Thursday, December 30, 2010


got a wonderful package from home yesterday.

full of favorites throughout my lifetime, including:

Town House Crackers

Useless Fact Book

Non-Pareils (large sno-cap chocolates)

Dumbo Books

Ping Pong & Mini Golf Desk Games

Perry the Platypus (from Disney's Phineas & Ferb show) keychain

Thanks Mom!

Of course, she sent a wonderful card for my birthday, which is in less than 2 weeks now.

And I got this all-too-adorable picture from my baby sister which I could file under "Perks of My Parents' Accident" but I love her too much to do that.

Anyway, today was my last day of teaching for the semester (tomorrow is Closing Ceremonies, etc).

Course, I have Winter Camp teaching for the next two weeks but that's not officially school I suppose.

It was a great semester - my first teaching ever - and I learned enough about myself and the art of teaching to realize how good of a fit the job is for me. If it ends up being my career in the future, I think I could be quite happy - if not, well, it's always there as a backup.

Perhaps my next blogpost will be listing some memories from the semester, but I gotta prepare that.

So that's it for now - New Years' Eve festivities are coming soon and then my birthday follows quickly.

I'll be partaking in what I'll call my "Birthday Week" (because why should it relegated to only one day) that I learned from my college roommate John Collins. Updates on that pending as well.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

miscellaneous monday

Pearl Jam played the final concert played at the old Chicago Stadium on March 10, 1994.

Each book in Dante’s Divine Comedy ends with the word stars.

Dorothy Parker was 4'11".

“Of all the noises known to man, opera is the most expensive.” — Moliere

The word "murcous" is an adjective to describe someone/something lacking a thumb

“All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.” — Emerson (he also said, "i hate quotations" - supposedly)

En route to a training camp in Quebec during World War I, Canadian army lieutenant Harry Colebourn bought a bear cub for $20 from a hunter in White River, Ontario.
He named her Winnipeg, after his hometown, and smuggled her to England, where “Winnie” became the mascot of his militia regiment.
Eventually he donated her to the London Zoo, where she became a great favorite of Christopher Robin Milne, the son of a local playwright.

Perhaps you know the rest.

“Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men. The other 999 follow women.” — Groucho Marx

Miles Davis credited Jimi Hendrix as being an influence on his 1970 album Bitches Brew, which became a landmark feat in Jazz music - challenging notions of the past. Perhaps the most intelligible of these influences is on this track called Miles Runs the Voodoo Down - (this is part 1 or 2). For any fan of jazz, funk or what can unquestionable be called talented music - it's a helluva song.


I had a chance to talk to some friends from home this weekend. If any of them happen to read this, it was a great pleasure to see everyone.

And a personal shoutout to Aaron Zucker, who even 7,000 miles away has the uncanny ability to make me laugh as hard as I did when we were 10.

i'll write something up about my Christmas weekend soon.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Guri Times: A New Beacon of Journalism

This month marks the arrival of a new wind upon the international journalism scene. The very first English newspaper publication of my highschool was published.

The Guri Times (see future wikipedia entry: Debut, The Greatest Ever Newspaper) promises a once-a-semester publication detailing the lives of its namesakes students, faculty and cultural climate.

Its writing, well, it's something to be seen.

Okay. I'll stop that there. I am actually really proud of the students for putting the whole thing together. It was not easy - and I would know since I edited each draft. The newspaper is the work of about 8 students and one of my co-teachers and they really did put a lot of work into it.

And the English really isn't that bad.

So, for your disclosure, these are the features of the inaugural issue of The Guri Times:

- Letter from the school Principal - translated, of course, into English

- Interview with the new President and Vice-President of the Student Body

- An Interview with Eric (me) and a short essay I wrote about my first two months at school

- Science Specials ( Guri High School becoming Science Specialized; Water Found on the Moon; The Life of Isaac Newton; and my favorite, an article entitled: "Food, the Main Cause of Korean's Pimple")

- a foldout information sheet about the G20 Summit in Seoul

- Four Essays by Students about School Life

- 13 Question Mind Test (which will be repeated in its entirety below)

- "Successful Top 10 Movies In The World" - a short review of the top ten grossing movies ever (example: #4 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: "It feels the lack of something. Compare the original work and this, the original work is better"..... the entire write-up for The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King": This movie leaves a message like this 'Though someone is very small, weak and worthless, if someone has brave, belief and hope, he/she can change the world.'))

