Ben Stein, What Sick Game Are You Playing?

So maybe you've heard of Richard Nixon? Intelligent Design? The Home Mortgage Crisis?

Well Ben Stein has. When he used to spout about Nixon on his game show, I thought that he was a delusional Republican, no big deal.

Then he came out with an ID movie which has been described as "a classic bait-and-switch, presenting itself as a plea for freedom in the scientific marketplace of ideas, while actually delivering a grossly unfair, contradictory, and ultimately repugnant attack on Darwinists, " in which "he strides proudly over the last line of decency in contemporary documentary filmmaking." Ok, whatever, we all have our off days.

Then this: A recent appearance on CBS's Sunday morning that got this review.

A brief word about CBS Sunday Morning: While it is obvious that this network's coverage and presentation of current events is geared toward old people, the target audience of Charles Osgood's show seems to be already dead—peacefully so. There was, last time around, some tranquil nature footage. Also, a profile of crooner Michael Bublé that refused to stint on clichés. ("The other thing Bublé won't change, he says, is being himself, outspoken and open.") Ben Stein, the actor and economist, came on to do a commentary on the mortgage crisis in which he argued that federal funds should be devoted to aiding the dogs and cats disadvantaged by the fallout. Either this was exquisitely subtle satire, or everyone involved with the segment has lost his mind.

I watched this at work the first time, and had to fight laughter so hard I literally cried tears. These guys are right; Stein is either fucking certifiable, or has been working this whole time to gather the forces of the right around him to drive them all screaming off a cliff of absurdity.

I submit the question: Ben Stein, Sociopath or Genius?

It's late and I'm too tired to think of a title

Now that I've surmounted the most important (or only important) (or only)hurdles in my life this year, I find myself with quite a bit more drinking/screed writing time on my hands. Which means I will be drinking and writing assorted screeds with a bit more redundancy, frequency, intensity and redundancy. And hijacking Freshman's mouthpiece to do it, because it's much more satisfying and enjoyable to fuck with someone else's shit than express yourself creatively on your own terms.

During a cooking related class last week, I asked the kids to tell me the words they knew related to cooking, and surprisingly, almost always got "Fuse" first. After my usual "Are you fucking with me, and if not, have you any idea what the hell you're even talking about?" first class on Monday three second pause, I realized that they meant what goes on in the kitchens of the Fusion restaurants.

Koreans, much like all Asians whose cultures don't consider weed and shrooms essential foodgroups, are bound by tradition in much the same way Hannibal Lecter was bound to that handcart. I once tried to get a smoothie consisting of more than one fruit form my local pizza shop. This took three weeks, multiple visits, offers of triple the regular smoothie price, and a small but crack team of interpreters assembled painstakingly from the best of the best of whichever of my dullard students happened to be hanging out on the corner when we rolled up. If you'd seen the counter girl's face right before she hit blend you'd have thought she was clinging to the underside of a bus doing 50.5 mph and I told her to cut the blue wire. "They're all blue wires!" So yea, a little hesitant to step out of the box.

Most traditional Korean restaurants have about three different dishes: Korean Barbeque, Soup, and BibimBap. Korean barbecue consists of giving you some raw meat which you put on a grill and cook yourself however you see fit, as long as it is one of the "proper" ways to cook food that you're fucking paying for. If that last bit seems confusing, don't worry, the ugliest old lady you've ever seen will be around to scold you, cut your meat for you, and pour Kimchi and meat grease all over the fried rice you were planning to eat. The soup is made by placing the entire, unboned, uncleaned and/or unscaled animal in a pot of water, maybe adding spices, and boiling. Bibimbap is a bowl of white rice with an egg, greens, carrots and spicy soybean paste on top that you mix together. Apparently "seasoning white rice" is considered cuisine, and the local state capital claims not only to serve better boiled white rice with toppings available off the shelf of your local grocery store than anyone else, but to be the birthplace of this dish, which is sort of like claiming you invented buttered bread and then resting on your laurels for two millenia.

