Friday, July 24, 2009

Blake Butler

Butler's a great writer. Here he is destroying his newest book just in time for preorder:

Scorch Atlas (destroyed) by Blake Butler from featherproof books on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

None of These Names Is False

Yesterday my friend Charlene 조 finished her translation of my poem "Antarctica." When I asked her which name she wanted to use, she somewhat proudly said, "I want to use my English name with my father's name." Although I've called her by her Korean name before, she acted surprised to hear me say it again.

Yesterday one of my kindergarten students called me Tim. Everybody else stopped working. I looked around. "Teacher," Thomas said, "Wendy call you Tim." To her: "Wendy, Tim Teacher name Teacher."

"No, that's OK. She can call me Tim. I don't mind."

And then the next ten or so minutes were filled with a kind of wonder, as though there were some joy or maybe power in their dropping my title.

I just finished talking to my brother, who's working on a song called "Pink Pink Makeup Makeup." A few Christmases ago, he was talking to a little girl who was playing with a doll. Pink Pink Makeup Makeup was the doll's name. "Genius," he said.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Michael Wesch

I watched his newest video yesterday:

I still love watching "The Machine Is Us/ing Us":

From Scott Horton's "The APA's Nuremberg Defense"

As the Bush Administration introduced its torture program in 2002, the APA modified Section 1.02 of its ethics rules, to state that in the event of conflict between ethics standards and law as interpreted by government organs like the Department of Defense or CIA, psychologists are free to disregard the requirements of applicable ethics guidelines and “may adhere to the requirements of the law, regulations, or other governing legal authority.”
More here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Possible Names for Andy

Korean (transliterated), following Korean name order: Song Junhyeok
Korean (transliterated), following Western name order: Junhyeok Song
English: Pluto Andy
Combined: Andy Song

This doesn't even count the nicknames I've given him, like Andy Pants.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Though my afternoon students are in the Pluto classroom, they aren't Pluto Class. Therefore, unlike my morning students, whose English surname I've come to think of as Pluto, my afternoon students seem to have no English surname, unless, of course, they think of their Korean surnames, transliterated, as their English surnames. Of course, it's entirely possible to dismiss the idea of an English surname, to let one name stand for her or his English identity, assuming that a name is an identity (vide Pessoa).

And in a sense, Teacher has become my name. More often than anything else, I'm called Teacher, even by adults, which gets confusing when I'm standing in the school's lobby with the nine other foreign expat teachers.

The children address each other by their English names, and as I call on them, I wonder about their parents' having to come up with an English to address their own children. Yesterday I had lunch with Barbie, Hanna, June, Vincent, Wendy (my former students [are their surnames still Elmo?]), and their moms. Wendy's mom kept calling Wendy "Yujin" and then correcting herself, correcting to "Wendy." My presence, it seemed, provided an English context. And even the moms wanted to be known as so-and-so's mom. During parent-teacher conferences, the name on the mothers' name tags are the names of their children.

Because not all of the expat teachers can read Korean, we've begun renaming frequented places. A galbi restaurant has become Christmas Lights, and a bar has become The Patio.


Andy is one of my favorite but also one of my most challenging students in Pluto Class. Almost every day starts with "Andy very good?"

"Andy, you don't say your own name."

"Me very good?"

"'Teacher, am I doing a good job?'"

"Teacher, I good job?"



"'Am I…'"

"Am I…"

"'Doing a good job?'"

"Doing a good job?"

"So far," I say, "but it's only 9:55, Andy. Class hasn't even started yet."

"Teacher, Andy very good, one star?"


And then he goes ahead and speaks Korean or talks while I'm talking or dances while I'm teaching the simple past of irregular verbs or. But he's such a sweetheart. He's always remorseful, perhaps overly so, and any praise he receives perks him right up.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

On Thursday, Alex and I returned to our building to find a tiny dog at the front door. A young man translated for us as the guard explained that somebody had left the dog, saying she'd be back for him in five minutes. It had been an hour or two, and the guard didn't think she was coming back. Immediately Al asked, "Can I have him?"

