Thursday, December 25, 2008

a bit of me & a whole lot of others

Download the new issue of Source Material here

In this issue:
Calvin & Hobbes by Russell Pascatore
Light Remains by David Baptiste Chirot
Cyber Money by Shane Meyer
Patented Brides by Barrett Gordon
Basic Principles of Speech by Devan DeCicco
Jean Michel Basquiat by Andy Warhol by Damian Weber
A Word About The Ditch by Jonathan Skinner
The Optimist by Brian VanRemmen

Including work by Eric Gelsinger, Michael Basinski, Kevin Thurston, Linda Russo, Michael Slosek, & David Mauro

Call for submissions for Source Material 04

Sunday, December 21, 2008

learning korean

so i have thrown myself pretty hard into learning korean now. the school year is essentially over, and i will soon have massive amounts of time on my hands. it is interesting for me to learn a foreign language at this point in my life in that i get to compare it to when i (and most US students?) first learned foreign languages (middle school through college).

the biggest difference is my amount of patience. when i was studying foreign languages the first time around (3 years of latin, 1 year of german, 3 disjointed years of french) i would get extremely frustrated not being able to express myself as well as i could in english and then see no use for it--what is the point in learning how to say 'there is a window in the classroom'? let's see if i can still remember: il y a une fenetre in dans classe that definitely is close, but definitely not right.

what else is helping me in studying a foreign language currently?

clearly living in a country wherein i dont speak the dominate language is a reason to give it a go. i mean, and i may have written about this before, i have many korean friends with varying degrees of english (from fluent to rocky), but i also know that that means i am interacting with a very specific segment of this country. granted, english education is now mandatory, but still not everyone excels in a mandatory subject.

so i desire to speak with more koreans, and to make my life easier, is there more than that? yes. i also want to show my korean friends that i am making an effort to meet them, there are times where i can tell they wish they could just speak korean with me. i know i won't reach that level of fluency any time soon, but just being able to make plans via text message in korean, i have been told, means alot to them.

also, there are basically about 4 people i can talk to at school currently (2 1/2s equal a whole) and many of my co-workers seem like genuinely nice people that i would at least like to be able to say something more than 'hello' to.

that is the basic sketch of why, here are my thoughts on the actual learning/what i am learning:

1. the inversion of english syntax is wild.
subject adjectives/prepositions direct object verb.
I smart at home korean am studying.

2. pronouns are often implied, but not used. this is nice as you don't conjugate verbs for each pronoun, it is basically 1 or 2 changes to the infinitive, and off you go.

3. currently i am just in the present tense. the closest thing to the future i can talk about is anticipating something. for example: 여자친구의 방문을 기대하고 있어요. in order: girlfriend her journey looking forward to. (i wish i had a hangul keyboard at home, it would help in practicing.)

being in the present tense is kind of fun. it makes my think i am an animal ('if a lion spoke, we wouldn't understand it'--or vice versa). i am eating, i want to sleep, i don't like him, etc.

4. pronunciation. oh what a treat this is. i laugh as when i try to use my korean if i am a little off in speaking people aren't quite sure what it is i am saying, whereas in my life here nearly everyone is a little off in what they say, but i get to use context clues to figure it out. i mean, when people were talking to me about 'the american erection' a few months ago, i knew what they meant. here, i can just meet someone and ask them their name and if i am a little off they look at me like they have no idea what i could possibly be saying. my friend rob made a decent point on this, namely how often do you think someone has spoken to them with an incredibly thick foreign accent. but still, work with me a bit, please.

anyway, that's it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

okay, one more delay tactic then i may actually do something

here is a list of all of the dvds i have bought in korea (legitimate stores). they have all been on sale for 3900 (a little less than $2):

charlie chaplin:
the gold rush
the great dictator

krzystof kieslowski (with english and korean subtitles):

david llynch:

vincent gallo:
buffalo 66

had a decent, busy week, even if it was occasionally melancholy. sunday was cold, so i wore a hat. early this week, i met antic-ham and francis out for dinner then we made some collages together at a cafe in insadong. if you read this blog with any regularity, you know i have been stagnant artistically since coming to korea, so it felt good to exercise those muscles a bit. when i got home, spoke with my mom for a while (skype is an incredible invention, and incredibly economical, if you assume internet access and a camera and electricity), then i believe i also spoke with kristin for a bit. yes, indeed i did, as tuesday i couldnt fall asleep until 2 or so, which made me a very sleepy boy the next few days at school.

wednesday i had agreed to make dinner for marta and chris. marta is who i usually spend weeknights with. we make dinner then play scrabble and drink tea. it is nice and simple. chris, marta's (boy)friend has arrived this week from toronto, so i thought it would be a nice gesture to make them dinner. i have now invented asian gravy. it is a delicious soy-based reduction with a kick from hot mustard, along with a few other secrets thrown in.

i had a half-day thursday, and since chris basically sits alone in marta's apartment while she is in school, i went with him to find a converter and a non-down pillow, both were successfully found. i also paid too much for more coffee.

thursday night was supposed to be 'wank on the yank' night with myself, and 3 brits (frazer, james, and robert), but it became the opposite as it was just james, rhett (an american from south carolina) and myself. we had dinner and went to rolling stone. while we were there young said (to rhett, then james, then me), 'rock star, movie star, cute guy.'

they left to catch the subway on time, i stayed and got pretty drunk, and then a few koreans spoke with me into the wee hours. normally i enjoy conversing with koreans, but this guy i dont particularly like, and his friends seem to similar. i didn't really know how to get out of speaking with them, but eventually i just left.

friday (actually, monday, tuesday, and thursday to) at school was spent with my small class of 8 3rd graders from 9 until 11:30. for the last two weeks we have spoken about travel, politics, etc, as they have very good english skills, but this week we have just been hanging out, showing each other pictures, and they have taken to teaching me a bit of korean. its been really great.

since friday, like thursday, was a half-day, i would have had to eat alone in the cafeteria (my co-teachers have plans on these days, like friday all the female teachers--which include all my co-teachers--went out for lunch), and i didn't want to do that. fortunately, i ran into one of my good students and asked what she was doing for lunch and she said, 'i guess i am just going to eat at home, alone.' i asked her to lunch, and that quickly got out of hand as she then called all the other advanced girls and now we were a gang of 8 heading to mcdonalds (which i havent eaten in a few years). on the way to mcdonald's other students asked what i was doing, and when i said, pointing, 'we're going to lunch' suddenly 4 more wanted to go, and i had to turn them away. as it stood, i already was going to spend 20000 on lunch for everyone.

mcdonald's was very fun, albeit i was tired from the night before. more of my students arrived and they were surprised to see me (they are always surprised to see my not in school, as if i materialize every morning, and then disappear at night), and they seemed slightly jealous. middle-aged women were smiling at us (which made me feel vaguely creepy), and some of the girls from the attached high school said, 'kevin! how are you!? why don't you leave them and come sit with us!' i just smiled and waved.

that is one aspect of my life in korea that i wasn't anticipating. i knew that i would be a novelty, and so some people would want to get to know me--which has completely happened--but it also seems to have gone slightly beyond that. sometimes. almost like a celebrity status? i can't quite describe it. one of my gang of 8 said, 'everyone likes kevin.'

after lunch i came home, spoke with kristin, read some more dostoyevsky (i have been devouring 'the idiot' this week as i manage to get further behind in the blurb i am chipping away at, and a collaborative project with ross), and took a nap.

