Vices we love: September 2005

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I'm getting annoyed again

So this is not usually a political blog because I more or less gave up on politics after 61,000,000 Americans took a look at the last 4 years and said "You know that was pretty good." I threw up my hands, burned some science books and moved to Asia. But every once in a while, I'll read something like this and manage, despite myself, to get pissed off ALL OVER AGAIN. Not good for the blood pressure. Not healthy. Here is a city that everyone knew was going to sink, being that it was built on a swamp below sea level. And now people are SHOCKED that it actually happened. Please. And the little old lady in the story? I remember sitting around in the wonderfully named War Memorial Building of the Tennessee legislature (no prizes for guessing which war-look, there is a bronze statute of Nathan Bedford Forrest, general, Klan founder, traitor and mass murderer!) when I found myself-how these things happen, I do not know- in conversation with a southern Republican.

"Well, we're all a bunch of rich racists you know."
"At least you're being honest. I gotta respect that."
(Shit-eating grin) "I was being sarcastic."
"Oh. My bad."

You know that picture speaks a thousand words thingie? Nope, I'm not even going to mention Yahoo, except for their great Chinese adventure.

Oy. Gotta lie down now.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Lots o' interesting stuff going on involving (thus far), the pension board, the labor board, the local police, the school, the recruiter and my Busan-accented friend. If I get out of this place with all my digits intact I'll write about it from China. Just got the visa and the plane ticket. I'll be staying in Beijing, hopefully not far from the CELTA center on 3rd ring road. (Beijing is arranged, as far as I can tell, around 5-and counting- circular roads as the city expands in every direction to the point that BJ is now only seventy miles east of the Gobi desert, a place I intend to hike and get lost in eventually.)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Mobsters Inc.

There are two ways of doing things in Korea. The legal way and the Korean way.

We all know the legal way. After all, I am from America where the economy is based on selling drugs, buying houses and suing the people who sold us structurally unsound houses while they were on drugs. There are so many lawyers in America that if you do not know the legal way, someone will surely tell you. This is when you write polite letters, visit various government boards, consult with soothing lawyers and generally speaking spend your life taking part in Jon Stewart's equation. ("Small claims court. Where the pathetic sue the desperate over the mundane.")

Then, there is the Korean way. My job, and I call it a job with no small amount of hesitation, was arranged by a herpes-ridden lad of Australian-Korean extraction named Jeffrey. The gig sounded great. Work from 1 to 5 with small classes in a public elementary school. Decent kids, out in the nuevo rich suburbs, and generally a ticket out of the Dancing Monkey Show that is private language schools. All for 2 million won a month, which is a not too demeaning wage. Okay so we had 120 spots and only 49 students. So what? "You worry about teaching. You no worry about business" says Jeffrey in soothing Konglish. Like the idiot I am, I no worry.

Month one passes uneventfully. I'm a star. The principal of this fine school assures me, via the non-English speaking English teacher that "the more we see you, the more we like you." Though it is a bit shocking that I do not eat rice seperately from the rest of the meal or that I do not partake in kimchi.

Month two is pleasant. I am invited to school events, concerts, days at the beach, etc. The kids are getting a bit antsy though. The familiar jadedness that is at the heart of Korean language education starts to bubble to the surface. I think Koreans have this imaginary super-fun blonde blue-eyed big breasted puppet they keep longing for. And even she won't be good enough.

Month three is rockier. Enrollment picks up but not by enough. Invitations to social events cease. Teachers who were pleasant towards me now largely ignore me. Maybe my nose is too big. Maybe I'm fat. Maybe I'm hairy. 'Tis a mystery. Classes are rougher sledding as well. I appeal to Jeffrey for equipment (all I have is a whiteboard and some markers- with this I am commanded to make class "fun.") I send a lengthy email on the wonders of tape recorders, tv's, computers, props, posters, etc. They are promptly delivered- to Michelle's classroom. This is also a time when my salary takes a 10 percent dive. Can't have that.

Month four features full out rebellion. Michelle starts to spend more time in my classroom than hers- which is not saying much considering her fondness for showing up only sporadically. Her face, never particularly attractive, starts to look pinched. Small dark eyes cast hateful glances my way. Every sentence begins with "You know, asiatown, I am very busy but I keep have to..." (work, mark papers, masturbate, teach, snort cocaine off rice cakes etc.) My salary now declines by 25 percent. I am given perplexed looks when I ask for pay stubs. I find out the hard way that Jeffrey is not paying my health insurance.

