Saturday, 31 January 2009

why i should buy a fucking laptop

One potato two potato three potato four! Five potato six potato seven potato more!!
Everyday for the last few weeks I've been besieged. This song blasts through one wall in the morning and another near lunch as I teach my kindergarten kids. As they listen to the other kids sing along I wouldn't be surprised if they wonder

Why can't we listen to that?

Because I don't teach maths and you're going to hear it yourself when you change classrooms later on for the umpteenth time again! Anyway I'm clapping like a seal myself to the tune. One potato two potato!! I'll sing absent of mind as the kids do their colouring in. Great ditty, top of the pops.


Live from the PC Bang...

A flock of boys carrying balloons ask me where I'm from.

'You look handsome'.
'Kamsamneeda' (thank you).
'OK', making the hand shape.

A pudgy boy keeps staring at my screen.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

one month down

had to pay a fine today at the DVD place. my copy of, um, Hairspray was overdue by one day. ahem. so i was slapped a 1000 won fine.

yesterday i had my first Noraebang experience. loved it. off the top of my head i sang Wonderwall, Toxic, Heard it Through the Grapevine, Come As You Are, Somebody Told Me, Easy Lover, Abracadabra, Sexyback and two Maroon 5 songs. in a childish mood i also picked a few rap numbers - Nelly's Dilemma, Forgot About Dre and Gold Digger. this was a dumb idea, and i hadn't considered the issue of using the 'N' slur in the lyrics to the latter 2 tracks. felt really awkward when they came up. id never rapped Dre's verses in private you see, plus im more used to the Kanye West radio edit where he goes 'She aint messing wit no broke-broke', which sounds 10x cooler. so a word of warning there for everyone reading.

with most places closed for Lunar New Year i found myself wandering the streets, craving spicy tuna/kimchi soup. as i peered through a window at one particular menu, scrawled phonetics on a note in my hand, a kind Korean guy came over to help. alas he went above the call of duty and i followed the guy up and down in the cold for ages as he rambled to himself looking for my particular dish. and i swear, every 2 seconds he was hacking up big globs of spit onto the road and spurting his nostril with one finger. it was ridiculous! luckily i had gloves on when he handed me back the note. i ended up eating at Uncle Tomato anyway.
back to DVDs, i watched 8 Femmes today, a French murder mystery musical. loved these 2 numbers -

Sunday, 25 January 2009

pratfall II

ten minutes after writing yesterday's entry i went outside and slipped up again thanks to a metal lid in the ground. really cracked my anus that did. then i had to return to the scene of the crime cos i lost my phone in the fall, which by awesome good luck i found buried beneath the white.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

winter will set you back

i write this after falling on my buns 20 minutes ago. it snowed here so like a twat i walked within the wide yellow parking line of the road when leaving my flat, slipping onto my side and fumbling up on my feet in the middle of the road as two cars came charging from both directions...

ok, i exaggerate. i didnt tumble over into the middle of the road, and the two cars were driving rather slowly in the distance.

i just couldnt have waited to cross over onto the pavement, could i? dumb shit.

lucky. and luckily the DVD rental in my pocket hadn't snapped. Saw IV, fucking disgusting film. yesterday i rented Shoot 'Em Up, a 2007 flop with Clive Owen, Monica Bellucci and that guy from Sideways. quite possibly the worst film i've ever seen. brought it back after a shitty half hour.

im now in a PC Bang, as usual filled with kids and grown men gaming for hours on end. kids usually sit in the DVD place as well at night, reading comics. it's more of a book library if anything.

as for the kids at school....gotta love the fat ones.

Friday, 23 January 2009


to keep myself from daily pestering the gorgeous waitresses at Uncle Tomato, I ventured into a Korean/Japanese place called Cobaco. small with a TV by the kitchen, the owner was grateful for my presence, perhaps humbled, helping me with the menu, English translations beneath nice pictures of cutlets and soups and the like. as he spoke English well i did ask for suggestions but unfortunately the situation ballooned into him asking his wife over who in turn rang her son in New York to help me pick out a meal.

