Jeju. Since I don't have much to say about that or any interest in doing my intended weekends recap post, have this instead.

City Hall



Lazy Sundays

I went down to Jeonju for the weekend to hash - and hash we did, on Saturday. After the hash we drank quite a lot of soju & beer, went out for dukgalbi with cheese (yum!), saw a band and went to a club. During the hash the virgins were supposed to keep ahold of a balloon and not break it - mine popped as I blew it up, though the penalty wasn't too bad. Ray found a suitcase during trail that he carried the rest of the way, with his balloon up his shirt. He certainly confused more than a few Korean passers-by. Sunday we were incredibly lazy - we went to the start point, politely joined in circle and then hashed ourselves over to the Loteria for some fast food for breakfast. After that we sat in front of a Mini Stop for a couple of hours while three people did trail and eventually I threw myself onto a bus heading to Seoul and read a new vampire author. When I got home, I watched two movies: A Touch of Pink and Open Your Eyes. A Touch of Pink was sweet and just felt so Canadian. I wasn't too impressed with the acting, but the story line was interesting. Open Your Eyes was just bizarre all round. Then, just before midnight, I went to bed.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Jeonju Roadtrip

This is what I am up to this weekend.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Thoughts on Books

There are few things in life I enjoy more than books. I even like talking about books, so I'm going to address one of my comments in an actual post. In the comments, Ray said:
hmm. So I went through that Meta-list of 100 best books ever. Do you agree with those? I've read at least 35 of them if not more... and there are definitely a bunch of books that I'd include onto that last.

What does it say about newer authors--- your work has to be OLD in order to be considered the best.

I've mentioned before on this blog that when I was in high school, I used to feel (quite sullenly, no doubt) that some of the symbolism my teachers blathered on about was totally made up. As I've gotten older and better read, I realise that the one of the problems back in high school is that I just couldn't make the necessary connections between texts or see the patterns in novels on my own. Because I was an arsey little shit (I'm not sure much has changed), I didn't like being told how to interpret what I read and since I couldn't see it for myself I tended to just not like what I was made to read. For example, in a project on genres in 11th grade, I did dystopian novels and my favourite was Walden Two by B.F. Skinner largely because the teacher hadn't read it and didn't comment on how I should interpret it at all.

On the list, I've read twenty, started several or studied parts of them at university, and only really hated one. I seldom don't finish novels, but The Wind in the Willows is a book I can distinctly remember not finishing as a child, I gave up on the King James Bible at the begats, stopped reading War & Peace because it was too heavy to take on a hiking trip and I'd forgotten too much by the time I got back (I did love it, so I certainly intended to tackle it again one day), and I'm not entirely sure I've covered the entire Illiad and Odyssey, though I've studied some parts intensely and translated a fair amount as well. The only one I've actually hated was Beloved - I really want to like Morrison's novels but I just don't. I've now taught four of the novels on the list too, and that was an incredible experience.

I think Ray is right - the lack of more modern books is noticeable. What I also noticed is that the newest books were Pullman's Dark Materials Series - I loved them, but I do wonder at them being the best of all newer works. The reason I don't object to the list, however, or the age of the books, is that I think that reading the classics is essential in order to fully understand many newer works and the older I get, the more I enjoy being able to feret out the connections. Intertextuality kind of rocks.

For sure, I would love to read every last book on that list (minus perhaps the other Morrison, though I do mean to force myself through at least one more of her books, as perhaps she'll grow on me.) It's not a bad start, I think.

That said, I'm presently reading some vampire porn, a young adult novel, and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (which also is handy as a paperweight and for strengthening my purse-carrying muscles.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Check One Thing Off the To-do List

I have flights! I have to spend a random day in Rome, however that turns out to work awesomely as Jen is going to be there too that day. Then three weeks in Ghana/Togo, two weeks in Toronto (with a sidetrip to Kingston planned) and three full days in Vancouver.

Please, please let these 18.5 days of work fly by, but let all my free time go slowly enough for me to work out the rest of the details!

Life Rules for Geeks - And the Rest of You

Some of these are really funny.

And some geek awesomeness.

Or perhaps you'd like to compile your summer reading plan. Or maybe for longer.

Dudes, I am so tired and I have to go home and then to Itaewon, but I think it's getting me a seriously cheaper flight.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Korea Beat Goes Undercover

In lesbian clubs. Sigh.

