Just a news and update blog for friends and family overseas.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Cell Phone

Don't have it yet, but I will soon. Quite the thing, getting one as a foreigner. It's very involved.

Dabang's Website

... is still coming soon. But this time I think it's actually coming. Seong Hwan is calling the server people tomorrow to have them fix the bloody mess, as all the files are in the right place, but nothing points at that place when you type in www.dabangband.com. Hopefully soon I can edit that and make it a real link.

Speaking of Links

... cutting and pasting links is a mindless job, but it's done. Now if only I could control how the links sidebar appears on this page. Argh!

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Life in General

I was up late last night copying links for my sidebar. Ungh. Now I must go attempt to teach, and then it's a lunch date with some old friends, writing up report cards (I had to peel your boy off the wall last week. Please feed him less sugar. or Your child is destined to become an evil genius. Whatever you do, do NOT let him start hanging out with Jedi Knights. If he does, it's all gonna be downhill from there.), marking notebooks, and then going home for a quick bite and meeting my friend Young Ja, who will help me buy a discount-model cell phone, which I've discovered is a near-necessity to my life here.

I hope I can get the links stuff done tonight, but I'd also like to add another 3 or 4 pages to my novel. Ah, where does all the time go?

Things up North. Ummmmmmmmmmm. Not necessary.

The Big Sleep

These days, since my novel has taken the turn into somehow morphing into a kind of futuristic potboiler, I've taken it upon myself to read some mystery novels. During a trip to Seoul I managed to pick up an old, abused hardcover copy of Raymond Carver's The Big Sleep. I'm precisely halfway through it and in awe of the plotting and style. The story is just getting more and more convoluted and I'm finding it harder and harder to put down.

Another thing that's exceptionally well-done is the treatment of the culture... the underground P.I. culture, the local culture, the world of the cops, all of it. There's a lot that the reader has to simply pull out of implication, and that's really cool. I'm working at making my own writing more like that, the sort of thing where you immerse readers in a sometimes-shocking and deeply alienating world, instead of explaining about it. That's something that happens in the best SF all the time... you see it in Bruce Sterling (especially in his stunning Holy Fire) and John Brunner (Stand on Zanzibar being only one fine example) and Maureen McHugh (well, in her China Mountain Zhang, on the basis of which I am willing to declare her an amazing writer) and so many other writers. Well, and here it is happening in a potboiler. Land sakes. I understand now why so many people advise young writers to read everything.

Studying Korean

It's hard.

But fun, at least. Yes, really.

These days, I am working on things like:

- being able to say things in the imperative, like "Stop the car over there please," or "Give me a phone card, please," or "You have a nice day, now, y'hear?"

- being able to do negations with the greatest of ease in all forms of address, from the most informal to the most formal. There are lots of ways to do this. Too many. Imagine in English being able to say, "Don't do that!" or "Do that don't!" or "Not do!" Except it has to do with levels of formality, I think. Anyway...

- being able to make if-then and other conditional/hypothetical statements, like, "If you build it, they will come."

The thing I need more of is practice speaking with real people. I spend a lot of time with books, not enough with flesh-and-blood Korean-speakers. Hm. What to do? Swimming was a good time for working on my listening, but now that's out for a while. Ah well, I'll sort it out.

Monday, February 24, 2003

I just had lunch with a co-worker, Thai, and we watched the (?) inauguration of the new South Korean President, Noh Mu Hyun. He looks pretty young, and fairly happy about his new job. I myself would be terrified, but then maybe his confidence is warranted. I hope so, considering the way things are going with Pyongyang. It seems his last gig was as the minister of fisheries, which is kind of interesting, innit? (That page might be updated soon, I don't know. But it does contain bunches of lists of who's in major government positions in every country in the world, which is kind of cool...)

(I'm humming the children's fishing song in Korean in my head now. Hm. Maybe it'd be better if I put on some of the music my Mum sent me. You can tell where my musical sensibilities came from; in the office, I declared that she'd sent me some great dance music. People didn't believe me till I clarified it was Renaissance dances. Which is generally better than Chemical Brothers any day of the week.)