- Write-up about the 4 most famous Korean Soccer Playes

- Write-up about the Korean Boom in Japan

- impossibly hard/scientific crossword puzzle that I couldn't even complete.......(not touting my crossword skils - am touting my English skills)

Here's the 13-part mind quiz. Some are quite interesting.


1) You are going to decorate your room with roses from the flower garden. How many roses do you want to pick from?

2) You enter a room which has nothing but four white walls. How would you feel in it?

3) You are going to cross a desert. How many pairs of shoes do you want to bring with you?

4) The angel of death came to you. The merciful angel will give you one more day of life before he takes you with him. How are you going to spend the last day?

5) You are walking on the street then something quickly passes you by. What was it?

6) You design your own house. Are you going to make the roof high or low?

7) You happen to open the cupboard. How many cups are in there?

8) When you pass by a street, you find a deserted house. Is the door of the house open or closed?

9) You fly in an airplane for the first time in your life. How would it feel when the plane takes off the ground?

10) What part of Mona Lisa's portrait do you want to change?

11) On a rainy day, you are walking in the street. Suddenly, a car passes by you and splashes mud on you. Where on your body would the car splash the mud?

12) You are lost in the woods. Finally you find an old castle. You enter inside, there is a candle strand on the table. How many candles are on the candle stand?

13) Your baby is crying, the doorbell is ringing and the water is boiling in the pot. In what order are you going to handle them?


1) The number of people you love.

2) The feeling when you die.

3) The number of people you would love before you marry.

4) The thing you want to do right now.

5) Your before life.

6) The height of your self-esteem.

7) The number of your true friends.

8) The door is your mind toward other people.

9) The feeling of your first kiss.

10) The part you are proud of in your own face.

11) The part you want to change on your body.

12) The number of boys/girls you will go out with in your whole life.

13) The things you are looking for on a date. The baby symbolizes his/her personality, door-bell means their appearance and water is their property.

So there you have it. Korean-translated into English personality test.

Anyway, once again, proud of the kids (all first-year high school students) for putting it together.

I even got cover credit as a proofreader. Awesome.

Can't wait for issue number 2.

AND next time you think All The News Thats Fit to Print is a good tagline, just remember the motto of the one and only Guri Times:

We study hard.
We keep a clean school.
We respect others.


"Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts."

(i'll let you all attribute that one)


Monday, December 20, 2010

miscellaneous monday

There are only 17 countries larger than Alaska.

"I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph" - Shirley Temple

1961's "The Visit" - a slideshow collage of pictures taken from an afternoon Marilyn Monroe and Carl Sandburg spent together. The famous poet was 61, the celebrity actress was 35. She would die within a year- he 5 years after that.

If you have even the slightest hint of love for the city of Chicago - this video is every kind of wonderful. It was a project for our terrifically failed 2016 Olympic bid but it's well done. The words move a bit fast, but their newly conceived line breaks add a new element to the famous poet's most famous poem.

"here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities"

The inventor of the Pringles can was buried in a Pringles can.

"Everything that deceives may be said to enchant" - Plato

"What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?" - Brecht

and on a Korea note: "Coffice" - a term used in South Korea to refer to the using of coffee shops as offices - thanks to their space, free internet and privacy - has made New York Times' "The Words of The Year" list.

i'll make these weekly.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

partaking in tradition #2: PC Bong

When I decided to start a blog, one of the ideas I had was to call it "Hitting the Bongs". I chose not to. You're welcome Mom.

There was a reason, of course.

"Bong" (often spelled "Bang") as well, is how to say "room" in Korean. This is important. Why? Koreans love Bongs.

Now, a quick note, by "room" they do not refer to their bedrooms, or living rooms, or kitchens - just as the Italian word "stanza" means room but does not refer to a specific "room" as Americans have come to denote them.

"Bong"/"Bang" refers to a space once can visit. Korea features PCBongs (computer rooms), DVDBangs (movie watching rooms) and Noraebongs (private karaoke rooms).....Hotel rooms are called "bongs" as well.

There are many others - for instance, the man who runs the hostel that my friends & I frequent often - Moon - who will, deservingly, get his own post here someday - calls his hostel our "saranbang" which translates to "love room" but means more an open space where loved ones are invited.