The article is, considering everything, not as horrible as it could be and they politely changed the names of the clubs, which are fairly far from the rest of the club scene, only allow women in and don't all pictures. They used to be considerably more secret when I arrived in Korea but have slowly become better known even outside the LGBT community. The comments are a disaster - granted, most internet article comments are. I particularly like the guy that claims that there aren't any hetero clubs in Korea that are as hedonistic - seriously funny, as in my experience they are worse. Some homophobia, some ignorance, some implications that foreigners in Korea aren't interested in anything but sex. I suppose this would be why I am selective about my internet reading and seldom read any comments (though I do read the ones on my own blog!)

Chosun Weekly Checks Out Lesbian Clubs in Hongdae
One writer for the weekly magazine spent a night in the less well-known side of Hongdae.

Unlike gays, lesbians have not been publicly visible. Gays are known to gather mainly in Jongro3-ga and Itaewon, while the lesbian community has no famous spot. But upon hearing that near Hongdae Station there were four or five “lesbian-only clubs”, I went straight there to see for myself.

00:00 Over 100 Women… No Reservation, No Seat

Situated between some normal residences in Hongdae, P Hall draws the eye with its conspicuous pink sign. After you take the stairs down to the second floor and let the women employees check your ID card, a strip of pink paper is attached to your wrist. You’re in P Hall.

The cover fee for P Hall is W10,000. Usually you can get a reservation after 9 pm, and those who don’t stand around since there are no open seats. Those with reservations sit on three-person white fur sofas in the seven or eight “VIP Rooms”.

It’s past midnight but the 500㎡(150평) club was packed with about 100 women. In the middle of the club there was a dance stage, and on one side of the floor there were several mattresses scattered around as a white “bed”. On the bed six or seven women were lying down and flirting.

Everywhere there were people on the lookout for men. “So men are not allowed in?” I asked the permed owner, a woman in her mid-20s. “Of course not,” she replied. She was a “woman” in short hair and skinny jeans. Her shirt was one size too large, and there was no volume to her chest as if it had been compressed with bandages.

She said, “lesbians with short hair who take the man’s role are called ‘butch’.” Lesbians who taken woman’s role are called ‘femme’.

01:00 “Love at First Sight” Asked to Sit Together

One woman ordered a cola at the bar next to the stage and walked over. 160cm tall and wearing black horn-rimmed glasses, she was young with short hair. She introduced herself as 20-year old Kim, studying physical education at women’s university H. I gave her my phone number and went over to sit with four or five of her friends. Immediately I received a text message. She sent me five or six messages saying, “it’s love at first sight,” “do you have a lover?”, and “how do you feel about younger women?”

As soon as I went over to her seat her friends allowed me in. “Who are your friends here?” I asked. She laughed and said, “they’re all friends I met at lesbian internet clubs, but they all have girlfriends. Wouldn’t it be sad to live without a lover?”

02:00 Loud Music Draws Them In… Some Couples Head to Motels

As the singer launched into “Saturday Night” the women cheered. My eye was drawn to the couples dancing lasciviously. Like in any other club in Hongdae, one woman sat on another’s lap and whispered into her ear, another ran her hands over her partner’s whole body, and another held a beer bottle in one hand and ghad her other around her partner’s waist.

Cigarette smoke hung in the hair and I left the club. One couple next to me talked. “Well… wanna go?” “Yeah, let me get some cash. That motel doesn’t take credit cards.” They left the club and disappeared up the street.

Other couples leaned against the entrance, drunken and getting physical. One couple, who had been dancing furiously on stage 10 minutes before, was composed of a black woman and a Korean woman. They had their hands around each other’s waists and left after whispering passionately.

I asked Kim about one-night stands. She said, “just a minute ago some of my friends went to a motel together. It’s dirty, like having sex with a man.”

After leaving Kim I went back into the club. Another woman had arrived. 167cm tall and dressed casually, she was a prototypical beauty with crescent-moon eyes and rosy cheeks. She was a 24-year old nursing student named Goh who took me by the hand to the bathroom. Two of her friends came in. They all said, “you’re the prettiest one here!” “Notice that a minute ago everybody was only checking you out?”

03:00 “Do Your Parents Know? Mine Would Faint!”

Goh’s friends moved to their seats and had a drink before leaving. I went with them to M Bar, a lesbian-only bar. Located in a basement level, M Bar has a bar and 12 tables in a space that can accommodate 500. Though very late, it was still half full.

Goh, who wsaid she has an older sister and younger brother, said, “just my sister is straight, and me and my brother are gay.” I asked if her parents know she is a lesbian. She laughed and said, “if my mother knew she would faint. I just told them my sexual orientation by saying I’m not interested in marriage.”

Goh said, “the problem of life is living with someone you can be happy with, and being gay has nothing to do with it. Straight or gay, everyone goes through pain over it, so I don’t really think about it.”

