At Sydney airport now

At Sydney airport now, saw this kiosk and couldn’t resist, addict that I am. Ain’t the modern world just a groo-oovy place sometimes? I suppose if the plane goes down in flames this will be my last communication to the world, so I ought to make it profound and touching, leavened with whimsy and just a touch of the Boscovian misanthropy. But the hell with that – I haven’t had any coffee yet!
Just bought a book entitled “How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People”, rather than a guidebook for Korea. If anything is a flag for the changing way I approach wandering around the world, that’s it, at least for the moment, until I think of something better. Gotta fly (literally), so….Just in case this does end up being a final communique (you never know!) – well, love to you all. I guess that’s all that needs to be said.

Going to a place

Going to a place (Korea) where I feel so conspicuously out of place somehow feels like going home. Buried in that fact is probably the explanation not only behind my years of wandering, but also a host of other Boscovian behavioural idiosyncracies. I’m too f–king tired to pursue the thought, though, so I’ll just drop it and let it lay where it falls.
In other news that isn’t, Metafilter is back from hiatus after Matt’s trip to Oz. Offered to buy him a drink when he was here, but no scheduling joy, sadly. Either that, or the fact that he only had an idea of who I was by my usually three-quarters-pissed comments at MeFi led him to believe that I might kill him and eat his liver (with fava beans and a dinner-table bottle of Hahn Premium)…

The phrase of the week

The phrase of the week : “Busier’n’a three-peckered billy goat in a French whorehouse.”. I dunno how and when that particular phrase colonized my brain, but I’ve been dropping it constantly, to the occasional amusement and slightly more frequent consternation of the ‘How ya goin?’ brigade.
The house is in a complete shambles and that feels really strange. After a couple of uninterrupted years of relatively quiet, predictable domestic bliss, the feelings evoked by the chaos of moving are decidedly odd . Strange people in and out of the house, meals thrown together out of whatever’s around (the mock-Irish stew I cooked up for dinner was pretty fine, actually), the zooming around in a fashion not unlike the above-mentioned domestic animal, the 3 million details, the downright surly people that answer the phones and provide ‘customer service’ on this Big Dry Island….it all makes me feel pleasantly enervated, full of anticipation, and recalls a little bit the time in Cancun with Craig and his tribe, when there were a couple major things to take care of (food, schooling, etc for the kids) and pretty much everything was a lip-of-the-screaming abyss maelstrom of giddy randomness and substance abuse. Not that it was that much fun, most of the time, at least when I was sober, but I look back on it as an education about how one’s life can be completely out of control but still feel right.
Anyway, I kinda feel that now. Coupled with the tendency to worry overmuch about minutiae that the last two years at OmniHyperGlobalMegaNet have taught me, and the domestic life has bedded down.

Small realization last night

Small realization last night as I drank with a couple of friends and a gaggle of miscellaneous drones from OmniHyperGlobalMegaNet what a square peg I was in that field of round holes… made a comment, not a particularly funny or clever one mind you, about how I’d been trying (no, not really) to give my ex-boss cancer with the Power of My Mind.
Good thing I didn’t go on to say that I was hoping her children would be raped by methedrine-crazed outlaw bikers. Imagine how that woulda gone over…

Sydney still and pissed

Sydney still and pissed as a newt at 2 a.m. : Came across this old old thing on my (’97 stylee!) GEOCITIES INTARNET WEBSIGHT and am gonna mirror it just ’cause I can. The text of the Korean bit goes thus (but please note that it’s sophomoric crap, pretty much, and talks about events that were current at the time. In the intervening years both nothing and everything has changed…) :

