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slowly building weapons
Hey folks, things've been quiet around here for a reason: I've moved to my own domain name! And I may have forgotten my LJ password for a while there *koff koff* You can find me at:


I've been trying to figure out how to import entries from there to here, but alas, my coding-fu is not so strong. I think there's something I could do via syndicating RSS feeds or someotherwhatsit, but I have to admit to having no clue as to what that means.

The most important/exciting news is as follows:

  • I'm back in the States! Will be doing a bit of traveling this summer before heading to Pittsburgh for moar schooling in the fall.
  • I'm slowly but surely switching completely over to my nom de plume, Jei D. Marcade, because.
  • I'll be attending WisCon next month. Hope to see some of ye there!
  • I've been accepted to Clarion West! So I'll be headed Seattle-ward in June.

    That's about it. See you, space cowfolks!

  • "My story should have ended on the day I died. Instead, it began there."
    Ever wonder what happens to the spirits you've conjured up after they've done your bidding (or refused to do so, and openly mocked you, and maybe killed your friends one by one until it forced you into an ultimate showdown in which you emerge the shaken and dubious victor)? Yeah, me neither. Until now: rachel_swirsky's The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window, a novella, is free for ye and eligible for the Nebulas and the Hugos, if you're the type of person who enjoys the privilege of voting for those kinds of things.

    (Rachel's novella doesn't involve mockery or showdowns; I just said those things to remind you of any number of summonings you may have performed or seen on TV.)

    Speaking of strange things summoned forth for unsavory purposes, have a video that a couple of my students showed me in October, when we were in the habit of watching such things: The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon.

    I could make a horrible pun here, but I won't because I care about you and want you to be happy.
    that brat with the hair
    When I stepped into the hall the other morning, I saw a dark figure standing on the other end, out on the balcony. Thankfully he was staring out over our picture-perfect view of the parking lot and not leering creepily into the hall, BUT. I glanced down briefly to fix the cuffs of my coat, and when I looked up -- HE WAS NOWHERE TO BE SEEN.


    All right, that's not really the subject of this post. Mostly what I want to type at ye today revolves around the topic of hair. WAIT, GENTLE READERS, COME BACK. This is actually a titillating tale of -- ah, feckit, you're right, g'wan and leave me if you must.

    Sadly, I could write if not an entire novel on the subject of hair, then at least a hearty chapbook.

    Did you know, for instance, that Nikola Tesla had an intense distaste, perhaps even bordering on fear, of hair?
    It's true. Or it might not be. I first read it in a comic book, but these folks concur.

    But this is not about Nikola Tesla or my radiant, dynamic love for his genius and okay-maybe-slight-madness. It's about the haircut I got recently and the stir it caused at my place of employment.

    I go through phases where I try to grow my hair out as long as I can before it irritates me enough to warrant chopping off. Somehow I always forget how inconvenient I find having long hair, especially my thick, ursine, and generally unmanageable hair which never does anything I want and gains strength in numbers. Even when I shaved most of it off in a sad, abortive attempt to cultivate a mohawk two summers ago, the very stubble bested my special scalp razor. Yes, readers, my hair. bent. the blades.

    Anyway, I met my mother during her last week in Seoul at a salon en route to my home, so she could help translate. I wanted them to shave the back. My mum relayed my wishes and added that I wanted a neat, low-maintenance haircut that didn't require excessive daily sprucing, as I had no time before work to deal with my personal appearance. The hairlady (what are these people called? "beautician" seems archaic) looked at my mother as though she had just said that I prefer a little baby-stomping every morning. We entered negotiations regarding length. Eventually I got a cut that satisfied my hairlady, my mother, and perhaps least importantly, myself.

    For the first few days, students enthusiastically vocalized their approval of the change. Shouts of "CUTIE!" and "BEAUTIFUL!" greeted me at every turn. It inspired this exchange:

    Master Do: Your new hairstyle suits you much better. Where did you get it cut?
    me: At this place in Gimpo Airport--
    Master Do: GIMPO?! That's out in the sticks! You have a hillbilly haircut!
    me: Nooo!
    Master Do: Master Jang, is Gimpo in Gyeonggido or Seoul?
    Master Jang: It's Seoul, isn't it?