04:00 Almost All Employees Are Women… In Daytime You Can Bring Gay Friends

I arrived at S Club, another lesbian-only club in Hongdae. Located in the first basement floor, on the last Saturday of each month patrons can bring their “gay” friends, and it is well known for this special night. I paid the W10,000 cover fee and went in, and the manager, a handsome woman in her 30s, greeted me with a smile.

I sat at the bar near a part-time worker, a woman with a white face and dyed-blonde permed hair. She said she was 20-year old Kim, and had been working there since February. She said, “I started working here after I saw an ad on a lesbian community internet site.”

She said she was actually bisexual. She first began wondering about her sexual orientation in high school. “When I was a second-year student in high school I met one of my younger girl classmates, and I asked her out and we dated for a year. But our homeroom teacher found out and threatened to tell our parents if we didn’t stop hanging together. My girlfriend was very upset and said we should break up.” After she graduated she dated a man. Now she has no partner.

05:20 Lesbian Employees Come and Go “Keep In Touch…”

It was 5 am and patrons were starting to leave the club. One customer in hr 20s asked an employee for her phone number, and the employee flirted, “come again and I’ll treat you nice.”

One employee with unusually large eyes and a vivacious personality left with this reporter. She asked for my phone number, saying “you don’t have to tell me your name or anything… I just like you. Come again and see me.”

And This Is Why...

... the classic novels aren't dead. They remain disturbingly pertinent.

19. Be able to label a map of Africa.

I've spent spare minutes all week memorizing it and now, fuck yeah! I did the whole thing perfectly, even the spelling and the islands and 'stans. Up next - South & Central America. Minus the Caribbean - that would do my head in!

Planning Ahead Pays Off

This t-shirt is officially on my Christmas list.

Monday, July 20, 2009

North Korea Threatens Nuclear Attacks, But This Is What We Should Concentrate On

So, here I am, sitting on the Internet at work after teaching what I think may be the most annoying child in all of Korea. I'm not kidding. Four years, most annoying hour of my life so far. However, I'm on a break now, so I'm farting around until I get hungry for lunch, at which point I will go out and sit in the sun. And I came across this article.
Korea Herald [EDITORIAL] Nation branding

Korea will stop being described as "dynamic" or "sparkling," at least on the government level. "Miraculous Korea" is being considered as a candidate national slogan by a special panel working on improving the nation's image.

The "Dynamic Korea" catch phrase, which has been used in official publications from around the time of the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea-Japan, is feared to remind outsiders of violent demonstrations in this country. "Korea, Sparkling," another slogan coined by the Korea Tourism Organization, sounds like a commercial message for mineral water in the opinion of Euh Yoon-dae, chairman of the Presidential Council on National Branding.

The council, which came into being last January under President Lee Myung-bak's instruction to promote Korea's image abroad, plans to hire a foreign company to create a new national slogan to replace the old ones. Chairman Euh, an economist who was president of Korea University, seems to favor "Miraculous Korea," which he believes denotes Korea's economic success, particularly in the areas of technology.

True, a recent government-commissioned survey with a large number of foreigners has determined that "advanced technology" is the primary image that is conjured up when they think of South Korea. That is followed by Korean food, television dramas, the people, overall economic growth and the still persistent image of the Korean War. It makes sense that the presidential council seeks to emphasize an area where Korea has already established a positive image in the international community.

While we appreciate the efforts of President Lee and the presidential council to enhance Korea's "brand power," we wonder how much a single catch phrase can formulate a better image of Korea among foreigners and encourage them to buy more Korean products and take vacations here. We remember Thailand and Malaysia, for example, made big international publicity efforts with such tourism promotion catch phrases as "Fantastic Thailand" and "Malaysia, Truly Asia," we do not know if Japan and China had such national slogans.

Korea is not alone in wanting to improve its national branding in this age of indefinite global competition. With official or semi-official establishments, nations make meticulous international publicity efforts by creating fancy logos and circulating catchy slogans to attract overseas attention. Their aim is to induce foreign investment, bring in more foreign tourists and increase exports. Hosting Olympic Games, the World Cup or the World Expo may be the ultimate in national branding exercises.

But the members of the national branding council and other government authorities should realize the limits of such "overhead" national publicity, which can be rather counterproductive when overused or overemphasized. Wise investors and sophisticated international tourists are more affected by the footage of clashes in Seoul Plaza than by repeated chants of "Miraculous Korea" on CNN.

