Archive for the ‘soapbox’ Category

by celestial standards, the first day of spring is march 21st.

but i don’t care what any solar calendar has to say. i’m declaring it officially spring here in okpo. (what? you don’t think i’m a qualified weather forecaster? well the hoards of kiddies that know the difference between “rainy” and “sunny” because of ME would likely disagree with you. plus it was something ridiculous like 17 degrees. ya, try and argue with THAT.)

it’s a good thing too. i was running out of ways to avoid the strangely unexpected bitterness of a south korean winter.

(i mean come on, there’s only so many times you can go tobogganing on the local golf course with children’s life perservers acting as a stand-in for your krazy carpet or GT racer.)

and so it was…gingerbread pancakes, fireworks in the middle of the afternoon, and countless soju bottles littering the beachfront.  

today just kind of punched bad-times winter right in the face.


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maybe you’re reading this because you have a slight interest in my daily haps and scanning this post is another procrastinating scheme in which you are avoiding starting whatever else you have that is (surely) more important than watching my desperate attempts to fill every paragraph with brackets (seriously kids, choose a handful of posts and you will see. my batting average is probably about 6 or 7 per page. discontinued and choppy thoughts in its purist form).

or maybe you’re reading this because you want to hound me out for taking three months to respond to your thoughtful and caring facebook message. please recall my pre-meditated “i’m awful at keeping in-touch with people” excuse. i thought i was vague enough that i covered all my bases on that one.  either way, i read your emails. and i’ll seriously write back……later.

whatever the case may be, i just want to put this out there:

i kind of hate you.

but before you start assuming that korea has molded me into an even surlier dickhead, let me explain.

as you read this, you are probably sitting in the comfortable comfort of your own home. a home that probably has some sort of central heating, and maybe even a room or two with carpeted flooring. a home where you do not live next door to your boss, a man that without encouragement or any interest from yours truly, finds it beyond necessary to narrate daily activities, meals, and choice of inner/ outerwear (“yes, i wear moccasins in the winter. and yes, this apparently also means that EVERY SINGLE CANADIAN wears moccasins in the winter. the orange moccasin dye on the bottoms of our feet is practically a racial identifier…”).

maybe you are lucky enough to have walls which seperate one room from another, but even if that is not the case, surely (and for your standard of living, hopefully) your kitchen has a kitchen.

i hate you because you probably have an oven. i hate you because you most likely have counterspace where you can chop onions and carrots freely without running the risk of flinging your plastic drying rack into the open flame of your gas stove top. i hate you because you can plug-in your microwave, kettle, and coffee maker ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

i’m harbouring a lot of jealousy right now. it’s probably best i hold off on that facebook response for another month or two.

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anytime you move somewhere, (be it across the street, across the country, or even across the world), you want to find commonalities in places where they may not even exist.
commercial dr. in vancouver is just like kensington market in toronto.

 markham st. is just the same, even 6 houses north.
the okpo factor is just like….well, it’s actually in its entirely own playing field.
ANYWAY, i s’pose sometimes people have this innate need to find similarities within and consequently, throughout their life. i s’pose this is what makes us feel comfortable in places where we are completely removed from our own comfort zone. your mind may think, “hey self, if you did okay in kensington…you will probably do just as well (and fingers crossed…even better), on commercial dr. ”
now don’t get me wrong, i am certainly aware that moving from one hipster-concentrated compound to another is really not that far removed from one’s usual level of comfort. but sometimes you find yourself searching as hard as you can for similarities in places and inevitably, come up empty-handed (and undoubtedly upset that you can’t get the same brunch on commercial that you could in kensington). 
and with that long-winded nostalgic intro, such was the case with the g20 summit in seoul as i attempted to find a string of similarities where they did not exist….. all for the sake of feeling comfortable.

(as if a weekend of protests, citizen congestion, and general police vs. public aggression would make me feel comfortable. but we all have different ways of processing feelings of homesick okay?  no need to judge.) 


without rehashing the hashy details of that b-a-n-a-n-a-s weekend in toronto, the g20 was definitely my most unexpected event of the summer (however, it should be noted that flava flav’s unannounced set at the sasquatch festival comes in at a very close second).

 it certainly made me question a whackload of the people who make decisions about the everyday happenings on earth and the seemingly impossible feats that these decision-makers make so easily feasible …including toronto’s  apparently “easy” task of spending $857 million during the 3-day circus. (for some budgetary perspective, that’s just $3 million shy of vancouver’s expenses for a 2-week multi-sport international best-time-of-my-life frenzy).  (the latter was also a circus of sorts but had waaay more winter ale, and for the record, a more impressive band line-up). 

i vicariously felt the injustice of all those detained throughout the weekend in toronto and was almost pleased to have a policeman order me to pull over my bike and examine my backpack of weekend contents on the corner of yonge and king by himself and his buddies.

if only for the pleasure that this could be my own grounds for a political tirade. and if that failed, i knew i could just embellish this story to my parents… just to see the look on their faces when they begin to think that they raised a brick-throwing anarchist for a daughter.