friday night i had dinner with my co-teacher (and nu na--older sister) kim and her family. one, or both of the boys, have appeared on the blog before. we had a korean hot-pot soup, which is similar to shabu-shabu (which i love) but apparently it isn't called shabu-shabu. afterwards we went for dessert at red mango (a better tcby, which apparently also exists in the US). i came home and was still tired and a bit melancholy, but then young texted from rolling stone, and told me to come there. i had some beers with vick (they guy who took me to the east sea) and then, suddenly, 4 foreigners came in to *my* bar. it was really weird. one of my korean friends said to me, 'is this the new itaewon?'

it was the classic interaction: pictures, flirting, loud speech, the whole bit. 1 of the 4 was a good guy, however. he was making an effort to get to know some people, and work on some korean. the other 3 were douche-bags, from what i could gather. tho my mood certainly may have colored my perception.

saturday i ran down to gangnam to meet a friend of my father's for lunch at the ritz-carlton, which was funny. he is a good man, but apparently didn't know the whole chronology of things, when he asked, 'so tell me a good story about your dad, where he tried to be a super-man but failed.' i didn't know how to answer, so i thought for a moment, and replied, 'well, i dont really have any, my parents got divorced when i was pretty young, then he moved to tennessee where you two met. my older brother might have some, tho.'

we had a nice lunch (3 courses, whoo-hoo) and had an interesting talk about the incoming obama administration and what america should consider doing to compete in the global market place. while he is on the right side of the spectrum, it was interesting to hear him say that an international court and other such measures only make sense in the long run and that he hopes the US would sign on to such efforts.

after lunch, language class in sinchon. gangnam is about an hour away from me, so that is a long haul, then sinchon is about an hour away from gangnam, so i did quite a bit of train travel. class was good. we split in to two groups depending on our korean ability, and then exchanged language with koreans. it was the first time anyone has explained anything grammatical to me about the korean language, which i think is key to understanding a language's structure. when it became our turn to speak with the koreans, it was much different as they all have enough vocabulary that they just want to practice conversation.

afterwards we all ended up going out for dinner together, and then i split off with a new friend, tae sung, and we had some beer and continued to talk about korean, english, and things in general. was home early, skyped with the lady.

now it is sunday, early afternoon, and i wish i had a washington post. or more space to make collages, or finished things i have obligations to finish, or cleaned my apartment, but i don't really want to do any of those things. eventually, i will have dinner with young tonight, around 7pm.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

some school pics

these are two girls from 3rd grade the week after they finished taking finals. learning was done, we just played scattegories. the girl on the left single-handedly came in 2nd place against her class, the girl on the right likes to be extremely loud. they are friends.

same class, the week after finals, etc. i made staying awake optional, i wasn't gonna win anyway.

it has snowed two or three times this winter. every time the kids go nuts. these 3 girls are from one of my favorite classes (grade 1-5). when the weather permits, they have taken to having me play dodgeball with them after lunch. the first day i hit it a girl in the glasses with the ball. i fell over with shame. they kids, and my co-teacher told me 'stop pouting, if she didn't pay attention she deserves it.' these girls don't play.
the one on the far right, whenever she sees me, waves at me with her arm at a complete 90 degree angle, and lowers her voice to say, "hi, kevin."

with 3rd grade classes no longer on my docket, some of the kids asked if they could take an extra class with me. seeing as how my work load was reduced by a third, i was happy to. it has been great. they are all excellent english speakers, so we can talk about actual things (politics, art, travel, and food thus far).
they wanted to play hangman one day, but i couldn't think of anything. so, since they are all english stars i handed the chalk over to them. one of the girls came up with the little gem seen above.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

approximately 40%

that is the (theoretical) pay-cut i have taken just be being here for 3 months*. theoretical, because they pay me in won and i live in korea, however i am the sort that needs to send money back to the US. this can potentially, and does, have very real implications for me.

1. i offered to fly my darling lady over, she charged the ticket on good faith, and then international finance happened. she was fantastic to me (in every way, but for the sake of this) financially when i was unemployed and running out of money, essentially keeping me feed for two months. unfortunately, her finances have changed just as rapidly as mine, and she is fucked since i can't get her the money. that is to say, what i thought was going to be my opportunity to (literally) repay her kindness has caused fiscal problems beyond our control^.
2. i have some debt that i planned on paying off while here, that has changed drastically.
3. i have to go to europe after my contract for a wedding, and some of the money (actually, all my money for europe) needs to be earned here

those are the biggies.

there is one large question that comes from all this, that is a lead-in to the really big question. first the smaller one that is easier to handle: what do i do after my contract is up?

it is only 3 months into the 12 i have signed, so who knows how the exchanged will look 3 months from now. that is the most obvious point, but why not speculate?

i really like my job. i enjoy teaching, but more than that, i like where i teach, where i live, and the life i am living here. this isnt to say it is 100% joy, but it beats the pants out of my life since 2006. is there a point where the exchange rate makes being here prohibitive? unsure. some experts say it can get up to 1800/1usd, but experts are often proved wrong. [side bar: the real shits'n'giggles aspect to this devaluation vs the dollar is that the people who are benefiting the most from this are the US armed-forces personnel stationed here, and they are the ones that, generally, koreans dislike the most.] as long as i have enough to keep paying my debts, perhaps the idea of saving some money stays a point that i cannot currently reach.

my goal is to re-sign for another year. i have given myself these two years to live abroad (part of what makes the lady so wonderful is working with me on this) and i plan on using them. what happens if i dont sign in korea? i need to then find a brand new country to go to, and walk away from what i have just stated is a life i enjoy. i mean, i can do it, sure--i didnt come to korea for a korean-centric purpose beyond being really excited to see all the paik nam june works, but i do love me some habit (that i can modify as need be), and i have found some (i have a local bar, have befriended many koreans, and, for the first time in my life, go to the gym 3 days a week, and volunteer once a week). plus, if i re-sign, i don't need to develop a brand-new curriculum, tho i am sure some of it could carry over to say, poland or viet nam.

the really big question is: what happens after these two years?

before i left dc, my friend threw a party for me and another guy who was leaving dc. at this party a friend of mine who is quite grown-up (is a partner in a marketing firm, has a house, married, with child) said, 'you know, when you come back, you need to settle.' i thought at the time, and still do to a certain extent, 'i'm not sure i need to be as middle-class as you', but there is still a very valid point to what he is saying. i have been pondering what will happen when i get back to the US and the only thing i know is i will be spending some time in buffalo with my family, then moving to where the marvelous woman is. (did i mention she will be here in less than one month!) but beyond that, it seems likely it will involve me heading back to school. this comes as a bit of a shocker. didn't think i would be doing that at what will be 32/33.

the idea of re-entering school at that age colors what i go back to school for. i still would love to take two years and get an mfa (so i can enter the factory;) but i have always thought an mfa is kind of an indulgent degree, at least i don't think i want to teach creative writing (not that it would be that bad to do, but...) so the only reason for me to get one would be to have full-time dedication to art production for two years, and since i am taking two years for myself now, that starts to add up. who knows, i will prolly end up getting an mfa and laughing at my current outlook.

the other possibilities that attract me are: getting certified as a teacher, social work, and community organization/activism. teaching makes sense. i could potentially start teaching when i got back and have my school pay for my degree (assuming i find employment). what level (elementary, middle, or high school) and what subject are open for debate. this in many ways is the most logical path, since i will have two years teaching experience, but as it is the most logical, it is the one i approach with the most skepticism as i am a smidge nuts.

social work seems like a good one. my biggest fear is burn-out (even more so than teaching--actually with all of these 'career minded' degrees i am terrified of burn out. it has been my practice since graduating college to not do the same job for employment for more than two to three years. the idea of having the same categorical job for 30 years or so worries me.) it turns out i want a job that will make a difference in the lives of other people, and while teaching offers that (and yes, it does 'help' people to be educated) social work seems like a much more concrete example of help.