Or, atleast, that's what he told me. I needed to scan a document to send to someone (to that someone, if you are reading this - MANY HUGE thank you's) so they can help secure me a visa for my visit to Vietnam. Online, apparently, you can only secure a visa if you are flying into the country. Instead, we are "manning the Mekong" as I've coined it and sailing down the river. So sweet!

Anyway, my school told me I might be able to use their scanner - but by the time I asked, the people in the copy room/office had already left. Add to this that fact that it would probably not be open tomorrow (this is what they told me at school - I just found out a bit ago I don't have to go in tomorrow. (see aforementioned: "so sweet!")))

So, I headed out of my apartment to find a PCBong.

For those that don't know - these are EVERYWHERE. Literally, I counted passing 16 one time on my way home from work. Since Koreans are efficient and utilize ALL floors of some buildings for business, they are usually small spaces up on the 3rd of 4th floors, or the basements and. again, are EVERYWHERE.


Now, these little gems are a favorite of my students. During my first week, I asked the students individually their hobbies and most common came a split between soccer & computer games (each probably 45% of the student population - with the other 10% going to studying, art, piano, classical guitar, reading, etc).

Koreans are famous for loving their computer games. This is the LAND OF STARCRAFT after all. They f***ing love it here. And that expletive is not meant for drama - it's meant to prove just how much they love it.

It's ridiculous. Kids ditch my class to go to the PCBong - facing torment from me the next day if I happen to find out. Even the cool kids at my school play computer games. Even the one with girlfriends!

There's a kid in my after school class who picked Wooks as his English name. It's much like one of his Hangul names. He's a tall, goofy kid thats actually pretty good at basketball. But, he ditches my class often to go the bong and smoke (you knew a joke was coming). I tease him constantly. Every time I see him I ask him about the PCBong and he of course denies it because officially he has to tell me he is going to his academy every day after school. Anyway, we got to talking one day and I jokingly asked him if he takes his girlfriend to the PCBong. His reply "only once" - as if that was honorable. As if he were a poster boyfriend because he held the temptation of computer games off while he was with his girlfriend. I laughed quite hard.

Now, not all PCBong's have scanners. I walked out my building maybe one half block and went into the first one . I showed them a note I scribbled of "scanner" in Korean.

First: "aniyo" (no)
Second: aniyo"
Third: dae (yes)

These three PC Bongs were maybe 35 feet from each other.

So I scanned what I needed to scan.

Then I thought, hey why the hell not play for a bit.

My kids talk about Fifa like its a religion. Starcraft, Warcraft, Sudden Attack - these are common, common, common things I use to express examples of new words in English.

example from teaching........."If your friend calls you and tells you he just played Sudden Attack for four hours and didn't die, you say 'SICK!'

bad example. but you get my point. girls, soccer & computer games are the three cards I play every deal (metaphor for new material) because it's what gets their attention.

So, at the PCBong, after some help getting set up, I played FIFA Online for a little over a while. Surprisingly, I did pretty well.

Full disclosure: I've played quite a bit of FIFA (remember freshman year, Spinuzza?). Never on the computer though. took a while to get used to the controls - using "A" "S" and D" as the main controls, but hey....

I still got it.

(in case you didn't know - the guy in this picture is Wayne Rooney - who a group of student all unanimously agreed I resembled. ehhhh)

My next challenge: the students!

Anyway, proud of myself for partaking in another tradition that one does not consider immediately. Can't wait to tell the kids.


Any dictionary can call itself "Webster's". The names been in the public domain since the 19th century.


“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” — Iris Murdoch


Monday, December 13, 2010


Alrighty. Hello there. Finals week is approaching and with the students wanting to study, the middle-schoolers taking high-school entrance exams (not sure about these) and the exams themselves, I'll be having quite a bit of free time from teaching.

Expect some blog posts.

First up, Korean High School Jocks.

I remember reading Friday Night Lights in high school (going into sophomore year? is that right? that would make it paired with The Catcher in The Rye - joke.) Anyway, it was supposed to unveil the genre of non-fiction to our young selves. To be honest, I didn't think much of the book - still don't, but it certainly illuminated West Texas' obsession with football.

Then it illumniated Hollywood's eyes bright enough to make a mediocre, falsified version. Then for a overdramatic TV show that hooked me in for a season and a half (damn you Lyla Garrity).

Well, I thought that the book, the movie and the TV show would be my last draw with overcrazed high school sports programs. Until now.