    But it wasn't until almost the end of the week that I had a student question the particularities of my decision. "Long hair takes longer to dry," I explained in English.

    She confirmed with a classmate what I had said, then whipped around to shriek, "LIAR!"

    "Why would I lie about this?" asked I, a little taken aback by the force of her response.

    My substitute co-teacher enlightened me later: in Korea, it's customary, or at least fairly common, for a woman to cut her hair very short if she's been dumped by her boyfriend. So the praise that my new 'do had incited had not been so much an objective appraisal as much as an attempt to assuage my achey breaky heart. Ah, well. I have sweet kids.

    In related news, I have a sprinkling of gray hair. It's concentrated mostly in the front, I guess because it likes attention, and has been to some degree there since I was 16. My parents like to hover around my head and yank out strands when I'm not looking. There are reasons why I have moved thousands of miles away. (Kidding! Just kidding, I love you guys. Especially if you read this.) I have no problem with my little whities, and look forward to more. Everyone else seems to find them horrifying. Recently I spoke to a tattoo artist who kept coming back to how much older they make me look. Finally she said, with a hint of desperation, "I can recommend a good colorist!" But maybe I have always secretly wanted to look like Dash X.

    And Now For Your Moment of Non-Political Zen:

    CJ-oppa: You got a haircut! Why, what happened, did you get into a fight with your boyfriend?
    me: Why does everything have to be about a man?!

    Living la vida local
    by the light of a tree
    I've been sick for about 10 days, and my co-workers kept asking me if I'd gone to see a doctor. I had not. So one of them said that she would take me to one nearby during our break.

    Here is the thing about me and doctors: I like to avoid them. I am always paranoid that they are about to tell me that I have some terrible and mysterious illness, and that my life will suddenly become an episode of House. I used to watch a lot of House.

    All my life, I've been pretty negligent about taking care of myself. I don't bundle up. I don't eat hot food on cold days. I avoid taking medicine for anything. I have always just relied on having the immune system of, like, a young minotaur, or something equally robust and terrifying. Ever since coming to Korea, though, I keep getting sick, and being diagnosed with bronchitis and a couple other things that ended with -itis, I don't know, I was peeking at my doctor's computer screen today. (Actually, I think this might have started as early as two winters ago, when I almost-but-didn't-quite get pneumonia, and was just wracked with horrible, full-bodied coughs for two weeks, and instead gave pneumonia to my roommate, because his immune system was apparently like a little larva, puny and weak.)

    Anyway, there are these little clinics all over the place here, and you don't get charged $20 for so much as poking your head inside one, which is very nice. It seems to be pretty standard in Korea to go to a doctor if symptoms haven't cleared within a few days, even if they're relatively mild. As opposed to back in the States, where you don't go to a medical professional until you're coughing up blood or losing limbs to rot, and for a while, when I and most of the people I knew didn't have health insurance, probably not even then. The doc just hit me a few times with a stethoscope and told me to breathe. The nurse held my necklace out of the way and told me exactly what the doc said, a beat later. He said there was something up with my right lung, but wouldn't elaborate except to say that it should clear up.

    He asked me what everyone does, though not always within five minutes of meeting me, and that is if I'd met a nice Korean man. I told him that no, I hadn't, but I was pretty happy with the American one I was already seeing. He asked me how I could possibly leave home for a year without my boyfriend; wasn't I afraid that he would stray? I said no, not at all, and the doc said that he was impressed by my faith. I did not mention the many sharp knives that my boyfriend knows I own, and how I've named one of them "Widowmaker."

    Just kidding. I have not named any of my knives Widowmaker. That would be odd. I just don't date skeezebags. There is nonmonogamy, and there is cheating, and we know the difference. But this was all a bit much to try to explain between wheezes, in my non-primary language, to a stranger who seemed increasingly as though he were holding my diagnosis hostage. He asked a few more things about me, my observations of high school students, and other things completely unrelated to my cough or my gimp right lung. I wondered at least once if he were trying to work up to telling me that I had six months to live. Then he prescribed me some pills, lots of rest, and a steady intake of tea. The nurse took me to a little station across the hall, where she instructed me to hold a hose up to my nostrils and breathe for a while. Then my co-teacher took me to the pharmacy downstairs, where I got a string of wee packets filled with antibiotics and things to counteract the side effects of the antibiotics--pretty standard fare.