Nobody's come for him. He still doesn't have a name.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Today I signed a contract to work at a school in Dalian, China, for eleven months starting September 5.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Front Seat

My brother has started writing here about the making of the album AM:PM.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Tonight Angela, one of my third-graders, told me, "I can see you're pretending to be crazy."1

I'm not sure what fluent means. When describing my Tuesday-Thursday third-grade class, I say that one of the students is fluent and the other two are nearly so, but maybe I'm full of shit. In a sense, although it sounds crazy, perhaps I would say that my kindergarten class is also fluent, albeit in a version of English I don't speak.2 They understand each other. "Teacher, no," one will say after I shrug my shoulders at another. "Andy say…" I still don't understand, and they look at me like, Jesus Christ, Teacher, this is your language.3 The language they speak certainly isn't Korean; there's no yo or needa to it.4 There are words I recognize, but the context is so often far removed. Additionally, many of the students talk about themselves and about me in the third person.

"Who are you talking about?"


"Which teacher?"

"Tim Teacher."

"You say 'you' if you're talking to me."


At least they know more English than I know Korean. That's not saying much, though. By next month, my kindergarten students will have been studying English for only about six months longer than I will have been here.

* "Konglish."

1 Crazy is not a word one should use here. The connotations of the Korean word for crazy (which I don't know) are severely negative—that is, to call someone crazy is to say that she or he is mentally damaged. One of the kids from the new Elmo Class calls me Crazy Tim Teacher. "Look," I told him once. "I don't mind your calling me crazy, but you shouldn't do it in front of the Korean teachers. They won't be happy"—this to a six-year-old boy who at the time was screaming and running through the halls. Sure enough, he addressed me as Crazy Tim Teacher a couple days later, and the Korean aunt next to him slapped him in the back of the head. "I told you," I told him.

2 On the test my Tuesday-Thursday class took this week, I asked my students to underline each noun and to make it plural if necessary. One underlined English correctly but then changed it to Englishes, reminding me of one of Kass Fleisher's stories.

3 Actually, I need to stop saying "Jesus Christ" in front of the kids. Andy's gotten into the habit of saying it, mostly because I laughed my ass off the first time he said it, after he'd actually heard me say "cheese." "Cheesus Christ," he said. I nearly spit out my coffee.

4 I still feel weird about punishing students for speaking their native first language, but no student, not even Kitty, the three- and four-year-old class, is supposed to speak any Korean while in LCI, the only exception being during lunchtime. While I understand the immersion theory, I find it hard to explain sometimes to some of my students.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Dick Cheney's Withdrawal Timeline
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran


When I lived in Normal, I could never tell whether the neighbors in the next apartment were having sex or merely sneezing. I never met them or those to the other side, though sometimes I felt obligated into their lives, at least through their vibrations, whatever their sources.

Two weeks ago, the doorbell to my Seoul apartment rang at 10 p.m. When I answered the door, a woman I didn't know indicated, through gesture, that I should take the plate of hot food she carried. She spoke rapidly in Korean, and of course, I couldn't understand her. "{I don't know,}" I kept saying. It was only when she entered the apartment next to mine that I realized she was my neighbor.

The next night, I washed and returned the dishes. She invited me in, and I ran back to get my iPod so we could use the translation software on it. She didn't want to use the device, though. She kept saying, "Communication," as though to use the iPod were to give up on the word. Through her rough English and my worse Korean, we talked for about thirty minutes. She wanted to learn English, she told me. She was to take off for India for five days and wanted to start when she got back. OK, I said. I haven't seen her since.

I'm reading José Saramago's The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (translated by Giovanni Pontiero), in which Fernando Pessoa tells Ricardo Reis that "loneliness is not living alone, loneliness is the inability to keep someone or something within us company, it is not a tree that stands alone in the middle of a plain but the distance between the deep sap and the bark, between the leaves and the roots." Ricardo Reis doesn't get it. "You're talking nonsense, the things you mention are connected, there is no loneliness there," he responds.