The Seoul Train bravoing my life...

"Just throw some pictures up there..."


Stupid time stamp, nearly ruins the picture. Here is the view from outside Damian, Darren and my apartment complex in 철산, actually 하안동 if you must trouble with the details. For most of the five months I lived here (13 stories directly above left of the location in this photo) it was bitter -minnesotaesque- cold. The trees had not a single leaf. The ground on either side of the walkway was barren, not a hint of life. At least in Minnesota there is frozen grass three feet below the snow. Here all the grass just dies. I could be imagining this. Then one week in late April that all changed. Not the weather, for it would still be cold until it was, all of a sudden sweaty hot one late day in May, but the foliage. Suddenly there was a canopy over the walkway and it became a pleasure to come to and go from the apartment.

And that was a long time ago. Here are some other pictures from back when.

Singing a 80's rock ballad, flipping for the next song, leaning agaist the wall, and closing my eyes all at the same time. With, mind you, my shirt tucked into my underwear?! I can't explain that one. This particular 노래방 establishment (important to qualify since I have been to 50 or so such places) was located in the hip district of 철산. An area essentially blocked off from all traffic concerns, it existed as a four square block pedestrian play area. Hundreds of restaurants, googles of bars, coffee shops, ice cream dives, board-game cafes, billiard dens, and of course 'singing rooms' or 노래방. This particular time it was a late Saturday afternoon. Cassie, Damian and I were the joint customers. And, there was an incident. Nothing of the rowdy, disrespectful sort. No this was a more humorous, embarassing incident for one female member of the Carleton reunion. And that my friends is where the story ends and where it will resume- at our first Carleton reunion. Or maybe at Joe's wedding. Nevertheless, it is probably the funniest thing that I have ever whitnessed. I would have fallen on the floor laughing but then that would have been just dirty.

Good boy. Good boy. Here I am riding the 이태원 steed. I must have a problem with closing my eyes. I wonder if this is only when I am being photographed or if the photographs are capturing a miles trend. Maybe I spend a good deal of my days with my eyes closed and I dont even notice it. The mounting of above steed occured immediately after exiting the taxi from 철산 to 이태월 and before wandering into Jesters Pub to meet the soccer team.

Me and Dad intently listening to someone speak.

Sojurning out of Seoul


This past weekend (November 5th/6th) Jay and I took an Adventure Korea trip to Youngyang, Gyeongsangbuk Do, an area of Korea far removed from Seoul's bustling metropolis. The mountainous region, less than an hour from the East Sea/Sea of Japan, certainly lived up to the trip advertisement as being "one of the most beautiful parts of Korea with natural forests, fresh air, and scenic views."
Right, as if my travel experience in Korea gives me the authority to approve of that statement...
It turned out to be a perfect weekend to view the Autumn foliage. Magnificent fallesque hues of browning reds and vibrant yellows all set against a misty gray backdrop- the slightly chilled breeze, the buoyant air, etc. We built a bonfire, roasted marshmallows and then cooked sweet potatoes in the smoldering ashes.

Fallen leaves crunched under our feet during a Sunday morning hike down a mountain stream.
Negotiating the rocky stream bed proved to be quite a challenge. Beautiful fall leaves would rest in between rocks just on the surface of water, effectively masquarading as an acceptable place to step.
After a few missteps the mossy rocks covered with a thin film of misty rain started to look much more inviting as stepping stones.

What a beautiful leaf.

On this trip we carved Korean Totems. Here are some pictures:

Jay refused to give up the bark scraping tool. It must have taken her half an hour to remove all of the bark from that log. Notice the people behind her on the left. The group stood in wait for the tool, too intimidated to ask her to speed up. She was too absorbed in the process to even notice their fidgeting and disproving stares.
Meanwhile, I found the scene quite amusing.

Jay posing for a picture immediat- ely after the cessation of our 5 hours bus ride out to Youngyang. Several minutes later she had a sharp bark peeling tool in her hands.

Mr. Portland, on the left, and myself hacking away at our meticulou- sly scraped stump in an attempt to bring "Jovial Radison" to life. We decided that our caricature face did not have the ability to ward off evil spirits from remote Korean villages- definitely looked more like a smiling cigarette, we thought, and so as such the stump was christened. In this rural Korean village safety regulations were not necessary. Sharp chisels, large and small axes were casually distributed. Most of the village Ajushis wielded chainsaws (behind me to my left an elderly man was chainsaw-sculpting the teeth of a totem pole caricature- wood chips mercilessly spraying those in the vicinity). I think Jay had also resumed scraping- reacquiring the tool from the other group- the bottom half of the stump (not being satisfactorily smooth)- never mind that my butt is right there on the log. She didn't notice. Alas, out of all the participants I was the only one to walk away slightly injured as I managed, in my artistic trance, to chisel away part of my index finger.

The end result.

Im sure the villagers have since used it for firewood.

