Life Gets Interesting

Well, I’ve just been told that I’m not going to be offered another contract at the university, despite the fact that the students have consistently rated me as the best intructor there, four semesters running, and there was no indication whatsoever that this might happen. Directive from the President (a friend of someone of influence who would rather see me gone), apparently, which is not to be disputed. Looks like I backed the wrong pony.
Ah, petty politics.
This development does however give me free reign to make fun of them, which I will, you can be sure, but not right now.
This makes life interesting, living as I do without a safety net. As I’ve hinted, though, my great and good friend back in Sydney has offered me a job recently, which I tentatively accepted not two weeks ago. There are a few visa hurdles to be jumped through, but I’m confident we can do it.
I have always found that when I’m having difficulties making a decision that might change the course of my life for the following few years (as I seem to do at 2 or 3 year intervals), something happens to make the choice perfectly and indisputably clear. Diamond bullet between the eyes.
I just hope the visa application goes OK, or else I’ll be well and truly rooted. I’ve got about 6 weeks to sort myself out before I get kicked out of Korea, since they’re not really interested in the continued pleasure of my company if I’m not going to be A Good Worker anymore. Timing is always a problem when you’re bouncing around the planet, and not rich.
Right. Eyes to the future, and fingers crossed….


I like to stop by Vladi Private Islands once in a while, to daydream a bit. During the Bubble in ’99, when me and my friends in Sydney actually took a business plan to a venture capital company (and thank christ we didn’t end up following through on it, is all I can say), we never used to talk about getting rich, per se, we used to talk about ‘buying an island’.
Maybe someday.


The reason I mention it is that American Island, on Stuart Lake, is for sale. I’ve been there dozens of times – my hometown is at the tip of Stuart Lake. Very cool – wish I had C$100,000 to spare.
sh-t, I wish I had C$100 to spare.


The move to the new, stonkin’, co-op server seems to be complete, and DNS changes have propagated. There are some PHP errors and such floating around, which I’m trying to eliminate, with the help of my fine, feathered host. If things seem horribly broken for you in some way, though, please let me know, and I’ll do my best to fix them. This offer does not extend to your personal life, I’m afraid, and is of course void where prohibited by law.

DMZ (and Bondaeggi)

Since I am inexplicably uninterested in writing anything at the moment, here’s some pics from the Deviant’s digital camera (covet covet covet) of our trip to the DMZ, and of DV himself, about to chow down on some bondaeggi (silkworm larvae). Mmmm, insectalicious!

DV about to eat a yummy bug. I made him do it. He was not terribly impressed.
Guards, guarding.
Assuming the position – half hidden behind the wall to minimize the size of the target presented. Seems a bit silly to me.
The guard post to which I managed to discreetly expose about two thirds of one butt-cheek while standing in the elevated concrete pagoda thing. Also the post from which the North Koreans apparently take pictures of tourists. Hope I didn’t precipitate an international incident.
UN side : lovely crushed granite. DPRK side : dirt, with weeds. Amusing, darkly.

DMZ Release


(UNC REG 551-1)

1. The visit to the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom will entail entry into a hostile area and the possibility of injury or death as a direct result of enemy action. The Joint Security Area is a neutral but divided area guarded by United Nations Command military personnel on the one side (South), and Korean People’s Army personnel on the other (North). Guests of the United Nations Command are not permitted to cross the Military Demarcation Line into the portion of the Joint Security Area under control of the Korean People’s Army. Although incidents are not anticipated, the United Nations Command, the United States of America, and the Republic of Korea cannot guarantee the safety of visitors and may not be held accountable in the even of a hostile enemy act.
2. Visitors must comply with the following instructions:

a) UNC military personnel will wear appropriate military uniform prescribed by their service for off-duty wear. Other visitors will be dressed in appropriate civilian attire so as to maintain the dignity of the United Nations Command.
b) Prior to entering the Joint Security Area, each visitor (including military personnel) will receive a laminated guest badge which identifies him/her as an authorized guest of the United Nations Command. Guest badges must be worn on the upper left side of the outermost garment. Guest badges must be turned in prior to departure from Camp Bonifas.
c) Fraternization, including speaking or any association with personnel from the Korean People’s Army/Chinese People’s Volunteers (KPA/CPV) side is strictly prohibited. Personnel from the KPA/CPV side are identified as follows :

(1) Military Personnel – Brown or olive drab North Korean uniforms with red arm bands for guards with weapons and yellow arm bands for Military Armistice Commission personnel.
(2) Press personnel – Green arm bands.
(3) Visitors – Green pieces of cloth at upper pocket.

d) Visitors will not point, make gestures, or expressions which could be used by the North Korean side as propaganda material against the United Nations Command.
e) Visitors will remain in a group from the beginning to the end of the tour and will follow all instructions from their tour guide. Any complaints will be registered after returning to Camp Bonifas.
f) Firearms, knives, or weapons of any type will not be taken into the JSA.
g) The area and buildings (tan colored) under the military control of the Communist side will not be entered for any reason. Permission of the tour guide must be obtained prior to entry into the UNC buildings (blue colored) in the JSA.
h) At no time will visitors stand inthe way of or interfere with military formations. Facilities and equipment inside the conference room will not be handled. Photography is permitted in the JSA but is prohibited enroute between Checkpoint A (the entrance to Camp Bonifas) and Checkpoint B (the entrance to the JSA).
i) If any incidents should occur, remain calm, and follow instructions issued by the security personnel.

