.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

The Public Ineffectual

For entertainment purposes only.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

She's Baaaaaack!

Roomie was kind enough to pick me up from the airport yesterday and got in safe and sound. My mom called me around 10pm to check on me because the taxi driver to the aiport bus station in Seoul seemed so strange and dangerous to her. I had just woken up from a nap and was a bit incoherent.

Still managed to go out last night to the Thomson House Hallowe'en party. Didn't manage to get a proper costume sorted enough in advance so I went as Too Much Perfume Girl .

Good News: I just got my digital camera and feel like Mistress of the Universe. Look forward to running pictoral of my life.

More news about the trip soon.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

24 Hour Commerce People

Update: After my last post, I managed to sing a song. A little Korean children's song my grandma taught me as a kid. This made my aunt especially happy.

Just got in from the night market and am posting direct from my new pink long johns!

The stalls at the market are seemingly dominated by the ajumma which is the vernacular term for a woman who is married and has children. The ajumma is selfless and industrious and in Korea, ubiquitous. They outnumber the men about 5-1 at these markets. The stalls are all jam packed with clothes and as messy and chaotic as it appears, many of these people are actually on the road to riches. They live 24 hour lives - sell merchandise all night, supervise factories during the day that copy clothes their husbands have sourced in Paris and Milan. The night market is actually for the retailers who come from all over and buy wholesale. Needless to say, the prices they quote them were not the ones we were getting. You can see them loading big bundles of clothes into trucks. We stopped for food at around 1am at a place run by about five ajummas and ate some amazing fast food - udon, hot rice cakes in chilli sauce, fried squid and noodles wrapped in seaweed and fish cakes. Then we did more shopping. We bought some pretty random shit that I won't go into here. This night market goes on until around 6am when the day shift arrives and switches back into normal retail mode.

I saw my first Korean dyke too. My aunt and my mother were grilling her on her gender. I stood right back and watched the scene unfold. Hilarious. My mother was completely unrepentant when I told her what the deal was: "How was I supposed to know? Pffft. She probably gets it all the time."

I'm off to bed for a few hours until our ki massage guy comes at 10am. More shopping is on the cards tomorrow and then a traditional Korean samul nori show in the evening with the family.

p.s. China was a blast - too much to post here and now though. I'm tired. Have to go to bed. Good night.

3 Generations of Women

My mother and two of her sisters are sitting around the living room singing traditional Korean songs. My mother gets up and dances every now and again. My 87 year old grandmother also sang a song. I don't have a single thing to bring to the table. I don't think they would appreciate it if I broke into the running man.

We're waiting for 11pm to roll around so we can go to the Namdaemun shi-jangnight market. If we're really good, we might even get our pockets picked...Fun!

Monday, October 25, 2004

Happy Birthday, Bopuc!

Coming to you live and direct from Guangzhou! [Help! This place is knick knack hell!]

Friday, October 22, 2004

So much to post, so little time....

I can barely keep up with all that is going on as far as posting goes.

I am having a blast, I can't believe I didn't do this before.

I'm currently posting from the hallway and this man on my floor was hitting on me. I am sittin on the floor with legs outstretched so I must look a bit strange. He just came out and pointed a banana at me saying "Miss - you want it?". No.

Just had a dinner of some fatty fried pork wrapped up in lettuce and kimchi and rice cake. It was delicious. Saw fathers side of the family and had some Korean booze that tastes much like a port. My cousin is now the mother of a nine and three year old boys. Strange feeling. Meanwhile my aunt asks again if I have an ay-een and I say no. My mother changes the subject rather quickly, I noticed.

Went to Insadong where there are lots of folk crafts and its pretty touristy and quaint. There are a couple of really old streets that look like something from 100 years ago - theyr'e all restaurants and bars. Took the subway for the first time by myself with success also. Its an important milestone in every tourist's life. I'm surprised at how much english signage there is. Station announcements are also in Korean followed by English. Radiio traffic reports are also to be had hourly in english. Business makes people very pragmatic.

The military presence is much smaller than what it used to be.

Must go to bed. Leaving for the airport at 6am for Guangzhou. Wish me luck - this time I really don't know a lick of the language.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Don't just study....you should do some 'boy hunting' too *

I'm staying in a serviced apartment and its really very comfortable (2 bedrooms, 1 and a half baths). My aunts brought food for us so the crux of my first breakfast was 3 types of kimchee!

