Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Monday, August 29, 2016

Boring ESL Update

The first week of the new semester is now halfway over and me and my foreigner co-workers have already started collecting data for our research paper, which actually feels great.

With help from one co-worker, we set up all of our classes with websites through  I've been meaning to integrate more technology into my classes for a while now, and band really makes it easy.  Within a literal few minutes, each student in each of my classes so far was able to join our class site and then take a F.L.A. survey (Foreign Language Anxiety) through Google docs.  For their first assignment of the year they'll make a roughly one minute voice recording or video answering questions regarding their feelings about English (Do you enjoy speaking it?  Is it important for your future?) which they'll upload back to the class website.  This will establish a base line for us to measure any potential success (or failure!) we make through our pedagogical intervention.

So by the end of the week I should have two distinct sets of date from roughly 150 students.  Multiply that by three, since my two foreigner co-workers are doing the same thing.  Serious E.S.L. (technically, E.F.L.) business!

Analyzing all that data?  Well, I'm going to be a very busy foreigner this semester but it's nice that we've finally made it from the amorphous "What the hell are we doing here?" stages to the actual implementation of a plan.

I'll write more later about what our actual research questions are, but they have to do with separating classes into regular control groups and experimental groups where we'll teach for one of two class hours using the Socratic Method.

Kind of ambitious with beginner level Korean college students, no?

Living The Dream

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Summer Books

I tend to get a lot of reading done over my August vacations and this year was no different.  Between two cross-Pacific flights and a week with my Dad in the internet-less environs near the Canadian border, I was in a more eclectic and musical mood than usual (I usually just read novels).

So let's get to it:

1) The Vegetarian, Han Kang

This is kind of a "big deal" among ex-pats in Korea, as it's the first Korean novel to win the International Man Booker Award.  The story behind the English translation is also interesting, as it involves a relative newcomer to the Korean language.

As for the book itself, my feelings are mixed.  It was originally published as three separate novellas, and while the first and third are interesting the second really drags.  At only 190 pages I'd recommend it to anyone interested in contemporary Korean literature since it's not that big of a commitment.  However, it's incredibly dark and involves scenes of casual rape and violence against the main character, a woman going through what seems to be multiple psychotic breaks.  If I had only one sentence to describe it, call it the Korean version of "The Yellow Wallpaper."  There are some haunting moments though, and I liked the ending which was surprisingly uplifting in a certain strange way.

The memoir of one of my musical heroes, Bob is not one for pulling punches whether it involves his family, his former band members, former boyfriends, or even the professional musicians he's hired for solo tours that he found musically wanting.  But, it's Bob Mould right?  How could you expect less than total, brutal honesty?  Obviously, I'm a huge fan, and most of the fun of reading this is getting the dirt on what was really going on in Husker Du (lots of drugs and alcohol and an indifferent bass player!) and the relationships with other bands like The Replacements.  (According to Mould, Husker Du were true punks all the way and Paul Westerberg was angling for a big, huge record deal all along.)  Also surprising how kind-sorta conceited he is about it all.  I mean sure, Husker Du were  a seminal D.I.Y. act that deserve huge props from any rock band today that has found success on a small label.  But, to paraphrase, "Nirvana would never have happened without me"?  Hmm.  I don't really see it.

3) Porcelain, Moby

Full disclaimer: I don't really like Moby's music or dance music in general, but I'm a sucker for stories about scary, actually dangerous, pre-Giuliani New York City.  This memoir delivers in full, and if Bob Mould's book made me like him just a little less if only because of his complete honesty, I came out of this one thinking I should probably give Moby's music another chance.  He actually acts like a terrible person for much of the middle of the book, as he relapses into full blown alcoholism, but his personal commitments to Veganism and a highly idiosyncratic form of Christianity (mostly the "help the needy" part) comes across as genuine and far from insincere.  The framing is also excellent.  We get the "high" of Everything Is Wrong, then the almost inevitable low of the punk fuck-you of Animal Rights, and the book finishes right before the release of the bajillion-seller Play.  This is such a canny move in an autobiography, because most people (including Moby) thought his career was basically over at this point.  Surprisingly fun and enlightening, and his mother's defiance of a cancer that would kill her is heart-breaking.

4) Slice Harvester, Colin Atrophy Hagendorf

Another memoir, this one also largely about music and New York City but also pizza.  Hagendorf decides his life's mission is to eat a single plain cheese slice at every pizzeria in Manhattan and documents it in cheesy, oregano-laced detail.  It doesn't take long to realize this is your basic coming-of-age tale set in the big city, but with punk rock shows and various alcohol and drug addictions and self-destructive relationships thrown in.  And of course, a pretty happy ending involving the realization that a decent slice of pie with friends is about all we can expect to achieve in this life, and that's not really such a bad thing.

