Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"it tends to mean more than one thing in a confusing way"

Leave it to Jonathan Lethem, in a "light" piece about what an American novelist eats for breakfast (oatmeal with black pepper, apparently) to bring the profundity:
"I’m pretty obsessed with hamburgers and fast food as a symbol of American greatness and simultaneously the degrading, default assembly-line garbage food. The way they represent multitudes. Like anything that interests me, in my books, it tends to mean more than one thing in a confusing way. I love a really great hamburger, myself. It’s one of the things that pulls me back from the brink from a full commitment to vegetarianism. I really don’t eat a whole lot of meat anymore, but when I do, it tends to be In-N-Out burger. Mine is on Foothill Boulevard. There’s some street cred there in a weird way, since it’s on Route 66. It’s the burger joint that Steinbeck’s Okies didn’t get to stop in on the way to LA from the Dust Bowl."
I'm a huge fan of Lethem's novels (haven't read the new one though).  So it's no great shock to me that he has great taste in burgers.  If In-N-Out ever makes it to Korea I will gladly step over any ajumma who get in my way for a Double-Double and Animal Style Fries, mark my words.

Meanwhile, speaking of burgers, Shake Shack has made it to South Korea but alas, not to lurvely little Daegu as of yet.  It's in Gangnam of course, the "Hollywood" of Seoul.

I lived there for a year.  It's over-rated to say the least, but not a bad place to find decent non-Korean grub.  (Expect to pay through the nose for it though, and more than likely have to wait in line for the better options.)

My two favorite Daegu burger joints have shut down.  (Whither Gorilla Burger?, and while Traveler's was kind of a cliche of an ex-pat drinking joint, their food wasn't half bad.)  I'm kind of surprised that this specific void for English teachers and GI's in Daegu (there are tons of both) hasn't been filled properly as of yet.

Anyhow, these days when I'm craving Western food I'll go to Etoh's for pizza and good draft beers.  In fact, pizza is the only thing on their menu in addition to sandwiches which aren't nearly as good.

Lazy Diner is another option I guess, but despite their very cool interior furnishings and excellent people-watching views I think their food is pretty mediocre.  (They definitely use frozen beef and french fries.  Boo.)  They do the all-day breakfast thing that some ex-pats love but, like Lethem, I've never been much of a pancakes-waffles-morning sugar coma guy (great minds, natch).

Even Dos Tacos is gone for those times I craved extremely fake but kind-of-satisfying Mexican food.

What can I say?  There's a critical shortage of ESL bros coming over to Daegu, marrying Koreans, discovering they're terrible at teaching, and opening burger and wing joints that serve Guinness on tap, while Seoul and Busan or drowning in those kinds of places.  (And Hoegaarden for some strange reason.  Hoegaarden is vile, but it's everywhere in South Korea.  It tastes like rancid bubblegum.)

Shameless Self Promotion

It's December already.  It's almost 2017 already.  And who the hell knows if any of us will make it to 2018 under the watchful gaze of President Trumpolini?

Anyhow, this modest blog has been seeing a modest amount of traffic so I thought I'd remind folks that I tweet over here and I tumbl over here.

My tumblr is a bit NSFW at times.

My old blog is over here.

And "Wet Casements" is a poem by John Ashbery.

Try and stay warm!


The Pixies, Peel Session 1988

It's official -- writing a paper with two other people is a hell of a lot more difficult than writing it by yourself.  Or should I say, editing a paper with two other people.

One of them seems to think a single round of revision is sufficient.

The other just doesn't care.

More specifically, we turned in the general study to the college (80 pages!).  Now we're trying to cut that down to 20 pages to submit for publication.

I knew all along this would be the hard part, and my coworkers never believed me.

So basically this week has boiled down to lots of passive / aggressive bullshit and me repeating variations of the phrase "I told you so."

Good times in Daegu.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Julien Baker, "Something" live

It's 2 a.m. in lurvely Daegu and I just got back from the office where me and my two foreigner co-workers wrapped up our research paper -- "Socrates in the Beginner E.F.L. Classroom."

I think we were all shocked when the damn thing came out to 80 pages total, albeit with a healthy number of graphs and charts.

We're having a fancy schmancy lunch with our boss tomorrow to celebrate.  Honestly, I'd rather just sleep in.

But it's done.

We already need to start cutting it down to a presentable journal publication length.

But did I mention that for now it's done?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Banality of Derp

Notes From The Occupation

Somebody painted swastikas and pro-Trump messages on Adam Yauch's grave.