3) Any questions concerning the above information should be brought to the attention fo the tour guide.


I have read, understand, and will comply with these instructions. If I am accompanied by minor dependants, minors for whom I am responsible for the purpose of this tour, my signature constitutes acceptance of the terms of these instructions on their behalf.

SIGNATURE: __________________ DATE: _______________
Edition of 1 May 85 will be used until exhausted

1 APR 95

Where you at?

I’m aware that the past week has been the longest unannounced hiatus I’ve taken from posting since this site started. Apologies to those who are left feeling out of sorts and mildly irregular in the absence of regular doses of wonderchicken. Life is happening, which is often a good thing.
Off to the DMZ this morning. My plan to moon the North Koreans on the other side of the Joint Security Area would have my companions a bit worried, if they were aware of it. I will maintain a tight security cordon.
Let’s hope the Bouffant-boy Brigades don’t pick today to march southwards for glory, conquest, and decent food (not to mention loose shoes and a warm toilet seat).

Fourteen Years

John reminds me that it is almost 14 years to the day since Tiananmen Square, which just reminds me that it was 14 years ago that I was living here, in predictably unrequited love with Mary, a waitress at Stavros’ Irish Bar (see also) and one in a long line of bargirls who spurned me, drinking in life in massive great draughts, careless and happy and free and burning away brain cells at dizzying speed. I remember when one of the gorgeous French girls who worked in the time-share office at the hotel (whose front desk I was managing and software I was geeking) told me about Tiananmen and showed me the newspaper, I remember it like it was yesterday. I also remember that she was inexplicably and vocally impressed with the girth and sturdiness of my treetrunk-like thighs, although I can’t for the life of me remember her name. Guess I didn’t kill all the braincells, just the ones that counted.
That was one of my favorite places in a lifetime of favorite places :


The C Word

Via Rusty of Kuro5hin in an almost completely unrelated Metatalk thread, an etymology and cultural history of the word ‘cunt’.
You learn something every day.
My fondest personal memory of the word itself (as opposed to the body parts to which it refers) comes from my first trip to London, back in 1988, I think it was. Stefan and I, fresh off the plane and train, boggled and hungover in Victoria Station, found the cheapest place we could to sleep, which turned out to be the floor of a run-down gymnasium near King’s X station. Was it called Tunbridge Sports Club? I don’t know, I can’t remember. Something like that, anyway.
It was only a pound a night, and all we needed to do once we’d paid at the door was drag a sweat-stained foam pad from a storage room and stake out a place on the floor somewhere. The arrangement left more cash for the beer, and that was a consideration foremost in our minds at the time. The fact that it was locked up between the hours of 9 am and 9 pm was just fine, as we were happy to wander the city all day though the clouds of diesel, colonial bumpkin mouths agape. The fact that we were locked in between 9 pm and 9 am might have given us pause if we’d stopped to think about it, but we were on an adventure, damn it! No foo-foo ‘youth hostels’ for us.
Three people I remember from that place : two Finnish guys, one who wore one of those teacozyesque knit caps over his blonde dreadlocks and was clearly the alpha male, and the other who orbited around him, a little like the Warner Brothers yappy little cartoon dog and his big tough pal, Butch. We ended up putting our foam mats down in the same general area a couple of nights running, both duos sensing in a reassuring preverbal kind of way that neither was likely to rip the other off while sleeping. I called them Sockhead and Son, and remember them still, which is no mean feat for my Rube Goldberg machine of a brain.
The third was the foulmouthed chainsmoking Cockney who ran the place. Well, ran it to the extent that he hung around at the entrance between 9 and 10 pm, collecting pound coins in his dirty paw, and turning away anyone who looked too much like a gluehead and too little like a backpacker. His favorite phrase, which in the week or so we crashed there I must have heard two dozen times, was : ‘Yoooooou foockin’ cooont!’ He seemed inclined to drawl it out whether happy or angry or contemplative, under any circumstances that required verbalization, to anyone that might find themselves unhappily pinioned under his bloodshot medusa gaze. Five minutes after nine and not out of the communal shower? ‘Yoooooou foockin’ cooont!’ Only a five pound note to pay for your foam mat for the night? ‘Yoooooou foockin’ cooont!’ Caught smoking inside the building? ‘Yoooooou foockin’ cooont!’
It was like a lullaby after walking 20 or 30 kilometres a day, while sinking gratefully down onto the gym floor. I remember drifting off to sleep with Grubby The Warden hectoring late arrivals at the top of his gravelly voice : ‘Yoooooou foockin’ cooont!’ after ‘Yoooooou foockin’ cooont!’ easing us off into la-la land.
I hated that guy, but I loved him too, because he was at least memorable. Like the Young Ones used to say about Harry the Bastard with mock-respect in their voices : what a bastard!

