Sunday, 29 June 2008

Hustle Doo!

This is my game face.

I went my first Korean baseball game today. Our team is the Doosan Bears*. One of the coworkers is a very serious fan. I find such things amusing since who your team is is so arbitrary but that doesn't mean it isn't fun.

The Bears' home stadium is at what is, as far as I can tell, simply called the Sports Complex. It's next door to the Olympic Stadium and park area. The stadium is nice, the bathrooms are nice**, the amenities are sufficient, and it is right next to a subway station. The photo of the refreshments lady captures a few elements that remind one that this is Korea. First, she's wearing an 'ajima' visor; second she is selling something that appears to be trying to crawl out of the snack box.

It has been about two decades since I went to a baseball game in America. At that time my interest in such things was limited to the question of whether I would get stuff and since I didn't catch a home run ball or score any other goodies I was not impressed. The biggest difference between what I recall of being at an American game and a Korean game is the waiting.

In America, if there is a time out or some other delay between pitches or innings there is not a great deal of excitement. Sometimes the mascot will be around or they'll play some annoying song meant to 'pump' you up or whatever but mostly you wait. It's boring. In Korea they sing. They have little chants of all kinds and, for reasons well beyond my understanding, play snippets of the Inspector Gadget song. I know that I would have to go to another game in America to truly make the comparison. At any rate, it was a good time and I socialized extensively this weekend.

*You can tell I'm a terrible sports fan because I didn't mention that "we" lost to Samsung.
**They have their own superhero, Toilet Man

Friday, 27 June 2008

Seoul Children's Park (Not for the Faint of Heart)

Today I rode with the morning teachers to the Seoul Children's Park. Have you ever seen a depressed meerkat? Rather than spend a great deal of time at the zoo or enjoying the park, most of the trip was spent taking pictures of the children appearing to enjoy the park - or at least coming into contact with the park.

The first thing we did upon arrival is go through a long rotation of taking photos of classes and individual students at the fountain just inside the entrance. Eventually we got to the zoo but went nowhere near the camels, even though they looked marginally interesting (particularly in comparison to the groups of old men scattered around doing nothing). We passed two miserable, unwashed wallabies that were clinging to what little shade there was in their pen. Then we passed a seemingly empty exhibit[1] followed by one containing a meerkat flopped on a pile of sand, forlornly staring at his audience while his one and only friend tried to dig its way to China.

There was what looked like a bumper car arena that was actually full of dogs, most of whom were too hot to move. Some were confined into a tiny space between two fences. Few were puppy-like. Most were spread out trying to stay cool and their caretaker showed marginal interest in her wards.

There were three pigs, five to seven goats, and one sheep all in a pen the size of a living room with no shade. The monkeys[2] were also fairly inactive and the lone elephant was tucked into the painted concrete structure. It looked like it was leaning its forehead against the wall...the way you might if you had given up on life.

I think that the state of the animals at the park's zoo generally speaks to the way animals are treated here. The dogs here are usually the purse-sized kind and they are more like Barbie dolls than living things. You'll see them with dyed fur or wearing full ensembles, even in the summer, which is cruel. Even some of the children were telling others not to pet the dogs at the zoo because they were "dirty". There seem to be no regulations on the sale of animals: bunnies are sold on the side of the road and I have seen piles of chicken cages balanced on top of aquariums full of puppies and small boxes full of hamsters.

[1]Possible suicide.

[2]Look closely at the top of the woeful monkey picture. Is that the Monkey Escape Hotline?

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

New Tour!

I made a new tour of my digs. I felt like I should given I've been here and settled in.

It's hard to say exactly what about Korean culture allows this to be the case but I love that I can take my clothes to the dry cleaner (only a block away, she also made the curtains) and give only my apartment number and know that I will get my dry cleaning. There's such honesty and simplicity in the transaction. No receipt, nothing. I also have two small, independent grocery stores within walking distance and a mountain. Ignoring the absence of friends, family and veggie burgers it's pretty great. Sadly, I have to start thinking about what I'll do when I go back to America. What will I do? Will I find a job? Where will I live? Will I have to teach English forever because noone will hire me for anything more exciting than temping at a law firm? It's scary and is weighing on me a bit more these days.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Fan Death

'Fan death' describes the belief of many Koreans that if you leave a fan on overnight you are at risk of dying. I had heard rumours of this belief before but largely ignored them because Korea is a nation very focused on education and all cultures believed in some ridiculous ideas at some point in their histories. This week I discovered that fan death has not yet faded in the collective minds of the Korean populace.