    The checkup, the mystery gas, and the pills all came to roughly the equivalent of $6.50.

    Some days I think I should never leave.

    rawr ilu
    Sorry that I haven't been posting; last week was a hellish daze of assessing midterm projects and directing the inevitable flow of late work. And this week I appear to have come down with the plague, so there's that. I have brief reviews of my top ten K-period pieces waiting in the wings, though, if I can ever get around to it. Just wait; There Is A Theme.

    In further work-related news, my principal tried to convince me to attend library school in Korea so I can resign for another year, which I guess is at least a sign that I haven't been completely ineffectual here. On the other hand, it has left me feeling irrationally guilty for leaving. Ah well, them's the breaks.

    In the meantime, have photographic evidence as to why, when my taekkyeon instructor told us to wear long white socks for our level exam, everyone snuck glances at me. One of the elder gents wondered aloud if maybe they aren't intended for middle school children.

    (The answer is, not while I have disposable income.)

    These aren't even all of them. Oh yes, rest assured, there are others.Collapse )

    On begetting violence, or, So I was a weird kid we all knew this let's move on.
    put 'em up
    I am the only female in my taekkyeon class, and I couldn't avoid noticing that the lads get übershamed by their elders whenever they visibly exert effort while sparring me. At first I was a little offended -- sure, I'm newer and younger and have more ladybits than a lot of them, and while there do exist physical differences between the sexes, one of the major lessons of martial arts is how to compensate for certain physical disadvantages. Not to mention that a real-world assailant probably won't be concerned enough about being booed as a dishonorable dog to "go easy" on me.

    Then I remembered that I'm in Korea, where military service is compulsory, meaning that all male citizens of a certain age have no choice but to learn, at least in theory, how to kill other human beings. And everyone knows it. These are tools that are just not pressed upon the female populace, meaning that in essence, women are perpetually disarmed. (Unfortunately this does not preclude the existence of assholes who, because they see females as easy targets, smack them around anyway, honor be damned.)

    Obviously this idea that females are automatically the underdog in a physical fight against males is not limited to Korea. I think it's because there's still a fairly widespread stigma against girls joining in on the same athletic pastimes as their brothers. Girls who show "too much" interest in physical activities are often plagued with assumptions about their character or future desirability or sexuality. (Boys who show "insufficient" interest are plagued with the same, but that's not the direction I'm going in today.) What this results in is generation upon generation of females who are ill-equipped to take care of themselves in a physical altercation, and who are furthermore not even expected to be able to take on a role besides that of a victim. This is a very dangerous mindset to perpetuate: the notion that females have no real options besides victimization.

    In America, boys are from an early age actively encouraged to develop (or forced to feign) a passion for competing aggressively with other boys for possession of a ball on a field, while girls are more or less expected to... do whatever is the modern day equivalent to needlepoint. I wouldn't know; I had a different upbringing. Being Korean, my parents enrolled me in taekwondo when I was a wee sprat. (And yes, they also made me learn piano and fan dance and Korean in the basement of a church.) Every summer I learned a different organized sport from the local community center. The majority of my neighbors and friends growing up were boys; I spent a lot of my free time running around and falling down and getting into fights on the playground and sparring in people's homes until my friends' parents kicked us out.

    None of this made me a star athlete or martial arts master (quite the opposite, actually, since I never stuck with anything and wound up equally awful at everything). What it did was teach me that a bloody nose wouldn't kill me, and that I had more options than running away or taking hits. I wasn't exactly happy when I got kicked in the head, but I learned from an early age that I was capable of working through the pain, so the prospect of a couple scrapes and bruises never worried me overmuch.

    Fast forward to high school in a new town. Years of inactivity and too much reading in poor lighting has left me overweight and myopic; I have no money, no fashion sense, no vast support system of local childhood friends; I'm a racial minority with unorthodox beliefs. All that should add up to four years of teasing and juvenile harassment from the underbelly of the student body.

    It never happened.