5) Lovecraft Country, Matt Ruff

An amazing novel, this is where I'll suggest you run, don't walk out, and buy this now.  It's an unabashed piece of weird fiction, but its basis is the unrelenting racism of 1950's America.  Touch points include "Colored Persons" travel guides that indicated which gas stations and restaurants wouldn't get you, a black person and your children, spat on or even lynched and the "redlining" of Chicago apartments to create intentional ghettos that remain to this day.  It's got its feet planted firmly in both the supernatural and the historical, and it's at turns hilarious and unnerving.  Because really, if you're a black person who lived through Reconstruction and Jim Crow and saw many of your family, friends, and neighbors murdered in race riots, just what is some ten thousand year old eldritch horror going to manage to do to you?  You've already seen it all.

Oh, South Korea...

I watched a fair bit of the Olympics while I was back in America.  At my sister's place near Baltimore, I had to convince my nephew that a re-run of The New Teen Titans wasn't as interesting as soccer or swimming.  At my Dad's, with there being no internet, it was more out of sheer boredom.

Anyhow, the Olympics were a pretty big deal here in South Korea with a decent number of medals won.  And of course, the Korean commentators couldn't have been more sexist:
"According to the spreadsheet, when Korea's Choi In-jeong appeared in women's epee individual, Saturday, a KBS announcer said, 'Smiling like that, she looks like a contestant in a beauty pageant.'

When the camera showed a foreign athlete straightening the bent end of her epee with mending equipment, he said, 'It is impressive to see a female athlete dealing with iron equipment.'

Introducing the Vietnamese opponent to Korean judoka Jeong Bo-kyeong, an SBS commentator said, 'She participated in the London Olympics. She is 28 years old, which is old for a woman.'

For the 48 kilogram elimination round in judo, a male KBS announcer asked his female co-announcer, 'Do you weigh more than 48 kilograms?' He also described a female judoka as 'a slender girl.'"
Obviously, Olympic coverage of Rio was terrible in almost every language, especially with regards to sexism.  But it's nice to see Korean viewers calling bullshit on their own home-grown version.

Also, good riddance forever to Hope Solo.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Country Life

Mt. Airy, Maryland.

The first pic is from the Milkhouse Brewery, a slightly funky, closes-at-6 pm brew pub near my sister's house in Maryland.  Their beer is fantastic.

The second is from my nephew's horse camp.  He rides like a baws.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Paging Dr. Brown

Mt. Airy, Maryland. Two things to note: 1) Yes I drank a celery soda for lunch and it was delicious 2) my nephew is awesome.

Also, This Happened

Dealing with the TSA is never fun these days, but the geniuses at Chicago O'hare really take the cake.

Morning Vacation Nomz

I eat exactly one greasy Western-style breakfast every year, and I do it with my Dad in Bellingham at the Old Town Cafe. But the philosophical question remains: does a tofu breakfast burrito count, or have I lost my citizenship for good?

Bellingham, Washington

Some pics from near my father's place in Bellingham, Washington.  It was peak blackberry season, so we stole / borrowed a bout 15 jar-fulls from our neighbor.
 Nevada dog (also from the neighbor).

Taylor Dock, Bellingham.


Drew Magary's annual Deadspin feature, "Why Your Favorite Team Sucks," remains a thing of beauty and a joy forever.  With Gawker sued into oblivion by a libertarian nut-job, I hope it finds a proper venue in the future.

Anyhow, here's his take on the Redskins:

"As always, this team is wart on the ass of America. I think less of anyone who thinks highly of them and their shitbag owner. Matthew McConaughey likes Dan Snyder and now I won’t watch his movies. People living in DC proper—a legitimately fantastic city—give half a shit about the Skins, because they know they’re strictly the domain of drunken racist suburbanites, rednecks dumb enough to plunk down hundreds of dollars every week to get trapped inside that roach motel of a stadium, and libertarian shitheads who abhor entitlement programs but work 9-to-5 for defense contractors. Everything wrong about the NFL is encapsulated herein. I wish the Skins never existed."

Pretty much.

"she and the books and the oranges go back to her place"

Husker Du, "Books About UFOs"

America was great, as usual.  My sister and her family are doing very well, now based near Baltimore.  My Dad is doing OK, but is now a Trump supporter.

Is there some kind of support program out there for that?

I flew back to Korea yesterday in an aisle seat next to an Indian couple with bladders the size of thimbles.  Good times

And lurvely Daegu remains way too hot for human existence.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Finally, Vacation

Ponytail, "Beg Waves"

This Saturday I'm off to America for a few weeks.  While I'm happy to get out of the heat of Deagu, things aren't going to be that much better in Baltimore except for the fact that my lovely sister has a nice swimming pool.  I'll also be visiting my dad in the wilds of Bellingham, Washington.  He's the last man on earth who doesn't have an internet connection so I'll be getting a decent amount of reading done.

The new semester starts during the last week of August this year, and that seems like bullshit to me.

Stupid calendars.