Monday, September 22, 2014

Ends and odds

There are several tidbits of fascinating, if not essential, info that have slipped through the cracks as I haven't posted or self-edited to keep things relatively brief over the last many months.

Here are a few of them for your edification and amusement. (Mr. Caslick, my favorite junior high teacher, always started with "For your edification and amusement", and I, sadly, lack the style to follow suit in person.) So... here you go. Hope you will be edified and amused. If not, I will gladly refund the time you spent reading this stuff.
In my last post, I mentioned my mixed feelings over moving from a quiet, greenish neighborhood to an extremely urban one. I guess what decided me to move was the feeling that not doing so would be clinging to the past. Last year, we had a little Yangjae Gang of St. Paul teachers: Jie and Dave in one building, me next door, Alysia next to me, and Claudia and her husband Frank next to her. Frank and Claudia hosted movie night every week, with the snackiest snacks ever, sundry adult beverages, and their beautiful giant TV and professional sound system. I almost always got to ensconce myself in their beautiful pleather-covered recliner... good times. (It's my beautiful pleather-covered recliner now; guess it wouldn't fit in the overhead for their flight to Cairo.) I could also look forward to frequently meeting one or another of my freighbors on the street. Frequently we would go en masse to the noraebang (karaoke room) to demonstrate to the neighborhood what fine singing is. Since the great diaspora, the 'hood felt like a ghost town, and it just seemed like it was time to be somewhere else.
I am deeply, passionately in love with Korean fall. The weather we've had for the last week has been utterly perfect... 75 Fahrenheit with low humidity and piercing sunlight and infinite blue skies in the daytime, low mid-50s at night. One lunchtime I hiked up the hountain behind the school and found three bunny rabbits lazing about in the sun. The sun has been so bright that I've been reminded of the wisdom of living east of work (which I do). The sun's behind me when I go to work and behind me when I head home. Clear skies, no squint, can't lose.

Hey... how ya doin'? Relevance of photos to blog posts is overrated.
Jeez, I leave you guys alone in America for six measly years and you go and change stuff! It feels from here that the USA is so much better and so much worse than it was in 2008. We elect a minority president and edge closer to equal rights for gay Americans, and half the country goes nuts, saying they "want their country back". Obama has been a great disappointment to me, though I always knew he wasn't the bright-eyed crusading reformer some hoped for... but the vitriol directed at him has been shocking. He's just a little to the right of Richard Nixon, (Ol' Tricky created the EPA, froze wages and prices, and opened China to the West... Obama presides over a health-care system originally proposed by Republicans, he orders drone strikes that kill many, many innocent people, and--possibly due to his name and skin color?--he's the African, Commie, Islamist, Nazi, Socialist antichrist.

Come to think of it, what's so bad about socialism? People think it's Soviet-style Communism or Nazism, since both Lenin and Hitler threw the word "Socialist" in there to gain support, but you know who's truly socialist? Denmark, repeatedly named as the happiest and most peaceful country on earth, and the other Scandinavian countries, which are right after it on the happy/peaceful scales. Hey, public parks, paved roads, and fire departments are socialism. Even uber-capitalist South Korea has true public healthcare, and when I got a twelve-mile ambulance ride, an examination, a cleaning of my eyebrow gash, x-rays, and stitches for $35 out of pocket, I was glad of it.

You know, it's been 18 years since we had a president that half of the country didn't loathe. The level of vitriol in American politics is unsustainable, and the coasts and northern Midwest hardly seem like the same country as the middle and southern parts. The corporations and banks get stronger and stronger and the rest of us wither on the vine. What are you guys doing over there?
I love teaching frequently-banned books: Huck Finn, Of Mice and Men, Catcher in the Rye, Speak, Hunger Games, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian... I get no thrill from sharing ripe language or adult themes with young people, but so many of these books get challenged because they confront authority and ask kids to think for themselves. My parents never told me what I could and couldn't read, and I'm the better for it. Fortunately, the parents here are apparently either respectful of teachers or unaware of what the books mean, because I've had no trouble with my selections, and I think the kids appreciate the respect implied by my trusting them with the controversial stuff.

Right now, I'm teaching Fahrenheit 451, which was once burned by an irony-deficient school. As Bradbury quotes in 451's epigram, "If they give you lined paper, write the other way."
Eli Manning's lost it all faster than Oedipus did.
I miss having a dog so much it's almost painful. I've been in love with dogs my whole life, and I miss our Bodhi at least as much as I do any human, but I've had four dogs and 19 cats. But leaving a dog alone all day in an apartment, and ignoring it for paperwork when you're home, doesn't seem fair or humane. Cats are a lot more social than many people think, and I pay as much attention to Tug as I can, but it can't seem so lonely when you're asleep 70 percent of the time anyway. Cats are pretty cool, too, but they're not dogs.

"Cats are not dogs." With that pearl of deep wisdom, I shall head for bed. Another full day of corrupting the morals of Korean children awaits.


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