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Greetings, dear readers, and welcome to a completely arbitrary update about my life, interests, hobbies, and thoughts. As you’re aware, the holiday season is upon us once again. It’s cold outside, and it’s even snowed a little here in Seoul. So, I thought this would be a good time to bundle up, find a cozy spot indoors, and update this here blog. Nothing terribly exciting, but stick with me for a few minutes. I’ll try to make it worth your time.
A Disturbance in the Force
For starters, there’s been a change in my plans for 2019. I had made arrangements to come back to the USA and write for a year, but those plans have unfortunately fallen through. (Long story short: trust no one.) I’m not exactly sure where that leaves me just yet, but I’ve got 2-3 months to figure it out. Wish me luck. I’ll update again when I know something more concrete.
Go East, Young Man
In the meantime, here’s some better news. My winter vacation plans are fully green-lighted and ready to go. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this year’s adventures will take me to Bucharest, Romania, then over to Budapest (via train), up into Poland, and finally to Moscow and St.Petersburg. I’ve got an amazing itinerary mapped out, but I don’t want to say too much about it, because it might ruin the element of surprise when I post my daily vlogs from the road. Be sure to subscribe to my fledgling YouTube channel so you won’t miss anything. (No joke, I’ll send postcards to all my subscribers.)
When in Russia…
On a related note, I’ve decided to end this year (and begin 2019) with something of a literary endurance test. Because I’ll be traveling in Russia and eastern Europe, I think now is as good a time as any to dive into Leo Tolstoy’s 1444-page magnum opus, War and Peace. My students were amazed at the size of this book when I brought it to class not long ago, so I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces when I tell them that I’m actually going to read it. I’ll keep you updated on my progress in the aforementioned vlogs.
Today is the Greatest. Know Why?
Speaking of great works of art, I’m extremely happy to report that the Smashing Pumpkins have just released a new album. It’s called Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol.1 and it’s pretty awesome. A lot of Pumpkins fans are happy that 3 of the 4 original members of the band are reunited on this album (and that is great!), but truthfully, I’ve enjoyed both incarnations of the band, so it doesn’t really make or break things for me one way or the other. I’m just happy to have new Pumpkins music in my ears.
If you’re one of those fans who tuned out after the Mellon Collie era, please allow me to suggest that you check out (if nothing else) Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, Oceania, and Billy Corgan’s solo album Ogilala. You can thank me later.
J-Jitsu: Legend of the White Belt
A couple of months back I mentioned something about starting jiu-jitsu lessons with one of my co-workers. I know it probably sounded like one of those crazy ideas I often play around with and then forget about, but nope: I have indeed started taking jiu-jitsu. I’ve only had five or six lessons thus far, so obviously I’m not what you’d call an expert. If anything, it’s only made me realize how clumsy and uncoordinated I am – and how I really need to get a better handle on my eating habits. (It’s no fun being the only guy who gets out of breath doing the warm-up exercises.) But I do enjoy it and a couple of people have told me they’re already seeing a little bit of progress in my technique. Honestly, it’s like a more disciplined version of the backyard wrestling I used to do with my buddy Jeff and the kids in my neighborhood growing up – minus the DDTs and elbow drops off the swingset, of course. I’ve had to sit it out for the past week or so due to a chest cold that started veering dangerously close to pneumonia (don’t need that sneaking up on me and ruining another vacation), but with any luck I’ll be back in the gi by the end of this week. We’ll see.
Taking it to the Next Level
The last thing I have to mention this time around is, of all things, the Heaven’s Gate cult a.k.a. those people who killed themselves so they could ride on the UFO back in 1997. Of all the crazy news stories the Nineties gave us, Heaven’s Gate was the one I was most fascinated with. Some of you might remember that I framed two issues of Newsweek about them and had them hanging on my bedroom wall. Others might recall that time I got in trouble for pulling up their website in our high school library. A select few might even have read the short story I wrote based on their ideology. It went over very well in my junior college creative writing class.
Well anyway, after years of only seeing their materials in snippets and highlight reels I was surprised to discover that almost all of the Heaven’s Gate videos, including the farewells they recorded before they “exited their vehicles,” are now available in their entirety on YouTube. Open rabbit hole. Insert J.
Tell me I’m not the only one who gets lost in this crap and I’ll write a more detailed post about it later.
For now, this is J signing off. Like I said, this isn’t the most interesting or well-written update I’ve ever posted, but I’m heavily medicated right now. Thanks for bearing with me.
Friday, September 21st, 2018. 5:41 P.M.
I’ve just finished my workday and am now free to begin to my 5-day Chuseok weekend. But before I head off to the races, I thought I’d sit down and post a little reading material for you, dear reader. That’s what a nice guy I am. That’s how much I care about the 8 or 9 people who wander onto this blog every day. (Pretends to be humble. Holds for applause.)