It's not my country any more.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Living The Dream

Joe Pass, "All The Things You Are"

I'm in my office on a Saturday afternoon, waiting for my co-workers to show up so we can continue finishing up our research paper.  Long story short: using the Socratic Method with beginner level students won't directly improve their English, but according to our data is does slightly make them feel more comfortable in the classroom, which is a good thing.

One of the limitations of our study is that we only used the SM for three weeks (three classes, basically).  Obviously, if we were to do this again we'd want to do it over the course of an entire semester.

Anyhow, we got a bit of a stipend for the work, and basically a free trip to Seoul to the KOTESOL conference, and a bunch of free lunches at relatively nice restaurants (which is a surprisingly critical aspect of working on an academic research project in South Korea).

It's been a good experience, and it's nice to do something that scratches a different part of my brain beyond just teaching, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't stressful.  Writing something with two other people is no easy task.  One of my co-workers was convinced that we could just divide the writing up in thirds, and I've kind of nagged him from the beginning that that isn't going to work for the final copy.  With only a week left before we submit the paper to our boss, he's starting to see what I've been meaning all along.

Writing is easy.  Editing is hard.  I knew that much going in.

I've learned a lot though, and that's the important thing.  I'm also, hopefully, going to get a publication out of it.  (Possibly two actually, if we end up splitting our general study and our case study.)

So for the next half hour it's just me and Joe Pass doing yet another round of revision of what we've written so far.  Good times.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Rise Above, Indeed

Leave it to Henry Rollins to restore just a smidgen of my faith in America after the ascent of Trumpolini:
"You know how Trump said all manner of jobs will be coming back to the States because he’s going to ease taxes on all those corporations, which will beat the fastest path back because they really want all those good citizens of the Republic to have those jobs? Did you believe him? What would any of these behemoths want with American workers when they can pay other humans a fraction of what an American needs to get by? They have stockholders to satisfy and the demands of to supply. Your love of convenience and low prices sent the jobs away. If you paid an American to make your cellphone, only rich people like Trump and Fox News personalities would have them.
Besides, the corporations don’t want you. You’re too fucking whiny and self-involved with your butthurt.
Start the laugh track for this part and turn it up. When President Trump deports millions of undocumented people, get ready for a lot of job openings that Americans are on record as not wanting to do. If America loses its casual slave-labor force, it will seize up like a race car with no motor oil. Packages of almonds and countless other agricultural goods will all be adorned with 'picked by crackers' stickers as, no doubt, this will be one of the many blessings of capitalism unleashed." 
Thanks, Hank.  I needed that.  I wouldn't normally wish pain on my fellow citizens, Trump supporters or Jill Stein supporters or Bernie Bros but hey, they were chomping at the bit for it.  Let them have it, good and hard.

Meanwhile, As South Korea Tries to Out-Crazy the United States...

Here's the latest on Choi-gate, the scandal currently engulfing South Korea's president Park Geun-hye.  The slow, incompetent response to the sinking of a ferry that killed 295, mostly high school students in 2014, may have occurred because president Park was receiving plastic surgery:
"Broadcaster YTN reported Thursday that a nursing officer was at the presidential office on the day Sewol sank in waters off Jindo, South Jeolla, citing an anonymous source from the prosecution’s special investigation team into the scandal surrounding Choi Soon-sil, the longtime friend of the president.
While details over why the officer was sent to the Blue House and what medical procedures may have been performed were not reported, the broadcaster’s report added to suspicions that Park was under some form of medical treatment during the crucial hours after the ferry started sinking, which ultimately led to the deaths of 304 people. 
There is already speculation that Park may have undergone cosmetic surgery and was, at the time, anesthetized by propofol."
Of that which we cannot speak yadda yadda yadda.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"the ramen noodles"

A Tribe Called Quest, "We The People"

To come back this strong after 18 years?  Not too shabby.

Let's Help Out

Whelp, it's been over a week since the election of Trumpolini and me worrying and wallowing in self-pity and, frankly, drinking too much.

This ends now as I'm going to try and do a better job of being involved in small, tangible efforts to make the world around me a better place.

Granted, I'm in lovely Daegu, South Korea, so I won't be able to directly protest a man who literally wants to lock up all the Muslims in America and build a useless wall to keep out all the taco trucks.

Don't get me wrong -- the American people in their infinite, racist wisdom have made a horrible mistake and millions of people are going to suffer because of it.  Our days as a superpower are over.