The is a rather affluent neighbourhood called Kangnam and this place is clearly a center of good eating. Seoul apartment complexes tend to be run by big corporations that consist of many identical anonymous looking buildings. The one across from the hotel looks so ghetto by North American standards and yet, my aunt says, 2-3 bedroom place goes for about a half million.

Grandma is a very careful eater - eats nothing spicy and doesn't over indulge. She and I went out to a little resto for lunch that served Japanese and Korean food. I really should have ordered the kimchi bab which is fried rice with kimchee but served on a big hot metal platter so that it goes crisp on the underside. Grandma is almost deaf and nearly blind so I had to attempt to tell her what was on the menu which was a really start-stop affair. Its a tiny but lively place so you have to yell for her to hear anything and I can barely read Korean so I read out 2 menu items and just stopped because we were already causing a total spectacle. Anyway, she had the momil guksoo (basically cold soba) and I had the udon. I watched her polish the whole thing off with tremendous satisfaction.

I managed to get away for a couple of hours by myself. The Starbucks here has wireless but only works for PC in this PC-centric nation (this was before figuring out my access situation). A frappacino costs about as much as my lunch! I went to the huge boulevard and just did some people watching from a bench and sat peacefully until a couple of women started evangelising. Ugh, 'scuse me I have somewhere NOT to be. The cell phone culture is out of friggin' control and yet unsurprising. If I'm any guage, my people like to talk a lot. Women here are so very "done" and I'm feeling decidedly "undercooked". The sheer anonymity is kind of nice. Got in a bit of window shopping at a store called Qua (bit like Zara) and Missha . The clothes at Qua are cool and fashion-forward though reasonably expensive for Korea and for the record, their shoes were awful. I haven't hit the markets as yet. Have to be careful with shopping at the markets because the quality is usually OK for the price but the style sensibility can be a bit....um....well...FOB-by.

Spent the day so far eating and showing grandma some photos on the computer. My mom and aunt are downstairs at the sauna getting a massage and scrubbed within an inch of their lives right now. The special feature of this sauna is a "jewel room" that looks like a fairytale grotto that is supposedly lined in jade and gold.

I might head out to the DMZ as much to see the last bastion of the Cold War as much to see the autumn leaves and mountains. I don't quite know how to feel about it, honestly....

I am not above making fun of the Korean deployment of english, so here is your first installment of:
Konglish of the Day - soap brand called "Sexy Mild", club around the corner called "Banana Sexy Club" and a brauhaus called "Oktoberfest" that has a special on "lauagne". WTF? I think its lasagne.

* In quotation marks are grandma's exact words

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Oblivia En Route

In the "most wired country in the world" I am connected through some random wireless connection albeit with a very weak signal ("coa812" has 2 bars strength, at best) from our hotel room. A better, more consistent signal (3-4 bars) from network "510" is available from the end of the hall. Whoever you are - thanks!

More to come soon...I have changed my date and time to reflect where I am so it may appear that I am posting from the future.

Bad surprise #1: Checked-in at Montreal's Trudeau Int'l airport only to find out that I have to change planes at Narita for the same flight number. Goddamit! This would have completely changed my itinerary had I known i.e. I would have flown through Vancouver and spent time with M-D, instead! Aaaaaaargh. I'm going to have to write a nasty letter to Vogages Campus.

Having to cool my heels at both Narita AND O'Hare (Chicago) in the same day is just stupid. These two airports have shown me more ennui than anyone should rightly claim in their lives. Nothing to do and all the time in the world to do it in. A cool thing happened once at Narita though when I was going through with my sister and my mom. We were bored and hungry and instead of heading to the usual fast food places, my mom insisted on finding the staff cafeteria. I was thinking, "What the hell for??? Lets just go to McDonalds!" But no, my mom was on a mission. We walked around and around the terminal random doors until finally, without ceremony, we slipped into the staff cafeteria of the airport which is something like slipping backstage at a theatre. It was incredibly, and reassuringly ordinary. It was like a small food court selling real food at real prices. Mommy was once a stewardess, you see, way back when they were not called "security agents" and wore hats and miniskirts. I think my sister and I were merely inconveniences to a quiet nostalgia trip of her own.

17 Oct, 9:05am - Chicago O'Hare Intl. Aiport. No wireless as yet. I couldn't drink my coffee on my flight over because it was disgusting watery horrid pap. I don't like small planes when smelly people infect half the cabin. It was bad. I could have sworn the guy next to me still had mothballs in his pockets or something. Ugh. And I know it wasn't me. I wore Coco because its parfum as opposed to eau de whatever, so it will last this interminable day.