Actually, my main reason for posting today is to share my winter travel plans. Yes, after going almost two years without a proper vacation (last year’s big event was basically just a weekend trip to Japan), I’ve officially signed the dotted line on a month-long trek around eastern Europe. Here’s my itinerary.
Seoul to Bucharest
As my vacation begins, I’ll be flying from Seoul to Bucharest, Romania, to see the sights and tour the real Castle Dracula. (Stay tuned for scenes of me performing all my favorite scenes from various film adaptations.) I have a ton of love and respect for the Romanian people, mainly because they executed their former Communist leaders by firing squad on Christmas Day.
Dead Communists make great Christmas gifts.
Train to Krakow via Hungary
After wrapping up the Romanian leg of my vacation, I’ll take a train through Hungary, where I’ll probably spend a few days in Budapest (see video above). After that, it’s off to Poland to see Krakow and Warsaw, tour Auschwitz, and visit the Skull Chapel of Czermna.
Krakow to Moscow
The grand finale of this eastern European tour will begin when I fly from Krakow to Moscow to experience the fabled Russian winter firsthand.
I’ll be in Moscow for three days – already booked my Red Square/Kremlin/St.Basil’s tour – before hopping a train to St.Petersburg and visiting all the Catherine the Great/Alexander Pushkin hot-spots. Fingers crossed that I’ll meet and shake hands with Ivan Drago – assuming he wasn’t exiled to Siberia after his loss to Rocky Balboa.
I’m sure it’ll be hard to leave Mother Russia behind, but when the time comes I’ll be heading back to Seoul to finish out the current school year.
So there it is, comrades. My winter vacation itinerary. From Dracula’s castle to the Land of the Tsars.
Off to the races now,
Funny true story. Every summer the good doctors of Seoul find something new for everyone to panic about and get tested for. One year it was the flu. The following year, it was the bird flu. In 2015 it was MERS. This year it’s tuberculosis (the doctors have apparently been reading Dickens), so today I went to a medical center to make sure I don’t have the consumption – a requirement from my employer, by the way, not something I did voluntarily.
Imagine how darkly I laughed when I realized there was an obesity clinic on the same floor as the tuberculosis office. First of all, obese Koreans? Where? That would be like spotting Bigfoot or the Chupacabra. Secondly, it’s funny that the clinic was only on the second floor. You couldn’t have these hypothetical fatties climbing too many stairs if the elevator ever gave out. And finally, the detail that damn near doubled my laughter – every stair in the stairwell had a calorie count that outlined how many calories had been burned by taking that step.
That’s pretty savage, Korea. It’s like, Yeah, sure, we could staple your stomach no problem. But I mean, have you ever thought about – I don’t know – getting up and moving around a little? Might be cheaper.
Boredom Now in Exchange for Adventure Later
So what’s up, everybody? J here, bored as hell.
I was supposed to be in India right now, but I decided to sit on my money and plan a more elaborate winter vacation in Russia instead. India is still on my bucket list, of course, but I just can’t pass this up.
In true book-nerd fashion, I’ve been preparing for my Russian trip by going back and reading the classics of Russian literature: Pushkin, Chekhov, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Pasternak, the whole bunch.
I’ll have more to say about Russia in a few days after I finalize a few details.
If Your Days Can’t be Exciting, At Least Make Them Productive
In the meantime, I’ve been keeping myself busy with a few projects I’ve had on the back burner for a while. As always, I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing this summer (almost finished with something I’ve struggled to get right for years) as well as a fair amount of exercise and weight loss. I’ve also organized a lot of my old pictures and started a new YouTube channel where you can see cinematic masterpieces like this one (seriously, watch this – it’s great):
I’m thinking about adding a vlog component to this page too. Out of curiosity: how many of you would actually watch my vlog if I took time to edit it together? Let me know by subscribing to my channel. If I get 20 subscribers, I’ll start vlogging. I think it could be a lot of fun, but I don’t wanna be one of those guys talking into a webcam for like two or three people.
And while I’m on the subject of YouTube, here are a few channels and videos I’ve been watching a lot lately:
(1) Gabe the Dog
Gabe has been an internet legend for years now, but he’s become especially important to me in recent months thanks to my students. Of all the things I’ve introduced them to, Gabe is what they love they most. The formula is simple. People take popular songs, movies, TV shows, and games and translate them into Pomeranian barking (“borking”), yaps, sniffs, and grunts. Do a search for just about any song followed by the word “bork” and you’re bound to find it. It’s a great rabbit hole to fall into.
(2) HaHa Davis
I don’t remember how I discovered HaHa Davis’s videos, but I’m glad I did. Here’s another simple formula. HaHa begins most of his videos by describing a situation and confidently declaring that it’s “finna be a breeze!” And then of course the situation – usually involving jail and a cellmate – goes horribly wrong.