So essentially we're dealing with a culture with a less of a clue than the British how to make food taste like it, and the mercurial mental nimbleness of a three legged rhino. But they do have one thing working in their favor, an almost achingly pathetic desire to be American, from hoodies for little girls with English phrases like "Today is Dutch Payday" or "Love Sluts. Enhance Your Life" plastered on them, to a love bordering on worship for such luminaries as Paris Hilton and Triple H. Enter the Fusion Restaurant

Korea's lousy with these places which serve you Kimchi Pizza or funky milk soup or some other abomination which, I guess I would take over some of the straight-up Korean stuff that's been put in front of me so far. I used to hate these joints, but now I think they're a vital part of Korea learning to embrace "strong flavors" (ask Mike). Kids today grow up eating Kimchi Pizza, while their crotchety (literally the only kind of old lady out here) grandmothers look the other way, because at least the young'uns are still eating Kimchi on everydamnthing! And in ten years, once the old folks are safely in the ground, the country can take another baby step, such as taking the bones and intestines out of whatever they eat before they eat it. And so on until the peninsula's rehabilitated enough to reenter gastronomic society.

Fusion restaurants - Food Methadone. Think about it.

Buhlessingsuh. Counteduh. Part Dul.

Because Mike is oh so regrettably derelict in his his use of the sign-out button on certain computers, you will all now be subjected to the musings of Ravishin' Dan, Korea's most eligible bachelor

I am fucking bulletproof, and you can be too! Is it because Korean bosses are slimy little quats too stupid not to hand you a paper trail outlining in fine detail the particulars of their embezzlement? Well, yes, partly. But it is also because Korean women, vastly overrepresented in Korean education, have been down so long, they don't know what up, or in this case the most perfunctory courtesy, is.

My manners might generously be called boorish, assuming you define generous as donating 75% of your paycheck to charity and sleeping on a futon with your 12 adopted crack babies because you're letting syphilitic bums crash in all the bedrooms.  Just till they get this thing together.  Pouring my dinner out of the pot into some kind of bowl or plate is a nicety reserved for company, I rarely speak in a voice below a sotto bellow, and my preferred mode of letting off steam is insulting the intelligence, ancestry, and/or native country of strangers. And yet, compared to your average Korean gent, I'm the closest thing to James Bond these poor broads are ever going to encounter.

I think enough weygooks read this blog that my back is got here. You practically have to grab your average agashi by the hair and pitch bodily her through any door you try holding for her. I can always put a smile on my face by holding the teacher's room door open on the way out for a female teacher who's about 20-25 feet away.  She has somewhere to go, so she can't politely refuse to pass and stand there until I give up, so the only thing to do is get through the door as fast as possible, which is of course impossible in the slippers we all have to wear indoors. They're left with what I can only imagine to be an agonizing half minute of speed-shuffling, eyes fixed firmly on the ground, blushing and giggling as though I've thrown my coat onto a mud puddle so her feet won't get wet as I help her onto the white stallion upon which she'll be whisked off to her third period ethics class. I think with a very basic grasp of the language you could make some serious bank as a Harlequin style romance writer over here. "...and the foreigner gazed at her with his extremely, unnervingly, not-brown eyes and swore from the bottom of his heart that he would love her until she got ugly, and would only get blitzed and bang whores on weekends. Her bosom's heaving was such that it seemed no bra, no matter how padded, could contain it!"

So anyway, three paragraphs later here we are, at the main thrust of the post.  It was a long hard slog, some of you were there from the start, some of you might not have been born when it began,  and the rest are now dead.  But by God, there's no looking back and we're all better people for it.  Here goes: It doesn't matter whether I show up late, hungover, or not at all, the teachers love my ass. I'm like a teflon Elliot Ness! How have I built up this good will? By being a reasonable human being, and assuring my teachers in our conversation classes that no, I don't think I would have a problem drinking or gambling all my money away, Angela's Ashes style, without having my wife hoard it and dole out an allowance, and no, now that you mention it, I kinda do like cooking, and were my back is completely against the wall, I could be convinced to clean

I've brought in homemade chocolate chip cookies, almost out of spite, to shame them into ending the forcefeeding of gloopy unsweetened rice "treats" I endure thrice weekly or thereabouts, with a "Look here you, this is a goddamn confection.  You must feel like a dick now, eh?" moment. I don't think they're well schooled on the subtleties of contempt via pastry, but they were suitably awed. I honestly had to show one teacher where two cookies had fused together and then been broken apart to convince him that no, these are not fucking Chic Choc, human hands can craft cookies.  Of course, if Zeus learns I let the secret out, I'm in for some shit.