Right now I am busy trying to get this thing up to snuff, and get my ear all healed up. Life seems so busy these days, but it's also good.

Woah. Colin Powell on North Korea. Hm.

By the way, I had a strange conversation with a middle-schooler student who, when he was informed (by me) that Dunkin' Donuts is an American brand, retorted by insisting that Dunkin' Donuts is an "Honour Brand". I have no idea what that means. But we did, as a group, manage to correlate the increase in Korean waist sizes with the incursion of foreign food in their diets... though the kids in the class continued to insist that they like Dunkin' Donuts' donuts because they are "delicious"...

Well, where to start?

I have an ear infection, so swimming is out for a couple of weeks. The hospital experience here is a bit unusual. Thankfully I was helped by a friend of mine who is interning at the hospital but it was still a little weird. The doctor looked into one ear, and then the other, and said to himself when inspecting my (troublesome) left ear... "Oh-ho-ho-ho-ho-HO!" It wasn't all that reassuring. Then he pulled up a standardized presciption listing on his computer and sent it down to the main prescriptions desk of the hospital. I would hesitate to complain about him saying all of three words to me -- the hesitation being that, well, unlike my intern friend he didn't speak much English, and I am a foreigner -- but I also saw him handle some Korean patients that way while I was waiting.

Prescription here is handled differently too. You get a week's meds at most, and you also get them in separated little dosage packets, in a string with each dosage for each time of day separated out for you. Quite convenient compared to the old pills-and-count-it-yourself method of North America, but what a waste of plastic. You also don't get handwritten prescriptions from doctors, not hospital doctors anyway; you get a printed off sheet in duplicate from a desk elsewhere in the hospital.

Medical coverage here is important, because medicine is pay-as-you-go here. My coverage is half-and-half, so I ended up paying half what most people I know pay when they go to the hospital. That was about 15,000 won, which is roughly $18 CDN. I would hate to go to the doctor as a Korean student; you pay more like $35 CDN each visit, and for any given condition at least two visits are required -- the second visit is how you get the rest of your prescription. I've also known people whose doctors demanded they visit everyday to get their prescription. Luckily I am a foreigner and I have a friend on the inside, so I actually got a week's worth of "yak" (medication).

In the wake of this disappointing infection, which is forcing me to take time off from swimming, I have been working on my website pretty ardently, and also have been watching most of the films I manage to download. Most recently, two films were excellent.

The first film is a recent Anthony Hopkins feature entitled Hearts in Atlantis. It's apparently based on a Stephen King story. Now, not to knock so-called genre fiction -- hell, I am a science-fiction guy myself -- but despite the supernatural elements in the movie, it's definitely in the vein of Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption, rather than of Salem's Lot or It. Here is the movie's official website. Hearts in Atlantis deals with the issues of childhood, meaning, love, and family perhaps better than most movies I've seen in a long time. Almost everyone delivers an excellent performance here, and the story is actually at times quite moving. And, yeah, it has neat psychic stuff too.

The second film I've watched recently is Donnie Darko. Here's that film's very cool flash website -- which is more like a game than a movie promo site, and I think one of the best film homepages I've ever seen! Now, this movie is seriously weird. You should see some of the online discussion about it; the film and its website spawned not only its own terminology weird terminology, like the Tangent Universe, the Manipulated Dead and the Manipulated Living, but also very heated discussions about predestination and free will, the importance of science, and what the hell this bewildering and wonderful though extremely dark movie is all about. I know I'll watch it again, and I highly recommend this excellent but disturbing indie film.

PS: I did a funny test at this site and I was told I am Gretchen from the movie...

Which Donnie Darko character are you? by Shay

Right, that's it. I am off to do the dishes, work on my novel, and watch another film... uh, I think it'll be Josie and the Pussycats. And maybe read a bit more of Raymond Carver's excellent The Big Sleep. More about that next time.