A few months in Korea had led me to think that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back . I changed my mind, though, and I am truly glad that I did. After a further nine months here, I’m coming to love this place. It’s not clean, it’s not calm, it’s certainly not warm as I write this in early November, but I like it a lot. That said, there are a few things I’d like to get off my chest…
(a wee rant)
South Korea is wrapped tight in a web of lies, perpetuated both by the government and by a large dose of out of control cultural chauvinism. The prevailing attitude is that Korea and Koreans are a world power to be reckoned with, and that the Korean society and economy are glorious models for the rest of the world to breathlessly emulate. Meanwhile, bridges and buildings collapse with no prior warning. Students and workers riot in the streets. But still…fine. A little chauvinism is to be expected, from most everyone. The reality simply does not match the attitude, however. Despite the sham trials of Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo, the ex-presidents who swindled billions and were between them responsible for the coup in ’79, the Kwangju Massacre, widespread corruption and perversion of the democratic process, and of course the ’88 Olympics, the new honcho, Kim Young Sam, while preaching a creed of debatably wise ‘westernization and modernization’, sent 5000 riot police into a Seoul university to obliterate pro-unification student protesters. Ten helicopters spraying military-strength tear gas finished the job. The two big english newspapers meanwhile praised Kim for saving the country from the evils of communism, and western media ran pictures of mothers at the police barriers, kerchiefs over their mouths in a vain attempt to stave off the effects of tear gas, imploring stonyfaced cops the same age as their own children to show some mercy.
More recently a spate of bribery scandals have reduced the credibility of President Kim Young Sam to near nil, in no small part because he was elected on an anticorruption platform. Despite an unprecedented national address in which he hung his head and begged forgiveness, his day is done. Conveniently, his bribe-taking son has been released on bail after 5 1/2 months in prison, shortly before the election, set to occur in December. Pardons are expected for Roh Tae-woo and Chun Doo-Hwan. Business as usual, politics as usual, but I suppose it’s no worse than anywhere else.
The prevailing misinformation and lack of understanding of the real situation in North Korea lends a strange air of surrealism to any political discussion. The hysterical fear and loathing of their brothers to the North seems a result solely of government propaganda. It is somehow unclear to most South Koreans to whom I have spoken in these past 12 months that a state unable to feed its citizens, a state that keeps lowering height requirements for its soldiers, presumably to account for rampant malnutrition, might actually be unable or unwilling to attempt to overrun the combined forces of the South Korean army and the doublespeak-disguised American army of occupation. Then again, a few hours of Armed Forces Korea Network TV is enough to make anyone want to go out and thump a few American soldiers, which has grown into a popular traditional diversion for drunken young Korean men. Oh those wacky yanks (part two).
Why not go say ‘howdy’ to ’em?
Not that Koreans are not as friendly and hospitable as the next nation. Despite a rather acute love/hate relationship with waeguk (foreigners of any stripe), by and large people are kind, helpful, and welcoming. And by god they love to drink. In fact, the consumption of alcohol, primarily in the forms of astonishingly foul beer (which tastes exactly as if formaldehyde is used as a preservative) and soju (which tastes exactly like straight formadehyde), is a national sport. The streets in big cities like Seoul and Pusan come alive at night, with hordes of businessmen rushing off to brothels and noribung, the ubiquitous singing rooms. Young people hang out at the tents that spring up along the sidewalks as soon as the sun sets, eating the Korean version of tapas, and swilling beer or soju. A night at a nightclub will set you back several hundred dollars, but it’s done right, with bottles of scotch at the table, and attractive young men and women who are paid to sit with you, keep your glass full, pop bits of food into your mouth when you least expect it, and smile vacantly at all times.
There are few western-style bars outside of Seoul. I spent my four months teaching english in Pusan, and we found a few, including the redoubtable Cowboy, near the Somyon subway station. If you should find it, say hello to You-sung, In-su, and the unfeasibly lovely Kyung-hee. Perhaps she’ll marry you. The large, hirsute man behind the beer glass is me.
The women are astonishingly beautiful in Korea. I did not expect it, and I’m not certain why this would be, but it is so, and that’s all I really need to say about that.
I expect to spend a long time here, though it feels strangely like a way station, a place between places, if you catch my meaning.
Ah well. Most places tend to be like that for the peripatetic Prof. Bosco T Matrix, Esq.