    Maybe I was just lucky enough to attend a high school with 2,600 of the most decent, thoughtful teenagers in the country -- it's possible; I went to school with a lot of cool cats. Maybe it was because I didn't make an asshole of myself, either. Maybe it was because (in the interest of full disclosure) I happened to have a few friends that kind of scared everybody. OR IT WAS FOR THIS OTHER REASON, which is that besides being extremely nerdy (and therefore occasionally useful), I also didn't take shit from anyone. I had a load of social anxieties and was on the shy side, but I had a fair amount of confidence that I could handle myself if things got physical. (Also my awesome dad told me that as long as I hadn't started the fight, I wouldn't get into too much trouble at home if I finished one.)

    At uni, I walked 10 blocks at three in the morning to get to work on a campus that was seeing a sexual assault every weekend. I wasn't afraid of being attacked; I was angry that people said that I should be, and very willing to take it out on the cause.

    I think all of this showed. I could've just been extremely lucky, but maybe people who might have otherwise seen me as easy pickings saw it and figured I wasn't worth the trouble. And I think this is one step we can take against what seems at times to be an overwhelming amount of violence against women. Safety advocates say that women who walk alone, or at night, or in strange neighborhoods, or alone at night in strange neighborhoods, or in an area where people have reported sightings of men, should do so with a sense of purpose and confidence, to adopt a dominant posture. From where exactly do they expect them to draw this confidence when we still foster a society that discourages girls from picking up the tools that could at least make the playing field somewhat less dramatically uneven? And I don't want to advocate excessive violence; it would be grand if everyone could just avoid being assholes to one another; but one optional self-defense course in college just doesn't have the same oomph as a lifetime of testing your limits in a natural setting.

    I don't know. Maybe all of this is totally misguided. It might even be dangerous and lead to a terrible case of escalation (if everyone knows how to fight, then people will pick up knives; if everyone picks up knives, then people will get guns, etc.). It just strikes me as bizarre that all the pressure seems to be on women prevent themselves from being victimized when they're sort of pushed as girls to grow up to play the victims.

    Korea Series: Neo-Confucianism and language
    Some background: the Joseon Dynasty lasted from 1392 - 1910 (Wiki mentions a "Greater Korean Empire" from 1897 to 1910, but to be honest whenever I was taught history, everyone ignored this period, so, whatever, 1910). During that time, Neo-Confucianism was adopted and incorporated into language, government, public and private interpersonal interactions, and even architecture. Neo-Confucianism espouses, among other things, the idea that everyone has a "proper place," from which there is no real hope of escape, leading to very strictly enforced mores regarding class and gender hierarchies.

    Let me tell you something about me and social stratification in general: I haaaaate it.

    And though a century has passed since the end of the Joseon Dynasty (which, by the way, my ancestor founded, in what I sometimes in the peak of paranoia take as a concerted effort to confound his progeny), the philosophies of Neo-Confucianism are still very much alive in Korean society.

    I am going to take this opportunity to mention that there are seven distinct levels of formality in Korean speech.

    Some of those are archaic and/or reserved for addressing people of such high rank that most folks will probably never need to use it, BUT. STILL. SEVEN.

    Let me tell you something about me and speech levels: I haaaaate them.

    The default tends to be jondaetmal, or formal/polite speech, at least until people who have just met figure out how old everyone is, after which the elders of the group can feel free to use banmal, or the informal "half-speech." It doesn't matter how great or narrow the age gap is; high school students use jondaetmal to fellow students only a year their senior. Jondaetmal comes with different suffixes and, in some cases, different vocabulary entirely, and has been a consistent irritant on my Korean proficiency exams, but I digress.

    A standard in East Asian culture is the idea that the older you are, the more XP you have, and the less you have to concern yourself with certain lowly expectations that may be visited upon your juniors. I have recently become the magnae, or youngest person in my taekkyeon class, which means that pretty soon I will probably be expected to do the little grunt tasks like straightening shoes and mopping the floor and making sure all the lights are off and windows are closed at the end of the day. Nothing particularly strenuous or demeaning, but things about which everyone else, by virtue of being older, is exempt from worrying. There was one person who I thought might actually be a wee ikkle college kid, upon whom I could shuffle off these duties, but turned out to be a fellow Year of the Rabbit.

    At one point I wondered aloud which of us was the elder in terms of birth month.

    "Probably me," he said with easy confidence.