Month five, featuring the decline of civilization. (Not that it was ever at a very high level to begin with.) Enquires regarding pension payments, tax payments, health insurance and wages are met with stony silence. My excommunication is complete. Nobody even goes through the bother of pretending to be friendly to score free English lessons/make fun of whitey time. Which really hurts. I'm so used to being exploited by them, I can't bear the thought of not being used. Must be the Seoul Syndrome.

So I talk this over with one of only a handful of Koreans I know who look at me as an actual human being and not as a somewhat amusing animal that can bark out English words on command. He tells me to use "the law." Sweet, precious boy, unsoiled by life. The law fails. Miserably. I go to the labor board which asks, in all innocence "Can you talk this over with your boss?" now we switch into Korean mode. Aforementioned sweet, precious lad gets a glint in his eye. "I want to talk to this guy." Which is how we wind up at a pay phone in the dead of night. Serious discussion takes place, or would be taking place, if Jeffrey wouldn't hang up. Seems out erstwhile engineering student mentioned (best as I could tell), the Korean mafia, of which he is a tangential member. I am not sure what he said exactly, but it worked quite well because I am 700 dollars richer this morning. The only trouble is that Jeffrey is the kind of guy who never learns from experience, so I assume another phone call will become necessary.

P.S.: I am leaving for China in 2 weeks.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Geez, I stick out like a sore thumb around here

But at least I'm not alone. This is pure enlightenment. Read the 8th paragraph of part 5 and see if you can pick me out of the lineup. ("No matter......for the time being.")

Saturday, September 10, 2005

So this guy gets hit by a car

The high point of my weekend (besides escaping Iatewon unmolested) was getting hit by a car on the way home. The Korean driving style, which involves painting your nails and chatting on your cell while driving is not an ideal one. My leg is a bit sore. I don't know what it was, but even though the impact was (relatively) minor, it touched off a screaming fit which I'm sure everyone in Gyeonggi-Do province was able to hear loud and clear. Just in case I wasn't being clear to the young lady, I banged on the hood of her car with my fists and my face was somewhere between maroon and purple. And you know what? It felt really good because people are scum and I felt they should know that.

Friday, September 09, 2005

I write more letters: An open letter to the guy eyeing me outside the subway station

Dear guy eyeing me outside the subway station:

First, let me tell you how flattered I am. It is not often that I am "checked out" so blatantly that I actually take notice, but your transparent oogling was evident, even to myself, despite the fact that I suffer from a mild, and still debilitating combination of autism and agoraphobia, I was still able to notice. There I was, just outside the train station, working up the courage to go into Caliente's (the best and only salsa club in Korea), when I saw you look me up and down. And side to side. You saw me. I saw you. You smiled. I frowned studiously. This was a truly difficult moment for me.

You see, even though I had my ego flattered (stroked!) by your blatant oogling, I am still in no way attracted to men. How could I be? I'm a man. I know what dirtbags we are. As well, I have been preoccupied with thoughts of a specific young lady for some time now. But that is beside the point. The point is, I was flattered, in spite of my disinterest. You not only made (a portion of) my evening, but gave me something to blog about. For this, I thank you.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Say anything

I was informed on this, one of the waning days of my employment, that my school would be holding a speech contest where my brilliance will finally shine like a diamond (or zirconium). Michelle gave me the script for each class so they can memorize it. The grammar, spelling and overall syntax almost made me cry. Oh well. They will memorize and recite this butchered prose to baffled parents who will think that I'm the cat's (miguk) pajamas just before my employer's knife enters one inch below my right shoulderblade.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Oy joy

Finally, Europeans can rejoice. A new day has dawned, bringing with it a fresh resource for true, pure Europeans. Behold, the Internet Jew Database. A dandy tool for verifying if certain Hungarian celebrities and politicians are of Jewish origin or not. The criteria for inclusion on this list is the same one used half a century ago. "A person is deemed to be Jewish if we think that s/he is Jewish."

I have been away way too long and even after looking through their mother site ( for hours, I still cannot tell if this is satire or not. The lead article at matula is Making New Meadows Jew-free an act which is pretty old-school. Can't those guys do something their grandparents haven't already thought of?

Worry not children. In due time, I could be living in peace. I wonder if they have kimchi pots buried in their organic garden.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Many of you know about the hurricane down near New Orleans. A very dear friend of mine has most of her family in Mississippi and I have been trying to send links to her about organizations that may be of help to them, but it it frustrating to send it piecemeal, one link after another. Therefore, if you know of organizations (be they obvious like the Red Cross or an obscure charity), please post a link to them in the comments section so that she can read them in one place.

Thank you.

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