(3) Anthony Adams
I first came across Anthony Adams’s channel when I was watching boxing highlights (as I often do). He’s got a lot of funny material about family, sports, and social situations. Watch enough of his vids and you’ll start to notice some recurring characters, including the “Get on the Line” Coach and the never-seen but obviously hilarious Chuck. Really good stuff. This man needs his own show.
(4) Mista GG
Picture this. NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” with hilarious running commentary. Yeah. You know I’m watching this.
(5) Baby Laugh-a-Lot
This commercial from 1970 is internet-famous for having a creepy doll (and kids) in it, but I seriously can’t stop laughing at the narrator. “Just push the button and she starts to giggle (loses his shit)!” It reminds me of the fake laugh I do to taunt my friends when they say something that isn’t funny. Hard to believe somebody actually thought this was a good way to sell dolls.
The Near and Distant Future
I’m sure my boredom is super obvious in this post, but don’t pity me just yet. I’ll be heading back to work in a couple of weeks, and not long after that I’ll be starting (don’t laugh) jiu jitsu lessons. One of my co-workers has been studying for a while now and thinks I’d get a lot out of it. We’ll see.
And finally we come to everybody’s favorite question: when are you coming home? Believe it or not, I might actually have an answer this time. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be coming home for a year starting next March or April. I want to devote some real time to my writing, and by then I should have the resources to do it. It’s not set in stone, but for now it’s the plan.
Let me know what plans you’re currently hatching, dear readers. I’d love to hear from you, and I hope everyone’s well.
Greetings, dear readers, and welcome back to A Day With J (South Korean Edition). A lot’s been happening here on the peninsula lately. For starters, you might have heard that the 65-year standoff between the North and South might finally be coming to an end.
I asked my sixth grade students how they felt about this development and they all seemed to view it very positively. 100% of them said they want peace with the North, a formal ending of the Korean War, nuclear disarmament, and better lives for the North Korean people. Most of them stop short of wanting total reunification, though. Only 10% want that. Personally, I have no idea how all of this will play out, but for now I feel things are moving in a good direction and I’d love to see an agreement that benefits both sides.
Here’s a list of my other posts about North and South Korea if you’re interested:
Vacationing on the 38th Parallel
Mississippi J and the Temple of Yeoju
China, Day 3: Midnight Trip to Dandong
North Korea: From Hermit Kingdom to Merchant Kingdom?
Oh, and speaking of countries coming together in a spirit of friendliness and peace, I completely forgot to mention my trip to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang earlier this year.
On February 24th, my friends Jason, Young, and I hopped the KTX to Pyeongchang and went down to see the snowboarding events (Snowboard Big Air).
As always, I arrived at the train station first, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. As for Jason and Young, they were…well…
It’s a shame, really. They missed a lot of beautiful snow-covered scenery.
As you’ll see in the map below, the Olympics village in Pyeongchang was divided up by events. Snowboarding over here, cross country skiing over there, bobsledding right this way…
When we first arrived, we got some bad information and ended up taking a bus to the wrong event. To make matters worse, my heart was broken when I realized that this building was not an IHOP like I’d originally thought.
The only silver lining was that I spotted some interesting Coca Cola advertising. (I wonder who gets to keep the Pyeongchang 2018 Coca Cola trashcans.)
I also got some pretty good commentary about the situation from Jason.
Fortunately, it didn’t take us very long to get ourselves turned around and over to the right place.
Except for a few Korean and Japanese spectators, the crowd was mostly made up of foreigners like ourselves.
If I was giving out spirit awards, I’d give 1st place to Canada – mostly because of the guy who showed up wearing boxer shorts in the freezing cold weather.
2nd place would go to the US of A – loud and jubilant as usual.
3rd place would go to the UK for the two or three Union Jacks we saw waving around (and bonus points for finally standing up for free speech).
From where we were sitting, we had a great view of two large screens that let us know when the snowboarders were coming down the incline. When the right time came, we could then turn and see them fly out over the top of the hill. Here’s a video to illustrate what I mean.
And here are some videos of the most memorable moments from the American team.
The entire experience was a very worthwhile addition to ye olde bucket list. And except for one little hiccup related to my souvenir shopping…
I’d say my Olympics weekend was a success.
Here’s hoping we’ll soon be saying the same about our talks with the North.
May 12, 2018
I sat down a couple of weeks ago and, instead of writing a bucket list, I wrote a list of interesting things I’ve already seen, done, and accomplished in my lifetime. It got a lot of positive feedback on Facebook so I thought I’d post a longer version here on the blog. Each section is as chronological as it can be and I’ve included links to more info wherever I could. Some of the things on this list are great, some are mundane, and some are simply things that most people don’t get around to. But, they’re all true. “What will your verse be?”