Guri High School (apparently) has a terrific soccer team. I would verify this, except that whenever I'm walking out of the school and they are playing in our front field, I can't tell which is my high school and which is the other. Either they change colors every other game, or other high schools use our field.

I'd stay and watch but by 5pm, after spending 9 hours at school, I feel a great impetus to get out of the place.

And, again, I don't even know which team we are. There's no scoreboard. I've only seen our team's coach once in the school and was told he is the second highest revered male in the school (after the glorified principal - whose lifestyle certainly warrants its own blogpost.)

I can't recognize the soccer players, even though I have each of the first grade members in my classes.

The question then, why am I not able to recognize them?

I assume some's immediate response is that it's hard to tell Koreans apart.

This was especially true at home - where Americans so uber-pleasantly hold true to their self-devised maxim that all Asians look alike. (don't worry - they think the same about us).

But having been here for four months - this theory is certainly not true. Certainly not. And I teach these kids anyway, I am able to tell (most) of my students apart.

Here's the thing though: I can't tell them apart because THEY ALL SLEEP THROUGH EVERY CLASS!

My first day teaching, in my first class, I remember it clear, as I was going around and having the kids introduce themselves. There was a particular group of four students in the back, none of whom spoke a world of English. I was told by my co-teacher that they were "representatives of the Guri High School Soccer Team" and was implicitly told, as I have been reminded since, that they are essentially excused from any and all activities during class.

Truth be told, they sleep the entire class. Once, just once, during my super-fun, amazingly awesome, kick-ass Halloween game, I got one soccer player to play. For one minute. Then he slept.

Now, I certainly don't have four of these kids in each class. Most classes have none - but my first class was the lowest level, and unsurprisingly, the glorified athletes haven't made much way in their English advancement.

And so it goes. For each of my "D" level classes, I have a nice group of four or five students who sleep during class. Any other kid sleeps and I have the option to let them sleep or wake them. (I toil between these, depending on how I feel about the kid - but it's a nice power to have).

This is a picture from the internet - not mine - but it tells the story.....

Other advantages soccer stars enjoy at Guri High School:

7th period off. All periods after 7th (some kids do 11 and then some) OFF. (if you don't know the Korean high school system - this is WAY BIGGER than you can imagine)

Separate lunch. (not sure if this means they eat separately, or if that actually get different/better food)

Sweet clothes (typical of most sports programs)

Decent grades (this has been hinted at - and I'm assuming they are getting some help because I've seen the kids sleeping in some other classes too)

Recess dominance.

(my observation: there are 2 real soccer nets on the giant field. there are 2 extra ones in the corner. 1500 kids (although less now that the 3rd graders are effectively DONE with school. all have the same lunch. lets say between going into the gym for basketball/badminton & studying, only 50% of the kids come out to the soccer fields for lunch. that's 500 kids sharing 4 nets. 1 goes to the soccer team. always. the other 475 kids split three nets if they want to play.)

so that's my thoughts on that. i am still very much an outsider on the manner. but these are the noticeable things to someone that hardly has efficient tools of discovery. (language)

and before I leave, I realize fully that this is not on the level of West Texas football. But it is still pretty laughable. And if H.G. Bissinger and Peter Berg can dance in the hyperbole, so can I.


"It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them."
-Agatha Christie

"I want this adventure that is the context of my life to go on without an end"
-Simone de Beauvoir


Joni Mitchell - River (live Royal Albert Hall)

haunting. christmas.

Hans' Rosling "The Joy of Stats"


Thursday, December 9, 2010

the pearl is the oyster's autobiography

- federico fellini

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


in an attempt to make this blog more non-conventional, as I promised myself, I am posting a riddle here.

Though a great American, Wendell Willkie nevertheless lacked one of the four necessary requirements for becoming President of the United States. One must be at least 35, a native-born American, and a resident of the U.S.A. for at least 14 years. Name the fourth requirement which Willkie also lacked?

twice in 25 minutes?

2 jehovah's witnesses in 25 minutes. thats gotta be some kind of record.

one at the train station. the other, a group of 3, at my door as I'm tearing apart my apartment looking for a list of secret santa names I picked for my friends.

perhaps it's always like this - the witnesses being infamous for bearing witness to their own personal invasions. maybe in the states, they can sense my jew-ey-ness. here, just another could-be-christian.