(i'd like to mention i did point to noodles & fried shrimp more than once but they didn't seem too keen on me having this).

despite my best attempts to wave away the mobile phone, explaining i understood my options, i just swallowed and grabbed the phone for an awkward conversation with their twenty-something son in the States, who spoke remarkable well. maybe too well. he sounded like a worldly city boy, put out to speak to some idiot English teacher who needs everything pointed out to him.

i have since felt a duty to attend there every 2 days not just because the food is good but out of duty cos i did say i'd return the next day. when i didn't after my first taster, i managed to bump into the owner during lunch break later in the week. felt like a right bald faced foreign liar. tally thus far -

Cobaco 4, Uncle Tomato 7. maybe 8.

maybe i'll suggest to the guy they could do with some younger, sexier staff.

Monday, 19 January 2009

clearing of the throat

2080 Dongeuisaengkum toothpaste keep the 20 healthy teeth till 80 years old

...disturbed by a dream where i was teaching, and certain of my kinder kids looked up with Caucasian eyes, Westernised. i didn't say anything, told not to, carrying on...


under my immature delusion of being some sort of younger Louis Theroux , i attended a Korean church service near home. 7 floors tall, it was packed with attendees standing, shuttling in their own criss-crossing paths on the hubbub of the bottom floor, a dumpling stall by the way in.

a lift to the 5th floor with a very lovely new friend, i met more nice folk as i was given headphones to tune into the English translation. always uneasy with headphones, i only tuned into bursts of the transmission, coming from a booth in the back, looking to seem polite. signal was weak and scratchy anyway, like a pirate broadcast on AM waves.

a band played Korean songs of worship, awkward subtitles on the projection screen above the packed out crowd.

one man spoke of being a smoker before he found faith.

i tried to give the usherette of sorts a saucy eye.

when the sermon was delivered, i kept on sitting silent, just soaking up the settings. preacher spoke of Jesus and the loaves, the seeds of faith, stories I knew from assembly. made a joke at one point. what stayed with me was how he spoke certain words, stressed in a way that came out like he was clearing his throat. i remember another preacher who did the same at a smaller church I was invited to, attended during my first week as i tried to find my feet in this new home i'm in. odd, almost like they were lapsing into tongues in each case. is this to convey passion or wrath?

service ends with a troupe of two dozen women all dressed in white, singing with a synchronised dance routine, all arms and rooted into place, occasionally padding back/forth a few steps. as i walked out i was approached by girls who all compared me to Sir David Beckham. well of course!

my steps home were chipper, as the woman frying bungeoppang said hello from inside her Punch & Judy Kei truck and unknown kids said hi at traffic lights. i felt part of my zone, deluded or not.


Same Sunday I went to my nearest Emart to investigate for the first time. nothing interesting but walking around the shop i felt....pregnant. or at the least incubating some rosy flu, very similar to the vibe i get from 'Do It' by Nelly Furtado. this was the most serene, pleasant state i've ever felt. when I lived in Reading for my 3 years at Uni I sure felt at home. i knew it inside out, my first shot at independence. but this was a different sensation, a realisation.

im in fucking Korea! im actually working, not living between essays/exams, the churning years of education. this is a whole new arena. im far from home, the trappings of comfort. and while this was a comforting state to be in, im not in a new cul de sac of inertia and routine. im just happy, instead of ducking between lows and the odd rare high. now ive marked out my groove i can think about reaching for heights, for challenges, for heady laughs.

so, i was in this dizzying world of a new Emart looking for toothpaste, finding a brand called 2080. the lettering shines out gold, and it tastes of caramel and herbs. couldnt help gag when i first tried it.

they really like to brush their teeth out here. 3 times a day. my fellow teachers do it with the kids at lunch. i've seen an optician doing so at midday, which surely can't be good for those who use the little sink he was bent over when they try out for contact lenses. last night i even saw a butcher lathering up his mouth behind his counter in another local mart, just standing there staring ahead, foaming his mouth minty.

and they know how to sell stuff out here. in every Emart you'll see a girl in a ra ra mini-skirt and no tights. it's too much for a man to take! the one on Sunday was giving out sanitary samples. in the past i've seen them offer nightime milk (using the same bottle cap all the other shoppers have been slurping from, oh eek).

maybe that's why i was so happy?