According to my coworker (American) there are several theories on fan death. One is that the fan chops air molecules up and they become unusable and thus you might suffocate should you sleep in the same room as an operating fan. Another is that the fan creates some sort of vortex into which your soul or essence is sucked, if left unattended. There is a third school of thought, almost equally silly, that says fans actually induce hypothermia. According to wikipedia there are many beliefs surrounding fan death. Apparently my (Korean) coordinator, who is about 24 and has a college degree[1] in the sciences, believes in fan death. When we were discussing the topic in vaguely disdainful tones she informed us that several people had passed away from 'fan death' and it was in the newspaper. We were none of us moved.

[1]Granted, she got her degree from a small, religious college in America. I'm generally suspicious of the science program of any college or university whose foremost focus is faith-based.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Journal Topics

Every month the students have to write a journal entry for school. We provide the topic. The topics generally suck. I was asked to write some up, though, and I realized it's actually pretty difficult to come up with a topic that's relevant, hasn't been done before, and that the kids might be interested in writing about.

I submitted six possible topics. These two are my favourites:

Imagine that one day you wake up and instead of being you, you are a giant bug! What would happen if you turned into an enormous insect? What would you do? What would your family do? Would you still try to learn English or would you do something totally different? What would you eat? How would you find food?

Pirates and ninjas have been enemies since the beginning of time. Why do you think pirates and ninjas are enemies? Which do you think is better, pirates or ninjas? Why? If a pirate and a ninja get in a fight, who would win?

I'll be very amused if either of these make the final cut. The others were more mundane.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Lemme Break It Down For You (Updated!)

Addendum: I've tidied this up. A certain Luda' connoisseur called me out on my sloppy selection of poor lyric transcription. I've also added her thoughts on the nature of fruit.

[Cee-Lo] Uh huh
So precisely one person exhibited amusement at my last breakdown of the metaphors, similes and literary references of Rhianna's Shut Up and Drive. Despite this I'm doing it again. As before, my observations and translations in italics. I wish blogspot had cuts like livejournal. This is Sugar, an ensemble piece featuring some *cough* artists I don't know and Ludacris and Li'l Kim. I reviewed several different sites containing lyrics and found none fully to my liking but you can find this one here.

[T-Dubl] Yeah
[Cee-Lo] Aw man I got a sweet tooth, can you dig it Would anyone die if a '?' were employed? 'Can' is an asking word at the beginning of a sentence, even my Korean students know this!
[T-Dubl] After this one you gon need a root canal then
How about an apostrophe where an 'e' is lacking?
[Cee-Lo] I love sugar all of it
[T-Dubl] This one for all the clean, decent women
It's not, really.
[Cee-Lo] Lay it on me girl
[T-Dubl] Pay Close Attention
My students do this. There seems to be a theory amongst those who lack grammar skills that, so long as punctuation and capitalization is present, the distribution of them is not particularly important.

[Hook: Cee-Lo]
She put that sugar on my tongue
Hmmm...Sugar you say? Why what exactly could you be referring to?
Shes gonna
Gimme gimme some
She put it right there on my tongue (Skeet Skeet)
Ambush Paddington!
Right there on my tongue (She turns me on, like no other)