community organization/activism. this one seems quite natural. while in buffalo i organized (with chris fritton) the buffalo small press book fair and worked with just buffalo in curating the small press poetry series. also, i think my public relations experience would be helpful in this field, tho i admittedly know the least about it.

a friend of mine thinks that i would make an excellent fact checker. that too has some attraction, but would require me to live in a large city with lots of publishing, i think. also, i wonder what the qualifications for such a position are.

when i signed my contract and came to korea, it was approximately 1040 won/1 usd. it is now about 1475/1. it has been higher (over 1500/1) and lower in the last two months.
fortunately, part of her super-awesome goodness is recognizing that these problems that have occurred all well beyond either of our control, and getting me to get closer to accepting that truth.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rock The Vote


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

ces soir

a man asked where i am from, i told him.
he then asked
gun? boom! boom! boom!

i told him i didn't own a gun.

a man asked, mafia?
i think he ignores context.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008


i came to korea a vegetarian, and i could very well end up a vegan back in the states, but in the mean time, i eat whatever.

there are a few reasons for this.

when i first arrived i would walk the streets trying to find food. of course, there is tons to eat in korea, but wanting to stick to my veggies, i didn't want to just order anything. so the language barrier was a gigantic issue. also, koreans don't quite grasp the concept of vegetarian. there are numerous stories of people telling their koreans co-teachers, or whomever, they are vegetarian only to the get a pizza with ham on it and they saying, "look, vegetarian!". add to this that seemingly vegetarian things, like kimche dumplings, have pork in them and it was quickly a war that i couldn't win. or at least for now. in addition to those practical problems, i was also thinking about a conversation i had with steve z before i came over. steve is a vegetarian and stuck to it when he went to france to visit his then girlfriend and he said he regretted it. not because french meat was more appealing, but that food is a gigantic part of a culture and he felt that he literally missed out on a part of french culture.

so i went on a meat eating rampage.

i am an adventurous eater. i want to try nearly everything once. as meat was done being a road block, i set some korean gastronomic goals: dog, live octopus.

i asked my co-teachers about the first goal, and it turns out one of my co-teachers--a very demure woman, who is also the youngest--loves dog. i asked her out.

'(laughs) are you sure? i hear western peoples they...think we are barbarian for dog.'

not wanting to explain the concept of entrapment and that i wasn't doing that, i told her that i am very curious about it and that i was fairly certain if i tried on my own to get dog that korean restaurateurs would most likely not give it to me.

they day came she took me to eat dog ("healthy soup") she was very nervous.

there is usually the possibility of another western being in a restaurant, but that wasn't going to be the case in this establishment. every korean who came in the restaurant did an even larger double-take when they saw me (i am accustomed to koreans looking surprised to see me, but here it was an even bigger deal).

after the meal the proprietor was very curious as to my reaction to the meal, and it turns out, so was my school's vice-principal as it quickly spread that i was trying dog.

my conclusion: it is okay. it isn't the best thing i have ever had, nor anything i need to eat again in my lifetime. it is extremely tender, and a mix of red meat and game.

(ugh, its is over-dubbed)

last night i was out with my friend rob for dinner and some beer. when we met he was fairly certain the establishment we went to had great galbi (ribs). it turns out he was incorrect. this restaurant only served one thing, and so we got what they serve. a korean man at the table next to us said, 'this may not be the restaurant for you. food is below stomach.'

rob had lived in viet nam last year teaching and both of us like to try whatever the country we are in throws at us, so we ignored what the man said, tho i had a feeling what 'below stomach' meant, and i was right.

they serve pig intestines and liver. i am not a big fan of liver. even when i ate meat it seemed like i shouldn't eat anything that serves the function of filtering bad things out of the body. but, in comparison to intestines, liver is good.

while we were out i was getting texts from my bartender that i should come in. then i got a text from a regular at my bar telling me i should come in. so, while on the subway i decided i would go.

the bar was very quiet, only about 5 people, but people i know well: 'vick' who took me out of town one weekend, young (my bartender), billy (the owner), ji who sells things on the korean home shopping network, and young, a man who is often at the bar. i was told that since it was 'rolling stone family night' they all started asking about me.

i was already drunk when i got to the bar and i showed them the two new swearing flash cards i got when i was out with rob and this korean man joined us. now, young (bartender) had already taught me 3 swear words, and one of them is extremely bad. however, these two new words are (apparently) abhorrent. ji asked to see all of my flash cards and he saw the one that says (roughly) san nag che, or live octopus.

'why do you have this?'
'i want to try it'

customer young yelled, 'i love san nag che! we go now!'

i didn't really want to eat at 145 in the morning, and i tried to protest, but then he said, 'i serve you!'

vick clarified, 'he is buying, you go'

so young and i went across the street for live octopus. it isn't as dramatic as the scene above, as it is cut up, but it is moving all over the place. it was very interesting to eat. i decided to night bite into it right away (after it crawled up my chopsticks) and let it just sit in my mouth. the suction cups affix themselves to anywhere they can. there was one piece that attached to the roof of my mouth. i was told there can be a danger of it sticking to, and therefore, blocking off your throat. so, to take care of the one that was stuck to the roof of my mouth, i took a sip of soju (korean liquor) and pushed it with my tongue.

a few minutes into the meal, the rolling stone family came and joined us. it was quite flattering that young and billy closed down the bar early just to eat live octopus with the foreigner. so there we were, a table of 6, eating a growing meal (they started adding courses) at 315 in the morning. my favorite question was, 'is sushi okay?' and i laughed and pointed out that if i will eat live seafood, uncooked seafood shouldn't be much of a problem. it was a good night.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

pepero day

"can i touch it?"

this is what caused me to turn around to a gang of girls standing behind my office chair.

i have what they refer to in korea as a high nose. an extremely high nose. from what i gather, this means that i have a high nose bridge, ie, my nose comes right out of my forehead, not the gentle slope of the swedes, or the low bow of many asians. in turns out, this is a desirable feature that koreans want. this, of course, makes me laugh. in america, people get plastic surgery to lower their nose bridge, in korea, they get plastic surgery to raise their nose bridge.

never having left 6 years old, i replied, "only if i can touch yours"

suddenly i am having 2 girls (out of 5) touch my nose, and i am touching the noses of 2 girls (out of 5). they eventually leave.

kim, who saw all of this, and who is one of the best students, and kindest human beings, then drops off my pepero.

today is pepero day. (see photo)

after she gives them to me, she says, hesitently, "many high nose. you have a very high nose, so we like your nose. if i may, may i touch your nose?"


kim touches kev-kev's nose.

"do you want to touch my nose?"

now i was only touching these girls' noses because i think the entire thing is funny, and in part to remind them that i am a human being, and not just here for their nose touching curiousities. kim, however, seemed worried that i didn't immediately want to touch her nose. not wanting her to feel left out, i touched her nose.

the bell rings, kim smiles and heads to class. i eat a pepero. kim's pepero gift also came with a note.

it is 4 pages of various morsels of wisdom in english. my favorites:

Nothing matters very much, and few things matter at all.
Arthur Balfour

Why don't you go and sin a little?
So God deserve to have something to forgive you for.
Martin Luther

Money may be the husk of many things, but not the kernel.
It brings you food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health;
acquaintances, but not friends;
days of joy, not peace or happiness.
Henrik Ibsen

It is preoccupation with possessions,
more than anything else,
that prevents us from living freely and nobly.
Immanuel Kant

after class she returned and said, "did you read my note?"
"it is my hope that these things, that they help you."
'thank you'
"i was worried, i was up, i was writing them at midnight, and that, ohhh, at 1am i was so tired."
' didn't have to do that. thank you very much. you are very kind.'