At this time, in the Stews (brothel) area of Southwark, London, there was a street called Gropecuntelane. Similarly, there was a Gropecuntlane in Oxford (later renamed Magpie Lane), a Cunte Street in Bristol (later renamed Host Street), and, in London, a Pissing Alley and sh-tteborwelane. Gropecuntelane may have been shortened to Grope Lane, and a similar (though less graphic) example can be found in York, where a Grope Lane was “renamed [Grape Lane] by staid Victorians who found the original Grope – historically related to prostitution – too blatant” [Wainwright, 2000].

The Happy Rock

A quote that I stumbled across today from Henry Miller, who helped me to see a few things a few decades ago, a quote that feels appropriate to circumstances about which I am reluctant to speak in detail quite yet, from Tropic of Capricorn :

You are perpetually spending your energy in the act of balancing yourself. You are seized with a sort of spiritual vertigo, you totter on the brink, your hair stands on end, you can’t believe that beneath your feet lies an immeasurable abyss. It comes through a passionate desire to embrace people, to show them your love. The more you reach out toward the world the more the world retreats. Nobody wants real love, real hatred. Nobody wants you to put your hand in his sacred entrails — that’s only for the priest in the hour of sacrifice.
While you live, while the blood’s still warm, you are to pretend that there is no such thing as blood and no such thing as a skeleton beneath the covering of the flesh. Keep off the grass! That’s the motto by which people live.
If you continue this balancing at the edge of the abyss long enough you become very very adept: no matter which way you are pushed you always right yourself. Being in constant trim you develop a ferocious gaiety, an unnatural gaeity, I might say.
There are only two peoples in the world today who understand the meaning of such a statement — the Jews and the Chinese. If it happens that you are neither of these you find yourself in a strange predicament. You are always laughing at the wrong moment; you are considered cruel and heartless when in reality you are only tough and durable. But if you would laugh when others laugh and weep when they weep you must be prepared to die as they die and live as they live. That means to be right and to get the worst of it at the same time. It means to be dead while you are alive and alive only when you are dead. In this company the world always wears a normal aspect, even under the most abnormal conditions. Nothing is right or wrong but thinking makes it so. You no longer believe in reality but in thinking. And when you are pushed off the dead end your thoughts go with you and they are of no use to you.

This quote was one of my buddy Rick’s favorites, too.

What do you do?

You ended up working for people you hated, and you found the massive inflow of cash thrilling but completely unrewarding. You felt like you had pissed away years of your life building some inconsequential piece of software that would never see the light of day anyway. You felt an urge to actually do things for people, to do something that might leave a mark of some kind on someone. On anyone. Something that felt real, or at least realer than the corporate office-politics circle jerk that had turned your sense of work as play into a daily grind as your friends quit, or were made redundant, or just gave up and waited for the foundering ship to finally sink. Endurance counts the most, Bukowski always said, but you were just too damn tired of spinning your wheels 80 hours a week, and getting shunted to the sidelines by incompetent technocrats who felt threatened by you. So you left your freakishly high-paying job, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. People thought you had taken leave of your senses.
And you went back to a place you had publicly reviled, a place you’d spent hours (days? weeks? months?) complaining about, a place in which the swarming multitude of infuriating details that assaulted your senses on a daily basis had driven you to drink for all the wrong reasons, a place where in weaker moments you felt sure that you’d had some of the life drained out of you, unrecoverable, into the smoggy night. But to a job teaching again, chasing the noble dream again, at a university, poorly-paid, yes, but where you could make a difference, you thought, where you might see in the eyes of your students that your labours were appreciated, that you would, at least by a few, be remembered. Where much of your time would be your own, and you could stretch out, grow your mind, cultivate your soul.
Dreamer. Pretty soon, predictably, you grew weary of that, too, and wondered what the hell would ever make you content.
And now, there’s an offer on the table to go back, reverse the clock, and join the racing rats once again. You’re sorely tempted, and you are annoyed with yourself for being so easily led. And afraid that if you don’t grab the ring again, don’t say yes each and every time to the possibilities life offers you, that life will stop offering you those chances, fold closed the kimono, and it will all be over.
And you realize, in your confusion and doubt, that all you really want is to go back to that bamboo hut – the one in Fiji, or the one on Flores, or the one on the Caribbean coast of Quintana Roo, or the one you have kept in your mind like a mantra manifested since you first hurled yourself out on the road – the one on the new-moon arc of powdery sand, beneath the coconut palms, the one you’ve dreamed about over and over again. You can almost picture yourself sitting there again, deeply tanned, drinking a beer, the good hot smell of your own baked-off sweat, the dried-seawater tautness of your skin, natty dread, nothing going through your mind other than the colour blue, a deep and throbbing hum, and a set of gentle animal hungers. In the moment.
And then the phone rings.