My Life as a Vagrant: O'Hare is a sort of Crystal Palace of the Jet Age. Vaulted ceilings seemingly made completely of (plexi?)glass allow in lots natural light so its like being in a hothouse. There are also these strange terminal-to-terminal concourses filled with New Age Music and a rainbow of neon lights overhead of the moving walkway that I don't "get". As soon as I landed, my mission was to get some carbs in me and take a nap. Seats without the arm rests are key - I found a bench of 4 in a row in the Arrivals area (n.b. good place to snooze) but it was a bit cold. Then there was a bench in the concourse between terminals but it was all glass and too hot. Then I found it - Gate C11 was juuuuuust right. I napped in 3 x 45 minute intervals with unexpected success until 11:15am. I even dreamed.

I saw Santa today too. He was sitting in one of the cafe concessions as I was disembarking (hate this word) my flight in Chicago. He looked well, quite a bit trimmer than last I saw him. (Perhaps he's been working out during the low season?) His beard was white, of course, but trimmed to a becoming length reaching his mid breast bone - white, swirling and full. It was strange to see him in his "civvies" and he looked exceptionally smart, I have to say. Red beret, red shirt, green suspenders and red and green striped socks. Perhaps he's on a business trip or something.

Bad surprise #2: I usually request a window seat for various reasons. Firstly, I'm smaller than your average passenger so having to climb out to the bathroom is easier for me to do than vice versa. Secondly, good airplane time is nap time. The window seat gives me a place to lean. Thirdly, I like to watch take off and landing. My seat on the Tokyo leg is 34E on a Boeing 777. This means, I have the middle seat in a blcok of five. Not what I asked for. This will also be mentioned in letter.

Bad suprise #3: I enquired at a store at O'Hare if they had earplugs and the guy says, "$8.95" to mean "yes". Pfffft, forget it. I came across a business at the airport called LaptopLand or something close. Their by-line was "Peace, Quiet and a T-1 line" which I thought was kind of cute. They had 4 little booths, a bit like changing rooms, with PCs built-in. Guess how much? 5 USD for the first five minutes and then 65c for every minute thereafter. Fuck you and all your usurious overlords, I thought to myself.

My computer is picking up an AT &T wireless connecton on the flight over to Tokyo though I have no idea how to get on it or even why its there. Maybe God has gone wireless too? Good news: Narita airport is wireless and costs in the order of 500 yen (4.60 USD) per day. This place has changed completely from what I remember it. Airports are looking even more the samey than ever. I'm still annnoyed I have to be here at all though I managed to see a beautiful sunset through the haze of the smoking room in the departures area.

Our hotel room comes with ethernet access but at a cost of ₩15,500 (C$17) per day. Ha! Why buy when I can mooch off strangers is my motto!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Packing Shit

The last thing I should do is to post right now...I'm packing my stuff, I just ate my second meal of the day (the one known as lunch) and I need to get my shit sorted.

I will try and post if/when I have access to a computer. It shouldn't be too hard given South Korea is the "most wired country in the world" but I may be too distracted by shopping, eating and socialising to be up-to-the-minute about it. Oblivia can make no promises at this point though I suspect Oblivia may need to vent or risk implosion. Oblivia does not plan to post travel chronicles in the third person.

Mommy and Daddy don't know about my love affair with The Public Ineffectual...and they never will!

Be good while I'm gone. In the meantime, please try and think of a good Hallowe'en costume for me as I will be back on the 30th. Any and all suggestions can be posted below or sent to thepublicineffectual.at.gmail.com. (Keep in mind that I was Gogo Yubari last year and you know how I feel about wearing the same outfit twice.)

Toodles, my lovelies!

Friday, October 15, 2004

My Daddy Got a Hole-in-One!

...on a par 3 no less...

They had a big ol' party in celebration. Congratulations Daddy!

Neologism of the Day: Niece-Dog

Visa's Hallowe'en Costume
Originally uploaded by Oblivia.
Visa is my niece-dog.

She's in her "terrible twos" and she's a real attention hog. This is her, last year, at hallowe'en dressed as a fairy.

Her nemesis is the vacuum. She doesn't play well with others. She doesn't like to go outside especially, she likes to go to work with mum. Visa has a lot of attitude. She doesn't like baths, though she likes the attention. Her favourite foods are popcorn, lasagna and shrimp. Her favourite words are: chewy, food, Jason, Herbert, Allison, Clarisa, Gentatsu, Who is it? and Visa's so pretty!. Her least favourite words are: bad girl, vacuum and closet (where she's sent for a "time out")!