kev-kev shares a pepero with kim

Thursday, November 6, 2008


been less than inspired to do many of the things that i hold dear. actually, held? this has been coming to a fore the last few years. basically since i left baltimore. in particular, reading, writing, and making collages. i used to spend hours on these activities, now not so much. i am still passionate about these subjects, and that passion may be in part why i do not participate as much in them.

my last big project was KEVIN IS RUNNING LATE BUT WILL BE IN (available for download here, reviews here, here, and here). it was an easy project for me to make. i did it at my day job. i have a tendency (work ethic) to throw myself hard at whatever is occupying the majority of my time, so as this project came about, i simply allocated resources from managing my department into making this project. now i am teaching, and i am throwing myself at it full-tilt. but i don't think this explains my drop in production.

the majority of the work i make is extremely personal to me (even if it seems it is simply documenting). last week on the walk to school, when i initially was going to write this post (see what i mean about delays and lack of motivation), i was listening to my ipod on shuffle. one of the tracks came on. at first i was shocked (hearing my own voice). then i giggled. then i was left with this absolute feeling of distance. this was so much a part of my life (9 hours a day at the job, then the self-identification with an art object) for so long (2+ at my day job, countless hours with nick recording it) and now that is over. not completely over, as the object attests, but in many ways, a relic.

let me back track. when i was in baltimore i wrote a book, made many collages, was active in mail art, and was making poems regularly. none of that has been the case in the last few cities i have lived in (buffalo, dc, seoul).

it isn't that i haven't made *anything* just that the size and scale has been drastically reduced. a few weeks ago i bought collage materials. and that night i was cutting things out, coloring things, and thinking about organizing things on the page. and then, nothing happened. i was also working on a new transcription project, that too has fizzled.

post-baltimore, i was invited to perform in many cities (nyc, toronto, milwaukee, chicago, dc, baltimore, buffalo, etc) but even then, my work was always made to order. it seems that shy of having 'an order' i am unproductive. i have written or conceived numerous things in my head, but i never follow through. this has left me in a peculiar situation.

i don't mind not producing, i am quite content focusing on teaching, but there is something about this challenge to identity (tho, perhaps i am still an artist) that i think about. it could be very well that i am incubating, or i am on hiatus, or i am done, or tomorrow i begin another period of production.

the only real 'conclusion' i've reached is that without a community (define that abused word, at least in american poetry) any way you will, i am simply not active enough on my own. or perhaps it is that now i am a fan of various communities (including the art scene i have found in seoul, which is quite active, and great), more of a fan than an active participant, and that the free-time i alot to art is spent taking things in. it is, i repeat, not a bad thing at all to be absorbing. nor is this a woe is me post. it is simply something i wanted to put out there, no matter if i am sharing it with the same six people i could simply email this to, or if it is read by hundreds.

okay, time to shower. gotta teach tomorrow, after all.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

correcting papers, pt 2

kevin nos to china
has kevin been to
china to been
has been to china
kevin china has
kevin never china
has never been
to china to china
been to china

Sunday, October 26, 2008

correcting papers

had this activity called, 'Have you ever. . .?'. the first 10 questions are supplied, the last two i ask the kids to make up something.

11. Have you ever pissed on the sheet?
Yes, Su Hyun has pissed on the sheet.

i'm so glad i decided to collect and review these papers.

kisaeng becomes you, seoul arts center

this is more of a meditation and a report. also, it is long (for a blog).
also, i would add more photos, etc, but i can't find any documentation of the performances on-line

'i'm interested in the kisaeng as the holder of culture'
dean moss, during the q&a

october 25th i attended the world premier of 'kisaeng becomes you' a collaborative event orchestrated by dean moss and kim yoon-jin. i want to call it a collaborative circuitry for a few reasons which i will flush out more fully as i continue to write, but to start with, this was not what we are conditioned to view as a 'regular' dance performance (as i know it) and what i left this event with was the feeling of having witnessed a profound meditation collaboration.

the seoul arts center's jayu theatre is essentially a black box on steroids. it has 3 levels of 4-sided catwalks, and i would guess it holds about 100 spectators on folding-back seats (that is, the seat part is attached to the ground, the back simply folds up or down if it is being used). the performance was sold out. the stage was unadorned (which from the limited dance performances i have been to is not uncommon) with a suspended screen, mid-stage, stage right, approximately 15 feet from the ground. downstage there was a table with speakers, a camera, speakers, electronics, and props.

like dean moss, at least initially, i came to this performance lacking a socio-historical context. unlike moss, i also lack a deep socio-historical dance context. what exactly was i getting into? first a dancer walks upstage, extremely close to the audience, and looks us over. immediately the 4th wall is broken, and it would be completely removed in moments. she walks away and heads for the table and begins to sew her skin (left thumb) making a series of knots. the camera is used to project this onto the suspended screen. i'm already thinking about social inscription and the well-worn historical thread. it is an elegant gesture to start the performance.

slowly, 3 dancers enter from various sides and are on their toes, their mouths look like feeding fish. these long bodies, extended, begin to travel like a school of fish, essentially heading in the same direction, but with only a weak bond uniting the mass. eventually sewn hand joins them and they continue to travel as a group--except she is marked with her hand and thread. sewed hand stops, looks us over in the audience, and enters the audience and speaks. of course, beyond 'hello' i don't know what is being said--and the language lack shows up more later, but with no real problem from my perspective, though i am sure it colors my perception and pushed me towards focusing more on the collaborative meditation. taking an audience member on stage, after she looked us over from the beginning, the feeling of collaboration grew. while she takes the audience member on stage, 2 dancers are setting up a scrim more or less at centerstage.

the audience member is introduced to the dancers and is given a mic pack, dressed in a white gown and given a wig (later i learned this is a kisaeng wig, i'm willing to bet the audience member's costume was based on traditional kisaeng clothing). the audience member is slowly paraded around, and video-taped the entire time. she performs a (traditional?) gesture, and then enacts the same route and gesture. a circuit is made.

the dancer with the sewn hand serves as her director/choreographer. she feeds the audience member lines, the audience member is being video-taped the entire time. the audience member enacts the circuit again. the scrim at centerstage now has flowers projected. 1 dancer is standing behind the scrim casting a shadow.

the audience member is again photographed and videoed. the director/choreographer (director from here on out) continues to feed her lines and then a gesture. the gesture seems sad, a stylized crying, loss. she picks up a veil, holds it to her eyes--the director is constantly talking.

it is all a beautiful way to represent collaboration/exchange--its like watching a piece incubating. workshop as performance. she performs crying, lifts veil again, music begins. soft.

artaud speaks of how in theatre now gesture can be made the same way twice.

the director and the audience member are watching the video on the suspended screen that was taped earlier. the video switches to a live feed. no longer performing a rehearsal, now a performance.

a dancer is blindfolded with the veil and performs the same acts as the audience member. they are from up stageleft, cascading backwards to the scrim at centerstage. this act is repeated with another dancer joining in. the 3rd circuit. finally, the director yells cut and it all stops.

1 dancer is 'fish feeding' as in the beginning while the director takes photos of the audience member with the other dancers. audience member is given the veil to keep and paid 20,000 won.

pt2 (make lack of experience taking about dance is apparent hear, its mostly base description)

this begins with the only appearance of a man in the entire production. it is a 'man-on-the-street' interview, but is all in korean, so i have no idea what happened.