Friday, 16 January 2009

the hunger

never one to turn down a free meal, i went for spaghetti with my school director the other night. for an hour or so i tried to understand what she was saying as i guzzled, digested my delicious meal. excellent sauce.

she took me to a coffee shop where we again attempted communication. i had peppermint tea and she had hot chocolate. the sip i tasted of her cocoa was the most divine sip of my life. and a beautiful girl sat on the elevated floor to my left as i sifted through a book of aspirational quotes down the ages. Notting Hill ran on my boss' laptop.


hungry at 4pm for a snack, i bought a bag of garlic bread bites from the store opposite my school. ambling up the stairs, the elementary kids went wild seeing me with food, gathering round me like vultures for a share of the goodies. in less than a minute i was left with nothing, but the 3 or so bites i did have tided me over til 6.


i think Uncle Tomato might be getting worried.

day after my spaghetti, i had takeaway with the teachers - another free meal - and then last night i ate Korean (or Japanese), tucking into a bowl of fried rice and kimchi & spawn, my first time and my, what a dish. and the soup provided was unique, a taste hard to describe and so divine i asked the owner what was in it. guy had no idea.

earlier in the day i was lucky to see another foreigner in the area. she stood at a bus stop, pretty girl, same age bracket. my pathetic attempt at a friendly nod was futile from the start, seeing as she was more concerned with the Twix bar in her mouth. a pity, but to be expected. i'm cutting out the nodding, i swear.

the day ended with me bumping into 2 friendly women who invited me to their Sunday church service. they then introduced me to a stunning woman who used to live in London. she asked for my number so i obliged, hearing the baby cry from her backseat midflow.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

bunny returns

part three (SPOILERS)

tomorrow, Korea. today, more thoughts on The Dark Knight.


the Joker's scar stories actually prefigure what happens to Harvey and Rachel.

In both tales there is a helpless woman under threat and in each case the Joker's helpless. He can only watch as his father mutilates his mother, and he can't save his wife from 'the sharks'. This parallels with Harvey only being able to listen in as Rachel meets her doom.

One could say Joker sees sanity as weakness - I mean, can you imagine Joker doing nothing, cowering in fear? It just shows how completely different he was before the 'one bad day' occurred. Sane and afraid.


Would Harvey Two Face ever have considered going after Bruce on his deranged quest for justice, knowing Rachel had feelings for him?

Another thought - should Batman have taken off his mask to prove to Harvey that he wasnt the only one who 'lost everything'? In a film this prismatic though, such an action would either have defused the situation or made it 10 times worse. Sure, Gordon would find out the Bat is Bruce Wayne, but maybe Harvey Dent would have laid down his arms knowing that he wasnt the only one to have lost a loved one, knowing Bruce loved Dawes too. and knowing Bruce Wayne's tragic past, maybe he would have been reminded that tragedy doesnt have to end in horrible vengeance - it can also inspire men to fight for justice, whilst dressed up as a giant bloody bat.

fucking stupid film.

bunny begins

part 2 (SPOILERS)

like the mention of God has been proven to ignite ancient parts of the brain, the same is with me and the Bat.

when Gordon held up the Joker card at the end of Batman Begins, a whole wave of excitement flashed in my head, an explosion of possibilities. The Dark Knight was that excitement made real, all prospects promised, pitch perfect and inspired. it was that split second flash, everything i wanted (thank fuck).

as good as Begins is, essentially it's the opening part of a good/great novel. decent but there's more to come. it perfectly laid out a whole universe to play with, full of direction.