[For those of you who think its "cruel" to put a dog in clothes, you have never seen her get dressed. She bloody well loves it and prances around so everyone can tell her how cute she is.]

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Wild Life

Shaun and the locals
Originally uploaded by Oblivia.
Most Australians will recount stories of people asking stupid questions about what life is like "down under". One of my faves is "Do you guys have kangaroos as pets?".

"Yes." See?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

All Good Things

* I had what you call a breakthrough whereby words just flowed out of me on something that proves its never too late to grow up. This is a rare occasion and needs to be celebrated. My emotional life sometimes reminds me of one of those institutional fluorescent light fixtures that buzzes and flickers intermittently struggling for life, guiltily hoping no one will notice its abject failure to fulfill its job.

* I managed to respond appropriately and thoughtfully to some very incisive questions/comments from Cow and G. It took a bit of letting go on my part to do so. Cow asks some difficult questions for a bovine. He's as delicious as he is clever. G shows that she knows me well and I should pick her brains more (I always knew that, really).

* I picked up my passport with my visa to China from "Mike" who lives at Metro Jolicoeur. It sounds so dodgy but there is a consular services office in the front room of a suburban house. They also sell an assortment of vitamins for people to take home to China as gifts. Basically, its just a guy schlepping back and forth to the Chinese embassy in Ottawa with the passports, the forms and digital photos on the applications. He works hard. If you need a visa, email me at thepublicineffectual.at.gmail.com and I will show you where to go. Mike said my french is good. Compliments are nice once in a while.

* I went to the doggy salon around the corner from my house and used my baby voice to say "hello sweeties!" to some very well shorn dogs. Beautiful creatures. One particularly affectionate brown mottled number was terribly jealous of my attention. Another one had the facial hair patterns of an old man - whiskers, big eyebrows, hairy ears. I have to make a habit of visiting. Mental note: don't wear black.

* I dropped off my poor bike at JR where it is going to get tuned up and washed ready for inside as the winter is going to come hard and fast. (The help is on vacation, you know.)

* Vila H. just started a blog!

* Came home to my roomie sitting in the living room with a glass of wine at the dining table bathed in candlelight. The power was on the fritz and she had the good sense to take the moment to look gorgeous.

* Chatted to a friend who said: "i have a lot of melancholy in the sense that 'i don't want to die without having really, really loved someone,' i guess"...and tears from nowhere just came rolling down my face.

All good things.

Long-Lost Jules Verne Short Story "The Camera-Phone" Found

The Camera-Phone
Originally uploaded by Oblivia.
The onion.com has its own formula that sometimes hits it and sometimes doesn't. This one isn't one of their best, but the pic pushed me over the edge.

"Rudeness becomes ubiquitous, as the device's infuriating notification-chimes invade every corner of public life...When the ethically bereft begin transmitting images obtained under questionable circumstances, espionage becomes so prevalent as to threaten the integrity of the French populace."

Altogether now...
Blame technology!

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Giving Thanks

Happy thanksgiving, especially to the poultry being consumed today. (It IS today, right? I never quite know.) Do you suppose turkeys have their own Jesus figure? Can you imagine what their mythology around death and the afterlife would look like? I'll bet there is no such word as "stuffing" in heaven.

At the time of this harvest, I am grateful for the following:
* what remains of my health
* friends who listen to me and tell me not to be so hard on myself
* friends who offer advice because y'all know i need it
* the indulgence of family who love me
* the ability to make myself laugh (somewhat compensates for the inability to laugh AT myself)
* music
* all puppies
* being born lucky

Thanks for reading too.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Senses Come Alive

Cow was waxing lyrical on the orgasmic pleasure of a lobster tail. It's his favouritest food and he asked what food really turns me on. You know, turns my crank. Floats my boat. Lights my fire.

I had to admit that food, for me, represents comfort. There are foods that I love but I had to think long and hard about food that inspires passion. Jokingly, I said that it would come to me as I was falling asleep or waking up which is exactly that happened last night.


Chinese-style King Crab with ginger and shallots on a bed of noodles. This isn't quite it but I'm getting closer.

This is, in effect, a continuation of this post.

What foods inspire passion in you?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

File Under Disgusting

This is a poo themed Korean game. I don't know the origins and I don't think want to.

Turn the sound up...

A Man's Guide to Romantic Gifting

Romance is thoughtfulness taken to a higher level. Imagine making your girl a cup of tea and magnify 100 times and - voila! - you have a foot massage. Its really that simple. MacGuyver once made a candle lit scented bubble bath using only a washing line, spare tire and baking soda.