2 dancers approach the audience, with about a 5-7 second delay between them, lip synching something. they lay down, then go into all fours, mouth wide open. we've clearly entered the sexual aspect of the kisaeng, which makes me wonder about what the man said on the screen all the more.

janis joplin plays, they now look angry (there still is the 5-7 second delay between the two), now they walk holding their crotch. sexy jig, then squat. while they squat, the put the fingers in their anus, smell them--sodomy. then, sexy again. finally, they begin to scurry in a crab-walk of sorts, then lament. silence. they get up and begin to walk in circles around the stage, then they run in circles.


walk up stage.

shaken breath, like angry or terrified. the original gestures from act 1 are occurring with these two, but the staging is reversed. the director shows up, and the 2 dancers leave. a new dancer arrives and dances like she is being choked.

the 2 dancers that have left are now at the back table. one of them is using the camera that is connected to the projector. it has a webcam/porn aesthetic. upstage 1 of the dancers takes the directors microphone away, and they do this very entertaining dance as she tries to speak into the microphone that the dancer is keeping away from her.

the director is now on-screen, pre-recorded, speaking lines. this dissolves into 'random' shots, mostly flowers if i recall correctly, and the dancers dance and the director is given her microphone back.

pt 3 (if pt 2 was sexual and controlling, pt 3 is sexual, crude, and expressive)

2 dancers. 1 (the smaller of the two) walks into 2, repeatedly, like the beginning of a fight. 2 walks away. 1 and the director walk arm in arm. director rubs 1's face with the microphone, puts it against her mouth. she opens her mouth, then licks the mic. she takes the microphone away from the director, and now the director watches. a new dancer holds the mic against 1, she willfully tries to put it in her mouth. all leave the stage, except the microphone girl who chases the dancers with the mic.

she strokes it. it goes limp. she then tries to put it in her mouth. meanwhile,

a dancer stands statuesque on the back table and is touched by the 3 other dancers (which is projected via what was the webcam). now all 4 jostle her in her pose--she is taken away on 2 dancers backs while being showered in flower petals and is taken on a lap around the stage. circuit. she is then layed down on the table. the wig from earlier is placed on her head. circuit. she smiles into the camera. she is touched.

a dancer runs, screams, dies. another covers her in flower petals.

director tries to put table girls' fist in her mouth. circuit. she is dragged away, screaming, then placed on top of her. 3 dancers then put the dress the audience member was wearing on top of her. circuit. the woman on the table, wearing the wig, wraps her legs around the director, strokes her head, like a baby at the bosom.

pt 4

meat is projected. 2 dancers push flowers into it. 3 dance slowly, upstage, with leaves in their hands, in the petals.

a korean table is brought out with hite (beer), windsor (whiskey), and snacks.

2 women are brought down from the audience. a very korean party ensues. they knock shots of whiskey into the beers and go. they yell "one shot, one shot", chant, etc. audience and dancers are drinking on stage. slowly, a few dancers begin to perform/dance in a more obvious way. they go in and out of it in 5 second spurts. the audience and the performers have melded into one mass at this point.

eventually, they sing a song everyone in the audience knows. i do not know if it is a kisaeng song, or a korean drinking song, or neither. everyone is clapping. this small little gesture, this song, goes further in uniting the performers and the audience. they (all) take turns dancing and singing the song, while those on stage not participating stuff money in each others pockets, shirts, boots. anywhere, really.

a short break as 1 audience member is given the video camera, and the other has the audio feed. director again is providing the audio feed. circuit. the director instructs her to move the camera to the other's side. they hold each other. she is feed words to say. she takes the camera from her and walks away. 1 audience member, on stage, by herself. spotlighted. lights fade for 60-90 seconds.

so what i witnessed was a series of repetitions with difference. as these gestures begin to overlap and add up and create their own narrative, my lack of socio-historical context for the kisaeng matters very little for me. and this may be the triumph and potential problem (at least for some) with this piece. if i, as a non-korean, can walk out of this piece feeling like i saw a truly artistic accomplishment, while the aesthetic beauty of this piece 'take away' from what could otherwise be a historical production? i don't care, really. art shouldn't be just about documenting and recreating (even when it uses documentation), it should be about providing an experience. again, there could be so much cultural coding that i missed--and i am certain there is--but i would still recommend anyone who could see this show as it travels the world to go see it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

i've really been quite busy lately, and i can't remember when it happened. i like it mostly, tho it has interrupted a typing project i began. i am very close to a routine, it is basically this:
monday: work, gym, home
tuesday: work, huh?
wednesday: work, gym, home
thursday: work, huh?
friday: work, gym, home, out
saturday/sunday: mystery guests

here is an overview of the last few weeks

some of the 1000s of korean students that were at seoul land on 16.11.08
went to seoul land with my school and about 50 other schools from around seoul. it is not korea's biggest theme park, but it is seoul's theme park.

the ones looking right at the camera, with the V-sign are with me.

she dressed up in heels and wore make-up etc. she suddenly looked like a little adult. funny outfit for a theme park, tho. on tuesday, it took me a moment to recognize her.

when we left, i bought a cup full of bugs for about .50 cents from an old woman on the way to the subway. my co-teachers said, 'first dog, now bugs, you are really becoming a korean!' they were okay. bugs in liquid. they tasted like unwashed mushrooms, essentially. extremely earthy. my co-teachers kept laughing that i was calling them bugs. 'they are...larva.' and indeed they are, but my counter point was 'what would you call this if you saw it in your apartment?' we then, collectively, ate my bugs. larvae.

i had what turned out to be all you can eat sushi, and it was marvelous. i turned into a fish, was placed in the han river, and swam home.

the post below has two lil vids from the seoul contemporary art museum. that was saturday. they are illegal videos. we went to a tapas restaurant in hongdae. it was good and not completely unreasonable. it was the first time i had used a fork in over 2 months, it felt clumsy. afterwards, we met up with some people, who were drunk, so we left to my bar.

we got drunk, had a hard time asking for two-more drinks when we handed over the card and the bill, and convinced two koreans whom we didnt know to join us at a norae-bang*. it was alot of fun. especially singing 'bohemian rhapsody' with them.

sunday i was invited by a professor from a local university to go to a concert. in the backyard of the 3rd president of korea's house. i have a knack for stumbling into this type of thing anyway, but in korea it has been amplified. while there, i met dean moss. he is a choreographer from nyc and now on saturday i am going to see the premier of a piece he has collaborated on with kim yoon-jin (the korea times is by no means an exceptional paper, but you at least get an idea). leafing through the brochure he gave me, i have decided to go see a production of electra called 'electra perpetrator'. the photos i have seen look beautiful. i had my co-teacher call for tickets and my fortune continues as they are half-price for foreigners. koreans can stare at me all they want if i get half-price tickets. but back to the 3rd president of korea's backyard. its nice. very nice. and in the middle of seoul. it doesnt feel like it. the rich always have a way of making it seem like they don't live in your surroundings. i then had dinner with a class of people i shouldn't know: an architect who lived in paris for 10 years, a gallery owner, a man designing the future of digital tv programming, etc. thankfully i have read some books in my life.

monday was a grateful day: to work then gym.

tuesday met zach and ross (ross is linked at the upper right) and, as it always seems to turn out, 10 other people, for mexican. it was actual mexican food. not even the 'not quite' that is korea's take on everything. it was pricey, which wasn't actual mexican food (unless your are close to the mci center in dc) but worth it.

last night, after working out, marta and i went to get our grill on. then she told me she hasn't been to rolling stone, so we went there and ended upstaying too late. i will be back there on friday, which made the whole staying there late thing all the more silly. i do like that bar. a lot.

so, there you have it. tired thursday, got a haircut, and had to save my beard from being completely scrapped when the korean guy accidentally hit one side of it with the clippers (they wont touch my beard below my ear lobe), looking forward to sleeping early (tho i want to chat with people back on the other side of earth), and transfering money to my US account since tomorrow is the monthly pay-day, then hanging out with jin-woo. saturday is world premier dance, and sunday is open as of now.