i had no real expectations of the g20 summit in seoul. perhaps i was just assuming that i would walk out of seoul station and get hit square in the forehead by something (let’s just assume that it would most likely be a brick). with hoards of black bloc members ready and willing to destroy every starbucks in their path. 

 but other than this woman trying to light herself on fire, the seoul summit could not be substantially compared to that of toronto.

well, why the eff not?

for starters, seoul was able to learn from the mistakes of their beaver buddies. and instead of viewing the g20 as an excuse to spend those extras cash-dollars on fancy rooms at the hyatt, south korea saw the weekend as an opportunity to embrace patriotism as “the first asian country to host the summit.”  

presumably (and from a non-seouler’s perspective), overly-crowded urban life went on as usual. there were no bike rallies outside of detention centres. there were no unwarranted arrests for carrying around a suspicious amount of plastic bags. and there were no policemen pulling me over to look through my well-stocked backpack.

(and good thing, because who knows what those korean cops would think of a foreigner yielding a backpack full of dirty black scarves and anti-globalization propaghanda…all just to make her feel like she’s right at home.)

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as I have mentioned before, i miss writing in a more public venue. now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like i was writing leftist movement pieces for a glossy publication with circulation numbers inching towards the half million mark. i wrote about music. i judged bands based on their comparative dance moves to that of Craig Finn. i streamed 14-track cds and then tried to sum it up in under 200 words. i elbowed my way through photo pits in an attempt to capture a sole shot that would epitomize a musician’s 90-minute set. 
i started the gig because of the obvious perks. free shows every night of the week. hefty bar tabs were covered. witnessing those indescribable sets with a handful of other kids that also just so happen to have stumbled upon something pretty fucking fantastic (save for the fact that they did not have the pressured task of trying to put the night into more accurate words than “pretty fucking fantastic.”) these were my motives for bearing the title of “contributing writer/ photographer/ all-round trash bag.” 
or so i thought.
this morning i listened to Hooded Fang’s new record for the first time. it’s now well past noon and the play count is currently sitting at 9. (in addition to the actual tunes spurring even the most lethargic listener to start a rhythmic hand-clapping sequence, the artwork is done by the same dude that paints the signs for Honest Ed’s. unbelievable.) this cd makes me realize what i really enjoyed when writing about music. it wasn’t the “plus one” on guest lists, it wasn’t the daytime writers meetings which consequently turned into nighttime blurs, it wasn’t even the very last round of PBR as the band cleared out their gear. in actuality, what i enjoyed the most about writing about music has nothing to do with all those added perks.
as the play count rolls up to 10, i am beginning to realize that its those moments when you listen to a tune or hear a chord live or have an amusing conversation with a band that you pegged all wrong, those moments when you want to scale a city building (or at the very least, the dive bar down the street) and scream as loud as you can “i freaking love this band!” 
for now, i don’t really write about music.
but if i did, the new Hooded Fang record is pretty fucking fantastic.

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the marionette syndrome

i think i’m coming down with something.

i could list off my symptoms like a pepto bismol commercial but i will spare you the details. however, i am pretty confident that this is more than just an ordinary flu. oh yes. this is not just one of those “24-hour bugs” that you can shake off in a day or two. no no, this is something much much worse.

i think i am suffering from the marionette syndrome.

now sometimes (i.e., all the time) i will use the internet to self-diagnosis. for reals. google probably knows more about my medical history than my japanese family doctor. and that guy knew me since i was a strange toddler who had an obsession with sticking popcorn kernels in my ears and stickers up my nose.

unfortunately, google failed me this time.

if you tried for yourself to search ‘the marionette syndrome’, you would come up with a couple hits for a japanese anime pop song from 2009 that is laced with yamaha synthesizers and performed by a digital android that fights crime with her synthesized-theme wardrobe (i could not have even made that up if i tried). but i can assure you, this has nothing to do with comic books (or synthesizers, for that matter).

without google to immediately rely on, and left to my own knowledge of the DSM-IV, i have been forced to understand and consequently, navigate, the strange (and worsening) facets of the marionette syndrome.

for starters, the onset of marionette syndrome often takes place in a english-as-a-second-language setting. patients may not even notice that they are beginning to develop signs of the marionette syndrome as they are too busy having one of the easier jobs on the planet. this is compounded by the patient’s disbelief that they are actually getting paid to relay a skill that is of second nature to them.

but soon, other signs or symptoms become present. patients may begin to realize that yes, their job is definitely unlike most other nine-to-fivers. however, the job description outlined in their poorly translated pdf contract and the patient’s actual purposeful function in day-to-day scenarios are ridiculously divergent of one another.

and these contrasting differences very well lead into the origin of naming “the marionette syndrome” as such. patients of the marionette syndrome may begin to understand that their purpose as an ESL teacher is not really to teach English to adorable korean children. sure, patients may act as teachers, they may conjugate verbs, they may even regurgitate a lesson plan or two. but in reality, their purpose as an ESL teacher is to perform.

to perform. like a marionette.