    "My birthday's in April," I said in banmal, feeling as though he had issued a challenge to my maturity.

    "I mean, I'm probably a Rabbit from an earlier zodiacal cycle."

    And I laaaughed and I laaaughed.

    But then wondered if I should feel insulted that he had just accused me of being 12 years old.

    THEN THE OTHER DAY, I noticed that a few folks who I knew to be my seniors addressed him as hyeong, or "older brother"-from-a-male-perspective.

    "WAIT," said I with dawning horror. "If my oppas ("older brother"-from-a-female-perspective) are calling you 'hyeong', then... then that means..."

    And I made a face like this:

    And he laaaughed and he laaaughed.

    So I guess the moral of this story is: I am too lazy to properly learn Korean


    there is a fucking Daoist immortal in my taekkyeon class.

    The Korea Series
    over the edge
    Because I am like a thief in the night, I'll be pilfering my friend Kara's blogging idea and start a subject series regarding my perspective of Korean culture, language, politics(?), et cetera.

    For those of you who are new to the show: I'm a gyopo; specifically Korean-American, or American of Korean descent. Which is to say that while my parents and their parents and their parents' parents and so on were born and raised in Korea, I was born and raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

    Though I've visited Korea in the summers with my parents as a child, last August I moved independently (first to Jeju Island, then when the limitations of small town life overrode the joys of persistently gorgeous scenery, to Seoul) to find work as a more or less functioning adult with an undergraduate degree in English. And a minor in anthropology. You see how it is.

    I'll try to post at least one a week, but that's about as consistent, I think, that I can bear to be.

    See you here.

    Note: Though I'm the first non-naturalized U.S. citizen in my immediate family, my folks apparently had plenty of role models in the gyopo community, as my experiences growing up bear a chilling resemblance to those documented in Stuff Korean Moms Like, which is both hilarious and terribly, terribly true.

    No Make-Up Life
    Because I am magnificent at keeping abreast of things, I saw today that Zoetica Ebb hosted a No Make-Up Week on the blogosphere. In September. Late to the party, new to the show! Looks fun, so I'm throwing in.

    I don't wear makeup. I'd be lying if I said that one of the primary reasons isn't sheer inconvenience: to be honest, most mornings I can hardly be bothered to drag a comb through my hair. (But I am clean and housebroken, so you don't need to be ashamed to be my friend.) There was a year at uni when I'd put on eyeliner at least a couple days of the week, but I never really did get the hang of it. This is an especially fatal flaw in Seoul, where the general consensus seems to be that women should wear makeup out of common courtesy to their fellow man, or even to keep their jobs, but so far I've evaded overt criticism (possibly thanks to my terrifying gang tattoos?).

    Every once in a blue moon I think it might be fun to start wearing makeup, because there are some really fun colors and styles out there, but then I see videos like this and abandon all hope:

    I MEAN IT'S REALLY NEAT BUT WHAT THE HELL. It still amazes me that there are people who do this (not so dramatic with the eyeshadow, but everything else seems fairly standard) every morning. Every. Morning. When do they sleep? When do they eat? Do cosmetics imbue their user with the power to transcend such paltry mortal needs?

    But what really irks me about makeup is the double standard it creates in the work force. Consider: there remains a significant wage gap between the sexes in the United States. Good makeup is damned expensive. Yet there's this pervasive expectation for females to wear the stuff to be considered "professional" while males are excused or even forbidden from living up to the same. What we wind up with is, in essence, pressure for professional females to pay more to be paid less.

    I call shenanigans, and I'm not going to play.

    It's all fine and well if a body wants to put on the war paint out of choice, because one wants to achieve a specific aesthetic or is dissatisfied with one's natural product or just feels like it that day. Elsewise? Get out of my face.

    What do ye think, LiveJournal? Do you prefer your face au naturel, or would you rather chance a nasty fate than face the world unmade-up?

    On the murder of birds.
    these are our disapprove-y faces
    This is "엄마야 누나야," one of the songs I am learning for my haegeum recital:

    And this is what I sound like:

    Good News: My awesome instructor helped a bunch of us rent instruments today, so I can practice at home and not worry about tuning the institute's (occasionally moldy?) practice haegeum every Saturday!

    Bad News: This will do nothing to endear me to my neighbors.