* from the web

Norae literally means singing or song. So, yes, you guessed it, this is your own personal karaeoke room. Koreans love to sing and took Japan’s karaeoke and made it all their own. You rent a room by the hour and it includes funky lighting, a disco ball, several televisions, a huge song book (English songs too), comfy seating, and even tambourines.
If you had qualms about karaeoke before, it is suddenly erased with this added privacy, the accompaniment of friends and, for most Koreans, a bit of alcohol.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

making plans

i have been teaching my class how to make plans, prefacing it by telling them 'it is one of the most useful things you can do in english'. no idea if that is true or not, however i have made tentative plans for the summer and thought i would share them here.

i will go to scotland in august and visit mr ross gardiner before i go to portugal for a wedding. while in scotland, we aim to introduce comic vignette #4.

comic vignette #4
equipment: hand held camera, modes of transport
setting: anywhere, especially pubs

kev kev enters numerous scottish pubs. the camera should already be placed inside, it follows his walk up to the bar.

kev kev (with pride) Hello, and how are you? My name is Michael Jefferson, from the States, and I would just love to try one of your famous fried Scottish cunts.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008


the online dictionary of etymology says that "gook first pops up in 1899, U.S. military slang for "Filipino" during the insurrection there, probably from a native word, or imitative of the babbling sound of their language to American ears (cf. barbarian). The term goo-goo eyes "soft, seductive eyes" was in vogue c.1900 and may have contributed to this somehow."

however, this is debated historically. it certainly returned to currency, and i guess, as this is not scientific, took on its more familiar term for asians in general during the korean conflict. the word in hanguel 국 (pronounced 'gug' 'guk' or 'gook') means person/native things along those lines. as an american i am a 미국 or 'me gook' (humorously enough). it seems likely that during the korean conflict that beyond 미국 americans heard 한국 'han gook' which means korean and also 외국 'way gook' or foreigner. hearing all these 국 why wouldn't americans just start calling their koreans enemys (and i imagine their allies) 'gooks'. you take this one step further, when in viet nam some of the higher ups have experience in korea and are influencing the soldiers already in or headed to viet nam, and the sticking power of 'gook' becomes complete.

the first time i heard all this
국 talk from koreans, this was my immediate hunch, so i am sticking with it--not that it is a revolutionary thought, and i know there is some on-line documentation that supports my thinking, i just thought i would type about it here in case some of you didn't every google 'gook etymology' on your own. also, i couldn't help but laugh as all of my knowledge of 'gook' comes from viet nam (vietnam being another example of bastardized language) movies.

if anyone has more solid information, please leave it in the comment box.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Next morning, they are walking to Central Park. There are a lot of people. Mi-na and David walk around for about an hour and then they take a short rest.

David: Central Park is a great place. There are swimming pools, open-air restaurants and more. But it can also be very depressing.

Mi-na: What do you mean?

David: Mi-na, did you see all those people sleeping on benches?

Mi-na: Yes. Why do they sleep there?

David: Well, many people have nowhere to go and in the summer, they sleep out in the open.

Mi-na: I see.

David: Let's go home and get ready for our trip to Columbia University. It's one of the oldest universities in the U.S.

Min'a trip to New York was fun. She saw many interesting things and met a lot of people. It's always exciting to get to know a new culture.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sunday, October 5, 2008

i met park for dinner--it had been a few weeks since i last saw him. we had spicy cuttlefish and i had a chee-gay (stew) made from beans. it was quite good. it turns out i can use chopsticks well. i get told this often enough. we ate, then left, as is so often the chronology. he asked during dinner, 'how often do you drink?' these questions always sound so big, but usually its because there is a lack of nuance with english. 'two times a week or so.' 'at home? alone?' 'no, generally out at a bar.'

generally, park and i have easy nights--some dinner, then some talk about hangul and english, with a coffee or tea, then we part. when he asked if i wanted to go do something else after dinner, this was what i had in mind.

apparently the drink-frequency questions were to gauge what i could handle.

we went to yangpyeong, which has a reputation for being a smidge seedy. we were driving through back alleys trying to find somewhere to park. he was telling me, unlike hongdae, which is a late teens-20s crowd, yangpyeong is more 30 plus. as we were looking for parking we passed THE RITZ MOTEL, THE DYNAMIC MOTEL, and THE BEST MOTEL. the seediness was becoming more than a rumor.

as we were crossing the street, he pointed to a large neon sign and asked if i could read it. (i could.) he said it means 'massage'. i asked, 'just a massage? its near quite a few motels.' 'yes (laughs) it may be illegal'.

while discussing what i like to drink at dinner, i mentioned that i really like makgeolli (or makkoli) and so we headed into a traditional korean bar. basically, it was set up with all these old contraptions that use to be common to korean life. we ordered our makgeolli and anju (in most korean bars--always if you are with a korean--you have to order anju, which is basically some food to eat along with what you drink).

bowl of makgeolli and anju

we drank and talked. we talked about kristin a bit. how she is going to be a poor lawyer. i acted out representing abused women and animal rights. 'very good person'. he told me how he went to law school, but failed the examinations to actually become a lawyer--which i thought was interesting as he is a director at a company that designs cellphone games and ring tones. then we talked about how my hangul limits shape 'my korea' in that most everyone i talk to is well educated, otherwise they wouldn't know english. amongst other assorted things. then he asked me, 'do you find korean women attractive?' 'some,' he laughs, 'there are attractive women all over the world.' we talk about that for a bit, then, 'are you okay to drink some more?' 'yes, i think so'. 'i have a friend who is fillipino that you should meet.' i went to the bathroom.

i paid the tab (as i also paid for dinner, since he had bought me dinner every time prior to this), and we left, as is so often the chronology. 'i like liquor, but it doesn't like me'. i thought this should be a t-shirt if it isn't already. 'i turn red when i drink'. 'ah, it just means you are korean'. (many koreans turn very red when they drink, even if it is one or two drinks.) 'let's go meet my friend, it is a very bad nightclub, but that is where she is'. 'okay'.

we arrive at the CARNEGIE NIGHT CLUB and it is weird. the women who great us all have red blazers on, all the male waiters look like they are at a prom, or in a wedding--paisley gray vests, with pink paisley ties. the club is extremely dark, and the club area is partitioned off with giant black walls, with blue neon piping. we are lead to a table, and we sit down--no friend of his in sight. we sit for a minute, then park tells one of the women in red blazers something. he turns to me 'we are going to get a private room, it is too loud out here.' it is loud. the patrons are korean couples, mostly, in the 40s or 50s, completely dressed up, doing the fox-trot to house remixes of WHO LET THE DOGS OUT.

we get in the room, and it is basically a u-shaped couch, with a table, a closed circuit feed of all the action on the dance floor, and two microphones. essentially, it is like a deluxe nor-ae bang (singing room). a moment later, a bottle of whiskey, some iced teas, some green tea, a carton of milk, and a fruit tray arrives.

the spread

'do you want to get girls?' 'um...' 'or do you just want to sit in here and drink?' 'um...' i have no idea what this means. especially given the occupation of most fillipinos in korea. lots of scenarios are running through my head. most of them involve things that i shouldn't be doing until kristin gets here.