But my disappointment doesn't really help anybody, does it?

Anyhow, there's a no-kill animal shelter outside of Daegu called "Hannah's" and they need donations to build up their dog and cat shelters before winter sets in.

You can donate here.

I'm going to try and organize a trip between my foreigner co-workers, my adult students, and maybe some Daegu-located Twitter- and tumblr-buddies.  Apparently the shelter accepts walk-ins who want to help exercise and play with the animals.  I'll probably contact them as well to see if there are any projects that need working on (I'm no carpentry or masonry genius, but I'm plenty good at picking up heavy objects and moving them elsewhere).

I haven't written about it much, but South Korea is pretty damn terrible when it comes to the basic treatment and welfare of animals.  Local shelters like this are few and far between, and they are deserving of some of your cash.

And please, feel free to offer up suggestions in comments for other things going on in our local communities that we can help out with.

Positive change starts with me.  It starts with us.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Grab Them By The Fiscal Interests

There is nothing good in the world right now.  But as mentioned, a boycott of any and all Trump products and properties seems like an easy first step in the revolution.

So here it goes, starting with the N.B.A.:
"The Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, and Dallas Mavericks have all stopped staying at Donald Trump-owned hotels this season, according to a report from ESPN. The three teams stay at Trump properties in either New York or Chicago, but have since sought accommodations not owned by the repugnant president-elect when visiting those cities. ESPN also reports that another team may join the three next year. . . ."

Pretty Certain For The Next Four Years This Blog Becomes A Repository For Non-Terrifying, Life-Affirming Things

Dos, Justamenta Tres

This is Mike Watt (Minutemen, duh) and Kira Roessler (Black Flag, duh) making awesome torch song-y music together with two just two electric bass guitars.

"fact, fact, fact, fact, fact. It just doesn't work."

In addition to poor people, the environment, sensible birth control, national and global economies, migrant rights, blacks, Hispanics, and LGBT folks, there's another major victim of a Trump victory and Brexit vote -- logic:
"Statements issued by the Trump campaign saw no need to uphold any requirements to make sense or be based on evidence. Consider the assertions of widespread voter-fraud (in the case of Clinton victory), claims of Muslims celebrating 9/11 in New York, the idea to extract Middle Eastern oil as recompense for US military costs, the theory that climate change was secretly invented by the Chinese for economic gain, or that Mexico would willingly pay for a border wall.
Such statements, and an array of others, were credible within the campaign’s own inner logic because the criteria for credibility did not include a basis in reality or even coherence. Under the banner 'Make America Great Again' the type of argumentation I have been demanding of my students became defunct.
In Britain, we have recently been in similar territory ourselves. The EU referendum featured false claims regarding the cost of EU membership, of the migration chaos that would follow Turkey’s supposedly inevitable and imminent EU membership, shady rumours that our unelected monarch disliked the EU, and Michael Gove’s wholesale dismissal of 'experts'.
The intangible nature of what Brexit would actually entail revealed itself in conveniently vacuous slogans such as 'Take Back Control' and, eventually, simply 'Brexit means Brexit'. The Remain campaign did sometimes try to conjure compelling stories of apocalypse, but they ultimately failed to respect the manner in which the game was being played. Leave donor and campaigner Aaron Banks reflected: 'The Remain campaign featured fact, fact, fact, fact, fact. It just doesn’t work. You have got to connect with people emotionally. It’s the Trump success'."
Empiricism.  Books.  Intellectual curiosity.  The Scientific Method.  Humility when confronted with data that doesn't support your beliefs.  Respect for institutions of learning that strive to preserve past achievements.

Even footnotes.

They don't fucking matter in a post-factual world.

As a teacher, it's terrifying.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Consolation Prize

Do The Right Thing

This article's heart is in the right place, but it's woefully light on details -- companies to boycott that supported Trump.  It seems obvious to me that a national boycott of his hotels and golf courses is one of the easier acts of resistance at our disposal.

Then again, it's an open secret that most of his properties are already hemorrhaging cash.  So time to rub salt in the wounds, I guess?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Let's Think Super Positive Thoughts!

Everything Is Fucked Up And Bullshit

Leonard Cohen, "Famous Blue Raincoat"


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Pretty Damn Accurate

Here's the recent front page of The Chosun Ilbo.  Circulation-wise, it's the largest newspaper in South Korea.  The headline is "Angry Whites Overthrow America."

Being a superpower is partly about your nation's wealth and military strength.  But that's only half of it.  The other half is perception -- do other country's look up to you?  Do they admire your political systems?  Do they long to have your standard of living?