Yes, my readership- my hair is substantially shorter.
Never let your girlfriend cut your hair.

You learn something everyday.

Credit given where credit is due. Jay took all the good pictures on the trip. Mountain stream, 영양 Korea.

This is one of my favortie photos. Taken in the back of a korean pickup truck (a bongo), in the rain in 영양.

Faulty Tailoring


Paul and Thomas: two great NYT editorialists. Week in, week out they impress me with their complete mastery of this literary niche.
It is their ability to passionately persuade, to caustically critique, to condense the whirlwind of political garble and smoke screens into a factually coherent analysis, and to appropriately call attention to issues glossed over by mainstream media that makes me nod my head in approval.
Here is Mr. Krugman’s recent summation of Washington’s Iraq/WMD mess.
The connection between the children’s tale and the contentious political events is obvious. It makes you wonder why you didn’t think up the idea yourself. Of course, the idea of something great does little to guarantee its actual worth in greatness. For instance, many of my blogposts exist as aging monuments to this empiricism. But, in this case, Krugman distills down nearly three years of political events, selecting and then weaving in only the necessities to create a witty, flowing tale of stunningly effective White House criticism. Then again, after ten months of teaching elementary school students English this may be the only medium left for me to understand current events.

If it’s not in the form of a fairy-tale don’t read it in this house.

Defending Imperial Nudity
By Paul Krugman
New York Times News Service

Hans Christian Andersen understood bad rulers. “The Emperor’s New Suit” doesn’t end with everyone acclaiming the little boy for telling the truth. It ends with the emperor and his officials refusing to admit their mistake.
I’ve laid my hands on additional material, which Andersen failed to publish, describing what happened after the imperial procession was over.
The talk-show host Bill O’Rilley yelled, “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” at the little boy. Calling the boy a nut, he threatened to go the boy’s house and “surprise” him.
Fox News repeatedly played up possible finds of imperial clothing, then buried reports discrediting these stories. Months after the naked procession, a poll found many of those getting most of their news from Fox believed that the emperor had in fact been clothed.
Imperial officials eventually admitted that they couldn’t find any evidence that the suit ever existed, or that there had even been an effort to produce a suit. They insisted, however, that they had found evidence of wardrobe-manufacturing-and-distribution program activities.
After the naked procession, pro-wardrobe pundits denied that the emperor was at fault. The blame, they said, rested with the CIA, which had provided the emperor with bad intelligence about the potential for a suit.
Even a quick Web search shows that before the procession, those same pundits had written articles attacking CIA analysts because those analysts had refused to support strong administration assertions about the invisible suit.
Although the imperial administration was conservative, its wardrobe plans drew crucial support from a group of liberal pundits. After the emperor’s nakedness was revealed, the online magazine Slate held a symposium in which eight of these pundits were asked whether the fact that there was no suit had led them to reconsider their views. Only one admitted that he had been wrong--- and he had changed his mind about the suit before the procession.
Helen Thomas, the veteran palace correspondent, opposed the suit project from the beginning. When she pointed out that the emperor’s clothes had turned out not to exist, the imperial press secretary accused her of being “opposed to the broader war on nakedness.”
Even though skeptics about the emperor’s suit had been vindicated, TV news programs continued to portray those people as crazy people. For example, the news networks showed, over and over, a clip of the little boy shouting at a party. The clip was deeply misleading: he had been shouting to be heard over background noise, which the ambient microphone didn’t pick up. Nonetheless, “the scream” became a staple of political discourse.
The emperor gave many speeches in which he declared that his wardrobe was the “central front” in the war on nakedness.
The editor of one liberal but pro-wardrobe magazine admitted that he had known from the beginning that there were good reasons to doubt the emperor’s trustworthiness. But he said that he had put those doubts aside because doing so made him “feel superior to the democrats.” Unabashed, he continued to denounce those who had opposed the suit as soft on sartorial security.
At the Radio an Television Correspondent’s annual dinner, the emperor entertained the assembled journalists with a bit of humor: he showed slides of himself looking under furniture in his office, searching for the nonexistent suit. Some of the guests were aghast, but most of the audience roared with laughter.
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee oversaw an inquiry into how the government had come to believe in a nonexistent suit. The first part focused on the mistakes made by career government tailors. But the second part of the inquiry, on the role of the imperial administration in promoting faulty tailoring, appeared to vanish from the agenda.
Two and a half years after the emperor’s naked procession, a majority of citizens believed that the imperial administration had deliberately misled the country. Several former officials had gone public with tales of an administration obsessed with its wardrobe from Day 1.
But apologists for the emperor continued to dismiss any suggestion that officials had lied to the nation. It was, they said, a crazy conspiracy theory. After all, back in 1998 Bill Clinton thought there was a suit.
And they all lived happily ever after --- in the story. Here in reality, a large and growing number are being killed by roadside bombs.

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