Law & Order: Elementary School
Strange things are going on in the 6th grade.
For the past two days now, the half dozen lousy* students, an assortment of mean girls, bully boys, and their sycophants, are getting pulled out of classes and taken off to separate rooms where they’re being “interrogated” by the teacher in charge of our school’s anti-bullying program**. Granted it’s the end of the year and it would have been great if these interventions had occurred earlier, but in this world I’ll take what I can get.
* Lousy in the horrible person way, not the poorly performing student way. If you’re a crappy student, but a decent person, you’re okay in my class.
** There’s been a push to get anti-bullying programs in schools here, so that’s great – but in a lot of ways it’s completely at odds with the overall culture outside school (though is this much different than back in the States?), and it’s kind of toothless, which might also be the same as in the States.
Above the Confluence
And now your moment of academic propaganda…
Garden 07 12 2013
North Korea, Our New Couch, and Me
I think my mom has emailed me more this week than she has in all the years the Internet, she, and I have existed on this planet together.
The US Embassy sent out an email yesterday that opened with:
“The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens that despite current political tensions with North Korea there is no specific information to suggest there are imminent threats to U.S. citizens or facilities in the Republic of Korea (ROK). The Embassy has not changed its security posture and we have not recommended that U.S. citizens who reside in, or plan to visit, the Republic of Korea take special security precautions at this time.”
I forwarded that on to my family.
And while my morbid nature is curious what the “Get the fuck out now!” email will read like (I imagine its tone will resemble the Tony-voice from The Shining: REDRUM! REDRUM!), I’ve been in South Korea long enough to have witnessed other instances of saber rattling, and this one appears to be more of the same. None of my coworkers are behaving like this is anything out of the ordinary. There are no tanks in the streets and the USMC hasn’t evacuated service-member families from the base here in town.
I told my mom that we bought a couch and the thing Jin and I are most worried about right now is where to put it: against the wall nearest the window or the one with the 60s space-age wallpaper. My aunt, being an interior decorator, after hearing the couch was beige, said to put it against the 60s space-age wallpaper and then get some throw pillows that’ll match the colors in the wallpaper. Being open to the advice of sages, this is what we will do.
And that’s one way to react to all this saber rattling, and how we are choosing to.
Of course there’s a “but”, because I can’t discount all my fears. I know what a “black swan” is and lived in Jersey City and worked in NYC on 9/11. Horrible shit happens when you least expect it. A stable system built atop dynamic forces can collapse into complete chaos. And that’s where this gets tricky. How long do I want to spend thinking about worst-case scenarios? Give me an hour and I could spin you several dozen. Do I prepare for each one, only one, or none? How paranoid do I want to let myself be about this?
Most of the expats in town aren’t worried and are quick to dismiss fears that this is anything different. To suggest taking steps to prepare is met with hostility of a veiled sort, and it’ll be funny if my last thoughts in the .00000005 seconds before a North Korean nuke’s detonation and my vaporization is “I told you so” – at least it’ll be funny to my forcibly disassociated atoms in a cosmically ironic way. But I’m a big fan of brief focused bouts of productive paranoia.
If you’re constantly worried about something, it’s often best to set aside a proscribed time to obsess about it. Think of what steps you can take to prepare, do them, and then once they’re done and the time limit’s over, stop thinking about it.
So that’s what we’ve done. We’ve done all the minor things we can like register with the embassy, put together an emergency bag, and talked about meeting places. Both Jin and I are children of the 1980s and the late Cold War. The prospect of Nuclear Annihilation is something we remember from being kids. The city where we live now is an early target in any sort of open conflict. The city where Jin’s parents live is similar. In that situation all the bottled water in our emergency bag means doodley-squat. In any one of the baker’s dozen of alternative clusterfucks that might result, who knows, maybe those extra water bottles will come in handy.
But what we both really expect is that the bottled water, the folded-up map to the Marine base, the emergency bag, will all gather dust in the gap between the wall and our washing machine, and whether we can find blue, green, and orangish throw pillows here in town is what we’re really worried about.
Here’s some stuff:
Jin, my wife, got interviewed for her translation work on the Witcher game over at this gaming site. Of course it’s only in Korean, but Jin had a fun time working on the project and doing the interview. Did you know if you image search Witcher 2 in the USA it gives you all the monsters you can fight, but if you image search it on the Korean web it’s mostly pictures of the women you get to sleep with? True fact. Or at least maybe it is.
Two weeks back I inherited a load of books from Gord Sellar. I think it was a ton or so. I had to hide the boxes behind a tree in order to get a cab to stop for me because I made the mistake of having the boxes delivered to my school. But I schlepped them home and put them on my shelves and now I have a near complete run of the Korean spec-fic magazine Fantastique (pictured above) among a bunch of other stuff. Fantastique deserves a blog post all its own. The magazine was kind of legendary for its high production values, and it’s weird flipping through the magazine – oddly nostalgic but also a bit perplexing. How could anyone expect to keep such an enterprise afloat? Anyways, that’s a post that needs to be written.
One of these days…
Mr. Good Morning
Here’s a story.
I used to pass this guy every morning on my way to work at this certain streetlight. He’d be on a bike and I’d be walking.
He was an older Korean guy wearing a baseball cap and aviator sunglasses, always casually dressed but super neat like if it were raining he’d be riding the bike one handed holding an umbrella with the other, and the open umbrella would be perfectly parallel to the road, not held sloped or slanted like you or I or any other slob would.
Anyway, he always said “Good Morning” to me, so that’s the name I gave him. He was like my alarm clock. If I didn’t see him on my way to work, I knew I’d be late.
But in the past few months there’s been all this construction near work and I’ve had to detour past the place where we usually met, so I hardly see him. I still do but it’s rare and no matter when I do, he always breezes by me on his bike saying “Good Morning.” This even happened once on a Saturday afternoon.
So I told Jin about the guy and she thought it was amusing. But then earlier this week we were coming out of the supermarket and there the guy was in his track suit and wearing a cravat (and baseball cap). It was nighttime, he said “Good Morning”, and we stopped and chatted with him. Turns out the guy’s a retired master ship’s surgeon from the Korean Navy who works as a school crossing guard, which is where he’s always going in the morning. He also thought I was from Uzbekistan. Jin was more than a little amused by that, and after we left she said, “You know that guy’s now going to take you out drinking.”
That might be interesting.