I can only speak for lurvely little Daegu, a conservative region in and of itself, and the simple fact is America's days are a superpower are numbered, if not over entirely.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

I'm Sure Jill Stein Is Happy Right Now

Husker Du, "Divide and Conquer"

At times of emotional distress I've been known to close in on myself and focus on things like music and books.

This is one of those times.

Monday, November 7, 2016

I'm With Her

Tomorrow, Tuesday, is one of my split-schedule days.  I teach from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and I come home pretty exhausted after 12 hours of teaching and office-ing.  (Thursday is my other split.)

Anyhow, tomorrow night I'll being going to bed just when America is waking up to go and vote.  I think I can say that now, above all else, I'm just kind of numb.  Hillary's numbers look good, and the signs of Hispanic turnout for early voting is truly moving.  Beyond that, competent ground games really do matter and Trump does not have one.  Having a rally and throwing out red meat is actually pretty easy to do, if you think about it.  Registering people to vote, reminding them to vote, driving their elderly grandma to the voting station, and handing out sample ballots for down-ticket races is not.  It's really fucking hard work, and Hillary and the people around her are not shy of hard work.

So those are the thoughts that will be going through my head as I pass out tomorrow night, wondering if I'll still have a country to go back to the next morning.

And as much as I'm optimistic about Hillary's chances, what's clear is that even if Trump loses America is (in Trump-speak, no less) a permanently damaged brand.  The fact that a fascist vagina-grabber even had a shot at the presidency tells you everything you need to know about the United States in the early stages of the 21st century.

I'll let Barbara Kingsolver have the last word in what I'd say is a must-read piece, "End This Misogynistic Horror Show":
"I’m horrified to watch the bizarre pageant of my nation pretending these two contenders are equivalent. No one really imagines Donald Trump applying himself to the disciplines of the presidency, staying up late reading reams of legislation, instead of firing off juvenile tweets. It’s even harder to imagine Clinton indulging in the boorish self-aggrandisement, intellectual laziness, racism and vulgar contempt for the opposite gender that characterise her opponent. If anyone still doubts that the inexperienced man gets promoted ahead of the qualified woman, you can wake up now.
This race is close. Polls tell us most Americans believe Trump has sexually assaulted women (to name just one potential disqualifier). A majority also believe Clinton 'can’t be trusted', for unspecified reasons. We’re back to the ancient conundrum: a woman can’t be that smart and commanding, so either her womanliness or her smartness must be counterfeit. To set that hazy discomfort next to a sexual assaulter and call these defects 'equivalent' is causing my ears to ring as I write."
Hillary may be imperfect (who isn't?) but she's fought like hell.  And lest we forget, she's been being attacked for over two decades now.  And it all started because she wasn't interested in baking a batch of fucking cookies like a good little housewife.

I'll always be proud to say I voted for her.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Middle of the Beginning of the End?

The South Korean media is notably reticent to criticize local politicians, let alone presidents, but here's on update on the Park Geun-hye scandal now known as "Choi-gate":
"Saturday’s rally was substantially larger than the street protest at the same venue just a week ago, which drew an estimated 30,000 people. The increase is seen as a signal of the public’s anger toward the government, a threat to the survival of Park’s presidency. Rocked by the ongoing scandal over the influence exerted by Choi behind the scenes in state affairs and her acquisition of classified presidential material, Park’s approval rating nosedived to 5 percent in the latest poll, the lowest figure ever for any Korean president. 
People in the streets varied in gender, age and background, from middle and high school students in school uniforms to couples with toddlers in strollers and even people in their 60s who said they voted for Park four years ago but now deeply regret their choice. Participants also included groups of families with young children. 
'I came here tonight because I don’t want to be ashamed of myself to my baby when he asks me when he grows up later of what I did today,' said Ko Hye-mi, who was at the rally with her 6-month-old son in a stroller and her husband from Gwangju, Gyeonggi."
Five percent public approval.  There's no way she doesn't resign in the next few weeks for ambiguous health reasons, is there?

"Everybody's an authority"

Husker Du, "In A Free Land"

It's going to be hard focusing on teaching for the next few days.

If you haven't already, please vote.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

108 Years

A perfect headline:

"Cubs win!  Cubs win!  Cubs win!"

And they were wearing their alternate "cubby" jerseys, the best in baseball, so extra style points.

One More Week Until America Possibly Regains A Little Bit Of Its Sanity And / Or Dignity