Learning the intricacies

Sydney : Learning the intricacies of moving one’s hardearned shekels around the world. Never really had to worry too much before – never had enough money to justify doing anything more complicated than buying traveller’s checks, or converting it to $US and stuffing in in my jeans (or secret money-belt-pouch-holster thing, back when I was actually nervous after reading so many tales of pickpockets. The black money holster thing that I wore during most of my last circumnavigation was a particularly clever one, except for the minor fact that it hung directly under my right armpit, an unenviable position in the best of climates. By the time the second year on the road was underway, what was left of my original stash of travellers’ checks smelled in a way that money ought not to smell). This time, I’m learning about some services offered by members of the Korean community developed over the years to get around the Draconian laws in Korea with regard to the movement of currency. It’s easier these days, but still not as easy as it should be. Odd, given that until a couple of years ago, little was said about the absence of any requirement in Korea for a bank account to be held under your real name, that the flow of money in and out of Korea would be so tightly controlled. Part of the Hermit Kingdom mentality still, the xenophobia? Maybe. I’m off to get drunk now, and not in a mood to think it through any more. (And how many times have I said that in the last 20 years?)

Dateline Sydney

Dateline Sydney : A call to Korea this morning by SeokKyung has allayed my fears of having to scramble for gainful employment. The English Department at {deleted} University has assured us that the visa issues have been ironed out and the paperwork will be on its way to us tomorrow. The job is mine, apparently, which takes a huge weight of stress of my shoulders. It’s the 16th today, and our tickets are for the 23rd, and as of yesterday I still didn’t know if I had a job!
This is one of those things that happens a lot when you’re doing business in Korea, and not, as people who’ve had difficulty dealing with Koreans tend to claim, because Koreans are ‘intrinsically disorganized’ or anything of the kind. It’s something that took me a long while to understand, and still find hard to trust, surrounded here in Sydney as I have been for a few years by lying, prevaricating pricks and prickettes – when a Korean tells you something in good faith, their word is their bond. A verbal agreement can hold more weight than, or even entirely supercede, a written one. When I was told weeks ago, in what seemed like an offhand way, that I had the job, I should have just trusted in that, rather than spinning out into stressmonkeyland. I’ve been re-trained by my experiences over the last few years at OmniHyperGlobalMegaNet* to never fully trust what is said to me. I look forward to shedding that layer of skin as quickly as possible.
* I reckon I’ll refer to my Australian employer as OmniHyperGlobalMegaNet. In this and any rants about the place in the future, any resemblance to companies living or dead is purely a coincidence.


Dateline Sydney : This announcement of sorts on CommunityZero/thoseguys might as well serve as an opening screed :
Well, my friends, it’s time for another totally life-altering transition for me, and another boring anecdote for you! Ain’t that weirder than tits on a hovercraft!
After a couple of years (almost exactly 30 months to be precise) in Australia, which, despite the worship of sports, the casual racism, the anti-intellectual bent amonst the general populace countered by the preciosity and crypto-anglophile wankiness of the ‘urban elite’, the tall-poppy syndrome and the naked, unrestrained worship of power and money, is nonetheless a f–king Great Place, I’m going back to Korea. Don’t even get me started on Korea. There is so much wrong with Korea it’s … frightening.
But I love it there. The booziness, the honesty, the implicit understanding between men (and I say ‘men’ consciously) that friendship is the most important thing in your life and guides everything you do, in business and otherwise… the true human connection that puts to shame the Australian concept of ‘mates’, powerful as that is…. the genuine-ness of the way that Koreans relate to you, even if the relation is one of loathing because you’re a round-eye nigger (and I say ‘nigger’ consciously too)….I look forward to that. There’s so little political maneuvering, so little faking of respect or friendship. Plus the booze is cheap. Ah, I’m drunk and rambling. But this is an announcement of sorts, I guess. I’m outta Oz next week, and will hook up to the Net again in a few weeks…

Beery inspiration

Dateline Sydney : Beery inspiration strikes as I wander over to Evhead to see what’s there – I’m on the cusp of one of those (more frequent for me than is the usual, but nonetheless too-few and too-far-between) times when my life is about to transform utterly, and hell, maybe I oughta blog it. For me, for the world at large, for the hell of it.
After almost three years in Sydney, we’re off to Korea again. Pour yourself a drink, lean in close, and I’ll tell you all about it.
Disclaimer : Any inconsistency in tone that may be detected from time to time is almost certainly due to the effects of alcohol consumption.