[Trick Daddy]
And gimme some of your butter pecan
Your woman bits remind me of a popular ice cream flavor.
Put it right there on tip of my tongue, hold it
Right jeeeah
Cuz baby, if I bite you
I bet you like it
I am incapable of fully executing a statement in the potential form.
French Vanilla's a hell of a flavor for me
White girls also welcome.
With strawberries, two cherries and whipped cream
But they require toppings.
The best things are the wet dreams
And uh, the rest is just a flick without a sex scene
Or lee, I speak the truth
'Or lee' is probably a mutation of 'ordinarily'.
Cuz the blacker the berry
The sweeter the juice
While 'vanilla' women are acceptable, the more nubian the better.
Cuz, Florida oranges and Georgia peaches
When they nice and ripe, they the best for eatin'
Women are like fruit. My Luda expert says that oranges and peaches here refer to breasts. The good news is that this clearly indicates that, unlike R. Kelly, the singer approves of consuming sexually mature women.
Southern boys we crave for old slice of pie after they main course
So if you game for it
Sex: It's not what's for dinner.
I came for it
I got a thing for ya
That I can't ignore

[Hook: Cee-Lo]
She put that sugar on my tongue
Shes gonna
Gimme gimme some
She put it right there on my tongue (Skeet Skeet)
Right there on my tongue (She turns me on, like no other)

[Lil' Kim]
Hey nigga that ???? something soft and sweet (ta!)
What is with that '????' ? One can only assume that the question marks absent at required locations earlier in the transcript needed to go somewhere.
Lookin at me like I'm something to eat (ta!)
I got pimps givin me the money
Just to taste my jar of honey
I am a 'ho'.
Cotton candy sweet as gold
Come and lick my Tootsie Roll
Li'l Kim's clitoris resembles a popular, chocolate flavoured treat.
My sugar baby once you wet it
Give high blood pressure like a diabetic
This line has upset me for literally YEARS! While those with Type II diabetes undoubtedly have trouble with high blood pressure it is high blood SUGAR that causes the most immediate and relevant problems!!! Surely, at least one member of the booty-ass-ho community is familiar enough with diabetes to catch this mistake! Regardless of related blood pressure issues Li'l Kim has missed a prime opportunity to directly tap into the 'sugar' metaphor.
How about having Lil Kim with your coke
In the actual song it is not 'coke' but 'coffee', which makes far more sense and is actually quite clever.
I just can't keep these boys OFF ME!
Pink diamonds, dudes love to frost me
Note the play on words. Diamonds are often referred to as 'ice' and related to other cooling elements like frost. Here, Li'l Kim captures the overlap between the acquisition of diamonds and the saccharine theme of the song with the verb 'frost'.
Running behind me like I'm Mr. Softie (ah!)
My Luda expert reminds us that 'Mr. Softie' is a reference to an ice cream truck. This is good because the image in my head related to those soft ice cream dispensers and that would probably be really uncomfortable.
He said I drive 'em crazy
That's sweet tooth for you baby
Just gonna look at 'cha lady
Lil' Kim's like candy baby!
Where is the fucking comma? Or did they mean that Li'l Kim is like a candy baby? I doubt it.

[Hook: Cee-Lo]
She put that sugar on my tongue
Shes gonna
Gimme gimme some
She put it right there on my tongue (Skeet Skeet)
Right there on my tongue (She turns me on, like no other)

She put that sugar on my tongue, tongue
Yippie Yippie, Yum Yum
Goodie goodie gum drop
Put me in a tongue lock
Did it 'til my body went numb, numb
Laid her on her back, back
Turned her round, gave her bottom a smack, smack
She's a woman from the block with the best of weed
What does weed have to do with this? Is a woman's sugary goodness somehow related to her possession of pot? These are questions that did not plague the person transcribing the lyrics. It's the 'best of weaves'.
But I won't stop 'til I'm pullin out tracks, tracks
For those of you not 'in the know', "tracks" are some reference to the installation of weaves therefore Luda is making the promise of totally wrecking your 'do in a presumably painful way during his love-making session. Awesome!
It was lust at first sight
And she couldn't help sayin that she wanted to get with me
And my size was just right[1]
This is a subtle way of informing you that Ludacris has a monstrous schlong because, of course, only one size is just right: Huge.
Cuz she wanted a man with a little sec-ur-ity
Said I been around the world twice
And my name ring bells from Atlanta to Sic-i-ly
We must thank Luda for not trying to make something rhyme with 'Japan' as whenever someone wants to appear to have worldwide appeal they aim for the 'I'm big in Japan' reference.
Said she wanted it all night
So put the bubbles in the tub and Ludacris and me

[Hook: Cee-Lo]
She put that sugar on my tongue
Shes gonna
Gimme gimme some
She put it right there on my tongue (Skeet Skeet)
Right there on my tongue (She turns me on, like no other)

Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeeeah Yeeeah Yeah
Yeah Yeah
Ah the Greek Chorus of the rap world. Why Li'l John was not asked to contribute his vast talents we may never know.

