Insta Bad Habits
I’ve activated an instagram account under the name @the_other_justin. Feel free to check it out. It very much revels in the quotidian. Much easier to do that on instagram than here. So if you like pictures of cats, muddy riversides, dirt, and/or dirt adjacent things you might enjoy it!
“A Ghost Can Only Take” at Reckoning
My rambling gonzo* epic-mundane** essay “A Ghost Can Only Take” about walking the liminal zone inside an industrial city, ghosts, history, and landscape memory has been published over at Reckoning Magazine. While you’re there you should check out the rest of the magazine. There’s lots of good weird stuff in there.
One thing I wish to highlight about that essay is how much it’s unfinished as it can’t be finished, as it’s about where I live and the present moment in all it’s fluid, ever-changing glory.
Let me give you two examples. First, since I wrote that piece there’s been an earthquake on the north side of town that left a few hundred people homeless. Second, if Trump’s steel tariffs go through they’ll heavily impact where I live and work since the steel company in town is one of the leading steel companies in the world. If they start feeling the squeeze the whole city will. And that’s leaving aside any and all nonsense about a possible war on the peninsula.
Anyway, please give it a read if you’re inclined, or scroll through and look at all the pictures. (And if you like the pictures, there are plenty more where they came from.)
* What the editor called it.
** What I called it.
I think these were on display to celebrate the Lunar New Year (Seollal) last week.
Things Published in 2017
Here are things I had published in 2017. Give them a read or listen if you have the inclination. I’m quite proud of them.
A Late Quintessence: a story about censorship, alchemy, and the regenerative power of ideas from the perspective of a villain coming to realize too late that he was on the wrong side of history. May it come to pass. (Link / Audio)
Behind the Sun: this is a faux travelogue about a weird civilization that exists in the center of our hollow earth. Witness the strange past-times of the inhabitants! Realize that struggle and communal effort have the power to rehabilitate us all! (Link)
This coming year should see a few more things published. Stay tuned!
Man on Pipe
2018 is the year I go back to posting quotidian pictures. Sorry, not sorry.
Did I Mention…
Did I mention I more or less quit my job?
“More or less” because when the time came to renew my teaching contract for another year, I chose not to so now I’m just wiling away the days until my last one, which will be Friday.
I’ve been at my main school since 2011. It was great teaching these kids. I even liked most of them, in particular the current crop who will be starting 6th grade next week. But I also need a break. Which I realize is such a luxurious, privileged thing to say. And I feel both those things and not necessarily in a bad way, but in a fortunate and thankful way. It’s been a privilege to work with and know everyone I met students and teachers. I worked for years. I saved money. Now I can take a few months off to do as I please. Savings along with my wife’s income should hold us and once my visa gets sorted out I’ll be able to freelance and teach private students. We’ll see what happens.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m a little stressed out. Having no schedule, no time when I need to be up, no place I need to be, that’s spooky. I fear I’m either going to become completely indolent, or worse, and this is actually more likely, I’ll become so utterly fussy that I’ll be vacuuming the ceiling every day at 3 o’clock sharp and other somewhat OCD compulsions and more or less driving people crazy.
Did I mention I graduated grad school and am now a “Master of Education”?
I’m glad it’s done. Now I can read all the books. All the books. But the degree might prove useful later on, especially when it comes time to find a new job. You’d think right?
One thing that always got me was when folks would say how they wanted to take a grad course while in Korea, but when I told them the time to enroll for my program they’d give me some long blahblahblah about how my school was a bad school and there are online programs and yaddayadda – and yes, fine, my school isn’t the greatest. It’s basically a local community college, but it really bugs me when I see people want to do a thing, talk about doing it, then when you point them to an opportunity to do it, they tell you how the opportunity is somehow wrong, and so they won’t do it. Meanwhile I got my degree and they’re still talking about getting theirs.
In other facets of my life I should apply that insight, instead of waiting for right conditions.
Did I mention our cat died?
Yeah, that sucked. But it was months ago. She was a big annoying cat who had like four owners by the time she was 4 years old – and I loved every fat ounce of her, but it turned out she had a heart problem. I like to think she had a decent three years with us. We still have another cat. Her name is Mona Lisa Overdrive. She’s also annoying. And I love her to pieces.