I've always wondered about how so many foreigners, especially some of them, end up with the Korean wives they do, in a culture in which mongrel and biracial are more or less synonyms. I guess it's like being proposed to by a dashing aristocrat, who also happens to have a vestigial tail and a heart murmur. Kids'll get a pretty shitty end of the stick, but hey, he pulled my seat out at Mr. Pizza!

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Warry, Warry, Wah Wah Wah! Where's My Pencil Case?

That is actually the majority of a song that I have to sing with fifth grade kids. Every class, someone asks me what "Warry, Warry, Wah Wah Wah!" means. It's a legitimate question, as it's said almost ten times in a forty-five second song. No one ever seems satisfied with the "it means nothing" answer. When asked why it's in the song, I have the urge to yell something like "I didn't write the goddamn textbook, and if I had my druthers, we'd burn the motherfucker right here and now!"

But instead I just hit play again and think about what time it's okay to start drinking on a Tuesday. In an unrelated note, I just accidentally bought a kilogram of chicken when the recipe only calls for one pound. Chicken Vindaloo, if anyone cares. So, if you live in Jeonbuk and need 500 grams of chicken in the next twenty-four hours, you can holla. ANYWAYS, I brought up the Warry song to introduce the little ditty below. I have no idea who these guys are, but I find it's balance of Lazy Sunday-ness and Korean English Teacher-ness to be pleasing to my mind grapes. Also, I'm curious if this has any meaning to anyone outside of Korea.

Without further ado, on a very special Tuesday post, here is "Kickin' it in Geumcheon":

Oh My God! We're Having a Fire ..... Festival!

Sweet kimchi Jesus, it's been a long time since I've updated this. This has something to do with the fact that I do not own a functioning computer and Blogger is one of three sites that the Jeonbuk Education safe-search fuckgram actually blocks. The other two? The New Yorker and SportsbyBrooks. You figure that out.
There are a couple noteworthy things that I've experienced, but most don't warrant their own post, so we'll dispose of them right now: I've had the best meal I've had the entire time I've been in Korea (a sultry wench that goes by the name Dakdori Tang), witnessed the Rev. Kilimanjaro's triumphant victory over his nemesis, the evil, thieving, and above all Korean, Ten-Dollar, and been considerably creeped out by this website.

Somewhere in there (and pretending to work, no less!) I found time to attend my first K-League soccer game, which our beloved hometown Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors lost 3-0 to the buggering infidels of Daegu FC, due in large part to the fat Brazilian fuck that can be found on the lower right of this page. I speak in all honesty when I say I wish this man was dead. His entire game appears to be falling down and yelling at the refs, which is funny, because THEY'RE FUCKING KOREAN. I may have been drunk by the time he got in the game, and yes, I was drunk by the time he got in the game, but I have never seen a lazier person ever. Despite the number of crosses aimed his way, he never jumped. On the other hand, the sex machine found directly above him on the same page is a Macedonian so badass that the Korean translation of his name is "Stevo." I've always wondered how Koreans would handle one of those eastern European names with a severe dearth of vowels, and the answer is apparently "catastrophically," since when said out loud, it sounds like this: "Suh-Tee-Bo."

So this brings us to the subject of today's post, Yeosan Elementary's ever-exciting "fire festival." It has a simpler, less awesome name, but that was the way it was described to me at first, and I accepted it until I learned it's true meaning during my second class, which every other week would have been my third class. Confusing? Damn skippy, so let's start at the beginning.

On my typical Thursday, I arrive at school a little before nine and slightly more disoriented, as Wednesday is poker night so I don't get to sleep before one. This particular Thursday, I was upon arrival that there was a "fire festival" and that my classes would be rearranged to accomodate it. Normally I have the first class off to dick around on the internet (not, however, on Blogger) and I start teaching at 9:50. Today I was informed that I would teach classes 1,2 and 3 rather than 2, 3 and 4. This was pitched as a positive thing, as I would finish earlier. Although this is true, it is also true that Yeosan is forty-five minutes outside of town and the bus doesn't leave until after lunch, so I would get home at the same time anyway. Anyways, this is beside the point.