We believe diversity is the best thing in today's publicity war. Samsung, LG and Hyundai have yet to take the trouble to disclose the national origin of their cell phones, LED TVs and passenger cars in their ads but by far they are the most powerful instruments of Korea's national branding as the government survey has proved. Starting the complicated job of increasing Korea's brand power by coining a new catchphrase is a naive approach

It's pretty funny really. Each of the Korean cities and even some of the neighbourhoods also have one word English slogans, and generally ones that make no sense whatsoever. We had a quiz round on them once which turned out to be a guessing disaster, even though two of our teammates are quite well-travelled around Korea. I highly doubt that a new adjective is going to do anything at all for Korea's reputation. One of the few things I think that Korea maybe could do is clean up the ESL industry. After all, most people have a frame of reference for South Korea that includes the Korean War and North Korea. Before I moved here the only other thing I knew was that my friend Candace had worked here and basically hated it. If you google Korea, you fast come across places like Dave's ESL Cafe, and if you were to go by the portrait those posters paint of Korea... Well, wow is all I can say. Perhaps protecting the basic rights of the foreigners here in the country and working to combat racist attitudes (Teacher! Africa people eat people! Really! All of them!) might be a more logical way of building a positive image outside of Korea. Korea really is a great country and on the whole, most of the Korean people I've come across have been great too. However, the bad eggs certainly are spotlighted on the Internet.

(Gotta love the Korea Herald. When I used the spell check, the only mistake that it found was in the article!)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Happy Monday!

I had such a nice, lazy weekend. Yes, yes, there are about a millions things I should have gotten accomplished. That part was not so good, I guess. However, I went home Friday night and I put on Harold & Kumar Go to Whitecastle (and wished very much I had some of what they were smoking), ate chili with hotdogs (I am making quite the concerted effort to clean out those cupboards), and then started the book club novel, City of Thieves. It turned out to be absolutely fantastic - the incredible discriptions of how cold and hungry they are during the seige of Leningrad, I actually turned off my air-con for a bit. Best novel I've ever read about a quest for a dozen eggs. Then I slept in Saturday, made myself a fantastic omlette, plowed through Lunch Money (kids' book and really quite good) and started in on Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrel, in between naps. I finally watched Babel - fantastic scenery - and all that searching for a connection was poignant (especially after Catcher in the Rye, which is about a search for connection, but I don't much like the book). I went to bed fairly early, woke in time to shower and head to Flying Pan Blue for some fabulous Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon and then over to Bunglow to drink margaritas, talk about the book, and squish sand through my toes. We went to pick the next book (The Yiddish Policemen's Union) which I already own and I traded in books (so sort of an errand run). I then ran a real errand and dropped my happy coat off to be embroidered before heading to hang with a tiny group of hashers at Sam Ryan. The evening ended with ice cream. I have to say, it was a pretty damn great weekend. More on my recent (and more action packed) weekends sometime this week... I've been procrastinating.

How can you not love a song that mentions Minoans?

N. Paradoxa

It's a cool blog.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

bookclub books

Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson

Lord, what was the matter with him? Janice Avery had given him nothing but trouble, but now he was feeling responsible for her - like one of the Burkes' timber wolves or beached whales. "She didn't even cry when kids teased her 'bout Willard after the note."

How could he explain it to her? "Leslie. If she was an animal predator, we'd be obliged to try to help her."

How could he trust every thing that mattered to him to a sassy six-year-old? Sometimes it seemed to him that his life was delicate as a dandelion. One little puff from any direction, and it was blown to bits.

He wondered what it would be like to have a mother whose stories were inside her head instead of marching across the television screen all day long.

She had tricked him. She and made him leave his old self behind and come into her world, and then before he was really at home in it but too late to go back, she had left him stranded there - like an astronaut wandering about on the moon. Alone.

Maybe one day when he was grown, he would write her a letter and tell her that Leslie Burke had thought she was a great teacher or something. Leslie wouldn't mind. Sometimes like the Barbie doll you need to give people something that's for them, not just something that makes you feel good giving it.

Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar

Everybody in Mrs. Jewls's class thought she was a very nice teacher. They were wrong. There is no such thing as a nice teacher. If you think you have a nice teacher, then you are wrong too. Inside every nice teacher there is a mean and rotten teacher bursting to get out. The nicer the teacher is on the outside, the meaner the teacher inside is.

Tumble Home by Amy Hempel

Weekend, Church Cancels Cow and The Children's Party remind me of childhood.

dog has died: The need for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

"He goes to pick up the steaks, there could be a stuffed effigy of the butcher behind the counter, Tony'd engage it in conversation."