Work and Education
(1) Got suspended from middle school for fighting
(2) Took part in a summer camp for gifted kids
(3) Played Santa Claus at the mall
(4) Delivered pizza for Domino’s and Papa John’s
(5) Co-hosted a successful radio show
(6) Studied German in Bremen, Germany
(7) Attained a masters degree in American Literature
(8) Attained CELTA certification
(9) Taught kindergarten and elementary school students in Korea
(10) Wrote columns for two newspapers
(11) Won a writing contest in Arizona
(12) Wrote an award-winning short play
(13) Won a writing contest in Australia
(14) Had two articles published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute
(15) Saw the Glenn Miller Orchestra
(16) Toured Graceland
(17) Toured Sun Records and saw Jerry Lee Lewis in concert
(18) Saw the The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Wicked
(19) Played guitar, sang, and wrote lyrics as part of a garage band
(20) Saw Marilyn Manson at the height of his controversy
(21) Saw Black Sabbath (all original members)
(22) Saw Nirvana, David Bowie, and Prince in concert
(23) Saw the White Stripes in Southaven, MS
(24) Attended the Chicago Blues Festival
(25) Wrote Jim Davis (creator of Garfield) a fan letter and got a signed response
(26) Wrote Stephen King a fan letter and got a signed response
(27) Met a ton of WWF wrestlers
(28) Interviewed Senator Trent Lott
(29) Met Megadeth
(30) Gave Eli Manning shit at Domino’s Pizza
(31) Saw Muhammad Ali in person
(32) Met Richard Dawkins
(33) Met Salman Rushdie
(34) Went inner tubing in San Antonio
(35) Beat Mike Tyson’s Punch Out
(36) Rode a horse
(37) Rode a camel
(38) Took a trip on a riverboat
(39) Ate barbecue at Rendezvous in Memphis
(40) Partied on Beale Street in Memphis
(41) Partied on Bourbon Street in New Orleans
(42) Went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans
(43) Watched the New Orleans Saints win the Super Bowl
(44) Partied on Texas Street in Busan, South Korea.
(45) Bowled a 2-Turkey game
(46) Set a high score on “Cadillacs and Dinosaurs”
(47) Went canoeing
(48) Was an altar boy
(49) Sponsored a candidate for RCIA
(50) Watched Into Great Silence in one sitting
(51) Partook of a St. Joseph Altar
(52) Ate a Jewish seder meal
(53) Witnessed a Mormon baptism
(54) Visited Buddhist temples in Gyeongju, South Korea
(55) Attended a temple stay
(56) Went to Disney World
(57) Went to Opryland
(58) Visited the Alamo
(59) Toured caverns in San Antonio
(60) Toured the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans
(61) Visited Washington, D.C.
(62) Toured the Holocaust Museum
(63) Toured the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga
(64) Toured JFK’s assassination site
(65) Attended the Tennessee Williams Festival in Clarksdale, MS
(66) Went to the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago
(67) Went to the Hamburg Art Museum
(68) Stood at the shore of the North Sea
(69) Stood in the ocean in Guam
(70) Ran through the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa
(71) Attended the Bloomsday festivities in Dublin
(72) Climbed Mount Fuji
(73) Went to the Beijing Zoo
(74) Toured the Forbidden City
(75) Walked on the Great Wall of China
(76) Saw the set of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”
(77) Went to Hershey, PA
(78) Visited the Andy Warhol Museum
(79) Visited Andy Warhol’s grave
(80) Walked Mapo Bridge in Seoul
Interesting or Bizarre Accomplishments
(81) Got stung by a bee
(82) Performed a stand-up comedy routine
(83) Was a Cub Scout and earned the Bobcat and Wolf badges
(84) Was on a tee-ball team that lost every game
(85) Touched the bottom of the Biloxi Natatorium pool (12 ft.)
(86) Had a mullet
(87) Sumo wrestled (in costume)
(88) Appeared on local news opinion show
(89) Saw Star Wars re-releases in the theater
(90) Karaoked “Sweet Child O’Mine” in a chipmunk voice (got standing ovation)
(91) Became a lifetime member of Graceland Too
(92) Won a “Stella!” shouting contest
(93) Made a cake for a baking contest
(94) Gave my best friend away at her wedding
(95) Snuck an organ out of a monastery
(96) Read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged cover to cover
(97) Told fortunes at the Barnes & Noble release party of the last Harry Potter book
(98) Made a roomful of zombies in a Halloween haunted house laugh
(99) Set up a haunted house
(100) Attended a dinner theater murder mystery (won an award)
What kinds of things would I find on your list, dear readers?