From the beginning, the coexistence of the diverse groups that gravitated around D’Annunzio had been difficult. There were the citizens of Fiume and the Italian troops (the arditi, the carabinieri), but also Bolsheviks who rushed to the city (in a Moscow speech, Lenin said he and D’Annunzio were the only authentic revolutionaries of Europe); anarcho-syndicalists; futuristic, fascist Dadaists; and oddities like the curious war hero Guido Keller, whose mascot was an eagle, who slept naked in the tops of trees, and who was one of the new commander’s main lieutenants.
From a Cabinet Magazine article by Reinaldo Laddaga about Gabriele D’Annunzio’s 1919 capture of the city of Fiume reads like something straight out of a China Mieville Bas-lag novel: A City for Poets and Pirates. It’s a fascinating read and worth checking out.
216 Words for emotional states that don’t exist in English. I have had the occasional schnapsidee myself.
When I say ‘my armor,’ what I really mean is a spreadsheet I used to analyze every piece of armor my character wore. Each piece of gear—the helmet, the chest piece, the chainmail legs—altered my character’s powers. My goal was to increase the amount of ‘Haste’ he had without giving up too much mana.
From Alex Golub’s artcile on The History of Mana: How an Austronesian Concept became a Video Game Mechanic . . . now I’m not going to say I’ve ever had a spreadsheet set-up for my D&D characters, but I will say I’ve known some people who have.
Do you like links? I like links. I like having neat and interesting stuff pointed out to me. I like being shown towards articles I would never have found otherwise.
The internet is a big place. Why not let other people read bits of it for you?
When I started this blog I thought of it being a bit of a scrapbook, a place to put down random ideas, pictures, and notes. Earlier this week I asked a friend to send me the link to an article he told me about over a year ago, and the thought occurred to me that maybe I should keep track of those. Plus sharing a note of such things might be worthwhile.
So here we are…
Teaching: Just Like Performing Magic: Teller (the silent half of the comedy team Penn & Teller) talks about his experiences teaching high school Latin. Things to crib here if you’re an ESL/EFL teacher and want or get to design your own curriculum.
The Significance of Plot Without Conflict: A bit about the kishōtenketsu style of story telling. I think there’s a critique of this style of story telling, just as there’s one of Campbellian heroes with a thousand faces, but knowing it’s out there is pretty helpful.
Return of the Mercenaries: Since I live overseas near a US military base, I’ve had a chance to hang around with contractors working for the Department of Defense. All of them have been tech guys, but the stories they tell of their friends who are involved in combat operation makes your average mercenary sound like a combination of a prima donna ballerina and a viking berserker.
Twitter Weird Science Facts: I’m glad these are back. I had my wife in stitches telling her about FDC Willard, the physicist cat. And we both agreed that badger/coyote hunting teams sounded like the scar-faced gangsters of the animal world. Beatrix Potter was right!
The Swincar E-Spider: “Ferdinand, I must ride.”
Mysteries of Education
I’ve taught at the same school since 2011. For some these kids I’m the only English teacher they’ve had. One thing that’s fascinating to me this year is how utterly nice and good natured the current 6th graders are. Not that I’m complaining, but it puzzles me and I wonder if this was somehow created or if it’s just luck. Like, not every student is perfect or a great kid, but there’s no horrible bullies, which have been a problem in previous years, or kids prone to violent out-bursts (which is a problem at my other school). Instead the worst thing I have to put up with is some shenanigans where some boys have become competitive over who can be the best class clown. And if class clown shenanigans is the worst I have to deal with, I’ll say thanks and be happy.
And it is just these 6th and 5th grade classes. The classes coming up behind them are already showing some problem behaviors. So that makes me wonder what worked for those two classes and is it something that can be replicated?
Possibility 1: It’s dumb luck, and the chemistry between these students is just how it is and/or they had the good fortune to be matched with good teachers.
Possibility 2: It’s the environment. My school’s neighborhood went through a revitalization project that made the population dip while construction went on. Class sizes shrunk in real time (as opposed to always being small), so students bonded as a group better. Now this renewal project has ended and the neighborhood population has stabilized, but instead of having 3 classes of 22 students, the lower grades have 2 classes of 33 students, which is starting to feel crowded enough for students to get lost.
Possibility 3: A policy change, either regional or local. I’ve seen 3 principals come and go. Each one brought a different character to the school. Maybe a shift in the priorities at the top filtered down and affected the school’s character. Student behavior might reflect this.
But I count myself lucky for now despite the horrors of my second school – my main school’s all right, even if it does make me wonder.