She would always sleep with her husband and with another man in the course of the same day, and then the rest of the day, for whatever was left to her of thar day, she would exploit by incanting, "French film, French film."

I Have To Roll Up My Jeans to Walk Down the Street

Friday, July 17, 2009

Watching TV like Reading a Book

The Universe is Playing Mean Jokes

Just as I can finally wake up without feeling like I'm swallowing knives and my voice doing this sort of frog's croak / whisper thing and the sense that the front of my face might just explode, covering everything in green snot, I got my damn period. Granted, I missed last month's and kept panicking every once in awhile before remembering that I've only been sleeping with girls lately, so I suppose it's nice to stop the panic-feel-stupid cycle.

Hilariously, I know when my periods are these days in relation to hashing events. Life is odd.

The literature class is all wrapped up now and I can finally go back to reading things that I pick for myself. I'm sort of excited, except that I'm also in that blah mood where I don't know what to read. During the craziness of Intensives, I've stuck to my most recent obsession - vampire porn, basicaly - but I've run out of those. I've got two book club meetings on Sunday and I haven't read the book for either. If I didn't have so many damn errands to run tomorrow, I'd quite happily lounge around in bed finishing them both, but that really isn't an option. Sigh.

I can't wait for the weekend to start already. Even sleeping in until 9 or so will be such a relief. I'm so tired I've been permenantly cross-eyed for most of the week (I have an unfixed mildly lazy eye (just like me, I guess) and an aversion to the connection of the words scalpel, eye, and awake.)

And I've got to make up a damn quiz, since we won on Wednesday. Meh.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I've (Sort of) Made It

As of tomorrow, International Student Summer Intensives are over. Well, sort of. They are supposed to be over and come next week I was supposed to have three glorious days to sleep until noon. Right up until I got saddled with a first grade class that started three weeks late. Meh. So, I will continue to come in (granted, I do get extra pay for another three days, but still...) at 9 a.m. and will do so, baring a two day vacation at the end of July (poor Patrick is covering me for those two days), until I go on my six week vacation in August/September.

I know, I know. I'm bitching about working very little overtime for extra money to pay for my super-duper holiday. None of you are crying in your cocktails for me. However, after a week with a seriously nasty cold and freaking poison ivy of all things and hours that are stretched throughout the day in such a way as to make it nearly impossible for me to accomplish anything outside of work, I'm done. I've worked for almost two full years now, one of them teaching 10.5 hour days, with only three weeks of vacation and a scattering of Korean holidays thrown in. I need a break and the fact that between me and it is another set of intensives (granted, I should be off by 6 once those start), a move I haven't even started planning for (including, you know, finding a place to move to), some shots for yellow fever and the like is not making me a happy camper.

However, on the good side, I've had the chance to be paid to read five great books, four of which I haven't read since I was in high school myself. Having to teach Lord of the Flies, 1984, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher and the Rye, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime has been illuminating - I now get symbolism in a way I very much didn't at 16 and I now find it fascinating to puzzle out such things in novels. I've actually been pondering the feasiblity of trying to do an English course by correspondence (that whole September vacation being slightly problematic there, along with my present allergic reaction to any more items to add to the To-Do list). It's been lovely teaching 10th graders and lovely teaching students who are fluent rather than ESL for a change.

At least I haven't needed this particular book.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I've stared for hours at flight schedules and taught since 9 a.m. I'm far too tired to have anything to say. I am going to try to drag myself to trivia, as it's the last before my teammates go on holiday, but all I really want to do is sleep.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Not a Quality Week So Far

It's raiming and storming like crazy - I hate the monsoon.

The air con only works here if the bathroom and hall lights don't apparently. How hagwon.

The pharmacist laughed (sympathetically, I hope) when I suggested I had poison ivy, agreed and gave me a cream to put on it. If it doesn't get better at the end of the week, I'm supposed to go see a doctor. Joy.

I'm exhausted, but at least I've read my requisite pages of the Catcher in the Rye today and can go to sleep early.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Anyone know if Korea has any poisonous plants and what a rash from one might look like?

Is Nick Gay?

I've been teaching a tenth grade literature class. Aside from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, which I read about five years ago, I read the rest of the books when I myself was in high school. It's interesting how little I remember and how much more I think I am getting out of them now in comparison to then.

One thing I noticed is that there is a strong suggestion that Nick, the narrator of The Great Gatsby, has a homosexual encounter with the photographer he meets at a party with Tom in New York. I think there may also be several other clues supporting this, though that part is certainly the strongest.

Neither of my students even noticed that part of the book.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

I Succumbed

I bought some Crocs flip flops. This weekend is going to be dirty and I gave in.