(get it? tis clever. i know.)

although some patients may actually feel like they have strings attached to their arms and legs and their boss/ director holds a firm grip on the wooden cross that secures those ragged strings. most patients’ symptoms stem from more abstract comparisons to the austrian puppet.

marionette syndromers (this is what we call ourselves, we may even have a foundation set up already) are merely there to perform as a face of westernized culture. a face of westernized culture similar to those advertisements of now c-list hollywood celebrities that glue the walls of a seoul subway station. to perform in such a way that encourages a more heterogeneous korea. a korea made up primarily of korean-koreans and a sprinkle of english speakers-turned-marionettes.

the boss that holds the strings (wikipedia refers to this person as “the manipulator” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marionette)  can  jerk the strings ever so slightly, and the puppet will go balls-to-the-wall berserk. work 12 days straight. wrangle a herd of hagwon crazies. perform the same class with the same routine for months straight.

it could very well be that this post is instigated by the circus that was the last two weeks (which included the above-mentioned 12-day work bender).  but it suddenly hit me that i too, have become a victim of the marionette syndrome.

 i spent a day at school being miserable about my condition. i was fully prepared to spend the better part of the afternoon being even more miserable (some would say i was in the grieving stage of acceptance) when i was assigned to complete two quick speaking tests with students. these tests would “decide” which level of afterschool class the students entered. but it is no secret that they really are assigned a class based on their age, english competence is not a factor here. again, i was just performing for the kiddies.

i started off with an 11 year old who had fantastic english skills. she would be well-suited for our top afterschool class but i knew full well her fate with the english language lied in the three-ring circus of the mid-level class. rushing through a set of generalized questions, i asked her about her favourite hobbies. i had already deemed her as a “play computer games” kind of gal. (much different from the kiddies that typically answer “i like watch tv” “academy” or personal favourite, “my hobby is sleep.”) her answer was fantastically unexpected….to say the least.

“i like to bark like a dog.”

i almost spit out my miniature cup of maxim.

“you like what?”

“to bark. like a dog.”

and almost as if i was an owner asking my cocker spaniel to “speak,” she lets out this yelp of a bark that causes all other teachers in the room to also spit out their miniature cups of maxim (seriously, why is something so delicious so small?).

“oh yes. i also like playing tennis.”

amazing.   “do you bark like a dog while you are playing tennis?”

“hmmm…well, yes, sometimes i do.”

this was sensational. all of it.

and i suppose that is the final piece of information about the marionette syndrome: the prognosis. for some people, it may be a long, difficult and uphill struggle to lead a healthy life in korea once you have been diagnosed with the syndrome.

but for others, all you need is a strong dose of a little korean girl who enjoys barking like a dog while playing tennis.

(the little girl also ended up in the top-level class…. i hope she soon discovers the full potential of her canine skills).

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an open letter.

two years ago i wrote an open letter to the thief that stole my bike basket. it was malicious and mostly plagiarized from that kids in the hall skit with bruce mcculloch. i didn’t feel any better and in the end, i was still bike basket-less and struggling to steer my bike with baguette in hand.

this open letter is of different sorts….but for the record, i am still basket-less.

dear time,

you know what? you’re a real trickster. to everyone, you make it seem like you are a dependable and reliable source of measurement. but i am onto you, time. i know that sometimes you really drag shit out just to piss us off. and then other times, you speed it all up so ‘real time’ becomes ‘reltme.’ jerk.

like for instance, time, you make 5:00pm seem like it is light years away. stephen hawking styles.

and while we are at it, time, i know you think it is fun to make those incredibly delirious hours go by in nanoseconds but i have to admit it, time, it makes my tear ducts wet.

i resist you, time. i really do. on a daily basis, i believe i can change fifteen minutes into a half an hour. i believe that i do not always need to know where you are at to know where i am at. i believe that even though you suspiciously change as i cross hemispheres, i’ll operate on my own clock. you know, that internal one.

so time, even though some people really thrive on your quantifiable agenda, you should know that i don’t really care about you.

for the record, unless i reference “havin a time” please know time, that you don’t count for a thing in my books.

yours never,


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“i’ll never start a blog.”-centre island. summer 2010.

and so was the ending sentence of a rant about the blogosphere and the common self-indulgence or voyeuristic tendencies that could occur (and most likely do) from creating a free account on a free website that the free world can look at….freely.

i suppose i thought (think) blogs were (are) often a non-verbal way to communicate: “hey world, look at all this sweet shit i’m doing while you sit infront of a computer and read all about it… suckas!” but then again, i don’t really do that much sweet stuff (save for those times when i do sweet stuff) and assuming people care about anything other than themselves is a mighty assumption to make.

defensively, i miss writing. i miss writing words that may (or may not) be read. i miss my words being “in circulation.”

writing publicly can also be selfishly beneficial. it is so easy to run your mouth off to another trashbag about all the facts you believe about the world and how the world seems to operate in such a glorious way because of your being. BUT as soon as you have the knowledge that more than one trashbag may (or again, may not) be reading your words you begin to watch yourself….before you wreck yourself.

so in reality, this is my haphazard attempt to remain a human who can change her opinion or adapt to technological advances or remain self-conscious about circulating words.

take that blogosphere! bet you didn’t see it coming….

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