'do you normally get girls?' 'yes, it is common.' ohfuckohfuckohfuck. 'okay, let's get some girls.' a minute later this ridiculously cute girl enters the room and sits down right next to me. ' you need some more room?' 'maybe he doesn't like girls,' park says. 'i could be a man if that makes you more comfortable,' she says. i am now in some adolescent-psycho-sexual drama.

we start to drink, i am being feed fruit, things could be worse. he keeps being called 'mr park' and i decide for the rest of the night to call him 'chairman park'. i'm on the verge of thinking everything will be fine, then chairman park leaves the room. i light a cigarette, so at least i have a weapon. 'you need to calm down.' and i should. but the only time anyone has ever said this to me has been in my strip-club experiences, which i haven't had in years. 'well, i just have never been in a place like this, so i don't know anything.' 'well, you seem like a good one, and mr park is very kind.' 'oh, there are some real assholes here?' 'yes, some just say to me 'how much?' just like that. the owner hates me, because i won't sleep with anyone in here. i am just here to work tables. and i tell them, 'no, no, no. julia doesn't do that.'' i am relieved. she is just here to hang out. chairman park comes back in. he is married with two kids, i wouldn't have known how to react to that. we sing songs, and all sorts of shit.

i go to the bathroom, and look to the neon white disc in the middle of the dance floor where earlier a heavy-set korean man in a shiny white suit was singing TOM JONES. currently, there is a stripper/dancer. she is wearing a jeweled g-string and bedazzled pasties. this was quite surprising. my experience in korea is generally you can get a handjob when you get your haircut, or go to the numerous whore-houses (there are two around the corner from my apartment), but pronography is off limits, and there aren't any strip-clubs. i suppose 'cabaret' gives them enough wiggle room. in the bathroom i look up and see two korean men gazing at my dick, they give me thumbs up.

as the night goes on, i find out i look like bruce willis, am handsome according to the male waiter, and cute, but not frightening. bruce willis threw me for a loop. we get outside, late, and chairman park says, 'i have had too much to drink. do you have money for a taxi?' 'yes, what are you gonna do?' 'sleep in my car'.

Friday, October 3, 2008

went to the gym and it didn't work out

tried to sweat it out, which i did, but for different reasons. i joined a gym a few days ago, and decided since i was out last night, but not too wounded, i should go initiate myself at the gym. (i have not been to a gym since i lived in baltimore, 2005-06?)

i know how to get to the gym from school, but school is past the gym, so i tried to find it from my apartment. it took a little while, about 40 minutes or so, carting my clothes, a towel, soap, etc on my back, but eventually i found it.

i walked downstairs and went to turn in my membership card for a locker, but the woman working that desk said (at least) 'no' and sent me back up stairs. the women behind the front desk, i am sure, tried to explain to me why my card wouldn't work, but damned if i know (the stroller). eventually she shows me a calendar, and i know today is a national holiday, so perhaps that is why. i motion to my wallet, and yes i can pay to workout today. nothing much, just 4500 won (about 4.50). i get my receipt (which the woman downstairs showed me before i went upstairs) and head back downstairs. i turn in my receipt, the woman who originally sent me upstairs is smiling. my locker was number 63, i walked in the men's locker room.

there are no benches really, and you take off your sneakers before you enter (reason 63 i need to get some flip-flops sent over). kids are sitting on the floor changing, there are a few men about. pretty light day, which i wanted. i am nervous enough going to a gym the first few times, add to that i am a sweater, and in a foreign country, and it is all underlined the more.

i change, carry my sneakers to the small hallway between the main hallway and the locker room, put them on, and am ready to go. i walk out into the hallway with my water bottle, towel, and iPod and the woman shakes her head 'no'. i'm confused. i make motions that are to convey 'running' and 'weights' and thankfully there is a guest at the desk who says, 'you want to train today?'
'ahh, no, not today. just swimming.'
damn holidays.
i smile a bit crooked and head back in, making sure to take off my sneakers first, change, and walk out. the woman at the desk hands me back my receipt after i give her the locker key. she motions that i should stop at the front desk with my receipt to get my money back.
lightly giggling, thinking i should be annoyed, but am not, i head back to the front desk and she is on the phone, i assume with the lady from the desk in the basement. we are both smiling as she refunds me money, and then i walk home.

from an article entitled 'Why Do Expats Here Complain so Much'

most of it is obvious, and aimed more towards the 22yo who came here after college for some quick cash, but the article becomes quite useful when writing about the last 50 years of korea to give some perspective:

A cursory look at Seoul shows a fantastically futuristic city. Peole carry around crazy technological gizmos. The internet works at blinding speed. Everywhere you go there are flat-screen panels showing moving images. . . Upon seeing this spectacle, it is only reasonable to expect Korea to be a fully modern country, and for its citizens to behave in a fully modern way.

But this outlook could not be more misleading. This is really the point that anyone who wishes to understand modern Korea must know - Korea has only become this way in the last 15 years. All those born and raised in the pre-modern era are not only still around, but they are people who are in their 50s and 60s, leading the country.

Few people, including younger Koreans themselves, understand this point: only 50 years ago, Korea. . .occupied the place in the world where the poorest African countries are now.

There is a Korean expression describing poeverty - a person is so poor that "his anus would tear out." This expression came to be when Korean people were starving, and they would peel tree bark, boil it and eat it. Since tree bark has a lot of indigestable fiber, one's anus bleeds. This is the kind of world in which Koreans in their 50s and 60s used to live. Can any expat from a wealthy country (regardless of how poor s/he may have been in that country) imagine the worldview of a child growing up in this level of deprivation?

Miraculously, Korea managed to pull itself out of such abject poverty into the wealth is currently enjoys. However; that was not a normal development. This incredible, borderline mutative economic growth could not have happened without the attendent mutative changes in Korean society and culture. A country does not go from $87 per capita GDP in 1962 to $24,783 per capita GDP in 2007 without instances of things that appear strange and not readily comprehensible.

Truly, this is the keystone in understanding any aspect of modern Korea. . . . Accordingly, almost all complaints about Korea are related to this central keystone in one way or another. For example: "Koreans drive like maniacs!" But the vast majority of Koreans did not start driving until the early 1980s.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

one of my co-teachers just came up to me with a smile and said 'famous celebraty suicide today, so everyone is talking about that'

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

it must be the start of art season in the united states. why else would i have dreamt last night that i performed? conrad would argue that i did perform, i am sure. he likes to argue things that cannot be disputed one way or the other. after all, i was not around to verify that i did not perform, only to awake in my bed later on. who is to say i didnt take a trip back home last night? perhaps i hit a wormhole. perhaps i didnt take a trip at all, and numerous people came to seoul, just to see me perform. i cant believe those cunts havent contacted me since. i have plenty of reason to be happy here with friends like those.

where was it? i dont know. i know i had a coatrack. i know i had a coatrack and a small television screen, similar, but not the very ones, that i see numerous koreans using on the subway to watch television programs--do i know they are television programs?. i will believe they are. believing they are watching television programs, i had a screen, similar, but not the very ones, koreans use on the subway to watch television programs. it was affixed to my coatrack. the venue's coatrack. the coatrack was made of wood, like the one on leawood. a tripod, only two of the tripod's legs were separate pieces of wood, the main beam--mast?--was abused by a craftsman to make it bend, or perhaps they cut and sanded the main beam, doesnt matter, to create one unified piece of wood which served at one and the same time as the main beam--mast?--and the third leg of the tripod. the small television screen, similar, as we know by now, to the ones koreans use on the subway to watch television programs, was affixed to the coatrack, above the coathooks. a digital INRI. but why not plasma? after all, if it was korea, LG and numerous other companies surely (the confidence) have plasma television screens. but that is not what i want to go on about.

my set list, as i refer to it, wishing i was a musician, was nailed below the coathooks. looking back on it, if i was to perform this performance, should i ever have really performed it, again, i would switch where the television screen--no, not again--and the set list as a nod to my catholic roots. but since i may have very well performed in seoul, i am glad the, ahem, television screen was placed on top, merging my catholic upbringing with a nod to paik nam june's multi-media sculptures.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

last night i was taken out by my korean male co-workers. only 1 speaks any english, and his english is limited. all day i have been wondering what the plan is. they can't tell me. at 4:30, when i leave, i can't find any of the male teachers. finally, one tells me to sit on a bench, another says, 'go to cigarette haus-uh' which is the male teacher's lounge. another stops me at points me somewhere else. its very comical to be the reason for a welcoming party and see disorganization and have no idea where you are supposed to be. eventually they all come running down in waves of two or three, they are all talking, i am sitting on a bench. one of them pulls up, 'KE-bin! get in!'.

there are about 14 of us at a chinese restaurant, and we manage to eat a ton of food (ike 6 courses) in about an hour. before we/they ordered they kept trying to ask me what i like and what i wanted to drink. had no idea how to communicate to them i am not picky. korea, from what i understand, has made it impossible to continue the vegetarian, towards veganism*, path i was on.

