Archive for August, 2007

…and the livin’s ee-zee

Posted in Academics, Expat life, Korea, Personal on August 31, 2007 by Elephant Talk

I’m no longer dripping with sweat. The weather’s cooling down. I’ve gotten my roll sheets. My syllabus is done and ready for printing. People are floating back into their familiar social circles (it seems that every foreigner in Busan spent his or her vacation in Thailand). Last, but certainly not least, I’ve signed up for Korean language classes.

The signs all point in the same direction: Summer’s over. Time to get to work.


Stop the madness

Posted in Culture, Film & TV, Images, Politics, USA on August 30, 2007 by Elephant Talk

I don’t really dig into politics much on this blog. It’s probably because I don’t have cable, so I’m not subjected to stupidity on a daily basis. It simply doesn’t filter through my radar that much anymore.

But when I read an article like this, I want to throttle someone. I realize that ‘terrorism’ is huge and complex, and the U.S. government isn’t handling it very well. But I can at least partially understand because it’s all very new and scary and big countries don’t adapt well. What I cannot tolerate is policy that knows precisely how fucked up it is and yet continues with the fucked up policy. Distributing weapons around the world is probably my biggest issue when it comes to global politics because we have a historical record of what the eventual outcome is. It’s the same damned story every time.

Providing weapons and training to other nations does two things: it offers a fragile society a new form of currency and power (as with the Turkey/Iraq thing up there), and it gives people the ability create new conflicts, usually ones that backfire on the nation that provided the weapons and training in the first place. Who’s to say that those you provide are going to be on your side?

Beh… I’ll shut up right there. Jon Stewart can communicate it much better than I can…

Seoul searching

Posted in Academics, Expat life, Images, Korea, Personal, Travel on August 29, 2007 by Elephant Talk

Seoul is huge, like freaking huge. Ten million strong. It’s only my second visit (I’m not counting the two times I spent on a shuttle bus between the train station and airport), but I spent more energy moving around the city this time. It’s massive. It’s not just that it’s spread out—which it is—but it’s also vertical, much like Busan. This means that there are enormous throngs of people almost everywhere you go. Definitely not a place for a misanthrope.

When I arrived at the station, I took a cab to Insadong, where I know places to stay are cheap and plentiful. As touristy as it is, I love this neighborhood. Artisans, cooks, fortune tellers, gadget inventors, and sales people of every kind spread out their offerings out on the street. People swarm the road to eat and buy things. It’s one of the few places in Korea where you see tourists—not just foreigners, but genuine tourists.

The restaurants here are awesome. I decided to spurge on an expensive Indian/Korean fusion chicken thing with red pepper sauce. The woman said it was spicy, but I wish she’d thrown some adverbs in with that adjective, like violently, shockingly spicy. Seriously, this was sweat-inducing, ear-popping heat I was consuming. It was damned tasty though.

The next day I met up with my good friend who recently moved here. We taxied over to Myong-dong for the festival. I wanted to see the Korean experimental shorts starting at 3:30. We arrived just in time to score two of the last three tickets available for the show. The screening was great. There were some really nice pieces in a huge variety of styles.

Afterward, we went to Hongdae to have dinner. We got out of a taxi at Hongik University and wandered aimlessly through the many shops, bars, and restaurants. We eventually decided on a dwaejigogi-gui place that specialized in, well, pork face. They use the meat from the pig’s face. It was good, much more mellow and not as salty as the typical pork meat you get.

From there we went bar hopping. Here’s the Old & New Bar, complete with Elvis statue:

And the delectable Sowoo restaurant (no, we didn’t go there). Yum, cattle guts:

The next morning I woke up, hung over, and headed over to Korea University to meet up for lunch. I got a quick tour of one small area of of the campus. This was a real university, with a rich history, a vast landscape, and ancient buildings nestled in between more modern glass ones. Trees blanketed the pathways and courtyard. It was a very green, very beautiful atmosphere. Here are a couple of shots:

After lunch we spent some time chatting some more then went to a room where we could both get some work done. Around 4:30 I decided to head off to the train station. I got there and managed to move my departure time up two hours. By 5:50 pm I was screaming south toward Busan at 300 kph.

Dial up some Floyd on the iPod

Posted in Images, Korea, Sports on August 27, 2007 by Elephant Talk

I’m sitting at a table in an office at Korea University in Seoul, weaseling some free wireless. There’s a reason I’m here, but I’ll get to that another time.

What I’d really like to mention is that there’s a total lunar eclipse coming Tuesday. It’s surprisingly difficult to find international times, but if I’m right, it should hit around sunset in Busan. This should make for a pretty spectacular sunset.

Lunar Eclipse Map

Oh, and I’d also like to mention how happy I am that Milan Michalek, my favorite Shark, just signed a six-year deal.

Northbound nyctinasty

Posted in Expat life, Film & TV, Korea, Personal, Travel on August 24, 2007 by Elephant Talk

I’m finally getting out of Busan, and out of this oppressive heat hopefully. If nothing else it’s a change of scenery, my last real chance before the semester starts. So I’m off to Seoul on Saturday to spend a few days there. It coincides with two fortuitous events:

1. The Resfest film festival. I hope to catch some shows both Saturday and Sunday.

2. My former thesis adviser and good friend, who is Korean, has moved back here to take on a new university job in Seoul. He just arrived last week. So we’re going to hang out a bit.

The world keeps getting smaller and smaller.

Google Earth (Sky)

Posted in Technology on August 23, 2007 by Elephant Talk

Here it is, another holy shit moment in Google history.

I love in the video demo how the Carl Sagan Cosmos style music comes in the first time we zoom into the universe. You simply cannot have an image of deep space without some shimmering, crystaline synth pad accompanying it.


Posted in Expat life, Korea, Personal, Technology, USA on August 21, 2007 by Elephant Talk

It took a little time, but I was finally able to cancel my US Verizon Wireless service and break my contract early without having to pay the fee.

Kind of a cool thing really—if you move overseas you can bail on your contract without penalty. Of course you have to prove it. They give you four possible ways:

1. A copy of a current utility bill with my name and new address on it.
– Nope, couldn’t do that. I don’t receive utility bills in my name.

2. A copy of my mortgage agreement.
– Hahaha! heh…. hm, yeah.

3. A state-issued drivers license.
– There is no freaking way I’m driving in Korea.

4. A letter from my employer—on “company” letterhead—stating that I’d been transfered to my new job.

This is the one I could do. Getting permission for the letter was easy. The hard part was letterhead. Apparently Koreans don’t do letterhead. After much head-scratching, they were able to type something up on a piece of paper that had a faded image of the university logo. I guess it was good enough for Verizon, because they confirmed it by email and thanked me for my business.

The downside is I had to give up my number. “The Number” is almost an obsession with American cell phone users. We like to protect it as if it’s a lover, as if we would be incomplete without it. Granted, it’s a bigger deal when you’re a freelancer, which was my former life. But I’m fine without it, and I’m definitely fine being liberated from the $60/month I was paying just to hold onto seven digits and a dash.

I’ll feel even better once I get a contract extension and I have some certainty that I’m actually going to be staying here a while.