Romance is not material. Don't always spend a lot of money. She may suspect you are an "easy answers" man which is not what you want, even if you are. The only exception to this rule is diamonds. In this case, spend a lot of money and spend frequently.

Romance is the anticipation of desire. Don't just plug something she already owns into Amazon.com or the like so you can see that "many people who liked x also enjoyed y." She already knows how to do that. Go one remove further and its perfect, go two and its outré.

Romance is in the details. If you can show evidence that you l-i-s-t-e-n to her, YOU ARE IN LIKE FLYNN.

Romance is a card once in a while. Gift wrapping is a start but we also know its because the nice girl at the store took pity on you. This retail saint can also help with the card if you're willing to ask.

Romance is experiential. Think: How do I want to be remembered?

Romance is NOT spontaneous. The two can be easily confused. It must only appear uncontrived but it is meticulously planned.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

At the cusp of a new season

Good bye.....
..........spaghetti strapped nothings
..........tree shade having meaning
..........strapless dresses
..........high heels
..........cycling in skirts and high heels (thats right, that was me)

..........long johns
..........rosy cheeks
..........mittens, scarves, toques
..........that sweet humiliation known as snowboarding!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Trying to give someone my postal code on the phone:

"J, as in, um,....geriatric...."
"K, as in, um....knowledge...."


Monday, October 04, 2004

Subjects Close to My Hearth

The link above is some political satire that will surely have you guffawing. Its Kim "the illmatic" Jong Il's blog and its hella funny...."ror, i mean lol".

I am headed for the Korean peninsula shortly. Here is the Fashion 411 for the flight over.

This will be the first time in Seoul since 1992 or so and its gonna be, well, a trip. I will be inevitably forced to dodge questions like "When are you getting married?", "When are you finished with school?" and "What are you going to do with you life?". It is going to be difficult to resist the temptation to say stupid, insincere things just to ennervate people, just because their questions ennervate me. Holding back is what I do best so it should be fine.

South Korea has changed so much in every conceivable way in the over the years - from architecture to social mores. When people like my parents leave Korea for their lives abroad, they often identify with the values of the country that they left (in my case, South Korea circa 1974) more than the actual country they return to. This will provide pause, I think, as I am meeting with my parents there.

My aunt Lorraine from Connecticut will also be joining us and I look forward to indulging her handbag addiction. My cousin, Min-eh, is said to be the most astute shopper (family trait!) and knows all the best stalls in the markets. Stay tuned for updates...

And of course, I also get to see dear old grandma who is losing her sight and her hearing but is still in reasonably good health and mentally sharp. It breaks my heart to see her imprisoned by her body when only a few years ago, she took up calligraphy and would consume a newspaper a day, even with the aid of a magnifiying glass. *sigh*

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The Hunger

This was yesterday's consumption* in chronological order:
1 x portugese custard tart
2 x open da nite lattes
1 x giant three egg omelette with mushrooms, ham and cheese and 2 slices toast with hummus
5 x bottles of beer (2 imported, 3 local)
1 x vodka/tonic
1 x banana

Yes, thats right. I had one meal comprised of solids.

Compare and contrast to tonight's dinner party chez nous:
Pumpkin soup (woo hoo! that was me!)
Roast beef with roasted veges (just rare enough to bleed when sliced but with enough resistance to call it cooked)
Cheese (oka, bleu and goat) and this exquisite melted cheese thing by Tahira
A platter of desserts from Premiere Moisson (aaaah!)
Digestif (12 year old single malt for me, mostly port for the others)
Lots of wine and bread

See, I can eat, but I need inspiration. Lately, providing the body with enough sustenance (not to mention the mind) has been a taller order than ever thought it could or ought to be. I put it down to external factors like the way that summer heat can kill the appetite but sadly that excuse withered away like the autumn leaves currently underfoot. I think its a microcosm of what plagues me and the logic to it needs to be examined.

Hunger explained: The body sends the brain a signal that food is necessary and the mind plots to do something about it. This is the kind of example of the kind of static that exists between knowing what one needs and the impulse to act. On a completely separate note, I think this is why sports are so good for you...like brussel sprouts and cod liver oil.

Now, I need to find a the happy medium between the two above scenarios as applied to all aspects of my life.

* does not include cigarettes.

p.s. The link above is for nothing better really than the fact that I liked this movie a lot as a teenager!

Friday, October 01, 2004

A pinch (eep!) and punch (youch!)....

...for the first of the month.

Kids at school used to do that. Turn around now and touch someone. Its a new month.