Here's where it gets confusing again, my third class would be moved to the first time block, the second to the third and the third to the second. Furthermore, the third class (which is now in the first time block) would not have English class today, as they would need the first time block to prepare for the increasingly-awesome sounding "fire festival." I am actually simplifying the way this was explained to me at 8:40 this morning. I personally would have said it this way: "...." That is, I would have said NOTHING because all that happened was they switched two classes for no sane fucking reason and I would never have noticed anyway! Did I mention this is the same school where the kids taekwondoe the shit out of each other between every class? And someone always, ALWAYS, hurts themselves and the teachers berate the poor bastard who got kicked in the face while everyone points and laughs at him? All I'm saying is they're running a top-notch organization out there. Every goddamn day.

So, my second class rolls around and I'm informed that the "fire festival" will start at 11:00. Some guy is building a pile of firewood and underbrush about ten feet in front of the school's entrance. Needless to say, I'm excited and contemplating how I can accidentally help a kid or two into the raging (dare I say towering?
) inferno.

Then I found out it was a fire drill.

Let that sink in, and then go back and re-read the section about how everyone had class off for the first period so that they could practice. For a drill.

Of course, we couldn't pretend to run while crouching awkwardly and covering our mouths without a real fire, so the principal took it upon himself to light the aforementioned pile of flammable material to give the whole production that little je ne se qua that your average, run-of-the-mill fire drill usually lacks. We then sat in lines outside while the vice principal stood behind the fire, shouting into a bullhorn. She would continue in this manner for the next twenty minutes while the following things transpired:

1. A pair of teachers attempt to put out the blaze with fire extinguishers but fail miserably.

2. A tiny fireman almost gets lifted off the ground, Little Rascals-style, while wrangling with a fire hose as he finishes off the flames.

3. Another teacher and a fifth-grade boy sprint into the school carrying a stretcher. When they come out, they've strapped a little girl to it, who they then load into the ambulance that came along with the fire truck. The ambulance drives, sirens blaring, about thirty feet. The girl gets out and carries the stretcher back to the podium. Just like in real life.

Afterwards, the principal, grinning happily from ear to ear, asked me if I was impressed. I told him yes, but I don't think it was in the same sense that he asked me.

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Counteeng My Blessingsuh

The following is a guest post from the Right Reverend Booker T. Kilimanjaro, who is sending his correspondence from a dystopian future society known only as "Ko-rea".

So it's recently occurred to me that I've been feeling "gloomy" lately. (A little inside, I know.) So I've decided to buck up and count my blessings in what will be heralded as, but not become ever in reality, a recurring feature on this site.

Blessing number one: Being able to say whatever I want, whenever I want, at whatever volume I want, about anyone I please.

After spending the better part of a year in Korea's Alabraska (The culture of Alabama, the landscape of Nebraska, and the national currency of Alaska) I'd be less shocked by a singing pig than a Korean speaking uninflected, fluent English. Add to that the fact that Koreans, in what might be a bigger racial handicap than the drinking, or the driving, or the drinking and the driving, or even the dogs with bees in their mouths so when they bark they shoot bees at you, love to make themselves look like the lead in an Anime, a Japanese word that can mean risibly coiffed ladyboy, or prepubescent whore, depending on the gender of the person in question. Needless to say I get my recommended daily dose of "Jumpin' Jesus! Get a load of that fucktard!" moments, which I then proceed to voice volubly and vociferously whatever the situation. I figure it's only a matter of time before I get my throat kicked by an outlandishly dressed Seoulite who's school and hogwan actually sprung for native speakers.

Another great part of that is stress reduction inherent in being able to speak your mind to anyone you want. I had a very Zen moment when earlier this week, standing next to my forty year old female co-teacher, shouting above the roiling horde of Gooklings that I will under no circumstances repeat the rules of the game we were about to play and that if they messed up they would be held to account, I was casting about for a phrase that they would understand and would drive the second point home. I then realized that they since they aren't even listening I may as well say what I want. Which is how I found myself roaring "... and if you get it wrong, well, TOUGH TITTY!" at a bunch of 13 year olds on Monday.

Of course, I am an English teacher, and as a recognized master of the ineffable Waygook gibber, I'm constantly looked to for an example of the proper use of idiom. Also on Monday, I was teaching with the most fluent of my teachers, and after a kid gave a particularly Hanglish riddled answer the stately old gent replied with "Seriously, what the hell?!", which I can only guess he learned as attache to the US millitary during his service in Seoul, and employed based on my use of that and similar phrases in that and similar situations. The best part was the expectant, hopeful look he shot me after he said it, to see if his pronunciation and syntax were ok. That'll do, pig, that'll do.



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