Any liberal cred I might have had left after admitting that I sort of like Starbucks when I'm overseas and ending up at the pro-China rally pre-Olympics rathern than the anti by accident is now gone.

On the bright side, I'll have happy, comfy feet.

I find this funny.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Or Maybe It Was Only Eating One Triangle Kimbap For Dinner

Not only has North Korea launched cyber attacks against the South, they also totally spiked one of my gin & tonics or caesars or white russians last night.

Though the oatmeal cured my hangover instantly.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Fitzgerald's Wordiness is Rubbing Off on Me

Life Lessons

I have learned many things about myself over the past 31 years of life, but key among them is the fact that I will put almost anything into pasta at least once (I won't be trying apples again though.)

I came to be pondering that fact tonight because lately I have been eating the kind of haphazard meals that result from eating what is left in your fridge. You may be scratching your head and wondering if my upcoming move is really that soon, and no. No, it isn't.

However, the less-than-imminent move has intersected with two other key things: the fact that I have things in my freezer than moved here to this apartment with me almost a year ago and the fact that I have no time to shop while working such crazy hours. The insides of my refrigerators over the years have often amused me with their complete lack of "grown up" contents (and frankly, their resemblance to the stereotypical idea of a bachelor's fridge) (and we won't even go into the story of the time I super glued an internal freezer door back on when it broke off), but this time I really am hitting rock bottom. I have condiments, I have milk for my very necessary morning cups of coffee, I have some plastic cheese slices, and I have some year-old frozen fruit. Even I am not crazy enough to mix those things. Thankfully, twelve hour long days make it easy to justify eating out. A lot.

Up until this evening it also contained a 2-liter bottle of lemonade left over from the PMS hash that was about 1/10th tequila. Since I've been all out of other beverages (I only have about a half bottle of water, so I can't even make Kool-Aid), I've been drinking said lemonade and it has occurred to me that it's an odd way to start a work day. Though to be honest, with the way my schedule has been going lately, mostly what occurs to me is that I wish it had more tequila.

I'm about to be forced to shop, however, as otherwise I am soon going to have to resort to using my travel-sized toothpaste.

Paring it Down

Sometimes if I am in the last quarter of a contract, when things rip or break or stop working, I will cheer myself up by thinking that at least I am spared moving said item. It's more of a comfort if I'm moving overseas, but even an in-country move is a pain in the ass when you have this much stuff (Where did all this freaking stuff come from, anyway? Two years ago I only had two suitcases worth of crap!) For example, just about every pair of underwear I owned recently bit the dust (though my mom kindly replenished my supply for my birthday.) I broke a wine glass (but not THE wine glass, the one that fits a half-bottle in it) and left a pair of pj pants behind in hotel room and lent someone several books that weren't returned (No, apparently still not over that. You could fail to return my siblings or my vibrator and I'd get over it, but don't mess with my books.) (Though what are you doing borrowing my vibrator?)

I also like using up beauty products and food, particularly if I have somehow acquired a fair stash of something. Did you know that Mrs. Dash goes into pretty much anything? 'Cause it does. I finally got down to my last bottle of conditioner - and it's not going anywhere soon - that bottle is big. For a solid year I've been using conditioner that I was given by someone leaving the country - which makes me intensely curious as to how someone ends up with an excess of a year's supply of conditioner. However, no need to look that gift horse in the mouth. I'm also days away from finishing up some facial moisturizer and some lavender-scented body cream. And yes, this is what gets me all hot and bothered during intensives. You wouldn't have the brain power for decent entertainment either if you were teaching small children and tenth graders for eleven freaking hours a day.

Which leads me to the point of this post (I swear to Maude, there is one.) My flip flops died. Not only is the thought of being spared the effort of moving them not a comfort, frankly nothing is. If you are looking at the screen in disbelief, wondering how the fact that a pair of fairly cheap footwear could inspire any sort of post, even one as inane as this one is turning out to be, I should tell you that these were (to the best of my memory) the first flip flops I have ever owned.

I'm sure I've told my "you know you're a daddy's girl if..." story before, however I might as well refresh you. My father told me at some point in my life (and wouldn't it be hilarious if it was just some random, off-hand comment to him that somehow lodged in my memory for all of these years) that flip flops weren't comfortable because of the thingy that goes between your toes. I have to admit that I didn't so much as even try a pair out for myself, I just believed that he was right.