[Trick Daddy]
Sweetie you look so incredible
So delicious and so damn edible
All I need is some honey or syrup
With a lil' butter to rub down all your curves
Trick Daddy is all out of Astroglide.
And no need for the lemonade
Just a twist of lime and some grape Kool-Aid
Gawd, seriously? Grape Kool-Aid? I don't even recall this line from the song but if it truly does reference staple beverages of childhood I'm ashamed on behalf of Trick Daddy. Granted, it's a nice change from mentions of Henessy or overpriced champagne
Can I call you Caramel?
Sure, for what you're paying you can call her whatever you like.
Cuz I'm bout to go coo-coo to taste your Coco Puffs
Is it just me or does Trick Daddy have some unresolved issues regarding his childhood?
One bowl ought to fill me up
Multiple orgasms are out of the question, missy.
But that milk gotta be cold enough
So supper time that'll hold me up
I might choke myself if I don't slow it up, but
I can't even imagine the sexual mechanics that would be required for a man to choke on a woman but now I imagine you will spend a few minutes pondering it.
Honey, you look like a honeydew melon
Or strawberry with the whipped cream filling
Of the top part of the peach cobbler
But uh, the fruit platter ought to do me better
Here the author clearly references the Songs of Solomon, which likened much of the female sex to various delicious fruits. Given the modern American population's limited familiarity with roes and pomegranates the artist has elected to mention more mundane fruits.

[Hook] - 2X

[1] Other scholars believe my interpretation to be incorrect. The argument goes that when a woman says a man's bits are "just right" they are, in fact, small. As we are so far unable to acquire photographic evidence, with appropriate scale included, this point will stand. This genre of music most certainly lends itself to bragging and exaggeration.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Belated Birthday

It took me a while to figure out why I've slacked on posting birthday stuff but I finally realized that Korea is killing me slowly. Truly, I never considered breaking my contract and going home early until now. The yellow dust from the Gobi and the pollution[1] are causing intense sinus headaches[2] and possibly inducing a second sinus infection that is preventing me from running and making the days more painful. Not cool and I hate taking meds but it has gotten to that point.

[1]That picture at the top is an ad from the subway. That is most definitely a commentary on the air quality of Seoul.
[2]I suppose it could be a brain tumor or something. I hope not.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Mata Ato De!

With so much going on I don't have a good birthday post put together. If you forgot that the greatest English teacher known to mankind (me!) was born on June 5th, that's OK. I don't need anything. Please feel free to donate to an awesome charity. I did open the things I received and, lo!, it did pleaseth me. Thanks:) I'll have lots to post when I return from Kyoto.

PS, Andy now wants to be known as Batman and Seung Kyo, who recently wrote about his "favorite can of weather", wants to be Superman.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Shark Boy

One of my students wanted to change his English name. He was Daniel. I habitually and accidentally called him Danny. He told the other teacher he wanted a new name and they began running through options. Daniel was not convinced that "Rupert" is popular and after a variety of facetious suggestions by the instructor agreed to "Shark Boy". This became the topic of discussion in the teacher's room and we decided he should spell it "shrkboi". I got to spend the class calling on Shark Boy. It was kinda fun.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Boot to the Head

My legs are swimming in pain after 4 hours of taekwondo. I'm also going to be severely bruised because I had to do blocking exercises with Maren, the East German swim team of taekwondo. She's been doing it like 10 years and has the diamond hard bone and teutonic structure of a true German. I would under no circumstances f*ck with her.