but on my 7th viewing of the film, i finally found a glaring chink in the armour. now, i rarely watch a film more than once. im pig ignorant when it comes to cinema anyway. maybe then i was actually watching and re-watching to comprehend this vast film full of stimuli and peaks and scope. i needed to rewatch so as to overcome the kneejerk emotions and blasts of awe so as to view it soberly, clinically. but as the film is so well done, i find the same exact pleasures each and every time, whilst also noticing little missed things here and there and viewing from different parts of the prism - at times, I laugh at the Joker. others, I hate him and grimace throughout, or realise with horror that he really is the only 'man of his word' in the whole of Gotham.

at times im disturbed by Harvey holding a gun at the weirdo's head before he turns Two Face. other times im not, immersed in the urgency of the situation. on some viewings i'm even angry with Batman for not taking off his mask soon enough, agreeing with Maroni after his two foot fall.

at times i'd have blown up the other boat.

and so on the 7th viewing I found a pretty poor link in the chain -

So Rachel dies. Bruce cries, Alfred serves breakfast. Joker does stuff in Gotham. And then, when we cut back to the penthouse - the very next scene to feature Bruce - him and Alfred are quipping about Lamborghinis and unsubtle Batpods.The girl hasnt even been buried yet...

Even to a guy like me, that's cold.

This is similar to when Commissioner Loeb dies earlier in the film. It's never mentioned again. We don't see Gordon or the other cops pause to reflect and grieve before/after his public funeral. Loeb's death just becomes something that happened in order for other stuff to happen, for the plot to keep unfolding on and on, never letting up when really there could be time for the characters to reflect amidst the Joker's chaos. Time does pass between his every mad scheme, but we don't see enough of it when really we need it, especially in Rachel's case before the ferry madness begins.

But I'll watch the film again. The hunger will crawl up on me and I'll need to have another viewing. Never has a film had such an effect on me. and i know it's not the all-time greatest. as much of a music nerd i am at the expense of my cinema knowledge, i still like my European & the challenging & disturbing. i like the cerebral and sensitive. i'm not that much of a pignoramus. It's just TDK is on a different level of appreciation, its own genre. it's just pure fanboy adrenaline, jacked straight into the primal and sublime in the mind. it works me up and gives my head a lot to gnaw on, philosophically and visually. the image of the amoeba-like parachute lit up blue above Hong Kong is the most beautiful shot.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

his little bunny?

i'd never travelled in such style, and never will again.

i'd been given a business class seat, a last minute surprise as i checked in at Heathrow, self-content over my ruthless packing skills, everything nicely under 20kg.

and the smug look on my face as i sat in my seat....i felt like i'd finally made it in this world. of course, such luxury brought about problems like whether it was OK to slip off my shoes, afraid i'd offend the psychiatric practitioner next to me, unsure of the exact etiquette in small quarters.

i was well chuffed to find they had The Dark Knight on the in-flight entertainment. that to me was the gorge point inside this bourgeois womb sky high. i didn't watch though as headphones pain me in the long run. well, i watched a bit.

flash forward two weeks and im watching The Dark Knight in my apartment. it's my 7th viewing. i'd just bought a DVD player and this was the baptismal. i'd made my new nest at last after coming home daily to nothing more than a few books and a cold floor out of a running battle with the heating system's Korean phonetics and baffling mechanics (now fixed, thanks Steve).

but let's flashback.