'words words words Kevin'
'words words words Thurston'
'words Kevin words Thurston'
'uh...what do we call you?'

at one point one of the korean teachers (hangul teachers) starts speaking very passionately, addressing the entire table. about 6 people get very engaged in this conversation. i am, of course, half-worried that i am the subject matter (the egotistical nature of paranoia), but that eventually subsides. the conversation, however, continues. and it continues. for 15 minutes i have no idea what is being said, but it is either: very important or another dull debate. i giggled as i taught one of the grades a few idioms this week, one of them being 'talk shop' and to explain it i used the sentence:
'She hates it when her husband's co-workers come over, all they do is sit around and talk shop.'
i broke it down to the key word of 'co-workers' to point to the specialized topic of conversation that makes one feel outside. at this point i am analyzing, why did i pick 'her husband'? am i sexist? and now am i in the classic position of the (male) artist who is feminized? i continue to giggle as there is no way i can explain my giggling, just as they couldn't explain even the basics of their conversation to me. i'm sure i could've at least gotten the topic from the one teacher who speaks limited english. he is a p.e. teacher (i like that they dont say gym teacher). finally, the hangul teacher who started the entire conversation says, 'give me cigarette!', i said out loud, but only for my benefit and the p.e. teacher's, 'that's the first thing i've understood in 15 minutes.' it quickly gets translated and we all laugh.

after dinner we kind of all just leave, but in a group. similiar to when we left school for the restaurant. i'm not sure if we are done for the evening or what. some people are leaving leaving. i begin to drift away. 'KEVIN! billiard bah!'

i have never played billiards, only 'pocket pool'. i am not good at this game. i got better as the night went along, but it was another opportunity for me to play 'smiling like a foreigner'. billiards is a big game amongst my co-workers. they are putting english on the ball, fade right, fade left, draws, all of it. i am getting taught by the p.e. teacher.
'what do you call spin on the ball?'
'uh, i'm sorry'
'okay, baseball. fastball (act out the trajectory), curveball (act out the trajectory).'
'ah, in korean?'
'(word is forgotten), but why don't we call it engish?'
i smile. so does he. i am getting the hang of it. its a good game. the difference is in pool you only plan 4 shots ahead, but shoot directly for 1 ball. here you need to hit two balls with the cue ball each time you hit it to get a point. you need to plan 2 things per 1 shot.

one of the teachers is an art teacher. he told me earlier this week, 'Action painter!'. in between shots i ask him, 'action painter?'
'do you have photos, pictures of your work?'
'action painter, no photo-realism'
'i know, do you have picture of your paintings?'
'okay you paint (make gesture) it goes on a wall (gesture post-painting it hangs) then (pull out camera) picture of painting'
'ah (gestures for the p.e. teacher)'
(to p.e. teacher) 'okay, i know he is an action painter. i want to know is if he has photographs (pulls out camera) photographs of his paintings (re-inacts the earlier gesutres)'
'sorry, i don't understand'
i'm thinking about beckett. the layers he wrote about from thought>hand>pen>page>reformatted and published>page>to eye> to brain. that all assumes a common language. i am asking a man to ask another man on my behalf if the original man has photographs of his paintings. that is rather complex.

we switch tables. now i am playing with the art teacher who is a hoot. each time it is my turn, he helps me map it out, and he yells. 'KEVIN! VERY LIGHT! (pointing the trajectory cushion by cushion) BING-BING-BING-POW!' i am nearly on the floor, so are the other teachers. i'm losing about 19-2. he only needs one more point. 'KEVIN! ONE MORE POINT, WINNER!' he raises his arms in exclamation, puts a hole in the ceiling with the cue. all of us spit up pineapple soda, choke on our cigarettes, etc.

the hour ends, we all leave, i get driven home. in silence.

* i have been thinking one of things that allows veganism in the us, canada and the uk are they incredibly cheap prices we pay for imported foods.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


mokes me doy

as soon as i realize i haven't used a fork in nearly a month 'tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree' plays in the mandu house

genuine longing
two whore houses
[around the corner]
shy of a cell phone

'you need to provide 6 exam questions for each grade, 2 from each lesson'
'i've only taught two lessons'
'we need them by tomorrow'

if you don't go for just looks, what to do when you don't speak the language?

the haraboji shakes
canned peaches,
visit nana

Sunday, September 14, 2008

i have been getting lots of gifts. drinking too much every other night, i am taking tonight off and making tea with the ginseng. i decided to buy the strangest noodles i could find today in the grocery store. they were 'italian spaghetti'. it came with corn. the tomato sauce was soy based. i may make an artists book with this absurd amount of seaweed.

today i spent alot of time talking with some friends back home (thanks, skype). and have been having difficulties sleeping, so i had a video chat a few days ago with my mom. and have been having difficulties sleeping, so i had a video chat a few days ago with my mom at 515am. it was nice to talk to people that i know well. i miss them. there are alot of good people here too. friday i met park again for dinner, then we went to his house to study. first i met him at his office. i walked out of the subway station and took guesses at who looked nice. then i would walk up to them. then i would say hello (in korean). then i would hold out park's business card. 'we're chinese, sorry.' then i would walk up to them. then i would say hello (in korean). 'are you looking for this man?' it sounded sinister. i am glad i dont carry weapons. 'yes' 'he is in that building over there, on the 11th floor' 'thanks'

view from park jin-woo's office

at his home his wife was kind, but knew no english, so i just kept saying thank you (in korean) over. and over. and over. i felt like a foreigner. his children, after 15 minutes, came out to look at me. they just looked at me. after 15 minutes. they didn't have an expression on their face. i think i sounded like a hairy fool mis-pronouncing basic korean.

i am the kind foreigner. i know. i have been told. teachers at school say this to each other in korean. i get a report from one of my co-teachers. i thought of my friend iwan who had some limited english when i first met him. everyone thought he was very nice. he would smile and be kind. i am the same way. i am also polite to women. there is a small walkway in the teacher's office that two people cannot go use at the same time. i deferred to one of the teachers. she and one of my co-teachers looked at each other and laughed after.

'should i have barreled her over?'
'no, you are just very polite. it was nice of you'

i have a project that i started when i was in the united states of america. it is not finished. it was put on hold when i had to get a new computer and the software i use wouldnt transfer. i dont like the linux programs, largely because i am not comfortable with them. im already learning a foreign, very foreign language. that is enough. however i will eventually get paid. these are some of the signs i will use.

i brought the following books to read:
diderot 'jacques the fatalist'
beckett 'the complete short prose'
wittgenstein 'philosophical investigations'
douglas 'purity and danger'
williams 'pictures from brueghel'
derrida 'glas'
lendler 'crisis and political beliefs'
dostoyevsky 'the idiot'
dostoyevsky 'the devils'
sachs 'the man who mistook his wife for a hat'
acker 'great expectations'
brathwaite 'trench town rock'
fitterman 'metropolis 16-29'

help me decided what to read first