Monday, December 6, 2010

partaking in tradition # 1 : virtual golf

this will be the very last time you see these words in this blog: "when in Rome". I hate that phrase.

I didn't always hate it. But after studying abroad, and hearing it ubiquitously echo off the lips of my fellow study abroad peers (for situations as banal as sipping a smaller cup of coffee) you learn to cringe at the mere mention of the three words. And don't even get me started on Anchorman.

Seriously, don't.

It's important to partake in a culture you are entering in to. It's important for both parties concerned, as it is through this avenue that one showers off bigotry and prejudice. (see: Twain, Mark The Innocents Abroad).

I try my hardest to do these things openly and with as little ethnocentrism as one can allow.

Eating Kimchi - on it.

Chopsticks - better & better each day.

Sitting on the floor - bring

Using wet napkins before every meal (when not a single meal here involves finger-usage): hell ****ing no.

So, most things.

Enter Virtual Golf.

Some background:

Koreans love golf. Much like any other activity that requires accessorizing,golf is as popular as a sport here as it is a fashion department. The Lotte next to me has quite the array of golf clothes, bags, clubs, balls, the works. All overpriced.

So naturally, you would assume that Koreans love to golf.

This is the country who produced Michelle Wie - female golf prodigy. Who, by the by, is YOUNGER than me? Sickening.

Your assumption would be correct. Only, they don't love golfing as we picture golfing.

Instead of getting out on the greens, throwing a bag over their shoulder and toughing out nature's best & worst elements, Koreans prefer their golfing inside. Equipped with couches, complimentary green tea and hangers for their jackets.

Korea has 200 outdoor golf courses. Their sizable comparison, Indiana has 527. Of course, Americans are mad for golf courses, but still, thats less than 40%.

And you should SEE how many golf stores there are.

Koreans get their links fix in the safety of Virtual Golf courses. These "GolfZon" places are everywhere. I've noticed at least 2 or 3 in Guri and I knew a few friends have visited. So I decided to check out the one closest to my school today.

$20 bucks for 18 holes. Not bad.

Free rental clubs. A whole set. Free shoes. Free golfing glove.

Yes, I wore golf shoes indoors.

There are 100 golf courses to choose from - all but 5 are Korean and the international ones cost extra money.

You get 10 minutes of driving range practice before the course. Nice of them to let a guy warm up.

There's a camera that records your swing and plays it back to you after each ball hit. Really brought some attention to my back leg. Too much movement.

So, yeah, you whack a ball toward a giant wall which is also the screen and it records distance, angle, height, everything. shows your ball going. I wondered if it accounted for spin.

There's a button to automatically tee up and there are all sorts of suggestions going on for club usage and directions. Yes, the computer doubles as a caddy too.

It felt like a video game. An awesome video game. Because it was me. Forget Tiger Woods Wii. This is where it's at.

And then I realized one thing quickly.

I am not good at golf. Suddenly, it was less a video game and more of the same old frustrations I face on the fairways - duffed shots, bunkers, OB's (HATED the voice).

Got caught in some rough I couldn't get out of. Took me a few times getting stuck to figure out a good way to get out of the sand. Putting was difficult - so it goes.


It was sweet and I will go back - as the 18 holes took a bit over an hour and I was fiddling around with my camera for part of it. I can get nine in after school before I get dinner and it wouldn't even throw my schedule off.

All in all it was a great time. Look forward to doing it with friends. The room next to me was a foursome. I wondered if they came together or got paired up.


Alright, a couple more pictures....

oh, yeah. forgot to tell. how'd I do?

103. +31. but I'd be lying if I said I would have done better in person. Guess all that's left to do is work on my Korean Handicap. (incidently, a great name for a band - "korean handicap")

better than Giraffe's Ashes? doubt it.

what i am listening to and you should follow suit:

everything involving Jim/Yim James/Yames and John Prine. specifically this cover and this duet performance.

My Morning Jacket - All The Best

John Prine and Yim James - All The Best (live on letterman)


"thought is only a flash in the middle of a long night, but the flash that means everything" - henri poincare

and he had his own eponymous Conjecture. how much more badass can you get?

and, as an added bonus, it was in the proving of this conjecture (done only about 7 years ago) that led the science community to determine that "a rabbit is a sphere" or more correctly, a rabbit's head is a sphere. it may be the most poetic scientific wording choice of the early century.

this entry is longer than it needed to be.