my Batman love can all be traced back to a London library. i was...7? younger? my dad had walked off and i was browsing the comics alone. i picked up a Batman comic, probably aware of the Burton films, maybe caught in glimpses, their toy-town screwball and undercurrents of subconscious lurks already present in my mind. perhaps. maybe that's why i felt at home with the darkness in the comic book i found - a bloody chainsaw-hockey mask maniac stalking Gotham, Batman on the case. just flicking through those pages with a curious unease set it all off. the blood, the Gotham derelict, the yellow chest symbol. that's when it was all sewn.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Uncle Tomato

i enjoy going to Seoul, Bojeon, Jukjeon, the Hyundai car factory etc. but as for my neighbourhood, my gu, well it was hard to adjust to at nighttime, walking around, alien, with only my bare apartment to end the evening in, the sole tenant in the whole building (!) i was cold inside and out after a day of fun teaching. but then i found Uncle Tomato, peering out the window as the kids played Uno behind me, their curriculum finished as of Christmas. the name made me smile, thinking of the Stereolab album Emperor Tomato Ketchup, big bulbous tomatoes reddening its banners, a diner on the third floor on the street opposite my school. surely they don't serve pasta, i thought.

and then, the next night, or maybe the same, i was looking for a meal around the corner from my place. so why not? and the moment i walked in, my soul was saved.

pink purply doors, glittery walls, the place is like Santa's grotto, with little kitsch raindeer behind glass, lined up with bottles of rare olive oil and peppers preserved, little fat chef toys, lovely cushions to sit back on - the place is just warm. and the menu - pastas, pilaf, risotto. and the wonderful waitresses, and the owner with her chic Korean craze glasses. i've been three times and i even have a stamp card so i get freebies. i've never been a restaurant regular before but this could be my Monk's cafe, making me George Costanza.

So I proudly present Uncle Tomato. Photos tomorrow, along with snaps of my obscure little hood

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

the horror

am i the only alien in my neighbourhood? no, i saw an other today, much older guy outside a pizza place who barely registered my presence. vice versa - the guy wasn't the hot Australian/Canadian/young cute Brit I was hoping would lurk in my district of Mabuk-Dong. as such my heart did not flutter as i thought it would after 9 days of walking around as the odd one out by far.

when i arrived i was taken to a cold raw fish place. my apartment was colder. i went to bed on a weird stomach, woke to walk to some French named place, bought a sweet pizza and loaf. this disturbed sleeping pattern still dogs me to this moment, so excuse the er doldrum beat of this entry.

why did i come here? just to say i could do it. i thought i could do it, but i've had my moments of weakness. i am only human, and really to perk me up I need a hot Australian/Canadian/young cute Brit to be teaching at my school or at least be seen from afar on a semi regular basis.

no, im giving the wrong attitude here. this is the best job i've had since graduation, where back in the UK i was trapped in a Kafkian loop of being either over-qualified or under-qualified. i wanted to get out there then, get some control back instead of waiting around for a suit to give me some reasonable enough pension job which'd dampen my dreams til middle age.

my enthusiasm for application forms waned from the outset of Uni and inside I was always excited by doing this, to teach kids and live somewhere completely different for a year, as far away as possible from the no-man land of my hometown.

i had the best New Year's ever here. i mean, plus points for being in Korea in the first place, and then to be gathered up in a tribal street dance/political protest with a couple of cool chaps before heading out into the banging club scene of Hyundai. well, in that weather and my multi-layered getup i was hardly positioned for a banging night out. some American loudmouth said as such as we went up the lift to an igloo cut-out club on the tip of cutting edge - "TAKE YOUR FUCKING SHOES OFF MAN!!!" he screamed. Oh piss off, cracked up twat.

Inside older seasoned teachers danced to some remix of the new Coldplay, all looking as cool as the club. I felt this was New York, an Andy Warhol club with it chic warm decor, the igloo caverns clubbers sat in, white light, drapes, tunnel entrance. i was there with thermal socks and no drink in hand, but still buzzing from the lovely chaos of earlier.

Leaving the club we saw a running gag of Ho Bars around the zone, Ho Bar to Ho Bar IV, barely apart from one another. From my sneak peak inside Ho Bar 3, I was dashed by a severe shortage of hos in the building.

the evening left us stranded in Burger King, waiting for the 5am train. when i got home at 7, i slept straight through to 9 that New Year evening, a whole day of my life lost to sleep, just lost.

i should sleep now, though there's a lot more to write. i really need a laptop quick