And then I moved to Korea, where flip flops are almost in a shoe category of their own. You can buy wooden ones and $3 ones off the street and ones with high heels and sporty ones and even ones used mainly to deal with the fact that the showers wet the entire bathroom floor and are kept outside the bathroom door so that you and your guests can use them to keep your feet dry when you pee. Around about this time I also discovered the joy of beach holidays. You see, after having grown up with a family cottage with a little beach, by the end of my teenage years I associated sun, sand, and water basically with boredom and the aggravation of living amongst extended family (none of whom ever seem to sleep in or do quiet activities before noon.)

So there I was, in a Nike store with Kim and there were a pair of blue flip flops with good soles and cute flowers on them and they were on sale (yes, yes, I am indeed related to my mother.) I bought them and promptly concluded that my father may know many things, but comfortable shoes is not his area of expertise. They were absolutely the nicest things I had put on my feet. Ever. So comfortable, in fact, that even after they were permanently stained by bat shit in the Philippines, I refused to stop wearing them.

And over the weekend, I'm afraid that the between-the-toes bit broke, and not in a fixable way. As if that all wasn't bad enough, after trying on a ton of flip flops over the weekend I have concluded that the only ones that come close to matching the comfy wonderfulness of that first pair are Crocs flip flops.

Yes, Crocs. Talk about adding insult to injury.


Watching the Big Bang theory is making me feel insufficiently nerdy. I'm getting a nerd complex. I don't have a clue what to do about it, because I didn't much like physics in grade 10, so a PhD in something all brainiac isn't an option. I still read a lot and all, but I've noticed lately that people actually respect my taste in reading and do horrifying things like give recommendations or insist I pick book club novels. I can't recall the last time I read a book about flying dinosaurs or something until I came across a Pern book in a bar, which right there takes away any nerd points I was about to get, just for being in a bar. Then there's the fact that I know longer have any idea what is going on in pop culture, so I can't scorn things liked by too many people, as I was wont to do in the past (can I take a minute and tell you that I feel a little disgruntled every time I realise that the riot grrrls were actually quite popular outside of my sleepy little hometown and not the incredibly underground sign of coolness that I thought they were?) I still hate Dan Brown though. He's a shitty writer and all the book sales in the world are not going to convince me differently.

What's a geeky girl to do? Is there a grown up version of space camp that I can sign myself up for? Can someone lend me a computer game (or have those become cool)?

(It turns out just writing this post has made me feel better because I just spent several minutes contemplating how to punctuate that last sentence there - in particular, where to put the question mark - and that seems to me to have been a very geeky thing to have done.)

Lessons Not Learned

You know how your parents told you that you should do your homework as soon as you got home from school? That it would be better to get it over with and you'd be grateful that you didn't leave it off until the last minute and have to struggle to stay awake while getting it done?

They were bloody right. Once again I can barely keep my eyes open while trying to pick out symbols and motifs and other smart-sounding shite in The Great Gatsby.

Which is, like 1984 and Lord of the Flies, far more interesting to teach as an adult who can see all of the intertextuality and connections to the historical periods the novels were written in and symbolism than it was to read as a teenager, back when I was somewhat suspicious that my English teachers were making all of that stuff up. Besides which, I never much liked being told what to read.

Books that Make You Dumb

I find this site pretty hilarious. If you want intelligent analysis of it, go go here.

If I had my way, The Alchemist would be on the dumb side. It's not sadly, but I'll never get over the Trauma of all those Needlessly capitalized words. As far as I am concerned, if you can't make a point using the words, capitalization shouldn't be your go to. I also hated The Five People You'll Meet in Heaven and Dan Brown with a passion that seemingly intelligent people don't share - though as a Canadian, I have to be honest and say that I have no idea what those numbers at the top might mean.

I Want My Vacation Now!

I've read very few of these, though there are no beaches planned for my trip, particularly. I guess some beach time in Ghana.


Sort of at the Beginning of the Month...

2. Read 101 books. (77/101) The Immortal Hunter, A Bite to Remember, Love Bites, Cherry, Single White Vampire, 1984, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Vampires are Forever, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, The Accidental Vampire, A Quick Bite, The Virgin's Lover
3. Read 50 children's books. (32/50) Rabbit Hill, Shiloh, The School Story, Bridge to Teribithia, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea
5. Spend 30 days reading out of the house for at least one hour. (13/30)
7. Go to a book club meeting. - yet again, but I didn't read the book.
12. Complete a month of posts each year (NaBloPoMo or other month.) (5/3)
24. Participate in a scavenger hunt. - or two! Hashing bar scavanger hunt & we won!
57. Eat at 25 new restaurants. (12/25) Sunny Days - great hamburgers.
76. Take the subway to or from work once a week. (27/38)
90. Go to bed by midnight thirty times. (4/30)
95. Make one day a month internet and TV free. (16/30)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

I wore the wrong shirt today...

