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.