Saturday, May 31, 2008

Back in the days before the internet...

I had a zine. I would sell this zine on the street after school. The zine was mildly successful, and having consistent and direct communication with people who would read--and enjoy!--my writing was really the biggest encouragement I ever got to take up writing as my vocation. The most frustrating thing about working on my novel is that while I am writing it nobody else sees it. Until I finally get it written and edited enough to be fit for human consumption, it's mark in the lives of the people around me comes simply through me being absent because I am working on the novel. I can't come out tonight because I have to write. I am staying in Busan these holidays because I have to write. I post on the blog irregularly because I have to write the novel. I wish that I could post every day's work here and have you all fawn over it--and there's a lot of words that I've written--but writing a novel I am consistently aware that what I am making at the moment is crap that will need the polishing of three or four intensive revisions before being at all fit for other people to read. All of this is a really long introduction to this discovery I just made. Some of my old zines are cataloged in the Australian National Library!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Great Leap Go Straight One Block

Oh China, you've tried a bunch of crazy shit in the past seventy years. So many naively ambitious projects that end up, you know, causing mass famine. I don't reckon for a second that you're latest unrealistic goal will kill anyone, but it will certainly make life awkward.

China is trying to get 30% of all Chinese to speak English in time for the Olympics.

This means that there are a thousand flowers of EFL teachers blooming in China. But the only problem is that the Asian style of learning language, often focused on rote repetition, can be a poor way of teaching English. Check out this article from the Times about the trials of teaching English in China to see what I'm talking about. It's similar in Korea, but without the pervasive nationalism.

I am lucky. When I teach I'm able to give my students activities where they actually use English, where they talk with each other, construct sentences, and struggle to impart some sort of English-language meaning. But they also have to memorize stacks of semi-obscure vocabulary every week (one particularly improbable vocab word--for a middle school girl--was child restraining belt). English is not only a subject to study so that one may speak with foreigners and participate in the global economy, it is an activity for itself often, an abstract mark of success counted by TOFEL scores, grades, and proficiency tests. But then the kids who communicate with me the best, they're often not the kids with the best English, they're the kids who are the bravest, the most willing to make a mistake. So I want to do two things when I teach. I want to help them construct proper sentences telling me how they're feeling and how to find the post office; but I also want them to test their bravery.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quotes From The Times

“Either he’s absolutely demonic or stupid or crazy,” Mr. Neal concluded.

About R. Kelly. But is Mr. Neal talking about Mr. Kelly's new album or about his penchant for pubescent urolagnia?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Internet Times Four

I was looking through Slate's procrastination packet [via Fimoculous] which includes a cool round-up of how different professions waste time. The whole list is great, but one stood out for me: the CIA-agent talking about how he wastes time surfing the CIA's databases. Here's a snip:
It was always pretty shocking to me just how deep the abyss of information actually was. It’s like the Internet times four.
Just think of that. Four internets worth of information. I wonder what they've got on us!

Monday, May 12, 2008


As is probably painfully obvious to my readers, I haven't really been posting for the last month or so. My writing energies have been focused elsewhere: I'm cranking out a novel, so all the words stored up in my head are going towards that novel for the moment. But let's see if I can't post a little more regularly from here on out.

For your pleasure, here's a quick game. We'll play: Guess which thing about Korea is a blatant lie. Put your answers in the comments.

1) While Western cultures have Valentines day, Korea goes one step better-it has a Valentines day on the 14th of every single month. The 14th of February is Red Valentine's day, where women give candy to the men they like. The 14th of March is White Valentine's Day, where it's the guy's turn to stimulate the greeting card industry. The 14th of April is called Black Valentine's Day, where singles eat a black Chinese noodle called Jaja Myun which mirrors the blackness of their hearts. There are other color-coded Valentines for the other months, but nobody really remembers what the rest of them are.

2) In Korean restaurants you will often be served a dish of hot peppers. You are meant to take these hot peppers and then dip them into hot pepper sauce.

3) There are no less than two Korean TV channels devoted to the 1998 video-game Starcraft.

4) A popular after-work activity is going to a Noraebang, or singing room, where you and your workmates can go get drunk and sing karaoke. Often, these singing rooms will come with an added feature: you can rent companion women! Whether these women are actively prostitutes or not is an open question, but men will pay them to sit with them and drown them in compliments.

5) Around half of South Korean women get plastic surgery, usually to make their appearance more 'western'. The subways are festooned with signs reading "Big eyes, lovely breasts" which pretty much sums up the South Korean aesthetic ideal.

I'll post the answer in a week.