...because I should have been wearing the one that Andrea sent me. I'd need something underneath, as it is quite the display of cleavage, but what it says on it would speak volumes.

Seriously? Seriously!

I have joked a lot lately about the changes my schedule goes through. I do seriously get a new schedule at least daily, if not more often. It's getting kinda crazy - though it's great for me, as I now refuse to prep in advance thus saving myself time, because I never know if there would be any point to it.

Today Ms. Hong walked in, 40 minutes into the first day of a first grade class.

"Amanda teacher, we have changed the class. You will be reading and vocab teacher, not writing and grammar."

"Ummm.... ok. Tomorrow?"


"Riiiight. Can I have the books then?"

So, seriously? What is going on these days? When did they become impossible for the office staff to schedule things properly and logically?

Photography is Lovely

I like these pictures. A lot.

Writer's Musings

Amy Stein

Reading and Spreadsheets, Oh My!

Have you seen the 1001 Book List?

I was just doing it and it's hilarious how many titles I can't recall if I've read or just heard of. I have to keep googling summaries!

I've read 64 of the recent list and 9 of the removed books, I think. There are a couple more that I might have read, but I got fed up with all the googling.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Odds & Ends

More odd than ends, really, but here they are.

* My fourth grader Apple channeled Yoda today: "There's no almost in here. Just finished and not finished."

* I am such a subway slacker. I almost never take it. Then I did (to Itaewon after work) and bumped into someone I know, got asked for directions by a gaggle of Korean teenagers and saw someone straightening her hair in the subway bathroom.

* On my way to Padraic's goodbye drinks at Bar Bliss I took the wrong staircase. Though it should have been parallel to where I needed to be, it somehow wasn't. This is why hashers refer to Korea as being "not quite right."

* The other day I went to Seoul Station to book a bunch of tickets for Mudfest next weekend. I also ate at McDonalds and then got a smoothie at Smoothie King. They're right, anything else IS just juice.

* I wonder if consuming a drink from Nutritional Lifestyle Center will cancel out eating at the Our Food Will Make You Fat and Unhealthy Center.

* I got train tickets, paid a bill, and transfered money to Canada all in one two hour break. Imagine if I was that effective all the time.

* I hadn't even heard of Charlotte, North Carolina utnil I read the Bones novels and it seems from 4th grade social studies that perhaps it's actually quite an important city.

* The same textbook, however, mentioned Cuba being near the Florida Keys and said nothing else. Nothing about, say, Americans not being able to so much as go there or smoke Cuban cigars.

* I've noted down the words leaf and elephant on the list of things I was going to mention in the post and I don't have any idea why.

* If we hadn't changed Ann Murray as an answer, we would have won the Canadian quiz at Philies. However, drinking Caesars at RMT and getting a free beer for being Canadian, along with listening to "Canada is Really Big", "Barrett's Privateers", and the national anthem was enough to keep me out until 2:30.

* Thursday's 12 hours of teaching sucked more than a little.

* Apparently Clamato is 99.9% free of clams. I find that odd.

* From a listening quiz: "Do you get much exercise, Joey? Sure. I walk to MacDonalds."

* I have some students who like to use the word peanut as a codeword for penis. It's annoying, though with Valentino's accent, "Peanuts are my favourite food" followed by "Fire in the bum hole" caused me to giggle like a 12-year old boy.

* Americans are as obsessed with the Arctic as Canadians, judging by the number of times I've read about the Iditarod, Balto, or Storm.

* My shoes may have matched all week, but one morning I boiled water, put coffee in the cafetiere, but neglected to bring the two together. The sadness I felt when I got out of the shower and realised there wasn't coffee ready far surpasses my emotional reaction to MJ's death.

* 1984 and Lord of the Flies are more fascinating when you are older and can see more of the connections to everything else.

* That said, reading 1984 in the shadow of North Korea leads to some interesting discussions. And caused me to register with my embassy.

* Some people are freeloaders and you may feel like your head will explode when you realise they will not replace the shit they borrowed from you and did not return, but it's probably best to let it go and just remember that those people can't be trusted.

* Schedule changes twice a day seem to be the new norm. I'm getting really good at rolling with the punches.

* Make love, not war.

Rock! Scissors! Paper!

I Lie to Small Children

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

I'm Concerned

Who's going to stroke Mrs. Slocum's pussy now that she's dead?

I know what the hash response would be.

My name is Jack, na na na na na na...